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#40 – Christopher Strom: From NYPD to Iraq. Christopher Strom shares with us his story of fighting terrorism, both as a NYPD intelligence cop to a contractor in Iraq. You will enjoy and appreciate the perspective he shares! His book, Brooklyn to Baghdad, is available everywhere, including here: https://amzn.to/3oGmSnR 

AUTO-TRANSCRIBED

Aaron Spatz  00:05

I’m Aaron Spatz. And this is the Veterans Business Podcast. A podcast centered around the stories of US military veterans, and their adventures in the business world following their time in service. Its stories of challenges and obstacles, and an inside look at how veterans find their life’s work, their purpose, and their post military lives. Welcome to another edition of the Veterans Business Podcast. My name is Aaron Spatz. I’m so excited that you decided to tune in today. Thank you so much for joining us. It’s my hope that through the story of this podcast that you find stories of encouragement and insight that will propel you in your own ventures. And if you enjoy the show, I would be delighted if you tell others about it. It’s the easiest way to get the word out of the show. If you have any specific comments, questions, any feedback related to any of the episodes, I love to speak with you, I love to love to get to know you. So the easiest way to do that is to send a quick note to podcast at Bold media.us. And so I’m incredibly excited. It’s my honor to introduce our guest this week, Christopher strong. Chris served in the Marine Corps for four years before entering law enforcement and a career with NYPD. We’re going to dive a whole bunch more into Chris’s journey, which I’m really excited to unpack that with him. And we’re also going to cover his book, Brooklyn to Baghdad. So Chris, thank you, sir, so much for joining the show today.

Christopher Strom  01:34

Thanks so much for having me. Aaron, I appreciate it very much.

Aaron Spatz  01:39

Yes, sir. No, it’s a it’s a sincere pleasure would love to would love to get a little more insight into who, who you are who you were growing up. So share with us a little bit about your journey a little bit about your your upbringing, and what what inspired you to join the military.

Christopher Strom  01:57

There’s a lot there. Well, I joined the Marine Corps five days after I turned 17. And I was living in a house living in the home that had some issues. No father in the scene. And, you know, my life was kind of like spiraling out of control. And I needed some structure. So I joined the Marine Corps. Five days after I turned 17, and probably the best thing I ever did in my life, in terms of straightening my life out learning, we you know, learn to teach me how to have discipline and be motivated and realize that you know, nothing, nothing that you really want to life comes easy that you have to work hard for it. So that was kind of the impetus for joining the Marine Corps. After getting out of the Marine Corps joined the NYPD and I was a police officer and later a sergeant with the NYPD for over 20 years. It started in 1987. In January, I did like what most people do, I started out on patrol. Then from patrol, I worked my way up into anti crime which took about six years. And for people that aren’t familiar with that, that is like a plainclothes unit smooth cars. And your primary focus is addressing violent street felonies within the confines of the precinct. So I did that for about two years. And then I got involved in a shooting. And as a consequence of the shooting, I was laterally promoted into what they call the Queens robbery Task Force, which is basically anti crime on steroids. So now instead of having one precinct to be patrolling and looking looking for crimes and things like that, now I had the whole borough of Queens, which is 50 square miles. So very aggressive unit, again, violent street felonies, primarily robberies, but we weren’t limited to robberies, you know, there was gone arrest, stolen cars, carjackings were popular back then. And I did that for four years. And I loved it. I mean, it was it’s, it’s it’s like one of the most exciting things I’ve ever done. It’s like really what you see on TV, you know, car chases, foot chases, wrestling around with somebody, handcuffing them, all the things that, you know, people would see on TV or in a movie, I get to live out my fantasies in real life. And I did that for four years. And then after that, I got promoted to sergeant. And from there, I went to Brooklyn, and I’m back on patrol, I’m in uniform. And I did that for about seven or eight months. And then the captain had called me into his office and said, hey, you know, I’ve been reading over your, your, your profile, you know, we have what we call a street Narcotics Enforcement Unit, or snow. Is that something you’d be interested in? You’d be back in plainclothes running your own team, and primarily focusing on narcotics. And I said, Yeah, that sounds sounds awesome. So I did that. And I worked with some really amazing people, people that I’m very close with to this day. Guys, girls, all different backgrounds, all different races, and we had a ball and then 911 happened. And there was a need to put people into the Intelligence Division and quite honestly, when I was approached by the same Captain about going in there, I really didn’t want to go because I was like, I have steady days off. I have an amazing team of people I really care about and we love each other and we get along great. And I’m making overtime. And you know, I’m like, how’s it going to get any better, but there was a need for it. And so I ended up taking the position within the intelligence division. And again, now I’m back in plainclothes, but I’m working with a different type of crime fighting, you know, anti terrorism, counterterrorism is different than regular criminal offenses. And there was a steady learning curve for me to meet. And I was already working with people that were already way ahead of me very gifted detectives that were on my team that really showed me how to how to do the job in terms of fighting terrorism within New York city proper. Wow.

