Leadership Lessons: Keeping Safe and Secure

GRAND FORKS AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. -- Basic security fundamentals are taught to all Security Forces during technical training despite seeming inherently simplistic. During the summer of 1990 at the Security Police Academy, our instructors repeatedly stressed the importance of not just observing that doors and gates were closed but to also check them thoroughly. This was done by pulling on padlock hasps and twisting door knobs while pushing and pulling on them to make sure they were secured. A padlock could appear closed, but a good pull could reveal that it wasn't secure and the same goes for door knobs. While a door knob could be locked, if the latch wasn't fully engaged into the door frame plate then it wasn't actually secure. People often assume that an Air Force base or even a "college town" like Grand Forks are places where nothing bad happens but it is still important to take some basic precautions.

A college classmate of my wife left her apartment door unlocked one night and awoke to find an intoxicated stranger sleeping next to her. She immediately alerted her two male roommates who detained him while she called the police. It turned out he had mistakenly entered the wrong apartment and was just as surprised as they were. While this sounds innocent, it is not beyond the realm of possibility that someone with sinister intentions could have exploited her leaving the apartment door unlocked. About a year ago, we had someone "accidentally" enter a residence on base and then they immediately left when they realized they were in the wrong house. While Security Forces did not find them (they likely found their own house), it is safe to say that situation could have turned out much worse. This serves as a prime example of why not to leave exterior doors unlocked.

When I first arrived here two years ago, the old ingrained principle of checking windows and doors kicked in and I went around our house. Every single one of our windows was left unlatched and it was probably because the house was painted the week prior and the windows were opened to let the place air out. There is a high likelihood for many other houses on base or downtown to share the same security deficiency. Have you ever checked the windows of your residence to see if they are latched? Some people hide a key outside their home to prevent being locked out. One should consider the riskiness of such a decision prior making it. Do not hide it in an obvious location; be sure to choose a safe and secure spot. Every evening I check my front, patio and garage doors, interior and exterior to ensure my home isn't explored by an unwelcomed guest. Also, there is a trend for more burglaries off-base, therefore these security practice reminders aren't just for on-base residents only.

Good security practices go beyond making sure things are locked; it's about remaining vigilant. Military members should practice the simple tips they receive in their Antiterrorism Level One training every year. Going back to my earlier comment about a "college town" or even "small town" environment, I've noticed an increased occurrence of reports of stolen unsecure property. If you leave your wallet just sitting out in a public place, one would hope that every single Airman has enough integrity to secure it and make sure that you get it back, however you must be aware there a wide variety of people who are allowed access to the base. You don't know who would find your property unsecure and while I have no doubt all Airmen will do the right thing, it may be someone else who finds it and really ask yourself why would you create the opportunity for this in the first place? Please use good judgment and don't take risks that lead to a call to Security Forces for a stolen property report.

While I would like to think our "small town" environment is the prime contributing factor to leaving property unsecured or houses unlocked both when they are and are not occupied, it seems that the real culprit is complacency. The reason I say this is the huge uptick in unsecured government buildings that we continue to see across the base. Much like making sure your house is secured at night or when you leave it, please do your end of day checks to make sure your work area is secure as well. If Security Forces finds it unlocked during our checks, it will mean one of your co-workers or maybe even you, as the building custodian, will be out fighting the mosquitos with us at night while we have to do a walkthrough of your facility. This is best avoided by doing your duty to make sure your facility is secured properly.

Security practices go beyond yourself to include your loved ones. Does your family know where they should go if something happens? Do you already have a neighbor designated ahead of time as a safe location? Does everyone know a way to summon help if something happens? Is there a communications plan to coordinate everyone's coming and going so that deviations in routine will be obvious? Are vehicles outside the garage checked to make sure they are also secure? The list goes on. Please take the time to consider how to make sure you, your loved ones, your property and your work areas remain secure by using some of these basic security practices especially with the increased vigilance for FPCON BRAVO that all of us should be doing.