By Chuck Walker
MOBILE, Ala. – Security is one of those programs where if all things are running well, you don’t know or hear anything about it, but once an incident takes place, all of a sudden, everyone is aware of it.
It can at times, be a thankless job, but no one can underestimate its importance or its role in the success of the Mobile District.
No one knows this more than Gregory Barr, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Mobile District’s Chief of Security. Barr said that complacency amongst the workforce is the number one hindrance to security.
“The ‘it will never happen to me/us’ belief,’ is the big one,” Barr said. “The more complacent we become, the easier it is to become a target. If we all stay alert to our surroundings and to the activity around us during our everyday comings and goings, we make it that much harder for someone to take advantage of or exploit us. The more input and discussion we receive from the workforce, the more secure we are overall.”
The Mobile District’s Security Office encompasses a wide variety sections and duties. Among the areas the office handles:
- Personnel Security: This includes background checks, security clearances, classified access, secure room oversight and access control amongst other services.
- Physical Security: Conducting physical security inspections of projects and facilities, Mission Essential Vulnerable Area inspections, physical access control, intrusion detection and reaction, amongst other duties.
- Antiterrorism: AT plans and exercises, workforce training, program management, operational security coversheet (contract review), classified contract review amongst other services related to antiterrorism.
- Information Security: Communications security oversight, secure container management, controlled unclassified information and information security adherence, workforce education, information release review, and classified storage and accountability.
- Foreign Travel: Area of Responsibility briefings, embassy requests, and foreign travel checklist verification.
- Operations Security: Serve as the OPSEC subject matter experts, review contract AT/OPSEC coversheets. Serve as OPSEC Level II Officer.
- Industrial Security: protection of industrial installations, resources, utilities, materials, and classified information essential to project from loss or damage.
Along with the tasks mentioned above the Security Office also attends Mobile Intelligence Fusion Center meetings and have two seats on the Joint Terrorism Task Force, are certified in the Security Professionals Education Program, certified AT Level II officers, certified OPSEC Level II Officer, and attend maritime security meetings with the Port of Alabama and the U.S. Coast Guard.
Rosario Swafford, USACE Mobile District’s personnel security specialist, said meeting and helping others is what she likes most about her job.
“I like people,” Swafford said. “I like assisting where I can and meeting people from all walks of life. The best part, I really enjoy making a difference and doing it with a smile. Whether it’s a simple print capture needed for a new hire, such as walking them through the process, or providing access to classified areas for existing employees. I love it.”
Barr said one of his main goals in the next year or two is to improve communication between the Security Office and the Mobile District workforce.
“Number one, we want to continue to improve our security posture,” Barr said. “This will be accomplished via a combination of new security systems, workforce education and continuing to improve our relationships outside of (Mobile District) and USACE to aid in our ability to garner pertinent intelligence and threat information. We are striving to improve our relationship and visibility with our projects and field personnel to open clear flowing channels of communication and ideas.”
Swafford said that anyone who is thinking of doing security work needs to bring two things to the table, a love for people and the ability to be a team player.
“People skills are a must,” Swafford said. “You need to know the regulations of security and be able to provide guidance for those that require it. You have to be able to multi-task. Security is not a boring job. Our office deals with sensitive material on a daily basis, which requires our people to be dependable, trustworthy and have integrity. Our office also works as a team. Sometimes we overlap in duties and others we are standalone, but all of us work together to make our Security Office the best it can be.”
Barr said serving the teammates in the Mobile District is what he enjoys most about his job.
“Our job requires a lot of interaction with our fellow co-workers,” Barr said. “Aside from the obvious protection requirements of security. We are also a service organization, assisting our teammates with security clearances, background checks and the onboarding processes. We are generally some of the first folks to meet new employees and the last folks to see our departing/retiring employees. Security is ever changing and evolving. There’s always something different and unique to address.”