This year's TREXPO East, held Aug. 29 through Sept. 1 in Chantilly, Va., was an unusual kind of law enforcement trade show. It actually had star power. It had Sgt. Major Billy Waugh of the U.S. Army Special Forces.
Waugh, who is now 75 and retired from many years of service with the Army and the CIA, gave a stirring and patriotic presentation to more than 200 TREXPO East attendees and honored guests. Afterward, many officers in attendance wanted nothing more than to chat with this hero.
Drawing a parallel between his service fighting against terrorists in dozens of countries to domestic tactical law enforcement, Waugh opened his presentation by saying, "SWAT is the Special Forces of the cities. We remove criminals from the world; you remove them from the streets of your cities."
Waugh's presentation was highly personal and very moving. He used much of his opening remarks to introduce honored guests that he had served with in Vietnam and Afghanistan and patients from Walter Reed Army Hospital who had been wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The majority of Waugh's address detailed some of his experiences in counter-terror operations. Waugh spent much of the early 1990s in Khartoum, Sudan. There he conducted surveillance on Osama bin Laden. After 9/11, Waugh, then 72, was sent to Afghanistan to help fight the Taliban and al Qaida.
Although most Americans are unaware of its significance, Waugh's greatest achievement was his role in the capture of infamous international terrorist Carlos The Jackal. Carlos, a Marxist terrorist who was responsible for kidnappings, airplane hijackings, and bombings, was living in Khartoum when he was surveiled and photographed by Waugh. Thanks to Waugh's operation, Carlos now rots in a French prison.
Waugh's presentation ended with a standing ovation from the TREXPO East attendees. While Waugh's TREXPO East presentation was stirring and patriotic, the keynote address by Col. Thomas Xavier Hammes, U.S. Marine Corps Ret., was philosophical and disturbing.
Hammes is the author of the "Sling and the Stone," a military philosophy and history book that discusses the evolution of warfare. His theory is that the United States is ill prepared to fight and win the wars of the 21st Century, including the war on terror. In asymmetrical warfare, Hammes says, "Superior political will can and will defeat greater economic and military power."
The type of warfare Hammes discussed involves American law enforcement officers because they are likely to come in contact with the enemy. "The thin blue line has become the front line," Hammes says. He went on to explain that some of the greatest threats to America are alliances between Islamic terrorists and narco traffickers.
Hammes' sobering advice to the TREXPO attendees was to go home and strive to make their communities into less attractive targets for terrorists than surrounding communities. "You don't have to outrun the tiger," he said. "You just have to outrun the other guy."