OPSEC; It’s everyone’s responsibility

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Brittany E. N. Murphy
  • 39th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Operations Security is an important aspect of everyday life for U.S. service members.  It is used to protect friendly capabilities and information, hindering adversaries’ ability to exploit them to their advantage.

Information that must be protected includes: personally identifiable information, for official use information, personnel records, and other sensitive items that fall under the critical information list.

“The idea [of OPSEC] came around during the Korean and Vietnam wars, when we found that even though we were doing well in terms of protecting classified information, somehow our adversaries were still ahead of us,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Andrew Chen, 39th Air Base Wing OPSEC program manager. “So they convened a task force to study this problem, where they discovered that [adversaries] were picking up the little pieces and putting them together and building a coherent picture of our intentions, our capabilities and our intents.”

In order to protect information that wasn’t deemed to be classified but could still be used to harm the U.S. Air Force and its mission, the Purple Dragon program was established, providing service members with a basic understanding of the importance of OPSEC.

“The overall idea that [we] want to instill in each Airman is that they are at the front line of protecting information,” said Chen. “Everything from their own PII, FOUO and the most important, critical information. It is everybody’s responsibility to do that.”

As a base community, to mitigate potential OPSEC violations, Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, has been operating under a 100% shred policy.

“One man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” said Chen. “What we may not think is a big deal, for example, personally identifiable information on our mail, we don’t think about and just throw in the trash. I can’t stress enough, we have a 100% shred policy on this base, especially for work documents.”

Interactions on social media are extremely important this day in age for service members to understand the importance of guarding that information. Individuals should be aware as to not post information regarding when base inspections may occur, working long or abnormal hours or unit plans and movements, as these are tiny indicators that could be pieced together to create a bigger picture for adversaries. 

“Here I have noticed that people are doing a good job at policing themselves on social media platforms, by not revealing too much about what is going on,” said Chen. “While it is important to police yourself, everyone is responsible for reporting OPSEC violations. “

Although the acronym SALUTE, which stands for size, activity, location, uniform, time and equipment, is often used when identifying suspicious activity, the principles can still apply when looking for OPSEC violations.

According to Chen, if something happens, a member of the base should know through the SALUTE principle, how to properly document information about the incident. These types of observations are useful to report to 39th Security Forces Squadron.

The 39th SFS works alongside Chen to ensure the safety of the installation and its assets. 

“Maj. Chen does the trends analysis, [looking for] upticks,” said TSgt Michael White, 39th SFS anti-terrorism program manager. “He is going to look for short falls. Are we not implementing the 100% shred policy?”

It is important for all service members to report OPSEC violations, some of which are not shredding paperwork, CD’s or cutting old or damaged uniforms so that the wrong people are not able to use them to impersonate Airmen.

“Don’t just shut off OPSEC and security training once [you] leave work,” said Chen. “Those things can be applied at home [through finances and personal emails]. Security is in all aspects of our lives.”

Service members who witness a violation should report the incident to either Maj. Chen at 676-1082, the Base Defense Operations Center at 676-3200, Anti-Terrorism and Force Protection or the U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations.