FORT BRAGG, NC (Sgt Kyle Fisch) – The success of the Army’s anti-terrorism program is largely based on the implementation of the program’s principles at the lowest level, in order to do that the Army needs trained professionals specializing in the constantly changing threat paradigm.
U.S. Army Special Operations Command hosted its second annual U.S. Army Special Operations Forces’ Advanced Protection Course at the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Training Center and School auditorium, July 12, 2016.
“The intent is to make this a ‘master’s-level’ program for protection professionals within USASOC,” said Patrick D. Snyder, chief of USASOC Protection Division, G-34, USASOC HQ. “We bring in our anti-terrorism officers, our physical security officers, OPSEC officers and our emergency management personnel from around USASOC, and have top-tier speakers come here and teach us to think more proactively and not reactively.”
Snyder explains that the course is designed to teach personnel more advanced skillsets and current best practices, in the ever-changing world of global threats.
“The enemy is constantly evolving, their tactics are evolving, their techniques are evolving, and we need to stay abreast of that,” Snyder said. “As our equipment changes in order to remain prepared for these threats, we need to remain trained and proficient in all the ‘tools’ of our trade as well.”
Preparation can be key in avoiding catastrophic situations within both CONUS (Continental United States) and OCONUS (Outside Continental United States) operational environments.
“The majority of times we all react to situations, and I’d really like for us to stop doing that and start to get ahead of things,” Snyder said. “The only way were going to do that, is to have these professionals, who specialize in these fields, teach us how.”
The course is SOF-specific at the moment, meaning it is currently only being offered to Soldiers and civilians within Special Operations units, however, it meets criteria for recertification and Snyder hopes the Army (as a whole) will implement the program or similar advanced programs.
“In the joint regulation 2000.16 there is a requirement for renewing your anti-terrorism certification every three years,” Snyder said. “If we can get our guys in here every year, then obviously that’s what we want to do, but this program meets the criteria for renewing their certification, according to the department of the Army’s requirements.”
Snyder also notes that as the global threat is constantly changing, so must these types of courses in order to keep personnel up-to-date on current threats, he also notes that these programs can be constructed under just about any budget.
“Every year we want this to be different, fresh, challenging, we want the kind of people who come in (for these presentations) and make us think about things differently than we are currently trained to do,” Snyder said.
Snyder points out that; “For the cost of fixing up a small building with NIPR (Non-Secure Internet Protocol Router) and SIPR (Secure Internet Protocol Router), I can train all of my staff. In that sense truly living the SOF truth; ‘humans are more important than hardware,’ because no matter how much equipment we buy or how great it is, if we don’t have a person who knows how to use it, who specializes in it, it’s worthless.”
One of the speakers at the ARSOFAPC, J.Q. Roberts, Office of the Secretary of Defense Chair, whose topic was “Assessing the War,” spoke about the “cause and effect” aspect of antiterrorism security measures.
“The good news is that you do not have to have the perfect AT (antiterrorism) program, and you do not have to have the most perfectly secured installation there ever was, your installation just has to be better than the next guy’s installation down the road because the jihadists are going to attack the softer target,” joked Roberts.
“There are a large number of challenges that confront you at the tactical level, at the installation level, and confront us at the national level on anti terrorism,” Roberts said. “The first one; is balancing your security requirements with your mission requirements.”
Roberts states that there’s more to the bigger picture of anti-terrorism training than keeping a watchful eye out for suspicious people and activities. As the military takes precautions against potential terrorist threats, it can impact or strain the Army’s relationship with the surrounding community.
“All of you who have deployed have probably seen this. You’re supposed to be in the region, you’re supposed to be engaging with the population at hand, in order to achieve your objective, and by the same token you’re supposed to keep everybody alive and bring them all home. There’s a juxtaposition there,” Roberts said.
Roberts notes that the same rules Soldiers followed while deployed, such as engaging with the local populous, and maintaining a relationships with local governments, are rules also followed back home. He uses Fort Bragg’s checkpoint on Highway 87, and the re-routing of traffic on many roads surrounding the installation, as an example of the potential “disconnect” between the community of Fort Bragg and its surrounding area, all in the name of security.
He also notes that when this happens, there are inevitable costs to the mission, and to the interaction between the community and the installation. “So are we part of the community or are we not?” With an all-volunteer force and with the fact that only about one percent of the American population even has a relative in uniform, we risk becoming further “disconnected” from the base of our existence; the American people.
“The anti-terrorism challenge is to ensure an adequate balance between securing and safeguarding ourselves, our installations and our people, while sustaining the constructive interactions (with the surrounding community).”
According to Snyder, the primary goal of the speakers at the ARSOFAPC, was to train these Soldier and civilian protection professionals for the future, to anticipate rather than react. However, the future of warfare can often be misunderstood.
“When somebody says the phrase ‘future war,’ what do you think of?” asked Dr. Sebastian Gorka, Chairman, Threat Knowledge Group. “For a lot of people, they expect future conflict to involve the kinds of platforms such as an armed UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle), stealth platforms, or they think they are going to look like ‘Tony Stark’ (Fictional Iron Man Character) but this is a function of our strategic culture.”
“Everybody has a strategic culture. ISIS has a strategic culture, China, Russia, North Korea, they all have strategic cultures, well guess what? So do we, America has a strategic culture and far too often it’s somehow predisposed towards technology. We love our technology!” exclaimed Gorka.
Gorka explained that although the average American’s version of future warfare is burrowed in images of exoskeletal advanced robotic suits of armor vanquishing enemies on the battlefield, the reality is that Soldiers are killed on the battlefield more often by very “archaic” methods.
“We’re always looking for the next widget, the next algorithm, the next platform that is going to make us victorious. The problem with that expectation is rule number one of warfare; the enemy gets a vote. You don’t always get to choose the nature of the war you’re going to fight.”
“Look at OEF (Operation Enduring Freedom), look at OIF (Operation Iraqi Freedom), in at least the first three and a half years, the deadliest weapon systems used against our war-fighters were IED’s (Improvised Explosive Devices) and RPG’s (Rocket-Propelled Grenades). An RPG doesn’t have a single microchip in it, it’s a bottle-rocket with a grenade on the end. Not even low-tech, no tech! That’s the reality of war,” exclaimed Gorka.
Many interesting thought-provoking, and educational topics were also discussed throughout the briefing where four other presenters spoke, to include a recent POW (Prisoner of War) who was held captive by ISIS, and Snyder explained that putting this together could not have been achieved by himself.
“This has definitely been a team effort, we did our first iteration of this course last year and it took us about six to eight weeks to put it together and it wasn’t anywhere near as complex as this year’s,” Snyder explained. “We started working with the concept of what we wanted out of this year’s course in November, and the presentation actually took place on the 12th.”