(FORT HOOD, Texas, June 20, 2018)--Soldiers with the 504th Military Intelligence Brigade, 3rd Cavalry Regiment, 89th Military Police Brigade, and 11th Signals Brigade gathered in the 504th motor pool May 30th here. They filtered in lugging their rucksacks, assault packs, and other belongings they would need for an extended stay in the field.
The mission: deploy and direct multidiscipline intelligence operations to test and certify teams, crews and staff entities on integration, employment, and synchronization of intelligence assets in preparation to support III Corps and subordinate units.
The concept of the training was for Task Force Longhorn, 303rd Military Intelligence Battalion, to establish a competitive environment between two teams that consisted of intelligence assets and maneuver elements, said Maj. Ashley Welte, the 303rd operations officer. The two teams worked in a dynamic environment using intelligence assets to facilitate targeting methodology to find, analyze, and disseminate actionable intelligence. The exercise was conducted in multiple iterations that gradually progressed with the purpose of increasing mission readiness through Military Intelligence core competencies.
Based on the Army vision, training must be tough, realistic, iterative, and dynamic. The Battalions training consisted of several competencies of the Army Vision recently put out by Mark T. Esper, the Secretary of the Army, and Gen, mark A. Milley, United States Army Chief of Staff. Develop smart, thoughtful, and innovative leaders of characters who are comfortable with complexity and capable of operating from the tactical to strategic level.
The battalion did this by taking Soldiers out of their comfort zone, put into the field, and used their equipment, said Welte. That was the tough part.
"Learning how to use a system that you have never used before was very difficult," she said. "But also, having a living, breathing threat made it dynamic."
Soldiers had to change their tactic, techniques, and procedures, on the go, to adapt to what the enemy was doing, said Welte.
"Train as you fight," said Capt. James Hastings, B Company, 163rd Military Intelligence Battalion, company commander.
The Soldiers ensured they had realistic planning timelines, utilized all their equipment, and protective gear they would employ in combat. Also, he said, they used an accurate pace plan. A pace plan has a primary, alternate, contingency, and an emergency form of communication.
"You are fighting through your communications because that is one of the most difficult things when you are on the battlefield," said Hastings. "Then you have to fight through the elements."
Some of the elements Soldiers had to adapt to was the heat and visibility, said Hastings.
It was almost impossible to escape the heat. Soldiers set up their site in sweltering heat. Some worked in tents with their windows open, hoping to catch a breeze. While some Soldiers had air conditioning in their vehicles, others were not so lucky.
"It was hot," said Welte. "It was exhausting."
The soldiers had to manage safety, risk, and collection all at once, said Welte. That, for a young platoon leader, is a lot. Soldiers also needed to be smart and innovative to ensure they could operate from the tactical to strategic level, said Welte.
"What they did had real-world consequences," she said. "If they got into a firefight and had a causality, we made them process the causality. We made them request recovery to complete the entire process to receive that piece of equipment back."
Leaders gave specific orders to Soldiers with only information they needed, she said. They were responsible for developing their plan.
"2nd Lt. Behne, I told her that her mission that day was to find 3CR in time and space," said Welte.
2nd. Lt. Eryn Behne is a multi-function platoon leader for 163rd B Company, 303rd MI Battalion.
Welte said that Behne was responsible for finding 3CR's reconnaissance to assess and prevent an attack. She had to have a plan before moving out for the day. If communications did not work, Welte said, then Behne had to find a way to get the information to her.
Hastings said Soldiers need to be allowed to coordinate and collaborate with each other. Not only with their maneuver unit, but with the staff sections as well.
"You can help train, coach, and mentor by giving the recommendation of 'hey potentially use these avenues of approach,'" said Hastings. "At the end of the day, you have to let them build their own plan."
The soldiers were given a problem that they had to solve, said Welte. Each unit that participated in the exercise learned from each other. An example was camouflaging the MI vehicles. It was because of the partnership between the 504th, 3CR, and the 89th MPs that the MI Soldiers were able to develop the skills necessary for this task. MI Soldiers also learned how to move tactically across a battlefield.
"Their learning as a group was powerful," said Welte. "Winning, to intel, was finding the enemy using our platforms. We were able to do that with a dynamic threat. By the end of it, it was very exciting."