Friday, July 31, 2009

CBR Weapons and WMD Terrorism News, July 31, 2009

[Black Hawk County] health department cuts budget [IA]
"The Black Hawk County Health Department on Wednesday reduced its upcoming fiscal year budget by $782,345. […] Director Tom O'Rourke said the department's reduction in tax revenue, $122,659, approximately represents the type of revenue shortfall that will impact county residents. Of services the health department provides, he said school outreach programming will be disproportionately affected. The schools, outreach and clinics department budget was reduced by $104,551. 'This is a direct result of the deterioration of the economy,' he said. The enforcement, surveillance and preparedness department budget was reduced $546,917. […] The health department used to act as a distributor of federal public health preparedness funds for a 14-county area, but starting this year the state will take over those duties." (WCF Courier; 30Jul09; Jens Manuel Krogstad)

Review begins of FBI science in anthrax [spore dissemination] case
"A panel of scientific experts on Thursday launched what is expected to be a long, complex examination of the FBI's research in hunting the creator of the deadly anthrax [spore-laced] letters of 2001. The National Academy of Sciences convened a 15-member panel to begin a review that is expected to take a year and a half. Investigators hope the results will validate their findings and put to rest some of the lingering doubts about the case. 'We at the FBI laboratory are confident in our conclusions,' FBI Assistant Director Chris Hassell told the panel. 'This is what we did, please tell us what you think.' […] The scientific panel has been asked to determine if the bureau's novel forensic methods used in the case were correct. In particular, the panel will scrutinize the genetic research that led the FBI to focus on [Bruce] Ivins after years of chasing dead ends. The panel will also examine whether there was any cross-contamination of key samples of anthrax [bacteria]. […] The panel will not reach any conclusions about whether Ivins sent the letters or not, or whether he acted alone. Instead, the group will limit itself to whether the research work done by the FBI was accurate. Last week, the Justice Department tentatively decided to close the case, but reversed course after government lawyers raised a number of lingering legal questions." (Monterey County Herald; 30Jul09; Devlin Barrett, AP)

National Biodefense Science Board: notification of a public teleconference
"As stipulated by the Federal Advisory Committee Act, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is hereby giving notice that the National Biodefense Science Board (NBSB) will hold three teleconference meetings. The meetings are open to the public. Pre-registration is NOT required. The meetings will be held on August 14, 2009, from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. EDT, October 14, 2009, 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. EDT, and on November 13, 2009, 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. EST. […] The Board shall provide expert advice and guidance […] on scientific, technical, and other matters of special interest to the Department of Health and Human Services regarding current and future chemical, biological, nuclear, and radiological agents, whether naturally occurring, accidental, or deliberate. The Board may also provide advice and guidance […] on other matters related to public health emergency preparedness and response." (Technology Marketing Corporation News; 31Jul09)

Reduction in force at Newport [Chemical Depot, IN]
"As part of the Army's progress toward closure of the Newport Chemical Depot (NECD), this week depot officials announced the impending layoff of approximately 180 employees. The workers affected by this reduction […] are employed by Parsons Corporation, the Army contractor that built, operated and now is dismantling the facility where more than 1,200 tons of chemical agent VX was destroyed. […] Newport Chemical Agent Disposal Facility (NECDF) Site Project Manager Anthony W. Reed said, 'Our contractor is providing 60 days advance notice of a mass layoff to allow employees time to look at their options. While NECDF employees are making great progress in our closure operations, these achievements come at the cost of jobs.' Several of the workers being laid off will move to positions at other chemical agent disposal facilities. […] The Army's plan to close the NECD under the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) law also has resulted in the elimination of nearly 150 positions with Mason and Hanger, which has operated the installation since 1986. Approximately 385 remaining contract and government positions at the installation will gradually be phased out until the Newport Chemical Depot Reuse Authority, the local entity appointed to develop land reuse plans for the depot property, assumes management control. The transfer is expected to occur prior to the September 2011 deadline established by BRAC law." (U.S. Army Chemical Materials Agency; 30Jul09)

[Congressman] Dale Kildee [D-MI] helps bring $3 million to Mott Community College and Kettering University for research helping the military [Flint, MI]
"Congressman Dale E. Kildee (D-Flint) has secured $3 million in federal funding for research benefiting the military at Mott Community College and Kettering University. About $2 million will go to the Chemical Warfare Agent Fate project at Kettering where students and researchers are studying better ways for the military to assess the dangers of chemical contaminants. The remaining $1 million will go to the Intelligent Orthopedic Fracture Implant program at Mott Community College. […] Both projects are for the U.S. Department of Defense. […] 'This important work, conducted right here in Flint, will help better protect our servicemen and women and enable them to recover from injury more quickly. These advancements will not only support our troops, but they will benefit citizens across the country,' [Kildee said in a prepared statement]."
(Michigan Live; 31Jul09; Beata Mostafavi, Flint Journal)

Securing Serbia's nuclear legacy, IAEA's largest technical cooperation project aims to lower Vinca's radioactive risks
"In the suburbs of Belgrade, Serbia […] a pile of decades-old radioactive waste in deplorable condition has sat for decades, posing a threat to the health and safety of people and the environment. More than a thousand sealed radioactive sources remain inside […] the Vinca Institute of Nuclear Sciences. […] There has been much speculation as to the original intentions for the facility under Yugoslavia's then-leader Josip Broz Tito, and some research seems to indicate that a modicum of weapons research may have been conducted at Vinca. […] As part of the IAEA and global community's push to support reduced enrichment for research and test reactors, along with concerted efforts to return highly enriched uranium (HEU) fuel to the country of origin, an extraordinary level of international cooperation has coalesced to clean up Vinca. […] The foremost priority has been to deal with two-and-a-half tons of Russian-origin irradiated, spent nuclear fuel elements, which were initially used in the [Vinca's] reactor. […] The push is now on to repackage and repatriates the spent fuel for return to Russia. […] IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei visited the facility in early July 2009, to assess the progress at Vinca. 'The unused nuclear waste is in poor condition and needs to be moved as soon as possible. The situation is under control for now, but it could be very dangerous from a safety and security point of view,' he commented. […] Over 50 experts and technicians have been assigned for the task ahead. A target date of the end of 2010 has been set for the shipment, and work is set to begin in autumn 2009 to begin the fuel repackaging portion of the project." (International Atomic Energy Agency; 29Jul09)

Homeland security holds terror[ism] drill at local h[igh] s[chool] [FL]
"Homeland Security and several local police agencies conducted a terrorism drill at Palm Beach Central High School in Wellington on Wednesday. Homeland Security simulated […] to rehearse what they'd do if a radioactive bomb were to explode. They simulated everything from dealing with the injured to chemical cleanup. […] 'It was to test our abilities of decontaminating victims in this case,' said Palm Beach County firefighter Bob Kropa. At the high school, the sheriff's office and fire department worked together to set up a perimeter at the high school. In reality, the bomb would have meant road closures and even the closure of the Turnpike. 'We do this type of exercise so if something like this ever happened we would work together like we did today,' said Teri Barbera, of the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office." (WPBF News; 29Jul09)

Uranium smugglers sentenced to time served, set free by Slovakian court
"A Slovakian court yesterday sentenced two uranium smugglers to time already served for selling the radioactive substance to undercover police in 2007, the Czech News Agency reported The men - one of them Hungarian, the other Ukranian - were sentenced to 20 months of prison time after the court determined that the half-kilogram of uranium they dealt would not have been usable in an improvised radiological weapon, or 'dirty bomb.' The men, who were arrested in 2007, were let free." (Global Security Newswire; 31Jul09)

The U.S. security relationship with Russia and its impact on transatlantic security
"President Obama and President Medvedev committed to 'resetting' U.S.-Russia relations and laid out an ambitious, substantive work plan for moving forward in a number of areas where the United States and Russia share national interests [such as] reducing our nuclear arsenals, preventing further proliferation of nuclear weapons, and countering the threat of nuclear terrorism. […] The United States and Russia took important steps to increase nuclear security and prevent the spread of nuclear weapons, beginning with the reduction of our own nuclear arsenals. President Obama and President Medvedev signed a Joint Understanding to guide the work of negotiators on a follow-on agreement to the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START). […] Both presidents noted current negative proliferation trends and agreed on the need to hold other nations accountable to prevent the emergence of a nuclear arms race in some of the most volatile places in the world. […] We made concrete commitments to deepen security cooperation, including by working together to defeat violent extremists and to counter transnational threats, including those of piracy and narcotics trafficking." (U.S. Department of State; 30Jul09; Philip H. Gordon)

Northland is home to a FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency] warehouse that stands ready to help in a disaster
"A warehouse in Clay County is home to the Federal Emergency Management Agency's newest 'pre-positioned' site, the ninth in the country and the only site in the Midwest. The facility stores emergency equipment that state and local agencies may need when responding to chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear incidents or natural disasters. Local leaders and first responders, and representatives from state emergency management agencies on Thursday were to tour the facility during an open house. The equipment, including protective gear, search and rescue tools, and medical supplies, is organized and stored in shipping pods on two tractor-trailers parked in the facility. In all, the site is ready to resupply 100 firefighters, 25 law enforcement officials and 25 emergency medical service workers, said FEMA's Edward McGuire. […] The new facility will serve areas in a 600-mile radius. […] FEMA plans to build two more sites in the U.S., most likely in the southwestern and northern portions of the country, McGuire said." (Kansas City Star; 30Jul09; Emily Van Zandt)

