FORT HOOD, Texas (February 22, 2016) -- To win in a complex world, Military Intelligence Soldiers must be technically skilled and alert, and thrive in difficult locations with coalition partners and other branches of the U.S. military. Their job -- and ultimately the safety and security of U.S. service members -- relies on having the latest techniques to collect, analyze, exploit and disseminate intelligence for battlefield and theater commanders.

For the Soldiers of the Fort Hood-based 504th Military Intelligence Brigade, intelligence readiness is how the brigade lives up to its "Always Ready" motto. Supporting III Corps, the brigade has a critical mission to ensure the Corps' leadership and units have the latest intelligence to make better decisions. Through the Fort Hood and 504th's Foundry Intelligence Training Program, intel Soldiers can hone their skills to become masters of their trade.

In 2003, the Army's Chief of Staff recognized that Military Intelligence Soldiers were deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan without a lasting program to learn emerging skills in different intelligence disciplines; this led to a decrease in combat readiness for deployed units. In response, a collaboration of four major Army commands established the Foundry Program, enabling Soldiers to learn current battlefield techniques, provide mentorship in developing operational skills, and synchronize readiness across the Army.

David Blakesley serves as Director of the Fort Hood Foundry Multi-Discipline Platform, and manages a staff of 23 instructors who teach the program's various courses. Fort Hood has the largest number of Foundry staff among the Army's installations, according to Blakesley. He said his team taught nearly 2,500 Soldiers in 2014 - mainly from the MI military occupational specialty - but also geospatial engineers, psychological operations, civil affairs, and Special Forces Soldiers.

The program provides specialized training in Signals Intelligence, Geospatial Intelligence, Human Intelligence, Counterintelligence, All Source Intelligence, document and media exploitation, and the Distributed Common Ground System-Army.

Even after Soldiers complete the training, Blakesley said that the Foundry program "remains connected to Soldiers at all points" by helping them develop Tactics, Techniques and Procedures for future use. He also said the program is the "key readiness program" used by the Army's G-2 (Intelligence) office to professionalize the Intelligence Corps.

Intelligence Soldiers have adopted a slogan of "No cold starts, and no Military Intelligence Soldiers at rest," which is demonstrated through the Foundry Program.

According to documents from the Army's G-2 office, the "program has expanded to meet the needs of a regionally-aligned Army ... (which) are aimed at enhancing Soldiers' competence and building the agility, expertise and depth our Army requires to support forces in current and future security environments."

Courses offered at the Fort Hood site are grouped by intelligence discipline, and include the Media and Cellular Phone Exploitation Course, Counterintelligence Collection Course, Tactical Full Motion Video Course, and even Critical Thinking and Interpersonal Skills for Human Intelligence Collectors.

Soldiers also have the opportunity to attend training courses at other installations, including Fort Huachuca, Fort Gordon, Fort Belvoir and Fort Meade. Additionally, the program supports Mobile Training Teams who can travel to Fort Hood to teach courses not currently taught.

According to Frank Morrisey, Foundry Manager for III Corps, over 250 MI Soldiers were supported through Foundry Temporary Duty (TDY) or Mobile Training Team (MTT) funding in 2015. Morrisey said the training equated to over 15,000 hours of specialized intelligence training.

Listed in the Army's "Foundry 2.0" course catalog published last October are elective courses offered by the Defense Intelligence Agency, National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, National Reconnaissance Office and several combatant commands.

The Foundry Program's courses are divided into a university-type numbering system that allows a tiered approach to learning. The 100-level courses are basic skills lessons plans led by unit noncommissioned officers and first line supervisors. The 200-level courses are practical exercises expounding on basic skills. 300-level courses are those courses taught at sites like the Fort Hood Foundry MDP, and 400-level courses are "Live Environment Training," and usually taught by the nation's Intelligence Community or combatant commands.

Morrisey said the availability of Foundry training courses allows unit commanders to achieve their unit readiness goals through various avenues.

"Fort Hood commanders have both locally available and external intelligence training resources, which they can leverage toward accomplishing their (Military Intelligence) training and readiness requirements, while enhancing individual and collective skills," Morrisey said.

He added that courses are Army-funded, and commanders incur zero cost for using these intelligence-training resources, irrespective of whether requirements are satisfied locally or away from Fort Hood.

Each brigade-sized unit and higher is required to have a unit Foundry representative who is the unit's point of contact and liaison to the installation level. Chief Warrant Officer 2 Alexander Buchschacher serves as the 504th's Foundry representative, and said his job is multifaceted and reaches from the platoon to installation levels.

"I coordinate from battalion, company and platoon echelons for training to ensure (Military Intelligence) readiness is at its highest," Buchschacher said.

Buchschacher said the Foundry program contributes much value to the nation's Intelligence Community. Not only does it increase intelligence readiness, but also provides opportunities for professional development.

"It provides required accreditation and technical certification, enhances mission command proficiency, improves unit readiness and provides a venue to collectively certify individuals and units," Buchschacher said.

The Army's ultimate goal is readiness and having a Foundry Program prepares units for global engagement and regional alignment. In a speech given by former Army Chief of Staff, Gen. Raymond Odierno, he said the Foundry plays a pivotal role to mission success.

"Foundry 2.0 will build training programs that keep our intelligence team connected so that their skills and expertise are sustained to support improved situational awareness and decisive action," Odierno said.