The U.S. Army is cautioning holiday shoppers, travelers and entertainment seekers to stay vigilant throughout the holiday season. Terrorists, criminals and scammers are known to use festivities such as Christmas markets, celebrations, concerts, and other public gatherings to target unsuspecting victims. Though these activities are sources of fun and enjoyment, potential risk is always present. The U.S. Army Garrison Rheinland-Pfalz force protection officials offer guidance for holiday makers. The advice is pertinent to service members and their families, whether located here in the U.S. or abroad.
The Army said it's important for personnel to reduce potential risk when traveling or visiting attractions, entertainment, and other venues and activities during the holiday season.
"It is prudent to develop, refine and implement sound individual or family safety plans," said USAG RP Antiterrorism Officer James Miller Miller. "Ensure everyone in the family or travel group knows the plan and continues to take appropriate measures for their safety, security and well-being."
The Army cautioned whether you're traveling to a foreign country or simply heading downtown to your local Christmas market or mall, plans should be developed regardless of how close or far you're traveling and should be specific for the location of travel – however, every plan should contain the following safety tips:
- Maintain a low profile, avoid wearing clothing or accessories that cause you to stand out. Blend in as much as possible.
- Know the locations of U.S. Consulates and other safe havens – such as local police stations and hospitals – and carry emergency numbers with you.
- Avoid civil disturbances or demonstrations of any kind.
- Never travel alone. Always travel in groups of two or more.
Other useful advice: listen to local media outlets for potential security alerts and maintain your situational awareness at all times.
For overseas personnel and travelers, the Army recommends enrolling in the State Department's Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) and checking the Department of Defense Foreign Clearance Guide before planning a trip.
"These sites will give you important travel information before you start traveling," Miller said. "Several countries have travel restrictions, so check before you purchase your tickets."
Visit these sites for guidance at:
DoD Foreign Clearance Guide: https://www.fcg.pentagon.mil/
Additionally, the USAG RP Antiterrorism Protection Office has developed a Travel Guidance and Individual Protective Measures Guide that may be downloaded from the garrison website at: https://home.army.mil/rheinland-pfalz/index.php/safety.
USAG RP Commander Col. Jason Edwards echoed Miller's sentiments about exercising vigilance this holiday season.
"Everyone should maintain a high level of situational awareness and apply appropriate measures to reduce risk," Edwards said. "Stay vigilant in crowded areas, especially mass-transit nodes such as airports and train stations and have the information ready to quickly report suspicious activity. Most importantly, enjoy the holidays and take care of yourself and your loved ones."
Military and civilian personnel across the services traveling overseas for the holidays should ensure they have notified their commands, complied with all travel requirements, including receiving a security briefing from their OPSEC officer.