GCHQ [Government Communications Headquarters] to spearhead olympic defences [UK]
"GCHQ is set to play a vital role in protecting the London Olympic Games from terrorist attacks. The Benhall-based intelligence base will team up with other secret services to feed information to a central Olympic Intelligence Centre. GCHQ […] is responsible for intercepting terrorist communications. It will work alongside MI5, MI6 and regional police forces in the Olympic Intelligence Centre, with its role expected to grow during the run-up to the Games in 2012. The new body will be responsible for putting in place security measures to protect all Olympic venues. Security surrounding the event will probably be the largest policing operation the country has ever experienced, with more officers than the 12,000 involved in the 2005 G8 summit. […] Threats for which security services are preparing include car bombs, planted bombs and suicide bombs. […] The Government has set up an Olympic and Paralympic Security Directorate within the Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism, with the mandate to look at all possible threats to the Games. It is hoped the measures could help to minimise the effect of any chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear attacks. Despite the terrorism fears, officials are confident they will be prepared." (This Is Gloucestershire; 23Jul09)

Obama's meeting with Russia's global arms merchant [Op-Ed]
"One of the issues President Barack Hussein Obama […] avoided during his recent visit to Russia is Prime Minister Vladmir Putin's propensity to act as arms merchant for nations ruled by despots and thugs. […] Russia's cash-strapped defense, biotechnology, chemical, aerospace, and nuclear industries continue to be eager to raise funds via exports and transfers. […] The Russians continue to supply a variety of ballistic missile-related goods and technical know-how to countries such as Iran, India, and China. […] The Russians also remain a key source of dual-use biotechnology equipment, chemicals and related expertise for countries of concern with active chemical and biological weapons programs. Russia's well-known biological and chemical expertise made it an attractive target for countries seeking assistance in areas with CBW (Chemical-Biological Weapons) applications. […] Syria reportedly continues to acquire limited quantities of CW, mainly from Russia. However, Damascus's Soviet-era debt to Moscow and inability to fund large purchases continues to hamper efforts to purchase the large quantity of equipment Syria requires to replace its aging weapons inventory. […] Russia was and is the primary source for China, Iran, Libya, and Sudan, and one of the largest sources for India." (Examiner; 29Jul09; Jim Kouri)

All-clear after mystery 'white powder' scare [Wellingborough, England]
"At shortly before 2.30pm today, a member of the public contacted the police expressing concern about a package containing white powder, which was found in the car park of the Ock'n'Dough public house in Niort Way, Wellingborough. Police officers were called to the scene, together with the fire service and the East Midlands ambulance service, and a cordon was put in place around the scene pending the investigation of this package. No-one who has come into contact with the package experienced any ill effects and no-one was evacuated from surrounding properties. Sup[erintendent] Mark Avil, who is commanding the incident, said: 'We are confident no-one has or will come to any harm as a result of this package being discovered in the car park. But we have to err on the side of caution and provide a standard multi-agency response to potential chemical or biological hazards. The safety of the public, and officers and staff dealing with this incident, is paramount.'" (Northampton Chronicle; 30Jul09)

School, Bridge Highlight Progress in Afghanistan

American Forces Press Service

July 31, 2009 - An agreement for a new school to be built and a new bridge over the Kunar River highlight continued improvements in Afghanistan. An Afghan construction company here agreed with Task Force Mountain Warrior servicemembers July 29 to build a primary school in the province's Qhargayee district.

The new school, the fourth to be built in the province, will serve as the first primary educational center for the children of Miakhan Kac village and surrounding areas. Funding will come from the U.S.-sponsored Commanders' Emergency Relief Program. All four schools are scheduled to open by spring.

In Kunar province July 27, the provincial reconstruction team assessed the Shigal district's recently completed Bar Sholton Bridge. The bridge's construction, coordinated and funded by the team using CERP funds, supports 50 to 60 vehicles per day and was built entirely by Afghans. It officially opened July 10.

"Now we have an area where we can set up our own bazaar," said Noor Mohammad, a local villager. "Also, we can now see relatives regularly. Now we have access to the district center [and] clinic, and our children can go to high school, when before they could not."

Previously, villagers had to use a rope ferry to cross the river.

(From a Combined Joint Task Force 82 news release.)

Basra Continues Provincial Cleanup Campaign

By Army Staff Sgt. Rodney Foliente
Special to American Forces Press Service

July 31, 2009 - Local leaders met with members of the Basra Provincial Reconstruction Team and the 4th Infantry Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team at the city's trash dump July 23 to assess the progress of a month-long project to facilitate the mass cleanup of trash. The government hired local civilian contractors to assist in cleaning up and transporting Basra province's overwhelming volume of accumulated trash for the recently launched project.

"The municipality and the contractors are working together to clean up the city," said Majed, the provincial reconstruction team coordinator with the Basra municipality. "One of the governor's main priorities is cleaning up the city. The [team] wanted to help with this issue, and they suggested this project to the municipality.

"There are six Iraqi contractors to collect the garbage from the main six regions of Basra," Majed continued. "Each contractor has about a hundred trucks, and they are working daily."

The contractors are paid for the amount of trash they deliver, rather than a fixed price for their district, added Army Maj. Stanley Hutchison, chief of the brigade's project management team. "The harder they work, the more money they receive," he said.

This approach creates a sense of competition and provides greater guarantees the work gets done, Hutchison said, noting that the sheer amount of trash being delivered shows a tremendous amount of progress for the province's waste management efforts. "There's been an average of 1,000 to 1,500 workers delivering four to six loads per day to the dump site," he said.

The brigade has provided $2.8 million to fund this phase of the cleanup, and since the project uses local contractors and laborers, it also helps to stimulate the local economy, the major said.

Basra Gov. Sheltag Aboud al-Mayah said that once the city is clean, the intent is to keep it that way. "After we finish our cleaning campaign this month, the municipality will resume its normal duties to make the job sustainable and keep the province clean," he said.

The provincial reconstruction team and the 2nd Brigade have been working with the local government on a number of ongoing cleanup projects since June, including cleaning the canals and roadsides, clearing the province of scrap-metal piles, repairing the trash collection fleet and providing trash containers to residences and businesses, with additional receptacles throughout the city, Hutchison said.

Provincial government officials are determined not to get bogged down by so much trash again. After years of citizens being forced to dump trash alongside the roads or in open spaces between homes, the government is working on educating the people and working to break such habits through its cleanup campaign and providing trash receptacles and collection services. Eventually, citizens may be fined for littering to help in keeping the province clean, he added.

"Cleaning up the province will reawaken pride in Basra for many," said Hassan, a truck driver.

"Getting rid of the trash not only helps the way the province looks," Basra's governor noted, "but it benefits the condition and health of the population."

Hutchison agreed. "Right now, you have kids playing day to day in trash or scrap metal piles," he said. "One way to attack diseases is to pick up the trash, then take care of sewage and water problems. Picking up the trash is the first step so the other issues can be adequately taken care of."

The huge piles of trash and scrap metal conceal problems and prevent repairs to other essential service projects, such as water, electricity and sewage, Hutchison added, and trash keeps necessary investments from coming into the region.

"Right now, trash is a hindrance in a lot of areas throughout the province, restricting the amount of land resources available and impeding investors coming in with jobs for the citizens," he said.

The governor acknowledged that many obstacles remain to be tackled in Basra before the quality of life for the people is where it should be, but he emphasized much progress has been made in a short time. He thanked the provincial reconstruction team, the 2nd Brigade and the American government for their assistance in Basra.

"With help from our friends of other nations, we can overcome all these obstacles and challenges," he said. "We can put all our efforts forward together, and they will be fruitful."

(Army Staff Sgt. Rodney Foliente serves with the 4th Infantry Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team.)

Face of Defense: Captain Brings Entertainment to Servicemembers

By Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jason Hernandez
Special to American Forces Press Service

July 31, 2009 - When most servicemembers think of their concert experiences here, they recall punching their fists into the desert sky, rocking out to old favorites and meeting new friends. Air Force Capt. Joshua Daniels, on the other hand, remembers long hours, black coffee and some of the most rewarding days of his military career.

Daniels, the base's morale, welfare and recreation liaison, is in charge of arranging entertainment for servicemembers deployed to western Iraq. Though much of his time is spent organizing concerts, he also finds time to acquire computers for the MWR facility and provide sports equipment for servicemembers here.

"It's an odd job to imagine the military having," Daniels said. "Essentially, I make sure everyone on base has something fun and constructive to do. Whether they are calling home, surfing the Internet, playing sports or going to a concert, the troops need to be entertained."

While most servicemembers count time left on their deployment by paychecks, months, weeks, days or even hours, Daniels tallies his by concert dates and computer shipments. The calendar tacked to the wall behind his desk reads more like a hotshot Hollywood agent's client list than the calendar of a U.S. military officer deployed to Iraq.

One of the challenges Daniels deals with regularly is working with band managers and finding the middle ground between entertainers wanting to express themselves artistically and putting on a show that will entertain a group of servicemembers ranging from 18 to 40 years old. Logistical problems also can come up. Although some groups require less outside support than others, there is still the occasional "heavy packer."

"We get groups in like Sevendust that don't really require much of anything to get up and running," Daniels said. "We let them onto the stage, and they set up and roll through with things. Then we get other groups. ... I won't mention any names, but some groups are worse than others."

But Daniels said he takes every challenge in stride, because his hard work and diligence pay off in an enormous way.

"What really does it for me is that one moment -- that one time when everything just falls into place perfectly, and I can just sit there and enjoy the finished product," he said with a smile.

The true reward of his work, he added, is watching hundreds of music fans in uniform, screaming for their favorite bands and wearing a smile from ear to ear.

Daniels is approaching the end of his deployment, and the only one main event left for him to be part of is his trip back to the United States.

As Daniels packs up and prepares to go, he leaves behind not only the desert sands of Iraq, but also thousands of servicemembers who are grateful to him for providing some of the best entertainment this side of the Euphrates.

(Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Jason Hernandez serves with Multinational Force West.)

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Army Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

Chief Warrant Officer Douglas M. Vose III, 38, of Concrete, Wash., died July 29 in Kabul Province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his unit using small arms fire. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group, Stuttgart, Germany.

For more information contact the U.S. Army Special Operations Command public affairs office at (910) 432-6005.

Army Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

Pvt. Gerrick D. Smith, 19, of Sullivan, Ill., died July 29 in Herat, Afghanistan, of injuries sustained from a non-combat related incident. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 130th Infantry, Illinois Army National Guard, Marion, Ill.

The circumstances surrounding the incident are under investigation.

For more information media may contact the Illinois National Guard public affairs office at (217) 761-3569, or after hours, (217) 725-2265, or visit http

Face of Defense: High School Teacher Leads Marines in Iraq

By Marine Corps 1st Lt. Michele Perez
Special to American Forces Press Service

July 30, 2009 - Being a high school teacher, a professional soccer player and a firefighter in one's local town all are great accomplishments. But one woman who has been all three still desired to pursue something more. Most second lieutenants serving in the Marine Corps are right out of college or have prior enlisted service. But at 31 and having lived through more real-life experiences than the majority of her peers, 2nd Lt. Suzie McKinley has finally found her calling as a Marine Corps officer.

McKinley is serving her first deployment to Iraq as the communications operations officer for the 2nd Marine Logistics Group here. However, just a few years ago, she was in a classroom teaching at the Winchendon School in Winchendon, Mass.

The school was not your typical high school. It held classes from 9th grade through postgraduate school, and students ranged anywhere from a star athlete destined to be drafted by the National Basketball Association to international students who would return to their native country to serve in their nation's military.

McKinley said she loved teaching, the impact she made on the students and the remarkable progress she would see them make. Yet, she added, she reached a point where she felt as if she was coming up short.

"I needed to be able to do more," she said. "I owed my students more; I wanted to get out and get [credibility]. ... I felt like I hadn't lived."

In hopes of finding that "something more," McKinley left the school in 2003 to pursue her master's degree in English literature at Middlebury College in Middlebury, Vt., assuming that furthering her education was the answer. But in an unexpected, but welcome, turn of events, she found an opportunity to play on a professional soccer team, the Vermont Voltage, where she competed against teams from Connecticut, New York, Massachusetts and Canada.

Having played soccer since she was old enough to walk, McKinley said, she remembers the offer as an opportunity she could not pass up, though it was for the love of the game and not the money; she had to hold a few jobs to make ends meet. She coached soccer at the local high school, managed a backcountry ski center, and if that wasn't enough, she also became a firefighter in The Ripton, Vt., fire department.

"It was a once-in-a-lifetime shot to train and play at that level," McKinley said. "The best part of it was to have all the young kids come out to the games and see us play, and to see a light in their eyes because they know there are opportunities out there."

But as much as she loved to play soccer, McKinley said, the rush of adrenaline in being a firefighter and being part of an organization where she possibly would be able to take part in saving someone's life started to draw her into firefighting.

But the day came when McKinley and her squad couldn't get to a victim in time. She still vividly remembers when she and a fellow squad member went into the building to retrieve the body. She had trained for something like this, but when they got to the scene, they found that there was a second victim -- the woman's pet Rottweiler had never left his owner's side.

That was the tipping point that caused her to search for a way where she would be able to firefight full-time, McKinley said.

"Once you experience something like that, you can't just do it part time. ... I wanted all of it," she said. "When the pager goes off, everything stops. The world stops spinning, and someone needs help. The only thing that matters is to get from A to B to get to that person."

Her first step was to attempt to enter the Air National Guard to serve in crash and fire rescue, where she would be able to make firefighting a career. But after beginning the process and going through the physical, she was placed on a waiting list. Discouraged by the waiting process, McKinley was talked into going to see a Marine Corps officer selection officer.

After discussing the training regimen and what she would be tested to do -- combined with the leadership, physical training and the opportunity to serve her country -- she she knew she was hooked.

"This is what I was meant to do," she said. "This is it, because I still have those kids looking at me, but they're not in my English class. They're Marines."

McKinley said she finds that many of the attributes that helped her to succeed as a teacher are transferrable to her new role as a Marine Corps officer. It requires patience, honesty and being OK with not being liked all of the time, she noted. But most importantly, she added, it requires the ability to listen.

She said she has the utmost respect for each of the Marines with whom she has the pleasure of serving, noting "the utter gratitude I have for them at their age to make the sacrifice."

"I can't imagine at 18, 19 joining the Marine Corps," she said, "but here these Marines are doing such an enormous service for themselves and their country."

Although she has no definite plan for what her future holds, McKinley said, she does know she eventually plans to return to teaching now that she has earned the knowledge and credibility she yearned for when she was teaching in that 9th grade classroom.

(Marine Corps 1st Lt. Michele Perez serves with the 2nd Marine Logistics Group.)

Iraqi Soldiers Sharpen Skills at 'Cold Steel Academy'

By Army Pvt. Jared N. Gehmann
Special to American Forces Press Service

July 30, 2009 - After five long days of intense training and battling a pair of fierce sandstorms, more than 20 Iraqi soldiers graduated from the "Cold Steel Training Academy" here yesterday. The academy was established for 82nd Airborne Division paratroopers of Company A, 1st Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, to advise and mentor their 45th Iraqi Army Division partners on their combat abilities.

It also sets the conditions for Iraqi soldiers to continue maintaining security in Salman Pak, a southeastern suburb of Baghdad.

"This five-day training program is in place to better equip Iraqi soldiers for combat in the field through the execution of different combat training exercises each day," said Army Spc. Cesar Lopez of Miami, an academy instructor and combat medic.

Lopez said the academy trains Iraqi soldiers in leadership, basic M-16 rifle marksmanship, reflexive-fire, reacting to improvised explosive devices, search and clearing tactics, preventive medicine and combat lifesaving.

The Iraqi soldiers received training in lifesaving techniques on their last day of training. "We showed them how to fix a hemorrhage in a person's airway, how to treat shock and how to apply pressure dressings and tourniquets," Lopez said.

The training instills confidence and strengthens unit cohesiveness, Lopez added.

"When a soldier knows what he is doing, it makes him want to be a part of the team, and that really helps with morale, but more importantly, it helps the overall strength of the unit in the long run," he said.

Iraqi soldier Wessan Abass, the academy's honor graduate, said the training helped him tremendously.
"My favorite part of the training was the leadership courses, because they not only help me as a soldier, but they can help me in my everyday life as well," he said.

Abass also said he also enjoyed qualifying on the range with the M-16.

"I have rarely shot with an M-16," he said. "I definitely have more experience with the AK-47. I learned a lot from the American soldiers, and had fun. Overall, I think that the training was definitely worth the time and energy, and I look forward to working with [U.S. soldiers] again in the future."

(Army Pvt. Jared N. Gehmann serves in Multinational Division Baghdad with the 82nd Airborne Division's 3rd Brigade Combat Team public affairs office.)

Team Works With Afghan Government to Address Timber Issues

American Forces Press Service

July 30, 2009 - Members of the provincial reconstruction team in Afghanistan's Kunar province facilitated a July 28 meeting between Afghan government officials and provincial leaders to address Kunar's timber situation. Gov. Fazlullah Wahidid met with the Afghan Finance Minister Omar Zakhilwal and other officials at his compound in Asadabad to discuss the two main problems in the province: what do with piles of cut lumber and how to stop illegal timber cutting.

The day's events included remarks from business leaders, landowners and elders on how to protect the environment and replanting the forest, as well as discussions on a hydro-electric dam to be built in Kunar.

The officials decided to keep the lumber that's already cut in the province and use it to develop Kunar's wood industry and to help to build a better Afghanistan. The ministers also asked the elders to foster tribal support in finding a way to stop the illegal cutting of new timber.

The successful meeting raised awareness of the timber problem and demonstrated to the people that the Afghan government is taking the issue seriously, officials said.

"One of our efforts is to decrease the distance between the government and the local population," Zakhilwal said. The ministers also agreed to take another look at addressing Kunar's timber issues after the upcoming elections.

(From a Combined Joint Task Force 82 news release.)

Iraq Social Media Experience Sparks Training for Future Leaders

American Forces Press Service

July 30, 2009 - Army Lt. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV discovered the power of social networking in 2007 when he was the U.S. military's top spokesman in Iraq. It was "probably one of the toughest times in Iraq," Caldwell recalled of his time as Multinational Force Iraq's deputy chief of staff for strategic effects. Mounting U.S. casualties and sectarian violence dominated the news headlines.

Caldwell, who commanded the 82nd Airborne Division before arriving in Baghdad, knew the coverage wasn't telling the whole story.

"Men and women were doing incredibly great things every day, and not just heroic things," he told American Forces Press Service. "They were building schools, helping establish government systems, empowering the Iraqi police forces to take on more responsibility, training Iraqi army forces.

"We were doing a lot of incredibly great things," he continued, "and the stories weren't getting out because they were overshadowed by the kinetic things going on and the loss of American life and the fact that casualty rates were up."

So at the urging of his younger staff, Caldwell took the monumental step of launching Multinational Force Iraq into the world of social networking.

"A 'You who?'" Caldwell recalls asking when his staffers first recommended a YouTube site. "I had absolutely no idea what it was."

But the staff talked him through the process, sat him down with a commercial server and showed him how YouTube worked. "I immediately understood the incredible power that would exist if we could leverage that," he said.

