by Ryan Labadens, U.S. Navy Public Affairs
The desire to help others and keep people safe is a huge motivator for many people in security career fields, and this is no less the case for Michael Smith, the Naval Construction Battalion Center (NCBC) Gulfport antiterrorism officer, whose number one goal is to work with other security and first responders to help improve the security posture on the Navy base, and the overall Mississippi Gulf Coast community as well.
Smith, who is originally from Monroe, Louisiana, began working as the base’s antiterrorism (AT) officer in 2019, but his involvement in antiterrorism spans more than two decades, based on his prior military experience.
Smith served in the active-duty Army infantry for six years, but his interest in antiterrorism stemmed from his time in the active-duty Air Force working with their Security Forces. He enlisted in the Air Force in September 2000, one year before the deadly terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. While he was on a deployment to Saudi Arabia in 2000, he was responsible for providing antiterrorism briefings to U.S. military staff, particularly on lessons learned from the Khobar Towers terrorist attack of 1996 in which a truck bomb was detonated next to a military housing complex near the King Abdulaziz Air Base in Saudi Arabia, killing 19 Airmen and injuring nearly 500 more people.
The September 11 attacks only solidified his desire to work in the antiterrorism career field. Smith said he took every opportunity he could to gain more knowledge and training in antiterrorism (AT) throughout his Air Force career.
“Every chance that there were any types of school – like I went to The Dynamics of International Terrorism course, different building schools for standards of security constructions – anything that was AT-related, I would volunteer for it so I could learn as much as I could,” said Smith.
Over the years, Smith’s Air Force career took him to other far-away places besides Saudi Arabia, such as Kuwait and Afghanistan, but also to places close to home, like Keesler Air Force Base (AFB) right next door in Biloxi, Mississippi. He retired from the active-duty Air Force in 2016.
Now, as the Seabee base’s antiterrorism officer, Smith said his day-to-day responsibilities mainly focus on helping to set the security posture for the base, being proactive in making sure all phases of planning, design, safety, training and security operations for the base are running smoothly. This includes briefing the base commander on potential threats and providing recommendations on what security measures to implement, whether it involves increasing security patrols, shutting down certain gate entrances or other such actions.
Smith emphasized that keeping the base safe, as well as other installations along the Mississippi Gulf Coast, is always a team effort involving numerous local, state and national organizations. He and the other members of the NCBC Security Department coordinate with the base’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC), Fire Department, Public Works Department (PWD) and Naval Criminal Investigative Services (NCIS) when assessing and determining how to respond to potential threats.
Smith said he and the NCBC team also partner with outside entities, such as Gulfport Police Department Criminal Investigative Section, Navy Region Southeast and Commander, Navy Installation Command (CNIC) antiterrorism officers, and security members on other base’s, such as Keesler AFB, collaborating to share ideas and best practices to help improve security along the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
“We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel or anything, we’re just trying to make it better,” said Smith.
Overall, Smith noted that he enjoyed the camaraderie associated with the security and antiterrorism career fields and the chance to work with people who are passionate about keeping people safe.
“I enjoy everyone coming together for a common goal, I really do,” said Smith. “One of our number one needs as human beings is safety, according to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. I know that’s kind of an intellectual way of looking at it, but if you don’t have that basic need of safety and security met, it’s kind of hard to meet and enjoy the other needs and desires of life. So, I really enjoy the collaboration of all the units and organizations, and working together with all those people for that common goal.”