army

Jayson Aydelotte, a surgeon at University Medical Center Brackenridge, served in the Army as a general surgeon in a war zone medical unit. In a talk at Welch Hall on Friday, Aydelotte and fellow surgeon John Uecker discussed how their military backgrounds developed their skills as surgeons.
Photo Credit: Joshua Guerra | Daily Texan Staff

Surgeons John Uecker and Jayson Aydelotte discussed their experiences as general surgeons in war zone medical units at a talk in Welch Hall on Friday. 

Both doctors, who now work at University Medical Center Brackenridge, said their military backgrounds allowed them to develop their skills and practice new medical procedures.

While serving in the U.S. Navy during the Iraq War, Uecker spent time in the Forward Resuscitative Surgical Suite, a mobile unit made up of 8–10 people, including several surgeons, anesthesiologists and ICU nurses. After his time in Iraq, Uecker said he carried practices he learned in war to civilian workplaces.

“What we learned from the war is the idea of damage control,” Uecker said. “We have learned to operate quickly and prevent them from going into shock or going cold as we move them to another facility.”

Aydelotte said his experience in the Army was different. Following the attack on the USS Cole in October 2000 by two suicide bombers of the al-Qaeda network, Aydelotte transferred from Germany and was stationed in North Africa.

Aydelotte said he was deployed in 2007 to the Green Zone in Baghdad. That year was the deadliest period in U.S. military history since the Tet Offensive in Vietnam.

“The interesting part about this from a research standpoint is all the deaths funneled to one place,” Aydelotte said. “This changed a lot of ways modern trauma care is practiced now days.”   

As a result, Aydelotte said they began treating patients with blood rather than IV fluids.       

Aydelotte said his most traumatic experience during the war was performing on a soldier hit by an explosively formed penetrator (EFP). According to Aydelotte, he became the first soldier to survive after losing all of his arms and legs.      

According to Aydelotte, Iranian militants and other militant groups manufactured EFPs because they were effective against the Army’s armored vehicles.    

“The specifics of [the EFP] is a big copper plate, and an explosion behind the plate will turn into molten copper,” Aydelotte said.  

With this technology, the enemy could damage armored vehicles without blowing them up, causing extensive damage to the vehicle operators, he said.

Reginald Baptiste, director of pre health professions at the Dell Medical School, said the military can be a good option for students looking for higher education opportunities. 

“This was focused on military today, but we are focused on exposing the students to all practices,” Baptiste said. “We want to exposure them to different opportunities to possibly shadow in and see what suits them.”

The Army named the University’s ROTC program as the best battalion in its region, which is composed of eight states in the Southwest.

The region — which includes Texas, Arkansas, Wyoming, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Oklahoma — contains a total of 36 collegiate ROTC programs and is overseen by the 5th ROTC Brigade of the U.S. Army. A committee is established within the brigade to help analyze which programs are worthy of the award, and Col. Ricardo Morales made the final decision.

Brigade Deputy Commander Steven Van Straten said fitness tests, Army potential, the quality and number of cadets produced and the relations between the programs and their universities are all taken into account when making the decision.

“We look at some concrete data in the form of metrics, in how the cadets fare and what kind of officers are coming out of the program,” Van Straten said. “There are a lot of different metrics used to assess cadet quality. … In all those regards, when looking at it holistically, [UT] did a fantastic job.”

Travis Habhab, lieutenant colonel and military science department chair, said he believes the award helps recognize not only the support the program receives from the community but the hard work that its members put in throughout the year.

“We’re extremely honored to have the award because there are so many other good schools,” Habhab said. “What’s put us over the top is the way our cadets — seniors in particular — have performed this year.”

The ROTC program, which is in the College of Liberal Arts, trains cadets to have the opportunity to become commissioned officers after graduation. The program includes students from a number of colleges in Austin, such as UT, St. Edward’s University and Hutson-Tillotson University.

Peter Seidule, ROTC public affairs officer and history senior, said the award highlights the improvements the battalion has seen over the years. “It’s great to see us on that list,” Seidule said. “Historically, especially in the last 10 years, UT hasn’t been famous as far as ROTC. This is something we’ve really tried to build on. These cadets have put in a lot of time, and it’s paid off.”

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon is lifting its ban on women serving in combat, opening hundreds of thousands of front-line positions and potentially elite commando jobs after generations of limits on their service, defense officials said Wednesday.

