Counterinsurgency Panel Brings IED Experts to Mason

Posted: September 8, 2008 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Tara Laskowski

What are improvised explosion devices (IEDs), and how can we stop them? On Wednesday, Sept. 10, invited representatives from defense agencies, law enforcement and urban planning and homeland security organizations will discuss the role of local, state and federal governments in countering insurgency and terrorist operations.

The panel discussion, moderated by Burl Self, professor of geography and geoinformation science, will be held from 5 to 8 p.m. in the Johnson Center Dewberry Hall on the Fairfax Campus.

Self, a political geographer who is interested in the ways location and geography affect history and war, teaches courses in political geography, native America and geography of the Middle East and North Africa. He also teaches the only course at Mason that deals with insurgency — The Geography of Insurgency: From Alexander the Great to Modern Times.

“IEDs have been affecting the way we fight war,” says Self. “This panel will cover all aspects of these devices — what they are, how we recognize them and emerging technologies. The United States is spending billions of dollars to defeat IEDs. In war, the simpler you are, the harder you are to defeat.”

The counterinsurgency discussion, which is free and open to the public, will feature:

Jason Burr, former Special Forces soldier for the U.S. Army. Burr received numerous awards during his Special Forces tenure, which included three tours in Afghanistan and one in Iraq. He was wounded in Afghanistan in 2004 and treated at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. He has firsthand knowledge of improvised explosion devices and their physical and mental effects on both soldiers and civilians. Burr now works for the Department of Defense and is working on his master’s degree in government from the Johns Hopkins University.

Kenneth Comer, director, Operations Research Systems Analysis Division of the Joint Improvised Explosion Devices Defeat Organization. Comer, former nuclear submarine officer and analyst at the CIA, oversees the analytical work of IED analysts in Washington, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Jason Hardie, marine military policeman from the Charlie Military Police Company, Pittsburgh. Hardie was deployed to Iraq as part of an augmentation platoon in 2006. During his time there, his platoon travelled more than 14,000 miles as a convoy security team through some of the most highly contested and dangerous roads in the country. Hardie is pursuing a degree at Mason in history with a focus on world geography and Middle Eastern studies.

Walid Majroh, former freedom fighter and commander of Afghan Mujahideen from 1978 to 1989. Majroh emigrated to the United States in 1989, working as a senior accountant for nationwide property management companies. After Sept. 11, 2001, he chose to devote his support to the United States, his new country of citizenship. He served as senior cultural advisor to the top U.S. Army commander serving in Afghanistan, and later served as operations director for U.S. linguists supporting Operation Enduring Freedom in South Asia.

Jose Ramos, member of President Bush’s Commission on Care for America’s Returning Wounded Warriors. Ramos joined the Navy in March 2000 and served as a corpsman. He was injured in 2004 in Al-Karmah, Iraq. Since his injury, he has been involved with multiple organizations that help severely injured service members and people with disabilities.

Bill Sentlinger, manager, J-9 Operations Research Systems Analysis Division of the Joint Improvised Explosion Devices Defeat Organization. Sentlinger manages and provides oversight to analytic teams who work to eliminate the IED as a weapon of strategic influence.

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