Hill Air Force Base is making headlines this year again for yet another major misstep, this time involving a small cache of wayward weapons.
Hill officials believe a missing box of M-16s may have fallen off a government vehicle Tuesday afternoon. On Thursday they issued a "Wanted" bulletin for a man suspected of picking up the container and putting it in his car.
The suspect is described as a white male, 40-50 years old, about 5 feet, 9 inches tall, heavy set with gray hair and possibly balding on the top. The only description of his vehicle is that it's a four-door green colored car.
"The individual was witnessed placing the container in his vehicle and departing the area," the Hill bulletin stated.
The green plastic case containing 12 M-16 rifles is 18 inches high, 24 inches wide and 3 feet, 7 inches in length. The box was reported missing at around 3:45 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Wardleigh and Browning Road, south of the installation's Roy gate.
"Determining the whereabouts of these missing weapons is our top priority," Hill 75th Air Base Wing Commander Col. Linda Medler said. "It's possible the rifles fell off a government vehicle while being moved from one location on base to another."
An ongoing investigation Thursday also involved local law enforcement.
Hill is asking anyone with information about the rifles to call the Air Force Office of Special Investigations at 801-777-1852 or 801-777-6745. After hours call 801-777-3056 or 801-777-3057.
News of the missing M-16s comes on the heels of a string of hiccups at Hill that have overshadowed a few highlights this year.
In April Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he saw "areas of concern" regarding the accidental shipping of Minuteman ballistic missile components from Hill to Taiwan in 2006. The shipment was intended to be a load of helicopter batteries.
Also in April an F-16 pilot from Hill's 388th Fighter Wing accidentally fired a 20 mm Gatling-style cannon on a rented vehicle that was in the area of the Utah Test and Training Range during live-fire exercises. Two soldiers using the vehicle received slight injuries, Hill officials reported.
And in that same month Hill made the news after base officials reported not knowing until March, 2008, that "classified components" being demilitarized over an eight-month period contained a small amount of depleted uranium when they were sent to a burn plant in Layton.
Hill officials announced last April that the base lost to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware for the national Commander-In-Chief's Installation Excellence Award. In May Hill's Environmental Quality Team was named the best of its kind in the Department of Defense.
Last year, however, the Deseret News learned through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request that janitors on base were being paid for work not done or for cleaning up a building that didn't exist. Also in 2007 Hill's name was connected with a spending scandal that Pentagon investigators said involved an Air Force acquisitions officer hurrying Hill to approve contract changes in 2001 that resulted in overpaying Boeing $4.5 million.A Deseret News FOIA request in 2006 revealed Hill and three other facilities had been approving the sale of equipment as surplus without making sure certain critical components or data were removed first.