The changes, set to be announced Thursday by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, will not happen overnight. The services must now develop plans for allowing women to seek the combat positions, a senior military official said. Some jobs may open as soon as this year, while assessments for others, such as special operations forces, including Navy SEALS and the Army’s Delta Force, may take longer. The services will have until January 2016 to make a case to that some positions should remain closed to women.

The groundbreaking move recommended by the Joint Chiefs of Staff overturns a 1994 rule prohibiting women from being assigned to smaller ground combat units.

There long has been opposition to putting women in combat, based on questions of whether they have the necessary strength and stamina for certain jobs, or whether their presence might hurt unit cohesion.

But as news of Panetta’s expected order got out, members of Congress, including the Senate Armed Services Committee chairman, Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., announced their support.

“It reflects the reality of 21st century military operations,” Levin said.

Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, who will be the top Republican on the Armed Services panel, said, however, that he does not believe this will be a broad opening of combat roles for women because there are practical barriers that have to be overcome in order to protect the safety and privacy of all members of the military.

Panetta’s move comes in his final weeks as Pentagon chief and just days after President Barack Obama’s inaugural speech in which he spoke passionately about equal rights for all. Panetta’s decision could open more than 230,000 jobs, many in Army and Marine infantry units, to women.

Lieutenant Dan Choi was discharged from the U.S. Army in 2009 after openly coming out about his homosexuality in 2009, a violation of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. Since then, Choi has become a vocal activist for gay rights.
Photo Credit: Emily Ng | Daily Texan Staff

In two years, Lt. Dan Choi went from serving as an infantry officer in the Iraq War to a vocal gay rights activist discharged from the military for being an openly gay man.

Choi shared his experiences coming out within the military and his family during an event titled “Out on the Front Lines” in the Student Activity Center Tuesday.

“Those three words, ‘I am gay,’ were the reason why I got kicked out of the military,” Choi said.

A West Point graduate, Choi served in the Army for more than 10 years, including a two-year stint in Iraq, but was discharged after coming out about his homosexuality on the Rachel Maddow Show in 2009. Choi was found to be in violation of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, which prohibited openly gay, lesbian or bisexual military personnel from serving in the military.

Choi, who said he has not spoken to his parents in three years, described the resistance he faced from his family while coming out prior to coming out to the military.

“My dad would say that gay people are not only the number one sinners in the world but they are all going to go to hell, that they all wear high heels, and that they all have AIDS,” Choi said.

After his discharge, Choi became a vocal critic of DADT policy. In December 2010, Congress passed and President Barack Obama signed a bill to repeal the policy. Choi continues to advocate for gay rights and said there is much more work to be done to achieve full equality for the LGBT community.

Stephanie Kim, public relations senior and chair of the Asian American Culture Committee, which co-sponsored the event, said Choi’s personal story should serve as an example of how people can overcome barriers to affect change on issues they care deeply about.

“I hope students will be inspired and be able to see no matter what background they come from, no matter what their skin color is, no matter what religious beliefs they behold, each and every one of them hold the power and capability to make a difference,” Kim said.

During a question and answer period, Choi said students should take advantage of the role they can play in the current gay rights movement.

“50 years from now your grandchildren will ask you ‘Grandma, grandpa what did you do during the time you all were fighting for my rights?’” Choi said. “I hope that you can say ‘I stood up and I shared with the world: this is who I am, this is what I stand for.’”

Printed on Wednesday, November 14, 2012 as: Army Lt. defends rights of gay soldiers

Event coordinator for the Student Veterans Association Tania Nesser and nutrition senior Amanda Lavers play cornhole at the SVA tailgate Saturday afternoon. Jumbo janga was another popular game that was played at the tailgating event. 

Photo Credit: Maria Arrellaga | Daily Texan Staff

This past Saturday, a group of student veterans enjoyed an afternoon at the Student Veterans Association tailgate. In the burnt orange blur of pre-game festivities, these Longhorns blended in with the rest of the crowd despite the fact they’re actually quite rare. There are approximately 750 veterans studying at UT. Stephen Ollar, SVA president and economics senior, said there were only two veterans in this year’s incoming freshman class of over 8,000, which means that the number of veterans on campus is, at least for now, staying small.

Small, however, doesn’t necessarily mean close-knit. UT doesn’t “flag” students as veterans in the same way that it doesn’t list students’ hometown or ethnicity in the directory. This makes it difficult for veterans at UT to identify each other. Ollar said he has “sporadically met a few” ex-military students in his classes but that “a lot of veterans don’t identify themselves as such.” Organizations like the SVA, which seeks to support veterans and the dependents of veterans in the UT community, play a crucial role in helping veterans find a community at the 40 Acres.

