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OPSEC and my son

By Stephen Wilson
6th Air Mobility Wing OPSEC manager
 

Occasionally, my job requires me to go TDY, or in layman's terms, on a business trip. As most military members know, preparing for a TDY entails everything from conjuring up the "friendly-user" Defense Travel System to activating the "Out-Of-Office Assistant" on the Outlook "Tools" bar. At home, preparations continue with cleaning the place up and getting a wonderful person to homecare my son.

A few days before my TDY begins, I start the arduous task of ironing my shirts. On a typical work week, I iron one shirt the night before each workday however in preparing for my trip I'll iron enough shirts to cover the TDY.

Recently my son watched me somewhat indifferently out of the corner of his eye while I ironed my first shirt and put it away in the closet. As I started ironing my second shirt, he left the room and I didn't think anything about it. After finishing my second shirt, I went to the closet again only to find my teary-eyed son sitting on top of my suitcase.

It was apparent that something as simple as ironing more than one shirt had revealed to him my intentions of "going away." Even though he doesn't understand the concept of TDY, he knew that more than one shirt equated to something other than a typical workday or week.

He only had to acquire one indicator to determine my future intentions. By the way, Winston is my four-legged, highly-intelligent, adopted son, who just happens to be a poodle. To spare Winston grief and trauma in conjunction with future TDYs, I decided I'd have to employ countermeasures to avoid or prevent detectable or predictable procedures, e.g., ironing and packing.

First, I started to iron more than one shirt each day for normal work weeks. This way I'd be unpredictable and avoid stereotype patterns. Second, I decided to pack my suitcase while he was outside chasing squirrels. This diversionary tactic made it possible for me to conceal my operations until the last minute.

I could list more indicators and countermeasures, but I think you get the point. Just as Winston has the capability to acquire clues or indicators that reveal my intentions, our nation's adversaries also have the capability to acquire indicators that can reveal our intentions, operations, and other activities.

Along with capability, they also have deadly intentions to use that information to adversely impact our operations to the point of causing mission degradation or failure. It is our job to prevent the adversary from acquiring these indicators that can reveal vulnerabilities associated with our operations.

I don't underestimate Winston's capabilities, and he's a dog (sorry buddy). We certainly should not and can not afford to underestimate our adversaries' capabilities, resources, and intentions.

Finally, just as I developed and implemented countermeasures to prevent Winston from determining my intentions, we must also do the same to our adversaries.

In order to accomplish our mission, everyone must understand and apply OPSEC. Philosopher George Santayana said, "Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it." The adversary, particularly a terrorist, appreciates and is extremely grateful for our indifference, complacency, impatience and "lessons forgotten/re-learned" attitude.

Unless corrected, we will continue to allow the criminals, terrorists and other adversaries to succeed and accomplish their mission, as they did September 11, 2001. Unless we eliminate our apathetic attitude towards OPSEC, develop an appreciation for its value, not only at work but home as well, and implement and adhere to its principles, it's just a matter of when and not if.

There are no guarantees, but a positive, proactive attitude is our best countermeasure against the threat.

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