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No War Trophies Allowed from Iraq, Afghanistan

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 11, 2003 – Do not even think about bringing back to the United States war trophies from your service in Iraq and Afghanistan.

With about 140,000 American service members due to rotate out of Iraq and Afghanistan, U.S. Central Command officials are very clear that service members cannot bring home weapons, ammunition and other prohibited items.

A few soldiers of the 3rd Infantry Division understand how serious the command is. Some soldiers tried to smuggle weapons back from Baghdad, and they have gone through courts martial. Others received Article 15 administrative punishments. "There is a whole spectrum of punishments, depending on the severity of the offense," said Maj. Robert Resnick, an Army lawyer at Fort Stewart, Ga.

Army Gen. John Abizaid, the commander of U.S. Central Command, has put out the policy. Basically, under no circumstances can individuals take as a souvenir an object that was formerly in the possession of the enemy. The taking of war trophies goes against the coalition mission in Iraq and Afghanistan, officials said.

"We didn't go into Iraq or Afghanistan to conquer them, but to liberate them," said Marine Capt. Bruce Frame, a Central Command spokesman. "Taking articles from those countries sends the wrong message."

Service members with questions should work through the chain of command, CENTCOM officials said, adding that service members will be given ample briefings on what is allowed and what is not. In the case of Iraq, unit commanders will brief service members on the policy before leaving for Kuwait.

In Kuwait, military police will explain the policy and will permit an amnesty period before searching gear and vehicles. In the United States, U.S. Customs Service officials will examine individual gear.

In Afghanistan, unit commanders will explain the policy, and MPs there also will explain it and offer an amnesty period before the service members board the planes. Again, Customs will examine gear and baggage upon return to the United States.

The same prohibitions pertain to American civilians serving in the Central Command area of operations.

Other federal laws pertain to other items. For example, service members cannot bring back plants, animals or other organic materials. Some Marines returning from Afghanistan in April 2002, for example, tried to bring back the skulls of sheep attached to their guidons. The Customs agents met the Marines as they landed on the beach at Camp Lejeune, N.C., and confiscated the items.

No one can bring back antiquities into the United States, and of course, no one can bring drugs or drug paraphernalia into the United States.

The overall prohibition does not pertain to souvenirs that can be legally imported into the United States, officials said.

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