Aaron Spatz  05:39

No, I mean, and that’s, I mean, obviously, that’s, that’s quite a, that’s quite a bit of journey that we that we just traveled and absolutely incredible. And so, going like going back a little bit. You know, you were so you I mean, you’re in New York, when when 911 happened. So I mean, tell me, tell me about that. Like, tell me what that was like.

Christopher Strom  06:04

Yeah, that’s, that’s a day I will forget, like most people. My daughter’s birthday is actually September 11. So I had changed my tour. And I was working the street Narcotics Enforcement Unit at the time to do a day tour because my daughter turned four. And I was like, Well, I kissed her goodbye, I said, you know, we’re gonna have cake grandma and grandpa be over later on. And, you know, happy birthday, love you and all that kind of stuff. And I get into work. And I grew up my partner, which was at the time was Detective Detective. Now she’s a retired Sergeant ginger of Alaska. So we get in the car. And we actually go to get breakfast. And as we, as we come out of the restaurant, the radio was cracking into so much radio traffic, I can’t even understand what people are saying, except to say that there’s a plane, a plane, a plane, and then you know, everybody is talking all over each other. So I switched over to the city wide frequency. And now I’m hearing from the specialty units that a plane to sit one of the Trade Towers. So I immediately parked my car just to give some perspective for people in Brooklyn, where I was, I was sandwiched between the Brooklyn Bridge and the Brooklyn battery tunnel. So my view is of the East River, looking at the southern tip of Manhattan. So I can clearly see both World Trade Centers, I can see one is on fire. And the smoke is actually because of the prevailing wind is drifting toward Brooklyn. And with that, as his drifting toward us, is like a cascade of almost like confetti on New Year’s Eve, of paper and debris that is, you know, caught up in this jet stream, so to speak. So I parked my car called my wife, and I’m sitting there watching, watching all this, listen to the radio traffic at the same time. And then boom, the second tower struck, while I’m sitting in the car, watch the plane, saw the plane hit it, and the car shook my partner, ginger, she let out a scream. And I just told my wife, I said, I gotta go. So three days later, after, you know, cleaning up some of the mess and going downtown to Ground Zero. I got home and I finally saw my family. And, you know, like I said, it’s a day I won’t forget. And the people that I work with, to this day, it’s still very raw, especially people in New York. Yeah,

Aaron Spatz  08:15

well, man three, three days later, too. I mean, so I mean, it was just, it was just full on. I mean, from that, from that moment, I mean, you were just completely, completely just caught up in all that was going on there.

Christopher Strom  08:29

Yeah, it you know, I have to be honest with you. A lot of people talk about it, I really don’t talk about it. If people ask me I talk about it, obviously. I don’t want to be depressing about it, so to speak. But it’s just one of those things where other people may have had different experiences, my experiences probably different. Since then summon probably like a lot like some other people, you know, just got up that day. And as a police officer, as a first responder and just, you know, went and you don’t even think about it, it’s one of those things where it doesn’t seem real. And then, you know, days later, weeks later, months later, you kind of realize what really happened and but you’re so focused on what’s what’s going on immediate task of, of life saving and directing traffic and, you know, digging out the pile and things like that you don’t really think about what these other people got, you know, were unfortunate. Were thinking in their last moments of their life that’s totally separate and apart from what I experienced.

