Via WRSA, this from Matt Bracken:
I saw a fascinating covert DHS convoy Sunday in South Carolina on I-95.
On Sunday, April 27th at 3:30 pm I was driving by myself southbound on I-95 in the middle of South Carolina. The speed limit was 70 so I was going 80. I passed a convoy of DHS vehicles traveling in tight formation in the slow lane moving at about 75. None of the vehicles was marked in any way with any government or law enforcement decals or insignia. However, they all had black and white U.S. government tags on their rear bumpers.
What was really interesting was the fact that the two lead vehicles had radar or satellite equipment on top of them. I was unable to take any photos, but I took some notes so that I could describe them accurately. I looked for some images on the internet and found the exact types of vehicles, minus the radar/satellite/commo gear on top. I’ll post the photos at the end. Keep in mind these are NOT photos of the trucks I saw, but they are exactly the same types that I did see, minus the tech gear on top.
I’ll start at the back of the convoy, the way that I encountered them in passing. All of the trucks were painted with the same shade of blue-gray. All of the vehicles appeared to be very new, with perfect paint jobs, all were very clean, as if they had just come out of a car wash. That clean. At the rear were three new-looking Suburbans, each hauling a Horton trailer like the one I will post at the end. The trailers were also the identical blue-gray color as the other vehicles. Each trailer had a full ramp for the rear access, that is, the rear wall of the trailers were folded-up ramps, so that I suppose ATVs or other vehicles could be driven in and out when the trailers were parked and the ramps were lowered. Each trailer also had a very large white air-conditioning unit on top. The AC units are not shown on the Horton trailer image I’ll post at the end.
Each trailer was being pulled by a shiny new-looking Suburban. All of the vehicles in the convoy had dark tinted windows, but in passing I did see one driver, he appeared to be around 30-40 years old, and FWIW he had a short trimmed beard. (Grooming standards can be a unit “tell.”) Each Suburban, (in fact, all of the vehicles), had a heavy-duty cable winch on the front bumper.
Next in line in front of the Suburbans, there was a big utility vehicles with a basic square body behind the cab, nothing on top other than radio antennas. This utility vehicle was a Ford F-450 with a body like a tool carrier. Next, there was a heavy-duty GMC utility vehicle about the size of the F-450 or a bit larger. On top of the flat body of the truck there was a radar or satellite dish that was folded down to the rear so that it was horizontal. The dish was approximately five feet in diameter, with all of the hinged gear required to erect it to vertical, all of it folded down beneath the dish transformer-style.
The lead vehicle in the convoy was another heavy-duty GMC truck, but this one had a white radar or satellite communication dome on top of the body of the truck. This white dome stood approximately four feet tall above the flat roof of the back of the truck, and it was about three feet in diameter. That is, it was in the shape of a cylinder, but round on top. I will post pictures of similar vehicles at the end of this report. They are, as far as I can remember, identical to the vehicles I saw, including their dark blue-gray paint jobs.
The convoy drivers had terrific route discipline, that is, they kept a very tight spacing while traveling pretty fast in the right lane. If you have ever tried to keep six vehicles together in heavy highway traffic at 75 mph, (including three with trailers), you will understand that this was a highly professional outfit. Cars entering the highway got between the DHS trucks, but the trucks quickly passed them and reestablished their convoy order with no more than 100 feet between them. These guys were pros, let there be no doubt about that. This was first-tier all the way. Top notch. Extremely impressive.
I am just a little curious about why they were totally unmarked, except for the license plates. Not even a DHS sticker the size of a playing card. Nothing. I did copy down the license plate # of the lead vehicle, the one with the four foot tall radar/satellite dome on top. On top, the plate read U.S. Government. On the left side of the plate, aligned vertically, it read 6G71. These small numbers were aligned vertically, not horizontally, with the 6 on top. On the right side of the plate was the number G177L, aligned normally, that is, horizontally. All of the vehicle plates had the interesting vertically aligned numbers on the left side. (One of the trailers had no license plate at all, but I suppose they were not too worried about being pulled over by the SC state troopers!)
Just after I finished passing the convoy, they exited at Interstate 26, but I was unable to see if they headed north or south. They are probably located today (4-28-2015) between Colombia and Charleston, if you happen to spot them. Also, incidentally, there was an unusually heavy presence of law enforcement vehicles all along I-95 in central South Carolina. At one point I passed about a dozen LE vehicles (cruisers and SUVs) parked in the median strip, like they were ready to move out conduct a raid or some other operation. I have no way of knowing if the extremely heavy LE presence was connected to the DHS convoy or not. Anyway, I thought it was interesting enough to take notes and write this report.
I’m guessing that they were part of a VIP protection detail at the POTUS level, or they are some type of technical response team, such as a NEST (Nuclear Emergency Search Team).
Now, let’s address a number of issues that came up in the article, as well as these two comments at WRSA:
put (sic) your tin hats away. they are wmd/cst. that is, teams formed in the 90’s to detect and react to a weapon of mass destruction attack and coordinate relief efforts and evidence gathering. they are manned by national guard, air force and some civilian technical personnel. there were at last count nearly one for every state, though i recall r.i./conn shared a team. they train DAILY on mock attacks to be highly proficient with very technican (sic) equipment/techniques. they are the good guys, they are there to help,but (sic) pray to your god you never need them.
Got a buddy from the service who went border patrol on EAOS, then switched to a Dept of Energy job a few years later, transport team for “hot” items. Armored containment tractor/trailer with escorts, armed to the freaking gunnels. What they saw might have been one of these TACLET (his term) units moving something with zoomies in it.
