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Let us speak courteously

by Lt. Col. Jeffrey Branting
6th Security Forces Squadron commander

In May of 1903, Theodore Roosevelt said, "Let us speak courteously, deal fairly, and keep ourselves armed and ready."

It would seem that President Roosevelt was a Security Forces member. Maybe not, but his words hold the secret to how we do our job. As I arrived at MacDill and took command, I was amazed to see the traffic in the morning. Actually, coming here from Montana, traffic is a shock regardless. I have quickly come to appreciate the patience of the base populace and the support shown to my troops. Being a security forces commander does provide a unique perspective of military life. Sometimes it is a view from the cheap seats. Talking with my predecessor, Lt. Col. Steve Kauffmann, has provided me some insights based on some true stories (so you know what the guy in the car in front of you is doing.)

This is a first: A person drives up and is surprised; like it's the very first time someone has asked for an ID. They proceed to look around the car, in a couple pockets, sun visor, find it in a duffle bag with their gym clothes. Meanwhile, 25 more cars join the queue. If you've had regular access to a military installation since 9/11, odds are that an ID of at least one adult occupant in the vehicle was checked to get in. Today should be no surprise. Be ready, we'll be checking tomorrow too.

Where has this thing been: Looking at some cards…hey, I'm not going to ask. The sneeze on the card as you hand it to the guard with an optional DNA sample, while a nice idea, we have not added biosamples to the ID process. And you thought cops wore gloves because our hands were always cold. Take care of your IDs. And if it's in sad shape, or it doesn't look like you anymore, get a new one.

The question: After being checked and cleared for entry, some vehicles are randomly selected for a search. Here is the number one question from the top 10 list, "Do I look like a terrorist?" Well heck sir/ma'am, if we knew what the terrorists all looked like, this global war on terrorism would be much easier! Please be patient. My goal is to deter them from thinking about it here at MacDill. Being random and active in checking vehicles is considered an important element by our military leadership.

The test: This person drives up to a gate without a properly registered vehicle, say Bayshore Gate. Posted sentry informs the driver to go to the visitor center at Dale Mabry and obtain a pass. So far so good, except they drive to the MacDill Gate and try again…they're again sent to the visitor center. "Oh one more try" the driver thinks and goes directly to the Dale Mabry gate only to be sent back once more. Quit already! You're holding up the line every time.

The wallet: A few folks drive up and hand over their whole wallet, then appear surprised when I take it. No, really, I don't want your money; I just want to look at the ID. It's hard to see and ensure authenticity when it's jammed in there with all the other stuff, and usually behind a piece of faded plastic. You will speed up, and add confidence to the process if you take the ID out before handing over your entire wallet, the folks behind will certainly appreciate it.

The string: Trying to read a date on one faded ID, the guard moved it a bit closer to his eyes and heard a slight grunt from the bearer. Turns out it was on one of those neck bands, unusually short this one, but even the longer ones make it tough. The ID is usually in there with lots of other stuff, the plastic is faded, I'm sure you get the picture. Kind of like the wallet, please take it out of the plastic, and, better yet, from around your neck.

The sneak: I may be in the turn lane but I never intended to turn, by waiting and sneaking into the other lane you have caused an accordion reaction in the lines behind you. Follow the traffic laws, and reduce the number of dented fenders in Tampa.

The MacDill Ave slip-over: Lines at Bayshore are too long, so you drive down MacDill until you hit the line and then slip over onto Sheldon, Bayview or Helen to cut in front of the rest "less important" team MacDill people. Again, this causes the accordion effect. Just leave a few minutes earlier, wait your turn and be a team player.

The significance of one act may seem small to us, why do we check IDs anyway? According to Dr. Jeffrey Zink's work in his book "Hammerproof," when we compromise our beliefs and our job to do the easy and comfortable thing instead of the right thing, we chip away at our very foundation. We don't check IDs because it is fun, we do it because it adds to the fabric of a safe installation. Thanks for all the patience and professionalism you show to my troops every day.

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