Aaron Spatz  09:28

Sure. Yeah. No, absolutely. But no, I mean, I just I appreciate you. I appreciate you sharing a little bit of insight because I mean, for a lot of us, I mean, not not not everybody lives where you live, not everybody had the the perspective and the experience that you had. So I mean, I absolutely treasure you treasure, the story and treasure with all you know, with, with all the utmost respect, not just for you, but for everybody that what they endured that day, and then subsequently what we endured as a country and then I guess, I guess that kind of rolls in Then you know a little bit about what you’re doing then beyond that, so tell me about your, your, your transition, then me because then you’re working in, in the. So like, my question I guess I’m trying to ask is like, How long after 911? Then were you in, in the Intel group?

Christopher Strom  10:20

Well, I was in the precinct probably for another six, six to nine months. Okay. And then I got recruited to go into the Intelligence Division. I did that for five years. And basically, my job was to respond to anything that could potentially have a nexus to terrorism. So, for example, there’s an explosion at a subway station, you know, that would require what we call the Intelligence Division alive response. So I would gather my team, and we would deploy to the area that was affected by the explosion. And we would start asking some questions doing a canvass of people, what did they see? You know, after the explosion, what did they see before the explosion? And, you know, try and get what the, quote real human intelligence in real time? Yeah. And so it sounds easy. Sounds like, Oh, you just respond, but But the question now becomes, how did this happen? And you have to, from my perspective, rule out terrorism. So I have a boss, you know, at the time was this gentleman, Inspector mera? Mera. And, and I also had another boss that was above him, you know, Deputy Commissioner Cohen, who was a 36 year CIA guy. So they’re calling me and wanting updates. And the problem for me is, you know, obviously, there’s some navigation problems, depending on where you are geographically in relation to where the incident is. So that’s probably one problem, too, is, is the news crew going to get there before you? And the bad problem becomes? Is it on the news before you actually do a canvass and start speaking to people, and that was a career killer. Because if the commissioner or my boss found their information out from the local news station about what was going on, or CNN or Fox News, or whatever it was, that was bad, and you would be replaced. So there’s a lot of stress that’s involved with that, obviously, we want to do the best job in the most thorough job. But I had to be able to answer every question in real time, what’s going on? And then, of course, if it turned out it was actually a real incident, well, now you have a full blown out case, a real investigation. And it might require some, you know, surveillance, it might require some more door knocks, some more computer checks, introductions of confidential informants, things like that, that, you know, would really go on and on, depending on how long it wasn’t, you could round up to people responsible.

Aaron Spatz  12:38

Man, that’s nuts. I yeah, I can’t imagine the stress level of, you know, you’re trying to get to location, but then be you’re trying to beat everybody else, to uncovering what, like what it actually happened. And then it’s crazy to to realize too, like when you’re, you’re one of the original people, then that was, that was a part of this entire group, you know, in the aftermath of 911, that they had to go track and trace all this down and deal with, like, just the like, I cannot imagine the level of scrutiny and like the heightened sense of security and the heightened posture of security in the in the days, weeks and months after September 11. So like, what like, what, what impact, like, how did that shape the NYPD? And I realize we’re getting a little bit off topic, but I think this is just, this is really fascinating, like, but what did, what did that look like? You know, in those days, weeks and months, following 911?

Christopher Strom  13:33

Well, you know, it’s funny, they started a campaign, which you know, is now pretty much in everybody’s lexicon of vernacular, if you see something, say something. So unlike a lot of other cities, you know, this was the second time the World Trade Center was attacked, was attacked, actually in 93, as well. And so now, people are very suspicious of anybody. And so, you know, if they saw something they called it in. So those types of calls would be called What’s a lead, it wouldn’t necessarily require a live response. But you would still have to respond and interview these people and speak to them and do some door knocking. So whenever there was something that was flashed across the news about a terrorist or some or a picture of somebody, now everybody suddenly sees this one particular person, maybe they do, and maybe they don’t, but you don’t know that until you go and talk to these people and find out. Is it just healthy paranoia? Or is it is it really some substance to what these people claim they’ve seen? So, you know, those types of leads, depending on how close we were in in terms of or how far away we were after the 911? You know, that happened quite a bit, I would say for the first year and certainly the second year and maybe by the time the third year, it started to die down. But you know, you have to remember New York was was there were several attempts that were publicized. There was one that was that almost happened in Times Square and actually, if I’m not mistaken, the subway. Subway. I have to vender actually saw this guy running away from a car. And he looked at the car realized that the car was in a no parking zone, and the car started to catch fire. And before you know, it turns out he had a propane bomb in there. So, you know, thankfully, the propane bomb didn’t detonate, but you know, in the heart of Times Square, you know, you could imagine with all the tourists and people that are there on any given day, whether it’s great weather in the summertime, or, you know, cold weather in the wintertime. And so there’s a lot of things that go go into that. And you don’t really know, like I said, what’s real, what’s not real, you have to be able to rule it in and rule it out. And, you know, like I said, I work with some really amazing people that took the job very seriously. And I don’t I want people to understand, in the Intelligence Division, the leads that we got, were citizen generated. So before somebody says, Oh, wait, the NYPD was, was profiling one certain group over another. That’s not true. If somebody called in whether it was the crazy lady with cat, six cats in her house, you know, we took her seriously. So like I said, we could rule it out. But every now and then these people that you think there couldn’t be anything to the story turns out to be some big blown out investigation, because somebody calls in so if if 90% of the calls are just somebodies healthy paranoia, and you know, we have to assuage that. And the 10% are real and 5% become real investigations. That’s the kind of numbers that you’re dealing with. That’s the reality and the statistics, and it bears it out. Within the intelligence division, so founded leads versus unfounded leads and investigations.

