Contractors oversee the operation of an Active Vehicle Barrier system at Fort Sill, Oklahoma early last year. The U.S. Army Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville Access Control Program, working closely with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Protective Design Center (PDC) at Omaha District, is modernizing ACP systems to to ensure they continue meeting federal and Department of Defense standards for safety and security. (USACE image)

More than 20 years ago after the 9-11 attacks, the U.S. Department of Defense directed its installations to adopt closed-post security measures to improve security and prevent future terrorist attacks on U.S. soil.

To lead in the efforts to keep military installations and other federal agency facilities safe and secure, the U.S. Army Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville stood up an Access Control Point (ACP) Program to provide for secure access and prevent unauthorized ground vehicles from gaining entry.

In the years following the terror attacks, Huntsville Center’s ACP Program directed its contracting, management, and engineering capabilities to provide design-build construction, procurement and installation of physical security equipment and infrastructure upgrades.

After the post 9-11 surge in military and other federal installation ACP upgrades, the program focused on ensuring the systems performed as intended with maintenance activities tailored to customer’s operational needs.

Today, Huntsville Center’s ACP Program is modernizing to improve installation security.

Lauren Ross, ACP program manager, said the program currently has seven contracts with 10-12 ACP modernization projects ongoing each year.

“The combined efforts of the ACP Program’s project managers save the Government millions each year and ensures the safety and security of DoD personnel nationwide,” Ross said.

Ross said the ACP Program’s modernization efforts provide new or replacement Active Vehicle Barrier (AVB) systems to increase ACP security positions through the continental U.S. (CONUS) including Alaska and Hawaii.

Ross said the ACP Program works closely with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Protective Design Center (PDC) at Omaha District to ensure that all AVB systems meet the latest and greatest Army standards for safety and security.

“In the past few years, the ACP program has installed upwards of 35 new barriers across the U.S. and improved dozens by leveraging technical expertise within USACE to provide customers the best project value,” Ross said.

Technology related to the ACP Program’s modernization efforts have slowly but surely improved over the years.

Brecken Bailey, ACP Program project manager, said one key example is improvement to the Active Vehicle Barrier system controls.

During the initial Army push to install AVBs post-9/11, AVB controls were mechanical buttons on a fixed console, she explained.

Over the years these controls evolved and interactive touchscreen AVB system control consoles are now readily available and affordable.

“The touchscreens give the installations a more user-friendly system with more features improving the guards’ ability to monitor the systems,” Bailey said.

Another way that technology has improved within the ACP Program is drone technology.

 “We are experienced in developing standard compliant solutions for unique and challenging ACP layouts and drones can be -- and have been -- used to scan and help map out the geography at an ACP which assists the engineers with their designs,” Bailey said.

Although Huntsville Center’s ACP program is busy with its modernization efforts, the Center doesn’t work alone.

The program partners with many USACE components to provide maintenance and services, design -build construction, and infrastructure upgrades to ACPs and other facilities worldwide.

“It’s teamwork that make the program successful,” Ross said.

“The ACP Program has an excellent spirit of teamwork with a mission focus. The entire Project Development Team (PDT) understands the importance of the work that we do providing security and safety to DOD personnel and their families who work and live on Installations. We maintain close ties and take care of one another,” Ross said.

USACE security fingerprinting contractor
Rosario Swafford, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Mobile District Personnel Security Specialist, takes the fingerprints of a customer in the Mobile District Security Office, Mobile, Alabama, October 10, 2023. Swafford said the important thing she learned from her family growing up was treating others with dignity and respect and helping those who couldn’t help themselves. (U.S. Army photo by Chuck Walker)

As we come near the end of celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month, we focus on one teammate in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Mobile District, who uses the lessons she learned as a girl growing up to impact those around her positively.

Rosario ‘Rose’ Swafford, Personnel Security specialist, grew up in a traditional Hispanic home in Santa Cruz, California, and has been working here in the Mobile District since 2017.

Swafford said the lessons she learned from her family help form how she does her job and treats others outside of work.

“It was always ingrained in me to respect others and to see the good in the world,” Swafford said. “To provide help for those who cannot help themselves. So, that fits into what I do now as a Security Specialist. I treat people like I want to be treated, with respect and dignity.”

Swafford said that growing up, she spoke only Spanish in her home or family settings outside of the home, while she learned the American culture outside of her home. When she was young, the celebrities she liked were predominantly Hispanic, but in high school, her attention began to focus on American stars. Something she said her father understood.

“In high school, Madonna, Bobby Brown, and Whitney Houston were on my Walkman,” Swafford said. “I was surfing with my friends and protesting against drilling for oil off the coast of Northern California. My mother didn’t know what to make of me. My late father said, ‘Let her be. She is doing what we sacrificed for. For her to enjoy life freely, yes, even if she is swimming with the sharks. As long as she doesn’t bring one home, it’s all okay.’”

As for heroes in her life, as a child, her hero was Zorro. But now her hero is someone entirely different, and someone she says relates to her job.

“Wonder Woman is totally my hero now,” Swafford said. “She encompasses everything I hold true. She is a protector, a warrior, she has empathy, and is a beautiful soul. She fights along with Batman and Superman. She fights for those who can’t fight for themselves. And she does this all while being in heels and a stylish outfit.”

Greg Barr, Mobile District Chief of Security, said that Rose’s position in the District is vital, and her role cannot be more emphasized.

“Rose serves in an integral position that facilitates onboarding new employees, contractors, teams, and volunteers. Rose ensures that personnel assuming duties/responsibilities have the proper background checks and vetting required for federal employment. The importance of this position cannot be overstated, ensuring that the protocols relative to Homeland Security Presidential Directive-12 are complied with and adhered to.”

Swafford said she doesn’t view or think of herself as a Hispanic Woman in her job but focuses on the opportunities she has been provided to make a positive impact and a difference in what she does.

“I have a great environment that gives me grounds to become the best of what I wish to accomplish,” Swafford said. “Learning through security is tough, but definitely worth it. I am the first college graduate in my family. I have been in a predominately male profession. I hold my own soundly. I am an active volunteer member of the Mobile Citizens Police Academy, Fire Department, and soon Sheriff’s Academy. I support our first responders, and giving back is important to me.”

Swafford said that what she loves best about her job is that it is always exciting and allows her to help and assist others.

“Security is never a dull moment,” Swafford said. “Everything from backgrounds to Embassy requests, not to mention the other various tidbits Security touches. I have made contacts with people in different parts of the world. I enjoy my interactions with people. I like to problem solve and, if possible, assist even if it’s outside my lane. I see good in people, and I know there is bad in others. It’s my job to keep those I can safe. I have always found it fulfilling to help others.”

Rose advises other Hispanics, whether male or female, who are interested in a job or career in Security or with the USACE Mobile District not to let their background stop them from going after what they want out of life.

“Don’t let your heritage be a hindrance,” Swafford said. “You can be the best security specialist despite not being American-born. We are all Americans. We come from different parts of the world but have one mission. To be the best Americans we can be. We do it for our families, for our well-being, and for our Nation’s Security.”

America's Engineers: The People, Programs, and Projects of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers ® is published by American Conference & Event Media, LLC.

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