FORT GORDON, Ga. --Fort Gordon military intelligence Soldiers gathered at the Gordon Club recently to enjoy lunch while building relationships and professional acquaintances.

The lunch also served as an opportunity to glean knowledge from the guest speakers, the 3rd Infantry Division commander and members of his staff.

Maj. Gen. Tony Cucolo, 3rd Infantry Division commander, along with his deputy commander for support and the division's intelligence officer, spoke to the members of the Master's Chapter of the Military Intelligence Corps Association Jan. 30, during his visit to the 116th Military Intelligence Group.

"We have a unique opportunity," said Lt. Col. David May, 206th Military Intelligence Battalion commander and president of the local Masters MICA chapter. "To have the 3ID leadership here to talk to our organization about the tactical war fighter expectations of MI professionals."

"For my intel professionals - and this is rank immaterial, specialty immaterial - intel will drive everything that I do," said Cucolo.

"You are absolutely critical to my operations. It all starts with the reflexive competence that you all bring to your job."

The 3ID Deputy Commander for Support, Brig. Gen. Thomas Vandal offered his perspective as a fire support and field artillery officer, to explain why MI is absolutely critical to the war fighter.

"As a professional 'targetier,' I've got some challenges. One is, understanding the maneuver commander and how to integrate firers, both lethal and non lethal," said Vandal. "We can't get our job done without the support and analysis that you all provide. Likewise what you provide is absolutely invaluable to maneuver commanders. A lot of times you are the unsung heroes."

"Although we don't sing your praise often enough, you've got to understand how important you are to the success of every unit at every level," Vandal said.

The 3ID leaders also took time to impress upon the MI professionals the importance and benefits of being involved in professional associations like MICA.

Vandal encouraged everyone, regardless of rank or level of seniority, to participate in a professional organization.

"[MICA] is an example of a professional network, and as you become more senior, you will see the value of these networks. Not only the professional exchanges, but the networking, proves to be invaluable," said Vandal.

Cucolo echoed his deputy's statement saying that, "there are great benefits to joining organizations like this. Do not underestimate the social aspect of being a member of something like the Military Intelligence Corps Association. Getting peer-to-peer contact, meeting colleagues ... you will be on some battlefield, on some headset, and on the other end will be someone that you know."
He went on to offer insights that he has garnered during his nearly 30 years of service.

"You will get instant credibility with all of the different people who you interface with if you are a professional Soldier. Do not let the unique requirements of your skill set drive you away from courtesy, bearing, your proficiency with your weapon, your physical fitness. Your credibility - the unspoken credibility - is those outward indicators of discipline," explained Cucolo.

"So if you want a tip on instant credibility - never let slip those outward indicators of discipline that make you a professional Soldier," Cucolo said.

As the Soldiers of 3ID prepare to deploy again in support of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom, Cucolo stressed the importance of looking "beyond just the range of your M16" and ensured the MI Soldiers understood the important role that they will play in the ongoing War on Terrorism.

"The intel war fighting function has gotten so complex and so technical that sometimes you all seem like monks to us - the only people that understand the chanting of monks are other monks," Cucolo said. "Show us how it works, how it fits. Relate it in terms we understand. You are our experts, and we'll look to you."