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CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Traveling throughout the world can be risky business.

With terrorist organizations blending into any society, keeping safe while traveling on orders or for pleasure isn’t just recommended, it’s an order, said Tim White, Marine Corps Bases Japan assistant force protection officer.

White said anyone under the Status of Forces Agreement, including civilian employees, must have a force protection travel plan before taking off. This rule has been passed down by the Pacific Command, and each service is tasked with making sure its members, family members and civilian employees comply, the command said.

“A plan is required for travel everywhere except for Japan and the United States,” he said.

A force protection travel plan requires that travelers look into the terrorist threat in areas they plan to visit and provide where they’ll be during their trip, how long they’ll be there and contact information for the applicable U.S. Embassy or consulate, White said. The plan also includes tips on how to keep a low profile and not stand out as a target for terrorists, security tips and hostage survival techniques.

Country clearance also may be needed and a Level I Force Protection Training certificate must be provided, White said. Each family member 14 and older must submit a Level I certificate, but all members of a family can be included on the same plan.

“It’s for their safety,” said Marine Master Sgt. Edward Ferrell, physical security manager for Camp Foster’s Building One. “We want them to arrive safely and come back safely.”

Ferrell said the travel plan is not optional or open to debate. “If ... going to a foreign country, you will submit a plan,” he said. “God forbid something happens to you while you’re there and you have no plan.”

Ferrell said military members can be punished under the Uniform Code of Military Justice and family members who don’t comply can face administrative action; the most severe penalty they face is being sent back to the States early.

The Marine Corps on Okinawa has made it mandatory that all travel plans be turned in 45 days before departure, but Army personnel can submit theirs up to 30 days before travel, said Army Capt. Martin Barr, Torii Station officer for security plans and future operations. Barr said fewer Army personnel are stationed on Okinawa; letting his unit work one-on-one with people about their travel plans.

Barr said his branch will accept the travel plans any day of the week, but the Marine Corps accepts them only on Mondays.

Ferrell said a force protection travel plan is quick and simple to complete.

White said the traveler should bring the packet, with completed paperwork, to his office for approval. The most common mistakes are incomplete and unsigned forms and no Level I training certificate, he said.

Barr said buying a ticket before the packet is approved could cost travellers hundreds or thousands of dollars.

Ferrell said people trying to travel with no force protection plans are caught weekly. He said even though they’ve spent the money, “they’re not going if they don’t have a plan.”

Ferrell said officials are working hard to ensure servicemembers are aware of the rules. For instance, Barr said, he is trying to educate soldiers by informing commanders and spreading the word through professional development programs.

Ferrell said, the Marine Corps has been spreading the word through radio and television, e-mails and newcomers’ briefs.

“If they hear it enough times,” he said, “it will irritate them and they’ll remember it.”

Call White or Ferrell at 645-7222, or Barr at 644-4011, for more information on force protection travel plans.

Travel tips

The following Web sites can assist potential travelers with their force protection travel plan:

• www.fcg.pentagon.mil — This site contains personnel entrance requirements as well as country clearance and/or theater clearance guidance.

• http://www.pacom.mil/staff/at/athome.htm — This site can help travelers determine if a “buddy” is required in the Pacific Command area of responsibility. It also contains information such as terrorist, criminal and medical threat levels, as well as force protection condition levels.

• www.at-awareness.org/security.php — The Level I Force Protection Training is available at this site. Once the online training is completed, the individual can print out the Level I certificate, which must be attached to the force protection travel plans.

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