FORT HOOD, Texas (April 12, 2017) -- A recent weeklong, combined training exercise involving elements of several Fort Hood separate units and the 1st Cavalry Division has implications for a future Army concept exercise at the National Training Center this summer.
Soldiers with the Fort Hood-based 303rd Military Intelligence Battalion, 504th Military Intelligence Brigade conducted a battalion Certification Exercise, March 26-31, at Training Area 35 on Fort Hood's eastern side, and also at West Fort Hood. Other units participating included the 15th Military Intelligence Battalion (Aerial Exploitation), 11th Signal Brigade, and at least three units from the 1st Cavalry Division. The CERTEX served to certify the battalion's MI Soldiers on 19 collective tasks, before deploying to NTC with the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division.
The Army selected the Fort Carson-based 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team as the experimental unit for the Reconnaissance and Security Brigade model, to help inform Army senior leaders on the Operational and Organizational Concept for the Army 2020. The R&S Brigade is similar to the former Armored Cavalry Regiments headquartered within Army corps.
The 504th MI Brigade is providing approximately 35 Soldiers from the 303rd Military Intelligence Battalion to augment the 1st Brigade's intelligence section with Signals Intelligence, Human Intelligence and Geospatial Intelligence assets.
For Lt. Col. Alex Leonovich, 303rd MI Battalion Commander, the training served a key role in the battalion's preparation for operations at the National Training Center in California.
"The (Certification Exercise) provided an opportunity for dynamic and realistic training to prepare our Soldiers to support 1/4 (Infantry Division) when they train at Fort Irwin this summer," Leonovich said.
Much of the certification exercise focused on affirming the battalion's Soldiers are ready to fight from the moment they touch ground at NTC. Most of those involved have trained for this opportunity since last November. Throughout the exercise, the "Longhorn" battalion Soldiers certified on conducting expeditionary intelligence operations, integrating intelligence operations with maneuver elements, and conducting expeditionary sustainment operations. Many of the 19 tasks focus on certifying collection teams and completing MI "gunnery tables" found in Training Circular 2-19.400.
"We want to be ready to plug in and win on day one, versus taking a long time to get to that level," said Maj. Matthew Shirley, 303rd MI Battalion Operations Officer. "This is really to give the commander an assessment of where we stand on those 19 tasks."
Starting Sunday, March 26, Soldiers from B Company, 163rd Military Intelligence Battalion, and scout and sniper teams from 1st Cavalry Division's 2nd Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment, were flown tactically to TA-35 and inserted into the training area. Throughout the next two days, the intel teams conducted simulated Signals and Human Intelligence collection missions, while joined by Soldiers with 2-12 Cavalry who played the maneuver element on opposing forces played by other B Company Soldiers. Additionally, Soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, flew a MQ-1C Gray Eagle drone overhead to provide Full-Motion Video to Geospatial Intelligence Soldiers analyzing the video feed at West Fort Hood.
For Shirley, partnering with, and integrating other III Corps and Fort Hood units, was the exercise's "biggest win." In doing so, he said, it fostered relationships between 303rd Soldiers and other enablers, which leads to authentic training.
"One of the biggest wins was the 2-12 Cavalry that brought two scout teams and a sniper team and really made the basis for our exercise. They're that maneuver force that we would embed with. Why that's so important is because as MI Soldiers we would never go to the fight by ourselves, we're always partnered with someone else," Shirley said.
He continued by saying, "...The (Geospatial Intelligence) systems received the feed from the Grey Eagle, so the second win would be the incorporation of F/2-27 from 1st Air Cavalry Brigade. Their ability to get those Grey Eagles up in the air and communicating with our Soldiers is a huge win and a training enabler, because they'll be expected to do that at NTC."
On Wednesday, March 29, the battalion conducted a mid-point After Action Review and prepared for mounted operations using the Prophet Enhanced MRAP-All Terrain Vehicle. The Prophet Enhanced vehicle is an all-weather, tactical Signals Intelligence capability with a robust array of sensors.
According to Capt. Frank Giunta, Commander of B Company, 163rd Military Intelligence Battalion, the exercise changed focus, March 30, to "more of an asymmetric warfare threat." The company falls under 303rd MI Battalion for task organization, and Giunta served as the exercise's director. In the later scenario, an organization's aid worker was kidnapped, and Signals and Human Intelligence collection teams had to identify the location of the hostage and travel to a nearby training site to rescue him.
For Capt. Giunta's junior leaders, he wanted them to be fully-trained in Troop Leading Procedures and be able to operate in small units with limited instructions or guidance from higher headquarters. One of the company's junior officers, 2nd Lt. Kyle Greene, who leads a Geospatial Intelligence platoon, had a sizeable responsibility during the certification exercise.
"Our mission during this (Field Training Exercise) is to provide the commander with intelligence about the enemy disposition and identify answers to his (Priority Intelligence Requirements), regarding the location of enemy weapons caches, (High Value Targets), disruption activities, and most likely avenues of ingress and egress," Greene said.
Throughout the weeklong exercise, the battalion relied on its Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment for sustainment support, including maintenance, field feeding operations and Intelligence and Electronic Warfare equipment maintenance support. In several instances, the battalion's Maintenance Support Team conducted recovery training and even ordered replacement parts from the field. The battalion's culinary specialists were on hand all week to ensure everyone was well-fed.
Other key players in the exercise were the 15th Military Intelligence Battalion and the 1st Cavalry Division Artillery, which assisted in providing Full Motion Video feeds to the 303rd MI Battalion's Tactical Operations Center. The Division Artillery's intelligence section was the first tactical unit on Fort Hood to train with B Company, 15th Military Intelligence Battalion. Two Soldiers used the One System Remote Video Terminal to view Full Motion Video from the 15th's Grey Eagle drones.
Maj. James Thomas, who serves as the 1st Cavalry Division Artillery's intelligence officer, said the opportunity training allowed the Soldiers to learn from MI units and engage enemy target locations in combat environments.
"Throughout the exercise, we learned a great deal about how we can acquire targets using Military Intelligence assets, which we could then engage using our (division) artillery systems or close air support," Thomas said. "(Division Artillery) Soldiers were able to see imagery analysts, Signals Intelligence, and Human Intelligence Soldiers in action."
At the exercise's end, the training served as a foundation for the 303rd MI Battalion Soldiers to fully integrate with their 1st SBCT partners during a much-anticipated Army exercise for a combat scenario against a near-peer adversary.
"What the Army will come back with, is the results of how this unit performs as the Army looks to its operational concept of 2020," Maj. Shirley said. "Is this the right combination of forces? Is this what we need to fight and win in the future?"