It should come as no surprise that leadership -- specifically in the world of military intelligence -- is constantly looking for ways to evolve and improve upon how they conduct business.

In this day and age, finding a quicker and more efficient way to streamline the intelligence process is invaluable. That's because, when it comes to supporting the warfighter, every minute saved has a real-world impact.

With that in mind, the U.S. Army Intelligence and Security Command has begun utilizing something known as the Intelligence Readiness Operations Capability.

For those unfamiliar with the IROC concept, it improves the professional development of Soldiers while simultaneously increasing an MI unit's readiness and efficiency by re-thinking the training process, eliminating unnecessary downtime and enabling analysts to gain invaluable experience.

While the term 'IROC' is relatively new, the concept behind it is not, according to Kyle D. McCreary, director of the Foundry Multidiscipline Platform at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.

"It's basically supporting a forward element or a member of the intelligence community from a sanctuary location," said McCreary, who works for the 742nd Military Intelligence Battalion, 704th MI Brigade. "What is new in this is getting [U.S. Army Forces Command] elements involved, and turning it into a collective training event as an integral part of ARFORGEN. IROC starts with the commander, and it provides commanders the ability to validate their MI units in a live environment, so they can certify their Soldiers while conducting live missions."

Through this concept, IROC Soldiers are able to maintain relevancy and remain current on the latest technology as they support in-country requests from deployed forces or other elements based on mission and regional alignment.

"The IROC center is a place where intelligence Soldiers come together with their various specialties and are operating within an all-source collection element," said Capt. Heather McClellan, operations officer to the commanding general, U.S. Army Intelligence and Security Command.

Because these Soldiers are tasked to execute assigned missions no differently than if they were actually deployed in theater, they also have the ability to see just how rapidly things change and evolve in the "real world."

"You're in direct support of a unit down range," McClellan said. "That unit sends a request for information back to you stateside and you process that intelligence and give that customer a product back. What's great about this arrangement is that you have subject-matter experts --because you start the IROC rotation with Project Foundry classes -- and your subject-matter experts stay with your company for the entire rotation."

This is a pretty radical shift from the way military intelligence Soldiers previously received their training and prepared for deployments.

"Unfortunately, in the past, we relied heavily on scripted training in a scenario-driven environment and expected our MI Soldiers to attain the requisite level of proficiency," McCreary said. "Soldiers must work with real data sources in order learn how to navigate through peta-byte upon peta-byte of data and extract the information their commanders need. By executing live missions, MI Soldiers become MI professionals and can perform as full-fledged members of the intelligence community. Otherwise, it's like only firing your weapon system once during [advanced individual training] and then never firing it again until you get to the battlefield."

Now though, MI Soldiers are able to enhance their skill set by producing intelligence products for deployed forces or the greater intelligence community, without actually deploying -- enabling intelligence analysts to basically stick their toe in the water and get acclimated without having to dive in head first.

"By training Soldiers to the intelligence community standard, what you've done is provided not only the Army, but the entire intelligence community, a greater level of professionalism across the military intelligence force," said McCreary. "Soldiers no longer just support the Army and the Army isn't just being supported by Soldiers. Today the services and support agencies work in concert and Soldiers must understand how the entire intelligence community works and understand the capabilities of different assets that are available to them."

Through IROC, commanders now have an all-inclusive way to train their Soldiers as a comprehensive team instead of piecing together everything little by little.

"As a company commander, I would either send a handful of Soldiers to training or, if I had enough Soldiers, I could bring trainers to us for an intelligence class that typically lasted up to three weeks," said McClellan, who faced these challenges firsthand during her time with the 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division (Stryker), out of Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. "That was it, and then you went back to other brigade combat team tasks which often were not intelligence related. You would have major brigade training events, but without the direct application of what you just learned from that class, it was very difficult for Soldiers to retain the information."

Another problem with the outdated model was that so much time lapsed from the start of the training cycle to the actual deployment that Soldiers ran the risk of not remaining proficient by the time they arrived in country.

"With IROC, that all changes," said McCreary. "You've got a 30-day period upfront that brings a Soldier from AIT standard to a standard level of professionalism followed by the practical application of those skills in a live environment -- all under the guidance of a commander, who has the ability to shift direction as they're going."

Through IROC, commanders have the opportunity to constantly evaluate and assess the performance of their intelligence analysts in handling a combat mission without having to travel halfway around the world. And if a particular MI unit excels in one discipline, but isn't quite as strong in another, the commander now has the ability to adapt on the fly to give additional attention to the area in need.

"To me, the biggest benefit was having the subject-matter experts working side-by-side with Soldiers who were new to military intelligence or who weren't my strongest analysts in a very low-threat environment to build up their skills," McClellan said.

All of this translates to individual Soldiers being stronger, more productive members of an intelligence processing center, as opposed to commanders having to rely on just a few Soldiers who were naturally good at it. And when an MI unit is more well-rounded, it too becomes more effective.

"The great thing about IROC is this -- it's not only the individual who becomes a professional, it's the unit that becomes professionalized.," McCreary said.