Watch, report, protect: Every citizen can help protect America from terrorist attacks

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Vicky Spesard
  • 123rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Two homemade pressure-cooker bombs exploded during the Boston Marathon April 15, killing three people and severely wounding more than 200 others. In the aftermath of this horrific event, many questions are being asked about what constitutes a terrorist act and whether people put their safety at risk by attending large public events.

Capt. Joshua Elwell of the Kentucky Air National Guard's 123rd Contingency Response Group offers his own insight as director of the anti-terrorism program here. He's specially trained in identifying the causes and effects of terrorist activities within the United States and how to combat them.

Q.: What is the definition of terrorism, and is there a difference between terrorism abroad or domestically?

A.: A terrorist is someone who wants to instill fear and terror in a society for a political or religious reason. The intent of terrorism is to cause our country pain at a national level, to shut us down economically or to instill enough fear that that we stop participating in public events. If any of these things happens, a terrorist has met his or her intent. In my opinion, there is no difference in terrorism carried out abroad or domestically. The intent is still the same.

Q.: With so many large, public events happening around the country, can a person feel safe attending them?

A.: The intent of terrorism is to scare us into disrupting our lives, to make it a challenge to go out and participate in these events. Don't stay home and be scared to live your life. A lot of attention is now being given to security at big events as local authorities, security agencies and threat working groups implement enhanced security measures. I would just encourage everyone attending to be patient with security personnel who may be checking bags or coolers and things of that nature. Remember, they are there for our protection.

Q.: How can a person minimize his or her own risk at large events?

A.: There are many things you can do for your personal safety. If you are attending public activities, don't stand around in large gatherings of officials. Don't hang around a table of VIPs. Be aware of your surroundings and use common sense. Keep your eyes open and report what looks out of place.

Q.: What can an individual do to help?

A.: "Watch, report, protect" is the motto for the EagleEyes program, operated by the Air Force Office of Special Investigations. The program encourages the public, both on and off base, to report anything that looks odd or out of place. In the Louisville area, reports can be made by calling the Kentucky Air Guard's 123rd Security Forces Squadron at (502) 412-4477.

Anonymous tips can be made online at or by texting "AFOSI" to 274637.

Terrorists are looking at us and trying to find our weaknesses. If they can see us, we can see them. We can't be everywhere, so we need the community to be part of the effort to see things and let the right people know about it.