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Maintaining vigilance: Antiterrorism officials warn threats remain

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Published: October 30, 2014

FORT RUCKER, Ala. (October 30, 2014) -- As the holidays approach, people tend to be filled with feelings of good tidings and cheer, but Fort Rucker antiterrorism officials warn that it should also be a time to keep their guards up.

The Army and Fort Rucker want to stress the importance of both individual and collective awareness of threats that continue to threaten the daily lives of citizens, said Michael Whittaker, Fort Rucker antiterrorism officer.

“As we enter the holiday season with all its festivities and the gathering of families and friends that come with it, it is imperative that we maintain vigilance,” he said. “Nothing has changed – you’re still the best defense we have. You’re the home defense and that’s what we need. We need you to start looking at your little kingdoms here and your surrounding areas more succinctly.”

One of these threats is the radicalization of homegrown violent extremists who are targeting military and law enforcement personnel and their families. Although Whittaker isn’t saying that people need to get involved directly, he asks that they continue to keep an eye out and report any suspicious activity they see.

There have been isolated incidents across the U.S. and Canada of violence against military and law enforcement, and while it’s not something that is widespread, it’s not something to be taken lightly, said Whittaker.

“There has been an influx of threatening phone calls, emails and people being followed,” said the antiterrorism officer. “We are approaching a very busy season where everyone gets together for the holidays and this could make people soft targets. We don’t want our people to be targets of opportunity.”

Many of these gathering spots include shopping malls, restaurants, theaters and large outdoor events where people can become targets of opportunity for those with bad intentions, he said. To help combat this, people should maintain awareness of public surroundings and refrain from posting information to public media or social networking sites that may place oneself, one’s family or other people in jeopardy.

Another way people can avoid becoming targets of opportunity is by changing their patterns, said Whittaker.

“Change your (driving routes) if you can to and from school, and work, but if you take the same road every day at the same time, it makes it easy for you to become a target,” he said. “Whether you’re in a public area, private domain, school or church, you’ve got to have some kind of plan and it starts with you.”

There have been some reported incidents in the surrounding states, said Whittaker, and although nothing so far in Alabama, it doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen here.

“We’ve been blessed here in Alabama,” said the antiterrorism officer. “The South is not immune to it, but at this particular point it hasn’t reared its ugly head here, and that’s what we’re trying to prevent.

“We just want to remind the good folks here that we can’t watch everything, and the people are the best set of eyes and ears that we have,” he continued. “We want to keep you safe, but you’re the first step. You’ve got to say something.”

Whittaker said that people shouldn’t be afraid to say something if they suspect something.

“A lot of times people don’t want to say anything because they say, ‘I’m going to look like an idiot if it doesn’t pan out,’ but they’re going to feel more like an idiot if something happens and they saw something but didn’t report it,” he said. “It’s a perfect case of better safe than sorry, and that’s all we’re looking for – prudence on their behalf. Don’t be afraid to be ostracized for your opinion, be afraid of the consequences if you don’t.”

To report any suspicious activity, call 255-2222 or other local law enforcement.

This article was originally published at http://www.army.mil/article/137281/

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