REDSTONE ARSENAL, Alabama –
For the second time in six years, Paul Quintel, the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command operations security program manager, received the first place Army-wide OPSEC individual award.
Quintel was selected based on his efforts during 2020. Even with much of the world shutdown due to the COVID-19 global pandemic and most government employees teleworking from home, he said the OPSEC mission did not stop.
“Just because we had a pandemic doesn’t mean we quit doing OPSEC,” Quintel said. “We were coordinating training, conducting OPSEC reviews and collaborating on the destruction program — so I was staying busy in 2020. We had challenges, but we adjusted to them.”
For Quintel, OPSEC is not just a job. After more than 20 years in the field, it is a way of life.
The Three Rivers, California, native joined the Marine Corps immediately after graduating from high school in 1978. He was an electronics technician for the HAWK missile system, but security was always one of the extra hats he wore.
He said, “I was the classified materials control officer, ensuring all of the classified materials were stored properly at the end of the day. I was the communication security custodian and, in my last unit, I was the physical security officer — so security was always a collateral duty for me.”
After 20 years on active duty with the Marine Corps, Quintel retired and went back to school. He earned a degree in criminal justice from Faulkner University in Montgomery, Alabama, and, subsequently, heard about a contract position opening at Redstone Arsenal in 2004.
After three years on the job, he became a Department of the Army civilian as the AMCOM physical security officer. Then, when the OPSEC program manager left, Quintel picked up those duties too and he said his position morphed from there.
“I got into it,” he said. “I really understood it and enjoyed what I was doing. Now I’m the OPSEC program manager and I am the backup physical security officer for AMCOM. I run all of the security for the Sparkman Center; I oversee the badge checker contract, the camera systems and the access control systems.”
As an OPSEC subject matter expert, Quintel is routinely invited to be a guest speaker at the annual OPSEC symposium, where he discusses topics, such as insider threats and active shooters.
“OPSEC is OPSEC but, when it comes to training, I’ve got about six or seven different briefings that I rotate and modify; so every year it’s something different,” he said.
The rise of social media occurred simultaneously with Quintel retiring from the Marine Corps and working security full time, and he is quick to name it as his biggest challenge from an OPSEC perspective. In fact, one of his most popular briefings is what he calls “family OPSEC training”, during which he talks about not only the pitfalls of social media, but items most people would not think about as being dangerous.
“When I get to the end of my family OPSEC briefing, I show a picture of the rear of a car with all of the stick figures, stickers, soccer balls, etc., on the back,” he said. “Then I tell the audience how I’m going to steal their cute, little 6-year-old daughter. I go through it really quickly — how I go from observing the car, to locating them at the soccer field, to befriending the family — to kidnapping their daughter. People are usually shocked and tell me I’m crazy. No, as a security person, I’m trained to look at things differently than most people.”
Quintel teaches approximately five to six OPSEC classes each year. COVID-19 slowed that down a bit, but he resumed face-to-face training in April with class enrollment sizes reduced by 50%, to ensure social distancing between students. He is also requested by local defense contractors to provide OPSEC training at their facilities.
“We all look at things from a different perspective,” he said. “I try to convey that when I do training; I try to get people to think outside of the box.”
Although he is constantly thinking about new ways to keep his training courses fresh, as he draws closer to 15 years as a DA civilian, lately Quintel is thinking about other things too – namely, retirement.
He said he’s not ready just yet but, with more than 30 acres of land to take care of and a woodworking shop that would make Santa Claus jealous, he said he’s not ruling it out in the next couple of years.
As for his most recent award, he describes it as humbling and recognizes how fortunate he is to have a great AMCOM team.
“It’s an achievement,” Quintel said. “It’s also humbling to get it once. It’s even more humbling to get it twice, but you don’t get it without all of the support I get. I can’t run this program by myself and I can’t run it without the support from my supervisor, my directorate, my working group and the command.”
Whether he is walking around the Sparkman Center in his purple OPSEC scrubs, or driving a tractor around his property, Quintel is always thinking OPSEC.
“I will always be dabbling in OPSEC,” he said. “I’m doing it because I enjoy doing it and there’s a need. It’s mainly about getting the information out there.”