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American Morning

Training for Battle in Iraq; Is FEMA Ready if Disaster Were to Strike Again?

Aired December 12, 2005 - 09:34   ET


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: In Iraq, even after this week's election, U.S. troops could be needed for quite a long time, and so the training for battle there goes on.
Barbara Starr live at the Pentagon with a special report for us. Good morning, Barbara.


Well, indeed, for the troops headed to Iraq, the training to deal with the insurgency is now very intense. We went to have a look.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nobody's hit, right?

STARR (voice-over): These National Guard soldiers are headed to Iraq. On this day, they are first training in Mississippi, training like it's real.

COL. DAVE ELICERIO, MINNESOTA NATL. GUARD: We come out here and train as if we're in a forward-operating base in Iraq.

STARR (on camera): As part of the training, even CNN is searched by soldiers learning to check for suicide bombers.

(voice-over): The man in charge, Lieutenant General Russel Honore, last seen in New Orleans, back doing what he loves, training the troops.

LT. RUSSEL HONORE, COMMANDING GEN., FIRST ARMY: The idea is to train the soldier like they're going to fight. And the soldier must understand that there will be situations in dealing wit the civilians like you see in the background. right here.

STARR: To disperse the upset Iraqis, actually civilians hired for the war game, the soldiers decide to use tear gas, fake, but they play it for real and put on gas masks. It's a bad decision. Troops are required to ask for permission to use tear gas, and commanders say in Iraq It's highly unlikely that the use of gas would ever be approved.

To teach a lesson, the trainers hit the soldiers with simulated mortars and rockets. Troops practice one of the most dangerous jobs they will face, escorting convoys, which often come under attack.

Training here focuses on the number-one killer of U.S. troops, improvised-explosive devices, IEDs.

(on camera): The solders in the approaching convoy are about to experience what could happen to them when they get to Iraq.

SGT. JOSHUA STINSON, MINNESOTA NATL. GUARD: The IEDs is what scares everybody the most probably.

HONORE: The IEDs are buried in the side of the road, and the detection from the eye is very hard to pick them up. So the use of binoculars, the ability to sense that there's nobody here. There's normally people at this location. So those are the techniques that the soldiers get to learn.

STARR (voice-over): Everyone is taught to survive the latest insurgent tactics.

SGT. JONATHAN BERKE, MINNESOTA NATL. GUARD: We have things we call daisy chain IEDs, and they set up one that looks very obvious, and then we get out of our vehicles, and then I see three or four right beside us.

HONORE: It's one of the most effective tools we have as a soldier, who's operating in the same area and who can distinguish signs and changes in patterns inside of an urban area.

STARR: Finally, there is a moment for a bit of morale building.

HONORE: Go home for Christmas.

Got your ticket?


HONORE: Remember you can't drink it all in one night, all right?


STARR: And time for a group picture before the training for war in Iraq resumes.


STARR: And, Miles, the whole idea of this type of training is to let the soldiers make their mistakes in Mississippi, not in Iraq -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: What do they say, train like you fight, fight like you train, or something like that? Is that how it goes? It looks like they were keeping it very realistic.

STARR: Exactly. I have to tell you, even I twitched a bit when that explosive went off, even knowing it was training.

M. O'BRIEN: All right, Barbara Starr, thank you. That was fascinating -- Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Well, more than three months after Hurricane Katrina, FEMA still paying for hotels for some evacuees. The agency has been forced to extend its deadline when they couldn't find more permanent housing. After a series of very public missteps, is FEMA ready if disaster were to strike again?

Admiral James Loy is the former deputy secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. He's in San Francisco this morning.

It's nice to see you, Admiral. Thank you very much for talking with us.


S. O'BRIEN: Before -- we should mention that you have another hat, you wear another hat. And you are the national co-chair of, which really has come up with a list of ways in which our nation could be better prepared against future catastrophe.

When you look back at the many way in which the ball was dropped by FEMA and other agencies during Hurricane Katrina, what do you find most surprising? What was sort of most breathtaking to you?

