Members of U.S.-Japan anti-terror team have rare meeting
MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan — You may not recognize them —- and some might not even recognize each other —- but there’s no doubt a collection of U.S. and Japanese teams are out there with their eyes peeled for terrorist activity.
Once in a while they get together, as they did here Wednesday when members of the Bilateral Antiterrorism Base Cluster 4 Team met, some talking face-to-face for the first time even though they routinely communicate via e-mail and phone.
Keeping each other informed is paramount because “the nature of the beast” is that “duty and responsibility descriptions can never be public,” said Andrew Samuels, Iwakuni officer for anti-terrorism and force protection.
The Cluster 4 Team, covering much of southwestern Honshu, Japan’s main island, is among several in the country serving as a network to collect and share information on suspected threats and other security issues.
Earlier this year, Samuels received honorable mention from the Pentagon as an anti-terrorism program manager.
“Together, we work to protect our critical resources and personnel in our area of responsibility,” he said. “Our bilateral, ongoing fight in the global war on terrorism involves extremely sensitive information.”
He called matching faces to names “extremely important … especially because we work closely with Japanese agencies. The more time you can invest to build relationships … the better.”
Japanese leaders attending the annual meeting at Club Iwakuni were from Hiroshima’s Japan Ground Self-Defense Force, Iwakuni’s Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force, the Japanese coast guard, national police and Customs.
U.S. representatives attending were from Iwakuni’s Provost Marshal Office and Naval Criminal Investigative Service. Other U.S. military attendees included anti-terrorism and provost marshal representatives from Kure Pier No. 6, an Army installation near Hiroshima.
The 15 agencies in the team have varying responsibilities. But, Samuels said, “One of those applies to everyone, which is sharing information about conditions and individuals possibly posing a threat that could lead to a security breach.”
For instance, an Iwakuni city police officer might observe someone closely monitoring the installation and inform the base.
“Conversely,” Samuels said, “if we suspect some type of illegal activity off post we would make certain they were alerted.”
The team also helps safeguard the mail.
“If Japan Customs noted a series of packages or letters destined for military base addresses originating from countries identified with international goals contrary to ours,” appropriate Cluster Team officials would be notified to investigate, he said.
The Cluster 4 Team also went into action to safeguard more than 220,000 visitors in May at Iwakuni’s Friendship Day. In addition, the team keeps constant watch against waterborne security threats by using joint boat patrols with Japan’s Coast Guard and Iwakuni’s police.
No one agency can do it all, Samuels said.
“We couldn’t have accomplished any of these things without everybody’s help here,” he said.