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CNN 'Campbell Brown' show segment on Fort Irwin Training Tonight - 21 Dec 09


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Theres a segment on the trg at Fort Irwin tonight on CNN's 'Campbell Brown' show at 2100hrs Atlantic. Figured this is relevant as TF 1-10 is going through the trg there this winter.


An American's journey from US Soldier to Top Terrorist, all with the Army's blessing
Posted: 08:40 PM ET
Campbell Brown Blog - Staff
Filed under: Afghanistan • Special Investigations

By Pentagon Producer Larry Shaughnessy

Ft. Irwin, California (CNN) - It's strange to think I grew up just a few miles from the home of the most-wanted terrorist in the Mojave Desert.

Nearly every U.S. Army unit that goes to Iraq these days wants to capture Abdul Qadeer. He's responsible for uncounted IED bombings, suicide attacks, assassinations and other terrorist attacks. He is sometimes compared to Osama Bin Laden. American commanders offer rewards like five-day passes to any soldier who can capture Qadeer. But even though he often mingles with the crowds just a few feet from American soldiers, he's never been captured. He laughs knowing that he's been able to outsmart tens of thousands of soldiers.

"It's always good to take pride in your work," he says. To hide his identity he covers his face with the traditional Iraqi scarf, known as kaffiyeh.

He speaks without a hint of a Middle Eastern accent. That's because he's not from the Middle East, he's from Central Maryland. In fact, his father and I went to the same high school. We can't give you "Qadeer's" real name, you'll understand why in a few moments, so I'll just call him Ron.

Ron is not really a terrorist, he just plays one in the California desert. He's part of the unit at Ft. Irwin's National Training Center that gives troops headed to Iraq or Afghanistan their final intense dose of training before deployment. The goal: To make sure the soldiers experience all the dangers and threats they can expect in the war zone so they can learn from their mistakes before they deploy.

So even though he's a U.S. Army officer, Ron doesn't shave, his hair is relatively long and he doesn't wear a uniform. He dresses in a long shirt called a thowb and when TJ Holmes and I interviewed him for CNN, he wrapped his face in the kaffiyeh. "Abdul Qadeer"'s look is just one way Ft. Irwin's commanders strive to make the National Training Center as real as possible.

"If the fear for your life is 100 percent stress, I want training to be 120-150 percent stress," as one trainer put it to me.

The stress comes from simulated attacks by Qadeer's terrorists. Staging ambushes and bombings against U.S. troops is not what Ron expected when he joined the military.

"It's a difficult situation to put yourself in because you are trained to be a soldier and you have to turn around 180 degrees and become and insurgent now," Ron said.

He does it because he knows the training pays off.

"The better we are, the better they are in-country and we've seen that. We've come back where a soldier will say what you did here definitely helped me," he explained.

But why the secrecy? Intelligence is an important part of the Ft. Irwin training. What one unit learns is passed on to the next unit to come through the training rotation, just as in Iraq or Afghanistan. So far, what little intelligence the trainees have gathered on Qadeer is a picture of him with his face covered by his kaffiyeh.

"The secrecy is the biggest thing because whenever a unit comes here, they want to find me. Their ‘number one’ on the list is Abdul Qadeer," he said. "’You are in charge of al Qaeda, we need to find you,' I've heard every single battalion commander say."

The soldiers really want to find Ron and get a four-day pass as a reward. Nobody has suceeded.

After Ron finished his interview with TJ Holmes for our television report, he and I spoke about our connection back home in Maryland. We figure his father was in school with some of my older brothers and sisters. Ron went to another school in the same county. I told him his alma mater has been doing very well in football. Not surprisingly, the most wanted man in the Mojave desert can't find the time to keep up with Maryland high school football scores.