By Mike Pons
USAG Stuttgart Antiterrorism Office
Traveling in Europe is fairly easy and somewhat affordable. However, there are restrictions for travel to certain European countries. As the summer months begin, planning to travel can be a tedious task seeking a good price, the right location and importantly, a safe and secure environment.
Prior to travel
We all love sightseeing in Europe, but first there are many inherent tasks before getting to our destinations to enjoy ourselves.
Department of Defense personnel traveling in, from or through the U.S. European Command area of responsibility must comply with the Foreign Clearance Guide for unofficial travel requirements, to include documents and training.
Also, the U.S .Department of State (DOS) provides open source information and travel advisories for U.S. personnel for awareness. DOD elements and personnel will follow local and DOS advisories and instructions.
The DOS’ Smart Traveler Program (STEP) provides a free service to U.S. nationals who are traveling to or living in a foreign country. Enrollment allows the individual to record information about an upcoming trip abroad the DOS can use to assist you in case of an emergency. The Smart Traveler app is also available for free from the Apple Store or Google Play Store. It is mandatory for DOD military and civilian personal, sponsored contractors and family members to enroll in STEP and input their travels.
Everyone must avoid taking unnecessary risks and maintain a high level of situational awareness. Monitor local news outlets, AFN and other venues to remain aware of rapid changes in the security environment. Avoid wearing clothing that conveys affiliation to DOD, such as backpacks, insignias or other accessories. Have a plan for emergency evacuation, identify rally points and places to take cover away from the threat.
Stay current with media coverage of local events, be aware of your surroundings at all times, and keep in regular contact with their units, family members, and friends while traveling throughout Europe.
Social media can be a rich source of updated, real-time information to unwanted actors. The exploitation of individual geo-location information, organizational or DOD affiliation can lead to unwelcomed attention. Service members and civilians should refrain from posting OPSEC-sensitive information concerning their travel plans to social media sites, and review individual social media security settings for online profiles to guarantee they are not overly revealing.
Report any suspicious activity (casual questioning or pictures) to your security manager or local MI Field Office. Happy travels and a safe summer!
Online security links
Know suspicious activity report procedures or numbers for the local law enforcement or report through iReport app, available for free from the Apple Store or Google Play Store or the iWatch website.
Before you travel, visit www.fcg.pentagon.mil and www.state.gov for the lastest advisories, and enroll in STEP at https://step.state.gov/step.