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Shalikashvili: Troops Must Protect Themselves From Terrorism

By Staff Sgt. Lee Roberts, USAF
National Guard Bureau

WASHINGTON, March 4, 1997 – Terrorism is more complex and a bigger international threat than ever, and military members therefore must be better prepared to protect themselves, Gen. John M. Shalikashvili warned.

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a recent interview the shock waves from the Khobar Towers bombing in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, last June drove that message home. The terrorist attack killed 19 airmen and injured hundreds.

Terrorists are more complex, well-organized, well-financed, and more of an international threat than ever before, he said. Because America's conventional fighting capabilities are so strong, he remarked, countries and organizations that wish to confront the United States choose terrorism, which could include the use of chemical and biological weapons, he said.

Shalikashvili said force protection efforts are the top priority of military leaders at every level around the world, including the United States. In the Persian Gulf, a number of steps have been taken since Khobar Towers to protect forces and reduce the threat of terrorist attacks.

"We have done much in places like Saudi Arabia and Kuwait to consolidate our people to ensure that where they work or live are defensible places," the general said. "In Bosnia, obviously we already are at a very high state of preparedness. This is an area where people walk around in flak jackets and Kevlar helmets and are constantly on watch. They are in pretty good shape as far as terrorism is concerned."

Other steps are being taken to look out for the safety of the troops, Shalikashvili said. On Oct. 8, 1996, the chairman approved a new organization in the Joint Staff Operations Directorate to synchronize the military's anti-terrorism and force protection efforts. The new organization is working with each Joint Staff directorate, various intelligence agencies, the State Department, FBI and each service to establish working relationships. Terrorism is its main consideration with every mission or task.

"The challenge I've given everyone is to ensure that we, the American forces, become the recognized experts on force protection, Shalikashvili said. "We're the recognized experts in almost every other field - whether it's submarine operations, amphibious operations, air combat or armored mobile warfare. If you want to know how to do those things, you come visit the United States."

Right now, the general stressed, Israel or maybe England might be the country to visit if someone or some country wants to learn about force protection and anti-terrorism.

"We need to quickly change the mindset of our people and develop the expertise so when someone says, 'I really want to know how to protect myself properly,' they come to the United States to know how to do that.' That's the challenge right now," Shalikashvili said.

(Roberts edits the Joint Staff newspaper J-Scope)

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