The price of freedom

  • Published
  • By Brig. Gen. Mark Dillon
  • 86th Airlift Wing commander
"The price of freedom is eternal vigilance." -- Thomas Jefferson.

It's been three months since the U.S. State Department and U.S. European Command issued a "worldwide caution" to Americans in Europe. The caution warned us of the continuing threat from al-Qaida and its web of terror against U.S. citizens.

Since August, the KMC has been busy taking the threat seriously. Based on information from the U.S. Air Forces in Europe commander, we published a force protection flyer reminding us that we are all security monitors. Additionally, we exercised enhanced force protection measures based on guidance from the USEUCOM commander and will continue to do so across the KMC. More recently, we had to cancel some Halloween activities that potentially put Americans and community members at risk.

We must remember the caution was issued based on a continuous threat and was not a one-time exercise. Most members of the KMC are doing a great job staying vigilant.

Our security forces and military police have increased their patrols both on and off installations. Military members and their families are practicing good force protection measures on and off duty. This is especially important since most of our members -- both military and civilian -- don't live on base but live in the KMC.

You are all reporting suspicious activities. You are reconsidering your travel plans and avoiding areas where large numbers of people gather, especially venues filled with large numbers of U.S. citizens. I encourage you to continue these and other acts of eternal vigilance.

It is clear to me, however, as I review the daily security forces report or "blotter" that some people in the KMC are not taking the threat against Americans seriously. Unfortunately, the actions of a few have the potential to put the rest of us at risk.

For example, we have KMC members leaving their military unique valuables unsecured in their vehicles. Terrorists can use these items (ID cards, birth certificates, uniforms and professional gear) to blend in or gain unauthorized access to installations, Web sites, etc. Another example reveals a "pre 9/11" attitude by several of our Airmen.

These Airmen traveled to another country illegally and didn't let their supervisors know their whereabouts. When these Airmen were asked by total strangers if they were U.S. military, where they were staying and how much money they had, they didn't hesitate to tell the strangers everything. Fortunately for these Airmen, they were only robbed. It could have been much worse.

Most of us in the KMC are taking Thomas Jefferson's "eternal vigilance" message to heart. You are rethinking the way you live, work and play here in Europe -- and not just for one weekend, one month or one year -- but for good.

I encourage you to continue to remain vigilant. Eternal vigilance is key because as history reminds us, our enemy operates on a timeline that is patient and deliberate, waiting for us to let our guard down.

As always, thanks to you and your families for serving.