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Studies From Abroad: The Death March

Published: Friday, March 1, 2013

Updated: Wednesday, March 20, 2013 16:03

Nicholas Long

Courtesy of Nicholas Long

ASU junior Nicholas Long sits on a tank during a two-week summer study abroad program in Israel with the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice.

Criminal justice and criminology junior Nicholas Long and his class followed an instructor on a 4-mile hike. But this wasn’t a typical environmental journey. The leader, a bombing expert, took the Arizona State University students around various suicide bombing locations, including Jaffa Street in Jerusalem.

“They hadn’t even redone the street,” Long says. “You saw concrete with giant holes in it from an explosion. You know there had been people around who didn’t make it through.”

The “Death March,” as ASU faculty associate professor Charles Loftus calls it, is one of the experiences students have when they go on the two-week summer study abroad trip to Israel with the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice. Instructors from the Institute of Terrorism Research and Response (ITRR) provide lectures and guest speakers for the students.

Charles Loftus says he wanted to give students interested in intelligence and counter terrorism a hands-on and real-life experience. As a part of the Arizona Law Enforcement Trainers Association, Loftus reached out to several people and in the process hear about the ITRR.

Loftus says knowledge about counter terrorism and intelligence is good for any student to learn. Tourism majors especially will have to deal with high degrees of security in their profession, he says.

“What I’m trying to do is prepare the next generation of defenders for us,” he says. “This new generation is coming up and not everybody is going into the military, not everyone is going into law enforcement. More people are going into the career field without that preparatory experience. One of the ways we can help them is to provide this tool that we’re developing at ASU.”

For the past five years, ITRR experts have led sessions or brought in guest speakers, including a CIA agent, to present a lecture for the students. Lectures are usually followed up with trips to places, such as military bases, home front command headquarters and airport security. Students also were able to practice gathering intelligence, which would be able to help them in the States if they became police officers, says Rebecca Loftus, Charles Loftus’ wife and ASU lecturer.

The walk around Jaffa Street complemented a lecture about suicide bombers. Charles Loftus says the ITRR instructor talked about profile of suicide bombers, common traits, mechanisms, explosives, handling and signals.

“Just having me or my husband give that talk, or a lecture in the classroom, or even taking students from one place to the other, it wouldn’t have been nearly as meaningful as having this fellow who was there and responded to it,” Rebecca Loftus says.

Long agrees and says he enjoyed hearing about the topics from leaders in the field.

“There was a lot I could have learned by staying here, but I feel it was more impactful by going there,” he says.

The ASU group also has cultural excursions like climbing the Masada and swimming, or floating, in the Dead Sea.

Long, who recently began taking Arabic, says the study abroad trip solidified his decision to pursue an education focusing on counter terrorism. He hopes to work at either the CIA or Homeland Security.

“[Counter terrorism] seemed like the most impactful,” Long says. “There’s a lot of terrorists chatter and sorts of things that don’t make the news, but someone’s there to make sure it’s not going to become the next issue or become the next 9/11 or something like that.”

Students must register for two summer classes through ASU, but everyone attends the same lectures and trips abroad. When the students return to the United States, they write three essays based on the subject matter.

Long says he enrolled in Etiology of Martyrdom and International Policing. For one of his essays, he wrote about the role of hope and hopelessness in martyrdom.

After the trip, students receive a certificate of completion from the ITRR. Long says he thinks the experience was good training for his future career. He says a couple of things he can apply to the states are the concepts of national resiliency and situational awareness.

“I never really thought of anything in that way before,” Long says. “What would be kind of weaknesses in security and what could potentially be the difference between somebody having a visit and somebody dying was a really cool thing to look at.”

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