“It’s not a matter of if something will happen; it’s a matter of when something will happen.”
That’s the mantra anti-terrorist/force protection officers have in their heads as they go about their daily duties of keeping Kaiserslautern Military Community military installations, and the people on them, safe.
Every day, AT/FP officers look for ways to impart what they know to military members, civilian employees, and their families.
“What everyone needs to do is make sure they’re aware of their surroundings and report anything suspicious,” said Sandra Hoffman, USAG Rheinland-Pfalz AT/FP officer. “They also need to know how to report it and what to report.”
The garrison AT/FP officers work closely with their counterparts at Ramstein Air Base’s 86th Airlift Wing. They will be out in the community during this spotlighted month trying to educate the local American population on how to keep themselves safe.
Hoffman says the first thing they tell everyone is to use common sense.
“You should never wear your uniform off post unless driving from point to point. That automatically makes you a target for someone who doesn’t like Americans or the American military,” Hoffman said. “The key is to blend in. You shouldn’t wear ‘Proud to be an American’ shirts or be the loud American when outside the gates because it automatically identifies you.”
Many Americans stationed in the area are trying to get in a last-minute vacation before school starts. The AT/FP officers highly suggest checking the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, website (www.step.state.gov) before heading to a different country. The site alerts travelers to potential problems in their destination countries such as protests, conflicts or other situations.
“Germany and most of Europe is a very safe place to be,” said Stephen Long, 86th Airlift Wing anti-terrorism program officer. “But, we always have to be mindful of the fact that there are bad people out there who want to hurt Americans. It’s not if, but when and that’s the mindset we have to keep while we’re enjoying ourselves in Europe.”
The area AT/FP offices periodically employ random-access measures as exercises to keep a potential adversary guessing. One test may be planting a fake explosive device in a high-traffic area to see if anyone sees and reports it. Others include placing Soldiers at installation access points to back up contract security guards or something as simple as checking offices to see if anyone has left their CAC in a work computer while away from their workstation.
The AT/FP officers spend a lot of time looking outside the fence lines of U.S. installations. However, there have been at least 17 mass shootings within the United States in the last 10 years. Almost all of those were insider threats, meaning people who worked on the installation.
The AT/FP officers say employees should trust their feelings. If something doesn’t feel or look right, report it and let authorities decide if there is a threat.
There are several ways to report suspicious activity in the KMC. The Army AT/FP reporting program is iWatch. Under that program, Terry Dunlap, USAG Rheinland-Pfalz AT/FP officer, highly suggests downloading the app called iReport from the usual app stores for specific phones.
“The U.S. Army-Europe iReport app lets you select specific garrisons,” Dunlap said. “So, if you see something suspicious happening at our gate, for example, you can go to the app, and your report will go to several U.S. military law enforcement agencies in the area. Of course, if it’s an emergency, you can always call 911 or 112.”
The iWatch numbers in the local area are 0631-536-6060 or DSN 489-6060 for the KMC and 0611-143-531-2677 (DSN 531-2677) for the Baumholder Military Community.
“Everyone has that surreal moment when something just doesn’t look right, and the important thing to remember is the standard mantra of, ‘If you see something, say something,’” Long said. “You might report it and be wrong: let law enforcement figure that out. However, you might not report it and be right. That would be worse.”