Force Protection: More than an installation necessity

Maj. Chris Hagemeyer is the 1st Special Operations Security Forces Squadron commander. Hagemeyer is in charge of approximately 270 security forces members who provide force protection for special operations through physical security, entry control, armed response and police services to Hurlburt Field. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jeff Parkinson/Released)

Maj. Chris Hagemeyer is the 1st Special Operations Security Forces Squadron commander. Hagemeyer is in charge of approximately 270 security forces members who provide force protection for special operations through physical security, entry control, armed response and police services to Hurlburt Field. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jeff Parkinson/Released)

HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. -- When military members think about Force Protection, our minds immediately gravitate towards the protection of our installations. Security Forces defenders working at an installation entry control point, controlled access to certain facilities or measures units implement to make themselves a harder target are easy examples many associate with force protection. However, the force protection mindset needs to transcend the boundaries of the installation and into our personal lives – specifically our homes, automobiles and personal property.

Recently, Staff Sgt. Jason Colas, 1st Special Operations Security Forces Squadron investigator, educated our unit on the importance of applying force protection concepts to our personal lives, thereby helping to decrease our Airmen’s individual vulnerability outside their professional environment.

He provided great insight for our Airmen, and I would like to take this opportunity to share some of his recommendations.

The Department of Justice estimates that there is a home burglary in the United States every 15 seconds. Most burglars conduct some level of prior planning; therefore, how you present your residence is important. Although it is not always possible to prevent a burglary from occurring, there are steps you can take to minimize your likelihood of becoming a target.

First, at night or when your house is unoccupied, ensure you close your shades or have the ability to prevent someone from seeing inside and becoming interested in your personal property. Not allowing someone to be enticed decreases their desire to target you, and they may move on.

Second, use lighting to your advantage. When you aren’t home, proper lighting can be a huge deterrence. Exterior lighting, such as flood lighting and motion detection lighting, can bring attention to and increases the chance of your neighbors witnessing a suspicious individual. Interior lighting is even more important when you are not home. Connect certain lights to a timer to give the illusion that someone is home.

Third, avoid inadvertent advertising. This often happens following big holidays when people purchase high-dollar items, such as electronic equipment and place the boxes at the end of the driveway for trash pick-up. These boxes advertise the presence of enticing items within the house and can draw the interest of potential burglars. Ensure you break down the boxes so they are not easily identifiable.

Lastly, make your home a hard target, physically. Most home invasions occur at the doors and windows on the ground floor. Take steps to install door bars, chains and window locks. These measures may not stop a determined person from entering, but may slow them down, cause noise and provide enough time to alert neighbors who can notify the authorities.

Some of these principles can also be applied to your vehicle. Verify your vehicle is securely locked and, if possible, alarmed. Also, don’t leave anything of high-dollar value in open view. Unlike home invasions, perpetrators of vehicular burglaries rarely conduct prior planning and tend to look for “targets of opportunity.”

Finally, it’s important to plan for the worst. Maintain a log of serial numbers and photos of your valuables and high-dollar items. The most sought-after items by burglars are televisions, personal electronics and firearms; they’re also the easiest to pawn or sell. If you get into the habit of documenting all of your serial numbers and maintaining them, both digitally and hard copy, it is much easier for law enforcement to find and return your items to you.

There are many other measures of force protection you can take in your personal lives to prevent you and your family from becoming a target. These are all examples of applying force protection principles, traditionally thought of as installation specific measures, to your daily lives. Bottom line, arm yourself with the knowledge that makes you a hard target through proper planning and preparation, and always maintain that force protection mindset. Defensor Fortis!