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Marines learn to protect the Force

US Marine Corps News

By Maj. Paul Greenberg, Marine Forces Reserve

Marines from reserve units located throughout the United States converged on Marine Corps Mobilization Command’s facilities here April 5 to begin an intensive five-day course in antiterrorism and force protection.

More than 30 active duty and reserve Marines participated in this advanced training, which was designed to give them expertise in identifying potential terrorist threats and implementing practical force protection measures that will help ensure the physical safety of the troops and their reserve facilities.

The course was facilitated by CRA Incorporated, a civilian company contracted by Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps to provide antiterrorism classes to Marine units. The courses are individually designed to provide training based on the unit’s mission.

This particular course targeted the specific needs of inspector-instructor staffs at Marine Forces Reserve (MARFORRES) units, which are geographically dispersed across the United States.

The majority of MARFORRES facilities are located not on major U.S. military installations, but instead in rural areas or business complexes in the suburbs of major U.S. cities. Because of the lack of organic security forces on these installations, having resident knowledge in antiterrorism at each site is crucial.

“This course is particularly useful for reserve site staff because they might think they’re invulnerable back here in the States,” said Capt. Luis Izquierdo, the supply officer and ATO for 4th Maintenance Battalion, 4th Marine Logistics Group in Charlotte, N.C. “We know that’s not the case.”

Izquierdo said that he specifically requested to take this course because the training was tailored toward small-site security in the United States, which he explained is very different from what he’d learned about antiterrorism while deployed to Iraq or stationed on larger U.S. bases such as Camp Pendleton.

“It’s up to the unit’s active duty staff to ensure the safety of the site,” said Izquierdo. “We need to do that to accomplish our operational mission.”

The overarching objective of this course, according to Todd Lemoine, the MARFORRES antiterrorism officer (ATO), was to educate key reserve personnel to be security experts as the ATOs at their respective sites.

The intent is to eventually have a “Level II” trained ATO at more than 180 MARFORRES sites.

Lemoine explained that the course here gave students the ability to evaluate their installations with a terrorist attack in mind. They learned to look at the physical layout of their reserve center through the eyes of a potential enemy.

“Based upon their observations and identification of potential vulnerabilities, ATOs will make recommendations to their commanding officers of either procedural or programmatic mitigations which will reduce or eliminate those vulnerabilities,” said Lemoine.

One example of a vulnerability would be lack of “physical standoff” outside a facility. This would be eliminated by the construction of barriers, such as heavy stone planters or concrete barriers.

A procedural mitigation would be the use of random antiterrorism measures to constantly alternate the degree and type of scrutiny placed upon personnel and vehicles passing through a facility’s entrance. This makes it virtually impossible for potential terrorists to predict what type of security measures they will have to negotiate to get inside the gates of a facility.

A number of recent events involving domestic terrorism show that real threats do exist in the U.S. and give credence to the importance of this type of force protection training at reserve sites.

The Joint Terrorism Task Force and National Antiterrorism Advisory Council have recently identified more than 40 active domestic terrorist organizations.

Several recent and potentially violent domestic plots are discussed in-depth in a March 2010 report by the Department of Homeland Security’s Center for Strategic and Informational Studies.

The report states: “Facing comparatively few restrictions, U.S. legal residents and citizens can travel abroad, connect with terrorist groups to gain explosives or weapons training, and return here to plan an execute attacks… Of course, would-be domestic extremists need not acquire training abroad to inflict substantial harm at home.”

The report cites several incidents which cause alarm for leaders at MARFORRES sites:

• Federal agents arrested Najibullah Zazi, a 10-year U.S. resident from Afghanistan, in September 2009. Zazi had traveled to Pakistan for explosive and weapons training in preparation for a planned domestic attack. Zazi’s residence at the time of his arrest was in Aurora, Colo., five miles from the nearest MARFORRES reserve facility. He was working as a shuttle bus driver at the Denver International Airport.

• The U.S. military community was shocked by the arrest of Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, an active duty U.S. Army officer who is being charged in the murder of 13 soldiers and injury of 30 others during a Nov. 5, 2009 handgun attack at a medical facility aboard Fort Hood Army Base, Texas.

• In November 2009, the FBI closed in on a Minnesota-based insurgent recruiting ring with ties to al-Qaeda. The men had successfully recruited young men in America to travel to Somalia to fight with “al-Shabaab,” an extremist insurgent group attempting to overthrow the secular Somali government.

• Pakistani security agents arrested five Americans from Virginia in Pakistan in December 2009. The young men, most of whom were university students with clean criminal records, had traveled to Pakistan with the intent of joining the Taliban.

Additionally, in March 2010, U.S. federal investigators from an interagency task force thwarted a planned attack by the “Hutarees,” a militant extremist organization in southeastern Michigan. The group, according to the federal indictment, was planning to assassinate a small number of Michigan police officers in a public attack and then conduct a follow-on mass attack on other law enforcement officials at the officers’ funerals.

Many other domestic terrorist groups with a variety of agendas target U.S. government personnel and installations. The training here therefore focused students on the importance of working with local, state and federal agencies to prevent attacks on their reserve sites.

