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FORT LEE, Va. – As Antiterrorism Awareness Month continues, the DPTMS force protection team offers this reminder … you are part of the engine that powers the nation’s defenses.

That’s right, it all starts with individuals in military and civilian communities being alert to their surroundings and aware of what looks out of place and reporting any suspicions to law enforcement officials.

A group referring to itself as the “Islamic State” is spreading its hatred of Americans through social media, resulting in a growing number of threats/acts of intimidation to instill fear and outright attacks mostly focused toward law enforcement and U.S. military personnel or those associated with them.

There are support groups affiliated with Hezbollah and Hamas as close as Washington, D.C. They primarily engage in fundraising and recruiting, but could easily provide support to operational teams if they decided to attack nearby U.S. targets.  Furthermore, the growing threat of violent groups like al-Qaida makes the world in general a more dangerous place.

Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani, a Saudi national, is an example of an extremist with ties to al-Qaida who attacked Americans while in the U.S. The 21 year old was training at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida. He opened fire inside a classroom on Dec. 6, 2019, killing three and wounding eight others before being shot and killed. He also used social media and the internet to spread the call of jihad. The FBI succeeded in unlocking Alshamrani’s phones, which offered information establishing his ties to al-Qaeda before he even arrived in the United States.

With all that in mind, let’s review some of the salient points of AT Awareness Month. Always do the following:

·      Guard information about yourself and your job. Limit discussion and accessibility of any information (written or verbal) that may provide insights for terrorists targeting U.S. personnel.

·      Use secure channels when relaying sensitive information. Properly destroy outdated documents/files that contain sensitive information.

·      Recognize and report unusual/suspicious behavior. Be aware of surroundings. Write down license numbers of suspicious vehicles; note description of occupants. Report anything unusual to the chain of command, local authorities or the FBI. If on the Installation call Fort Lee Law Enforcement at 804-734-7400

·      Be prepared for the unexpected. Plan for the full range of threat possibilities and remember that rehearsal drills are the surest way to check the understanding and effectiveness of established procedures.

Other personal protection safeguards are as follows:

Official and unofficial travel – Ensure your Level 1 AT Training is current. If an overseas trip is planned, request an area-specific threat briefing by an antiterrorism officer or security manager. Avoid use of rank or military addresses on tickets, travel documents or hotel reservations. When given the option to do so, use a passport instead of a military ID card for identification. For overnight stays, select an inside hotel room (away from the street-side window), preferably on 4th-10th floors. Know the location of the U.S. Embassy and other safe locations where you can find refuge or assistance when traveling overseas. Ensure associates or loved ones know your planned route and anticipated times of arrival. Guard information about yourself and maintain a low profile.

Mail Bomb Precautions – Check mail and packages for unusual odors (shoe polish or almond); oily stains; too much wrapping; bulges, bumps or odd shapes; protruding wires or strings; unfamiliar or no return address; postmark/return address differences; incorrect spelling and poor or foreign handwriting; unexpected items sent “registered” or marked “personal;” an excessive amount of postage. If one or more of these clues are apparent, immediately clear the area and notify the chain of command, call 911 along with your local authorities or the FBI.

Daily commuting/travel – Regularly check vehicles for tampering, especially when parked in an unfamiliar area. Keep doors locked and windows rolled up when parked. Alter routes and avoid choke points. Use different parking places. Know safe locations along the route. Avoid markings that associate a vehicle with government affiliation or military rank. Consider wearing civilian clothing when riding on mass transit.

Home security – Talk to family members about residential security and safety procedures. Establish a duress word that would serve as a clue that a family member is in trouble. Use peephole viewers before opening the door. Ensure the area outside the home is sufficiently lit to deter intruders. Be alert to strangers who are on government property for no apparent reason.

Personal security – Shred unneeded paperwork that shows name, rank or other personal information. Talk to family members about personal security. Discourage sharing detailed information with others, particularly on the Internet. Be cautious when discussing travel plans or security measures. Avoid nameplates on homes/military quarters. Avoid the use of names and ranks on answering machines. Refuse to meet strangers outside of the work place.

Telephone security – Always verify the name/purpose of callers. Don’t provide personal or sensitive information over the phone. If the call is hostile or a bomb threat, take notes – time, gender, language, location of planned attacks, and any other details that will help law enforcement with their response. Those on post can dial *57, wait for the confirmation message that traces the caller, and then report the incident to Fort Lee Law Enforcement as soon as possible at 804-734-7400.

Remember, force protection depends on you. In recent statements to Congress, the FBI and Department of Homeland Security described the threat of terrorist attacks in the U.S. as “greater than at any time since 9/11.” A dynamic threat environment demands utmost vigilance and discipline. Education, awareness and planning are the best tools for “beating the bad guys.”

More information about individual protective measures can be found on the Level I AT Awareness Training site – http://jko.jten.mil/courses/atl1/launch.html.Additional threat data is available at National Terrorism Advisory System | Homeland Security (dhs.gov).