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AMOC: THEIR EYES ARE OVER THE NATION
VIGILANCE: A look inside the Crisis Response Center at the Air and Marine Pperations Center here, where personnel from various agencies monitor tiny dots on computer screens that represent the movement of aircraft over the United States in real time. (Photo courtesy of AMOC)
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AMOC: THEIR EYES ARE OVER THE NATION

Posted 7/18/2008   Updated 7/18/2008 Email story   Print story

    


by Senior Airman David K. Flaherty
452d Air Mobility Wing


7/18/2008 - MARCH AIR RESERVE BASE, CALIF. -- Jose Clariot thought no one would notice his single-engine plane descend into a Nashville airport early one morning in January. 

After all, he wasn't flying in the most ideal circumstances. It was still dark outside, and to make matters worse, he was caught in the middle of a rain storm. But it wasn't the weather outside that Clariot was concerned with, or the fact that he was flying in the dark. It was the 154 pounds of cocaine stuffed in a suitcase stowed inches below his feet. 

Clariot was trying to avoid detection. He flew slow and low to the ground to evade local radar. He thought no one nearby would notice him. And he was right. No one nearby did notice him. But there was one thing Clariot wasn't counting on - that over 2,000 miles away he was being watched by the Air and Marine Operations Center, the world's largest law enforcement air and marine force, located at March Air Reserve Base. AMOC had been tracking Clariot's suspicious flight patterns for over a day and had already alerted the local authorities. 

When the local law enforcement inspected the plane at the airport and found the narcotics, the Nashville Drug Enforcement Agency hailed it as the city's second largest seizure of cocaine in recent history. For the members of March's Air and Marine Operations Center, it was just another day at the office. 

"A lot of the illegal activity that we have in the drug and terrorism area revolves now around the private air travel industry," said Edward M. Yarbrough, United States Attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee. "[AMOC] alerted us to take a look at the plane, and it was checked as soon as it landed. Their quick and coordinated efforts are truly commendable." 

From the control room of the Crisis Response Center, AMOC agents track all noncommercial airplanes flying in U.S. air space. To provide 24 hour surveillance over the entire United States, their state-of-the-art surveillance center gathers information from civilian and military radar sites, as well as their own fleet of unmanned aerial vehicles patrolling the border. 

"We're the only law enforcement interdiction center the United States has that does this type of thing," said Tony Crowder, the executive director at AMOC. "The morale here is very good because we find bad people who don't want to be found and stop bad stuff from hurting America. That's basically what we're about." 

But it's not just superior radar that gives AMOC the upper hand. AMOC falls under U.S. Customs and Border Protection in the Department of Homeland Security. Their access to other federal agencies' databases gives them the ability to track, identify and support the interdiction of potential smugglers -- whether they're trafficking drugs, illegal immigrants, money or even weapons of mass destruction. 

With over 260 aircrafts and 215 boats at their disposal, and their close working relationship with other law enforcement agencies, like the U.S. Border Patrol and U.S. Coast Guard, AMOC doesn't just sit back and watch the threat on radar. They're able to take action and intercept impending threats over U.S. skies or in U.S. water. 

"The bad guys are smart and they're agile, but we adapt," said Crowder. "People leave here with great job satisfaction because we dismantle criminal organizations that may have been funneling money to all kinds of criminal enterprises - including terrorist organizations."



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