KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — The 18th Wing Security Forces Squadron took top honors for its anti-terrorism efforts for the third year in a row, Air Force officials have announced.

The squadron won the Defense Department’s operational unit award for several aspects of its anti-terrorism program, including gate security enhancements and squadron education.

“A terrorist can fail numerous times and still be successful but an anti-terrorism program cannot fail even once,” 18th Wing anti- terrorism officer James Pettus said last week.

That observation is behind the go-ahead the base command gave for several new additions to overall security.

In June, base gate guards began authenticating some identification cards with a hand-held scanner. The scanner also verifies information contained on the cards.

The guards also receive some help from the layout and design of the new gates, Pettus said. They include pop-up barriers and search pits to check the undersides of trucks and any suspicious vehicles.

The lanes are designed so the searches do not impede traffic flow, Pettus said.

Anti-terror policy also benefits from the local population, he said.

“Tacit farmers” have been incorporated into Kadena’s Eagle Eyes program. Tacit farmers cultivate land they own that has been leased to the military but is not being used by the base.

Kadena also won the award based on enforcement of previously existing policies, Pettus said.

For example, squadron anti-terrorism officers receive regular quarterly briefings and more frequent ones if a threat is discovered, Pettus said. Also, security personnel brief deploying airmen on potential terrorist threats where they are traveling.

The award also is a reflection on Kadena’s officials and airmen, Pettus said.

Suspicious activity awareness and reporting skyrocketed after Sept. 11, 2001, then slowly returned to usual levels, he said. Officials are hoping airmen can strike a balance between overzealousness and inattention.

“One of our biggest challenges is complacency,” Pettus said. “Weigh common sense into it. But if something looks suspicious, it’s better safe than sorry.”

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