The problem was that access to the YouTube site had been blocked within the U.S. Central Command theater. So Caldwell took the issue up with Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr., Multinational Force Iraq commander at the time, and got approval to establish an official YouTube site.

The site went live in early March 2007 and amazed even Caldwell with the following it attracted. "Within the next six months, it was in the top 10 of all YouTube sites visited in the world," he said. "Viewership was phenomenal."

Officials put word out to the theater, urging troops to send videos that helped to explain the work they were doing. "We were looking for a variety of things -- we wanted kinetic and nonkinetic [activities], and we wanted personal stories," Caldwell said. "Nobody was out collecting. We just asked people, 'Feed us what you've got.'"

And feed they did -- clips showing troops engaged in everything from firefights to the destruction of bomb-making factories to delivering medical care to wounded Iraqis.

Officials reviewed the videos to ensure they didn't violate operational security considerations, use profanity or show sexual, overly graphic, disturbing or offensive material, then posted the clips as quickly as possible.

"The entire rest of the time I was there, it was an enormous hit," Caldwell said. "The number of people going to it and looking at it on a daily basis was phenomenal."

YouTube was just the start of the command's effort to deliver a more complete story of what was happening in Iraq to a broader audience. And as Caldwell discovered, social networking offered a whole new range of outlets for sharing that story, without the traditional media filters.

"It eliminated the gatekeeper," he said. "We now had the ability to help inform and present information that people might want to hear about or see in a way that was never there before."

Command officials urged people to come forward with ideas about how to leverage social media as part of a broader communications outreach. Meanwhile, Caldwell ratcheted up his media engagements with a growing array of outlets. His team, taking the lead from the enemy they were working to defeat, redesigned the command's Web site to make it more interactive, visually stimulating and user-friendly.

"We saw the fact that insurgents were making great use of the Internet," Caldwell said. "It was clear that this was a venue through which they were transmitting information and providing visuals. And we also started realizing that it was an opportunity for us to do the exact same thing back -- not in a propaganda sense, but in a sense of informing and educating people about just what we were doing."

The Army that Caldwell had grown up in had only one way to do that: through print and broadcast media outlets. And like many of his fellow officers, Caldwell conceded, he was leery of engaging with them.

"I came into a culture that said, 'Avoid the media at all cost. Absolutely nothing good comes out of a media engagement,'" he said.

He's made a 180-degree turn in his thinking, he said, recognizing the military's responsibility to keep the American public informed, and the importance of that understanding to ensure support for the mission. Now, as commander of the Army Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., Caldwell is working to impress those concepts on future military leaders.

One of the first things he noticed after arriving at his post was that nobody was taking advantage of the social media tools that had proven so successful in Iraq. "Nobody was blogging. Nobody was going on YouTube," he said.

As when he arrived at Multinational Force Iraq, Caldwell found these venues had been blocked, and military members weren't allowed to use them. He set out to lift those prohibitions.

"For the first four or five months there, I kept working through the system to get permissions to allow us to blog, go on YouTube, play with Facebook," he said. "I wanted to engage in these social media forums, and you just couldn't get access to them on your military computers."

But Caldwell met with red tape everywhere he turned -- until he mentioned his frustration to Casey, now Army chief of staff, during one of Casey's monthly visits to the Combined Arms Center.

"He looked at me and said, 'Just do it,'" Caldwell said. "And when I asked him if this meant he was giving his permission to do this, he said, 'Absolutely.' He said, 'We have got to change the culture of the Army, and you can help make this happen.'"

Then-Army Secretary Pete Geren turned into another big advocate of giving soldiers access to social media.

Caldwell got the ball rolling at the Combined Arms Center by starting to blog on the center's Web site. "I'm not a prolific blogger, but I recognize that if I don't get on there periodically and do it, nobody else will," he said. "I saw it as a venue to stimulate discussion. It was a great mechanism to reach out and touch a large portion of the United States Army about an issue we might want to talk about or dialog on."

He recognized many soldiers' resistance to blogging, especially after a Defense Department message had outright prohibited the practice in late 2006. Those willing to give it a try still felt hampered by longstanding approval chains that stilted opinion-sharing and individual expression.

So Caldwell began requiring his students to blog as part of their curriculum at the center. His goal, he said, is to help create a new generation of leaders who recognize the power of social media and help the Army change its cultural mindset so it's able to embrace it.

"The idea is, once you have done it and have seen the power of social networking that can be done through the blogosphere, we are hoping that it becomes a routine habit they have through the rest of the academic year," he said. "That way, by the time they graduate, they are comfortable doing it and recognize it as something they can use ... as a great connectivity tool."

Caldwell established seven basic rules for bloggers on the Combined Arms Center's Web site: Report only personal experience unless you can document it. Don't divulge classified or sensitive information, planned military operations or tactics, techniques and procedures that haven't yet been approved. Keep the discussion above-board, and don't post material that's political or endorses a commercial interest.

"The idea is, use it as a professional forum to dialogue and get at tough issues," Caldwell said.

The Combined Arms Center has become a case study in how social media tools can benefit the military.

Students are encouraged to contribute to the center's YouTube, Twitter and Facebook pages. The Command and General Staff College class to assemble at Fort Leavenworth next month will set up Facebook accounts for their 16-member staff group exercises.

Meanwhile, the center is exploring ways to use social media to capture and share lessons learned throughout the Army and improve the way it operates. Using an Army common-access card, users can access a variety of sites to contribute thoughts and suggestions to improve the way the Army trains and operates.

A new pilot program, for example, is using a military "wiki" site to encourage collaboration in updating seven Army field manuals. Five thousand contributors visited the wiki site when it first went live two weeks ago, and last week that number increased to 8,000.

"It's really brand new at this point, but we are just thrilled by the number of people coming to the site and the input that is being provided," Caldwell said.

Meanwhile, center officials set up an Army training network that will enable people to suggest ways to improve military training. Caldwell called the networking opportunities social networking provides a major breakthrough in elevating the level of information exchange.

"We can have a much greater and richer exchange of information than we have ever had in the past by using more of these social networking sites as a mechanism to exchange ideas and thoughts," he said.

Caldwell concedes that the military still has many barriers to break down before it can fully capitalize on social networking forums. He said he's been impressed by the way bloggers police themselves to ensure their postings don't violate established rules. But errors could -- and probably will -- happen, he said, as people learn to use these new tools.

"There are going to be some errors. This is a learning process, and along the way, people are going to make mistakes," he said. "They won't be deliberate or intentional, but people will make mistakes."

Caldwell called these mistakes, particularly because they can be corrected simply by pulling down a blog entry, a small price to pay to unleash the power of social networking for the 21st-century military.

"To take advantage of it and utilize it to our benefit, we have to first embrace it," he said. "And in embracing it, there are going to be inherent risks. People have to be willing to underwrite some of those risks in order for us to move forward."

Envoy Cites Need to Increase Afghan Security Forces

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

July 30, 2009 - Increasing the numbers of Afghan military forces and police is essential for Afghanistan ultimately to assume responsibility for its own security, a senior U.S. diplomat said here yesterday. "An expansion of the armed services and police of Afghanistan is obviously necessary," Ambassador Richard C. Holbrooke, U.S. special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, told reporters at a State Department news conference.

"It's absolutely essential that over time Afghanistan assume responsibility for its own security," said Holbrooke, who was appointed to his position by President Barack Obama in January.

On March 27, Obama announced his plan to increase U.S. support to Afghanistan and Pakistan to defeat terrorist elements that operate in the region and to provide security and a better quality of life for Afghan citizens. Before the strategy review, 17,000 additional U.S. troops were approved for deployment to southern Afghanistan. Some of those troops will mentor Afghan soldiers and police, while others will battle Taliban insurgents and al-Qaida terrorists.

The Afghan National Army has about 90,000 troops, with plans to boost that force to about 134,000. Afghan National Police ranks are expected to increase from about 82,000 officers now to 87,000 police by 2011.

The United States and its allies in Afghanistan have for years assisted in the training of new Afghan soldiers and police. Holbrooke praised Japan's act of paying the salaries of Afghanistan's police, and he saluted the European Gendarmerie Force for its efforts in training Afghan police officers. The force includes police officers from France, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and Romania.

The United States also continues "to support extensive training of the [Afghan] army and police," Holbrooke said. Yet, he added, it is "apparent that the current level of the national security forces of Afghanistan are not going to be sufficient in the long run."

U.S. and international agencies also are helping the Afghans prepare for their Aug. 20 presidential and provincial elections, Holbrooke said. U.S. officials will consult with the new Afghan government after the election, he added, to ascertain its needs regarding the numbers of its soldiers and police. "And then we'll see how we can support them," Holbrooke said.

Meanwhile, Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the senior U.S. military officer in Afghanistan and commander of NATO forces there, is working on an assessment to determine what is required to implement Obama's strategy in Afghanistan. About 58,000 U.S. forces are in Afghanistan now, and that number is expected to increase to about 68,000 troops later this year. About 39,000 NATO troops are serving in Afghanistan.

During his July 17 visit to the Navy's Recruit Training Command at Great Lakes, Ill., Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates told reporters he expects to receive McChrystal's Afghanistan report in a few weeks. He also said he was concerned that the "foreign military footprint gets too big" in Afghanistan.

"This is the Afghans' war, and we are there as their partners and their friends, and that's the whole thrust of General McChrystal's strategy," Gates said. "And so I'm awaiting his assessment, and we will make a rigorous evaluation of it."

Taliban Actions Speak Louder Than Words, General Says

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

July 30, 2009 - Although the Taliban recently issued a "code of conduct" booklet aimed at projecting a more positive image to the Afghan people, their actions directly contradict this goal, the spokesman for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan said yesterday. Canadian Brig. Gen. Eric Tremblay told reporters in Afghanistan the Taliban are falling far short of the goals prescribed in their new "Taliban 2009 Rules and Regulations Booklet."

