- Special Sections
- Public Notices
The Los Alamos National Laboratory is expected to conclude its investigation in the next week or so concerning the termination of five SOC employees who allowed visitors to operate weapons at the lab’s shooting range.
The lab confirmed Friday there were four unauthorized visitors on the range located at Technical Area 72. Three of them were LANL employees. Officials have not released information concerning what, if any, disciplinary action may be taken against the lab employees.
The trade publication Nuclear Materials Monitor reported that they fired weapons including the Dillon M-134 mini-gun.
The participants also allegedly took photos of their time on the range and posted them on Facebook. Those photos have since been taken down from the social networking site.
“Our inquiry has determined that photographs were taken with a personal camera, against laboratory policy,” spokesman Fred DeSousa said. “In general, photography with personal cameras is prohibited on lab property without a media escort and/or other approvals.”
As far as the firing of the weapons was concerned, DeSousa said, “Non-security employees, in general, are not allowed to use firearms at the laboratory’s live fire shooting range — however, there are circumstances where non-security personnel would be approved to use the range for informational or training purposes.”
In the past, visitors have been allowed to access the shooting range such as politicians, VIPs and journalists who have toured the facility.
DeSousa said there are processes that must be followed for visitors to be allowed entry to the facility.
“Our guidelines and protocols were not appropriately followed,” he said.
Lab spokesman Kevin Roark told the trade publication that once the visitors were at the site, proper protocols were followed.
The visitors received safety and security briefings, were escorted during their stay, and used proper equipment. “All the right stuff was done correctly,” he said. “The process of getting authorization wasn’t properly done.”
Lab officials did not know if the NNSA or the Department of Energy Inspector General would launch an investigation of their own.
NNSA spokesman Josh McConaha said in a statement last week, “we’ve been closely involved with LANL as they have investigated the incident and taken corrective action,”
The trade publication reported that pictures taken by some of the participants during the incident were posted on Facebook, including some showing a female visitor firing and posing with a variety of weapons, which is believed to have led to the investigation.
Last week, the lab said the incident was discovered when it received information from an anonymous source that was then verified by LANL and SOC.
The lab said it is not identifying the guards or the three other lab employees involved because it is a personnel action and that it would not characterize the relationships between the involved parties who were on the shooting range.
Last week, Lab Director Charlie McMillan sent a memo out to employees, which outlined the situation.
“After a swift but preliminary inquiry, it was concluded that inappropriate behavior warranted the termination of five protective force firing range personnel. The laboratory will continue to determine involvement by others, including laboratory personnel.
“Although the inquiry concluded this was not a safety or security risk, the laboratory takes this kind of inappropriate behavior very seriously.
“The laboratory does not tolerate unauthorized use of our facilities or equipment. We hold ourselves and our contractors to the highest possible standards of behavior.”
Roark told the publication that the lab would not comment on what weapons were fired.
“We as a matter of policy won’t discuss the details of our capabilities,” he said. “Our guards do get training on a wide variety of automatic weapons and other firearms. But we don’t get specific about what they are, how many we have, or what the capability of those specific weapons is.”
According to a modern firearms website, in most cases, Mini-gun machine guns were (and still are) mounted on high mobility vehicles as anti-ambush weapons. In recent times, production of the 7.62mm Mini-guns was resumed by U.S.-based Dillon Aero, which is now manufacturing an improved version of the basic design, known as the M134D.
The M134D machine gun is used on board some military helicopters, such as MH-6 or UH-60, as well as on HMMWV (Humvees) vehicles and naval crafts, to provide close-in defense against small, fast-moving vessels such as suicide-bomber motorboats. The M134D is a six bareled electrically driven machine gun that fires at a fixed rate of 3,000 rounds per minute.
The video shows a demonstration of the M134D and its destructive firepower. Depending on your web browser, the video may best be viewed in full screen mode.