By Nathan Mayberg
MONTICELLO January 6, 2006 Sergeant First Class Russell Brown, a Monticello native and a 20-year veteran of the United States Army, was recently honored by the United Armed Forces with the Bronze Star Medal for his actions during the ongoing war in Iraq.
The Bronze Star is the fourth highest award for bravery, heroism, or meritorious service.
His citation reads, SFC Brown provided a level of counterintelligence and human intelligence support never before seen at the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force Arabian Peninsula.
After three tours of duty in Iraq and countless operations, Brown, 40, will retire from the Army this summer. He has served as an intelligence and counterterrorism instructor, as well as participating in intelligence operations in Europe and the Middle East.
His award was specifically for his actions as the Counterintelligence and Human Intelligence Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge of the task force.
Among the successes he is credited with in the narrative that accompanies his award include the investigation of a U.S. servicemember who he learned collaborated with anti-Iraqi forces targeted by the U.S.
Brown initiated two additional investigations which were taken over by the FBI. In one case, he identified and coordinated the removal of a known Iraqi Intelligence Service member, wanted by the FBI, who positioned himself near the highest Iraqi government official.
He also led a joint effort in which seven insurgents were taken into custody and 2,200 pounds of ammonium nitrate and improvised explosive device components were seized.
Brown coordinated and facilitated the fielding of the Biometrics Automated Toolset System for all task force elements in Iraq. The BATS allowed American forces to capture, process and maintain biometric data of detainees and local national employees to identify and track those who may pose a threat to Coalition forces. The plan he developed to field the BATS is estimated to have saved the Special Operations Command $1,240,000.
And his intelligence work continued. He established a monitoring program which scrutinized over 500 Legion Security Force personnel working for the task force. One soldier was identified and confessed to being a member of the Mahdi Militia, while another was found to be wanted by the U.S. for coalition attacks as a member of the Fedayeen Saddam.
His actions, he said, have nothing to do with the politics of the war. Politics, he added, is something that he tries to avoid.
That said, he would like to see more coverage of the positive accomplishments in Iraq. Among them, he said, are the efforts of the American military in returning children to school and putting the power and water back on.
His time in Iraq began in the north in the Kurdish region. The Kurds, he said, were very happy to see us there.
After all, the Kurds had suffered a great deal at the hands of Saddam Hussein, including a gassing in the late 1980s which is estimated to have killed thousands.
The initial war itself, where Husseins government was overthrown, lasted only a few weeks. But it is the guerrilla war with insurgents from neighboring countries, Hussein loyalists and Sunni nationals that has made it difficult for United States forces, said Brown. Neighboring countries who prefer an unstable Iraq where they can peddle their influence have also supported the insurgency.
Brown said there was a lot of apprehension by Iraqis toward Americans.
People were understandably fearful, he said.
He blamed part of their fear on years of propaganda by Hussein, who controlled the spread of information.
While he doesnt wish to talk much about his investigations and the multiple insurgents who were caught as a result of his work, Brown does like to talk about his fellow soldiers, who have sacrificed a great deal.
I have seen a lot of great soldiers working hard helping the Iraqis and their future. I am proud of the people Ive met there. They are doing a tough job and not asking much. They are some of the best people in the world, he said.
Brown is especially grateful for the way Americans have treated the soldiers, regardless of their political beliefs. He said Americans have been exceptionally generous in sending items overseas and being supportive.
It makes the difficulties of being a soldier a little easier, he stated.
Despite the thousands killed in the ongoing war, largely due to insurgent bombings, he is still hopeful that the Iraqis will be able to establish a stable government and security force.
The average Iraqi wants to support their family and live a better life, he said.
But it will take time for a successful democracy to take hold in the country after 40 years of dictatorship, he acknowledged. With two elections already in the books, Brown believes the Iraqi people are on their way.
Ive seen progress from start to finish, he said. Ive seen the Iraqis start to take control of their own destiny.
But, he conceded, it hasnt always been fun.
At the age of 21, Brown joined the military as a stepping stone to a career in law enforcement and as a way to travel the world. But he enjoyed the service so thoroughly, he made a career out of it.
I wanted to serve my country. I am a patriot at heart, he said.
His father is Bob Hoose, an employee of the Town of Thompson and the newly elected chairman of the Sullivan County Conservative Party. Hoose is a veteran of the U.S. Navy and served in the Vietnam War. Several of his medals are mounted in the living room he and his wife Patricia share. The American flag hangs in front of their house.
Two of Browns brothers also served in the military.
In 1987, Brown had his first assignment at the Pentagon in the Special Security Office for the Department of Army Investigations for Security Violations and Practices Dangerous to Security. That is where he learned the basis for the work he would do for the remainder of his career.
After four years, he went to Germany. Although he volunteered to serve in the Persian Gulf War, the Army had him stay in Europe to investigate those who might attack American interests on that continent. Although he cant discuss the details of those investigations, the sergeant loved his time in the Bavarian section of Germany. He also traveled to France and Switzerland. He said the people in Germany were very nice and quite proud of their nation. He toured many of the old castles there one of his greatest joys. The rolling hills of the area reminded him of the Catskills.
Upon completing his four-year term in Germany, he returned to the United States for a time at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He was stationed in the human intelligence section of the 18th Airborne Corps. He learned how to jump out of an airplane even though he admits he is scared of heights.
The servicemen at Fort Bragg are usually one of the first stations in the country to be sent to battle, said Brown. And while there, he was sent to Haiti during political unrest in the 1994. Democratically-elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide had been overthrown a couple years earlier by the military. About 20,000 American troops were sent in to help restore democracy and place Aristide back to power.
According to Brown, people were being slaughtered in the streets by the ruling military at the time. He credited former President Jimmy Carter with helping to stabilize the country after his visit. However, Brown said a lot of work still needs to be done in that country, which he described as being in poor shape.
Before he entered Iraq, Brown was an counterterrorism/investigative skills instructor at Fort Huachuca in Arizona for four years.
At first, he didnt think he would enjoy teaching, but he is now considering a return to that job. He was impressed with the dedication and passion his students had for the subject. He said they were hungry to learn and constantly asking questions.
Among the topics he taught there were the structure of terrorist groups, their ideologies, motivations, historical incidents, and really everything known about the terrorist organizations.
During his stay in Arizona, Brown had time to earn two associates degrees from Cochise College in Criminal Justice and Intelligence Operations. He plans to return to the classroom for more education.
He will now go to Colorado, where he will receive his final orders for the next seven months before he retires. Upon leaving the military, Brown hopes to work for the government in a similar intelligence capacity.
I love my job, and I love what I do. I love the military and will miss the people and the jobs, he concluded.
In the meantime, he has been spending a couple weeks back home in Monticello with his family.
They made me who I am, he said. They supported me. I gave my award to them because they deserve it more than I do.
He is also looking forward to retirement so that he can settle down and have a personal life.
His mother, Patricia, summed up her love and appreciation for what her son has accomplished by simply stating modestly, Were proud of him.