FORT HOOD, Texas -- With a language all its own, the Army has many terms and acronyms that are unfamiliar to the civilian or corporate world. Even within the Army, each of the Military Occupational Specialties has their own unique terms and ways of communicating. However, the language of "gunnery training" is common across most specialties, and facilitates a shared understanding of training objectives by unit commanders.
Just like their combat arms brethren, the Army's Military Intelligence (MI) Corps utilizes gunnery tables as a highly-structured progression of training that begins with the assessment of basic individual skills and culminates with collective training at the crew levels. As part of the Army's transformation efforts, MI gunnery is still in its infancy, and no official doctrine yet exists for echelons above the MI Company level. However, leaders from across the Fort Hood-based 504th Military Intelligence Brigade are using the program's fundamentals to ensure its MI teams and crews are expertly trained in Mission Essential Tasks across each specialty.
For Maj. Matthew Shirley, Operations Officer for the 303rd Military Intelligence Battalion, 504th MI Brigade, using gunnery to influence battalion-level training speaks volumes with other commanders.
"When you talk to leaders, especially when you talk about warfighting functions and being able to speak in common terminology, maneuver commanders understand gunnery," Shirley said. "Gunnery to them is a very sequenced process of individual and collective tasks, with a very specific standard in which a table is completed to really provide a foundation or a baseline.
"The key to MI gunnery is really establishing that baseline of stable crews and then synchronizing the tasks within the table format," he said.
Utilizing Training Circular 2-19.400 as one resource, 504th officers, warrant officers and noncommissioned officers are crafting a customized training strategy to meet the brigade's training objectives. While geared towards the MI Company of a Brigade Engineer Battalion, the circular provides guidance for commanders, leaders, and Soldiers who plan, prepare, execute, and assess training.
Within the circular are five "tables" that assist a commander in assessing individual, team and crew battle drills and collective tasks. The tables can be likened to grading criteria, and are geared to many of the MI unit's teams -- including a Tactical Ground Station, Cryptologic Support Team, Operations Management Team, a Multifunctional Platoon, and an Intelligence and Electronic Warfare Systems Integration Section. The first table assesses individual tasks that each MI Soldier is responsible for performing, based on the unit's Mission Essential Task List. Table II assesses teams and individual tasks.
Since no training doctrine yet exists for an MI Brigade, it is a multi-faceted process to create a comprehensive training strategy, according to Maj. Christina Fanitzi, operations officer for the 504th Military Intelligence Brigade.
"You look at MI Gunnery and the spirit of it, and you say we have to execute these tables, and these tables are meant to do the following tasks -- individual, collective, team, company. As a platoon leader, for example, in my line of effort, what would that look like?" Fanitzi said.
The multi-faceted process includes using the brigade's Mission Essential Task List, coupling it with tasks identified in the Training Circular and Training and Evaluation Outlines through the Army Training Network, and endorsing them by the unit's Warrant Officers, who are the Army's technical experts in each intelligence specialty.
"We take all our expertise, our warrant officers across all of those (intelligence specialties) and say, 'What would be the go/no-go criteria for all those? What would be the right tables? What would we evaluate?" Fanitzi said. "Evaluation standards were made if they don't exist, but most of the time, you can find an (evaluation outline) that will support it, and you make these gunnery books that say this gunnery table is going to test these tasks; here are my evaluation sheets; here was the evaluator that endorses these folks met the go/no-go criteria."
A company commander is generally responsible for building a gunnery certification book, which includes the tasks and Soldiers trained, and the standards they met. The overall table is endorsed by the battalion commander and then confirmed by the brigade commander, Fanitzi said.
"It's CCV - which is certify, confirm and validate," Fanitzi explained. "So if it's a team, the company commander certifies, the battalion commander confirms, and the brigade commander validates."
For the "Always Ready" brigade, developing an all-inclusive training tracker meant the creation of a Brigade Intelligence Readiness Tracker, or the aptly-named BIRT, which tracks all the tasks a certified team needs. Not only does it track training status, but it also tracks the equipment and manning considerations for each intelligence team. A team typically consists of four to six personnel specializing in an MI job.
At the company level, however, is where the "rubber meets the road" for MI Gunnery. In an MI Company assigned to a Brigade Combat Team, there are typically four platoons, each with a different specialty and mission. There is an Unmanned Aerial Systems Platoon, a Multifunction Platoon, an Information Collection Platoon and a Headquarters Platoon. It is an exclusive unit that augments a BCT Commander's intelligence collection efforts, according to a 1st Cavalry Division company commander.
"The MI Company is a unique command in that it provides the brigade's intelligence collection assets," Capt. Lauren Ulmer, Commander of D Company, 8th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division. "As the MI Company commander, I have the responsibility to ensure that the brigade's intelligence collection assets and analysts have the proper training to carry out their mission. ... The MI Company brings several different collection assets and intelligence analysts that increase the analytical capacity of the brigade (intelligence officer)."
Capt. Ulmer said the MI Gunnery tables allow her to structure the company's training plan throughout the year and build on collective training.
"The MI Gunnery (Training Circular) provides a basic outline that allows me to structure my company's training throughout the year starting at the individual level and building through team-level training, to prepare for the annual company-level training event that qualifies the teams," Ulmer said.
Often, the small MI teams are responsible for providing key intelligence collection and analysis to a brigade commander. Ensuring those teams are adequately trained is the essence behind MI Gunnery, Fanitzi said.
"The capacity that MI brings to a maneuver commander is infinite. Ironically, that combat multiplier is given in small teams. So you'd think the powerhouse of what is given to a maneuver commander is some big entity, but this giant combat multiplier that is given to him is given to him by small teams of professionals," Fanitzi said. "We are obligated to making sure those small teams are trained, equipped and ready to support commanders."