LOY: I think, frankly, it's the ability for us as a nation to learn lessons over the course of the history.

We watched Andrew go by. We watched Hugh go by. We watched earthquakes in California. And now we are still impacted by arguably one of most devastating challenges that ever faced in the nation in Katrina.

But the reality is we still need an integrated package of preparedness across the country, from Atlantic to Pacific, to truly enable us a nation to watch for the citizens' well-being.

At the other end of these real catastrophic events, we can't put our citizens in a position of not being able to, either financially or even with the set of basic capabilities, to restore what they have literally spent their lives to build. We've got to find a better way to have that package of total capability, evident to our first responders to building codes that must go into place to make certain that the prevention and mitigation opportunities available to us, as a nation, are taken to their ultimate capability for the well-being of our citizens.

S. O'BRIEN: You sort of set up the partial list. I mean, when you look at the first responder issues, there's still a lack of communication -- I mean, the first thing that's going to go down often in a big disaster is going to be the ability to communicate, not only between citizens, but also the first responders. Much more critical for them.

And then if you look sort of after the fact on a disaster, I mean, you look at the questions about housing for FEMA. All these things cost a lot of money to make them right the first time and to fix them after a catastrophe happens. What do you propose that's possible to pay for?

LOY: Well,, and its affiliates as we're building them around the country -- we're here in California today to establish and announce The notion here is that without a single tax dollar, we can make a significant contribution to that financial well-being of our citizenry across the nation.

Premiums that can be paid on a cascading kind of scale, where there are thresholds established, first and foremost for the insurer, and the homeowner to bear a significant portion of the insurance associated with what might occur in the areas in which they live and be very particular about the areas in which they live and what are the prospects of one of these catastrophes to strike there.

But then secondly, we feel that the ability to establish state funds, like exist here in California, in Florida and elsewhere, with premiums associated with a building fund that could be tapped up to another threshold and then eventually build a federal back stop. Such that at the other end of the capability of first homeowners, insurers and even a state fund, there will always be a federal back stop that will be a reinsuring capability to restore the process both at the state and the insurers' level, to take care of these citizens who find themselves totally devastated in the wake of a major catatrosphe.

S. O'BRIEN: That may be a better strategy than just running after the problem and just throwing money at it in the aftermath of the disaster.

Admiral James Loy is a former Homeland Security deputy secretary. It's nice to see you, sir. Thanks for talking with us.

LOY: Good to see you again, Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: Thank you.

M. O'BRIEN: Andy Serwer's back. He's still "Minding Your Business."

ANDY SERWER, "FORTUNE" COLUMNIST: Good morning, you guys. What gets the nation's teachers the most peeved? Hint...

S. O'BRIEN: Bad students.

SERWER: Bad students, bad apples.

M. O'BRIEN: Chewing gum. I hate that, I hate that.


M. O'BRIEN: All right. You know, our kids are our most precious resource and educating them is the most important thing we do. So are we paying our teachers enough to do that? Andy Serwer. SERWER: No. I mean, I think everyone says teachers are underpaid. We all know about that. But we have the gory details on that, coming up in one second here. Let's go down to Wall Street, though, and see how trading starts off the week. Up 32, Miles O'Brien. That's 32 points to the upside on the Dow Jones Industrials.

M. O'BRIEN: Why are you talking to me about that?

SERWER: Because it's a bull run here.

S. O'BRIEN: He blames you for it.

SERWER: Yes. Anyway, a couple...

M. O'BRIEN: And you thought of me when you thought of bull? Is that what it is?

SERWER: Well, no, something like that.

S. O'BRIEN: Something like that.

SERWER: Disney stock, you'd think would be moving because of the smash hit "Narnia" over the weekend. It's not. "Time Warner," you might think it's moving because Steve Case, former executive there, thinks the company should be broken up. It's not moving, either.

