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An obligation imposed by law, lawful order, or regulation of an officer or other person of authority for keeping accurate record of property, documents, or funds is the best answer I can think of. Now the person having this obligation may or may not have actual possession of an item they are accountable for, sensitive item. Accountability is concerned primarily with records, while responsibility is concerned primarily with custody, care, and safekeeping. What does accountability mean to the Army?
Accountability is a very important part of an enlisted soldier’s job. An enlisted soldier is responsible for a lot of items issued to him/her whether it’s a weapon, night vision goggles, clothing that belongs to CIF, a vehicle, or from a leader’s aspect another person. Another person is the most sensitive item to be responsible for. That is why every work day leaders start the day with an accountability check; because they are responsible for their soldier(s). Sensitive items, or SI, can also be identifies as anything that is mission essential, or classified material.
These items can include protective gear, maps, or a simple piece of paper with a patrol route or guard schedule. The importance of securing sensitive items comes down to maintaining several things such as operation security, mission success, readiness, and over all else, soldier’s well-being. The habits of exercising security and accountability of a soldier’s item allow the soldier and their team to operate to the highest standards, and keep the enemy form gaining any advantage and hindering our mission, or placing soldiers in danger.
For example in Afghanistan we have the upper hand at night because of our night vision capabilities. It is for that reason that we can’t leave night vision goggles unsecured because they would allow the enemy to stand toe to toe with us and fight at night. Each person is responsible for exercising reasonable and effective actions to properly care, store, safeguard and use any and all items presented to them whether it be issued or acquired through personal expense. Taking the time to either store items in a secure location such as a locker or independent room that is secured and solely accessed by the owner of the stored items.
Placing care of items to trusted members of your unit is also considered safeguarding items of value but trust should not always be put into everyone within a unit for storage. History shows us that there are always snakes around to bring us down. Not all incidents involving loss of sensitive items involve theft however. Sometimes people not maintaining their equipment or not utilizing proper storage procedures are the cause of the loss of sensitive items. Theft due to improper accountability of sensitive items is also a cause of loss of equipment.
In some cases a wrongful accountability of equipment can cause it to fall into the wrong hands. Accountability and properly securing of sensitive items allow even the smallest items at a personal level aid in support of a mission’s success. Allowing any amount of sensitive items to be missing can be degrading to mission success and small amounts of information or equipment can be pieced together to form a much larger picture. This decreases the ability and function a particular units mission capabilities in the form of an adversary knowing information that compromises a missions directive or capabilities.
Furthermore unsecured sensitive items lead to problems starting at a personal performance level. Although people are trained to adapt and overcome situations that may leave them in the dark without proper equipment, that type of situation should not be due to a person’s inadequate accountability or improper storage of sensitive items. Maintaining proper accountability and storage habits of sensitive items allows all personnel to maintain operational security on a personal level. In doing so it also allows high cost or valued items to not be purchased by enemy personnel out of pocket.
Operational security is a process that denies critical information to an adversary. If one were to obtain the information presented it could be used against friendly forces. Utilizing all assets to maintain and secure sensitive items and classified information promote proper operational security and soldier readiness. Not securing items of sensitive nature acquire the risk of loss by being intercepted by unauthorized persons. All personnel should maintain accountability of all sensitive material to allow full utilization by themselves and anyone involved with the mission and still maintains operational security.
Although sensitive items of restricted nature may not disclose information of high value, items and information obtained from being unsecured can cause adverse effects impacting mission success to include compromised routes, vehicle information or sensitive items used for personal protection. Any and all information obtained by any means can be used to put together larger picture of a units operations. Leaving the units operational security compromised. Which could lead to many unfortunate things in a combat environment such as an attack during guard shift change, or an ambush on a predetermined route.
To lose a sensitive item can be detrimental to the readiness of your unit in times of war or training. The consequences of losing sensitive items vary from item to item according to its value and importance. In times of war losing a sensitive item such as a loaded radio or an SKL you have just given your enemy the ability to intercept all secure radio transmissions between any two operators in your area if the enemy knows your location or plans then you have just put all the troops in your area on your frequency, in danger of a surprise attack.