ISAF forces seized a copy of the booklet, dated May 9 on its blue cover, earlier this month in southern Afghanistan.

Believed to be the first of its kind, the booklet preaches a style of warfare based on Islamic law and aimed at winning the hearts and minds of the Afghan people. Among its guidelines, it advises Taliban fighters to avoid civilian casualties, limit suicide attacks to high-value targets and establish good relationships with the local people.

"Designed to be prescriptive in how insurgents are to conduct themselves in waging war against the government of Afghanistan, the Afghan security forces and ISAF, it is very telling to see how the actions taken by the insurgents day after day contradict in every way possible their own 'Taliban code of conduct booklet,'" Tremblay said.

The booklet makes clear that Taliban forces should "try their best to avoid killing local people," he noted. "Well, let me tell you that the reality on the ground doesn't reflect this at all," Tremblay said, noting that insurgents have killed 450 innocent Afghans and injured more than 1,000 others since January.

Insurgents killed even more civilians in 2008: 578 by the end of July, he noted.

Almost 50 percent of all casualties resulting from improvised explosive devices in 2008 were innocent civilian Afghans. So far this year, the percentage is 40 percent, the general said.

Tremblay noted another major discrepancy between what the Taliban booklet preaches and how their fighters operate. The booklet specifies that suicide attacks should be limited to "high-ranking people."

"Again, the hard reality is that since January 2009, the insurgents have used over 90 suicide bombers -- most of them young men, and in many instances just teenagers and children – who, through their actions, have killed more than 200 innocent Afghan civilians," Tremblay said.

"This is fact," he continued. "The insurgents use children as suicide bombers. Despite their so-called 'code of conduct,' the insurgents have no respect for human life. They buy and sell children as young as 11 to act as suicide bombers and use them against the local population."

Similarly, the booklet's recommendations that insurgent fighters behave in a way that wins favor with the local people runs directly contrary to how they operate, Tremblay said. He noted that insurgents have targeted more than 40 schools so far in 2009 and continue to block women's access to education.

"The insurgents intimidate, destroy, suppress and kill everywhere they go, because they are afraid to lose their control over the population," he said.

Citing a 2008 International Committee of the Red Cross report of Taliban atrocities against innocent Afghans, Tremblay said 90 percent of the Afghan population doesn't want the Taliban to regain power.

"For the population, Taliban presence means death and fear, as the insurgents have so many times proven to be ruthless for the people who dare not to cooperate with them or refuse to turn a blind eye to their criminal and brutal activities," he said.

"Here lies the true nature of the Taliban," Tremblay said, noting they hide among civilians, don't hesitate to take hostages and use them as human shields when confronted by ISAF, U.S. or Afghan security forces, or to use children as suicide bombers.

Coalition forces in Afghanistan are working with the Afghans to offer an alternative, he said.

"For that compromising core of insurgents whose only goal is to kill and prevent progress to take place in Afghanistan, we will meet them with our persistent presence, alternative livelihoods, good governance opportunities and force, if necessary," Tremblay said.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

CBR Weapons and WMD Terrorism News, July 29, 2009

Bioterrorism and disaster preparedness
"According to a study in a special issue of Medical Decision Making, a large-scale, covert anthrax [spore] attack on a large city would overwhelm hospital resources even with an extremely effective public health response. […] The article 'Predicting Hospital Surge after a Large-Scale Anthrax Attack: A Model-Based Analysis of CDC's Cities Readiness Initiative Prophylaxis Recommendations' [written by researchers Nathaniel Hupert, MD, MPH; Daniel Wattson, BS; Jason Cuomo, MPH; Eric Hollingsworth, BS; Kristof Neukermans, BA, MBA; and Wei Xiong, PhD.], examines one of the CDC's principal bioterrorism-response programs, the Cities Readiness Initiative (CRI), a program that recommends the medical countermeasures necessary to minimize the hospital surge resulting from anthrax-related illness and response in the first two days after a major bioterrorism attack. The researchers found that a CRI-compliant prophylaxis campaign starting two days after exposure would protect as many as 86% of exposed individuals from illness. However, each additional day needed to complete the campaign would result in as much as 3% more hospitalizations in the exposed population. Unsustainable levels of hospitalizations would result from delays in detecting and initiating response to large-scale, covert aerosol anthrax releases in a major city, even with highly effective mass prophylaxis campaigns. […] To improve the consistency and quality of these models, the Society for Medical Decision Making convened experts to recommend best practices for modeling the public health response to a terror attack." (Science Daily; 27Jul09)

Ventura doctor works to ban biological weapons on a global level [CA]

"During World War II, Japanese forces used biological weapons to kill and sicken residents of Chinese villages to make occupation easier, [Dr. Martin] Furmanski [a pathologist] said. […] Knowledge of the Japanese program, and fears that Germany might have a similar one, prompted the creation of a U.S. biological weapons program during World War II. […] Biological weapons came to the forefront again after Sept. 11, 2001, when anthrax spores were mailed to senators and media outlets. […] Furmanski said it was an example of a recurring theme in the history of biological weapons: the weapons themselves causing less damage than their unforeseen consequences. […] Now, as a member of the nonprofit Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation's Arms Control Center Scientists Working Group on Biological and Chemical Weapons Control, he is pushing for oversight from inspectors to become part of [an] international treaty banning the [weapons] programs. […] Furmanski doesn't believe biological weapons pose any large-scale threat in the U.S. because they are difficult to make and can be counteracted after they're used by vaccinating the population. […] 'It's the only weapon of mass destruction you can negate after it's started,' he said. 'Even the highest-risk ones, we have amelioration for.'" (Ventura County Star; 28Jul09; Carolyn Quinn)

WVU [West Virginia University] biology professor receives research grant from Army
"Letha Sooter, an assistant professor of biology at West Virginia University's Eberly College of Arts and Sciences and a researcher at WVNano, has been awarded the University's first cooperative agreement with the Department of Defense. She will receive more than $409,000 from the U.S. Army Research Laboratory to work with molecular recognition elements (or MREs), in hopes of creating devices that will detect explosive, chemical and biological warfare. […] [Sooter is] searching for the bio-molecules that will detect chemical and biological danger for soldiers and civilians. 'Molecular recognition elements are such a powerful tool,' Sooter said. 'They're amazing little things. They do a wonderful job of being specific and having a high affinity for their target.' […] The cooperative agreement will give Sooter and her team of student researchers three years worth of funding to accomplish that goal. If they locate the correct bio-molecules, the Army will apply them to the sensing devices they are currently creating and soldiers will be able to use the technology in theater." (Lincoln Journal; 28Jul09)

Defenders reject GAO [Government Accountability Office] criticism of Kansas biodefense lab
"Kansas policymakers linked arms Monday to insist the state could safely host a $650 million biodefense research facility, despite a new report suggesting the project is potentially dangerous. […] For the second time in 18 months, the GAO has concluded Homeland Security does not fully understand all the potential hazards of the Kansas location - a conclusion that politicians from states that lost the project have seized upon to argue for delays in funding the facility. […] All six of the state's congressional representatives issued statements Monday supporting the Kansas location for the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility. […] After Kansas won the competition, a consortium in Texas sued to halt the project, claiming the site is at risk for tornado damage. […] The GAO report […] agreed more weather studies are needed before concluding that diseases such as foot-and-mouth disease could be safely contained at the facility in the event of a catastrophe. […] Kansans connected with the project scoffed at the Texans' argument, endorsed in the GAO report, that tornadoes could be a problem. 'There are some studies that they're more likely to have a tornado problem than us,' [said former Kansas governor John Carlin, now chairman of the Kansas Bioscience Authority.] Thornton said the project would be built as a 'vault inside a vault inside a submarine' to protect against the release of germs and diseases. He said he would attend a hearing of a House subcommittee this week where the GAO findings are expected to be discussed." (Kansas City Star; 27Jul09; Dave Helling and David Goldstein)

6th leak of chemical weapon agent detected [OR]
"Trace amounts of mustard chemical agent vapor were detected inside a Umatilla Chemical Depot storage igloo today for the sixth time this year. It's the third leak of a mustard container detected this month. […] As the weather warms, the mustard containers thaw and are more likely to leak. […] The leak today was detected during routine weekly monitoring and posed no danger to the public or environment, according to depot officials. The igloos have a passive filtration system that prevents chemical agent vapor from escaping the structures. When a leak is discovered, a powered filtration system also is installed. The depot is currently disposing of the mustard agent after successfully destroying its stockpile of nerve agents." (Tri City Herald; 27Jul09)

Range fire reported at south end of Umatilla chemical depot [OR]
"Firefighters from the Umatilla Chemical Depot and nearby communities are fighting a range fire along the south end of the depot near the I-84 freeway. The fire was first reported at 1 p.m. today. […] Depot officials said the incident is not close to the area where chemical weapons are stored. Depot officials have notified the off-post emergency operations centers in [surrounding] counties." (U.S. Army Chemical Materials Agency; 27Jul09)