So let's move on ourselves and talk about this issue about teachers' pay. New report out by the National Education Association shows exactly how much teachers are getting paid. Average salary, $47,808 a year. That's a nation-wide average for year-end '04, the most recent data. Up 2.3 percent. And the big news here is that it trails inflation -- inflation was three percent in '04.

Here's the map which shows salaries across the nation. Very interesting stuff. Connecticut is where teachers get paid the most, $58,000-plus. Of course, cost of living in Connecticut is high. The low is South Dakota at $34,000. The cost of living less there, although going up with heating bills nowadays.

And you can see a range all across the country there. And, you know, it's a case where I think you could argue that the teachers in South Dakota are definitely underpaid. But I wouldn't say that teachers in Connecticut are overpaid. You know, I mean, it's a situation, as Miles is suggesting, that it's probably worth every dollar we spend to pay these people and maybe a little bit more than that, too.

S. O'BRIEN: I don't think you could argue that.

All right, Andy, thank you very much.

SERWER: You're welcome.

S. O'BRIEN: Well, "CNN LIVE TODAY" is coming up next. Let's get right to Daryn Kagan. What are you working on? Good morning.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, Soledad. Big day ahead for a Monday morning.

Straight ahead, President Bush heads to Philly, continuing his campaign to win support for the war in Iraq. We will hear about -- we will hear from him in about an hour from now. And, of course, we'll bring you that speech live.

Also, if you are nervous about your company's holiday party, stick around for today's top five tips. Everything you need to know to enjoy the party and keep your job. Soledad, you don't want to do like Miles did that one year with the lamp shade.

S. O'BRIEN: Oh, he always does that. One year? Every year. Mr. Happy, hello!


SERWER: Keep away from the mistletoe, Miles.

S. O'BRIEN: Yes, then you have the guys with the misteltoes.

M. O'BRIEN: You know, it is absolutely a no-win proposition, going to those parties. Just for the record. Stay home.

S. O'BRIEN: It's work.

M. O'BRIEN: It is work.

S. O'BRIEN: Thanks, Daryn. We'll see you at the top of the hour.

M. O'BRIEN: And while we're on that vein, parties, food, booze, all those things. What are you going to do to get through all this without gaining a little more than you have?

We'll tell you how to make some healthy choices and still have a little bit of fun, next on AMERICAN MORNING.


M. O'BRIEN: Ah yes, the holidays. It's time to eat. It's time to drink. It's time celebrate all those thing you feel a lot of pressure to do, and of course come the first of the year, you're at the health club, at least for a week or so, you know, once you've signed up for a year.

Heidi Skolnik is a nutritionist, as well as the food coach -- food coach. All right, carrots, drop and give me 20, right? Is that what you do?


M. O'BRIEN: She joins us now with some healthy choices for the holidays. We're going to do a little math here, kids. So bear with us. Let's do the math on a typical, you know, holiday cornucopia.

SKOLNIK: Well, here's the really important point here, is it's not one meal. It starts at Thanksgiving. It goes all the way...

M. O'BRIEN: It's a continuum of gnoshing.

SKOLNIK: And that's what gets you.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes.

SKOLNIK: It's going to be six-and-a-half pounds by the time we're done.

M. O'BRIEN: Really?

SKOLNIK: You're going to...

M. O'BRIEN: All right, so let's go through this.


M. O'BRIEN: All right, you've got the typical day, you're out shopping around, and you get the cocoa with the whipped cream and the whole milk.

SKOLNIK: OK, it's a seasonal food.

M. O'BRIEN: Sure, of course.

SKOLNIK: Everyone likes hot cocoa in winter. It's cold out, and it's...

M. O'BRIEN: What harm could it do?

SKOLNIK: Well, let's see...

M. O'BRIEN: Four hundred and forty calories, right?

SKOLNIK: That's a lot of calories. But you can still have what I suggest is get the hot cocoa, but make it a tall, not a grande.

M. O'BRIEN: We'll give you that in a second. We'll do that. There's the chocolate chip cookie, which you're going to have with your cocoa, is 430, right?

Are we going to put this on the screen so people can come along? There we go?

