By Nathan Pfau, Army Flier Staff WriterAugust 2, 2012
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (August 2, 2012) -- August brings with it the end of summer vacation and the hope of cooler temperatures, but it's also Antiterrorism Awareness Month that reminds people to remain vigilant, according to Michael Whittaker, installation antiterrorism officer.
Whittaker said that the installation is revisiting the theme of "Know Your Surroundings" to promote vigilance on Fort Rucker and concentrating on the Army's iWatch program, which focuses on involving the entire community, from the school level and up, to keep an eye out for suspicious activity.
Fort Rucker experienced an incident involving suspicious activity when authorities received a call about a suspicious package July 26, and the installation deployed the Criminal Investigation Division, military police, military police investigations and hazardous material team, said Whittaker.
"The government takes [these incidents] seriously," he said. "They went into full metal jacket just in case it was [a hazardous substance]. People [on Fort Rucker] need to be the same way in the housing areas, on and off post, and in their places of business."
No hazardous materials were found during the incident, but if something seems out of the ordinary, people should still report suspicious activity in case of a real emergency, said Whittaker.
"There is no call that is considered ignorant or a waste of our time," he said. "We never know what's going to happen, so if you notice something, get what information you can without putting yourself in jeopardy and report it to the local authorities."
Whittaker said that Fort Rucker's main focus is the safety of the installation's Soldiers, Families and civilians, but emphasized that the garrison can only see and do so much.
"Policemen have to cover an area of about 600 houses, so we have our limitations," he said. "[The people on Fort Rucker] are our first responders -- they are our eyes and ears. There are people out there that aren't making common sense decisions … and it's time to be alert of everything."
If people notice activity that is out of the ordinary, Whittaker suggests that people take a "do not touch" approach.
"If there's a car parked where you know it doesn't belong or there is a package some place it shouldn't be, don't pick it up or touch it," said the antiterrorism officer. "Call the MPs. They have K9 units … and specialized personnel to handle that sort of thing."
Although August is officially Antiterrorism Awareness Month, Whittaker suggests that people take the lessons learned and apply them to life year round.
"After antiterrorism month is over, people tend to get complacent and become less vigilant," he said. "You can put the target back on your chest and say 'Come get some,' but if you want to put the same target on your son or daughter's chest, you'll think about it. We are the best protection we have."
Whittaker described Fort Rucker as a gated community and people should treat it as a privilege to be on the installation by looking out for each other to keep the garrison safe for everyone on post.
"Fort Rucker has been rated one of the safest places of large or small towns in the United States in crime rate because we have such a good rapport with all the local police departments," he said, "but that doesn't mean you should become less vigilant or complacent. Anything else can be replaced, but I can't replace someone's loved one."