(WTVM) - Our community and this television station have a deep respect and admiration for the soldiers and commanders at Fort Benning.
The Fort, its military members, and civilian support personnel are a highly valued local asset.
But when two Afghan trainees went missing from Fort Benning on Labor Day, no one reported it to the local or national media.
News Leader 9 confirmed the two Afghans were in fact "absent without leave" or AWOL in military parlance.
We cover many positive stories of special activities at Fort Benning, like the Fort lending its Airborne School's 34 foot towers for a specialized rescue certification class for area fire departments earlier this month, the change of command and graduation ceremonies that mean so much to the base, as well as events like the Hispanic Heritage celebration at Fort Benning just last week.
We have a professional responsibility to report the good news along with the not-so-good, and when it comes to Fort Benning we routinely cover the good news stories.
And we realize these Afghan soldiers may not represent any real threat, but the fact is they are undergoing military training from the best soldiers - ours - and they have been unaccounted for since Sept. 5.
The larger story is: they aren't the only ones. Besides the two Afghan soldiers missing from Fort Benning, another is AWOL from Fort Gordon near Albany and four more from Virginia and Missouri, making a total of seven now AWOL from U.S. bases this month.
Now the Department of Homeland Security is involved. That is, to say the least, very disconcerting.
We completely understand and respect the military's need to control the flow of sensitive information, but if photos of those two Afghan soldiers had been released to the media shortly after they were discovered missing, they might be located by now.
We stand ready to use our on-air and digital resources to help. And while we hope there is not a next time, if there is, the military needs to alert the public.
The motto of Homeland Security has long been "if you see something, say something." But if the public is kept in the dark, there is no light to see.
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