Articles

CSI Battlefield: 7 ways forensic science is used in war

Forensic science is associated with hit TV shows and catching criminals at home, but it's also used by the military. Here are 7 ways it is:


1. Crater analysis

Photo: US Air Force Senior Airman Christopher Gross

Crater analysis is the study of holes caused by explosions and incoming rounds. It has two major uses. For decades, experts have looked at craters to determine what caliber weapon an artillery attack used and where it was fired from. Since the invention of IEDs, it has also been used to determine what size and type of explosive charge was used in the device.

2. Swabbing for explosives

Photo: US Army Sgt. James Bunn

Determining what type of explosives were used in an IED allows military intelligence to determine what methods insurgents are using to create or smuggle explosives. Tactical site exploitation teams swab IED components and test the residue to learn what the explosive is and how refined it is.

Troops can also swab suspected bombmakers hands or homes to prove insurgent activity, allowing U.S. forces or local military personnel to arrest probable insurgents.

3. Fingerprinting and DNA

Photo: US Army SPC Chenee' Brooks

Fingerprint and DNA collection help commanders track the movement of people around the battlefield and aid in the prosecution of insurgents. Investigators grab fingerprints and DNA from inside known areas of enemy activity, from weapons and material, and from suspected insurgents.

Where each matching sample appears on the battlefield will let commanders know if a known bomb maker is in a certain region and will increase the chance that an insurgent is caught at a checkpoint where troops have a fingerprint reader.

Army scientist can even detect explosive materials in the fingerprints found at a site.

4. Testing for chemical and biological deployments

Photo: US Navy Photographer's Mate 1st Class Timm Duckworth

When troops come under biological or chemical attack, it's obviously best if the military can quickly determine what agents were used against them. The U.S. has chemical warfare experts in most units who can quickly determine what threat is in the area with special collection papers that test chemical reactions.

The military has also developed an automated tool that automatically tests the environment all the time. The Joint Chemical Agent Detector (M4A1) alerts troops to the presence of an agent, tells them what level of protection is likely required, and identifies the most likely agent being used against them.

5. Searching combat camera, public affairs, and satellite imagery for clues

Photo: US Marine Corps Master Sgt. Paul D. Bishop

Investigators and forensic technicians on the battlefield get precious few opportunities to collect data from many battlefields, especially if their side isn't holding the ground at the end of the day. So they often collect data from military photographs and other imagery.

Photos from during the battle can give up clues like which side was where when a war crime was committed, and satellite imagery has already been used to prove the location and scope of mass killings by ISIS. Digital information collected from ISIS social media postings has given Air Force commanders enough information to target a strike.

6. Searching for hidden graves or other evidence

After massacres and other war crimes, criminals often hide all the evidence they can including the bodies of their victims. To bring closure to families and to aid in prosecution down the line, experts hunt out likely mass graves or other caches of hidden evidence.

Iraqi forensic teams have been following the front line as Iraqi and international troops push back ISIS. In Tikrit and other cities hit hard, they've found evidence of large executions and exhumed mass graves.

7. Scanning the atmosphere to detect nuclear detonations and materials

Detecting nuclear detonations from far away is hard. Detecting them from up close is easy. Photo: US National Archives and Records Administration

After nuclear tests by foreign countries like North Korea, America and other countries use particle detectors to see how much nuclear material might have been detonated and to prove a detonation took place. During the Cold War, U-2 flights collected particles to learn what weapons the Cold War had in development.

Research is underway to help detect nuclear materials or weapons in transit to shut down smuggling routes and protect population centers.

Military Life

Female veterans pose on same ship that carried WW2 troops

Award-winning nonprofit Pin-Ups for Vets is releasing its 13th annual fundraising calendar to raise money for VA hospitals; ill, injured, and homeless veterans; deployed troops; and military families. The 2019 calendar, photographed on the iconic Queen Mary in Long Beach, CA, features 19 female veterans decked out in World War II inspired fashion.

"Fans of Art Deco will appreciate the look of the upcoming calendar that reflects the vintage glamour of this 1936 cruise liner, now permanently docked in Long Beach, CA as a floating hotel," said Pin-Ups For Vets Founder, Gina Elise, who established Pin-Ups For Vets in 2006, as a way to honor the WWII service of her grandfather.

Gina Elise, Founder

Gina has devoted her life to giving back to the military community. To date, Pin-Ups For Vets has donated over $58,000 to help hospitals purchase new therapy equipment and to provide financial assistance for Veterans' healthcare program expansion across the United States.

The 2019 calendar is officially ready for pre-order at www.PinUpsForVets.com. All 2019 Pin-Ups for Vets calendar pictures were taken by Shane Karns Photography — and let me just tell you...he really nailed it.


Kirstie Ennis, U.S. Marine Corps veteran

From a linguist, to a Human Intelligence Collector, to a combat photographer, to a combat medic, to a motor transportation operator, to a heavy equipment transporter driver leading convoys in Iraq, to a helicopter door gunner in Afghanistan, these ladies also include an above-the-knee amputee veteran (Marine Corps veteran Kirstie Ennis — who, by the way, at the time of this publishing was climbing Mount Denali in support of Service to Summit to raise money for Building Homes for Heroes, a nonprofit organization that builds or modifies homes and gives them to veterans in need).

Julie Noyes, Army veteran

Army veteran Julie Noyes says, "It can be so difficult as a female service member to feel empowered in her beauty without feeling like she may betray the professionalism of her uniform when we only seek to be treated like our male counterparts. I feel that Pin-Ups for Vets does a superb job at raising money and awareness for our elderly, wounded vets and our currently deployed troops while also showcasing the class and beauty of female veterans without objectifying them. What Pin-Ups Vets Founder Gina Elise has done with this publication and non-profit is nothing short of empowering and inspiring."

Naumika Kumar, Navy Veteran

"I will always be thankful to the Navy. I met my husband in the Navy who is also a veteran now and I graduated from National University with Master's Degree in 2012 as well. I am happy to see there are organization such as Pin-Ups For Vets who are doing so much to support the military and Veterans. I am happy that I got an opportunity to be part of the organization."

Patti Gomez, Army veteran

Patti is a veteran of the United States Army, where she proudly served in the New York Army National Guard as a 35M (Human Intelligence Collector) of the 42nd Infantry Division, located in Glenville, New York. She volunteered to attend JRTC in Fort Polk, Louisiana, alongside the 27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team in July 2016. She also trained at Warfighter at Fort Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania, with her unit in October 2017. Patti attended Basic Combat Training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and attended Advanced Individual Training at the United States Army Intelligence Center of Excellence in Fort Huachuca, Arizona.

"Pin-Ups for Vets is an incredible organization with an important mission. Being a part of a nonprofit that helps veterans and empowers women at the same time is truly an honor and one that I couldn't pass up when I was asked to be a part of the 2019 calendar. As the reigning Mrs. New York America, my platform is veteran organizations — and Pin-Ups for Vets is truly among the best of them!"

Check out that cover image!

The 2019 calendar can be purchased at: www.PinUpsForVets.com or by check to: Pin-Ups For Vets, PO Box 33, Claremont, CA 91711.

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