BCT multifunctional teams in a DATE exercise.
In September 2014, the Military Intelligence Company (MICO), 3rd Infantry (Light) Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division (3-25 IBCT), received hard news-make a new "Multifunctional Platoon." With a few PowerPoint slides, our manning structure changed and our entire platoon mission became a giant question mark. At the time, our understanding of the MFT concept was that of the rank- and experience-heavy targeting and rapid exploitation teams of Afghanistan. How were we going to balance the traditional collection needs of a light infantry brigade with the time-sensitive targeting capability of the Afghanistan MFTs? This is an account of where we came from, the decisions we made, and the implementation of our newly refined capabilities in Decisive Action Training Environment (DATE) exercises.
Prior to September 2014, our HUMINT and SIGINT Soldiers were in two different platoons: the Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Platoon, with All-Source and geospatial intelligence analysts, and the Major Systems Ground Platoon (tactical SIGINT Platoon), with linguists and SIGINT analysts. With a cancelled deployment, the Brigade had been conducting emergency deployment readiness exercises and command post exercises (CPX), leaving few opportunities for HUMINT and SIGINT to work together in a field environment. And then we were hit, like every other BCT, with the MFT manning change. We looked at each other and quickly realized that nobody had the answers.
So we got book smart, reading the MFT Team Leader's handbook, Draft ATP 2-19.5, as well as multiple tactical standard operating procedures and capabilities briefs from the battlefield surveillance brigades. But all of this led to one conclusion: MFT was not right for this light infantry brigade. This problem was exacerbated by the need to keep ourselves ready for any near-peer threat that might arise in the U.S. Pacific Command area. If all of our collectors were to be assigned to three MFT squads, we saw the new mission as stripping us of our core capabilities-low level voice intercept (LLVI), Prophet Enhanced, and HUMINT Collection Team (HCT) operations-and forcing us to exclusively conduct time sensitive targeting and site exploitation. We kept trying to fit what we saw as a square peg into a circular hole.
After exhausting our efforts, we reached out to the MI Warrant Officer Proponent for answers. She explained:
"The only thing that has remained constant throughout the history of this (35M) MOS is that HUMINT conducts HUMINT. The size, shape, and rank configuration of the teams have constantly evolved. Call the team Bob or Jim or MFT or GHOST or whatever, the mission of the trained and certified HUMINT collector on the team is still to conduct interrogations, full-spectrum military source operations, and support to document and media exploitation."
She explained from the HUMINT side how we came from IPWs to tactical HUMINT teams to HCTs and now, the next step in our evolution, an MFT. Our ability to conduct tactical, time-sensitive exploitation did not replace our HCT and LLVI capabilities, but added to them.
With this understanding, we laid out our training glide path to be ready for the Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC) in May 2015. However, manning issues quickly surfaced. Between advanced schooling, professional military education, leave, projected moves, borrowed military manpower, physical profiles, company responsibilities, and taskings from outside the company, we were barely able to man two 5 to 6 person MFTs. This was continuously one of our greatest challenges. Ultimately, we decided that every Soldier and every noncommissioned officer needed to be trained to fall into multiple team configurations as missions dictated. We compensated for diminished team continuity with mission flexibility.
For our first major training event, we conducted an MFT squad validation. In October, we spent a week in the field covering the crawl and walk phases for two MFTs. During this validation, we (legally) cross-trained MOS 35Ms to use the AR8200 police scanner and understand the fundamentals of direction finding. We trained the MOS 35Ps (Cryptologic Linguists) to conduct tactical questioning and to understand the fundamentals of Military Source Operations (MSO). Finally, we trained all MFT Soldiers on field expedient document exploitation and tactical site exploitation (TSE), having received a Site Exploitation class from a mobile training team several weeks prior. The exercise culminated in both MFTs attaching to an infantry platoon during a platoon raid. The infantry platoon secured the site and gave the MFT leaders a time limit, during which the MFTs had to complete TSE, a direction-finding mission, and a battlefield interrogation. After action reports with the infantry platoon showed that we had come a long way, but still had a long road ahead.
