Relevant and Ready

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Bichson Bush
  • 344th Military Intelligence Battalion, commander
Military leaders at all levels must routinely conduct periodic assessments to validate tactical and technical training. For the past year, 344th Military Intelligence Battalion has conducted significant course revisions to ensure its training prepares Soldiers to join the fight upon graduation. All battalion personnel contributed immeasurable time and effort to ensure the training initiatives were successful. The 344 MI BN's mission statement is to train military intelligence and firefighter professionals to be competent and confident Warriors who are capable of immediately and fully supporting our Army and nation at war. The battalion is comprised of three companies. Alpha and Bravo Companies reside with the battalion headquarters at Goodfellow AFB, while Delta Company resides at Corry Station, Pensacola, Fla. The 344 MI BN provides realistic, relevant, and demanding training capable of producing signals intelligence (SIGINT) and firefighting professionals who arrive at their next unit ready to contribute on day one.

Alpha Company trains Soldiers to become SIGINT Analysts (35N). An important revision to the 35N course has been the implementation of the National Security Agency's Deployer (DEPL) 2000 course. This training provides access to national SIGINT databases. Over 600 Soldiers have received this training since the battalion implemented it in May 2008. During 2009, the SIGINT Analyst course transformed to a Thin Client architecture in order to enhance efficiency and effectiveness. Furthermore, Digital Network Intelligence training has been added to the course to better prepare Soldiers with prosecuting cyber warfare. Upon graduation, SIGINT Analyst Soldiers are certified in DEPL 2000 and have both a Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Information clearance and a counter-intelligence polygraph. These course revisions drastically improved SIGINT Analysts' competency and confidence. The result of this training has been seen in these graduates' contributions to SIGINT operations while deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, as well as other locations worldwide.

Bravo Company trains Soldiers to become Cryptologic Linguists (35P) and Firefighters (21M). Cryptologic Linguists arrive to the company as qualified linguists, either as a native speaker or from the Defense Language Institute at Monterrey, Calif. Upon arrival to Bravo Company, these Soldiers are placed in one of the following courses based upon their language: Arabic, Persian-Farsi, Russian, Low-density Language (ZZ), Chinese Mandarin, Spanish or Korean. In the past year, all seven language courses have been revised significantly to focus on today's threats and challenges. This is an unprecedented change, considering the normal cycle for rewriting one course is 12-18 months. The outcome of this endeavor is the existence of seven streamlined, modular courses that focus on current SIGINT systems and intelligence targets. The battalion also developed and implemented an Army supplemental module after each language course with emphasis on tactical systems, critical thinking and analytical skills. Knowledge of these areas is critical to better support ongoing combat operations.

Delta Company trains Soldiers in a multi-service environment to become Signals Collector and Analysts (35S). Signals Collector and Analyst Soldiers receive training in signal identification, collection and analysis. Within the last year, 344 MI BN has added Digital Network Analysis and Asymmetric Warfare to the Signals Collector and Analyst course. Understanding these areas better equips our Soldiers operating in today's cyber and asymmetric warfare environment.

One training event that all three SIGINT MOS' have in common is a Capstone 10-day field training exercise (FTX). This FTX is known as Operation Sentinel Strike and is conducted in conjunction with the Joint Intelligence Combat Training Center (JICTC) exercise at Fort Huachuca, Ariz. During each Operation Sentinel Strike at Goodfellow AFB, Alpha and Bravo Companies provide SIGINT single source fusion to JICTC, enabling all-source fusion analysis in order to produce realistic target packets to drive operations. Soldiers at Goodfellow communicate with Soldiers at Fort Huachuca utilizing email, chat tools, and video teleconferences. Operation Sentinel Strike is a Middle East consequence-based scenario, which incorporates selected intelligence and maneuver tasks. As an example, Soldiers' reaction to civilians on the battlefield will determine a positive or negative reaction from these civilians. If the Soldiers establish a positive relationship with the civilians, the civilians may provide information on insurgent activities in the area. In contrast, if Soldiers establish a negative relationship with the local populace, the civilians may provide less intelligence and increase insurgent attacks. Similarly, Delta Company Soldiers conduct a consequence-based FTX that incorporates warrior tasks and battle drills, convoy operations, signal identification and signal analysis tasks.

The 344 MI BN will continue to incorporate enduring lessons learned from OIF and OEF to ensure SIGINT training remains relevant, realistic and demanding to support the fight. During this month, Delta Company will expand its FTX in order to integrate it into the JICTC exercise. During January 2010, Delta Company will transition from conducting classes in an analog to a state of the art digital SIGINT laboratory. During June, the battalion will transition all exercises from an Iraqi to an Afghanistan based scenario to support OEF. Additionally, during June, the construction of the Forward Operations Base (FOB) Sentinel Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF) will be completed and operational. This facility will support the consolidation of tactical and technical training at FOB Sentinel. It is no simple task to institute these changes within a year. Although it was a difficult task, it was a necessary one to ensure SIGINT Soldiers remain relevant and ready to support operational missions. With these accomplishments, we must remain vigilant to ensure training does not become stagnant and irrelevant to support our nation at war.