Situational awareness training aims to prevent attacks
April 26, 2013
EDINBURGH, Ind. -- In August 2012, after being given a weapon for target practice, a newly trained Afghan policeman turned on two U.S. troops that helped in his training; one of seven insider threat attacks to happen in a two week period according to Time magazine.
More recently, in March of this year, Fox News sited an incident in which a police officer opened fire on U.S special operations and Afghan forces outside a police headquarters in eastern Afghanistan.
An insider threat, according to Army regulation, occurs when someone with access to an organization intentionally causes loss or damage through espionage, terrorism or the release of information and plans.
The issue is complex and prominent with coalition forces, and Advanced Situational Awareness Training is being implemented to combat and prevent the attacks from happening.
Service members assigned to a Provincial Reconstruction Team received Advanced Situational Awareness training at Atterbury-Muscatatuck, April 18-20, in preparation of their deployment to Afghanistan later this year.
PRTs are multi-component, joint and interagency teams that support reconstruction efforts and empower local governments in Afghanistan. The PRT members work closely with local villagers and leaders. The ASAT techniques allow these service members to better understand and potentially interpret hostile intents before they become actions.
"The insider threat is one of those things they [insurgents] have found is working, and there have been more attacks each of these last couple years, and more of our American Soldiers being killed because of it. This is something we really have to be hot on," said Sgt. 1st Class Joel Killian, 4th Cavalry Brigade, 1st Squadron, 409th Calvary Regiment.
The 4th Cavalry Brigade, First Army Division East provides training and validation for the Provincial Reconstruction Teams. The unit will receive up-to-date training based on current mission requirements from combatant commanders in theater.
Soldiers with the 4th Cavalry Brigade led the classes, having previously undergone ASAT training themselves. During the training, PRT members learn different skills that better enable them to observe and understand their surroundings and make predictions of future actions. This allows Soldiers to better plan for and react to unexpected enemy actions.
"The insider attack, if you're improperly armed, is harder to defend against if you're not aware of how these things happen. The insider threat is anything from foreign or domestic. It's all around you, at any time, anything can happen. It's very difficult to think that everything can hurt you at anytime," said Killian.
Role playing scenarios as well as emphasis on nonverbal cues and environmental observance played a part in training. Examples of insider threat attacks that may have happened in the past were portrayed by role players to arm the deploying Soldiers with the best information available, said Killian. The scenario driven training allowed the PRT members to develop a solid foundation for understanding their environment and making proactive decisions.
"Information is a power there [in theater]. If they understand, and then they're able to develop a most likely, most dangerous courses of action at all times, hopefully we can get them to be proactive thinkers versus reactive," he continued.
Douglas Hansen, a longtime ASAT instructor, feels it is important for all service members to receive the training.
"This is something that weighs nothing. This is something that they're utilizing their own brains to be able to see what's in front of them and try to make a decision before an event occurs," said Hansen. "From Kansas to Kandahar, it doesn't matter, the training is applicable anywhere."
Hansen has seen firsthand the effects this training can have.
"When I was one of the first ones to take this into theater to Iraq with a Marine unit at that time, they were able to utilize this information for 167 captures including eight of the top ten individuals that were wanted in the area at that time, and shut down 11 complete IED networks," said Hansen.
These results came from using situational awareness, and pursuing indicators that something was amiss. By using these same methods, Soldiers can spot anomalies in behavior and environment that can lead to preventing threats.
Response to the training has been positive, and many Soldiers said they feel it will help when operating in Afghanistan.
"It's amazing to have a student come back and say 'I can't believe that I've never had a class like this before', and we've gotten that response yesterday and today," said Killian. "We're tailoring this [training] and armoring our brains with new stuff, and it's in the right focus. We are in the right direction, and I think we just need more people trained this way."
With the withdrawal from Afghanistan beginning, one can only hope that as the last rotations of Soldiers arrive, this training goes with them, making them cognitive of different threats, and arming them to combat it to the best of their abilities.