FORT POLK, La. - Soldiers from the 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division participated in a biometrics class at the Joint Readiness Training Center as part of their training for the unit's upcoming deployment to Iraq.

Biometrics is the science of using physiological features, such as fingerprints or irises, as a method of identification, said James Langston, the class instructor and JRTC field support engineer.

In the field, said Langston, one of the key pieces of biometrical equipment is the Handheld Interagency Identity Detection Equipment, which debuted in 2004.

The HIIDE can scan two irises, 10 fingers and take a facial portrait, he said. This information, along with personal data, goes into an identification file called a dossier. The HIIDE system can hold 10,000 of these records.

The data is then downloaded to a larger database that can help identify patterns of individuals moving around an operational area.

"The good thing about using that it's real time," said Langston. "That means if you're scanning someone, it will give you an answer within a couple seconds."

Specialist Richard Gallegos, a company intelligence survey team member with B Company, 1st Battalion, 38th Infantry Regiment, said he understands the value of having this technology on the ground. He said he works putting together target packets and working with security and intelligence personnel to neutralize high-value targets.

The HIIDE system is more field expedient, said Gallegos, as it has three different ways to physiologically identify a potential suspect.

"It's a wonderful tool to identify and enroll; it keeps a database of all those who are enrolled, and the HIIDE system can be used all the way down to the foot Soldier," said Langston. "That foot Soldier can go out there and identify anybody and everybody, and if they're in the database, it'll come up telling you what you need to do."

First Lt. Phillip Matousek, the executive officer of the Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1-38 Inf., said the training he received during the class will help him better understand the mission of Soldiers like Gallegos, with whom he'll be working when the unit deploys to Iraq.

"If you pick somebody up, you arrest them, and then they release him for some reason - and you pick him up again, you can start to track patterns," said Matousek.

"It's a wonderful system. It's in its infancy, it's still getting better, and it's going to get better and better every year," said Langston.

Pvt. Luke Rollins is assigned to 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division. This story appeared in Fort Lewis' Northwest Guardian.