Russia destroys first ton of war gas sarin
"The first ton of the warfare gas sarin was destroyed at the chemical weapons destruction facility Maradykovsky in the Kirov region. The destruction of this substance, which is a nerve agent, was launched on July 27, and more than 1,100 kilograms of sarin has already been destroyed so far," chief of the regional department for conventional problems Mikhail Manin told Itar-Tass on Wednesday. […] Sarin was destroyed in 26 warheads at 9 a.m. Moscow time on Wednesday, after that their hulls were decontaminated and exposed to thermal processing. […] Manin also noted that inspectors of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, representatives from the working group of the Federal Agency for Safe Storage and Destruction of Chemical Weapons and the regional ecological monitoring center are monitoring round-the-clock the sarin destruction process. […] The Maradykovsky chemical weapons destruction facility is planning to destroy 231 tons and 119 kilograms of sarin by the year end. Some 4,833 aviation bombs and warheads of chemical missiles contain the foresaid war gas. Maradykovsky is the third Russian complex, which had launched the full-scale destruction of chemical weapons since September 2006. Since 1953 the complex has stockpiled more than 40,000 aviation bombs and warheads of chemical missiles staffed with the mixture of nerve agents. […] The Maradykovsky destruction facility is planning to launch the destruction of one more toxic agent - soman as of 2010. Russia will have destroyed the whole stock of toxic agents under Russia's international liabilities and the federal program for the destruction of chemical weapons in Russia by 2012." (Itar Tass News; 29Jul09)

Second basic course held for personnel of national authorities in Africa
"The National Authority of South Africa and the OPCW jointly organized a Basic Course for Personnel of National Authorities in Africa who are involved in the implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). The event took place in Centurion, South Africa from 13 to 17 July 2009 and was the second Basic Course organized for the African region. […] Representatives from 18 States Parties participated in the course, which aims to enhance the capacity of National Authorities in Africa to implement the CWC and to foster closer cooperation on a regional and sub-regional basis. The programme covered the history of the development and use of chemical weapons; an overview of the CWC and the OPCW; the rights and obligations of States Parties, establishment and effective functioning of National Authorities; the declarations and verification regimes of the CWC, the transfer provisions relating to the import and export of Scheduled chemicals; international cooperation and assistance activities, including promotion of the peaceful uses of chemistry; and a presentation on the OPCW's Programme to Strengthen Cooperation with Africa. During the roundtable discussions, participants exchanged information on the progress made by their National Authorities in implementing the Convention and the challenges they have encountered." (Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons; 27Jul09)

Delhi doctors to get trained to fight 'dirty bombs'
"Hundreds of doctors in the national capital will be trained to handle [...] 'dirty bomb attacks during Commonwealth Games'. [...] The programme is initiated jointly by the Delhi government, AIIMS [All India Institute of Medical Sciences], the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) and the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). [...] In the beginning 40 doctors from Delhi government hospitals will be trained. [...] Major-General J.K. Bansal, [of NDMA ...] said: 'Dirty bomb is the new threat during major events. These bombs have the capacity to spread radioactive rays. They can impact kidney, eyes, reduce fertility and cause many more health hazards.' Bansal said there will be live demonstration of a possible situation. Doctors will be trained on how to deal with such a situation. 'The immediate medical care is required. The precaution needs to be taken.' After training doctors in Delhi, doctors from Chandigarh too will be trained." (Sindh Today; 29Jul09)

Military chem-bio defense is uncoordinated with states
"The Department of Defense (DoD) presently lacks the means to assess whether its plans to respond to domestic incidents involving chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or explosives (CBRNE) bridge holes in other federal, state and local capabilities. […] US Northern Command, the Defense Department's organization for defending the US homeland, and the National Guard both have the ability to activate specialized units to respond to CBRNE threats. […] But DoD has not yet made use of the Integrated Planning System established in December 2007 to link planning documents at the federal, state and local levels, GAO [Government Accountability Office] noted. The system's framework has been set up, but CBRNE guidance is so far incomplete. 'DoD has had operational plans in place and revises these plans regularly. However, until the Integrated Planning System and its associated plans are complete, DoD's plans and those of other federal and state entities will not be integrated, and it will remain unclear whether DoD's [response forces] will address potential gaps in capabilities,' the GAO reported. […] While DoD has planned to provide necessary capabilities to respond to multiple CBRNE incidents in disparate locations, it cannot presently determine if service members would respond in a timely fashion, if it has sufficient capacity in all necessary capabilities, and if it can overcome challenges in its strategy to provide its three CBRNE Consequence Management Response Forces with everything they need to respond, GAO said. Any troops DoD deployed would respond in direct assistance to civil authorities, but DoD cannot be certain that it can train and deploy forces in an acceptable timeframe to assist those authorities." (Homeland Security Insight and Analysis; 29Jul09; Mickey McCarter)

BPSI [Building Protection Systems Inc.] launches new mobile trailer CBRN detection unit
"Building Protection Systems […] announced today that it has completed testing and is ready to deliver its new mobile trailer CBRN detection system. The Mobile Sentry One solution was developed at the request of various law enforcement agencies for the protection of VIPs at events while in their cities. 'This mobile CBRN detection system solves a real protection problem when talking special security events,' said Greg Eiler, CEO of BPSI. […] 'Law enforcement would not know of an airborne toxic chemical attack or a dirty bomb release until it is too late. The Mobile Sentry One provides reliable, real-time information wherever it is needed.' […] Mounted inside a lightweight 4'w x 6'l x 5'h trailer, the rugged, shock resistant Mobile Sentry One system can be transported anywhere it can roll. The 120v hook-up allows for unlimited detection run time while the onboard battery power supply provides up to four hours of back-up operation. […] Each Mobile Sentry One trailer can be easily networked to other Mobile Sentry One trailers, providing complete perimeter protection from an airborne release or targeted attack. […] The Mobile Sentry One communicates with the security command center providing toxin and location data and has the ability to automatically activate predetermined desirable protocols to mitigate the effects of the dangerous toxins." (Red Orbit; 29Jul09)

Officials testify on capabilities to defend against mass weapons
"The Defense Department [DoD] boasts the world's strongest ability to respond to chemical, biological and other weapons of mass destruction, a top Pentagon official said today. Speaking to the House Armed Services Committee's subcommittee on terrorism, unconventional threats and capabilities, Paul Stockton, assistant secretary of defense for homeland security, discussed the U.S. capabilities in responding to chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and high-yield explosives, or CBRNE. '[The DoD's] CBRNE response capabilities are the best funded, best equipped, and best trained in the world,' Stockton said. […] Among National Guard units, the department has developed civil support teams in each state and territory that are prepared to respond in the instance of an attack by a weapon of mass destruction. […] The department also is establishing three federal response units designed to assist civil authorities in the aftermath of a mass attack. […] Appearing alongside Stockton at the hearing was Air Force Gen. Victor E. Renuart Jr., commander of U.S. Northern Command [Northcom] and North American Aerospace Defense Command, who spoke about Northcom's role regarding mass weapons attacks. 'The employment of a large-scale [CBRNE] device in the homeland has the potential to incur significant loss of life, cause mass panic, inflict large-scale physical and economic damage, and present consequence management challenges greater than those resulting from previous disasters,' he said in a prepared statement. 'Accordingly, Northcom must anticipate the full spectrum of CBRNE incidents that could occur domestically.' […] Northcom […] is responsible for an area of operations that includes the United States, Canada and Mexico." (Press Zoom; 29Jul09)

New Defense Threat Reduction agency director named [Kenneth A. Myers III]
"Kenneth A. Myers III has been selected as the new director, Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA). He was sworn in July 27, 2009, at the Pentagon. Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, Ashton B. Carter, said, 'The selection of Ken Myers as the director of DTRA is another significant step in transforming how we defend against the threat of weapons of mass destruction. He has the right background with 15 years of hands-on nonproliferation, counter-proliferation and arms control experience at the national level to lead the agency in its mission to protect the United States and its allies from weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and support a safe, secure and reliable deterrent.' Carter added that Myers also brings experience with the Moscow and START treaties; export controls; the U.S. - India Peaceful Atomic Energy Cooperation Act; and Cooperative Proliferation Detection, Interdiction Assistance, and Conventional Threat Reduction Act. […] DTRA [with an annual budget of more than $2.8 billion] focuses on reducing the threat of weapons of mass destruction through a combination of advanced technology programs and innovative operational methods." (U.S. Department of Defense; 28Jul09)

11 suspicious letters with white powder sent to N.J. [New Jersey] government offices
"The FBI is investigating 11 suspicious letters containing a white powder that were sent to various New Jersey government offices this month. The letters have been received at police departments and government offices throughout northern New Jersey. The first one came July 17. Letters have been received in Totowa, Clifton, Wayne, Ringwood, Fair Lawn and Woodland Park. All the letters are being tested. The FBI says first three letters tested came back negative for biological agents and no injuries have been reported." (Fox News; 27Jul09; Source: AP),2933,534975,00.html?test=latestnews

Arabs, Kurds Should Take Advantage of U.S. Help, Gates Says

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

July 29, 2009 - Arab and Kurdish Iraqis should take advantage of the remaining time U.S. forces will be in the country to work out their differences, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said to Kurdish President Massoud Barzani here today. Gates met with Kurdish Regional Government leaders at their version of the White House, Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said. Gates -- accompanied by Army Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, commander of Multinational Force Iraq -- congratulated Kurdish officials for last week's free and fair elections and said the Kurdish people always have been good friends of the United States.

Under the U.S.-Iraqi agreement signed in December, all U.S. troops will be out of Iraq by the end of 2011. Gates urged Kurdish leaders here today and Iraqi government leaders in Baghdad yesterday to take advantage of the remaining American presence to work through their disagreements. Gates delivered the same message to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

The issues include a law governing distribution of oil revenue, internal boundaries and security. Morrell said Gates asked the leaders "to reach sustainable agreements on these issues." Gates said the United States supports the United Nations task force set up with Arab and Kurdish Iraqis to work through these disagreements.

The disagreements between Kurds and Arabs run deep in Iraq. Saddam Hussein's regime persecuted the Kurds and tried to "Arabize" whole sections of the country, especially the area around oil-rich Kirkuk. Saddam cleared out Kurdish areas and gave the land to Arab families, launched chemical attacks against Kurdish towns and drove thousands out of the nation.

