AL ASAD, Iraq -- In the War on Terror, security is paramount. Service members go to great lengths to ensure that they stay as safe as possible while deployed. Fences and concrete barriers are erected around buildings, identification cards are checked at the entrance to high-traffic areas, and vehicles are searched as they come through Entry Control Points. All of these measures are taken to increase security aboard military bases in Iraq.
The service members in charge of Anti-Terrorism Force Protection in Multi-National Forces-Western Iraq recently learned more about what it takes to ensure that the people around them are kept safe, during a three-day ATFP class aboard Al Asad.
“We’re instructing the Anti-Terrorism Level II class,” said Army Lt. Col. Keith Janowski, the Chief of Assesments for Multi-National Forces-Iraq. “Anti-Terrorism Level I is the class everyone takes to come into theater. Level II is for force protection officers and antiterrorism officers at the various (Forward Operating Bases) and units. Battalions and higher need a trained and dedicated officer or staff noncommissioned officer to do the job. People haven’t been able to receive the training with the short notice before coming over here. So, we’re catching people up.”
More than 60 ATFP officers from units around the Multi-National Forces-West area of operations attended the class. This is the fifth class that Janowski and his team of instructors have given since the beginning of the year. They have taught more than 250 service members in that time, according to Janowski, a Wilmington, Del., native.
The service members learned about concepts like compartmentalizing buildings to decrease the effects of an explosion and overhead protection. They also learned how to draw up ATFP plans for their unit, and how to look at the vulnerabilities that were unique to their area of operations.
For some students, the class was a much needed tool to have in their box, especially to the ones who were new to their job, according to Army 1st Lt. Ashley Philbin, the ATFP officer for the 264th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion based at Al Taqaddum, Iraq.
“It was really good,” said Philbin, an Altoona, Pa., native. “I didn’t take the class back in the rear, I just got thrown into the position of ATFP officer-in-charge. For me, it was very helpful because they were talking about things that I have to do in TQ that I didn’t know about. So everything they covered in here really brought everything to light. I was taking notes on things that I have to do when I get back.”
For Marines like Gunnery Sgt. Gilbert Ramon, an ATFP officer for Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 29 here, the class was more of a refresher course. Ramon was an instructor at the Marine Security Guard school and has done extensive work in force protection.
“Everything was need-to-know information,” said Ramon, a Victoria, Texas, native. “A lot of it was information that covered the different threats that are out there, and their protective measures.”
Ramon said the students were shown many examples of events that could have been avoided with proper, or improved, ATFP measures.
On the last day of the class, students were split into groups to conduct a vulnerability assessment of four buildings on Al Asad. Each group inspected one building, taking notes based on what they had learned over the past three days.
“They’re going to come back and give a report on what the vulnerabilities are and how to mitigate them,” explained Janowski. “We’ve had extensive blocks of instruction on how to mitigate vulnerabilities, not just identify them. We’re focusing on what you can do quick, with what you have on hand, and what you need a long term approach to fix.”
One of the biggest things that Janowski wants the service members to take away from the class is how important ATFP is to the mission in Iraq.
“Terrorists can be right one time out of 1000, and they win. We have to be right every time, and if we’re not right, we have to have measures in place to mitigate the effects of the attack and have as few casualties as possible.”