Military Life

Facing the Real Security Threat When Your Name is on the List

I can still remember the phone call.

I was sitting on my porch doing homework when my department head called me. She told me we needed to talk and automatically my mind went to there being a problem with my separation paperwork. I had under two months until I was no longer a Sailor and was convinced that something must have gone wrong with my paperwork. Why else would she be calling me after my work hours?

Looking back I wish I had been right. That the call did have to do with my separation and that I was going to be stuck in uniform for a few more weeks until things could be ironed out. That would have been so much easier to deal with than the news that my life and my sense of safety was about to change forever.

I’m not sure how many of you remember the news coming out in March of 2015, but back then headlines were flashing all over the place “ISIS Releases Hit List of 100 American Military Personnel.” Commands all over the world were briefing their service members on the importance of personal security and what to do if you felt something off about your surroundings, your social media, or any of your personal identifying information.

We were told about members on our flight line being on the list and having their families relocated. We were given information on how to scrub our social media to make it as private as possible. And we were told that if anything happened to anyone we knew, NCIS would be happy to talk to us about the incidents. But all of that seemed so abstract until I got the call.

“I need you to stay calm, but we need to talk to you about your safety. NCIS was here today because your name has come up on one of the lists.”

My heart stopped. Me? Why me? I was not some super secret squirrel. I was not working on nuclear warheads or in a position to create military movement plans. I was an administrative assistant! Sure, I have a security clearance that is probably a bit high for what I worked on, but that wasn’t my fault! I never even worked on a classified document while I was in the Navy! So what on Earth did ISIS want with me!?

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