Anti-terrorism Awareness Month, now in its seventh year, is a way to inform and prepare the Army workforce on the wide range of terrorist-related threats and reflect the realities of the risks our nation faces.
The month of August was dedicated to help teach the Army community about ways to help prevent terrorist activities by remaining vigilant and constantly aware.
“If you see something suspicious, say something,” said White Sands Missile Range Department of Plans Training and Mobilization Anti-terrorism Officer Jim Sykes. “The best thing to do is notify the local police, if it is here at WSMR or where you reside. The more information you can provide to local law enforcement, the better.”
Sykes said it is important to remember the five Ws whenever filing a report or making a mental note of a suspicious incident and to be clear and concise whenever reporting.
The five Ws are: who, what, when, why and where. Though reporting an incident may not seem like much of a heroic act, Sykes said the simple act of notifying law enforcement of suspicious activity in the neighborhood could prevent a crime, someone being seriously injured or a terrorist act.
He said the community should not expect law enforcement to be able to see and hear every suspicious occurrence.
“Awareness and reporting is paramount,” said Army Test and Evaluation Command Security Specialist Brett Laird. “Trust your instincts, realizing that if it doesn’t look right report it; if it doesn’t smell right, report it, if it doesn’t sound right report it.”
The Army provides several different venues to be able to recognize and report suspicious activity through online programs like iWATCH Army and iSALUTE.
The two sites not only allow the workforce to report suspicious activity, it also provides anti-terrorism awareness training and information on how to counter insider threats and awareness information of the risks involved with social media. Laird said he recommends the WSMR workforce make themselves familiar with anti-terrorism themes, threats and implications which can all be found through the Army Anti-terrorism Enterprise Portal.
“Practicing good anti-terrorism measures at all times helps to ensure both personal and force protection,” he said. “Awareness will always be the key to preventing or mitigating injuries and death due to a terrorist act.”
Another key item in helping to protect you and our family is knowing what to do in the event of an active-shooter incident. Sykes said remembering the “Run, Hide and Fight,” mantra may help save your life. Experts recommend to have an escape route and plan in mind, and run whenever it is not dangerous to do so, leaving your belongings behind. If you are faced with an active-shooter situation and cannot run, then hide, hide in an area out of the shooter’s view, block any entry to your hiding place and if you are found by the active shooter then your last resort is to fight, meaning just that, fight back when your life is in imminent danger.
As the former chief of police at Fort Stewart, Georgia, Sykes said he learned how important it was to be informed, make a plan and build a kit.
He said with the constant threat of numerous tornados and hurricanes within the installation and surrounding areas, families learned how important it was to be prepared. The same can be applied to anti-terrorism, during a crisis situation.
“People there have learned from past mistakes,” Sykes said. “I strongly recommend and encourage (it)…you just never know.”
In support of an active anti-terrorism awareness campaign, the Army Office of the Provost Marshal General has developed a wide-range of anti-terrorism awareness products and tools such as desk references, leadership guides, brochures, pocket guides, posters, and videos to support the field, all available through the portal.
“The goal should be to always present yourself and the installation as a hard target,” Laird said.
“Failing to comply with security measures of any type puts yourself, our mission, and our installation in a compromised position. Security is a team effort.”
The Army’s anti-terrorism awareness initiatives include building anti-terrorism awareness throughout the Army community, improving information sharing and awareness and developing strategic communications.
According to the Army’s recent Stand-To! report, awareness of the terrorist threat and an understanding of protective measures are the hallmarks of Army’s defense.
“The threat is real, it has happened all around us, it just hasn’t happened to us,” Sykes said.
He said the community at large thinks that nothing could ever happen at WSMR but Sykes recalled a series of incidents that occurred in August of 2015 in Las Cruces, New Mexico.
There were two separate incidents on the same day where Improvised Explosive Devices were detonated outside of two separate churches.
A few days later a third IED was found at Mesilla Valley Mall which was disrupted. A fourth IED was found a few days later, outside of the First Presbyterian Church in Las Cruces and was also disrupted.
“A few years ago I bet the community of Las Cruces would (never have expected it),” Sykes said. “The threat of homegrown, violent extremism and lone wolf attacks is real, hard to detect and harder to stop”
Sykes added that more respect needs to be given to police officers and guards on post and throughout the local community because they are the ones enforcing the first line of defense and security measures.
“They are trying to keep us safe,” he said.
To visit the Anti-terrorism Portal, through a CAC enabled computer, visit https://army.deps.mil/army/sites/PMG/OPMG/OPS/antiterror/ATEP/default.aspx.
To report an incident through iWATCH or iSALUTE, visit www.myarmyonesource.com.
To report a local incident at WSMR, call (575) 678-1234.