Aaron Spatz  16:33

Yeah, I just can’t imagine the the, the The work volume, and just the amount, the amount of just stuff that was going on, immediately, immediately during, during all that.

Christopher Strom  16:48

Yeah, it was, it was, it was a, it was a great job was a very satisfying job. And again, I worked with some amazing gifted people that really, that really helped me along the way, they made me look like a superstar. But we worked as a team, you can’t, you can’t possibly cover the whole city, and beyond New York City, for that matter, without working with some dedicated people. And I mean, you know, really dedicated and, you know, just for some perspective, you know, most of my days were anywhere from 14 to 15 hours a day. So I would start at eight, and a lot of times, I didn’t get home until 1011 o’clock, and I literally would be in my car, driving home on the bell Parkway, and my phone would ring and we had company phones and company cars. And as a supervisor, you can’t just say, I’m not taking this call, you have to take the call. And, you know, there’s many times that I would just turn around, there were many times that the investigation was so intensive, that you know, I didn’t have a day off for for a week, two weeks a month, because we’re, you know, working around the clock on this one particular investigation. And again, you can’t have any slackers in this unit. Everybody’s got to pull, you know, pull together otherwise, you know, you can’t, you can’t win. And again, I’m working for a guy my boss was was phenomenal. And he gave me a lot of free rein and let me do you know what I needed to do and manage my people. He wasn’t a micromanager. But the boss above him who I mentioned before Commissioner Cohen, you know, he, he wanted to know, and if you stood there and and started and said, We’re looking into that you’d be replaced? There’s no question about it. There was only five sergeants that did my job counting myself. There’s over 5000 sergeants in New York City. That’s the reality of the job. So I would have never survived that had I not had the amazing people working for me that I had. Because it’s, it’s, it’s just being able to trust them and know that when I ask them a question, did you actually knock on the door? Did you go to this location, or be able to redirect them or other resources and know that it’s going to happen in real time? Not, you know, we’ll get to it tomorrow, Chris, you know, that, you know, that’s very comforting. But, but, you know, after five years of doing that, and I was you know, able to retire I said, I think I’m gonna retire because I’m, I’ve done I’ve achieved pretty much all I can do. And I’m, you know, leaving on a high note, my kids, they were young enough that if I wanted to move them out of school, now’s the time to do it, as opposed to stay in another year or two, and it just would have made just would have made it more difficult, I think because of their ages.

Aaron Spatz  19:12

Sure. And then yeah, yeah, I mean, you beat you beat me to the punch on IMAX question. So I mean, walk us through then, you know, what, what was the what did the retirement decision look like for you? And then what was next for you? What What were you thinking about? I mean, obviously, you think about your family, but but like, what, what was your next

Christopher Strom  19:31

move? Well, I had an opportunity to get involved in a home remodeling business in Roanoke, Virginia. And I had already visited the area several times I knew the schools were great. The scenery and the mountains and everything like that was beautiful. And just so you know, when you and your audience that’s I was living in a town prior to that called Long Beach in the West End, and there were a little beach bungalows, and I loved it had phenomenal neighbors. Everybody knew each other But you know, very, very cramped conditions. And when I say bungalow, the house was less than 1000 square feet. So I, you know, and two kids and a dog and a wife and all the stuff that goes along with it. And so I said, you know, it’s time to move, let’s, let’s take advantage of this opportunity. I’m very blessed, I got a great pension, I had a tremendous going away party retirement party with all these people that came around surrounding me. And I took advantage of this business opportunity. And that lasted about nine months, I didn’t see the same way this other person saw things and, you know, we parted ways. And now I’m, I’m unemployed, but I’ll be like I said, I have a pension. But I’m 48 years old, and you know, I can’t just sit around the house is there’s got to be more to life than just sitting around. You don’t have to do something.

