Troops Prevent Attacks With Battlefield Forensics
By Air Force Staff Sgt. Tim Beckham
Special to American Forces Press Service
CAMP TROY, Iraq, Mar. 24, 2009 When an improvised explosive device is detected, most people run and take cover, but a team of servicemembers here heads straight to the site to start the crime-scene investigation.
Members of the weapons intelligence team provide counter improvised explosive device intelligence through collection and analysis in support of Multinational Corps Iraq, in Iraq, February 2009. By collecting evidence and staying ahead of the enemy, the team helps prepare U.S. and coalition forces for future attacks. Courtesy photo
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
The airmen, soldiers and sailors of the weapons intelligence team provide counter IED intelligence through collection, analysis and tactical exploitation in support of Multinational Corps Iraq.
"Our adversaries are out there using modified explosives and trying to find unique ways to use those weapons against Iraqis and coalition forces,” Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Kevin Touhey, WIT superintendent, said. “So our role is to go out there and provide battlefield forensics to better defeat them, and beyond that, try to stop them from ever being on the streets."
By staying ahead of the curve, the team helps U.S. and coalition forces prepare for future attacks by learning how the enemy is operating.
"The WIT team is important because we are going beyond a simple reactive mode,” said Touhey, who is deployed from the 93rd Intelligence Squadron at the Medina Annex in San Antonio. “It brings a deeper level of intelligence and analysis to these devices. And we begin to understand what the enemy's tactics, techniques and procedures are resulting in better force protection.”
WIT’s explosive ordnance disposal team has “uncovered and captured weapons caches so we have denied the enemy access to munitions," the chief said. "We have also taken hundreds of positive [identifications] of bomb makers and facilitators, enabling operations to get these individuals off the streets."
As part of Combined Joint Task Force Troy, the team comprises Air Force, Army and Navy personnel, and the joint environment is what drives the mission success, Touhey noted.
"It brings different experiences and different ways of approaching things," Touhey said. "When you are dealing with something like the counter-IED fight, you have to look at it from multiple perspectives. If you get tunnel vision and only see it from one angle, you are likely to miss something, possibly a key piece of information that could break the case wide open. Having that joint flavor is key to us being able to do our job to the level we need to.
"Between the soldiers, sailors and airmen, we have 25 different career fields that cover the gamut from EOD technicians to various intel specialties," he continued. "We have photographers, masters at arms, infantrymen, rangers and Patriot battery technicians too."
Not only do the airmen in the WIT work side by side with other services, but they also are in the process of training the Iraqis to take over the WIT.
"The importance of training the Iraqis is so they can complete the mission of WIT and take it to the next level so they won't have to depend on the coalition," said Air Force Maj. Christopher Li, WIT commander, who is deployed from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz.
The challenges WIT members have faced and overcome have built on their success, Touhey said.
"If you take almost 100 people from all walks of life from 25 different backgrounds and throw them together into the streets of Iraq to do a job that is foreign to them with just a few months of training, you are going to come across a few challenges," he said. “They're outside the wire in harm's way daily. They strap on their courage every day and they go out there. That's a challenge that they have done phenomenally well."
(Air Force Staff Sgt. Tim Beckham serves with the
U.S. Air Forces Central, Baghdad media outreach team.)