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Commentary Search

Be Vigilant!

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- Later this year will be the 15th anniversary of the September 11th attacks. We have been formally fighting the War on Terrorism at home and abroad since the towers fell in New York and I do not see an end to it. To put that in perspective, some of you may be teaching a child to drive this year as he or she gets a learner's permit. We have been at war for the entire life of that young driver. For a unit member that has hit the landmark of 30 years of service, you have been at war over half of your military career. Did you know there have been incidents within the United States that date back into the 1800s that are considered terrorism? We have experienced terrorist attacks from foreign adversaries and domestic adversaries for much longer than fifteen years.

As the 117th Security Forces Squadron Commander, I am also your 117th Air Refueling Wing Anti-Terrorism Officer. I believe I have one of the greatest jobs with the most important charge of the wing, the safety of its men and women. One of my favorite aspects of the job is the involvement of the entire wing in the defense of our installation, its mission and most importantly, its people. Every one of you is an eye of awareness, a security sentry, in essence. Whether you have been trained in the augmentee program or not, it does not matter; numerous incidents worldwide are prevented by observant individuals that report something out of the ordinary, something that may look suspicious. Perimeter fencing, gate sentries, pan/tilt cameras and roaming security sentries can only do so much. It is imperative we all take an active role in security by being personally vigilant. Your individual vigilance increases the number of security sentries exponentially and creates a defensive environment with depth.

We don't need to travel very far from home to find incidents that have been tied to terrorism, whether directly to ISIL or al-Qaida. Within the last few months, individuals have been charged with supporting ISIL in Ohio and Mississippi. In both cases, the individuals pleaded guilty to the charges, validating that fact they are in our homeland. Cases such as those rarely make national news, so it is likely many never see them. The more visible incidents, which did make national news, are spread throughout the United States; a Chattanooga, TN gunman killed four Marines and injured a Navy sailor; a Columbus, OH attacker injured four in a machete attack at a restaurant; Garland, TX had an attempted shooting at an event critical of Islam; the San Bernardino, CA attackers killed 14 people and injured 21.

In addition to those incidents, numerous violent incidents have occurred which have been tied to domestic terrorism, regardless of whether it was an extreme left-wing group or right-wing group. The 117 ARW is not immune from falling victim to domestic terrorism which is another reason for each member to take a vested interest in security. Take a moment to update your information in the AtHoc system; it could be the alert received through it that makes a difference.

As the War on Terrorism continues, it is imperative that each member remains vigilant and educates their family and/or loved ones to follow proper safety precautions. There are numerous measures you can take to prevent falling victim to local crime, as well as being that ever vigilant sentry to guard against terror. Be a force multiplier and remain vigilant!