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Understanding the Threat - Force Protection Detachment Thailand - Seapower Magazine

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  • 1. I N T E R N AT I O N A L R E L AT I O N SUnderstanding the ThreatAmerican Embassy team, Thai security officialswork together to protect visiting U.S. military forcesBy SCOTT M. BERNAT, Special to Seapower Full U.S. military engagementEnvironment Observations with Thailand, to include U.S. Navy ship visits, was restored following theForce Protection Detachment (FPD) Thailand is directly involved democratic elections in December.in operationally preparing and monitoring the environment for this The complexity of Thailand’smonth’s Cobra Gold exercise. security environment requires thats The FPD presents and participates in U.S.-Thai security seminars. U.S. deployed military forces remain vigilant and set appropriates It deploys various security-related equipment to Thai security force-protection measures.forces. An effective force-protections Members conduct port, airfield, route, exercise and liberty program accounts for all seen andvenue vulnerability surveys and monitor and report on the overall unseen challenges and mitigatesthreat to deployed forces. the threat through an aggressive host nation engagement strategy. Force protection is a continuous campaign that does not begin and hailand’s southern insurgency, political insta- end with the arrival and departure of visiting forces. It isT bility and military coups all remain critical factors in determining the correct force pro-tection posture for U.S. Navy deployments to the dependent on a thorough understanding of the threat and operating environment, as well as the interoperabil- ity of American and host nation security forces.“Land of Smiles.” The U.S. Navy relies on multiple sources to ensure The security of visiting ships, aircraft, personnel the safety and security of forces transiting through orand associated equipment is dependent on an excellent visiting Thailand. External sources of force protectionunderstanding of the threat environment, as well as the support include the American Embassy Country Teamcapabilities, limitations and intentions of Thailand’s — comprising the Defense Attaché Office and Forcesecurity forces. Thailand’s southernmost provinces Protection Detachment (FPD) and the U.S. Navalroutinely experience unrest, with frequent deadly Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) — as well as theattacks on not only public officials and religious fig- local Royal Thai Police and military, who provide crit-ures, but also civilians. Attacks include the use of ical land-based and waterborne security.improvised explosive devices (IEDs), armed ambushes The cooperation and teamwork established amongand assassinations. these key partners, through routine liaison and engage- The U.S. government halted U.S. Navy ship visits ment, ensures a comprehensive understanding of theafter the Thai military-led coup of September 2006, threat and security force-mitigation capabilities, allow-which ousted then-Prime Minister Thaksin Shina- ing for the development of an effective security plan.watra. A series of unsolved IED bombings in the capi- Thailand hosts more than 40 U.S. military exercises,tol city of Bangkok followed several months later. seminars and exchanges each year, with some eventsSpeculation as to the perpetrators ranged from pro- involving more than 5,000 U.S. military participants.Thaksin supporters to southern insurgents. Graft and U.S. Navy ship visits average two or more per month,corruption allegations and court proceedings involving with deployed personnel numbering from 50 to 7,000.public officials remain commonplace. The average length of each ship visit ranges from one to40 S E A P O W E R / M AY 2 0 0 8
  • 2. I N T E R N AT I O N A L R E L AT I O N Sseven days. U.S. military aircraftvisits average two to three per week. The period between the coupand the recent elections, however,was marked by a significant declinein U.S. military traffic in Thailand. As a permanent American mili- GLENN DEFENSE MARINE CO. LTD.tary presence is not maintained inThailand, U.S. Pacific Command(PACOM) is dependent on the FPDto operationally prepare the envi-ronment through the continuousinteraction with, and support to,Thailand’s security forces. FPD Thailand is led by a U.S.Army Military Intelligence agent, The Royal Thai Navy maintains a checkpoint at the Laem Chabang Port in ThailandDavid L. Turner, with additional during a port visit by the U.S. Navy amphibious assault ship Essex. The Forcestaffing by NCIS and U.S. Air Force Protection Detachment Thailand helps coordinate U.S.- and Thai-based assets toOffice of Special Investigations spe- develop an effective security plan for visiting ships, aircraft and personnel.cial agents. Through the develop-ment of overt information sources and associated threat Planned observer nations include China, Southreporting, port, airfield, route, lodging, training area and Korea, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Nepal, Vietnam, Cambodialiberty venue vulnerability assessments, the conduct of and Laos. Other possible participants include Australia,security seminars and subject matter expert exchanges, Brunei, France, Italy, the United Kingdom, Bangladesh,as well as the deployment of various force protection- India, Malaysia, Mongolia and the Philippines.related equipment (e.g. bomb-suppression blankets,search mirrors, hand-held and walk-through metal scan- Security Assistance, Assessmentners), the FPD is able to identify potential threats. It also In addition to augmenting FPD Thailand activities,promotes mutual understanding and interoperability deployed NCIS personnel provide proactive and reactivebetween American and Thai security forces. criminal investigative support to visiting American While FPD Thailand provides continuous in-country forces. NCIS Security Training, Assistance andsecurity engagement and expertise, the overall effective- Assessment Teams are used, in direct coordination withness of its port, route and liberty area security initiatives the FPD, to not only conduct port and airfield vulnera-is enhanced by NCIS asset integration and support. bility assessments, but develop, present and participate The NCIS Multiple Threat Alert Center, based in in law