Members of the SVA community, including Ollar and government and history senior Steven Denman, claimed a small patch of grass just north of the stadium for their tailgate.

Before coming to UT, Ollar and Denman were both stationed with the Army in Ft. Richardson, Alaska. Now they are both working toward law school. Denman, originally from Michigan, said he chose to come to UT after leaving the Army because of Austin’s warm weather — and because he felt that the “pro-liberal” Austin culture would give him the “perspective of the left, the middle and the right” that the military lacked.

Ollar, in contrast, is a lifelong Texan and a second-time UT student. Ollar was born and raised in Midlothian, a small town outside of Dallas. After earning a cell and molecular biology degree from UT, he joined the Army. Now he is back at UT to earn an economics degree after finding that “there’s not a lot of options available for veterans.” 

As they drank and talked, the two men revealed the difficulties of rejoining civilian life as a student. The social life of a student veteran, Ollar said, can be “lonely — an uphill battle.”

“You leave your whole life,” Ollar said. “The Army buys you a ticket and you start your life over again.”

The traditional social scenes at UT are also largely closed off to veterans. Though Ollar said that some student veterans join organizations like pre-professional fraternities or educational clubs, they don’t always feel welcome. 

But for many of UT’s student veterans, the same life experience that hinders their integration into student life influences their academic pursuits. Middle Eastern studies senior Christi Crews joined the Navy at 18 after the emotional turmoil of her first love being killed in Iraq. After leaving the Navy, she “decided to educate [herself] about the Middle East instead.”

In the Middle Eastern studies program at UT, Crews has “learned to love and appreciate the [Middle Eastern] culture for what it is … and to negotiate and find middle ground and common interests with people who have different opinions.” Crews says she hasn’t had trouble making friends at UT but admits that she doesn’t “fit into that 18, 19, 20-year-old student category.”

Looking around the tailgate, Crews said most of her friends are from the SVA.

The SVA holds tailgates for every home game and Ollar said about 80 people attended the event throughout the day. Although most attendees are veterans or their acquaintances, Ollar said, “If you love a vet, you’re welcome [to attend].”

Printed on Tuesday, October 9, 2012 as: UT vets unite for football fun

After serving in the Army’s Green Berets and reciving a bronze star for heroic achivement, 31-year-old Nate Boyer is now the starting deep snaper for Texas despite never playing high school football. Boyer decided to join the army after the events of 9/11 and now serves as an insperation for his Texas teammates.

Photo Credit: Pu Ying Huang | Daily Texan Staff

Nate Boyer was living in Los Angeles Sept. 11, 2001, when he got a call from his mom early in the morning. She told him to turn on the television.

What he saw on the screen changed his life forever. As the tragedy unfolded, he knew what he had to do. He made the decision to join the U. S. Army.

“I thought about it when I was in high school and I’d always respected those guys and thought it was just a real cool thing,” Boyer said.

“I didn’t do it initially coming out of high school and then 9/11 happened a couple years later and it just got me thinking that way again.”

He spent five years on active duty and was a part of the Army’s Green Berets Special Forces Unit, training in Georgia and North Carolina.

Boyer, now 31 years old and a snapper on the Texas football team, doesn’t talk about his time in the military.

He spent time in Iraq and other countries in that area and was awarded a bronze star for heroic achievement.

Boyer said this time of the year is always difficult for him because it brings back memories of the tragedy that occurred 11 years ago.

“9/11 is the reason a lot of the guys came in, and it’s the reason a lot of the guys stayed in,” Boyer said.

“It’s the reason we’re overseas at all right now and it’s the reason a lot of guys that we’re going to remember forever laid down their lives.”

He has now taken the work ethic and discipline he learned in the Army and applied it to football. Not only is he a walk-on for the Longhorns, but before he tried out for Texas he had never played organized football.

Last Saturday was a monumental day for Boyer. He had his first start for the Longhorns as the snapper for extra points and field goals.

Though Boyer could have chosen a university with a less competitive program, he decided on Texas for reasons similar to why he joined the Special Forces.

“I wanted to be in the Army and serve my country but I wanted to do that with the best guys around me in the best possible situation,” Boyer said. “I’m going to learn more from guys that are the best at what they do. I put myself around them and I’ll be the best that I could possibly be.”

