For the U.S. Army, August is Anti-Terrorism Awareness Month. During this month soldiers, Army civilians, retirees, and their family members are encouraged to learn more about anti-terrorism efforts and to learn how they can help protect against the rise of violent extremism, no matter where in the world they live.
The Army’s first Anti-Terrorism Awareness Month was in 2009. Since that time, the dangers presented by violent extremism have only grown across the globe, even inside of the United States. The purpose of this month of awareness is not to cause anxiety or panic. Instead, it is to help refocus the energies of everyone to better understand the threats we face and to remain vigilant in preventing terrorist attacks.
Awareness of Home Grown Terrorism and Radicalization
One of the major focuses of the Army’s trainings and activities around Anti-Terrorism Awareness Month is to raise awareness of the dangers of homegrown terrorism. Terrorists are not limited to a single political, religious, or ideological background. There are a variety of violent domestic movements in the United States that pose a risk to our security.
One of the biggest issues in the potential growth of homegrown terrorism is the power of the internet to help radicalize isolated individuals. Social media, online forums, online videos, and online gaming have all been used by different terrorist organizations to spread their messages of hate and to try and recruit, motivate, and even train others to commit acts of terror inside the United States.
The more people are aware of these tactics the easier they will be to expose and to eliminate. It is also critical that people reach out to others who appear to be the targets of radicalization efforts.
Vigilance Against Potential Threats
Obviously, the threat of terrorism is not limited to the month of August. But, during this month we can all take time to learn how we can be more vigilant against potential acts of terrorism. If we spend one month each year sharpening our senses and learning more about the terrorist threats we face, we will all be safer.
Even though Anti-Terrorism Awareness Month has been designated by the Army, everyone including civilians can do their part in learning more about how to spot potential security threats.
Some key activities to be aware of that should immediately be reported to law enforcement include:
- People sketching or measuring important buildings
- Strangers asking questions about security forces or measures
- Unattended bags, boxes, briefcases, or luggage
- Cars or trucks left in no parking zones in front of important buildings
- People wearing clothing much too big and bulky for the weather
- Chemical smells or fumes that seem out of place
It is important that suspicious activity be reported to law enforcement as quickly as possible. The more details you can provide with your report, the easier it will be for the law enforcement to properly assess the threat and take any appropriate action.
It is up to all of us to help minimize the threats of homegrown violent extremism.