By Nathan Pfau, Army Flier Staff WriterAugust 31, 2017
FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Antiterrorism Awareness Month is winding down, but Fort Rucker officials remind people to stay vigilant year round.
This year's theme for the observance month centered on homegrown violent extremism, which has seen an increase in activity in recent years, and for that reason it's imperative that the community stays on alert, said Mike Whittaker, Fort Rucker antiterrorism officer.
"Because we in the military, our families, our DA civilian and contractor co-workers enjoy the benefits and security of a 'gated community' environment, we tend to get complacent and let our guard down," he said, "but this is a time for personal vigilance.
"Whether the violent extremism is politically, racially or ideologically motivated, the results are still the same," he continued. "Good people -- friends, family members, neighbors -- are all put in harm's way when we do not pay attention to our surroundings, situations evolving around us and each other's welfare."
Whittaker said that since people of the community are usually the first people to see when a potential act of terrorism might occur, they are actually the first line of defense.
"We, the people, not local law enforcement or the military police, are the first line of defense," he said. "Be their eyes and ears. If you see or hear anything suspicious, call somebody."
"There is a lot of activity and things happening [overseas] that is driving things that are going on here in the U.S. with [law enforcement agencies], and we're all still saying the same thing -- see something, say something," said Cory Greenawalt, Fort Rucker antiterrorism analyst. "One of the big things that we are looking out for is radicalization and homegrown violent extremism.
ISIS is one terror group that is still very prevalent on the Internet, and because that is a medium that can be accessed by anyone globally, it's important that people are vigilant about their own operational security when venturing online, said Greenawalt.
"OPSEC and [antiterrorism] go hand in hand, especially where social media is concerned -- social media can be a breeding ground for bad things to happen," he said.
He added that although social media isn't bad, it's when young, impressionable minds are able to be reached out to through the medium that it becomes a problem. But it's not just traditional social media platforms, like Facebook and Twitter, that are the targets of terrorist groups, but gaming platforms, as well.
"It's spilling over into game play through [computer gaming and console gaming]," said the antiterrorism analyst. "We're seeing conversations going on in chat rooms on video games, so it's very entrenched and in depth -- it's something that parents and Soldiers need to be aware of because it's out there."
It's because of the depth of reach that these organizations have that Greenawalt said it falls on parents to make sure they know who their children are talking to and what they're talking about. The best way to do that is through conversation.
"Bring them back to the dinner table and ask them who they're talking to online and things like that. Let them know they need to be aware of these things," he said.
"One of the things that I've learned over the last 28 years is that terrorism will find a way -- it's prolific," Greenawalt said. "[Terrorists'] tactics, techniques and procedures change, as ours do. That's why we need people to remain vigilant."
The main way people can remain vigilant is by utilizing the iWatch Army program, which is an antiterrorism program that focuses on encouraging Army-wide community awareness and outreach efforts to address important topics related to protecting those communities, said the antiterrorism analyst.
"Freedom and liberty are not gifts handed down by our forefathers, but the ultimate prizes in life being competed for every minute of every day, by those who would take yours away," added Whittaker. "Stay alert and stay alive."
To access the iWatch Army website, people can visit http://www.myarmyonesource.com/familyprogramsandservices/iwatchprogram/default.aspx. Greenawalt also stressed that when reporting suspicious activity, people should call the Fort Rucker non-emergency line at 255-2222, adding that 911 should only be utilized for emergency situations.