Gates acknowledged this history during his meetings, Morrell said. "He noted that at every negotiating table, history has a seat," the press secretary said. "The challenge is to put history at the end of the table, and think about the future, rather than the past."

Gates assured Kurdish and Arab leaders that the United States is prepared to offer any help it can "to resolve the disputes in a peaceful manner in accordance with the [Iraqi] constitution," Morrell said. "He reminded his hosts that all of us have sacrificed too much in blood and treasure to see the gains of the last few years lost due to political differences."

An outbreak of violence between Kurdish and Iraqi national security forces would adversely impact the progress the country has made, he added.

Kirkuk is the main flash point between the regional and national government, but not the only one. Kurdish and Iraqi security forces have had confrontations, but they have not escalated to violence. U.S., Iraqi and Kurdish officials are working closely in coordination centers to ensure confrontations are avoided or resolved peacefully, Odierno said during an interview yesterday. The general also said the Arab-Kurd issue is the main driver of instability in Iraq today.

Morrell said the secretary came away from meetings in Baghdad and here believing that all parties want to take advantage of the U.S. offer to deal with these issues sooner rather than later.

"He's optimistic that there can be follow-through on these issues," Morrell said. "They are very difficult issues, and the clock is ticking on our presence in Iraq. He is very much encouraging both sides to get down to work as soon as possible."

Gates Says Iraq Drawdown May Accelerate Moderately

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

July 29, 2009 - Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said conditions in Iraq have improved to the extent that the U.S. combat brigade drawdown from the country may accelerate. "I think there is at least a chance of a modest acceleration" in the drawdown schedule, Gates said during a news roundtable today.

Gates visited Iraq yesterday and today, and was pleased with the progress being made. As part of the U.S.-Iraqi agreement signed in December, American forces turned over responsibility for security inside all Iraqi cities and villages to Iraqi security forces by June 30.

Gates said the process has gone remarkably well. Army Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, commander of Multinational Force Iraq, said yesterday that all trends are positive, and that Iraqi security forces have shouldered the security burden and run with it.

The modest acceleration may mean one additional U.S. brigade comes out before the Iraqi elections in January. Fourteen U.S. brigades are in Iraq. Plans had called for two to redeploy without being replaced by the end of the year. The acceleration may mean a third can return home without being replaced. This means by the end of the year, only 11 American brigades would be in Iraq.

Any drawdown, Gates said, depends on continued security progress. Ultimately, the redeployment decision will be made only after Odierno's advice, the secretary said, noting that many things still can go wrong. Arab-Kurd tensions, for example, could derail the progress made in Iraq.

"I don't want to put the general of the spot, because it really depends on circumstances that may or may not happen," Gates said. "But I mention it only because I think it is an indicator of his view that things are going pretty well following June 30."
By Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Samuel Nasso
Special to American Forces Press Service

July 29, 2009 - Marine Corps Maj. Richard "Bart" Bartolomea says he feels at home serving with his brother, Bill, in an operational environment. "It's awesome," he said. "I brought the board games, but haven't had the chance to break them out yet." The officer in charge of the Scan Eagle detachment from Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron 2, Marine Aircraft Group 40, Marine Expeditionary Brigade Afghanistan, Bart was commissioned as a Marine officer after earning a bachelor's degree at Pennsylvania State University in 1994.

Bill, known as "Chakka," is the director of the department of safety standardization for Marine Light/Attack Helicopter Squadron 169. He also earned a degree from Penn State, graduating in 1995.

As many boys do, the brothers aspired to be professional athletes. But once high school rolled around, Bart had become became interested in aviation and had aircraft posters covering his walls.

"When I was in high school, "Top Gun" came out, and I imagined what it would be like to be a pilot," he said.

The military already had a prominent role in the Bartolomea family. Their father, Richard Bartolomea, and their uncle, James Craft, joined the Marine Corps in 1967. Even though Craft wasn't related to the family at the time, he was a significant influence in why the boys joined the Marine Corps.

"Uncle Jim went to college with our father and encouraged him to join the Corps with him," said Bart, whose father was an infantry officer in Vietnam. "Twenty-six years later, our father retired as a lieutenant colonel, and here we are now in Afghanistan."

So when the time came, the decision to join wasn't too difficult.

"After growing up in Quantico and observing my dad and his friends when I was younger, it was an easy decision when I actually thought about it," Bill said.

"Bill actually knew what he wanted to do," Bart noted. "He didn't join because I did; he was enrolled in the ROTC at Penn State for a while."

With their father working at Penn State as the director of sports camp and managing the ROTC program, it seemed military service was inevitable.

"After I got my degree I wasn't sure what I wanted to do, so I went and talked to my father," Bart said. "I told him I didn't really want to pursue journalism and I wanted to go to law school. He told me that I would have to pay for it, so that was out of the question. Then he asked me if I ever thought about the Marine Corps."

Both brothers not only were commissioned as Marine Corps officers, but also became pilots. Bill started flying AH-1W Super Cobras in 1997, and Bart started flying CH-53Ds in the same year. Bart eventually transitioned into flying Cobras 10 years later and transitioned again to fly unmanned aerial vehicles.

"Flying UAVs is neat, but after flying a Cobra, there's nothing really like it," Bart said. With different billets but the same line of work, it was just a matter of time until the brothers encountered each other in the fleet.

"It is really cool," Bart said. "One day I was watching a few Cobras complete a mission with our UAVs, and later that day I asked my brother if he was flying. He said he was, and I told him I watched him with our UAVs. Even though I am not flying Cobras at the moment, I still get to operate with my UAVs and watch my brother fly his Cobra."

This is Bart's first deployment and Bill's fifth. When it comes down to it, the brothers are here to complete their duties as Marines.

"The reason why I am here is to provide air support for the grounds guys," Bill said. "Whether you're a grunt or with [the combat logistics battalion] or whatever, our mission is the same: to provide air support for all of our Marines."

The brothers are happy to be deployed at the same time, and their families fully support them.

"Our mother was a Marine Corps wife for a while, and she helps my wife and Bart's wife when they need anything," Bill said.

Although they may not be working side by side, the "Bart Brothers" patrol the skies over Afghanistan's Helmand province, flying top cover for servicemembers helping to free the local population from the intimidation and aggression of insurgents.

(Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Samuel Nasso serves with Marine Air Group 40.)

Renovations Start on Iraqi Water Treatment Plant

By Army Sgt. Joshua Risner
Special to American Forces Press Service

July 29, 2009 - Renovations have begun on a water treatment plant near the villages of Hitaween and Adamiyah, Iraq. The sparsely populated, rural patch of land west of Baghdad relies heavily on the facility for its drinking water. "[The plant] was run-down and hadn't been maintained," said Army Capt. Chris Coates of the 1st Infantry Division's Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team. "We're providing funding to refurbish some of the machinery, build up the area a little bit and improve the water capacity it can handle to get more water to all the outlying villages in the area."

Local sheiks and key leaders were invited to a July 27 ceremony that involved a chance to meet with coalition and Iraqi security forces and a ribbon-cutting ceremony to signify the beginning of renovations.

Army Capt. Jay Smith, commander of the battalion's Company C, said the Iraqi people wasted no time getting started on the coalition-funded project. "They went straight to work," he said. "We cut the ribbon, and they got their equipment out and started right up."

Security improvement in the area has made the project possible, Smith noted. The Iraqi army's ability to cooperate with the "Sons of Iraq" civilian security group is the biggest story, Smith added.

"The security has improved so much that we're able to concentrate on things like fixing the water treatment plant," he said.

(Army Sgt. Joshua Risner serves in the Multinational Division Baghdad public affairs office.)

Official Underscores Commitment to Close Detention Center

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden
American Forces Press Service

July 29, 2009 - The Defense Department remains committed to meeting President Barack Obama's one-year timeline to close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the Pentagon's top lawyer said yesterday. "A bipartisan cross section of distinguished Americans has called for the closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, and has done so for a period of years," Jeh C. Johnson, the Defense Department's general counsel, said before the Senate Judiciary Committee. "The president imposed a deadline on us for closing Guantanamo Bay, and we remain committed to meeting that deadline, and we're confident we'll get the job done."

Two interagency task forces made up of personnel from the Defense, State, Justice and Homeland Security departments have been reviewing dispositions of detainees currently being held at Guantanamo Bay and the general detention policy there to determine the best practices for prosecuting the detainees in civilian court.

For the past six months, "these task forces have worked diligently" to collect the necessary information for a comprehensive review of the U.S. detention policy and the status of detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, Johnson said. The interagency group assigned to reviewing the cases has made recommendations to approve the transfer of more than 50 detainees to other countries.

Reform also has taken place to amend policies within the Military Commissions Act of 2006, Johnson said. Johnson said Obama's administration feels the Senate has identified the issues needed for reform, and that officials are working side by side with Congress to make further changes.

"The Department of Justice and Defense Department were happy that the language was amended to more closely reflect the Classified Information Procedures Act, so that classified information in military commissions prosecution is treated in a manner [and] in a way in which it's treated in federal civilian courts," Johnson said.

The new policy under the National Defense Authorization Act proposes changes that ban in-court use of statements obtained by cruel interrogation methods, which Johnson said will go a long way to enhance the nation's national security and the credibility of military commissions.

Johnson added that Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates recently announced five changes to the rules for military commissions that will also go a long way toward improving the process. The rule changes follow the Defense Authorization Act and provide detainees greater latitude in choice of counsel, afford basic protection for defendants who refuse to testify, reform the use of hearsay by putting the burden on the party trying to use the statement, and make clear that military judges may determine their own jurisdiction.

