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Photo Information

Marines with Military Police Company, Combat Logistics Regiment 37, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, III Marine Expeditionary Force, interview an actor playing the role of an Afghan farmer who was present at a tactical site and suspected of bomb making during the forensic material collection and exploitation course in the Central Training Area March 8. The training teaches Marines how to process personnel found at tactical sites along with processing the sites for biometric data.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Mark W. Stroud

Biometrics becomes next battlefield in War on Terror

11 Mar 2011 | Lance Cpl. Mark W. Stroud Marine Corps Installations Pacific

Terrorists concealed within a civilian population are a prevalent enemy of Operation Enduring Freedom. Veiled behind a cloak of anonymity, they strike and then recede back into the shadows disappearing once more into the local populace. 

Putting down the typical weapons of an insurgent and picking up the staff of a shepherd or tools of a carpenter may temporarily disguise a hostile person but it will not deceive trained eyes for long, said a forensics expert at the Central Training Area.

“The people we are dealing with right now are not wearing distinctive uniforms, and we need to identify them somehow,” said Tim Seguin, a latent print examiner and Forensic Material Collection and Exploitation Course instructor. “We are identifying them by biometrics.”

Biometrics are the unique biological traits, such as fingerprints or DNA, used to identify individuals, said Seguin.

Members of Military Police Company, Combat Logistics Regiment 37, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, III Marine Expeditionary Force, and Army soldiers from 441st Military Intelligence Battalion, 500th Military Intelligence Brigade, Intelligence and Security Command, participated in FMCEC training at the Central Training Area March 8 designed to teach them to capture and document biometric data at tactical sites in a forward operating environment.

Troops trained in battlefield forensics will be able to collect evidence and process a scene for clues such as fingerprints that could lead to the capture of a bomb maker, said Seguin.  

“We are building a database of latent fingerprints with the automatic-biometric-identification-system,” said Seguin. “That’s where all these fingerprints are being deposited, just like a criminal database (in the United States).”

As the database grows and becomes a more inclusive collection of insurgents, service members operating in theater will be better able to identify and confront this enemy, he said.

“As we get latent fingerprints from bomb making sites or terrorist hides, then we can match them up,” said Seguin. “I can speak for Iraq when I was there, what we have been doing has contributed to a 65 percent drop in (improvised explosive device)-related casualties since we started collecting biometric intelligence.”

The technology and techniques behind the FMCEC have found new applications in the war on terror but are not themselves new, having been a domestic crime-fighting staple for some time. 

“It’s the same procedure I’ve used stateside for 20 years (as a sheriff),” said Seguin.  “You take your photographs, you collect your evidence, and you process whatever you can’t put in an evidence bag.”

In addition to helping identify and stop bomb makers in war zones, biometric data captured by forensic material collection teams is being shared with domestic U.S. government agencies and foreign allies to restrict the travel of terrorists. 

“It’s a huge part of the global war on terrorism, and on top of that, we are benefitting the homeland,” said Senguin. “What we are gathering is being shared with (Homeland Security), and we are sharing it with our allies.”

As more FMCEC-trained service members are deployed and allowed to utilize this skill set to capture and record the biometric data of more insurgents, the growing database will see increased effectiveness, according to Fred Hines, FMCEC team leader.

“The goal is to train every Marine, every soldier, everybody that is deploying,” said Hines.

The FMCEC here was a three-day, 30-hour evolution that educated Marines and soldiers then tested them with progressively more challenging practical application portions, said Seguin. 

“It’s amazing to watch … how much they will have picked up,” said Hines.

The improvement will allow them to become vital tools in the effort to identify and stop bomb makers and insurgents, creating a safer operating environment for all forward-deployed forces, as well as strengthening domestic and international borders, he said. 

“It saves lives knowing who these bad guys are,” said Hines.

Marine Corps Installations Pacific