Fort Benning launched a program Aug. 1 where everyone plays a role.
Operations specialist Matt Yaninas is enlisting the support of every man, woman and child on post as a member of the iWatch Army program. The initiative coincides with the post’s kickoff of its annual Anti-terrorism Awareness Month.
“It’s time for everybody to become a nosy neighbor. We want to protect the most valuable resource of the Army — its people,” Yaninas said.
The military version of the longstanding Neighborhood Watch program focuses on the basics. Ordinary citizens supplement the work of Tim Price and his crew. Price serves as director of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security, Plans and Operations Division. His plea is simple.
“We want any type of suspicious activity reported,” Price said. “There are set stages in any attack. They are little pieces of the puzzle. You take one of the little pieces to the proper authorities and let investigators take over.”Seemingly innocent activities or remarks could raise suspicion, he said. Should a stranger inquire about security measures on post? Is it too hot for someone to be wearing big, bulky clothing? Why is that truck in a no parking zone?
“We want everyone if they see something that feels not right to report it,” Price said. “We focus on prevention. We want citizens to buy into the program. We want everyone to have ownership in keeping Fort Benning, Columbus, themselves and their families safe. This brings safety to a personal level.”
Price’s office is blanketing the post with information in order to promote awareness. Posters and handouts are available at tables at the post exchange and commissary and at newcomers’ weekly meetings. Soldiers, civilian employees, family members and contractors are being asked to help.
Movie theaters feature trailers with a 30-second spot about the program. The Benning Bulletin carries information in its weekly announcements. Even school children are asked to join the effort. Packets with word searches, coloring sheets and other age-appropriate activities have gone out to schools on post as part of a back-to-school program.iWatch is year round and anti-terrorism month comes around every August. Though for Price and company, anti-terrorism is a daily concern, August serves as its reminder.
“This is our job,” he said. “It’s easy for us because we do it every day. When it’s not their job, you have to get people to think about it, to keep it in the back of their minds. August is when we refocus everybody. Everyone is re-energized.”
When the order for iWatch came in, Price’s office personnel went to work.
“The order to staff it goes to our boss. Garrison commander, COL Thomas Macdonald is like the mayor of Fort Benning,” said Terry Wydra, antiterrorism officer. “We figure out what Fort Benning needs to do to implement it. We’re in the process of setting up a question-and-answer session with COL Macdonald on Benning TV. It will be hosted by Public Affairs and available for the general public.”
Price and his staff have a vision.
“It’s not if it’s going to happen, it’s when,” Price said. “We want to make Fort Benning a hard target. We want them to think they don’t want to mess with Fort Benning. But we can’t do it by ourselves. We want everyone to see and report. Our office isn’t just for terrorism, but for crime. This is their neighborhood.”