Johnson said he and his colleagues are more than pleased with the amendments made by Congress.

"It is our basic view that the [National Defense Authorization Act] identifies virtually all of the elements we believe are important to further improve the military commissions process," he said in his written testimony. "We are confident that through close cooperation between the administration and the Congress, reformed military commissions can emerge from this effort as a fully legitimate forum -- one that allows for the safety and security of participants [and] for the presentation of evidence gathered from the battlefield that cannot always be effectively presented [in civilian courts]."

Johnson also addressed the issue of Guantanamo detainees who cannot be prosecuted in civilian courts but still pose a threat to U.S. national security. Detention of enemy forces captured on the battlefield during war is "an accepted practice under the law of war, to ensure that they not return to the fight," he said.

For this category of people, a thorough process of periodic review must be carefully evaluated and justified, he said, echoing Obama's May 21 address at the National Archives here.

"This president believes that, if any detention of this sort proves necessary, the authority to detain must be rooted firmly in authorization granted by Congress," he said.

Navy Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a sailor who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

Aviation Electronics Technician Airman Andrew Scott Charpentier, 21, of Great Falls, Mont., died July 23 at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, Fla., from a non-combat related illness incurred while assigned to the Navy Expeditionary Guard Battalion, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

For further information related to this release, contact Navy Expeditionary Combat Command Public Affairs at (757) 462-4316, ext. 252, or email .

Gates Encouraged by Iraqi Accomplishments, Goals

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

July 29, 2009 - Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said today he is heartened by his visit to Iraq, and that he urged Arab and Kurd Iraqis to use the good offices of the United States to help solve their problems. Gates said he is so encouraged by the situation in Iraq that American forces may speed up their drawdown, with an additional brigade coming out of the country before the elections in January. He said his view was bolstered by conversations with Army Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, commander of Multinational Force Iraq.

Gates visited Talil, Iraq, yesterday, meeting with U.S. and Iraqi troops and commanders. It was his chance to see the soldiers of the 1st Armored Division's 4th Brigade work with their Iraqi counterparts in the new security environment. The Fort Bliss, Texas-based brigade is the first advisory and assistance brigade in Iraq, forging a new way of dealing with Iraqi security forces.

The brigade "re-missioned five months ago, and I was very encouraged by the nature of the Iraqi and American cooperation," Gates said. "They were working together and had a clear understanding of each side's obligations and responsibilities under the security agreement."

After just 28 days, the American commander in the region told Gates that the new environment actually increased the effectiveness of operations since it began June 30.

"One thing that came through loud and clear is the success of this agreement has depended on the degree that both American and Iraqi commanders have educated and trained their subordinate commanders in the terms of the security agreement," he said. "It has certainly been the view of General Odierno, and based on my conversations with the troops and other commanders, this has gone considerably better than our expectations. There will be the occasional hiccup by someone who doesn't get the word, but on the whole, I'm very pleased."

In Baghdad, Gates met with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and Defense Minister Abd al-Qadir. During the meeting, he spoke about moving the security relationship forward, including talks about additional equipment and vehicles for the Iraqi security forces.

He also discussed the importance of resolving important issues inside the country between Arab and Kurd Iraqis. The big differences are on borders, security and sharing Iraq's oil wealth. He stressed that the time is now for resolving some of these problems, because the United States will be out of Iraq by the end of 2011.

Gates said he shared the same message in Erbil, Iraq, today with Kurdish Regional Government President Massoud Barzani and other Kurdish officials. "We want to help them to resolve all these issues peacefully," the secretary said, "and do so sooner rather than later."

The differences can be bridged, the secretary said. "I think it's important that both the government in Baghdad and the Kurds pursue them through political means, and both seem to understand the importance of continuing to do that," he said.

January's Iraqi elections may change the political landscape in the country, but that is not an excuse to avoid discussions, the secretary said. "If they can continue the dialogue on the issues and perhaps narrow their differences," he said, "then solutions could come pretty quickly after the Iraqi elections."

Training Takes Center Stage in Iraq

American Forces Press Service

July 29, 2009 - Training is at the forefront of the new U.S. advisory role in Iraq, and that includes educating both Iraqis and Americans on everything from cultural awareness to flight skills, military officials say. The Iraqi Defense Ministry's Ministerial Training and Development Center held its first cultural awareness course July 26 under the direction of Multinational Security Transition Command Iraq – known as MNSTC-I -- for those in the command who are not Iraqi advisors.

The center opened in 2007 as a partnership school with Iraqi instructors and U.S. advisors, and hosts a two-day course for new coalition advisors to give them the confidence and essential skills they need to be effective, officials said. The one-day class July 26 was designed to fulfill a key element of the U.S.-Iraq security agreement that calls for strategic partnerships in fields such as culture.

"This course is designed specifically for people at MNSTC-I who aren't assigned to advisor positions, but who nevertheless want to learn more about the culture and history of Iraq," said Air Force Lt. Col. Sandra Kolb, chief of the training and development branch of the training and advisory mission at the Iraqi Defense Ministry. "We feel that if you are serving in Iraq with MNSTC-I, you should have the opportunity to receive some formal instruction in its culture and history, and from teachers who are Iraqi."

The center's superintendent agreed. "I think that Americans want to learn Iraqi culture and history from Iraqis, as opposed to other Americans," Cassidy Craft said. Kolb noted that end-of-course surveys for the two-day advisor course reveal that some attendees enroll just to get the cultural and historical sections of that class, even though they did not really need to take the full advisor course.

The class opened with a lesson in Iraq's basic geography, including a look at each province's unique features. A section on the notable rulers of Iraq and the Iraqi mindset took a look at past leaders from Hammurabi and Nebuchadnezzar II to Saddam Hussein.

"In the class on notable rulers of Iraq, the instructor asked us who our heroes are," said Army Maj. Patrick Swan, a MNSTC-I staff officer who took the class. "Upon reflection, I nominate the instructors themselves. At great risk to their own security, they teach at the MTDC. These instructors do this despite the threats to their lives from terrorists who want the Iraq republic to fail. These instructors do this for the benefit of Iraqi students who will be a future generation of Iraqi leaders in the various ministries. "

The Arabic language-and-phrases section allowed students to engage in basic dialogue and introduced some common Iraqi slang phrases.

The topic of marriage and family allowed students to see the process of an engagement and marriage in Iraqi Islamic society. One instructor brought first-hand experience to the subject by sharing that he was going through the lengthy marriage process.

The marriage and family sections and the lessons on gender issues in Iraq brought the greatest exchange of ideas between students and instructors, who did not shy away from inquiring about the sensitive subjects of the cultural differences between the West and the Islamic culture of Iraq.

Iraqis receive similar instruction on American culture, with classes such as "The Role of Religion in the West," which recently began at the center to give the Iraqis a better understanding of how religion affects Western culture. Chaplains from all over Iraq came to share in the introduction of Western religion to the class participants.

Army Chaplain (Maj.) William Steen, a MNSTC-I chaplain, began the discussion by telling the group that religion will always be a part of the Western culture. "And because of the many different religions in the Western culture, we have to respect the different religious beliefs and practices of others," he said. "Different faiths come together to share a common goal -- human beings caring for human beings."

Meanwhile, skills-based training continues in Iraq.

Pilots of the 10th Mountain Division's 1st Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, 10th Combat Aviation Brigade, have found an equalizer in the challenges of flying the AH-64 Apache Longbow in the Apache Longbow Crew Trainer - a highly realistic simulator used for individual and multi-ship operations.

Army Chief Warrant Officer 4 Steve Donahue, battalion master gunner and standardization instruction pilot, said the simulator is one of the brigade's most important pieces of equipment. With it, he can familiarize pilots new to the combat zone on sudden weather changes, possible equipment failure and unexpected combat situations, all within the safety of the base.

"The simulator helps pilots prioritize required tasks while engaging targets in a fluid environment," Donahue said. "I can watch how they maintain the safety of the aircraft and crew and do everything they need to do."

Inside the cool darkness of the simulator, housed in a container near the Contingency Operating Base Speicher flightline, conditions are preset. The pilot sits at the controls in front of three large screens where the scenario is played out. Time can be stopped, backed up and replayed. Fuel and ammunition can be in abundance or short supply.

The simulator is a stepping stone for new aviators when they first come to Iraq, Donahue explained.

"We can give an aviator unlimited amounts of fuel and ammunition and targets," he said. "We can freeze time without slowing range time or risking crew or equipment while they are in the learning stage."

Army Capt. Jeremy Duff, commander of the 1-10th ARB's Headquarters Company, agreed, saying that although nothing can simulate real combat and how an aircraft will handle taking combat damage, the ability to pause in flight and run the same situation over and over can increase a pilot's skills tremendously before going into action.

"In the beginning, you can see pilots get frustrated as they handle emergencies, and then, as they get more proficient, they become more comfortable with themselves and what to do," Duff said. "That's where you get the learning benefit. How many people know themselves well enough to know what they need to work on? They may not be aware of their shortcomings."

The key is 20/20 hindsight. During pauses, pilots and trainers can talk about what could have been done differently and how to proceed for the rest of the mission.

"We can run the same mission again," Donahue said, "and practice emergency procedures, gunning and tactical employment. For instance, we've helped crews make a dramatic improvement in the amount of time it takes to complete the task of putting missiles on target through repetition."

The trainer also is used to prepare pilots for a change of stations and includes scenarios for Fort Rucker, Ala.; the Army's National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif.; the Army's Combat Support Training Center at Fort Hunter-Liggett, Calif.; and Afghanistan, Iraq, Korea and Kosovo.

(Compiled from Multinational Security Transition Command Iraq and Multinational Division North news releases.)