By Senior Airman Regina Agoha
19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Dumpster diving is not just for raccoons and opossums. There are real-world “rats” scurrying through trash cans looking for any information they can use to cause trouble and damage our mission.
To combat these unsavory enemy efforts, base operation security experts conduct their own random dumpster dives around base.
“Operation Security is an analytical process to minimize critical information from getting out,” said Master Sgt. Nick Hill, the 19th Airlift Wing OPSEC manager. “Our enemies will do anything to get our critical information. To stop them, sometimes you have to get your hands dirty.”
The OPSEC team’s scrutiny of garbage piles has revealed many items that could cause problems if they fell into the hands of the wrong people.
These impromptu expeditions have yielded a treasure trove of critical and personal information like EPRs, flight plans, travel itineraries, recall rosters and maps.
Hill said to always remain conscience of leaving personally identifiable information out, because whether it was a naïve mistake or an intentional act, doing so brings serious consequences.
“Violating OPSEC can carry different consequences depending on the type of information that gets exposed,” said Hill. “An Airman can receive a demotion, the revoking of their security clearance and UCMJ repercussions, all of which can eliminate Airmen from promotions and special assignments. If the severity of the case calls for it, jail time can be sentenced as well.”
According to Hill, maintaining social media sites and what Airmen or their families post on them is one of the biggest problems AF wide.
“When an Airman deploys, they should remind their family to be careful of what information they post on the web,” said Hill. “One of our biggest pushes here is to have families briefed along with their military member about what can and cannot be posted during a deployment.”
Senior Airman Rachel Hutson, a 19th Medical Support Squadron flight medicine medical records technician, not only had to remain vigilant with her own PII while deployed in 2013, but was also tasked with protecting those around her. This involved literally getting into dumpsters, searching for OPSEC items thrown away by others and discarding them, a term they called “dumpster diving.”
“As a dumpster diver, it was my responsibility to retrieve OPSEC items like base maps, recall rosters, flight plans, mailing labels and computer hard drives out of the trash,” said Hutson. “We drove on routes that had approximately 20 dumpsters filled with waste.”
Hutson, along with her team, would find OPSEC items thrown away almost daily; she stresses the importance of securing any and everything that could get into the wrong hands and be used to invade or harm the military, their families or the country.
“Collecting the OPSEC items were very essential to the Airman I was working with home and abroad,” said Hutson. “OPSEC items could potentially give the bad guys a lead on: where you or members of your family andfriends live, flight take-off and landing times, flight paths, detailed maps of the base, and personnel involved in classified operations. The thought of one of my family members or fellow Airman being hurt or attacked all because of a mailing label really gave me a different perspective on shredding personal information.”
Hill said military members should pay attention to the OPSEC Hot Tip Newsletters published monthly and distributed through their unit OPSEC coordinators. He also said to pay close attention to what you leave out on your desk at work and what information you give out to friends and family. If there is PII or other critical information on papers you no longer need, shred them. When in doubt shred them or contact your unit OPSEC coordinator for more clarification.
“It was one of the dirtiest but most rewarding jobs I have done while serving in the United States Air Force,” said Hutson.
For more information on OPSEC, contact Hill at (501) 987-6585 or your unit OPSEC coordinator.