A pecan turtle, bad idea under any circumstances, right, 90 calories, right? Egg nog.

SKOLNIK: Well, I think it's shocking at 343 calories. I don't think people realize that one little beverage...

M. O'BRIEN: One little ladle, one ladle...

SKOLNIK: ... is 343 calories.

M. O'BRIEN: Forget it. It's not even that good, right? SKOLNIK: Well, but there's another choice that you can make.

M. O'BRIEN: We're get to the choice. Just hang on.

And then finally, white meat, no skin, 173 calories. Typical day.

All right, now, here's the new and improved Heidi gnoshing menu, cocoa with nonfat milk, 190 calories.

SKOLNIK: Right, so you're really -- you're saving over 200 calories right there, just from making that change.

M. O'BRIEN: Wow.

SKOLNIK: And then the brownie.

M. O'BRIEN: Instead of the cookie, which was 430.

SKOLNIK: Because that cookie is a mega-cookie. These are not small cookies. And everyone has already learned the message to regift, bring in the gifts that you get at home, the food gifts to the office, and you don't have to eat them, so they so you're eating everybody else's gifts. Those cookies are really like four or five cookies.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes, big old cookies.

SKOLNIK: You have a cookie, and...

M. O'BRIEN: So a two-inch brownie, about like that.

SKOLNIK: A two-inch brownie, so you get that chocolate.

M. O'BRIEN: But can you get a two-inch brownie.

SKOLNIK: Yes you can.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes you can.

All right, so that's 140 calories. A brownie is better than a cookie. Who knew? Who knew?

M. O'BRIEN: Finally, a candy cane as opposed to the pecan turtle. Candy cane is 55 calories.

SKOLNIK: Right, and the thing about it...

M. O'BRIEN: That's all sugar, right?

SKOLNIK: It's all sugar, but it takes a longer time to eat. You tend to -- you know, pecan turtles, you have one, you have another, you're picking a third.

M. O'BRIEN: You do, yes.

SKOLNIK: It really adds up.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes, all right, then the hot toddy, which is 130 calories, as opposed to the egg nog.

SKOLNIK: The egg nog. So you're at a party. You're still partaking. You're not feeling left out, like you can't go out on the holidays, because you're trying to watch your weight. You can still partake, but you can make better choices.

M. O'BRIEN: Now finally, this is an interesting one. You say dark meat, no skin. That's actually a little more than the white meat, 205. So what you're saying is it's a wash, right?

SKOLNIK: The thing is, that's like an urban myth. You know, this whole etiquette passed now from -- dark meat is bad for you. Dark meat is actually richer in iron and zinc. You're getting something for those 30 extra calories. A serving size, you know, you're not going to overeat too much of that. That's not going to matter. The skin is a different story. You still want to avoid the skin.

M. O'BRIEN: But don't get hung up on the light or dark thing.

All right, so let's refresh on the first menu, 1,476 calories. Just kind of added on throughout the day. Your version, which to me is not -- you're still having a fun day, 720 calories. That is a savings of 756 calories a day. . Let's project that out.

SKOLNIK: Right, so you want to magnify now by the 30 days from, you know, Thanksgiving to Christmas or New Year's. That's going to be 22,680 calories, and that equals 6.5 pounds.

M. O'BRIEN: Well, that's like 80 pounds a year, or you know...

SKOLNIK: We're talking huge.

M. O'BRIEN: Thousands of pounds over a lifetime.

SKOLNIK: So it's really -- and the real point here is that it's small changes, small selections each day can make a big difference.

M. O'BRIEN: So just incremental stuff. Don't starve yourself, but just be smart.

SKOLNIK: You've got it.

M. O'BRIEN: Heidi Skolnik, thank you. Excellent food coaching today. We appreciate that. She's with "Men's Health Magazine," among other things. And she's a registered nutritionist, right, registered?

SKOLNIK: I'm a nutritionist.

M. O'BRIEN: We just registered you, I think.

Back with more in a moment.