'Keep calm and Saber on'

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Timothy Kim
  • 52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Many German citizens attended a New Year's Eve street party in Cologne, Germany, with expectations to ring in 2016 in style; however, their celebration ended with tragedy. 

Breaking off into groups, various male assailants formed rings around young women, groping them and stealing their possessions. Witnesses claim the criminals then threw firecrackers at their feet and physically assaulted those who tried to mitigate the crimes.

Dangerous situations like these are not uncommon, but as U.S. Air Force Airmen and Americans stationed overseas, responsibilities regarding security and safety fall harder on the shoulders of the base community.

The 52nd Fighter Wing Antiterrorism office encourages community members to stay informed and vigilant to reduce the risk of dangerous situations like the one described in Cologne.

"Our mission is to educate our community on how to protect themselves and the Saber community," said Randall Henry, the 52nd FW Antiterrorism Force Protection officer. "We identify the weaknesses we have and then develop strategies to correct or mitigate them so they cannot be exploited by our enemies."

The antiterrorism office promotes ways Airmen can protect themselves and their families concerning two main areas: physical and digital signature control and reduction. Signature control, as Henry elaborated, is akin to advertising oneself to others about whom they are and where they can be physically located.

An example of a physical signature would be an Airman, still in uniform, who drives out to a neighboring town in a big pick-up truck plastered with stickers and decals representing his favorite NFL team and his unit's patch. 

Digital signatures occur when Airmen use social media to check in and post photos from and of locations they frequently visit or when they mention upcoming trips to Milan, Italy, i.e. when their houses will be unattended.

"We have been really active in this area," Henry said. "Military personnel are not allowed to stop off base in uniform, and everyone is supposed to remove all decals from their vehicles which may identify them as U.S. personnel."

Despite managing physical signature control, Henry also asserts the importance of operation security through digital venues as well.

"Our enemies are very adept at using social media," Henry said. "They understand the value of sound OPSEC and they know how to exploit our weaknesses. We as a community must recognize this and lock down our social media accounts."

The 52nd FW Antiterrorism office shares their tips to signature management:

· Don't wear uniforms off-base, not even for pit-stops
· Avoid decals that may identify you, such as: ones affiliating you to American sports teams or ones from previous assignments
· Research and scout out areas you wish to visit and dress yourself to blend in with the locals
· Avoid posting pictures with you in uniform onto social media
· Set settings as privately as possible in concerns to your information
· Avoid geo-tagging, checking in or projecting where you will be going or visiting - posting about a trip afterwards is advisable over the alternative
· Check the AFOSI travel brief, found at Spangdahlem Air Base's homepage
· When reporting suspicious activity to AFOSI or Eagle Eyes, be sure to report as much information as possible

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Paul Rasmussen, 52nd FW Antiterrorism Force Protection deputy officer, advises installation members to remain calm, but alert.

"Don't be so concerned that the world is falling apart - that's not what we're saying at all," Rasmussen said. "If we are aware of our surroundings and have deliberately developed methods to mitigate adverse activities and dangerous situations, then we are much more likely to enjoy tomorrow, to contribute tomorrow and to keep this Saber Nation whole."

According to Henry, everyone must remember that the wing's security posture must be right 100 percent of the time, while potential adversaries only have to be right once. Without active involvement, missed details may result in negative impacts not just to the installation's mission, but also to lives of the community members.

"Everyone must understand they are part of that security posture," Henry said. "Terrorists' events are happening all around the world and some right in our own backyard.  The world we live in is changing, and we must adapt our mindset and our behavior to keep ourselves and our fellow Saber members safe."

Rasmussen encouraged practicing ways to mitigate risks and potential threats, but to also proceed along with the mission and daily tasks without the fear of imminent danger.

"Keep calm and Saber on," Rasmussen said. "Ultimately, that's what we want folks to do on a daily basis. Have your head on a swivel and be aware of your environment. But it's not just about protecting yourself from terrorists; if you're oblivious, you undermine yourself, your family and the mission. You put at risk significant things, and you could start a chain reaction - you lose more."

For more information, subscribe to the 52nd FW Antiterrorism office's Facebook page here.

To phone the ATO, dial DSN 452-6699/6120 or commercial 0656561-6447/6120.

For Eagle Eyes, please dial DSN 452-6666 or commercial 0656561-6666.

Visit the AFOSI website here.