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Remembering unsung cargo heroes

By Brandon Fried on September 30, 2013

We lost two unsung heroes this summer who each made significant contributions to the air cargo and logistics industry.  While there are many hard-working, intelligent and energetic people who toil tirelessly to advance our business, Chris Battle and Jock Menzies are worth mentioning.

Chris Battle

Chris passed away in August after a four-year battle with kidney cancer. I met Chris in 2007 when he had just started as a partner at Adfero Group, a Washington, D.C., public relations firm that had taken a keen interest in the air cargo screening issue. As former chief of staff for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Chris knew a lot about homeland security and the significant challenge of screening air cargo.

Chris and I spent hours strategizing on how to communicate the air cargo story to Capitol Hill, both of us believing that 100-percent physical screening alone was not in the best interest of our nation’s security. Before the passing of air cargo screening legislation, Chris felt few people actually believed that Congress would, with one vote, undermine years of work building an intelligence-driven, risk-based supply chain security infrastructure, including extensive partnerships with foreign governments.

Chris believed that the biggest challenge to the 9/11 Commission Act would be making sure that other countries’ inspection and compliance protocols were consistent with the Transportation Security Administration in the U.S. Despite a successful Certified Cargo Screening Program in the U.S., establishing the same program overseas would be impossible, and our country would have to rely on what foreign governments were doing as a means to ensure full cargo screening for imports.

Chris also previously served as an aid to then-Congressman Asa Hutchinson, who remembers Chris as a pioneer in digital communications with a knack for humor-infused storytelling.

His masterful use of digital media was present in all his work. Chris was a very talented writer and communicator who joined his wife Dena in writing frequent humorous updates for their blog, The Kidney Cancer Chronicles, sharing successes, struggles and insights into their battle with cancer. As with the air cargo issue, Chris used his supreme writing and research talents as a way to effectively communicate the facts, using irreverent and sometimes heartbreaking humor so others understood the challenge.

Chris assisted the Airforwarders Association in building its digital communications strategy, suggesting improvements and changes during our many discussions.  He understood the importance of social media tools in bringing people together to debate important issues that need attention in order to keep our country safe.

Gathering people together virtually was one of his most significant talents, and I remember being invited to participate in a cargo-screening roundtable discussion broadcasted online. Panelists included former president of American Airlines Cargo Dave Brooks, former TSA air cargo security chief Doug Brittin and other industry experts. We were discussing the impending 100-percent screening mandate, and I doubted anyone would really bother to watch the broadcast. Yet I was amazed to see that thousands tuned in online, as Chris had predicted they would. As with many other digital tools, Chris had a knack for understanding and using the power of the Internet for effective and targeted communication.

The Air Cargo Advance Screening pilot program is about to enter its rulemaking phase this fall in which house AWB data is analyzed by the Customs and Border Protection and the TSA prior to shipments being loaded on flights coming to the U.S. The initiative acknowledges that physical screening, while important, is only part of a risk-based approach to security – something Chris and others advocated for years. Once underway, our nation and most others will use data risk analysis and not just physical screening as a tool in the arsenal against terror. I think Chris would have liked that.

Jock Menzies

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