By Jay Mann, Fort Rucker Public AffairsAugust 3, 2011
FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- August is Antiterrorism Awareness Month and the Army’s iWatch program seeks to remind people that the Army community has the power to keep itself safe.
“Vigilance is necessary right now,” said Michael Whittaker, installation anti-terrorism officer, adding that iWatch focuses on training everyone to recognize the signs of terrorist activity and to report it to the nearest security or law enforcement representative. “iWatch is a great program because it takes it down to the school level where the kids are. It involves the entire community.
“Terrorism used to be the boogeyman in the closet -- not very publicized,” said Whittaker. “Now we are trying to be preventive -- proactive instead of reactive.”
Unlike a traditional community watch program with a chain of response and set watch hours, the iWatch program teaches that people are individually responsible for recognizing the indicators of potential terrorist threats to their immediate area. The iWatch slogan, “See Something, Say Something,” says it all, Whittaker said.
He explained that this new approach is for spouses, Army civilians, contractors and even children. “We would love to see them teach the children, ‘if you find something, call a teacher, or if it’s in your neighborhood call your mom or dad.’”
A single report can lead to actions that may stop a terrorist attack. Recently in Killeen, Texas, a suspected terrorist was arrested because a worker at a gun shop thought the man seemed suspicious and reported it, according to numerous civilian media news reports.
The iWatch program stresses individual situational awareness and knowledge of the proper reporting methods. On Fort Rucker, the way to report suspicious activity or individuals is to call 255-2222, said Whittaker.
“If it’s important enough to call, call when you see it,” he said.
Also, there are alternative reporting methods, Whittaker added. Department of the Army civilians or Soldiers can report suspicions up their chain of command. Spouses can report to their military member or Family readiness group leader. Children can talk to parents or teachers. Contractors can contact their contract agency or COTR.
“If all else fails, just call 911,” he said. “There’s no such thing as a stupid report, unless you keep it in your pocket and don’t make it. Know your area and know who you deal with. If it’s not normal, report it, but be descriptive.
“Kids, believe it or not, will give you the best descriptions,” Whittaker added. “Kids give you the color of the shirt he was wearing, whether he was a tall person or a skinny guy, whether he had blue eyes or sideburns. You get the same report from mom and dad and they say, ‘he was a stranger.’ Grownups need to go back to being kids when they are reporting something in their area.”
Whittaker said people should make mental notes on the details, like physical descriptions, license plate numbers or what packages look like.
“You don’t want to say, ‘It was a suspicious looking guy in a ball cap.’ Then you’ve got people looking for a guy in a ball cap in the south,” he said. “It is very important to note descriptions, locations and times.”