Writer learns about Fort Huachuca security first-hand
September 7, 2010
By Maggie Rose
Click. Click. Click. My sweaty, quivering hands nervously tap the end of the pen, and I shuffle my feet with the urge to run as the imposing figure steps into the doorway. My heart pounds ferociously; the little hairs on my arm have a pulse of their own.
The camera hanging from my neck weighs a hundred pounds. A single bead of sweat trickles slowly down my neck, and my head begins to throb. Placing an arm on my boss's desk to keep from falling on my face, I hear the booming voice: "Ms. Rose' Can we have a word with you'"
I stare bewildered at his military police uniform as his steely blue eyes examine my camera and the pen and paper in my shaking left hand. My head echoes with the words, "Why in the world are the cops here' What did I do' I've never even been pulled over before!"
Frantically, I review the day's events, desperately searching for something to stand out that would have been arrest-worthy. "I drove the speed limit to work. My license plates are current. My ID card is securely swinging around my neck - what could it be'"
"Ma'am, we received a report of a woman of your physical description taking pictures of the NETCOM [Netcom Enterprise Technology Command] building and writing something on a pad of paper," the first officer said.
Realizing the security misunderstanding, my heart resumes its healthy, non-cardiac arrest rhythm. My boss smiles and loses the worried look on his face that he may have hired a spy.
I proceed to tell the MPs I am a summer hire for 9th Signal Command working in the public affairs office on an article for "The Fort Huachuca Scout." The camera and pad of paper were used to ask people simple questions such as, "Which form of social media do you prefer'" With a steady voice I explain, "I am working on a 'Scout on the Street' column. My job is to interview six individuals, and take their picture."
Apparently I was reported by someone who saw me taking pictures instead of someone I spoke to personally.
I add, "I did not take any pictures of the building, nor do I need them."
An inconspicuous - but, oh I saw it - smile creeps onto the officer's face. Understandably, he was put at ease that the security of the building and post was not threatened.
I had gained his trust and stopped sweating. Then, he asks me to walk with him. "I am about to walk through the building with two police officers. TWO of them, and the head of security. This will be interesting. Cue the awkward stares," I thought.
As we approach the front of the building, my nerves return full force. Eyes are glued to me, and whispers carry to the ceiling: "What did she DO'"
If that wasn't enough embarrassment, it occurs to me that the officers intend to question me by the police vehicles; two of them, my face as red as the lights, drawing the attention of what felt like hundreds of passers-by.
The first officer, who has regained his stiff, unrelenting glare, is writing a physical description of me down to the last detail: "Blue jeans, green shirt, eyebrow piercing, gray vest." "My vest is brown," I fume silently.
The second officer is just standing there, watching me. I feel small and insignificant.
A long pen slash appears on the page when the officer is startled by a voice coming from the building. Looking up, squinting into the sun, we observe the deputy commanding general, Brig. Gen. LaWarren Patterson, leaning out of his window.
Much to my relief, he jokingly shouts, "Take her in! We don't know her!" My laugh echoes his and I triumphantly tell the officer, "That's the DCG [Deputy Commanding General]. He's known me since I was 8."
The officer is impressed, but his face won't crack. However, I know now I won't have to go to jail.
The painful heart palpitations begin again when the officer asks for my driver's license.
Remembering I had left it in my wallet at my desk, I think, "Joy. Let's walk through the building again to get it."
Back in my office, no one is working; everyone is simply standing around talking about my dilemma.
Handing the officer my license, he writes something down and says, "Sorry for the misunderstanding, ma'am. But, we have to be careful these days. You never know who is working for the other guys."
"The other guys'" I sigh and gulp down an entire bottle of water.
Stress still hanging thickly in the air, my boss comes to my desk to lighten the mood. "So, spy, how are you feeling'" he asks sarcastically. We laughed about the situation for days afterwards.
In the moment, my infraction with the cops was quite terrifying, and I was livid that my day-to-day task of journalism photography would cause someone to think I am a threat against the Army and the United States. I consider myself very patriotic, and I value my freedom which gives me the right and the duty to protect it.
However, I want to track down the person who reported me and personally thank them. He was protecting the building, the post, and the country by reporting something he deemed a potential security issue.
Threats and attacks happen daily on military installations across the country, and it is our job to report anything we see or hear to local security. If it doesn't "look" or "feel" right, it most likely isn't.
Although you may cause a young journalist to have a heart attack, it is better to be safe than sorry.
Those who see suspicious activity on Fort Huachuca should report it by calling iWATCH, 538-6969.