502nd Sharpens Intelligence Gathering Skills
August 15, 2011
A wall of HESCO Bastions topped with concertina wire surrounds the forward operating base as guards provide over watch security at COL Eagle. The generators hum noisily providing electricity to wooden buildings which provide a place for offices and operations centers. In a nearby village local nationals peddle their wares of bread and fresh caught fish to U.S. Soldiers as they pass through. However, this isn’t a base in a foreign country but a location on Joint Base Lewis-McChord where Soldiers can receive realistic training in preparation for upcoming deployments.
The 502nd Military Intelligence Battalion conducted a battalion level team training exercise Aug. 8- 11 as preparation for their upcoming training at Yakima Training Center, followed by training at the Joint Readiness Training Center in Fort Polk, La. and an eventual deployment. During the team evaluations, the Soldiers of the 502nd practiced their trade craft by employing intelligence gathering techniques with foreign national role players.
“The role players are involved in various different roles, some are playing Afghan police, some are playing local villagers, others are playing insurgents and some are acting as interpreters,” said Maj. Kristina J. Cornwell, 502nd MI Bn., S-3. “This will allow the teams to get an opportunity to practice some of their intelligence skills through the use of an interpreter while also interacting with a local national population.”
The 502nd employs several types of teams including a multi-functional team, human intelligence team and counter intelligence team. MI’s mission is to collect information from human assets and analyze material in an effort to help direct the big picture of the battle field.
“We make friends with the people of the local populous that might know information about targets we are interested in or even things about the local economy,” said Staff Sgt. Leland Brasher 502nd MI Bn., human intelligence collector, “Even how the locals feel about our presence there, any information we can gather to help the fight.”
“Or whatever information the locals have that may help us stop attacks in the area,” added PFC Suzanne Cook, 502nd MI Bn., human intelligence collector.
After the evidence and intelligence has been collected through various means such as; electronic systems, interrogations or simple conversations, it is then sent to various commanders on the battlefield.
“There are a lot of assets that come together to collectively piece together the picture of the battlefield. We are just one part getting the information from the human sources to help build that picture,” added Brasher.
“The intelligence we collect drives where the infantry are going to go,” said Sgt Michael Newhall 502nd MI, human intelligence collection team member, “If we get a hot tip or a hot lead then that’s going to shape where the combat arms guys are going to hit next.”
In anticipation of the brigade level field training exercise at Yakima Training Center, the 502nd practiced all its techniques in the recent training at JBLM.
“That’s what today’s training was about, to help train these guys and show me, as a team leader, some of the deficiencies I need to help them work on,” said Staff Sgt. Mark Swaim 502nd MI team leader, “We are getting ramped up for deployment to Afghanistan.”
Through the use of several training sites, that included mock villages and role players acting as local nationals in a foreign country, the 502nd prepared itself with team level certifications to posture the unit for future training and eventual deployment.