By Nathan Pfau, Army Flier Staff WriterAugust 15, 2013
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (August 15, 2013) -- Each month represents awareness for countless organizations and causes, but the Army is recognizing one cause throughout August to keep its Soldiers, Families and civilians "Always Ready. Always Alert."
August is Antiterrorism Awareness Month and the Army is looking to promote awareness and vigilance through its training efforts and bring the topic to the forefront of people's minds, said Tom Solem, Fort Rucker Training and Doctrine Command antiterrorism officer.
"A month like this is necessary because people get into a routine, and even though they know that they have to train for this kind of thing, they just become (complacent) after a while," said Solem. "With this month dedicated to antiterrorism, it forces people to be more open-minded and get more aggressive in the purpose of training and break the mundane cycle of normal training."
Banners are posted throughout the installation to help promote awareness and remind people to be vigilant about potential threats and offer advice on how to combat potential threats.
People should develop personal security habits, understand risks and take proactive measures to ensure the safety of themselves and their Families, explained Solem.
Some preemptive tips include: never travel alone, travel in groups of two or more; carry a cellular phone whenever possible and know local emergency numbers; maintain situational awareness of surroundings and pay attention; and take precautions with social media networks and avoid posting personal identifiable information.
"Just because we have Antiterrorism Awareness Month doesn't indicate that there is a bigger threat, but you just never know," said the antiterrorism officer. "People need to force themselves to be more cognizant of their surroundings."
One of the main features that the Army wants to focus on throughout the month is community involvement -- not only Soldiers, but civilians as well, said Solem, and one way the Army has stepped up to push involvement is through its iWatch program.
iWatch Army is an antiterrorism program that focuses on encouraging Army-wide community awareness and outreach efforts to address important topics related to protecting communities. It's a partnership between the community and local law enforcement through which people can report behaviors and activities that they find suspicious.
"If you see something, then say something," said Solem. "People tend to get complacent and sometimes become too trusting. They go into a store and forget to lock their car, and the next thing they know, they come out and their car is gone."
Mike Whittaker, installation antiterrorism officer, agreed and said that law enforcement are limited to their resources to what they can see, so it's the job of citizens to help make sure that the installation stays safe.
"Police officers have to cover an area of about 600 houses, so we have our limitations," he said. "(People on Fort Rucker) are our first responders -- they are our eyes and ears -- and we are the best protection that we have."
Although the month is Antiterrorism Awareness Month, it doesn't focus only on what people my traditionally think of as terrorism.
"It's not so much that Al Qaeda or the Taliban are in the Wiregrass, and it's not just threats from abroad that we have to worry about," said the antiterrorism officer. "There are local groups throughout the United States that might harbor ill will toward the government.
"That's not to say that every fraternal organization is bad," he continued, "but if they have an agenda that could disrupt the normal way of life, then people have to watch out for things like that and report it if necessary."