Could you live with the knowledge that you are responsible for the death of your team, squad, platoon, unit, or your own battle buddy or best friend? To lose a sensitive item can also be a violation of the army values. It violates the values of Duty and Integrity. It violates Duty because without the proper equipment you cannot perform your duties, and you have failed the task of being prepared. You also let down your platoon and/or squad by not knowing where your items are. It violates the Integrity of yourself by letting your platoon down. Your platoon counts on you to make sure you know where all your items are.
Imagine you are in a situation and you need your night vision goggles, but you cannot account for them. The enemy is approaching rapidly and the sun set many hours ago. You are on guard at your District Center for your squad while they sleep and your night vision is not so good. You have been placed far from your other squad members and have to relay information to the Sergeant of the Guard, SOG. During your guard shift you hear shots ring out through the quiet night sky from across the Wadi somewhere in the vast mountains. You cannot determine where the shots came from. Your battle buddy who was just sleeping is now screaming in pain.
He dies. Now you must explain to the commanding officer how you ‘misplaced’ your night vision goggles that are a sensitive item, and you must write a letter to the relatives of the soldier whose life was taken because of your inadequacy to maintain accountability of your sensitive items. Now had you not lost your sensitive items your battle buddy would still be alive laughing with you about the stupid things you did as a private in the good old days. In battle night vision goggles are important because you need to be able to see everything from the flash of the muzzle to the movement of your own battle buddies.
You should always keep account of your sensitive items because you never know when you are going to need them. You never know when you’re going to need your night vision goggles to see the enemies shooting at your position. You should always keep up with your weapons because the enemy could get a hold of the weapon. How would you like to know that you or your battle buddy died because you were shot by your own weapon? In essence, I will never lose account of my sensitive items again even if it means sleeping with my MK19, SAW, 9mm, and NVG’s.
It doesn’t matter because I have to treat those weapons like they were my family. I have to treat them with respect and in return they may someday save my life. Sensitive items are important because some day they may save your life in the field or in a garrison environment. Some valuable items are the simplest of things that you never realize you had. Your identification tags, or your identification card. Sometimes it may even be the password to your AKO account. You never really know what can be considered a sensitive item till your system has been compromised and your mission is a failure.
A failed mission is not what you want to be responsible for. Especially if it’s for not keeping account of your items. You should not expect your team leader to make sure your sensitive are accounted for like they are supposed to. If you leave your weapon in an insecure area make sure you leave a capable guard with it so that no one can come by and retrieve it and you lose accountability for it. Losing accountability of your ID, Debit Card, and or Credit Cards could lead to Identity Theft. Identity theft could hurt because the person is able to take credit out under your name.
They basically are you and you may not even realize it until it is too late. Once you realize it your credit is shot, you cannot buy a house or a car. If you maintain accountability of any of these items you have a better chance of avoiding this problem. Losing accountability of your military items will also cost you money. Carelessness is inexcusable. If some of these items were to fall into the wrong hands they could be used against you or other people for harmful means. For instance if the enemy got their hands on your Identification they could modify it to get onto a post and attack you and your buddies.
Losing your sensitive items can result in an Article 15, corrective training, or negative counseling statement. Depending on what you lost will depend upon your punishment. Also your environment will dictate what will happen to you. If you are in a wartime environment then the punishment will be more severe, but if you are in a peacetime environment the punishment will be less severe depending on the item that has been lost. Say you miss placed your wet weather gear. Not so important you think, but now the enemy has it.
The enemy can run all kinds of tests on your wet weather gear to see what kind or nuclear, biological, radiological, or chemical attack is the strongest to penetrate what little protection your wet weather gear my provide. They may test to see at what temperature the fabric start to melt or at what temperature the fabric will freeze. If you take the small items for granted, what are you going to do with the bigger more important items? Will you leave them around all willy- nilly for the enemy to just scoop up and find our weak points? Are you going to take care of them like they were your every own?
In conclusion, sensitive items are the most important aspect of the military way of life. To lose something of great importance is to result in a grand punishment. Your team depends on you to keep all your equipment within arm’s length and in working order. Some days you may not want to but always PMCS your items from radios, to weapons, right down to personal gear. You never know what will someday save your life or the life of your battle buddy. The Army is easy if you just do what you’re told, show up on time, and hold onto the things you’re accountable for. Posted by the Bearjew!
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(USA, AUS, UK & CA PhD. Writers)