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655th ISRG reservist witnesses attack in Stockholm, assists authorities

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio -- 655th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Group member Maj. Roberts was in Stockholm, Sweden, April 7, 2017, completing the last day of his civilian job when a terror attack was perpetrated on the famous Drottninggatan Shopping Street.

Roberts, regarded as one of the world’s top experts on disruptive innovation in business, government and technology, was in Stockholm to help judge a competition sponsored by H&M, a global company which has a corporate office on Drottninggatan Street.

He had met for a few hours with the H&M staff at the corporate office when he heard commotion outside and went to investigate. Several Swedes urgently wanted to come in and pushed into the room extremely distraught. The major learned from a translating colleague that a large truck was crashing down the street and shots were being fired, so he immediately went out to the street to ascertain the situation. Police had not yet arrived on the scene, and the truck that had crashed its way down the street had just missed the door of the building he was in.

“I saw people screaming and running away and there were several bodies on the ground,” Roberts said. Someone told me that there was a girl underneath the truck, so I continued to move closer and noticed dark brown smoke pouring out of the top.”

He approached to within 10-15 feet of the vehicle but did not see anybody underneath. He determined that a black streak left by the truck was from a from diesel fuel.

Roberts is highly trained and experienced in ISR, Counterterrorism, and Special Operations, having gone through several advanced courses. His background led to his immediate assumption that there were explosives (later reports confirmed there was a homemade device in the truck) and that there could be accomplices. He thought that the driver was likely dead due to the appearance of the wreck, but he was concerned that others might be involved and might try to detonate the explosives he assumed were in the truck, so he watched for anyone approaching the vehicle.

“I realized I didn’t have any weapons, so I mentally prepared to try to use hand-to-hand combat or tackle anyone who looked like they might be involved,” he said.

As police began swarming in, Roberts headed back down the street about 30 meters from the truck and positioned himself behind a wall. Here he thought he could observe for accomplices and have a chance of surviving if the truck exploded. He took his cell phone out to help get coverage of everything in the street, which was later used extensively on Swedish media coverage of the event. Approximately 30 minutes after the truck attack, police had cleared most everyone off of the street. Major Roberts remained, and the street was quite empty and quiet.

Thirty minutes later, he saw a suspicious looking individual, not from Sweden, attempt to approach the truck. He stood up to confront the individual, and caught the attention of the special police inside the perimeter. The individual passed the major and kept walking towards the vehicle where local authorities apprehended him. Roberts videotaped this instance as well. He then stayed for another hour, helping with countersurveillance at the scene, until a senior detective arrived and escorted him to a coffee shop and then to a bus to be taken to a center nearby, where he and others were brought for interviews. There he provided the films he had taken and more details about what he saw and heard.

“We have a hero in our midst,” said Col. John D. McKaye, 655th ISRG commander. “Major Roberts conducted heroic actions in the direct aftermath of the terrorist attack in Stockholm, Sweden. He is truly a phenomenal officer and exemplifies the character and resolve of our Air Force Reservists to aid and assist in defeating those who would do harm. He is the type of individual we like to attract to the 655th and welcome those like him who wish to join our ranks.”

Roberts was quick to deny any heroism on his part.

“I doubt I did anything that any of us (U.S. Air Force Reservists) would not have done,” he said.

Perhaps. But his actions aided local authorities in controlling the situation and his video surveillance aided in the investigation. Major Roberts will most likely be honored for his integrity, service before self and excellence in what he did that day.

The 655 Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance Group is dedicated to serving as the premier and most diverse ISR Group in the United States Air Force, delivering timely, reliable, accurate and actionable intelligence products enabling a decisive advantage over adversaries of the United States. The 655th consists of a headquarters and three tenant squadrons in Ohio, and 11 geographically separated units in California, Texas, Nebraska, Virginia, Florida and Maryland. For exciting and rewarding career opportunities with the 655th ISRG, please contact your local Air Force Reserve recruiter or call 937-257-8117.