WASHINGTON — A suspicious package arrives in the mail. An employee is acting erratically. A group is seen surveying an Army installation. A social media contact you’ve never met has taken a keen interest in your unit’s movements.
The Army community needs to be aware of their surroundings and report anything that seems out of place, in order to protect the safety of the entire Army Family, said Col. Bob Willis, the chief of the Office of the Provost Marshal General Operations Division.
“Be vigilant; if you see something suspicious, report it,” he said.
Willis spoke in an interview marking the Army’s fifth annual Antiterrorism Awareness Month. Even though the awareness month is August, the message of vigilance must resonate the whole year with Soldiers, Family members and Civilians, he said.
“Some of the most damaging attacks against our country — be that violent acts against people, the destruction or theft of information, and acts against our facilities — have originated from small groups or lone actors,” Willis said.
The threat of homegrown violent extremists, insider threats and active shooters is now more prevalent than ever, he said.
Priorities for this year’s antiterrorism efforts, Willis said, include exercises that focus on an active shooter, as well as swarm attack responses and ensuring contractors are properly vetted.
Top Army priority
In a tri-signed letter for Antiterrorism Awareness Month (see page 2A), Secretary of the Army John McHugh, Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Ray Odierno and Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond Chandler III underscored the importance of vigilance.
“We urge all commanders to actively engage with your Soldiers, Civilians and Families, conduct training and exercises, and sponsor events that reinforce the importance of protecting our communities against the persistent terrorist threat,” the Army leaders said.
See something, say something
The iWatch Army is a focus every year, in which everyone in the Army community has a responsibility to report suspicious activity to the proper authorities, Willis said.
While the Army trains Soldiers and Civilians in antiterrorism efforts, Family members are important components too that need to be included to enhance the already strong efforts on Army installations.
“I really encourage commanders at all levels in the field to take the intent of these efforts, take the policies, train their organizations, train their Soldiers and Civilians, and certainly include the Family members in the training,” he said.
Suspicious activity can be reported in a person’s chain of command or to military police or security professionals on installations.
The Army will examine and develop case studies of attacks that happen in the United States and around the world, whether involving the Army or not, said James Crumley, Office of the Provost Marshal General, Antiterrorism Branch.
“We try to use these events to capture lessons learned and push them out to the field to try to prevent or minimize the loss of life or damage to Army critical infrastructure,” he said.
It is important for the Army, Crumley said, to work closely with civilian agencies to “build networks and to use what works for them so we can protect our forces, Civilians and Family members,” he said.