Intelligence: Street Smarts Save Lives


June 2, 2010: There are stories from Iraq that are used to teach troops how they can use simple tools (like observation) to save lives (their own and others.) One of the more popular incidents used for this purpose is how a sharp eyed U.S. Army Staff Sergeant, Martin Richburg, saved the lives of over a dozen Iraqi soldiers and civilians four years ago, when he deduced that an Iraqi had planted a bomb at an Internet Café in an Iraqi army base.

Richburg, a reservist and heavy vehicle mechanic, was at the Iraqi base to teach Iraqi troops how to maintain vehicles, and was sitting in the cab of his heavy flatbed truck (used for transporting vehicles that could not be towed). He was waiting near the Internet Café, and talking on his cell phone, when he noticed an Iraqi man (a civilian employee of the camp) acting strangely. The guy was actually a member of a Sunni Arab terrorist cell, which had brought bomb components into the camp one at a time, and assembled a bomb that the man outside the Internet Café was waiting to plant. The bomb was in a package, and its timer was already set. When Ritchburg saw the man place the package on top of an air conditioner hanging out a window of the Internet Café, and start moving quickly away, he deduced that a bomb had just been placed. Richburg jumped out of his truck, pulled out his 9mm pistol, and quickly caught up with and knocked down the fleeing bomber. Richburg called for a nearby Iraqi he knew, and asked him to translate. The bomber knew his nearby bomb was going off soon, so it didn't take too much forceful questioning by Richburg (there was a brief Jack Bauer moment) before the bomber admitted that the bomb was going off in five minutes. Asking the translator to call for more help, and keep the bomber in custody, Richburg ran to the Internet Café and, waving his pistol and shouting "bomb", and "get out", quickly cleared all American and Iraqis out of the building. Everyone took cover behind a bomb barrier (a concrete wall), and after 15 minutes, the bomb went off, filling the Internet Café with glass and debris. The windshield on his truck was shattered, and the cab was damaged by debris. But no one was hurt. All because of good intelligence collection and analysis, which was quickly and decisively acted on.

Sergeant Richburg was promptly awarded an Army Commendation Medal (with a V for Valor) and recommended for a Bronze Star. Although not a combat soldier, much less an intel specialist, Richburg quickly learned that you survive in Iraq by paying attention. He was out on the road a lot, and knew that the best way to avoid roadside bombs was to spot them before they went off. That could be done by paying attention to how nearby Iraqis were acting. Richburg paid attention, and it paid off.





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