It sounds like something from the Vietnam era--or recent "Code Pink" protests in Berkeley.
Military personnel, in uniform, being verbally harassed by anti-war protesters and subjected to racial slurs, prompting security concerns from defense officials.
But these harassment incidents didn't happen 40 years ago, or outside that Marine Corps recruiting office in Berkeley. They occurred recently on the Metro in Washington D.C., prompting at least one military organization to issue a "Safety and Security Advisory" for personnel traveling in the nation's capital.
According to officials from Special Operations Command South (SOCSOUTH), the special forces element of Miami-based U.S. Southern Command, there have been recent examples of military personnel being verbally harassed while commuting on the subway.
During these incidents, uniformed military personnel have been approached by individuals "expressing themselves as anti-government, shouting anti-war sentiments and using racial slurs against minorities.
In episode a female military member was followed onto the subway platform by a protester, who continued to berate her as she exited the Metro station.
The security advisory, which is outlined in a six-slide PowerPoint presentation, was issued yesterday by security managers for SOCSOUTH. A copy of the unclassified document, which is being widely circulated among force protection elements, was obtained by In From the Cold.
Local and federal agencies are said to be investigating the incidents, which appear to be random in nature. The advisory reports that most of the harassment episodes have occurred near the Reagan National Airport and the Eisenhower Avenue Metro Station, along the transit system's Yellow Line.
But, with warm weather approaching, security officials believe harassment activities may increase and spread to other areas. The security advisory issued by SOCSOUTH covers the
"National Capital Region" which includes Washington, D.C., northern Virginia and portions of Maryland.
There have been no reports of physical violence in connection with the harassment of military personnel. However, the advisory lists a number of precautions that personnel should take if they encounter anti-war protesters. Military members are urged to "get off the train at the next stop (if possible), notify transit police and file a report with their unit security manager, to "ensure DoD investigative follow-up."
The advisory applies to all uniformed personnel, along with DoD civilians and contractors working for SOC-S. While traveling in the Washington, D.C. area they encouraged to "not wear" security badges, special unit clothing, insignias or other identification" that could connect them to the military or a contractor firm. The directive also urges SOCSOUTH personnel to "use the buddy system" and avoid traveling alone in the nation's capital.
Military personnel and their civilian counterparts are also warned against getting into a physical altercation with anti-war protesters. As the advisory notes, the incident may be filmed, "creating bad press for the military, our organization and you."
The report does not list the number of harassment incidents that have occurred in recent months. But DoD organizations (typically) don't issue security advisories for isolated examples of harassment. That would suggest that there have been multiple incidents involving SOCSOUTH personnel during their travels to the nation's capital.
The security manager who prepared the advisory for SOCSOUTH did not immediately respond to an e-mail request for comment. Most military organizations are at minimum manning today, in preparation for the Memorial Day weekend. Spokesmen for federal law enforcement agencies were also unavailable for comment.