He decided to pick up snapping because he thought that would be the best way he could help the team. The Army’s constant repetition during training and its emphasis on excellence has helped him become a better football player and a better snapper.

“I started snapping last fall and it was just repetition,” Boyer said. “I remember when I was training and learning to shoot a pistol, it was just you dry fire it for hours before they even let you shoot a round. Then once you shoot a round, it’s one at a time, everything’s real slow and just perfect practice, perfect reps and it was the same thing for me in snapping.”

Head coach Mack Brown said Boyer’s teammates have a lot of respect for him and look up to him. Brown admires his resolve and says his maturity has helped the team.

“I think it was probably 9/11 that made him want to go to the service,” Brown said. “I think watching the national championship game [in 2010] he said ‘I want to go there and play.’”

Defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat said Boyer is like a big brother to the team.

“He’s the definition of a tough guy. He came in here and didn’t complain about anything,” Jeffcoat said. “Football is nothing compared to war and being out there in actual combat, using guns and all that. His situation was life or death.”

Boyer understands the importance of teamwork more than most. Brown said Boyer has told the team how important trust is with teammates, just like it is with fellow soldiers whose lives depend on each other.

Offensive lineman Trey Hopkins said even if he didn’t know about Boyer’s military background, he would still be a leader on the team.

“He just genuinely cares for people,” Hopkins said. “He’s an older guy who knows the system. He came in as a walk-on and he just busts his tail and works harder than a lot of guys on this team.”

Boyer made it his goal to join the military and then the Texas football team. Though experience wasn’t on his side for either endeavor, his success taught him a valuable lesson.

“I know that it’s possible that you can literally do anything in this life if you believe in yourself and work harder than everybody else around you,” Boyer said. “Definitely my time in the military helped with that belief.”

Youth stand in a building damaged by tank shells in a neighborhood of Damascus, Syria on Thursday.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

BEIRUT — Syria launched a blistering assault Thursday on the outskirts of its capital, shelling residential areas and deploying snipers on rooftops as international envoy Kofi Annan demanded every fighter lay down arms in time for a U.N.-brokered cease-fire.

The bloodshed undermined already fading hopes that more than a year of violence will end soon, and France accused President Bashar Assad of trying to fool the world by accepting Annan’s deadline to pull the army back from population centers by April 10.

According to the plan, rebels are supposed to stop fighting 48 hours later, paving the way for talks to end Assad’s violent suppression of the uprising against his rule. The U.N. says more than 9,000 people have died.

“Can we be optimistic? I am not. Because I think Bashar Assad is deceiving us,” French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe told reporters in Paris.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the crisis was getting worse, even though the Syrian government accepted Annan’s plan March 27. Activists have accused the regime of stepping up attacks across the country, and they described Thursday’s assault in Douma as among the worst around the capital.

“Cities, towns and villages have been turned into war zones. The sources of violence are proliferating,” Ban told the U.N. General Assembly. “The human rights of the Syrian people continue to be violated. ... Humanitarian needs are growing dramatically.”

He said the violence has not stopped and the situation on the ground “continues to deteriorate.”

Black smoke billowed from residential areas of Douma, about 8 miles outside Damascus, amid heavy cracks of gunfire. Douma, which has seen anti-Assad activities since the uprising began, has been subjected to several campaigns by Assad’s regime over the past year.

Activists said soldiers occupied Douma’s Grand Mosque, one of the largest in the area.

“No one dares to walk in the streets because of the snipers,” Syrian activist Omar Hamza told The Associated Press by telephone. “They are like stray dogs attacking sheep.”

He said the shelling went on for eight hours, damaging homes and setting shops on fire. Hamza said the government appeared to be trying to put the heavily populated suburb under control before the cease-fire goes into effect for fear that there will be massive anti-government demonstrations near the capital if regime troops withdraw.

Douma-based activist Mohammed Saeed reported that troops shelled residential areas Thursday with tanks in one of the most violent campaigns against the area since the uprising started.

He said troops were using detainees as human shields as they marched into one of the suburb’s main squares.

“Soldiers in the Ghanam Square near the vegetable market were walking behind detainees,” Saeed said via Skype. “They do that so that members of the (rebel) Free Syrian Army do not open fire at the troops.”

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also said troops clashed with army defectors in the northern towns of Hraytan and Anadan near Syria’s largest city of Aleppo.

Observers have expressed deep skepticism that Assad will abide by the peace plan, in part because large swaths of the country could slip out of his control if he pulls back the troops.

