Counterdrug Task Force demonstrates skills to Virginia leaders

Soldiers and Airmen from the Virginia National Guard’s Counterdrug Task Force provide Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian J. Moran with a capabilities brief and demonstration Oct. 16, 2014, in Richmond, Va. Deputy Secretaries of Public Safety and Homeland Security Adam K. Thiel and Tonya D. Vincent, along with Brig. Gen. Timothy P. Williams, the Adjutant General of Virginia, and senior leaders from the Virginia National Guard also attended the briefing, which discussed and highlighted the support to federal, state and local agencies the CDTF provides. The visitors received an overview of the capabilities of the UH-72 Lakota helicopter before taking an orientation flight, learned how Virginia Guard Soldiers support the Narcotic and Transnational Crime Center, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the United States Postal Inspection Service. CDTF Soldiers also demonstrated the ION Scan, which scans for a variety of illegal substances, and CELLEBRITE, a data extraction tool used to decode cell phones.

Soldiers and Airmen from the Virginia National Guard’s Counterdrug Task Force provide Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian J. Moran with a capabilities brief and demonstration Oct. 16, 2014, in Richmond, Va. Deputy Secretaries of Public Safety and Homeland Security Adam K. Thiel and Tonya D. Vincent, along with Brig. Gen. Timothy P. Williams, the Adjutant General of Virginia, and senior leaders from the Virginia National Guard also attended the briefing, which discussed and highlighted the support to federal, state and local agencies the CDTF provides. The visitors received an overview of the capabilities of the UH-72 Lakota helicopter before taking an orientation flight, learned how Virginia Guard Soldiers support the Narcotic and Transnational Crime Center, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the United States Postal Inspection Service. CDTF Soldiers also demonstrated the ION Scan, which scans for a variety of illegal substances, and CELLEBRITE, a data extraction tool used to decode cell phones. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Terra C. Gatti, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

RICHMOND, Va. – Soldiers and Airmen assigned to the Virginia National Guard’s Richmond-based Counterdrug Task Force provided Virginia Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian J. Moran with a capabilities brief and demonstration Oct. 16, 2014, at the Counterdrug headquarters in Richmond, Va. Deputy Secretaries of Public Safety and Homeland Security Adam K. Thiel and Tonya D. Vincent, along with Brig. Gen. Timothy P. Williams, the Adjutant General of Virginia, and senior leaders from the Virginia National Guard also attended the briefing, which discussed and highlighted the support to federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, or LEAs, as well as community coalitions, the CDTF provides in the fight against narcotic’s production and trafficking.

The Virginia National Guard Counterdrug program provides support to LEAs by placing National Guard Soldiers and Airmen, trained as criminal analysts directly into the agency’s office to assist law enforcement officers with investigations that have a narcotics nexus. The Task Force also supports LEAs with aviation assets, the IONSCAN and Cellebrite systems, as well as additional assets at it’s disposal. Counterdrug’s support in the fight against narcotics extends beyond LEAs and into communities by providing coaching to community-based coalitions in order to help them collaborate, organize and develop prevention strategies in response to local and state drug problems.

“We are, of all the domestic operations things I have, these guys are out there doing domestic operations day in and day out and they’re really out there supporting all the law enforcement agencies,” said Col. James A. Zollar, director of joint operations for the Virginia National Guard.

The demonstration opened with an overview of the capabilities of the UH-72 Lakota helicopter. Equipped with a mission equipment package, or MEP, which includes a forward centerline-mounted camera system with advanced optics and a cabin touch-screen display, a video management system, a digital video recorder and data downlink system, the Lakota provides support to the state’s marijuana eradication program as well as optical and infrared surveillance operations conducted by LEAs tracking narcotics traffickers and dealers. To gain a complete grasp of the MEP-equipped Lakota, Moran and Vincent went on an orientation flight that included the tracking of a notional narcotics trafficker’s vehicle traveling through the Richmond area.

Following the orientation flight, the visitors received briefings from the Counterdrug Task Force analysts with duties at the Narcotics and Transnational Crime Center, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network and the Drug Enforcement Administration. Analysts supporting these agencies provide analysis of information pertaining to narcotics trafficking in the areas outside of the continental United States, to include money laundering and movement associated with narcotics throughout the world, and narcotics operations taking place within the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Personnel from the Counterdrug’s Civil Operations element provided an understanding of how they work with community-based coalitions to assist them in collaborating, organizing and developing prevention strategies in response to identified local and state narcotics issues. Civil operations specialists assist these coalitions in achieving their objectives by connecting local, state and federal narcotics objectives, facilitation of coalition meetings, serving as intermediaries to coalitions, participating in coalition planning, as well as providing training and coaching in coalition building.

Additionally, a Task Force analyst  explained how she supports the United States Postal Inspection Service in identifying mail containing illegal substances. Working alongside a Postal Service Inspector, the analyst scans outgoing and incoming packages for identifiable characteristics commonly found on packages containing narcotics.

As the final demonstration of its capabilties, the guests received a demonstration of the Counterdrug’s ION scanner and Cellebrite devices. The IONSCAN  is a trace detection system utilized to identify such narcotics as cocaine, heroin, PCP, THC, methamphetamine, ecstasy, LSD, and others.  The TF currently supports federal, state, and local LEAs by conducting mobile scans on currency, vehicles, equipment, clothing and more.  Cellebrite is a data extraction device utilized to acquire both physical and logical data stored on mobile devices, with the ability to transfer the extracted data to other devices, parse acquired data and analyze content.

“I’m very pleased to have come out and visited with you all and to see it all and learn more about the operations that I was unfamiliar with. So this has been excellent and I appreciate the work you all are doing,” Moran said at the close the briefing.

Photos: Counterdrug Task Force demonstrates skills to Virginia leaders – Oct. 16, 2014