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Base pool vandalism costs jobs, thousands of dollars

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- What is small enough to go undetected in gallons of water but large enough to lay off base workers, cost thousands of dollars and possibly injure or maim? 

That microscopic sadist is a shard of glass that may be potentially floating around the base pool after this weekend's vandalism. 

Either late on Saturday or early Sunday morning, one or more base residents snuck into the base pool, destroyed first aid kits, broke a florescent light and stole other little odds and ends, said Michael Szymanski, 30th Force Support Squadron's Services director. 

"The problem with that is that whenever glass gets into the pool, even though we are sure we can pick up the pieces, we are not sure about the very thin shards of glass that could be inhaled, swallowed, get into someone's eyes," said Mr. Szymanski. "So, we have to drain (the pool). The base pays in the thousands of dollars to drain a pool." 

The problem with draining the pool is that the chemically enhanced water has to go somewhere. 

"This is environmental impact, too," the Services director said. "Thousands of gallons of chlorinated water has to be slowly processed through Lompoc treatment plant for eventual reuse." 

On top of this environmental strain, the community will also feel the effects of this vandalism. 

"At a minimum, the pool will be closed for two weeks," said Mr. Szymanski. "The base triathlon will have to be rescheduled, we've taken away from a very short swim season by now having to close all current and future base swim related classes and workers have been laid off." 

Even though there is a price the base has to pay, the vandals will have their own high price to pay as well. 

"If the vandal or vandals are caught, they would be punished under California state law," said Staff Sgt. Andrew Cox, 30th Security Forces Squadron resource protection program manager. "As adults, the possible punishment is a $50,000 fine as well as up to one year in jail. Juveniles have the opportunity to go through a juvenile program or take the adult punishment." 

For military members, even sneaking into the pool after hours could possibly be career ending. 

"For military members we could start with the first and most obvious offense, unlawful entry, which carries the maximum charge of bad conduct discharge and six months confinement," Sergeant Cox said. "There are a few more things they could be charged with that would definitely seal their fate." 

In light of this costly and base community-affecting event, Col. David Buck, the 30th Space Wing Commander, had his own message for Team Vandenberg. 

"Words can't begin to capture my disappointment," Colonel Buck said. "This cowardly and senseless act impacts the entire installation and funding for other programs on base will suffer as a result. 

"These vandals deliberately caused damage and possible harm to others and I need your help," he added. "I charge our entire community to help find those responsible -- someone knows who did this ... your report can be anonymous. This is a safe and responsible community; it's imperative we self-police and hold criminals accountable." 

Anyone with information relating to the vandalism at the base pool should contact the 30th Security Forces Squadron law enforcement desk at 606-3911.