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NEWS | June 25, 2010

Protecting the Force Is Everyone’s Business

By Joseph L. Rector 316th Security Forces Squadron

The first Gulf War, military actions in Kosovo, and more recently our fight against terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan have proven the importance of air power, and in particular, United States Air Force airpower, as crucial to ensuring the U.S. Armed Forces can protect and defend our nation's interests. More importantly, we are proud members of the most recognized installation in the military and the home of Air Force One. Our enemies, who would challenge our interests, recognize the importance of our airpower and will make every effort to disrupt and destroy our air combat capabilities. In 1921, Italian airpower theorist, General Giulio Douhet, stated that "It is easier and more effective to destroy the enemy's aerial power by destroying his nests and eggs on the ground than to hunt his flying birds in the air." Our enemies know this lesson very well. Traditionally, our focus has been on protecting our air bases overseas, but terrorist actions on Sept. 11, 2001, demonstrated that our enemies have the capability to strike us at home as well.

In 1999, a man crossing the United States/Canadian border was stopped at a routine checkpoint when a guard became suspicious of his appearance. A search of his vehicle uncovered explosives and plans to attack major U.S. cities at the turn of the Millennium. On Sept. 11, 2001, four hijackers took control of an airliner and tried to fly it into the U.S. Capitol Building. Passengers on board that plane, civilians of all races, ages, and gender, foiled that plot by fighting back. The plane crashed in an uninhabited field in Pennsylvania, but the nation's capital and many innocent lives were saved. When a man tried to ignite a shoe bomb on board a plane bound for America, flight crew and passengers reacted and subdued him. All of these acts have a common theme: innocent people being aware of their surroundings and taking action to stop terrorism.

While personnel assigned to the 316th Security Forces Squadron provide a crucial role in protecting personnel, families, and resources at Joint Base Andrews Naval Air Facility Washington, every member of Team Andrews is key to ensuring a secure base. Following the successful German airborne assault of Crete during World War II, Winston Churchill wrote a memo to his Chief of Air Staff in which he stated that "Every airfield should be a stronghold of fighting air-groundmen, and not the abode of uniformed civilians in the prime of life protected by detachments of soldiers." While it might be extreme to expect everyone on the installation to take up arms to defend their air base, everyone can contribute to the security of the installation. The goal is to create the perception that Team Andrews is imbued with vigilant citizens who do not tolerate criminal acts or threats to security. Such a perception will deter our would-be adversaries, because the risk of detection and defeat would be too great.

How can you contribute to the force protection of the installation? On April 18, 2002, the United States Air Force, with General Jumper's endorsement, created its own version of a 'Neighborhood Watch.' Similar to the well known civilian program, 'Eagle Eyes' is based on the premise that everyday people are more aware of usual and unusual activities and, therefore, provide an inherent 'early warning system.' It has often been said that law enforcement is never around when they are needed...why does that appear to be so? Just like children, criminals and terrorists are more likely to be on their best behavior when authority figures are present. Likewise, they are more likely to act out when they feel safe from capture. The natural conclusion leads us to believe, therefore, that the base populace and local community have the best chance of observing criminals or terrorists as they plot, prepare and execute their evil deeds.

The 'Eagle Eyes' program provides an easy avenue for the everyday American to do his and her duty and report any suspicious activity. Upon witnessing any suspicious activity, individuals are asked to notify their Base Defense Operations Center desk or Air Force Office of Special Investigations detachment immediately. Such calls will be treated seriously, with immediate investigation by nearby law enforcement/security patrols and AFOSI representatives.

With an understanding of how the program works, many may ponder just what exactly is 'suspicious activity.' Certainly an elderly lady that leaves a bag near a bench while she ventures to the restroom can hardly be seen as suspicious, but an elderly lady who wobbles in high heels, has an Adams apple and is built like a middle linebacker who sprints away from a dropped bag at Olympic speed might raise concern. A good rule of thumb to follow is that any activity that causes one to take a second glance or causes an uneasy feeling in the gut should be considered suspicious and, at the very least, worthy of a simple phone call to local authorities. Air Force authorities have conveniently broken such activities into seven categories:

Surveillance: Someone recording or monitoring activities. This may include using cameras (either still or video), taking notes, drawing diagrams, annotating on maps, or using binoculars or other vision-enhancing devices.

Elicitation: People or organizations attempting to gain information about military operations, capabilities, or people. Solicitation attempts may be made by mail, fax, phone, or in person.

Tests of security: Any attempts to measure reaction times to security breaches or to penetrate physical security barriers or procedures in order to assess strengths and weaknesses.

Acquiring supplies: Purchasing or stealing explosives, weapons, ammunition, etc. Also includes acquiring military uniforms, decals, flight manuals, passes, or badges (or the equipment to manufacture such items) or any other controlled items.

Suspicious persons out of place: These are people who don't seem to belong in the workplace, neighborhood, business establishment or anywhere else. This includes suspicious border crossings and stowaways aboard ship or people jumping ship in port.

Dry run: Putting people into position and moving them around according to their plan without actually committing a terrorist act. This is especially true when planning a kidnapping, but it can also pertain to bombings. An element in this activity could also include mapping out routes and determining the timing of traffic lights and flow.

Deploying assets: People and supplies getting into position to commit terrorist acts. This is the final opportunity for someone to alert authorities before a terrorist act occurs.

This program is not only available for military members on an installation, anyone is encouraged to report suspicious activity. This includes family members, contractors, government civilians, and off-base proprietors. Each one of us has the ability to stop terrorism by staying vigilant and making a simple phone call.

Andrews' Security Forces and Office of Special Investigations are committed to serving and protecting the members of Joint Base Andrews NAF Washington. However, we can't do it alone. We need the full support of all installation and community members. Remember...protecting the force is everyone's business!

Editor's note: To report suspicious activity to the 316 SFS, call 301-981-2001.