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TREXPO East 2009: Hard Lessons

This year's TREXPO East conference offered a wide variety of classes, including some brutally frank discussions of terrorism techniques and tactics.

October 30, 2009  |  by - Also by this author

You can learn a lot of valuable, potentially life saving information at any TREXPO, and this year's TREXPO East was no exception.

TREXPO East 2009 offered three days of classes covering topics ranging from knife defense to European tactical medicine techniques. Conference tracks included Homeland Security and Terrorism, Tactical Operations, Officer Survival, High-Risk Security, Tactical Medicine, and Defensive Tactics. In addition, attendees could take certification classes, including a Glock Armorer's Course, a QuikClot Hemostatic Agent Train the Trainer Course, a night vision technology applications class, a simulation training instructor development course, and a grant and grant writing course.

Some of the best classes during this year's TREXPO East conference focused on terrorism and its effects on front line officers.

Taught by former CIA officer Ed Lovette, Capt. James Stalnaker of the San Bernardino (Calif.) Sheriff's Department, Gangs expert and retired Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department sergeant Richard Valdemar, and Cpl. Lamar Blakeley of the Berkeley County (S.C.) Sheriff's Department, "A First Responder's Guide to Terrorism Detection and Prevention" had one powerful message: A lone patrol officer can make a difference.

"Terrorists, like all the other criminals we deal with, display characteristics that set off the bells and whistles in our minds that something isn't quite right with this person or these circumstances," Lovette told the students.

One of the teachers of the first responder course experienced a moment when bells and whistles went off in his head during a traffic stop, and it may have stopped a major terror attack.

In 2007, Cpl. Blakely pulled two Egyptian students for a speeding infraction near Goose Creek, S.C. Something told Blakely that the driver Ahmed Abdellatif Sherif Mohammed and the passenger Youseff Megahed were not "quite right." He searched the vehicle after receiving consent from the driver and discovered the makings for incendiary devices and explosives. Mohammed pleaded guilty to an explosives charge and is serving 15 years. Megahed was acquitted but because of his alleged connections with Egyptian Islamic Jihad, the feds are trying to deport him.

Blakeley's instinct and awareness may have saved the lives of many Americans. But instead of being lauded, he has been attacked by the American Civil Liberties Union, which believes he "profiled" the two young men because they were Arabs. He told the TREXPO audience that lawyers for Megahed subpoenaed three years of his traffic tickets, patrol car videos, and reports, and they kept him on the stand for eight-and-a-half hours as they sought to suppress his search.

Another stirring presentation on terrorism was delivered by Long Beach, Calif., detective Ebrahim Ashabi. Ashabi, who was born and raised in Iran, escaped the Islamic Theocracy after he was pressed into service as cannon fodder for the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s. His presentation on radical Islam was from the point of view of someone who knows its evil personally.

Ashabi stressed that his class was not intended to incite anger toward Muslims. "More Muslims have been killed by terrorists than Americans or anybody else," he said. The message of his course is that fundamentalist Islam is a threat to the peace and freedom of everyone worldwide and that it is especially a threat to first responders.

In a four-hour course that could have been much longer and still been riveting, Ashabi detailed the history of Islam, covering its many wars and the split between Sunnis and Shiites. "Shiites and Sunnis have been killing each other for 1,400 years. They aren't doing it just because we are in Iraq," Ashabi said.

Ashabi drove home his points with graphic videos of attacks perpetrated by radical Islamists, including a video that showed the beheading of an American truck driver in Iraq. The man's death agony lasts for a very long time. "They use a dull knife on purpose," Ashabi stressed to the audience.

Closing the program, Ashabi warned the students that radical Islamists train to attack police officers at their residences, during traffic stops, and at other points of vulnerability.                                                                       

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