After evaluating our capabilities, we got on the calendars for each of the maneuver units and briefed their staffs and company/troop commanders on our new capabilities. In hindsight, we oversold our capabilities, especially with regard to signal terminal guidance-we did not have the proper equipment. We also would have curbed the language to move away from multifunction "teams" and towards multifunction "capabilities." We did not properly manage the expectations of the maneuver units, which would hurt us down the road when battalions would ambiguously request "MFT," when what they really needed was "LLVI" or "HUMINT screening ops."
After our validation, we seized several more opportunities to exercise our skills. We injected HUMINT, SIGINT, and TSE training objectives into infantry field training exercises. Working with the battalion S2s allowed us to add depth to training without derailing the maneuver element's training objectives; and second, allowed us to build relationships with the battalions that would work to our collective advantage during Brigade level exercises.
Decisive Action and JRTC
Our training validation occurred in two Brigade exercises: the 25th ID-led Brigade Evaluation Exercise Lightning Forge in Hawaii and the May 2015 Decisive Action rotation at JRTC. We were then able to test the Operational Management Team (OMT) and Cryptologic Support Element (CSE) as management teams for HCT and SIGINT operations while also working within the Brigade S2, and focus on influencing Brigade operations with our single-source reporting. Our greatest takeaways were the following: get teams to the (right) battalions as quickly as possible during staging; ruthlessly demand a daily or twice-daily activity report directly between the teams and the Platoon leadership (in addition to the tactical intelligence reporting chain); ensure that the teams have a robust and effective PACE (communications) plan directly to the OMT or CSE and, as implied, that every Soldier knows how to use all available communications equipment.
The preparation phase proved to be the most critical and most time consuming for the MFT Platoon as a platoon. We had to be a full planning cycle ahead of the Brigade. With Platoon leadership participating directly in the Brigade military decision making process (MDMP), we initiated each exercise with HCTs and LLVI teams attached to maneuver battalions as necessary. We pushed hard to be the first on the ground for preparation. An advance team of MOS 35T MI System Maintainer/Integrators and Prophet Enhanced operators were the first in the Brigade to occupy the initial staging area. Arriving and preparing early allowed us to attach our teams to their supported units as the battalions were conducting MDMP and troop leading procedures, meaning that our team leaders were intimately involved in company-level planning.
Platoon leadership balanced receiving equipment and preparing the teams, participating in Brigade MDMP and all supported battalion MDMP timelines. The Platoon Leader and warrant officers conducted in-person coordination at every supported battalion. The Platoon Leader attempted to attend every supported battalion operations order with the team leaders. While we were adept at communicating with the battalion S2s, we would later find that a good working relationship, or lack thereof, with the battalion S3s had significant impact on the effectiveness of our collection teams.
We should have done a better job preparing the team leaders on how to ingest information at a battalion operations order and what personnel to seek out within a maneuver battalion staff. We also needed to bolster the confidence in our young team leaders to approach the right people (an infantry major executive officer is not used to seeing a specialist contact him as a direct support enabler). Our teams were most successful when given a direct line to the Company Commander and First Sergeant with whom they would be attached, no matter the rank of the team leader. The least successful teams found themselves as just one in the mix of enabler teams in a headquarters company with no tactical contacts. The assistant intelligence officer was not the appropriate tactical chain of contact for a collection team. While familiar with the intelligence requirements, staff officers will not be intimately familiar with company operations and communication. Overall, participating directly in Brigade and battalion MDMP cycles as early as possible, getting ahead of the battalion planning process, and physically placing the teams with their supported units with a clear tactical chain of command were critical to initiating operations successfully.
