Rome, NY --
I recently attended the Antiterrorism Level IV Executive Training hosted by the Joint Staff. The origin for this comes from the 1996 Khobar Towers terrorist attack in Saudi Arabia. The course reinforced for me that we have many adversaries with the intent and ability to do us harm anywhere in the world, to include right here at home. I'm not going to provide you highlights of the course, or rattle off a list of good Antiterrorism (AT) / Force Protection (FP) behaviors, because I don't believe you'll retain them past this article, nor gain the most impact from what I learned. I am going to share with you what I believe is important, will have impact in your life and could save lives that are dear to you.
First, you need to BE AWARE OF THE THREAT. I'm not talking about specific, moment in time threats. I'm talking about the dedicated adversaries that we hear about in the news on a daily basis. Some of them include the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and al Qaeda. There are others with similar intent. You need to be aware that these terrorist organizations have long term and patient timelines when it comes to killing US personnel both abroad and in the United States.
Second, you need to TAKE THIS THREAT SERIOUSLY. As an individual protected by our fine, fire-breathing Security Force Defenders on the Wall, I found myself in the past treating AT/FP issues as a "necessary nuisance" along the lines of completing ancillary training so that I avoided the "bad boy" list. What possible threat could touch us in the United States? The combination of an increasingly sophisticated enemy that effectively uses social media to gain supporters; a small, but sufficient supply of disaffected, disconnected or psychologically unbalanced citizens; and an active recruitment of Home Grown Violent Extremists (HVE) is a deadly cocktail for US personnel stationed in America.
Third, you need to MAINTAIN YOUR OWN PERSONAL SITUATIONAL AWARENESS (SA) of your surroundings......always. When you're out shopping, dining, exercising, living.......pay attention to your surroundings. Pay attention to the unusual. Consider thinking about what you would do if confronted with terrorism in your particular situation at the moment. I know "confronted with terrorism" may sound overboard, but remember, the threat is real. You and your family already exercise elements of maintaining personal SA when you drive or cross a street or decide to have a few drinks on an evening out. Add this element of danger to your personal SA process, and exercise it.
Fourth, you need to INFORM AND DISCUSS THIS THREAT WITH YOUR FAMILY as appropriate. These terrorist groups have actively targeted US personnel in the United States. They will continue to do so. The availability of personal information through social media, websites and other means increase or decrease the chances of you or your family being targeted, depending on how you and your family manage access to that information. Your family should know about the threat, know that it is serious even in this country, and should understand behaviors that make them less likely to be a target, and less likely to be unprepared if confronted with terrorism. There is no single answer or single technology solution. It starts with awareness and the need to make good decisions.
Lastly, KEEP CALM. I intend for the discussion(s) I have with my family to inform them of the real threat that exists, the seriousness with which they need to take the threat and the things we all can do to prepare ourselves as well as reduce the likelihood of being targeted. If anything, I expect the discussion to reduce their concerns they may have from watching what's been in the media. Let me be clear, I learned of no new specific threats to our personnel this week. The media reports that many of your family members may have seen last year pretty much characterize what I'm talking about. Terrorism in the United States is here. We have persistent and determined enemies. But that doesn't make us helpless, and it certainly shouldn't make us fearful of living our lives. It should make us have honest discussions of this new reality with the intent of preparing for and even overcoming a terrorist event. Anything less leaves our families unaware and unprepared, and contributes to the goals of these enemy organizations of keeping us terrorized and controlled by their agendas.
In addition to our own AT/FP experts on site, some other good places to start the discussion can be found at the Homeland Security web site on violent extremism at https://www.dhs.gov/topic/countering-violent-extremism
and the International Association of Chiefs of Police web site at http://www.theiacp.org/