Dix incident prompts security review

17 May 2007 | Mr. Art Powell

The recent arrest of six individuals who allegedly planned to attack Fort Dix, N.J., prompted local officials at Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany to review security procedures here. 

What are the chances of a similar plot unfolding at MCLB Albany?

“We have no information that there are any groups or organizations in our area right now who have this kind of capability. If we had such information, we would work with local authorities to determine what, if any, actions were being planned against us,” said William NcNulty, MCLB Albany Anti-terrorism Force Protection Program manager. 

After federal authorities announced the arrests in the Fort Dix incident, there was a meeting of base officials at MCLB Albany.

“We decided to re-institute the Operation Eagle Eyes program here to help focus our base population on being alert for suspicious activities and reporting them immediately to the Provost Marshall’s Office,” said McNulty.

Eagle Eyes is a Marine Corps program that’s been previously introduced at MCLB Albany and the Fort Dix incident prompted a renewed interest in the program.

“Obviously the reason we’re reintroducing our Eagle Eyes program is because there is always that possibility that somebody could want to plan an attack like that,” he said. 

And diligence isn’t just for individuals while they’re at work.

“Eagle Eyes is about situation awareness. If you see a used car for sale that still has a base sticker on it that should be removed, (that kind of thing) can be reported. Individuals who are asking a lot of questions about what’s going on at the base that seem to be too inquisitive as far as how many people, what happens at the gates, and how security is checked, and things like that, we’re encouraging people to call,” said McNulty.

“We want to increase our collective knowledge about what’s occurring around us. We want to increase situational awareness for people so that they pay attention to anything unusual and to be able to report those activities,” he added.

Because of increased security awareness, base personnel need to be prepared for extra checks or procedures they may encounter.

“Fort Dix recently came under the spotlight as a terror target by a rag-tag group of self-styled terrorists. As we assure MCLB Albany is secure, there will be inconvenience to everyone,” said MCLB Albany Chief of Police Mark Sowers.

Patience from all base personnel is important as law enforcement and security personnel strive to monitor activities aboard MCLB Albany.

“Please be patient with us during our efforts to engage random inquiries, or to look into suspected information, or just talk with you to assure you live or work on the installation,” Sowers said. “Perhaps you are visiting a son, daughter, mother, father, or you are a potential job applicant coming for an interview.”

The foundation of Eagle Eyes is awareness from everyone aboard the base to be suspicious of activities or individuals. That awareness isn’t limited to just the base, it applies to the civilian sector as well.

“If we look at what occurred at Fort Dix, the individuals there came to the attention of authorities through a Circuit City employee when they attempted to have certain videos transferred to CD,” said McNulty.  “He (the Circuit City employee) thought there was something suspicious about it and notified authorities. Because of that one tip from that individual, they were able to roll up that whole organization.”

How should base personnel view Eagle Eyes?

“Eagle Eyes is one concept of vigilance, not paranoia.  It is similar to WW II’s ‘Loose Lips Sink Ships’ mission of operational security and not letting the enemy know anything about our business or the ‘inconvenience’ that may be part of working in a factory or shipyard,” said Sowers.

“Eagle Eyes has as its concept an ‘observe and report’ suspicious activity or information to the (Provost Marshal’s Office).  The results of suspicious activity or information being checked out could cause some inconvenience in our lives, a small price to pay for assuring our security is kept very high on the commander’s priority list,” Sowers said.

While security activities are already in place aboard MCLB Albany, the battle against possible terrorist activity is never over.

“We have an Anti-Terrorism Force Protection working group on the installation. We are engaged. We are evaluating enhancing security or ways to enhance security. But initially, we want to go with Operation Eagle Eyes. We think it’s the best program we can do that won’t detract from other areas,” said McNulty.

He said a main terrorist tactic is to conduct surveillance, what he called pre-operational surveillance and operational surveillance, to prepare for whatever act the terrorists want to commit. 

“They will take the time to study us and find out all they can about us to determine what our patterns are, if we have patterns and take advantage of those weaknesses. And what we know we can do through Eagle Eyes is that instead of having a small number of police involved trying to find out what is going on, we can really increase our operational capability by having the whole base watching with thousands of eyes instead of hundreds of eyes.”

That’s where individual citizens and military personnel can help. And in order to educate personnel about how Eagle Eyes works, McNulty’s office can help.

“I have PowerPoint presentations that we can make to any facility or organization that requests it on the base, we’ll be happy do that to further detail what the Eagle Eyes program is about,” he said.

Another step in efforts to monitor local threats is to make the Eagle Eye briefings available on-line, so personnel can view them at any time.

“We’re working to make those PowerPoints available through the Anti-Terrorism Force Protection Web site and the MCLB Albany Web site. We’re also going to send out posters and notices through a wildcard to everybody on base,” McNulty said.   

The idea of being suspicious of unusual activity may not be natural for many people. But McNulty said there is nothing wrong with it in an era where terrorists may play on someone’s goodwill and trust to achieve their goal.

“By nature, we’re a friendly society. We’re always looking to help people, as opposed to being inquisitive and investigative in nature and asking questions like ‘why do you want to know this?’ You can still be helpful when you ask someone why they want to know that information,” he said. 

Security managers remind everyone that your eyes and ears are your weapons against terrorism, and ask that everyone keep the following things in mind during their daily activities:

• Surveillance - Are you aware of anyone recording or monitoring activities, taking notes, using cameras, cell phones, maps, binoculars etc. near the base?

• Suspicious questioning - Anyone attempting to gain information by telephone, mail, e-mail etc. regarding deployment status for personnel or equipment.

• Tests of security: Are you aware of any attempts to penetrate or test physical security or procedures at the base?

• Acquiring supplies: Anyone attempting to improperly acquire  explosives, weapons, ammunition, dangerous chemicals, uniforms, badges, flight manuals, access cards or identification for a facility that could be used in a criminal or terrorist act.

• Suspicious persons: Anyone who doesn’t appear to belong in the workplace, neighborhood or business establishment near the military base.

• Dry runs: Behavior that appears to be a preparation for terrorist activity such as mapping our routes, playing our scenarios with other people, monitoring key military facilities, timing, traffic flow or other suspicious activities. 

• Deploying assets: Abandoned vehicles, stockpiling of suspicious materials or persons being deployed near a military base.

McNulty says if you observe one or more of these suspicious activities or incidents, call 639-5181 immediately. And if you want to schedule an Eagle Eyes briefing for your office or section, call 639-6205.

Sowers’ view of increased security boils down to diligence from all personnel.

“Everyone on this installation shares the same commitment: to be inquisitive, to properly engage the commander’s antiterrorism measures and maximize his ability to keep you safe.  PMO looks forward to seeing you and working with you to assure everyone is safe at MCLB Albany.”
Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany