Got war? Got terrorism? Need a little homeland security?
You've come to the right place: the Dulles Expo Center, where at this moment a stocky man named Richard Brennan is putting a blowtorch to his bare arm, demonstrating a sudsy liquid that somehow protects flesh from the 2,000-degree flame.
"Not even singed," says Brennan, who owns Safety Strategies of State College, Pa. And that's not all, the inventor says: If you happen upon a pile of twisted, smoking rubble, just squirt away with your handy Arctic Fire Thermal Protection Unit and it will "cool down instantly."
Considering a trip to Iraq? You might want to investigate the latest in body armor on display here at Trexpo, which stands for Tactical Response Exposition. Perhaps a lightweight bulletproof vest that boasts side plates to shield your innards against an IED blast, priced up to $3,500.
"When the feces hit the rotating device, we're the guys to go to," says vest vendor Mark Kinsler, an Army Special Forces vet who owns SOG Armory in Stafford, Tex. "Business is excellent."
The exhibit hall is crawling with cops, spooks and troops. They came this week to scout for gear and learn the latest in crime-fighting and counterterror techniques at seminars with titles such as "Tactical Folding Knife" and "Attack Recognition for Motorcade Operations." Things wrapped up yesterday with some hands-on action at the National Rifle Association's shooting range.
Trexpo is also a place to meet legends. Sharing a booth are retired Army Sgt. Maj. Billy Waugh, 75, a lifelong Special Forces and CIA warrior, and retired Maj. Gen. John Singlaub, 84, who wears an OSS pin on his suit. (Singlaub's covert-ops experience goes back to the Office of Strategic Services in World War II.)
Bunkered down behind piles of their books for sale, these guys are definitely worth a visit, as evidenced by the many admirers handing over cash to read the old soldiers' tales.
Waugh, a keynoter at the expo, is hawking his recent memoir, "Hunting the Jackal," which covers his gutsy combat adventures, role in the capture of terrorist Carlos the Jackal in 1994 and surveillance of Osama bin Laden a couple of years earlier -- both operations conducted while he was a CIA contractor in Khartoum, Sudan.
"I watched Osama for a friggin' year," Waugh says. "I could have shot him every day for a friggin' year." He even submitted a plan to ambush bin Laden -- who was then conducting business in Sudan, driving a Mercedes and preaching noontime sermons to his followers -- and liquidate him with a silenced MP-5 automatic.
At the time, nobody knew how dangerous bin Laden would become, and the CIA is barred from carrying out assassinations. Still, in his book, a stylistic stew of Sgt. Fury meets Mickey Spillane, Waugh muses: "For the cost of one 10-cent bullet, all of that tragedy" -- including 9/11, the U.S. Embassy bombings in East Africa and attack on the USS Cole -- "could have been averted. One 10-cent bullet, and he would have been dropped in K-town's dusty streets . . . and left to rot like the dog that he is."
Nobody who knows Waugh was surprised to hear that he shipped out to Afghanistan to join a CIA/Special Forces team early in the war. He marked his 72nd birthday in December 2001 "on the ground . . . an M-4 carbine slung over my right shoulder," he recounts in his book. Waugh figures his young colleagues were thinking, "This old bastard must be nuts."
"That's the kind of guy he is," observes Singlaub, taking a break from signing his 1991 book, "Hazardous Duty: An American Soldier in the Twentieth Century." He says they've known each other since 1966 in Vietnam, where Singlaub commanded a secret unit in which Waugh served.
"He's persistent, he knows what the mission is and doesn't let anything get in the way."
A similar mix of testosterone, zeal and courage emanates from the hundreds of brawny law enforcement and military types who mill about at Trexpo, some dressed in SWAT black, many sporting the off-duty uniform of cargo pants and tight polos, the better to accentuate one's biceps. They pause under displays that bristle with weaponry ("HK Handguns for Homeland Security"), assault garb, gas masks, rescue gear, night-vision and surveillance gadgetry.
"Want to see the world's smallest digital video recorder?" urges Aaron James, president of Security Cameras Direct of Loomis, Calif. He also displays an audio recorder half the size of a butane lighter, excellent for undercover snooping.
"It's a lot of really cool stuff. It's amazing what they can do with technology," says Army Capt. Dan Glanz, pausing by a high-definition simulated shooting range. Wearing khaki fatigues and desert boots, he is approached by strangers who awkwardly shake his left hand.
Glanz, 33, a Special Operations Civil Affairs reservist from Orange, lost his other hand and a portion of his right arm in Kandahar in June. His forehead and upper lip are scarred as well. "I was on a routine mission and there was a suicide bomber."
The tactic, he says matter-of-factly, was "quite unusual" for Afghanistan. "It is still a dangerous place to be," he adds. "The war is still going on and it's intensifying."
Yes, there and other places. But at least for the moment, in this expo hall full of warriors, it was possible to feel secure.