Aaron Spatz  20:47

Make some makes total sense to me. And so yeah, I mean, just look at looking at looking at a little bit of your bio. And while you’re doing so, tell us about Jai Edo. And I have, I have vague memories of that from Afghanistan, you know, the whole counter ID program. So like, walk us through about, about your experiences there, which I think is is part of the content of your book. Would would love a little bit more insight there.

Christopher Strom  21:17

Sure, well, just so your audience knows also jado stands for the joint improvised explosive device, Defeat Organization. That’s a mouthful. And so basically, it’s a working group to counter the effects of IEDs in Iraq and Afghanistan. And so what happened was, unfortunately, we got ourselves involved in Iraq and Afghanistan and the soldiers after the shooting war stop primarily being killed by Iranian EFPs. And the Army and the Marine Corps and, and all the services in both theatres of conflict, we’re having a problem with that. And they were trying to figure out how to combat that. So initially, when Giteau started, their main focus was to defeat the device. And you know, they spent billions of dollars with a B, on things like ground penetrating radar, cell phone, jammers, and things like that, to counteract the effects of the IDs. And after spending all this money and not getting any return on it, meaning soldiers were still being killed. They decided to shift gears and they decided to start this program, which is, is detailed in the book called The Phoenix program. And basically, now they’re going to attack the problem. In terms of more like a criminal organization, let’s get the organization and find the devices, as opposed to just a feeding device. Because like anything else, you could recover all the narcotics in the world, that doesn’t stop the narcotics from coming into into the country into the United States. If you defeat their network, their criminal enterprise, then you can stem the flow, or at least stop the flow from that particular enterprise. And that was the theory behind the Phoenix program, and also with jado, if they shifted from defeating the device to Let’s defeat the network.

Aaron Spatz  23:04

That’s terrific. The and, and, you know, and again, I’m just gonna give give a quick plug for your book. So I mean, Chris’s book, Brooklyn Baghdad is gonna is going to detail quite a quite a bit of this journey. And yeah, I mean, that’s, it’s incredible, because the work I mean, the work you did over there, right? It was, it was in some ways, it was an extension of your experience and of some of the things that you’d gone through in your in your career with NYPD. So like, I mean, a lot of the skills that you took with your there then Right, I mean, you were able to translate that directly into the work you’re doing.