For the exercise rotations, our teams operated in approximately 72-hour cycles of Joint Forcible Entry (JFE), to include defense and offense with sprinklings of stability, noncombatant evacuation, and counterinsurgency opera tions. Throughout both exercises, our teams remained in HCTs, LLVI teams, and Prophet Enhanced teams. For one mission, we combined an HCT and an LLVI team as an MFT for a time-sensitive high value individual capture/kill raid. While we were prepared to morph our SIGINT teams between LLVI and Prophet Enhanced teams, we never needed to do so. For the JFE, we divided HCTs, LLVI teams, and Prophet Enhanced Mobile teams among the battalions according to mission sets, meaning that one battalion received three collection teams while others received none. We attempted to keep all teams mounted in vehicles for maneuverability, equipment management, and access to communications, but several teams did participate in a battalion air assault infiltration. Throughout operations, while prepared to switch teams and team composition around as necessary (flexibility was the name of our game), the teams maintained their original collection missions throughout, even if the supported unit, battlespace, or specific mission changed. We never changed an LLVI team into a Prophet team, or an HCT into an MFT.
During the defense, LLVI teams focused on screening operations and providing tippers and threat warnings to ground commanders, while HCTs conducted tactical questioning, screenings and MSO, especially at refugee camps and population centers. During the offense, we attempted to co-locate two LLVI teams for targeting operations, but a breakdown in communication between Brigade and battalions kept the teams in separate screening missions. HCTs, however, focused more on MSO and interrogations at the detainee holding area (DHA) as time passed and the kinetic fight intensified. We also pushed a Prophet Mobile team to a battalion tactical operations center (TOC), and then with the Brigade forward TOC (TAC) as the forward-line-of-troops moved rapidly forward. Our final battlefield array had our two LLVI teams with the cavalry scouts, a Prophet Mobile with the Brigade TAC, a Prophet Dismount at the Brigade TOC, and HCTs at the main urban center, the DHA, and the Brigade TOC.
During operations, the Platoon headquarters element staged at the MICO Post directly outside of the Brigade S2 cell at the Brigade TOC. The Platoon Leader coordinated with the Brigade Collection Manager and S2 Plans to build the missions of the collection teams for each phase, assisted in writing Annex L, Information Collection, for each order, and coordinated with the MICO Commander, who was working with the S3 Plans. The Platoon Sergeant worked with the MICO First Sergeant and Executive Officer at the Brigade TOC to facilitate equipment readiness and manning cycles. This was an especially important role to the company as the
Collection Platoon Sergeant took more of a technical role in the S2 shop. The warrant officers assumed their critical roles within the OMT and CSE while still coordinating with the Brigade Collection Manager and Platoon Leader to push daily Collection Emphasis messages to the teams based on mission planning. Additionally, each team was required to submit a Daily Activity Report (DAR) directly to the Platoon chain-of-command outside of any technical or intelligence reporting.
The DAR, a digital or 5-line radio report, served several functions:
* It established and maintained a communications link between the MICO and the teams.
* It allowed the Platoon leadership to track location, readiness, maintenance, etc.
* It allowed the Platoon leadership to assess if the teams were being properly and effectively used at the ground level.
This allowed the MICO to ensure that no one fell through the cracks and provided feedback for the next cycle of mission planning. If the teams and Platoon could not communicate directly, then we would go through the battalions. While the Platoon headquarters did not spend significant time doing battlefield circulation, their centralization contributed to in-depth planning and an emphasis on integration in the Brigade intelligence cycle.
The most valuable lesson we learned from these exercises was the need to be experts in communication. So many different factors impeded our ability to communicate with the teams forward and the Brigade elements in the rear. We quickly identified that the use of Joint Capabilities ReleaseBlue Force Tracker was critical to mission success. The most important task of an intelligence collector, according to our observer/coach/trainer (O/C/T), was to report. An inability to communicate is an inability to report.
Over the better part of 2014-2015, we have been training, evaluating, and learning. We have boiled our experiences down to four key lessons:
1. Clearly communicate the capabilities of BCT organic collection to battalion and Brigade commanders and staff. First and foremost, the level of understanding with regards to the MFT Platoon needs to be increased and maintained. This is a struggle. There are so many misconceptions about what we can provide. We should have provided a menu of capabilities (LLVI, SIGINT collection, MSO, screening, interrogations), as opposed to teams (one MFT please) to the maneuver elements. Then, MICO, S2, and S3 leadership could determine the size and configuration of the teams. It is also important that the key staff players understand this as well. The Brigade and battalion S3s shops are often overlooked in this process, despite the fact that they play the most important role in task organization. The MICO Commander, S2 Plans, and Collection Manager also need to be well versed in MFT capabilities.
