PTC man heads CSI Iraq

Tue, 07/29/2008 - 4:00pm
By: John Munford

PTC man heads CSI Iraq

When Lt. Col. Martin Rowe of Peachtree City got to Baghdad several months ago, he assumed command of forensic crime labs that are helping to identify enemy combatants.

The labs are a relatively new wrinkle in the Global War on Terror, using fingerprints, DNA and other evidence to identify enemies who attack coalition forces, Rowe explained.

The labs analyze evidence such as components from exploded improvised explosive devices and rifles used in sniper attacks, Rowe said. The evidence is collected, processed, and can be used to bring insurgents up on criminal charges in Iraqi courts, Rowe said.

The 733rd Military Police Battalion also uses DNA analysis to identify enemies who have been killed by coalition forces.

Because Iraqis now have to be fingerprinted to get a weapons permit or a government job, the country’s fingerprint database has grown to over four million people, Rowe said. Also, units in the field routinely fingerprint citizens using a handheld digital scanner that uploads the information to the database, he said.

Just one of the crime labs has been able to make about 75 cases in Iraqi courts, Rowe said. The unit also worked the high-profile recovery of the remains of soldier Keith “Matt” Maupin, a staff sergeant who was abducted in April 2004 when his convoy was attacked by insurgents.

The toughest part of the job is that it really hasn’t been done before, Rowe said, noting that the crime labs have only been up and running for about a year.

“It’s a very unique mission, and it’s the first time it’s been done,” Rowe said.

The program is expanding with three more crime labs on the way to add to the two current locations, he added. That will allow for more of Iraq to be covered geographically, making it easier to transport crucial evidence, Rowe said.

In addition to collecting evidence themselves, Rowe’s unit also teaches others how to collect evidence, he said.

Rowe’s unit does not interface directly with Iraqi authorities, but instead sends its reports to a U.S. military legal office that makes the decision on what cases to pursue with Iraqi officials. The information is also shared with military intelligence officials, he added.

“The best thing is that everybody is excited about what we’re doing,” Rowe said, noting that commanders have been particularly pleased with his unit’s progress.

Rowe, a 26-year veteran of the military, said this is his third tour in the current war on terror, and he has roughly 120 people under his command, including civilian contractors. His unit, the 733rd Battalion, is located in Baghdad at Camp Victory.

Previously Rowe served “a good part” of 2007 working with the tribunal process at Guantanamo Bay, with military commissions that were convened to determine if incarcerated suspects were military combatants.

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