Christopher Strom  23:39

Yeah, well, I mean, my job primarily interact was to be the interrogator. So that’s something that, you know, I’d like to think I’m pretty good at. It’s something that I’ve used many, many times, and I have a lot of practical experience. In doing so that was my skill set. There were obviously other members of the team, again, an amazing team. We had technical exploitation officers, which is a fancy word for ripping cell phones and things like that. We had EOD, explosive ordnance detection people, dogs, Intel analysts that created the targeting packages, you know, for these targets that we went after in Iraq. But the skill sets that I learned from the NYPD, again, I learned from some amazing people. Nobody just says one day I think I’m going to be an interrogator and goes into the box with somebody, whether it’s in the States or in a war zone and thinks you’re going to be any good at it if they’ve never done it before. And there’s a lot of nuance that goes into it. There’s a lot of technique. There’s a lot of failure before there’s any success. But it’s something that has to be done. So to give some perspective for your audience. Prior to us getting over there in Iraq, the main challenge for the army in the military, the Marine Corps, whoever was to get what they call positive identification from the target. So in essence, if they roll Add on a mission. And they were able to locate the structure or the house or whatever it was where the target was. And there’s now seven or eight people in there, three a women, well, you can eliminate them. But the other four or five people are male, how old is this person, he might only be a voice in the dark, you’ve got a targeting package. But that means nothing because it’s a silhouette, it doesn’t have a picture of this person. And the name that he may or may not be using is not his real name. It could be a nickname. Some of these people are very sophisticated al Qaeda fighters. So they’ve had resistance training, they have tradecraft, they know how to practice. And they’ve, and they’ve had formal formal training. And they’re, and they’re pretty clever. So you have the challenge now is for the Army is can we get positive ID? Well, if we can get positive ID, we’re leaving the target, we’re not going to go exploit it any further, we’re not going to disturb the house, we’re just going to call it a win, check it off and take this guy back to the base. Fast forward. Now the Phoenix team is there now. The the essence of me doing the interrogation is one to establish positive identification. And to can I get this person to tell me who else is affiliated with his cell through interrogation or interview. So just for your audience, again, I’ve gone through as many as four different targets in one night, based upon what what each what each person told me at the following target site, and arresting people at each target. So if you think of it in terms of what you see on television, if you do a search warrant, and you bust down the door, well, before you know it with it, with cell phones, and, and word of mouth and things like that, the whole neighborhood knows that Joe got arrested, or Sally got arrested? Well, the same thing is happening in Iraq. If you arrest somebody and you leave, the remaining members of the cell, are just going to flee to the four corners of the earth, and you’re not gonna be able to get them and to reengage that target or re engage that investigation is very, very challenging. So I said all that to say this, the team was so successful, that we we managed to take down 91, high value targets, tier one and tier two, which were the same targets that the seals and Delta Force were looking for. But for some reason, we managed to get to them first. Wow, that

Aaron Spatz  27:13

that’s absolutely incredible. And, wow, that’s crazy. No, I mean, it’s a, that’s a testament to, like you said, I mean, just a just a tremendous team, a lot of focus a lot of work. And I mean, shoot, I mean, thank you, for the work that you did. I mean, that’s, I mean, that’s some pretty, pretty, pretty high impact stuff.

Christopher Strom  27:36

You know, you just can’t even imagine, I mean, I know you’re a Marine, as well. And you’ve got, you know, combat experience. But you can imagine the level of satisfaction, because you know, that these people kill the soldier. These aren’t just, you know, run of the mill, you know, everyday problem makers, you know, political or otherwise, or, you know, shop shoplifters. These are murderers of soldiers. So the level of satisfaction of knowing you did something, you’re not going to change the world. But you did something positive, to help save another soldiers life from these people. Because these are bomb makers. They’re bombing places, they’re financiers, safe house providers, or all the above. They’re really bad people. And when you round these people up, when you come crashing through the door, three o’clock in the morning, and you have that kind of an impact on these people, and be able to change the dynamics on the battlefield, we went to 30 day periods consecutive, without a single ID event. No soldiers killed, no soldiers injured. Now, you could say, well, that’s just luck. It’s not luck. If it’s only if that if that metric is only happening, your area of operation, the area that I operated in, because the events were still continuing in other parts of Iraq, but not where we were. So kind of like crime, it’s never going to go away completely. You might displace it, it might just moves to another place. Sure. But I’ll take that as a win for me, the team takes that as a win, because where we were, we did something that was meaningful to the soldiers, and they appreciated it.

Aaron Spatz  29:06

Oh, yeah, for sure. And you’re making you’re making life a lot more difficult, a lot more uncomfortable for the enemy. And it’s causing him to have to rethink what it is that they’re doing. And it just, it’s just this perpetual cat mouse game that we continue to play this little arms race of technology and tactics and techniques and everything else. So I mean, it just never stops. But man that that no, that’s absolutely incredible, though. So then take us through then you’re you’re coming back from Iraq, like what what was that like? And then what what where does that leave you now?

