THE MAGAZINE

Staging Security in a Theater of War

By Scott Ast, CPP

Physical security.
Even nonsecurity personnel should at least be familiar with the basics of effective physical security in the Iraq environment. They should understand what security purposes are served by equipment and personnel. These include the role of barriers, staffing, and protection from projectiles. They should also understand the proper use of security lighting.

Barriers. Barriers, such as Jersey and Hesco (collapsible wire-mesh containers with a heavy-duty plastic liner, filled with sand, dirt or gravel, as described by the Army News Service), are an important piece of a layered defense system. Hesco barriers, single rows or double-stacked, are quickly installed economical protection that provide peace of mind.

In addition, preformed, tall concrete walls can be stood on end and fused together to form barriers. Topping these and existing walls with concertina wire and adding observation towers provides for solid reinforcement, protection, and response. Concrete barriers forming vehicle entry points and reinforced guardhouses provide protection for checkpoints.

Manpower. Observation towers and vehicle entry posts must be staffed with properly trained, equipped, vetted, and supervised security officers who guard specific posts. Additional backup and mobile security guards should operate in tandem to form a proper security force. Concerns include training and drills, standard operating procedure, weapons proficiency, and rules of engagement, to name a few.

Projectile protection. Interior layers of defense include sandbags or Hesco barriers surrounding mobile units/trailers serving as offices or living quarters. Wherever possible, units should be constructed without windows to limit the potential for glass projectiles resulting from blasts.

Personnel should keep work areas away from windows, and if there is window glass, it should be taped over or laminated for protection from flying fragments after a blast.

Steel plating is often inserted into mobile unit walls, roofs, and flooring to provide additional protection from projectiles. In those cases, staff need not be as concerned with being near a wall. Stacking sandbags along any structure provides additional peace of mind.

Lighting. As opposed to a security setting in a stable society, lighting in Iraq is less a deterrent than a risk. Personnel should be informed that lighting actually provides targets for insurgents' small-arms fire, mortars, or rockets. And too much lighting allows insurgents to observe the numbers of protective personnel, their equipment, and level of expertise.

Night-vision equipment is useful for those tasked with watching for signs of movement outside of the perimeter. There are, however, times when lights must be used. Emergency lighting and generators are indispensable, and spotlights, whether portable for vehicles or mounted in observation towers, are handy as well.

In a theater of war, of course, personnel must continually update risk analysis and reevaluate the security posture. Countermeasures must constantly be refined to correspond to threat levels and enemy tactics. Thus, personnel should expect constant readjustment of security measures.

Building the Iraqi infrastructure is a humbling, exhausting, yet exhilarating experience. Contractors who wish to serve in that capacity probably won't have military training or the full resources of the U.S. military behind them, however, and it is incumbent on firms to properly train personnel for that environment and review ongoing security strategies to maintain their effectiveness. Doing so will go a long way towards ensuring that their workers, though constantly in harm's way, are not actually hurt.


Scott Ast, CPP, CFE (Certified Fraud Examiner), is operational security manager for Black & Veatch in Overland, Kansas. He is a member of ASIS International.

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