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Originally published Monday, January 9, 2012 at 6:50 PM

Stolen gear at base valued at $600,000

About 100 soldiers remain in lockdown at Joint Base Lewis-McChord after some $600,000 worth of rifle scopes, laser sights, night-vision gear and other sensitive equipment was stolen from a supply area.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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quotes Stake out the forest area in the middle of the night and listen for gunfire. Yeah, t... Read more
quotes I wonder how often these kind of losses occur? This looks reallly bad and something... Read more

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Some $600,000 worth of rifle scopes, laser sights, night-vision gear and other sensitive equipment was stolen during a break-in at a supply area at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, according to a statement released Monday by the Army's Criminal Investigation Command.

The theft occurred sometime between Dec. 14 and last Tuesday, according to an Army poster that offers $10,000 for information leading to the apprehension and conviction of those responsible for the heist.

Since Jan. 4, about 100 soldiers at Joint Base Lewis-McChord have been restricted to the base as investigators try to track down what the Army lists as 150 stolen items.

The soldiers, from a company of the 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, have been confined to certain areas on the base. They cannot leave without an escort or communicate by email or phone without permission from a leader.

Since Saturday evening, the families of these soldiers have been able to visit, according to Maj. Chris Ophardt, a base spokesman.

For the Army, the theft is an embarrassing security breakdown. The equipment is supposed to be stowed in a locked arms room with intruder alarms and is subject to daily security checks, according to base officials.

The Army Criminal Investigation Command said the equipment was stolen from a supply area outside the arms room.

A soldier from the 4th Brigade, who requested anonymity, said the second storage area was created when the arms room got crowded. He said the second room had locks, but no alarms, and the thief was able to cut the locks, then make off with the equipment.

The soldier said the second storage room, like the primary arms room, was supposed to be subject to daily security checks. So the theft should have been spotted within a day of the break-in, he said.

Ophardt said he could not comment on whether locks were broken, or whether the frequency of security checks was part of the criminal investigation.

The lockdown has angered some of the soldiers, who are part of the brigade's 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment. They have received support from March Forward, a group of soldiers and veterans opposed to the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, who have been circulating a petition calling for an end to the lockdown.

"The Fort Lewis, 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment is again being subjected to abusive treatment by its chain of command," the petition reads.

Reporter Amy Martinez

contributed to this story.

Hal Bernton: 206-464-2581 or hbernton@seattletimes.com

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