Christopher Strom  29:42

Wow. Well, I gotta be honest with you. I’m back from Iraq. You know, after doing something like that everything else is kind of anticlimactic. I mean, I did. I did some consulting work. I did some law enforcement training, which I love being around cops. Cops are great cops and military in general. They’re the backbone of this of this country. If that makes everybody feel good at night when they sleep, and so I had that I was doing some counters and training, and then I got involved with training, Navy SEALs, on some techniques that were employed. And again, for your audience, just so that they know, the techniques that we can, that we we brought to the battlefield, are now part of the strict standard training doctrine of the US military. That’s how effective this team was, again, the team, not just me, sure, a team that the genius of the of this effectiveness was the team, everybody. And quite honestly, think of if you think about it in logical terms, if you do something anything, for 20 years, 25 years, 30 years, you usually get better at it, you don’t get worse, hopefully, you know, the expectation from the from the soldiers, you know, 1920 years old is that they’re going to get the same result as somebody with my level experience, or the same level of experience as somebody else from the Special Forces community that’s been doing it 1520 years, and it’s unrealistic. So a lot of that has to do with a lot of failure. Sure, but a lot of it through the failure, you learn what works and what doesn’t work. And when they finally unleashed it, it was it was incredible, highly effective. I also got involved in some training overseas. And I’m not really going to discuss that. But you know, I’ve been doing that almost for five years straight. And it’s another, it’s another intelligence type of organization group of law enforcement people, and it’s something that I really enjoy. And it’s, it’s more of the same, it’s like, it’s like being a Marine, it’s just like, or being a copper. It’s, it’s like, I love it. And it’s something that I, you know, I like to think that I’m pretty good at. That’s incredible.

Aaron Spatz  31:45

And it’s, it’s an incredible blessing that you’re able to keep doing, the things that you enjoy doing. And also the things that you’re just really gifted at things that you’re really good at doing. And you’ve got a ton of experience. And so it’s great that you get to still use that knowledge and still put it into play, put it into practice. And so I mean, you’re just you’re just continuing to make a big dent man. So that’s awesome.

Christopher Strom  32:07

Yeah, you know, they say, that’s the best job you can have is the one you love. And I, you know, I love my job. And yeah, I’ve always managed to be surround myself or be surrounded by gifted people, people that were team players, and, you know, it makes it even more it makes, it’s like, it’s fun to go to work. It’s fun. It’s not, oh, geez, you know, another, another boring day at the at the salt mine. It’s exciting. And you know, you get energy from people when when you see the expression on their face, like, Oh, I get it. Now I get it. And then you run them through the paces, and see if they actually, you know, took the concept and can practically apply it. It’s it’s very rewarding. It’s very self satisfying on a different level. Sure, but it’s still fine, nonetheless. Oh, yeah. That’s

Aaron Spatz  32:50

for sure what, tell us. Tell us about your book, Brooklyn to Baghdad, I’ve got to get a copy of right here. And thanks. Thanks again, so much. And yeah, walk us walk us through a little bit of the book.

Christopher Strom  33:02

Sure. Well, the book. It talks about the team. Obviously, it talks a little bit about my family life and the police department. And it talks a lot about the politics unfortunately, of, of the US military and the US intelligence organizations. I mean, a lot of things that I saw there, not only would you shake your head would just make you viscerally angry. Because when people say they love the soldier, I’m going to tell you right now, I love the soldier. And I’d like to think that they love me. And they love the team, the welds the work that we did, but some people in levels of command. And definitely in the intelligence organizations here from the states that stood up intelligence organizations on Iraq, they didn’t love the soldier. And I’ll give you an example. Because the team was so effective. One of the things that we used to do, like you would see on TV is search the house, they called it, other things, but they basically call it searching the house. And as a result of searching the house, we came across 10s of 1000s of dollars in us $100 bills, brand new serial number order. Now, this is a terrorist cell number. Okay? He didn’t steal the money. He didn’t print it in his backyard or in his basement. So somebody gave it to him. So the question now becomes, who gave it to him? Well, a lot of times we would conduct these rates, and we’d find that these people had very close relationships to one commanding officer or another. So that presents a lot of problems. First of all, the money is easily trackable. I’m not going to get into the specifics of it. But it’s easily traceable, as to who actually gave out the money, whether it was US intelligence organization, or was somebody from the military, but one thing’s for certain these people’s judgment was flawed. And when we tried to close the loop on some of these groups, where where we recovered this money, we got shut down more than once. And when you’re sitting around, knowing that there’s, you know, other members of the cell that are not touched or because they have a relationship with somebody in the in the military or the US Senate This organization is terribly frustrating. And I just want people to know, like most police departments, but I’m just going to speak for the NYP. If you heard a cop, or shoot a cop or killed a cop in the NYPD, you are not going home until that guy is either in handcuffs, or worse. So the level of, of drive and focus is, is part of the NYPD. It’s definitely part of me. And I would imagine, it’s part of every police department, you hurt one of us, we’re coming to get you, and that I carry with me over there in Iraq. And you see things happening to these kids and you save yourself. How, how is it that I’m caring more about this project than the commanding officer? How could that possibly be, but its politics, its money, hurt feelings, relationships, foreign policy, that’s just I don’t know, I can’t even explain all the above. I just can’t explain it. But that’s part of the book as well. And it talks about some funny moments in the book, things that are comical, things that are frustrating within the team that the team had generated some problems for itself early on. So there’s there’s a lot there’s a lot in there, I think. I think people would enjoy it. It’s easy read, it’s not overly political one way or the other. It just basically it’s like a human intelligence report in a memoir it, it just tells the story. I don’t create the facts of the story. The story created itself as though I was there. 15 months.

