FORT HOOD, Texas (June 7, 2016) -- To support III Corps and its missions, the 504th Military Intelligence Brigade has some of the best and brightest minds operating the Army's premier intelligence collection equipment. It is critical their equipment is professionally maintained and always mission ready.
The military intelligence systems maintainer/integrator is the job skill primarily responsible for maintaining computer networks and hardware used by Military Intelligence soldiers. The maintainers' daily functions are testing and repairing communications equipment, assessing data from fixed, portable and wireless communication devices, and performing operational checks on military intelligence aerial systems. Without the contribution of the maintainers, the military's intelligence community could not complete its mission.
Warrant Officer Evan Beeson, the intelligence maintenance and integration technician with 303rd Military Intelligence Battalion, 504th MI Brigade, said his section is responsible for maintenance of all the MI collection systems and ensures mission readiness for the brigade, whose motto is "Always Ready."
Under Beeson's watch, the Intelligence and Electronic Warfare section is responsible for the brigade's Prophet Enhanced vehicles and Trojan Ground Systems, which consist of mobile and fixed-site signals intelligence collection and processing equipment; and the Distributed Common Ground System-Army (DCGS-A), which is a system that gathers intelligence spanning all echelons. The intelligence program enables operational visualization and situational awareness for all military intelligence operations.
Beeson explained that maintaining the equipment is only half the battle and said when the brigade transitioned from a Battlefield Surveillance Brigade to an Expeditionary Military Intelligence Brigade last fall, there were many new equipment systems to learn.
"By acquiring those new systems, we had to figure out how they would work together in order for the intelligence soldiers to complete their mission," said Beeson. "It has been really cool to be able to assist the brigade with integrating the newly-acquired systems. We learned a lot about what can be accomplished and have been surprised by accomplishing things we never expected."
Chief Warrant Officer 4 Don Woods, the senior maintenance technician for the brigade, said the soldiers who maintain the equipment must also integrate the systems to communicate with each other. Many of the intelligence computer systems communicate with a larger network within the nation's intelligence community.
"The duty of the IEW soldier is to support all systems and integrate them," said Woods. "Without the IEW maintainers, the brigade can't integrate the systems into a national architecture of networks and systems needed for their missions."
He added the maintainers are the only authorized personnel who can connect all the systems and make them operational under all conditions.
Woods explained the Army provided MI soldiers and units with a wide range of intelligence collection equipment, including the Tactical Ground Station, which is the primary capability for posting, processing and distributing real-time intelligence; and the Geospatial Intelligence Workstation, which provides the ability to process, view, transmit and store geospatial imagery information.
Another vital system provides capabilities to collect, store and export maps, electronic data, digital imagery and audio/visual information.
With all these systems, it is easy to see why regular upkeep and integration are vitals.
"Before connecting to the network, the maintainers must work out the kinks independently," said Woods. "This is required before any of the other intelligence soldiers can perform their duties. We can tailor the systems to what the intelligence soldiers need capabilities for."
Woods believes constant training of the maintainers section, especially in the latest software updates and capabilities, benefits the maintainers from doing their job, day in and day out. He added that the systems are complex and, without the training and hands-on experience, it is easy to lose the knowledge.
"This allows them to maintain proficiency on the systems. When they maintain proficiencies, they are better equipped to repair the system when the time comes."
Chief Warrant Officer 3 Joseph Flanigan, the intelligence maintenance integration technician for the 163rd Military Intelligence Battalion, said the maintainer job is comprehensive and mirrors many of the capabilities of the entire signal military occupational specialties.
"We deal with everything from computers to servers, laptops, specialty equipment, radios, receivers and satellite communications," said Flanigan.
He also agreed the MI community could not complete its mission and become mission capable, without the work of the IEW maintainers.
"If it is an intelligence system with electrons flowing through it, we are responsible for it," said Flannigan. "If the systems do not work, (MI soldiers) can't complete their mission."