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Buckley feels exercise crunch

BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Team Buckley is in the midst of hard-core exercises to ensure it can handle any contingency that comes its way - whether an actual emergency or an input from the Inspector General during the upcoming readiness inspection here.

Several upcoming exercises will focus on force protection and antiterrorism - something that affects everyone on the base.

"Antiterrorism is everyone's responsibility, because if something looks strange, you can't just rely on building managers or antiterrorism representatives to find it," said 1st Lt. Trisha Loede, deputy director of operations for installation antiterrorism.

Force protection measures involve the whole base, too. All base employees and their families should know what force protection levels - or FPCONs - are, and how they should respond, according to Chief Master Sgt. James Erwin, 460th Security Forces Squadron manager. Each work center has an appointed Antiterrorism/Force Protection monitor who can field questions related to FPCONs.

"It is everyone's responsibility, not just the beret-wearing, gun-toting security forces Airman's," Chief Erwin said. Over 88,000 employees and visitors come to the base regularly, and the security forces squadron makes up only about .002 percent of that. "That's why we have to rely on everyone to help out."

Force protection levels can be elevated or lowered in response to changes in threats to the base. While they're necessary to protect our people and property, Chief Erwin admitted they can cause some headaches.

"With a rise in FPCONs, the more difficult it will be to get on or off the base or into some facilities," Chief Erwin said. Some inconveniences are a reduction in the number of base entry gates and longer lines to get on and off base, increased searches of vehicles and hand-carried items, and limited parking at the commissary, base exchange and chapel.

"Individuals need to give themselves more time for traveling," Chief Erwin said. "By all means, be patient!"

Patience, however, should not equal letting suspicious activity go unnoticed. "After 9/11, everyone was on high alert," Lieutenant Loede said. "But we fall into complacency."

Although the antiterrorism office doesn't identify any specific threats against the base, there are inherent risks for military personnel and installations. "Because we're in this uniform, we're always a target," Lieutenant Loede said. "You need to be aware of your surroundings, and if something doesn't feel right, trust your instincts."

Suspicious activity can be reported to the Air Force Eagle Eyes program, sponsored by the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, and anything immediately threatening Air Force personnel or property should be reported to security forces.

While exercises may increase the perceived inconvenience of elevated FPCONs, Lieutenant Loede said the practice can keep Buckley safe: "Heightened vigilance is key."

Air Force Eagle Eyes program: DSN 847-6607; Commercial 720-847-6607
Security Forces: DSN 847-9250/9930 or Commercial 720-847-9250/9930
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