Aaron Spatz  36:26

That’s great. Yeah, thanks. Thanks for giving us a little bit of a preview and a little bit of insight into the book. So no, I encourage you, if you’re watching this or listening to this, go grab a copy of Chris’s book. But Chris, now as we start to wind things down, we just love to love to really just turn this last segment back to you. Like if there’s any, if there’s anything that’s kind of on your mind, or or you want to get off your chest as it relates to veterans and veterans in business and as guys are going through their careers or starting different ventures or whatever it is that they’re working on. But just would love to give you this last segment.

Christopher Strom  37:03

Well, I would say first and foremost, to any, any young man or woman that is uncertain about their life, they don’t have direction. Maybe your home life isn’t that great. join the military, expose yourself to different culture, learn how to be to come to work on time that they say night showing up is 90% definitely true. Learn some some skill sets. There’s so much opportunity in the military, people just have to sign up and take the oath and join. As far as the policing today, what’s going on today is a disgrace. The fact that people want to say that this systemic racism is is an object like cops are the greatest people on Earth, just like the military, the greatest people on earth, in fact, in the NYPD, because I’ll speak about that, because I’m very proud of that. And I love the people that I work with. It’s 52%, other than white. So you’re surrounded by the United Nations of people, amazing people, beautiful people, interesting cultures and backgrounds. How is it that the NYPD is the racist organization on the planet, while they’re working beside a person who might be a different sex or a different race or a different sexual orientation for that matter, and we’re going out there and we’re brutalizing people. It’s just not true. It’s just not true. Hold your head up high. And just know that the people that really need you, love you, and they’re counting on you don’t be distracted by this nonsense in this political season of garbage. Because without police, there is there is no civilized society, there’s nothing. There’s no going out with your family. There’s no going on vacation. There’s nothing if you think COVID is bad. And it’s put a damper on your lifestyle. Try living without police in your in your community. It’s impossible, can’t be done. And and again, systemic racism, those people would be better served just keeping their mouth closed, because they’re just sucking the air right out of the room. It’s not true. And anyone that knows a police officer, or has ever been exposed to a family member or somebody in the close community knows it’s not true. So the people that are talking, they need to just take take their foot off the gas for a minute, and pump the brakes and say enough, it’s not true.

Aaron Spatz  39:12

I think I think take taking the foot off the gas is a really good. That’s a really good visual. I do feel like we as a country are just driving driving this thing. Incredibly fast and reckless. And so yeah, I think that’s a great. I think it’s a great visual. But no, Chris, I just want to thank you again. Thanks for Thanks for taking some time to speak with me today. Thank you. Thank you for all your years of service to our country. It’s a it’s been a sincere pleasure to speak with you.

Christopher Strom  39:42

Thank you so much. I appreciate it very much. Thank you.

Aaron Spatz  39:46

Well, what a great conversation. I really enjoyed getting Chris on the show. And man there’s so much more that we could have dove into but we would have been here for five, three hours. And I also don’t I really didn’t want to spoil it too for you. Part of it To like, I would love, love for you to pick up a copy of the book Brooklyn of Baghdad. I have started it. I literally just got it yesterday. So I’m excited. I’m excited to go through it and read Chris’s story. I mean, as you can tell, the guy has a ton of experience a ton of expertise and knowledge in his field and he’s still using it to this day. So anyway, I hope you enjoyed I hope you enjoyed a slightly different version of the podcast a little bit different than what than what you’re probably used to hearing and so I think this is a lot of fun. Grateful to Chris, for appearing on the show. And and I just want to thank you again sincerely for for tuning in.

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