By Joseph Siemandel, Joint Forces Headquarters, Washington National GuardAugust 7, 2019
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. - Traditionally, military intelligence professionals work alone or in small teams and rarely know what is happening in other units. This is no longer the case for the Washington Army National Guard's Intelligence Enterprise.
During August drill weekend nearly 200 military intelligence professionals representing multiple brigade-level commands attended the first Intelligence Enterprise summit at the McChord Club, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.
"We have more than 400 military intelligence professionals in the formation, and we need to know how to leverage them better," said Col. Gerald Dezsöfi, commander of the 56th Theater Information Operations Group and senior intelligence officer for the state. "This is such a unique experience that was years in the making."
The summit concept started as a joint venture between previous military intelligence officers and non-commissioned officers more than ten years ago. The goal was to educate each other and state leaders on the state' military intelligence footprint.
Briefings and interactions included in-depth conversations about both state and federal missions, the federated intelligence production program, language immersion opportunities, career advancement opportunities and mentorship.
"Those under five years of service should know who their mentors with more than 15 years are and start building career plans," said Dezsöfi. "These folks are staged to inherit some great opportunities, thanks to the hard work of so many."
Washington Army National Guard Chief of Staff Col. Dan Dent spoke at the event, giving his thought on the current intelligence environment.
"I ask, is the procedure of collecting information and analyzing it still relevant. I think it is now more than ever," said Dent. "Old problems are new again and this is the community that can get ahead of it and makes a difference."
One topic that was addressed during the summit was the use of military intelligence professionals during state missions. Intelligence units haven't traditionally been asked to support state emergencies, but with the deployment cycle, they have been asked to perform that role more often.
"One of the best memories I have in the National Guard was as a captain in the 341st when I got called to support flooding in Chehalis," said LTC Angela Gentry, Intelligence Officer, Joint Forces Headquarters.
Previously Alpha Company, 341st Military Intelligence Battalion Soldiers were activated to support relief efforts following snowstorms in Eastern Washington in January 2009. In the summer of 2015, Delta Company, 898th Brigade Engineer Battalion Intelligence professionals helped wildfire fighting efforts.
More recently, more than 30 intelligence soldiers have completed their wildland firefighting red card certification with the Washington Department of Natural Resources and are ready to support future activations. Linguists have also taken on the unique mission of assisting with translating emergency messages for the Washington Emergency Management Division.
"We have so many great state-level missions we can support," said Gentry. "We have smart, motivated people."
One of the significant take always for attendees was learning about career opportunities across the military intelligence community. This summit was the first time every intelligence unit and section got to talk about their unique missions.
"A lot of folks are interchangeable due to their skill set," said Capt. Dave Grun, Intelligence Officer, 1st Squadron, 303rd Cavalry Regiment. "We are deploying soon and I know the analysts and linguists going with us will be gaining a lot of experience.