The Awesome Responsibility Young Military Members Have Demonstrated In One Anecdote

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Official Air Force Photo

This is an airman, but it's not him.

You may remember the mysterious "legion of doom" conference call of Al Qaeda leadership reported last month in The Daily Beast. After that call (or Internet chat, it's not entirely clear), as reported by Josh Rogin and Eli Lake, 22 U.S. embassies were temporarily shut down.

Many thought it was likely an intercept from some automated high-tech system we don't even know about.

Well, it wasn't.

It was a junior enlisted, senior airman at the 70th Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Wing at Fort Meade, Md. who just happened to be doing his or her job that day.

From Foreign Policy:

The individual analyst being credited with the key discovery that alerted officials to a possible terrorist attack is a "cryptologic linguist" with the rank of senior airman who leads a team of electronic data analysts in one of the Air Force's premier signals intelligence units, Lt. Gen. Otto said. A senior airman in the Air Force is equivalent in rank to a corporal in the Army.

"Part of his job is just sifting through troves of data and determining what's relevant and then translating that data into useful information to our decision makers," Otto said.

Here's a little background: Senior airman is an E-4 rank (the top is 9). Although the airman is unnamed, you can get to this rank easily in 2-3 years. Not only is this young airman leading others, probably only at age 21 or 22, but he or she learned and honed Arabic language skills in the military and is also responsible for listening to Al Qaeda's phone calls.



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