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NEWS | July 23, 2013

Planning a trip abroad: Things to be aware of before you go

By Senior Airman Kayla Newman 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

When planning a trip outside of the U.S., there is more for Service members to consider than which bathing suit to pack or what attractions to visit.

Individuals with a Department of Defense-issued security clearance can become victims of crime and violence, or even experience difficulties while traveling abroad. To help prepare for these trips abroad, the Air Force Office of Special Investigations at Langley Air Force Base, Va., conducts mandatory travel briefings for Service members.

"We want to protect our people by giving them the information to detect when someone is targeting them," explained Special Agent Cyrus, AFOSI counter intelligence. "We want people to be able to come back to us after their trip and report if any incidents did occur, so we can push that information to the highest level."

Preparing for a trip outside of the U.S. requires a certain amount of planning and decision making, said Cyrus. Choosing a safe destination is vital, as well as knowing what to pack and what to leave at home.

According to the U.S. Department of State, safety while traveling internationally starts when you pack. To avoid becoming a target, a traveler should try not to look like a tourist, but rather to blend in with the local population. Traveling light and limiting number of valuables also helps reduce any unwanted attention.

Research is also important before traveling, according to the U.S. Department of State. Once a traveler is outside of the U.S. they are no longer under the protection of U.S. laws.

"With the most advanced Air Force in the world, our people and information are greatly sought after," said Cyrus. "It is imperative that we teach travelers how to defend themselves and how to be safe when traveling abroad."

According to Cyrus, travelers should also be aware of the types of terrorist activities. AFOSI is seeing more attempts of foreign collection, which is the attempt of gathering information in a non-volatile way, instead of actual targeting of an individual for violence, explained Cyrus.

"I think the most effective [aspect of] our training is knowing countermeasures," said Cyrus. "We are teaching the individuals not only how to identify when they are being targeted, but also how to respond."

The training that AFOSI conducts is mandatory for individuals traveling outside of the U.S. The travel briefing is valid for one year, and is designed to instill a sense of vigilance and provide a skillset for travelers to protect themselves and the U.S. government is information.

Those planning a trip abroad should contact AFOSI to receive the mandatory travel briefing, to ensure the trip is memorable for all the right reasons.