A new security force has taken over at the Idaho National Engineering Laboratory, and it is bringing a more military approach to its mission.

Protection Technology Idaho Inc. has taken over from American Protective Services the job of protecting the U.S. Department of Energy nuclear facility. And even though it's kept almost all of the APS guard force, the personnel now will be armed, trained and uniformed to deal with the threat of a terrorist attack."I know I'm not dealing with a military unit, and I understand the concerns in that regard," said Richard Alix, the retired U.S. Army colonel who is president of PTI. "But there are a lot of good things that are done in the military, and I intend to apply some of them."

PTI is a subsidiary of Day and Timmerman Inc., a Philadelphia-based company that handles security, engineering, building management and government contracts. It beat APS in competitive bidding for the five-year contract, worth nearly $100 million.

Alix, 50, heads a nine-member team that took over management of the 400 security inspectors responsible for protecting the INEL's nuclear facilities and materials. The Vietnam veteran, who served for 20 years in Army units dealing primarily with security, said he hopes to bring the best of that experience to the INEL.

"We plan to emphasize greater the physical training program and weapons qualification," Alix said. "We are inheriting the best guard force in the Department of Energy. But there can always be improvement, and we want to continue to be the best."

Day and Timmerman has an innovative training computer program package called LANDISK, which PTI will use for its classes. Its pre-recorded curriculum makes training possible without always needing an instructor, said Bob Bostian, DOE-Idaho security chief.

"We think it will add to the efficiency and economics (of the training program)," he said.

Alix also wants to get rid of the guards' current uniforms, which he compared to those of security guards in a shopping mall.

"Our mission is different," he said. "I would like a uniform that's more functional in a serious incident."

The Special Response Team, which is the INEL's crack attack force, already has been issued what Alix calls a suburban battle dress uniform.

"We're considering a similar outfit for the other guards," he said.

The uniform is more than a cosmetic change, Alix said. Guards must be able to perform at their peak in the event of an incursion.

"A unit that looks good feels good," he said. "They function like they look."

Overall, Alix said he is pleased with the personnel. Each was personally interviewed by PTI staff before being rehired.

"We're pleased with the knowledge, the attitude and the enthusiasm of our security force," he said. "They have a paramilitary approach to security. They are totally aware of the seriousness of the mission."

The threat from terrorism is as high now as it was in 1985, when the INEL instituted its stronger security program, said Alix. With reactors, a reprocessing plant and plans for a major plutonium plant, the INEL remains a key target, he said.

Any of those facilities could be sabotaged and cause a disaster similar to the Chernobyl nuclear accident in the Soviet Union in 1987, he said.

"It's devastating to think of something like that occuring in this country through terrorism," said Alix. "We feel our mission is to preclude that."