Analysts say Syria likely will to try to manipulate the terms of the plan to buy more time, or to argue that the regime cannot lay down its arms when “terrorists” are on the attack.

The regime denies that the uprising is the result of a popular will in Syria, calling it a foreign conspiracy being carried out by terrorists and gangs.

Defense Minister Dawoud Rajha said Syria was ready to cooperate with Annan’s plan “as long as long as it also puts an end to the criminal acts being committed by the armed terrorist groups.” The Syrian Foreign Ministry disputed the U.N. death toll of 9,000, saying 6,143 people — “civilians and military, women and children” — have been killed.

Hilal Khashan, political science professor at American University of Beirut, said the regime is trying to make gains on the ground before the deadline.

“What will happen afterward is something similar to a low-intensity guerrilla warfare, which can go unnoticed by the international community, while the regime tries to give the world the impression that it’s all over and the reform operations are under way,” he said.

Even as the death toll mounts, there is little prospect for international intervention of the type that helped topple Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi.

Western leaders have pinned their hopes on Annan’s diplomacy, with the U.S. and its allies unwilling to get deeply involved in another Arab nation in turmoil. Several rounds of sanctions from the U.S. and the European Union have done little to stop the bloodshed, and Syria’s main allies of Russia and China are blocking strong action at the U.N. Security Council.

Still, the regime is under great pressure to comply with Annan’s plan in some way, because Russia and China have thrown their support behind it.

Annan traveled to Moscow and Beijing to secure that support. On April 11, the former U.N. chief is expected in Iran — Syria’s last significant ally in the Middle East — for another diplomatic push on Assad’s supporters.

“Clearly, the violence is still continuing,” Annan said from Geneva, speaking to the General Assembly in a videoconference. “Alarming levels of casualties and other abuses continue to be reported daily. Military operations in civilian population centers have not stopped.”

Syria has said it is withdrawing from certain areas, and Annan said Syria has informed him of a partial withdrawal from three locations in Daraa, Idlib and Zabadani.

But witnesses and activists deny that.

Mohammed Fares, an activist in Zabadani, denied claims that troops withdrew and said the army is still in the town with checkpoints backed by tanks.

“Troops and tanks are in Zabadani and around it,” he said by telephone.

Other activists reported attacks on both Daraa and Idlib on Wednesday. Activist groups reported about two dozen dead nationwide Thursday.

In planning for a possible cease-fire, a team led by Norwegian Maj. Gen. Robert Mood arrived in Damascus to begin discussing with Syrian authorities “the eventual deployment of this U.N. supervision and monitoring mission,” Annan’s spokesman Ahmad Fawzi said.

He said the U.N. is looking for a team of 200-250 soldiers to monitor a cease-fire.

The deployment of U.N. monitors would first have to be authorized by the 15-nation Security Council.

Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad said the government has not yet agreed on a timetable for peacekeepers. “But we will discuss these issues in a democratic way,” he said, “because we do want to listen to them.”As the fighting raged in the north, more Syrians fled to
neighboring Turkey, where the Foreign ministry said some 2,350 people arrived Thursday. Some 1,600 refugees arrived Wednesday and earlier Thursday, according to its disaster management agency. That pushes the number of displaced Syrians in Turkey to 22,000. 

Printed on Friday, April 6, 2012 as: Syrian regime troops keep fighting despite UN

GORENTAS, Turkey (AP) — Syrian rebel commander Ahmad Mihbzt and his ragtag fighters grabbed their aging rifles to fight Syrian troops advancing on their village, but soon fled under a rain of exploding artillery shells.

“We will fight until our last drop of blood,” Mihbzt declared a week later in this village across the Turkish border. “We just withdrew because we ran out of ammunition.”

Like Mihbzt’s men, rebels across Syria fighting to topple President Bashar Assad lack the weapons that can pose a serious challenge to the regime’s large, professional army. Some rebel units have more fighters than guns, forcing them to take turns fighting. Because of ammunition shortages, some fire automatic rifles one shot at a time, counting each bullet.

Rebel leaders and anti-regime activists say rising gun prices and more tightly controlled borders are making it harder for them to acquire arms and smuggle them into Syria. This could tip the already unbalanced military equation of Syria’s year-old uprising further in the regime’s favor.

The opposition has suffered a series of military setbacks as regime forces have repeatedly routed them in their strongholds, most recently the eastern city of Deir al-Zour on Tuesday.

