Friday, July 02, 2010
INTO THE WAR THEATER
Special Agent Pat S. stood before the pre-deployment training class and spoke in great detail about our counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan. He wasn’t using notes because the material was fresh in his mind—it had been only 10 days since he returned from Kabul.
“Less than two weeks after a four-and-a-half-month deployment, I was able to give our people almost real-time information about the counterterrorism mission in Afghanistan,” he said. “The environment there changes very rapidly, so to be able to provide that kind of current information is very valuable.”
One of the strengths of the pre-deployment training course is that most of the instructors—and everyone who manages the program—have had firsthand experience in the war zone and can offer “ground truth” to those who are about to deploy.
Agent S., who served as an assistant legal attaché in Kabul during his most recent deployment, reiterated what many had said before him about conditions in Afghanistan—the air quality is poor, the food can be dicey, and Bureau personnel there regularly work long hours seven days a week. “But there’s no question,” he added, “that this assignment has been the best in my career and given me the highest sense of accomplishment. Many of my peers feel the same way.”
When the 9/11 attacks occurred, Agent S. was working narcotics cases on a task force in New York City. The task force office, located near the World Trade Center, was destroyed during the attacks. “From that point forward,” he said, “I felt a very strong sense of purpose about our counterterrorism mission and have been working Afghanistan and Pakistan matters ever since.”
Many in the pre-deployment training class volunteered for war-theater assignments for similar reasons. “If you work counterterrorism,” one agent said, “that’s where you can make a major contribution.”
Some younger analysts and agents who joined the Bureau after 9/11 said they felt it was their patriotic duty to volunteer for assignments in Iraq and Afghanistan. Others in the class have children currently serving overseas in the armed forces and want to support the military’s efforts. One agent said he volunteered in the hopes that his work might help hasten the day when all our troops could come home.
“In a variety of ways,” Agent S. said, “there is a significant opportunity for our people to contribute in theater to help protect the lives of soldiers and other Americans, Western interests, as well as Afghans or Iraqis.”
Special Agent Rick M., one of the pre-deployment training program’s managers and a veteran of multiple deployments to Afghanistan, put it another way: “All of us become FBI agents because we want to make an impact and serve our country. This is a great opportunity for our people to get experience on the front lines of the counterterrorism mission.”
Agent S. found the pre-deployment training very helpful in that regard. “When you have already mentally rehearsed all these scenarios, heard the military terminology, and have an idea of what the daily tempo will be like, it’s a lot less you have to learn when you get there.”