To prepare students for the broad range of security threats they face in today’s world, the five-day training covered an array of subjects, to include: joint agency security terminology; identification of terrorism and terrorist methods; the Department of Defense’s Joint Antiterrorism Guide; historical terrorism case studies; facility vulnerability and use of the threat assessment matrix; identification and protection of critical assets; federal funding for antiterrorism resource requests; and an in-depth review of a reserve unit’s antitierrorism program.

Much of the training involved small-group practical application exercises. On the second day of class, teams went out to actual Marine Corps installations in the area and conducted site security assessments under the guidance of instructors. On the third day, they developed vulnerability assessment matrices based on their observations. They then built risk analysis briefs.

The course culminated with a written final exam and group presentations on the last day of class, with students delivering comprehensive risk analysis briefs designed for their commanding officers.

Throughout the block of instruction, course facilitators consistently emphasized the importance of utilizing all internet resources at the students’ disposal.

The instructors drove home the vital necessity for interagency cooperation in synergizing antiterrorism efforts at all level of government. This includes utilizing the U.S. Army’s “Army Knowledge Online” to ensure the sharing of information and resources between the services.

“We show them (students) the Web sites to go to in order to get involved with local and state law enforcement, EMS, fire and other state agencies,” said Dennis Sheeley, an antiterrorism analyst at MARFORRES Headquarters in New Orleans.

“We also tie the Marines in with the FBI and DHS,” explained Sheeley, who spent several years on active duty in the Corps and 12 years as a chemical, biological radiological and nuclear explosive specialist in the Marine Corps Reserve.

“When they go back to their units, they’ll have to do the groundwork in establishing these key relationships,” said Sheeley. “And that is the most important learning point. The ATOs at the unit level will get to know the people they will work with in an emergency. They will utilize LEO, law-enforcement on-line. If the terrorist threat level increases in their area, they will already have the relationships established with local, state and federal agencies to respond appropriately.”

The students ranged in rank from staff sergeant through major. What they all had in common was the fact that they will be responsible for implementing their new knowledge and skills at their respective reserve outposts, many of which are sparsely staffed most of the month and miles away from any significant security force or police station.

“The most important takeaway for me has been the process and procedures that need to take place in order to develop the AT plan at my unit,” said Gunnery Sgt. Daniel Norton, who is slated to take over as the training chief and ATO for the 24th Marine Regiment’s headquarters here in July.

“We learned about the AT procedures in-depth,” said Norton. “The practical application exercises were good, because they walked us through the whole process. But I think the class should be longer, like two weeks. There is so much information and we need more time to cover it.”

In addition to learning how to thwart traditional terrorist attacks by extremist groups on their reserve sites, the knowledge and skills students gleaned from the course will be beneficial to those whose units are located in high-crime sections of major metropolitan areas.

“This course has been great in learning what to look for as far as what kind of criminal activities are present, what their capabilities are, and coordinating different levels of security based on the number of personnel we have on board,” said Staff Sgt. Jason Hoffman, the information security technician and ATO for Communications Company, Headquarters Battalion, 4th Marine Division in Cincinnati, Ohio.

“For example, during a drill weekend, we have a higher probability of something happening because we have more Marines at our center and high criminal activity around our site,” explained Hoffman. “We’ll start doing site surveys of local hotel where reservists are staying, and make coordination with local police to ask for increased security there. We’ll also look at different ways of maintaining access control to the facility to protect our personnel and equipment.”

The “Antiterrorism Officer Level II” qualification which students received at the completion of the course will also be a boon to both their military careers and in future endeavors.

According to Lemoine, the knowledge, skills and abilities derived from this training will enable ATOs to perform risk management techniques to recognize, identify and recommend mitigations for protection against any installation security threat, not only those targeting military facilities.

“In the world outside of the military there is an increasing need for corporations to hire personnel with such a background to act to recommend mitigations to protect their brick and mortar assets from a terrorist attack,” said Lemoine. “Having a background such as this would work well to enhance the skills of someone who would be working as an emergency manager or the director of security. This course is specifically tailored with them in mind.”

Hoffman plans to use his Antiterrorism Level II course credentials in conjunction with his background as a military police officer when he retires from the Marine Corps in 2011.

“Basically this is refresher training for me,” said Hoffman, who attended the U.S. Army’s antiterrorism course at Fort Bragg, N.C. in 2004. “This certificate will definitely be a good addition to my resume if I apply for a job, for example, teaching antiterrorism for a company that trains airline employees or other civilian industries that require these skill sets.”

For Izquierdo, Norton and Hoffman, like most ATOs at MARFORRES, their ATO billet is a “collateral duty,” meaning that they will perform this job in addition to regular full-time responsibilities on the inspector-instructor staff.

In times of peace, the ATOs will focus on proactive measures to prevent attacks and make their sites “hard targets.” In times of emergency, their expertise will be critical to mitigating injury to personnel and damage to equipment.

When the Marines headed back to their reserve sites on April 9, they returned not only with ATO certificates and credentials, but also with the vital knowledge and professional relationships to ensure the safety of their fellow Marines and the reserve sites on which they train.

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