By Capt. Kevin Sandell, 504th Military Intelligence Brigade Public AffairsDecember 14, 2015
EASTERN AFGHANISTAN (Dec. 14, 2015) -- For the silent warriors of the 303rd Military Intelligence Battalion, 504th Military Intelligence Brigade, who deployed in September and currently provide critical intelligence collection and analysis in Afghanistan, their deployment thus far has been rewarding for Soldiers and valued by commanders.
Manned by Soldiers with the 163rd and 303rd Military Intelligence Battalions, the team known as Task Force Longhorn conducts multi-disciplined intelligence operations including counterintelligence, Human and Signals Intelligence, and linguist support. The task force, which is comprised of over 100 Fort Hood Soldiers, reports directly to Task Force ODIN, which stands for Observe, Detect, Identify and Neutralize. ODIN is the theater-wide military intelligence team supporting U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan.
The Task Force Longhorn commander, Lt. Col. A.J. Covert, said the unit has already achieved mission success in several areas. The task force has excelled in collecting actionable intelligence, for example, forecasting an enemy attack on a combat patrol, which allowed the patrol leaders to anticipate an ambush and respond appropriately. They have also supported the Army's Female Engagement Teams, which work with local female populations and Soldiers on Afghan National Defense and Security Forces.
Covert said an early highlight is "hearing how impressed partnered elements are with the skill and professionalism of (Task Force Longhorn) Soldiers." He added that the deployment has "gone quick and seems to be picking up speed."
The task force is completely integrated with Special Operations Forces, conventional forces and NATO partners. The commander of B Company, 303rd Military Intelligence Battalion, Capt. Chad Lorenz, said his company's Soldiers are building a positive reputation among their partnered units.
"I am especially proud of our Soldiers who directly partner with ground combat units during force protection patrols," Lorenz, a native of Dallas, said. "Feedback from these units is glowing; our Soldiers more than hold their own, and have developed reputations as highly-regarded combat enablers. As a result, their services are requested so frequently that they have to carefully prioritize requests."
A unique asset for the task force lies in their Multi-Functional Teams (MFT), which facilitate actionable intelligence at the lowest echelon. The MFT construct is comprised of Human Intelligence and Signals Intelligence collectors and analysts, and provides multi--disciplined intelligence exploitation while operating at the tactical edge. Their workload can be staggering at times, but with the right people in the right jobs, the Multi-Functional Teams are assisting each other and the greater mission.
Spc. Amanda Coyle, a human intelligence collector with the 303rd Military Intelligence Battalion, said serving on a Multi-Functional Team has already proven worthwhile.
"Each week, MFT Soldiers put in hundreds of hours of work and an insurmountable amount of effort in order to effect change in their area of expertise," Coyle, a native of Sacramento, Calif., said. "Some days are frustrating and sometimes it is difficult to see any headway. Sometimes we see action taken because of our reports. Other times, we get to make a child's day by handing out candy and school supplies while on a mission with our coalition and Afghan partners."
Coyle continued by saying her fellow Soldiers are fully committed to their mission, and help to make the team's "operational tempo" feel lighter through collaborative teamwork.
Spc. Coyle and her team interact with the Afghan populace multiple times per week. In doing so she said, it helps to increase their understanding of local village customs, people, and information.
"Our missions help us expand our cultural awareness and help to improve the security of that village. Afghanistan is a beautiful country, rich in culture and a sense of community," Coyle said. "It has been torn apart through years of terrorism. Hence, each day that our (Multi-Functional Team) is able to provide something positive to the Afghan community, we consider it a win."
For Spc. Cody Segner, another human intelligence collector with 303rd Military Intelligence Battalion, the first 60 days in theater have provided a variety of experiences and memories. The Fredericksburg, Texas, native said the first two months "have been a mix of every kind of emotion." He added that his team is "settling into our roles and focusing on exceeding the standard in order to accomplish our mission."
Segner said one impression his team and their unit want to leave behind is "wanting the people of Afghanistan to remember that we were there to assist their security forces and make a better future for their country."
Capt. Lorenz believes the unit will measure its deployment success through two primary and multifaceted goals.
"We are accomplishing our mission if intelligence generated by our unit is successful in driving operational successes, saving lives and diminishing threats across the country," Lorenz said. "However, we also devote a large amount of time to training and advising our Afghan military and police counterparts, paving the way for them to be effective in providing security for their own country once we depart."
Although Soldiers of Task Force Longhorn will be separated from their families through the holiday period, Lt. Col. Covert said the team is already known for its dependability and trustworthiness, which helps build relations and morale. Valued as the "ultimate professional teammate," Task Force Longhorn Soldiers are enjoying the work and camaraderie from their partners spanning other units, organizations and nations, Covert said.