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Lockdown lifted at Arkansas military base

Little Rock Air Force Base


Last Updated Jul 23, 2014 5:45 PM EDT

JACKSONVILLE, Ark. -- Little Rock Air Force Base went on lockdown Wednesday amid reports of a suspicious person, but military officials reopened the base several hours later, saying there was no credible threat.

No one was allowed to enter or leave the base during the lockdown, which began at 11:45 a.m. People who live on base were urged to stay indoors, and visitors were asked to not come to the front gate.

An "all clear" announcement was sent across the base's public-address system about five hours after the base was locked down.

During the lockdown, no one was allowed to enter or leave the base. Gates were closed and a line of vehicles stretched for a quarter-mile outside of the base, which takes up just a bit more than 9 square miles.

"We responded with the necessary caution to secure our airmen, their families and Air Force resources," Col. Patrick Rhatigan, the 19th Airlift Wing commander, said in a statement.

He apologized for the inconvenience but said it was necessary to ensure that the base and its military and civilian staff were safe.

"After a thorough search of the base," Rhatigan said, officials "found the report no longer credible."

About 7,000 to 8,000 people work at the base, approximately 1,200 of them civilians.

Lt. Mallory Thornton, a spokeswoman for the Little Rock Air Force Base, blamed the lockdown on a "suspicious individual." Officials were not releasing specific details about what prompted the lockdown and search.

"Someone called in to security forces to say they had seen a suspicious person, what that person was doing has not been released," Thornton said.

Christina Rivera, whose husband is an airman on base, said she'd received an automated phone call telling everyone on base to stay indoors. Rivera, who had been waiting outside the gate entrance for more than two hours, said her husband was barricaded in their bedroom with their two young children, who are 8 months old and 18 months old.

"All I want is to go home and be with my husband and my kids," she said, more than two hours after the lockdown began.

Emergency crews were on the scene during the lockdown, and sirens could be heard over loudspeakers outside the base's entrance, CBS affiliate KTHV saidCBS affiliate KTHV said. The base had been conducting emergency response exercises, but officials said Wednesday's incident was not part of the drill.

The base specializes in the C-130 cargo airplane and is home to the 19th Airlift Wing, the 314th Airlift Wing and the 29th Weapons Squadron. The Arkansas Air National Guard's 189th Airlift Wing is also located on base.