MCGREGOR BASE CAMP, New Mexico (March 1, 2018) -- A training exercise in February joining units from across III Corps at a New Mexico training site means increased combat readiness for those participating units, said leaders from the 504th Military Intelligence Brigade and the 89th Military Police Brigade. The 10-day exercise enabled Soldiers of various Military Occupational Specialties to work together in a combat-realistic scenario and achieve common training objectives.
The "Griffin Watch" exercise, organized by the Fort Hood-based 89th MP Brigade, was designed to focus on detention operations. Several III Corps' units, including the 1st Cavalry Division, 1st Armored Division, 504th Military Intelligence Brigade, and 11th Theater Tactical Signal Brigade participated in the unique training at McGregor Training Complex in New Mexico. The 678,000-acre complex serves as a remote training area for Fort Bliss, bordering White Sands Missile Range, and hosts a variety of field exercises and testing for the U.S. Army.
According to the 89th MP Brigade's Chief of Operations, the "Griffin Watch" exercise was a first for the unit, and increased awareness among all participating units on detention operations.
"The exercise was the first of its kind integrating various agencies of the Military Police Corps unit's competencies [criminal investigation, detention operations and detainee transfers, and area security] as well as our supporting units," Capt. Molly Broderick said. "Across the brigade, and all units participating, we are now more combat ready and understand the requirements for detention operations."
For Soldiers with the 504th Military Intelligence Brigade, who participated as human intelligence collectors for detainee role-players, the exercise served as a refresher to build core skills. Staff Sgt. Jason Calhoun and Spc. Aaron Szychowski, with the 163rd Military Intelligence Battalion, functioned as interrogators, and worked 12-hour shifts to develop questioning plans and gain intelligence to pass along to on-ground commanders.
Their role in the training enabled the Military Intelligence and Military Police Soldiers to work together and learn from each other in a realistic scenario.
"Usually with the MPs and [Military Intelligence], there's always been a little bit of distrust between the two," Staff Sgt. Calhoun, the 163rd MI Battalion's Noncommissioned Officer-in-Charge of the battalion's intelligence section said. "I think we've built up a rapport with them, and we do need their help at times, and they need ours. The next time they do go downrange, they're better off."
Human intelligence collectors serve a vital link in the intelligence collection process. Their role is two-fold, interrogating detainees in a field detention site, and gathering information from local civilians while on patrol with combat units. Interrogations are a stringent process, often involving in-depth plans and are always recorded, according to Staff Sgt. Calhoun. When a detainee is transferred from his/her jail cell to the interrogation room, there are Military Police Soldiers who must secure and transport the detainee, and then provide security in the interrogation room.
The training allowed both MI and MP Soldiers the opportunity to see how the other functions. For Spc. Szychowski, a Soldier who has served in the U.S. Army for nearly three years and has not yet deployed, the training could not be replicated in a garrison environment.
"My big takeaway is doing that level of cross training, we couldn't have done that level of MI training in a MI company," Spc. Szychowski said. "Actually being able to use it has been eye opening."
The Tracy, California native said the extensive interrogation process was thoroughly replicated at the training site, something that is hard to do at Fort Hood.
"Our job is really hard to wargame outside of the field environment, you can do it in your office all you want," Spc. Szychowski said. "Actually having the person in handcuffs, it requires a lot more than a unit has on hand without doing the field training. Getting out and showing our capabilities, and learning from what they do is really helpful."
Staff Sgt. Calhoun previously served as an Army recruiter for 38 months, and his participation in "Griffin Watch" sharpened his skills as a human intelligence collector. The Tulsa, Oklahoma native has deployed twice to Iraq and twice to Afghanistan as a Human Intelligence collector. He said he "liked the challenge and getting back into the swing of things."
During the exercise, Calhoun added that the 89th MP Brigade integrated Human Intelligence with Criminal Intelligence, two closely-related specialties under the Military Intelligence and Military Police disciplines, respectively. At one point during the exercise, Staff Sgt. Calhoun briefed the 89th's Brigade Commander, who told Calhoun he did not have much exposure to Human Intelligence collectors. The scheduled 10-minute brief turned into a 50-minute brief as the MP Brigade leadership queried the MI Soldiers on their capabilities.
Through this combined training, the participating units improved their combat readiness, as both the 504th MI Brigade and 89th MP Brigade have over 600 Soldiers combined currently supporting combat operations.