By Marie Berberea, Fort Sill, Okla.August 12, 2010
FORT SILL, Okla. -- August is Antiterrorism Awareness Month so some recruiting is being done. The Army is recruiting you. Yes, you and everyone who works and or lives on Fort Sill to do their part in watching out for suspicious activity.
The Army recognizes that installations, facilities and operational units must be capable of deterring and defending against the full range of threats-from criminal activity to terrorist attacks. To do so they need help from everyone.
Now this isn't a scare tactic meant to cause everyone to be on edge. On the contrary, David Fritz, force protection specialist, believes if people are just aware of their surroundings they can be the most powerful surveillance tools out there.
"I think people want to do the right thing but they are a bit shy. That's what we're trying to engage, is that everyone our family members, kids in the school, teachers, contractors, civilians, they're all sensors for us. If we have 34,000 people on this installation at any one time we've got 34,000 sensors. That's what we want. So if you see something wrong report it," said Fritz.
With a set of eyes and four other senses Fritz said no one knows their own surroundings better than that person. For that exact reason they can tell if something seems "off," or not as it should be.
Antiterrorism posters have been put up on walls, and fliers have been passed out to spread the message of things to look out for.
"It might seem like nothing to report, but it's best to report the activity and then let the authorities decide," said Fritz.
Some activities that should be reported are:
AcaEUR"A People drawing or measuring important buildings.
AcaEUR"A Strangers asking questions about security forces or security procedures.
AcaEUR"A A briefcase, suitcase, backpack or package left behind.
AcaEUR"A Cars or trucks left in no parking zones in front of important buildings.
AcaEUR"A Intruders found in secure areas.
AcaEUR"A A person wearing clothes that are too big and bulky or too hot for the weather.
AcaEUR"A Suspicious chemical smells or fumes.
AcaEUR"A Questions about sensitive information such as building blueprints, security plans or VIP travel schedules without a right or need to know.
AcaEUR"A Purchasing supplies or equipment that can be used to make bombs or weapons or purchasing uniforms without having the proper credentials.
Part of the awareness teaches that those actions could be a missing piece to a larger picture that may point authorities in the right direction.
A member of the Cannoneer staff without visible credentials was stopped and asked for identification while taking photos of McNair Hall as she should have been. The post antiterrorism team said that was a small victory for them.
"And, if nothing else happens other than the MPs clear the individual of no wrong doing then that's a win for us. It's the one time that we don't have people report something because they become complacent."
Sgt. 1st Class Kevin Elliott, Fires Center of Excellence Antiterrorism Officer, is responsible for ensuring every unit has itsr own antiterrorism officer and has all the possible resources needed to spread awareness.
"We want to make sure everybody knows awareness doesn't stop at the front gate."
That truth was sadly realized with the Fort Hood, Texas, shooting. Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, a former Army psychiatrist faces 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder for the Nov. 5 shootings.
Of course, hindsight is 20/20 as reports show the warning signs were missed. The Pentagon released an assessment considering taking judicial action against those who may have been able to prevent such an attack.
"It's just a matter of awareness and understanding your surroundings," said Fritz.
Karrie Lovins, force protection specialist, said they also ensure family members are involved.
"They understand the world as it is today and what the requirements are and that when you go outside of the United States there is that increased risk," said Lovins.
An example of someone off post foiling a terrorist plot happened in the Fort Dix, N.J., suspects case. A group of young Muslim men allegedly sent a jihadi videotape to a local store to be copied, prompting the clerk to tip off authorities. The FBI infiltrated the group and were able to make arrests.
Lovins said their goal is for people to not only focus on terrorist activities but normal criminal activity as well. A program called iWatch Army has been implemented for that very reason. It's a Armywide modern version of the neighborhood watch program that focuses on year-round suspicious activity reporting.
"It's a holistic view of force protection. You know to combat people that are preying on others on the Internet, stealing banking information that's all encompassing with iWatch," said Lovins. "We're trying to keep the awareness up and not to get complacent into thinking: 'Hey, I'm in the Midwest I'm in the middle of nowhere, there's no threat.' It doesn't matter we're on a military installation. That by its nature is going to put you potentially at a higher risk."