June 2, 2009, Updated September 13, 2012

An Israeli police officer has joined forces with an American counterpart to help use Israeli know-how to safeguard US populations from terror attacks.

For Israeli Sgt. Maj. Marc Kahlberg fighting terror has become a way of life. Since he was one of the first responders on the scene of a major bomb attack on a hotel in a seaside town north of Tel Aviv in 2002, he’s been developing ways to protect the civilian population, first in Israel and then in America.

Now Kahlberg has combined his experience and know-how with Jim Gort, an American Detective Sgt. based in Florida, to create an anti-terror organization – the American Israel Counter Terror Officers Organization (ICTOO) – to help America mobilize its forces to learn from Israeli tragedies and experience, and teach them how to recognize and stop terror attacks.

Developed for first responders, four-year-old ICTOO provides online training tools to help emergency aid services identify and respond to terror attacks. Using real time alerts, and through annual conferences and meetings, Americans, Israelis and other member countries share ways to tackle the global terror threat.

“The concept is networking and sharing open source information,” Kahlberg tells ISRAEL21c. “We are getting ideas together about people who I like to call ‘first responders.’ These are the people behind the scenes who create ideas, policies and procedures used for decision-making. They are not necessarily generals.”

Targeting training for first responders

The idea he says is to collect people who are there at the scene when a terror attack takes place. Generals may know exactly what’s going on, because they are being fed information, but it’s not the same as being there on the ground, he explains.

Kahlberg knows what he’s talking about. He was Netanya’s tourist police commander when a bomb-strapped terrorist walked into the dining room of the city’s Park Hotel and detonated his load. It was the eve of Passover, one of Israel’s biggest holidays, and 30 people were killed and another 140 injured in the attack.

Kahlberg was called in immediately, and since then he’s also been called in as a first responder on over a dozen terror attacks throughout Israel, earning a type of “stripe”, most American police officers hope they will never have to wear.

“I’ve been to 12 to 16 terror attacks on Israel,” says Kahlberg, originally from South Africa. “I don’t know many generals who can say that.”

Kahlberg’s response in the wake of the Netanya bombing was to set up a new scheme to try to protect the city from further attack.

Fighting terror and hitting crime too

Called the Kahlberg plan, the scheme trains people on the ground to deal with urban terror. When it was introduced in Netanya it not only caused a drop in terror attacks, it was found to fight crime as well. After it was introduced in Netanya, crime rates dropped by about 75 percent between the years of 2002-2003, Kahlberg says.

The plan was picked up by Florida and Arizona who now use it as a model to fight terror. The State of Florida, which has incorporated the Kahlberg plan into Pembroke’s ‘mall corridor’, made up of retail businesses such as Best Buy, Circuit City, and Target, was so pleased with the results of the plan that it gave Kahlberg a law enforcement award in recognition of his work.

With ICTOO, Kahlberg and Gort, who has set up an anti-terror unit at the city of Pembroke’s police department, define first responders as security guards, fire fighters, military personnel, police officers, selectors at airports, and ambulance drivers. In Israel, these people are trained to be on high alert at the scene of a terror attack.

Because terrorist organizations are known to strike again after the first responders have come in to aid the injured, Israelis have established protocol for surveying when a location is safe.

Business partners of the new initiative include Israeli company Terrogence, a company that specializes in collection, analysis and assessment of Middle-Eastern and Jihad related intelligence, and iStudy Security, which provides interactive, online security training.

Both Gort and Kahlberg, who have already created in Israel one of the world’s most successful Counter Terror Training Schools, lead training seminars as well. Portions of revenues go to fund Victims of Terror.

Trained for the job

This fall, the organization plans to collect experts together in Israel for a new annual conference called Preventing and Combating Terrorism, 2009. Some 200 Americans and Israelis are expected to attend, including first responders and government representatives. Participants will learn, listen, share and trade secrets and methods for keeping their cities and countries safe.

Based in Elyachin in Israel, ICTOO has the blessing of Israel’s Ministry of Defence. And bigger issues like training response teams about weapons of mass destruction are also part of the company’s expertise, while ICTOO brings in contracted lecturers and specialists on a needs basis.

Kahlberg is married with four kids. He grew up in Johannesburg, South Africa and immigrated to Israel in 1987. A sports enthusiast, Kahlberg played professional tennis before moving to Israel, and recently retired from the Israel Police Force after 12 years of distinguished service.

He is also the founder of SCAI International, a security consulting firm, is the CEO of M.K International Security Consulting and an executive partner in Safe City Solutions.

Kahlberg has held many distinguished positions in the Israel Police. He assisted in creating and establishing various specialty units and was twice awarded the Exemplary Detectives Award from the Israel Police Academy.

Security for the World Cup

Aside from his position as head of the Tourist Police in Netanya, he served as the team leader of both the Yarkon (Tel Aviv) and Netanya Detectives Units. At times he was the Israel Police Spokesman for the Foreign Press and VIP journalists for the New York Times, CNN, FOX News, and the Wall Street Journal during Israel’s Disengagement Process from Gaza.

Since 2001 Kahlberg has been consulting, lecturing and teaching in the methods of counter terrorism to many national and international agencies such as the New York Police Department, Connecticut State wide Anti-Terrorism task force, Florida Sheriff’s Department, the Spanish Anti-Terror Unit, the United States Counter Terrorism Bureau and the United States Congressmen aids and advisors.

He has spoken at many International conferences on the subject of “Delay, Deter and Detect” methods for containing and preventing not only terrorist attacks but also countering organized and violent crimes.

As part of his consultancy services, Kahlberg’s next job is to make sure next year’s 2010 World Cup soccer tournament in South Africa goes off safe and sound, and without a security hitch. “It’s a lot more difficult than you’d imagine,” he says.

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Jason Harris

Jason Harris

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