At my kids’ karate this afternoon, the topic to begin class was ‘intuition’. The instructor went on to say that intuition was like a sixth sense, which, for a kid, wasn’t a bad definition. The lesson led to a discussion of occasions where one might feel uneasy or threatened by a person or a situation, regardless of an actual perceived threat. The brief discussion of, what we in military circles would call ‘situational awareness’, suggested that someone else’s hurt feelings are not as important as our safety. The simple slogan they concluded with was “When in doubt, out”.
But for adults, intuition is not only an innate ability to detect possible threats, it is also a learned skill. Our accumulated experience has led us to appreciate that threats of harm can be much more subtle. We can envision that certain, seemingly harmless activities can lead to catastrophic disasters. As adults, we learn to read warning signs that a child wouldn’t pick up on. Sometimes those lessons are learned the hard way; sometimes they’re just a result of general life experience. But you put enough years under your belt, you begin to see things that are as they should be, as well as things that are just not right…just ‘off’ in some way.
Operational Security (OPSEC) is a concept instilled in all military, and is constantly reinforced in just about every element in military life. OPSEC is taught as something that is not only relevant to work on-post, but also to life off-post, to include both home and work computing activity, and general patterns of activity in every aspect of life. The emphasis is that the bad guys will pick up on seemingly harmless clues and cues, piece them together, and formulate an understanding of larger military activities, strategic troop movements, and combat offensives. But on the other hand, much closer to home, there could be someone taking photographs of unremarkable scenes and buildings on post to detect vulnerabilities or security weaknesses. And you’re kidding yourself if you think our enemies haven’t considered targeting a popular off-post bar or restaurant, our food supply, or some symbolic icon of American life or might.
If you’ve read this far, or even on this website, you’re surely aware of the phrase ‘boots on the ground’. Well, I’m here to deputize you as unofficial, civilian security agents of your respective posts. You are, for lack of a better phrase, ‘eyes on the ground’. If there’s something on or off-post that just strikes you as odd, if there’s something suspicious going on, if there’s some person doing something that just doesn’t square with you…get the MPs involved. Look, I realize that there’s the threat of being perceived as a hysterical, paranoid lunatic. I’m a parent, so I’m comfortable with that. But ask yourself, “Wouldn’t a little more suspicion and paranoia have served us well on 9/11?” At Ft. Detrick, I can’t imagine the layers of security they have up here. But I’m also sure that no matter how much our security teams do to protect us and our interests, there have to be vulnerabilities somewhere, and that cameras and security personnel can’t be everywhere, all the time. That’s where we come in.