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Shaw AFB intelligence analyst speaks to Golden Club

Posted: April 10, 2014 5:24 p.m.
Updated: April 11, 2014 5:00 a.m.

The Golden Club welcomed a special guest speaker April 3 who, normally, might not speak much about his work. Scott Strobel is a Camden resident, but also works at Shaw Air Force Base as a civilian intelligence analyst for U.S. Air Forces Central Command.

Strobel agreed to speak as a private citizen in a personal capacity. He offered Golden Club members meeting at the Palmetto Tea Room an overview of what the intelligence field is and discussed how his work looks at events occurring in the world to help the country’s leaders make decisions.

“Normally I don’t do many speaking engagements outside of work,” Strobel said as he took the floor. “There is enough out there in the world that you can pick up from the news and in current events … and make assessments of, and that’s kind of what you do in the intelligence world. You observe what you see and you make an assessment of it.”

Strobel said that is done by asking three questions:

“You try to say what do I see happening here? What is the context it is in or the meaning of what I’m seeing? What do I think is going to happen next and what should be done?”

Analyzing things is something humans do all the time, Strobel said. What makes his position specialized, he said, is that he uses information and techniques not available to civilians.

Strobel said joining the military was something he hadn’t planned on doing originally, but something suggested by a friend in an effort to help him land a job. He said he selected the Air Force and then got involved in signals intelligence, collecting communication information and transcribing, decoding and translating the information to a form that could be analyzed.

Next up: officer school, and as an officer in the intelligence field, he has travelled and worked in countries all over the world.

“There are two kinds of people in the world,” Strobel said, “People who know about the bad things that are happening and people who don’t.”

Even though the world is getting crazier, the world has never been safer at any time in history than it is now, Strobel explained.

“It seems crazier than ever because we know about things right when they’re happening. We saw this happening beginning with the Berlin Wall; we were seeing live news feeds as it was happening,” he said.

Globalization and the Internet make it hard “to get a lot of momentum as an evildoer and get away with it,” Strobel said. With that fact in mind, Strobel said he didn’t particularly see Putin becoming the next Hitler because it was too difficult to do things without others finding out.

“If we know about a situation ahead of time and can intercept diplomatically, often that may have been the force of action,” he said, suggesting that his commonly held opinion allows that the “best punch you have is the one you never have to throw.”

Strobel also discussed issues of division in Iraq, namely between Sunni and Shia followers of Islam.

He said people will naturally look for reasons to divide and separate from each other, looking for what makes them different from others or others different from them. Strobel also said that Americans’ interest in Middle East events can only last for so long, but that -- even though we stop paying attention to these events -- they don’t stop happening.

“We (intelligence) are the ones who keep paying attention when everyone else has stopped,” he said.

In answering a question from the audience, Strobel said information about a possible imminent threat can take between four and 96 hours to be processed, analyzed and communicated to decision makers.

Someone also asked Strobel when he thought Islamic religions would become tolerant of each other as opposed to fighting.

“I think we’ll have those robot butlers and rocket cars we were promised; that’s what the world will be like before this is solved,” he said.

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