Oh goodness. So much confusion, so little time to sort it out. I always hate it when people talk nuclear, biological and chemical weapons when they don’t know what they’re talking about but feel they need to say something. They say things like “zoomies,” which means everything and nothing, a catch-all word to use when no one knows what to say.
So let’s begin by dividing this up into nuclear material and biological / chemical weapons. Nuclear material may be divided into (a) so-called “dirty” devices which spread radioactive contamination and (b) fissile material that forms the core of nuclear weapons. The U.S. is no longer enriching weapons grade fissile material (the exception to this is Naval nuclear cores which require highly enriched fissile material, but those cores are very small and the amount of material limited). Of course it is a stupid decision not to continue to make the most effective deterrent to war known to mankind, but our country is stupid, so it’s par for the course.
Right now engineers are busy at Los Alamos National Laboratory and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory performing calculations to demonstrate whether decay of the fissile isotopes into daughter products (which contaminate the mixture) over the course of the life of our existing weapons constitutes an inability to use the weapons we currently have. Pantex is the only plant left still able to fabricate the weapons. We are a long way from the days of massive enrichment of fissile material at Oak Ridge to press the nuclear weapons program forward.
Fissile material is rarely transported. Savannah River still makes Tritium (the only source for weapons in the U.S.), but Tritium is not fissile. It is used in thermonuclear weapons for fusion from the heat generated by a fission explosion. Transportation of Tritium is not inherently unsafe. Neither is transport of fissile material unsafe as long as the amount and geometry don’t lend themselves to criticality concerns.
I know folks who protect fissile material the infrequent times it is moved from place to place. They are the same ones who protect it in place as part of weapons. They are Marines, heavily trained in CQB, and when they travel they travel with a light footprint, small signature and very discretely. They don’t move in large packs, they don’t announce their presence, and unless you knew to look for the several black SUVs roughly together, you wouldn’t suspect who they are or what they’re doing. Only a few guys know where they are going when the move, and that’s because someone has to drive.
Their job is so boring – so they have told me – that the ones I know spent all of their time lifting weights, training, and mostly sitting on shift at a hidden facility waiting for the event that never occurs. The ones I know had to get out that line of work into an infantry Battalion before they lost their minds. As for so-called dirty weapons, they suffer from the same fate as chemical and biological weapons like with Anthrax. Dispersal devices reduce the concentrations. You will sustain more risk on the highways trying to drive away from these things in the madness of the traffic than if you sit still and sheltered.
I’m sorry to have gone through that level of detail, but the picture I’m painting isn’t one of Mr. tacticool riding around in up-armored vehicles so that everyone knows who they are. You never see the guys I’m talking about. What’s described above wasn’t a protection detail for fissile material.
In order to explain biological and chemical hazards, it’s best to use an example. Let’s take Legionella. Legionnaire’s disease was diagnosed with the first recognized cases at the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel in Philadelphia. Legionella bacteria is everywhere, usually connected with the humidity in the air. It isn’t concentrated enough to cause problems in normal situations. But when concentrated in air conditioning evaporator coil condensate or cooling towers for HVAC or power plants, it can become deadly.
The HVAC design at the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel included outside air intake adjacent to the cooling towers (this is the design flaw), in which the bacteria was taken in through system suction, transported, and dispersed in still-concentrated form. And by the way, this is why you keep your evaporator coil clean and pour Clorox into your drip pan running trap once every half year or so to make sure that it isn’t clogged.
This is key to understanding chemical and biological hazards. During chlorine attacks in Iraq (primarily in the Anbar Province by AQI), very little damage was done and very few people were injured. Dispersal by plume caused the chemical to become much less concentrated. They would have been more effective to have used conventional ordnance than chemical weapons.
Chemical and biological threats MUST include the following things to be effective: concentration, transport prior to dispersal, and then dispersal after transport. In short, it’s an engineering challenge, and amelioration of such threats is also an engineering challenge. The federal .gov boys apparently want to send in tacticool operators carrying guns, body armor and up-armored vehicles. What’s needed is engineers, technicians, chemists and medical professionals. Go home, DHS soldier-boy. Your “skills” aren’t needed and won’t be used. You’re just in the way. If you wanted to be useful in such a circumstance, you should have stopped bullying kids on the playground and paid greater attention in your technical courses like math and science.
Transport of enriched fissile material is done very discretely as opposed to the gaudy, extravagant operation described above. Amelioration of chemical and biological threats involves technical folks, not up-armored vehicles. Except for the pain and trauma, the incident is over by the time soldier-boy arrives. The perpetrator is long gone, and doctors and nurses are needed, and folks who know how to use anti-C’s and prevent the spread of contamination.
As to the notion that we should “pray to God we never need them” (the folks in up-armored vehicles, that is), I can say with confidence that we don’t need them. Their skills are as irrelevant to such threats as they are too rudimentary to assist in recovery. So I am left with one of two options. The first one is that the federal *.gov departments are chock full of imbeciles who, when taken collectively, aren’t capable of the intellectual capacity of a gaggle of monkeys if they believe that DHS jack-boots will be useful in events like those described here.
The second option is that the convoy of men and equipment described by the report from South Carolina had nothing whatsoever to do with nuclear, chemical or biological weapons. Take your choice. The government is comprised by idiots, or they have designs on population control and stability operations in the “homeland” and the report documents trial operations.
I suppose there is another possibility from the comments at Matt’s Facebook entry. This was DHS/TSA VIPR teams out and about. Perhaps. But I’m equally doubtful that any good could come of this. Up-armored vehicles and tacticool operators who aren’t at the scene of the attack to prevent the carnage cannot possibly do any good once the carnage has occurred. That requires doctors, nurses, medical technicians and scientists.