Gate guards beef up line of defense against terrorism
Stars and Stripes June 12, 2003
CAMP ZAMA, Japan — To a terrorist, a bus, van or car can be the perfect place to conceal a bomb.
The glove compartment. The fuel tank. The trunk. Hiding places abound.
U.S. Army Garrison Japan’s Provost Marshal’s Office is trying to buffer its installations by making every gate guard a vehicle inspection expert.
Japanese Master Labor Contract security chiefs spent about three hours Tuesday in what could be called “Vehicle Inspection 101.” After brief classroom instruction, the chiefs practiced looking for fake bombs planted in a car, a fuel tanker, a diesel bus and two vans.
Officials say it’s a job skill that could end up saving lives.
“It’s the only way you can safeguard the community, to have those initial checkpoints” into an installation, said U.S. Army Garrison Japan Provost Marshal Maj. Chris Dudley.
MLC guards and Army military police are responsible for the security of nine installations in Japan, including Camp Zama, Hardy Barracks, Sagami Depot, Sagamihara and Yokohama North Dock.
Depending on the force protection level, MLC guards at times may be called to staff the gates without MPs, Dudley said — and they need to be prepared.
“I look at it as ‘One team, one fight,’” she said. “I want to make sure the MLCs get the best training they can get, along with the MPs.”
Army officials said the training is an effort to ensure all Army installations in Japan use the same standards. The chiefs will train workers at their locations.
For many, the course is a refresher, Dudley said. “It doesn’t hurt to practice the fundamentals,” she said.
The training, based on U.S. Forces Japan and Government of Japan guidance, isn’t new. “The first time we had mirrors under cars was not after 9/11,” said Maj. John Amberg, U.S. Army Japan spokesman.
But, he said, the terrorist attacks put a greater emphasis on force protection.
Though the Army in Japan continues to conduct random vehicle inspections, Tuesday’s training focused on techniques for high-threat situations.
Staff Sgt. Jeremy Milton, PMO physical security inspector, told the group not to feel rushed by drivers who complain of delays.
“You want to get it right,” he said of vehicle inspections. “It takes as long as you need.”
The chiefs Tuesday were almost perfect — but a protruding wire attached to a fake bomb hidden underneath a van went undetected.
“Here’s a hard lesson for everyone,” Milton said. “A determined terrorist will get something in eventually. We can only find the ones who are careless, who think they know what are patterns are and think they can circumvent.”