2. MFT Platoon leadership (PL, PSG, Warrant Officers, NCOICs) are involved in Brigade MDMP. We need to play an active role in MDMP. On Brigade staff, the OMT/S2X and CSE need to inject their input after mission analysis and before the task org is set. The single-source subject matter experts should be drafting the language that appears in the Brigade operations order with respect to HUMINT/SIGINT. Task, purpose, command and support relationships, sustainability, transportation, security, and specific intelligence requirements should be dictated in the operations order. Also, the maneuver elements need to understand the difference between general and direct support relationships. It does not matter what appears in an operations order if nobody else understands what it actually means.
3. Balance training in MOS and MFT skill sets. Training needs to be balanced. This is extremely difficult, and every unit will have to find their own way to get it done. Our goal over a calendar year is to conduct one MFT exercise, three HUMINT and three SIGINT exercises, and provide support (either HUMINT/SIGINT or multifunction) to each maneuver company. And, of course, this needs to be balanced with professional military education, language requirements, advanced schooling, battalion/brigade taskings, CPXs, Red Cycles, etc., for the individual Soldiers and NCOs.
4. Eight individual sets of communications equipment for eight individual team elements. Finally, and we think most importantly, a realistic, flexible PACE plan needs to be established between the teams and the Platoon at Brigade. This cannot be overstated. Failure to do so will end in mission failure. Every single member of the multifunctional Platoon needs to have the communication skills of an infantry radiotelephone operator and the technical skills of an MOS 25-series Soldier. It needs to be reinforced in every training exercise that is conducted. We, as a profession, have failed to maintain these skills. During JRTC, the O/C/Ts told us that if we could tell them "in the first 72 hours of the fight who on [our] teams was dead or alive, that is a success." Surely we should not have such low expectations. We trained consistently on our PACE plan and were even supplemented with more communication channels during JRTC, but we were still only able to speak to our teams an average of once a day. The bottom line is that as long as someone at Brigade (PL/PSG, OMT, CSE) can talk to the teams, all other problems can be fixed.
In conclusion, although a difficult transition from separate SIGINT and HUMINT sections into a Multifunctional Platoon, we were able to focus on tactical intelligence collection operations as opposed to only analytical operations inside of a TOC. We trained in a way that made each Soldier familiar with several collection skill sets-HUMINT, SIGINT, and TSE. We offered capabilities to our Brigade and maneuver battalion leaders and maintained the flexibility to fill a variety of mission requirements. We culminated our year as one of the first BCT Multifunctional Platoons to execute a Decisive Action rotation at a combat training center. Flexibility and communication, both staff and tactical, were key. What we sacrificed in depth of MOS training, we gained in adaptability on the battlefield,
by First Lieutenant Lauren Kobor and Chief Warrant Officer Two Dane Rosenkrans
1LT Kobor served as the Platoon Leader for the MFT Platoon, Delta Co, 29th BEB, 3rd IBCT, 25th ID, from June 2014 to August 2015, including JRTC rotation 15-07. She is currently attending the MI Captains Career Course with a following assignment to 3rd ABCT, 1st Cavalry Division. She graduated with honors from the U.S. Military Academy in 2012 with a BS in International Relations.
CW2 Rosenkrans served as the sole HUMINT Technician for 3rd IBCT, 25th ID, during JRTC rotation 15-07 and is currently assigned to A Co, 202nd MI Battalion, 513th MI Brigade in Fort Gordon, Georgia. He earned an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Intelligence Operations in 2009, and is a graduate of various HUMINT schools, to include Source Operations Course, Defense Strategic Debriefer Course, and Operational Management (G/J2X) Course.
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|Publication:||Military Intelligence Professional Bulletin|
|Date:||Apr 1, 2016|
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