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Center professionals helping fight terrorism

MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. (AFPN) -- A well-trained terrorist looks for ways to exploit his target's vulnerabilities; however, through training and vigilance, the malicious deeds of America's enemies can be foiled.

That is the message people from the U.S. Air Force Counterproliferation Center here want to spread.

With the motto, "We cannot afford to be the unready confronting the unthinkable," a staff of 12 civilians, active-duty Airmen, Guardsmen and reservists are helping counter the spread of weapons of mass destruction by using education and research.

"(The center) was set up to help future Air Force leaders better understand (the weapons of mass destruction) issue," said center director Dr. Barry Schneider. "The center's primary mandates are education and research concerning chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and high-explosive devices and helping educate first-responders handling (these) situations."

Most recently, the center has branched into homeland security and homeland-defense education and research, Dr. Schneider said.

One example of the center's research, he said, involved center workers researching chemical and biological weapons used against domestic political opponents in countries like Mozambique, Libya and Angola. They also investigated how and where the weapons were deployed.

"This was some fairly new stuff, and we financed some very good original research into this area," Dr. Schneider said.

Col. Michael Ritz said he tries to make his audience aware of what they might be up against when dealing with weapons of mass destruction and that, with proper training and by using active and passive defenses, a chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear event is not necessarily the "end of the world."

"The key is awareness and vigilance and an understanding that if something does happen, lives can be saved and the effects can be reduced," said Colonel Ritz who is an active-duty Air National Guard officer. He is the associate director of the center and the ANG adviser to the center director.

Colonel Ritz said active defenses would include missile systems that knock out cruise missiles aimed at the United States. Passive defense encompasses protective masks and clothing, inoculation against anthrax, smallpox and other biological agents and X-ray machines at airports.

The center's educational involvement at Air War College is done through core and elective courses. Similar courses are also taught at Air Command and Staff College; College for Aerospace Doctrine, Research and Education; and other Air Force and ANG school and commands.

According to Dr. Schneider, the center will continue expanding its educational outreach to the Department of Defense over the next several months using cutting-edge electronic information technologies. These include enhanced digital video broadcasting and distribution of chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear event course modules on compact disc and DVD.

"Americans should guard against homeland security complacency as complacency can also become our enemy," Colonel Ritz said. "It is quite possible that it is impossible to create a perfect world. We must be ready for the bad guys." (Courtesy of Air Education and Training Command News Service)

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