Staying safe means avoiding complacency
Bear in mind -- Staying safe means avoiding complacency.

FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Al Qaeda, Taliban, extremists of all shapes and beliefs, sexual predators, identity thieves, active shooters, gangs, disgruntled employees - Americans don't have to look far for threats to themselves and their loved ones.

At any time and in any form, that threat could be right next to someone.

The biggest threat to people's security is complacency, according to Michael Whittaker, installation antiterrorism officer.

He stressed that everyone needs to take on an active role in keeping themselves, their loved ones and the community in general safe from a myriad of threats that can materialize at any time.

"The best eyes and ears we have out there are the people who live around us," Whittaker said. "They're familiar with their neighborhoods, and they can see when something is out of place or looks suspicious. We can send a policeman to a neighborhood, but to him it might look like a typical neighborhood. What is out of place' If you live there and can't or don't tell him, then you're part of the problem."

Security systems and personnel are in place to do their part in making Fort Rucker a difficult target, but it takes community involvement and action to take that protection to the next level, he said.

"People saying things like 'It's never happened here before,' or 'That's not the way we've done it in the past,' doesn't help," Whittaker said. "Lots of places have said that and have been hit. The best protection you have for you and your Family is yourself. Be knowledgeable."

If someone sees something suspicious or something he or she feels uncomfortable with, take action by calling him or the military police, he added. Whittaker can be reached at 255-3721 and the MPs at 255-2222.

"No call to this office or to the MPs about something suspicious is a wrong call," Whittaker said. "The only thing that is stupid is if something happens and you didn't make that call."

Lest anyone think the threats are located in faraway lands, think again, Whittaker said. From gangs to people with grudges against the government to lone wolves on solo Jihads to hate groups to criminals to sexual predators, the threats are not only out there, they are close.

"Although Al Qaeda is vast and ugly, the FBI and others will tell you the most prominent problem we have is the homegrown terrorist," he said. "The wannabes who want (to) get on their Web sites and Jihad, or just kill people. It's not real sweet when they come to your neighborhood. They're trying to make a statement, and it's not a good statement."

There are 16 hate groups in Alabama, according to Whittaker.

"And not a one of them has anything to do with Islam. There are about 13 white supremacy groups, a couple of black supremacy groups, and a myriad of hate groups and militias. Nothing's happened here. We've been very blessed," he said. "We want to keep it that way."

The possibility of a terrorist attack here is always a concern, so Whittaker provided these seven signs of terrorism:

* Surveillance - The first sign is someone trying to monitor or record activities. If terrorists are targeting a specific area, they will most likely be observed in that area during the planning phase of the operation.

* Elicitation or seeking information - The second sign is the attempt to gain information about a place, person or operation. Solicitation attempts can be made by mail, fax, telephone, or in person. Examples would be someone inquiring about critical infrastructure like a power plant, water reservoir or maritime port.

* Tests of security - Tests of security or probing techniques terrorists would use to attempt to gather data. These are usually conducted by driving past or even penetrating the target, moving into sensitive areas, and observing security or law enforcement responses.

* Acquiring supplies - This may be a case where someone is purchasing or stealing explosives, weapons or ammunition. It could be the unusual purchasing or storing of fertilizer or harmful chemicals. Terrorists would also find it useful to acquire law enforcement equipment and identification, military uniforms and decals, as well as flight passes, badges or even flight manuals.

* Suspicious people who do not belong - Another pre-incident indicator is observing suspicious people who just don't belong.

* Dry run or trial run - Before the execution of a final operation or plan, a practice session might be run to work out flaws and discover unanticipated problems.

* Deploying assets and getting into position - The seventh and final sign to look for is someone deploying assets or getting into position. This is your last chance to alert authorities before the terrorist attack occurs.

Report all suspicious people or activities to the military police at 255-2222 or the anti-terrorism branch at 255-3721.

Page last updated Fri March 19th, 2010 at 12:31