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From Sumter to Sochi: Midlands man to be analyst for Olympics coverage

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Lieutenant Colonel Robert Schaefer (Ret.) Lieutenant Colonel Robert Schaefer (Ret.)
SUMTER, SC (WIS) -

The signature Russian fur hat may catch your eye first. "Well, that's from Russia. That's a wolf hat," Robert Schaefer said.

But a closer look at items lining the shelves of Schaefer's home office in Sumter better tell his intriguing story of defense and diplomacy.

"I'm an Army Special Forces officer, Green Beret, and Foreignary officer," Schaefer said, "which is the military equivalent of a State Department foreign service officer."

It was Schaefer's nearly 30 years of experience in working with foreign defense and military leaders that caught the eye of network executives planning Olympics coverage.

NBC News plucked Schaefer from Sumter and placed him in Sochi as a security analyst helping news crews and viewers better understand the social conflicts bringing a threat of attacks to the games.

"I'm allowing myself to get pretty psyched," he said.

Getting psyched didn't come easy. His past military experiences in Russia threatened his ability to even enter the country.

"Early on, I was concerned because of all the time that I spent in Russia working in the embassies as an attaché that the Russians might deny my visa because they consider all military attachés to be spies," he said.

Schaeffer said he admits he was surprised the visa came through. He also says Russia has pulled out all the stops to secure Sochi.

"The ‘Ring of Steel' includes the stopping of all vehicles 4 hours out from Sochi and searching the vehicles through," he said.

However, a security "Ring of Steel" still doesn't eliminate all red flags for Schaefer.

"The real concern, I think, is not going to be what's going to happen within Sochi itself," Schaefer said. "I think it's more probable that we'll see more attacks in places surrounding Sochi."

Schaefer said his worst case scenario involves terror groups that may have planned attacks months, maybe even years ago.

"Prior to the 'Wall of Steel' being implemented and major security measures being instituted, during the construction phase [my concern is] that insurgents would have implanted some of the caches with weapons and explosives so that they were already there when they arrived in Sochi," he said. 

So with the world watching, Schaefer said he hopes viewers back at home don't see his face on TV at all.

"If there's any kind of major incident, then you'll see a lot of me on television," he said,
"so I'm hoping that you don't see too much of me."

Schaefer also wrote a book highly-regarded in the foreign relations community on insurgency and counter-insurgency in Russia and surrounding countries.

He flew to Sochi on Saturday, the same day he retired from the military.

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