The weapons shortage has grown so acute that the opposition’s disorganized leadership say only military aid can stop Assad’s forces. Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Libya have spoken positively of the idea, but no country is known to be arming the rebels. The United States and many European countries have rejected sending weapons, fearing that it would fuel a civil war.

The weapons problems reflect the fractured, haphazard nature of the rebel movement. The uprising began a year ago with peaceful protests demanding political reform, inspired by the successful revolts in Tunisia and Egypt. Since then, Assad has waged a withering crackdown.

In response, some in the opposition began to take up arms to defend their towns and attack government troops. The local militias and breakaway units from the Syrian army mostly identify with the Free Syrian Army, a loose-knit umbrella group, but they operate independent of each other. The groups, numbering anywhere from a few dozen to a few hundred men, are largely on their own in finding weapons and supplies.

Defectors from the army, mostly low-level soldiers, bring arms and know-how with them. Most have only light weapons, such as Kalashnikov assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades. Rebel coordinators say groups have looted heavier weapons from army caches, and activist videos posted online show anti-aircraft guns and anti-tank missiles. But heavy weapons remain rare and have not significantly boosted rebel capabilities.

Smuggling from neighboring countries was key earlier in the conflict. But rebels and anti-regime activists now say Syrian forces have mined many of the smuggling routes from Turkey and Lebanon, and the Turkish and Jordanian governments have tightened border controls to avoid being pulled into the conflict.

Rebel frustrations are clear in the string of poor Turkish villages across Syria’s northern border where more than 16,000 Syrians live in refugee camps. The camps host hundreds of rebel fighters seeking to regroup as well as smugglers who trade in livestock, cigarettes and gasoline.

Last week, some 200 rebels with light arms in the Syrian hill village of Janoudiyeh were no match for Assad’s forces, which shelled the area before sending in troops, said Mihbzt, the rebel commander.

His forces fled across the border, about 6 miles from town, and into Turkey. But rising gun prices and strict border controls prevent his men from rearming, he said. So they plan to target border sentries to seize their arms or loot Syrian arms depots.

Other fighters who have found refuge in Turkey reported similar frustrations.

“We were forced to fire single shots in clashes because we don’t have enough ammunition,” said Majdi Hamdo. “I have two magazines for my Kalashnikov and one of them has been empty for the past month.”

In contrast, analysts say Assad’s army boasts 330,000 soldiers and highly advanced weaponry, most of it bought from Russia.

While many of its recent weapons purchases — like air defense technology and anti-ship missiles — can’t be used against rebels, they point to a highly sophisticated force.

Joseph Holliday, an analyst with the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War who has studied Syria’s rebels, said they will not be able to challenge the army without substantial help, though they can wage an effective insurgency.

“There is no possibility in the foreseeable future that they’ll be able to pose a real challenge to or defeat the regime’s forces in a pitched battle,” he said. “They can continue to survive. They can attack areas where the regime is not in full control, and they can sap regime forces and get them to play the proverbial whack-a-mole that U.S. forces had to deal with in Iraq.”

That means the violence could last. Already the revolt has become one of the bloodiest of the Arab Spring, with the U.N. saying more than 8,000 people have been killed.

“Because of the strength of the regime and because of the rebels’ survivability and resilience, you’re looking at a protracted conflict,” he said.

Rebels in Syria’s south typify this insurgent strategy, where small bands of fighters attack regime targets then disappear into nearby farmland. This week, they bombed a bridge on a key highway to prevent the army from bringing in more tanks.

Activist Raed al-Suleiman said his village of Nawa in Daraa province has fewer than 100 rebels, whom local residents support.

“They give them money, food or clothing,” he said. “Their ammunition is all booty from the regime since no aid is coming from Jordan.”

Ahmad Kassem, an FSA coordinator outside Syria, said rebels had recently looted weapons caches in Daraa and outside of Damascus, getting thousands of machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades, anti-aircraft guns and missiles.

“The seized weapons will give a qualitative jump to our military operations,” he said. “It’s not enough, but sufficient in the meantime to inflict harm on Bashar’s oppressive army.”

The Syrian government blames the uprising terrorist groups acting out a foreign conspiracy and cites insurgent attacks to press its argument. It has vowed to keep fighting.

It bars most media organizations for working in the country, and rebel and activists claims could not be independently confirmed.

Still, many rebels say the arms shortage restricts their abilities.

