By David Vergun
Army News Service
August marks the annual observance of Antiterrorism Awareness Month.
Terrorists have struck military targets in the United States, as well as overseas, and it is likely such attacks will continue. Terrorism experts caution to plan for the worst.
The Army issued All Army Activities, or ALARCT, 120/2015, titled “2015 Threat Warning to U.S. Army Standalone Facilities,” July 21. The message warns about threats from extremists, “particularly lone offenders,” to standalone facilities in the United States, such as recruiting stations. The ALARCT suggests courses of action to help increase the security of service members in those facilities. Included among the suggestions are:
— Conducting random anti-terrorism measures
— Having a valid plan for active-shooter response, and testing the plan periodically
— Ensuring personnel have situational awareness and know procedures such as egress and security contacts
— Varying routines such as routes and behaviors to avoid being a predictable target
— Being on alert for and reporting suspicious behavior or anything out of the ordinary
— Thinking before using social media so as to avoid divulgence of personal information
“Everyone needs to be mindful that ‘low threat’ does not mean ‘no threat,” said Phillip Edenfield, an anti-terrorism officer with U.S. Army Garrison Yongsan, South Korean. “Terrorist threats today are becoming more complex as terrorist groups use social media sites to terrorize personnel and to recruit individuals toward their causes.”
Soldiers should maintain a low profile when traveling off installation and be prepared for the unexpected by having emergency contact numbers readily available, Edenfield said. In addition, when traveling and sightseeing in South Korea, Germany, and other countries, he said Soldiers should always be cautious about giving out their personal and employment information to strangers.
Edenfield said it is everyone’s responsibility to enforce existing protective measures to protect critical information and personally identifiable information that adversaries can use for harmful means. Simple procedures such as shredding documents and removing labels before placing items into trash canisters can help protect information.
“With the recent advances in cellular and network technology, it is also crucial we are cognizant of what type of information we are putting out on social media sites that could jeopardize our mission and put us in harm’s way,” Edenfield said. “Ensuring the community is aware and knowledgeable on how to mitigate threats is the ultimate purpose of Anti-terrorism Awareness Month.”
NOT ALL ATTACKS TERROR-RELATED
“There are bad people who do bad things … and I can assure you, we’re going to fight like hell to protect you” from them, but you need to do your part to stay alive and help others stay alive, Scott Wayne said.
Wayne, a police officer with the Pentagon Force Protection Agency, and others, spoke during an “Active Shooter” presentation in the Pentagon, Aug. 20.
Since 1999, there have been approximately 200 active-shooter incidents in the United States, Wayne said.
Some of those attacks have been terrorism-related, meaning using terror to achieve a political, religious or ideological objective. The shooting on Fort Hood is an example of that kind of attack.
Most active-shooter attacks in the United States, however, are caused by persons who are depressed or have serious personal problems, Wayne said. Of those 200 attacks, 36 percent occurred in office buildings, 24 percent in schools, 12 percent in factories or warehouses and the rest in places like shopping malls or theaters.
Wayne advises anyone who is under attack to “run, hide or fight.”
The best plan is to flee an area under attack, and bring along as many people as you can, Wayne advised. Move away as quickly as possible, and once in a safe area, call 911. Also, try to prevent other bystanders from entering the danger area.
If the police or other first responders are there, do not ask them questions or hinder them from doing their duty, he said.
Police will not stop to help the injured and dying, he cautioned. They are there to save as many lives as possible and to do that, their primary mission is to locate the shooter and eliminate the threat. Those who are injured will be cared for soon after.
If you are exiting the scene, realize that you and everyone else is a suspect. “You might be forced to the ground” by an officer. “Remain calm and don’t take it personally,” he said.
Another word of advice is don’t pull a fire alarm, he said. It will be chaotic enough with the police, shooter and innocent people. Firefighters rushing in would make things much worse, unless there was an actual fire.
Wayne said that if it is not safe to flee the area, the next best thing to do is to hide. He told listeners at the presentation to lock or barricade the door if they’re in an office. It is very rare for a shooter to breach the door, he said. The notable exception to that was the Virginia Tech massacre, which took place in 2007.
After securing the door, he said, turn off lights and cell phones and remain calm and quiet.
Wayne was the incident commander during the 2014 shooting at the Mall in Columbia, Maryland. He noted that store employees in the mall were so well trained that they refused to unlock their doors even after the shooter had committed suicide and the police had cleared the mall.
As a last resort, fight with anything you have, including chairs, sharp objects, or whatever is around, Wayne said, noting that turning fire extinguishers on the attackers has proven successful in the past.
Organize the fight with those around you and fight ferociously, because your life and the lives of others depends on it, he said.
COLUMBINE TURNING POINT
The turning point in police training and tactics came following the 1999 Columbine High School massacre, Wayne said. Before that attack, police waited for backup and SWAT to arrive, he said. They also moved in quietly and stealthily. Following the massacre, police forces across the country changed their approach to an active-shooter attack, he said.
Today, police call for backup and immediately move into harm’s way. He said in most cases police will be loud, shouting commands and warnings. They want to be heard, he said, so that they, and not innocent civilians, will become the shooter’s target.