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Wolves in sheep's clothing

OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- Service members in the Republic of Korea take special care to shred obsolete official documents, encrypt their e-mails and otherwise practice information and operational security.

Another aspect of OPSEC has become increasingly important, and it involves something that all Airmen come in contact with every day they're on the job - uniforms.

Jon Powell, 5th Field Investigations Squadron Counterintelligence Branch special agent, said authentic military uniforms should never be allowed to fall into the wrong hands.

"Just one complete uniform set is all it takes to impersonate a military member," Powell said. "A few more essential items or techniques and that person can have full access to a military installation."

Robert Wallace, 51st Fighter Wing Anti-terrorism officer, said simply throwing away an unwanted uniform isn't enough.

"Strip all of the name tapes and rank and other insignias off and then either shred it or donate it to a thrift store or the Civil Air Patrol," Wallace said.

This applies to more than just Airman battle uniforms, care should also be taken when physical training and dress uniforms are no longer needed.

"If you donate them to the base thrift shop they ensure that only those who have military issued ID cards can have access to them," Powell said.

There have been several incidents throughout the Department of Defense where individuals have posed as service members by using secondhand uniforms. They vary from cheating husbands claiming they are going away for drill weekends to illegal aliens trying to cross the U.S. border.

"One case involved the U.S. Border Patrol in San Diego stopping a van full of Hispanic men in U.S. Marine Corps uniforms attempting to enter the country illegally," Wallace said.

Both Powell and Wallace agreed that putting a stop to the misrepresentation of service members and any possible criminal activity involving the use of a military uniform rests in the hands of the men and women in camouflage.

"Proper disposition of military uniforms is important in order to prevent our adversaries from having access to authentic military uniforms," Powell said. "Let's not allow one falling into the wrong hands be the reason an unauthorized person gained access to our base."

To report suspicious activity, contact the 5th FIS at 784-6027.