As a military community, we are continuously reminded of the threat of a terrorist attack — on television, on the radio, in newspapers and on the web.
We hear, see and read public service announcements about the need to remain vigilant almost every day, and every year, we — service members, civilians, contractors, even dependents 14 years of age and older — are required to take Antiterrorism Awareness training.
Out of all this, two types of attitudes seem to develop. The first is that an attack can occur anywhere and at any time and that we should do more to prepare.
The second is that too much attention is given to preventing terrorism, and an attack is unlikely to occur on a U.S. military installation. Which is right?
The unfortunate truth is that a terrorist attack could occur anywhere and at any time, even on a U.S. installation. The Department of State remains concerned about the continued threat of terrorist attacks, demonstrations, and other violent actions against U.S. citizens and interests overseas, according to a worldwide caution it issued on July 18. No one can accurately predict the exact time and location that the next attack will occur. However, some locations make better targets than others. Train stations, airports, shopping centers, nightclubs and schools are common locations for terrorist attacks because of the large numbers of people who can be found there. The public nature of these locations also makes them easier to gain access to more people. The security measures put in place on U.S. installations generally make them more difficult targets. The lack of public access makes reconnaissance of potential attack locations more difficult too, adding to the decreased likelihood of an attack. However, this should not be cause for any community to ignore the possibility of an attack. Adopting the attitude of “it won’t happen on my installation” sets the conditions for a terrorist attack.
Complacency, ignorance and ignoring warning signs are exactly what leads to successful attacks. Those who adopt this type of attitude place themselves and the community at risk and ignore the possibility of an insider attacking the community.
It is the responsibility of everyone to educate themselves on the warning signs, to report suspicious activity, and to know what to do if an attack occurs. Working together, reporting suspicious activity and exercising contingency plans does not make us invincible, but it clearly sets the conditions to make us less susceptible to an attack.