Saturday, July 24, 2004

I've been thinking a lot about security lately. It's hard not to when you live in the ultimate gated community. When you drive onto a post over here, you're greeted with an armed ID check. The people pointing the guns are generally tucked away behind sandbags, but there's nothing between you and the tip of that gun other than a lot of air.

I had an experience the other day where my friend Amy and I got pulled over for what we affectionately call the cavity check. (I said that to a woman up at Rhein Main a few weeks ago, and she giggled: "Yeah, I guess it is a lot like going to the dentist." Um, okay, but that's really not what I had in mind.) Basically, they take cars at random and direct them over to the side for a more thorough inspection.

The procedure is supposed to be: you produce your ID and wait in the car while a guard goes around it, inspecting the underside with a mirror. Then you get out, open all doors plus your hood and trunk, stand to the side, and wait while they walk around and peek inside.

Well, on this particular day, the guards insisted that Amy and I leave the vehicle and open the doors while Mirror Guy was doing his thing. Mirror Guy happened to have his gun strapped onto his back, pointing down at the ground. That is, it was pointed down at the ground until he bent over to look in the mirror or in the car. Then he was basically aiming out his butt and right at us as we scurried to stay a step ahead of him.

Meanwhile, there was another guard walking around carrying his gun across his body and parallel to the ground. Every time he turned, he was basically sweeping across anybody who happened to be in his path . . . like us, for example.

I fumed to another of the guards (who were German soldiers), "I don't like it when they point their guns at me."

He reassured me quietly, "It's OK; you don't have to worry."

I generally go out of my way to be friendly to the guards, as I figure they have one of the suckiest jobs around. But I wasn't feeling very friendly after doing my best imitation of a target for his buddy, so I snapped back, "Why? Because they're not loaded or because he's never shot anybody by accident?" I didn't get an answer to that one.

I came home pissed off beyond belief. I haven't made a formal complaint (yet), but I have talked informally to several people who are in the know about force protection issues. Basically, the answer appears to be "force protection isn't convenient." Isn't that just lovely?

I promise you--someday somebody will be shot by accident. I just hope it's not in my neighborhood. And someday, if somebody really wants to, they'll get on post with something dangerous. Again, please don't let it happen in my neighborhood.

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