Protecting Pease: Smith prepares 157th ARW for real-world threats

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Kayla White
  • 157th Air Refueling Wing, Public Affairs

Members of the 157th Security Forces Squadron, here, attended a five-day course in the middle of May called Dynamics of International Terrorism in Destin, Florida.

DIT is a basic course, put on by the U.S. Air Force Special Operations School, designed to educate students about terrorist organizations, including motivations, operational capabilities and the threats they pose in national and international settings.

“I wanted to learn as much as I could, to better protect my base,” said Master Sgt. Matthew A. Smith, the standards and evaluation program manager, assigned to the 157th SFS. “Understanding these dynamics, knowing what to look for, could keep people alive.”

In his role, Smith tests the technical knowledge, skills and abilities of security forces airmen to ensure they are in the right positions, at the right time, to serve and defend the people of Pease. He is also responsible for educating members of the 157th Air Refueling Wing about threats to base defense, such as terror attacks and active shooter incidents.

A portion of the DIT course focused on the terrorist mindset and possible behavioral indicators which might help predict and prevent future terror attacks.

“It was surprising to me just how closely the terrorist mindset is with that of an active shooter,” said Smith. “They both follow that radicalized, conditioned path to violence.”

According to a study conducted by the FBI called Making Prevention a Reality: Identifying, Assessing and Managing the Threat of Targeted Attacks, offenders often display recognizable behaviors which could indicate violent intent.

Concerning, reportable behaviors include:

-Any physical violence toward a person or property

-Direct or indirect threats of violence

-Any act, gesture or statement that would be interpreted by a reasonable person as threatening or intimidating, such as overt physical or verbal intimidation, throwing objects or other gestures intended to cause fear, or making contextually inappropriate statements about harming others

-Unusual or bizarre behavior that would cause a reasonable person to fear injury or harm due to its nature and severity, such as: stalking; erratic or bizarre behavior suggestive of mental disturbance or substance abuse; fixation with mass murder, weapons, or violence generally; or fixation with hate group, terrorist, or extremist material

-Any statements or behaviors indicating suicidal intention

The same study discusses the importance of bystander intervention, or when the people who are around someone who displays these behaviors report them. Bystanders are the force multipliers of threat management, serving as the extra eyes and ears for officials who are responsible for the safety of others. The value of bystanders in prevention efforts cannot be overstated.

“People need to understand that if Pease ever has an active shooter incident, it will likely be someone within its gates,” said Smith. “We see each other every day. We need to take the time to get to know each other so we can stop that from happening.”

Smith made a presentation about active shooters and terrorism during the Wing Safety Down Day on May 24, 2018. This presentation provided basic background information. The next phase of Smith’s training plan will take it a step further.

Prevention is only half the battle, when it comes to educating base personnel. Smith must also ensure that they know how to respond in the event of a violent incident.

“My plan is to spend time with the building managers and supervisors who work in each building,” said Smith. “This will improve communication, foster relationships and increase security-mindedness.”

Smith will use time during scheduled drill weekends to teach these key leaders about response procedures, including escape routes and lockdown areas, in their specific sections of the base. They will then need to pass this information on to the people they manage.

“Safety and base defense do not fall solely on security forces airmen,” said Smith. “Everyone has a role. Everyone can make a difference.”