Rebel coordinator Mohammed Qaddah in Jordan said some 2,000 fighters in the countryside around Damascus have less than one rifle per man, forcing them to take turns or resort to simpler means.

“We use Molotov cocktails and homemade grenades in roadside ambushes because we’re desperate,” he said. “But we have no means to arm all our eager men.”

Under Secretary of the Army Joseph Westphal, second from right, visited UT Thursday to learn about research on campus.

Photo Credit: Thomas Allison | Daily Texan Staff

The second highest serving U.S. Army adviser visited the University to speak with faculty Thursday about brain and energy research that could help the Army.

U.S. Army Under Secretary Joseph Westphal’s conversations with faculty hit on timely issues in state higher education, from the push for a UT Austin medical school to funding constraints and faculty’s role in teaching versus doing research. Westphal toured several research labs on campus that could help with post-traumatic stress disorder and energy issues on Army bases. The Army currently provides funding for some University research initiatives and may expand funding to some projects regarding these issues.

Westphal said University researchers play an important role in teaching and said a University researcher should “be a teacher of teachers” by training students in their field to teach. Westphal said he was struck by the University’s interdisciplinary research, such as the projects fusing psychology, neuroscience and chemistry.

“It’s the study of all the impacts of combat,” Westphal said. “It’s what we’re looking for — that type of synergy between disciplines. I think you’ve been able to do things here that I haven’t seen at other universities.”

Westphal said many soldiers who are exposed to potential brain injury appear fine, but may have underlying problems. Jeffrey Luci, neurobiology research assistant professor, said the University’s new MRI equipment made by Siemens offers techniques that were unimaginable two years ago, including images that reveal degenerating areas of the brain affected by traumatic brain injury.

“We find new ways to use the scanner that Siemens hasn’t ever thought of,” Luci said.

When Westphal asked about the technology’s use in a medical school, faculty quickly explained state senator Kirk Watson’s plan to establish a medical school at the University. Westphal said medical schools are important but expensive endeavors.

Engineering faculty presented current projects about energy security, energy independence and alternative fuel sources. Associate Dean for Research John Ekerdt said the University’s energy research has potential to help the Army and to help the country’s general commercial needs.

“We serve as this advancing force,” Ekerdt said. “We don’t have an agenda because we can’t sell you anything except our ideas.”

Westphal said the tour gives him a “flavor” of University resources that would benefit the Army. However, he said budget cuts affect how the Army funds research at institutions like UT.

“We don’t have the luxury anymore to fund everything,” Westphal said. “We have to set priorities.”

Westphal said he is interested in energy research for improvements it could make to energy infrastructure on Army bases.

“It’s not just about ‘how do we fight the next battle,’ it’s ‘how do we protect resources, how do we live among communities and respect them as well?’” Westphal said.

A soldier stands in a room full of barrels containing white and yellow powder after a seizure of a small ranch in Tlajomulco de Zuniga, Mexico on Thursday.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

GUADALAJARA, Mexico — The historic seizure of 15 tons of pure methamphetamine in western Mexico, equal to half of all meth seizures worldwide in 2009, feeds growing speculation that the country could become a world platform for meth production, not just a supplier to the United States.

The sheer size of the bust announced late Wednesday in Jalisco state suggests involvement of the powerful Sinaloa cartel, a major international trafficker of cocaine and marijuana that has moved into meth production and manufacturing on an industrial scale.

Army officials didn’t say what drug gangs could have been behind the dozens of blue barrels filled with powdered meth. Army Gen. Gilberto Hernandez Andreu said the meth was ready for packaging. There was no information on where the drugs were headed.

Jalisco has long been considered the hub of the Sinaloa cartel’s meth production and trafficking. Meanwhile, meth use is growing in the United States, already the world’s biggest market for illicit drugs.

The haul could have supplied 13 million doses worth over $4 billion on U.S. streets.

The Sinaloa cartel, headed by Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, is equipped to produce and distribute drugs “for the global village,” said Antonio Mazzitelli, the regional representative of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime.

“Such large-scale production could suggest an expansion ... into Latin American and Asian markets,” Mazzitelli said. But he also noted, “it may be a product that hasn’t been able to be sold, and like any business, when the market is depressed, stockpiles build up.” A senior U.S. law enforcement official in Mexico said the operation raided in Jalisco was “probably Sinaloa.”

The official, who could not be quoted by name for security reasons, said Sinaloa may be trying “to reduce its reliance on Colombian cocaine by flooding the market with meth.”