enforcement, safety and security seminars withWashington, provides visiting ships, aircraft and person- the Thai Police and military. These seminars, primarilynel with threat analyses, assessments and alerts. Major focusing on port, transportation route and liberty areamilitary exercises, such as Cobra Gold and Cooperation security concerns, promote theater security cooperationAfloat Readiness and Training (CARAT), as well as rou- and provide the foundation for security force mutualtine ship visits, are often supported through the collec- understanding and interoperability.tive effort of FPD Thailand and NCIS personnel The U.S. Navy uses Royal Thai Navy and commer-deployed from Singapore or assigned to visiting aircraft cial berthing facilities, both pier-side and at-seacarrier and expeditionary strike groups. anchorages. Ship security postures vary with location, Cobra Gold, which this year takes place May 8-21, is mindful of Thai government restrictions against for-an annual PACOM-sponsored exercise designed to eign security personnel disembarking weapons orimprove U.S. joint and multinational interoperability and other equipment, such as bulletproof vests, handcuffscapability to effectively respond to and execute complex and batons.multinational operations. The total number of partici- Naval facilities rely heavily on Thai military security,pants this year could exceed 10,000 personnel, numerous while the use of commercial facilities requires the com-ships, military aircraft, vehicles and equipment. bined force of private security guards, Thai military and Planned direct participants include U.S. forces from civilian police. In addition, the U.S. Navy-contractedvarious commands, the Royal Thai Armed Forces, husbanding agent, Glenn Defense Marine (Asia) Co.Singapore Armed Forces, Japan Self Defense Forces Ltd., with its inventory of force-protection equipmentand Indonesian National Defense Forces. — X-ray machines, walk-through metal detectors,S E A P O W E R / M AY 2 0 0 8 41
  • 3. I N T E R N AT I O N A L R E L AT I O N S Threat Awareness The security of American forces does not end at the port. Trans- portation routes to and from liberty areas, as well as the actual liberty areas, require as much, if not more, security planning and attention. It is outside the port area that U.S. Sailors and Marines are the most vulnerable and exposed to potential criminal and terrorist threats. Awareness of the threats and the application of common sense are the first lines of defense for all per- sonnel. Local police provide the physical presence to detect and deter the threats, while unarmedU.S. NAVY and discreetly dressed American shore patrol personnel are de- ployed to assist service members Mineman 1st Class Alex Tracy left, assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal , and achieve and maintain an (EOD) Mobile Unit Five, discusses explosive ordnance logistics with Royal Thai appropriate individual force protec- Navy EOD team members during Cobra Gold 2006 in Sattanhip, Thailand. Cobra Gold is an annual joint training exercise aimed at developing interoperability, tion posture. strengthening relationships between services and developing cross-cultural Additional security personnel understanding among participating nations. and measures can be implemented, depending on the level of a threat, floodlights, barricades, picket boats, secure waterborne in and around vehicle pick-up/drop-off points and lib- perimeters, hand-held metal detectors, bomb sensors erty venues. Local police need to fully understand their and detectors, K9 units and closed-circuit TV cameras role in protecting American service members, as well — and a Nepalese Ghurka security contingent provide as be professionally capable of accomplishing the task. critical and essential assets to deter, detect and counter Many Thai law enforcement officers, to meet this potential threats. objective, attend the FPD-sponsored security seminars The challenge of implementing an impenetrable and training, focusing on direct security support to port/berthing area security plan is to ensure the interop- U.S. service members. erability and mutual support of all security forces, Visiting U.S. Navy ships, aircraft and personnel require American and Thai. The omission of interoperability the most accurate threat and security force information in plans and training creates an unknown factor unaccept- order to plan for and accomplish a safe and secure visit. able to the establishment of a solid security posture. Although there are no absolutes or guarantees, the effec- Interoperability and integration of security plans, tive use of all available force protection resources, both policies, procedures and force protection equipment is Thailand-centric and shipboard, mitigates the threat and essential to a seamless approach to a potential threat. maximizes the potential for success. The comprehensive Due to the short length of port visits, work/repair force-protection program instituted for Thailand provides schedules and a desire to maximize liberty time follow- commands with the necessary information and assistance ing intense deployments, it is not always possible for vis- to effectively manage potential risks. s iting commands to participate in interoperability plan- ning, seminars or training. These activities are usually Scott M. Bernat is an NCIS special agent assigned to FPD relegated to specific American-Thai military exercises Thailand as chief of U.S. naval security. He also is a member of such as Cobra Gold and CARAT, often not including the U.S. Navy League, Thailand Eastern Seaboard Council. ships that will eventually visit Thailand’s ports. During his 21-year career, Bernat has deployed throughout FPD Thailand and NCIS, through continuous coordi- Asia, Australia/Oceania, Central America, Europe, Middle East nation and interaction with visiting ships’ force-protection and the United States in direct support to the U.S. Navy. He personnel and Thai security forces, fill the gap and assist recently was selected to establish an FPD at the U.S. Embassy in the development and oversight of effective and mutual- in Jakarta, Indonesia. Beginning in July, he will be the resident ly supportive security plans. agent in charge and chief of U.S. military security there. 42 S E A P O W E R / M AY 2 0 0 8

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