Reporters were shown barrels of white and yellow powder that filled three rooms on a small ranch outside Guadalajara, Mexico’s second-largest city.

The lot around the house, which included an empty swimming pool, was littered with metal canisters and cauldrons used in the production process. While the equipment appeared makeshift and partially dismantled during a tour of the facility given to news media, it was apparently used intensively.

There were no people found on the ranch or arrests made, although it appeared 12 to 15 people worked there.

The seizure of such a large quantity of meth is expected to have a big impact on the U.S. meth market. A pound of meth can sell for about $15,000.

“This could potentially put a huge dent in the supply chain in the U.S,” said U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration spokesman Rusty Payne. “When we’re taking this much out of the supply chain, it’s a huge deal.”

But that may not ultimately mean less meth in the U.S. Law enforcement officials in California’s Central Valley, a hub of the U.S. methamphetamine distribution network, say a cutoff in the Mexican supply could mean domestic super labs will increase production.

“This will be a big seizure and will most likely slow down distribution for a short period of time until manufacturing can continue,” said Robert Penal, a meth expert and former commander of California’s Fresno Methamphetamine Task Force. “However, when there is an interruption in supply it is not uncommon for domestic super labs in California to start up operations to fill the void until the supply from Mexico can be restored.”

Tom Farmer, director of the Tennessee Methamphetamine Task Force, believes the seizure could have a big impact in his state. Tennessee led the nation in clandestine meth lab busts in 2010 with 2,082, but the majority of meth in the state comes from Mexico.

Farmer said the Mexican meth is often made without pseudoephedrine, an ingredient commonly found in cold and allergy pills, which has been banned in Mexico and restricted in the United States. Most meth made in clandestine U.S. labs is made with pseudoephedrine, making it a more powerful high, he said.

“Meth users prefer domestic dope,” Farmer said. “What they end up using is a combination of both. They’ll use the local dope for special occasions, but when it comes to feeding their habit, they’ll revert back to Mexican meth.”

The Mexican army said troops received several anonymous tips and found the big drug stash in the township of Tlajomulco de Zuniga, near the Jalisco state capital of Guadalajara. The army statement said that “the historic seizure (is) the most important in terms of quantity of methamphetamines (seized) at one time.”

The previous biggest bust announced by the army came in June 2010, when soldiers found 3.1 metric tons (3.4 tons) of pure meth in three interconnected warehouses in the central state of Queretaro, along with hundreds of tons of precursor chemicals used to make meth. A giant underground lab was also found in Sinaloa state.

Those other seizures were believed to be linked to the Sinaloa cartel.

The size of the Jalisco bust stunned Steve Preisler, an industrial chemist who wrote the book “Secrets of Methamphetamine Manufacture” and is sometimes called the father of modern meth-making.

“I have never seen quantity in that range,” Preisler wrote. But he added: “The amounts of precursors they were importing would produce multi-tons of product.”

Preisler was referring to the dramatic increase in seizures in Mexico of chemicals used to make methamphetamine, usually imported from countries such as China.

In December alone, Mexican authorities seized 675 tons of a key precursor chemical, methylamine, that can yield its weight in uncut meth. All of the shipments were headed for Guatemala, where the Sinaloa cartel is also active. Officials in Guatemala, meanwhile, seized 7,847 barrels of precursors in 2011, equivalent to about 1,600 tons.

The supply of methamphetamine in the United States has been growing, mainly due to its manufacture in Mexico, according to U.S. drug intelligence sources.

Between 2007 and 2009, seizures of methamphetamine by U.S. authorities along the Mexican border increased by 87 percent, according to the 2011 U.N. World Drug Report, the most recent statistics the U.N. has available.

Eighty percent of the meth caught being smuggled into the U.S. is seized at the Mexican border, according to the National Drug Intelligence Center.

Few drugs do as much widespread damage — both to users and the general public — as meth, which is highly addictive. It’s produced with volatile chemicals that can lead to explosions. Chronic use can lead to psychosis, which includes hearing voices and experiencing hallucinations. The stimulant effect of meth is up to 50 times longer than cocaine, experts say, so users stay awake for days on end, impairing cognitive function and contributing to extreme paranoia. Users are known to lose massive amounts of weight, suffer scabs on their bodies and even lose teeth to “meth mouth” caused when saliva dries up and decay takes over.

Printed on Friday, February 10, 2012 as: Gigantic seizure of meth concerns drug officials