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How USAIC's 96D10: Imagery Analysis Course has changed for today's operational environment.


When I became an Imagery Analyst in 1984 we were still fighting a Cold War and our training centered on large static targets. The reconnaissance and surveillance assets of the of the Vietnam era were still being taught even up to the Gulf War in 1991. Students were expected to learn the majority of their job after they graduated. After the Gulf War things started changing. Our world became very different as technology was quickly evolving. The Berlin Wall was finally torn down, effectively ending the Cold War. The Army is now concerned with fighting small limited wars and counterinsurgency operations (COIN) along with peacekeeping missions in areas such as in Bosnia.

The imagery environment has evolved to meet the new operational environment in several ways. Advances in computer technology now allow us to process digital data and data files can be searched, sorted, and stored for future reference. Images that used to be wet processed on a film base and stored on long rolls are now stored digitally where one image can easily be referenced to another. Digital data can be merged or layered onto the image to create enhanced intelligence products. The second change was the Internet. The World Wide Web allows us to easily share information. We can transmit data and intelligence anywhere in the world, often in near real time. Warfighters can access imagery and information even in a combat zone.

The third event that changed everything was 9/11. Terrorism is not new; in the past we saw it happen in other countries in the news. But the events of September 11, 2001 made all Americans aware that it was our problem too. The terrorist attacks made us realize that we are now fighting a shadowy adversary that doesn't necessarily have fixed bases, a defined order of battle, or even a uniform. Instead of identifying equipment and static targets we are looking for individuals. Critical thinking, collaboration and knowledge sharing are keys to rooting out terrorists. Instead of carpet bombing large targets we now need to strike a single building or vehicle with surgical precision in order to limit collateral damage. Our primary weapon is the dismounted soldier who must kick in doors and engage the enemy at arm's length.

The last change was the use of geospatial information by imagery analysts. Not too long ago the topographic analyst provided geospatial information to intelligence analysts as part of the Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield (IPB) process. Today geospatial information is critical in identifying patterns of activity to cue forces to find and kill terrorists. Because this is an intelligence function, the time has come for imagery analysts to become proficient in some geospatial tasks. The imagery analyst blends imagery, geospatial information, and imagery intelligence into one intelligence product. A product created in this way is referred to as geospatial intelligence or GEOINT. Because of this the imagery analyst is now commonly called a GEOINT analyst, although this is not an official designation.


Changes to the 96D10 Imagery Analysis Course

The Imagery Analysis Course taught at Fort Huachuca was designed around Cold War doctrine and conventional warfare. 9/11 made some imagery critical tasks obsolete and started a round of critical thinking about what skills an imagery analyst would need to have acquired upon course completion. A country at war needs Soldiers who can successfully perform their mission as soon as they get to their first assignment; many are finding themselves in a combat zone within weeks after advanced individual training. Prior to 9/11 it was assumed that a Soldier would learn many basic and intermediate skills at their unit during the first year or so. Today, a soldier assigned to a brigade combat team (BCT) will have no time to develop skills, and due to the limited number of imagery analysts in the unit, the new Soldier may very well be the senior imagery analyst in the unit.

Therefore, the course had to prepare Soldiers to perform tactical missions using advanced technology to meet the needs of a modern Army fighting on a digital battlefield. They must be able to provide imagery and geospatial intelligence against terrorists and insurgents in a timely manner. This is certainly the most difficult mission for an imagery analyst due to the nature of unconventional warfare. The lack of static targets and military equipment limits the usefulness of conventional imagery. Imagery of transitory targets and unconventional facilities must be merged with other data and geospatially referenced to make useful intelligence.

To prepare our Soldiers for today's mission we had to first assume they would deploy immediately into a combat zone. The basics must still be taught such as map reading, imagery analysis techniques, and vehicle identification. But today the student is also introduced to digital geospatial information at the very beginning of the course. During the Map Reading instruction, students are quickly introduced to Compressed Arc Digital Raster Graphics (CADRG) and Digital Terrain Elevation Data (DTED). We start with FalconView[TM] as the first visualization tool the students see; it is easy to learn and is useful for geospatial visualization. The students learn the basics of GEOINT and the four main types of data (raster, vector, matrix, and textual.) Later in the course they will explore this data in depth using more advanced tools.

The precursor to Battle Damage Assessment (BDA) is Targeting. Students learn to use digital point positioning data base (DPPDB) and provide mensurated points using the targeting software, Digital Precision Strike Suite (DPSS). The main tool we use is Precision Strike Suite for Special Operations Forces (PSS-SOF).

Reports used to be a paper-based exercise where students literally hand wrote imagery reports. Now students enter reports in the common report writing software, Imagery Exploitation Support System (IESS).

Students learn about imagery databases and how to research targets. They download National and commercial imagery, CADRG, and DTED as if they were in the field and satisfying a requirement. The emphasis is making sure the student knows data is available and how to get it. After researching a target, the students create imagery derived products and prepare professional military briefings. Instructors usually critique the students but often guests such as visiting officers and warrant officers attend the brief and provide valuable feedback to the students.

Students get excellent training in advanced geospatial intelligence (AGI) or Imagery Derived MASINT. They actually produce two color multiview (2CMV) products in class along with other products and then brief their own products. Not only can the students recommend the best imagery derived MASINT product to satisfy a requirement, but they also know how they are produced and how to interpret the product.

With the inclusion of GEOINT, the imagery analyst's mission has evolved largely due to the types of data that can be processed geospatially in addition to images. Detailed analysis can be performed on imagery in conjunction with collected database information in order to detect patterns of activity that give away terrorist and insurgent movement. We live in a visually oriented world. Our students grew up with computers and video games; therefore, they learn to work with geospatial data very quickly. In the field, the customers the GEOINT analysts support also want to be able to visualize data. Database information is often best portrayed geospatially and merged as layers over an imagery base. To build layers of geospatial data the students are learning to work with ESRI's ArcGIS. They create raster databases and import Shapefiles as layers. They also create their own Shapefiles and learn the importance of attributes associated with each feature. Finally, the students export their data as a product that satisfies the needs of the requestor. Geospatial data can be exported as Shapefiles, spreadsheets and databases as well as special products such as PowerPoint presentations and interactive maps. This is all done in class using raster data such as CADRG or imagery as a spatial reference.


Training at the JI-CTC

The last phase of the course is the situational training exercise (STX) conducted at the Joint Intelligence-Combat Training Center (JICTC). Here the students, in a division ACE GEOINT Cell, operate in various positions where technical competence, leadership, briefing skills, and critical thinking skills can be honed and assessed while performing GEOINT tasks in a stressful environment. The main focus in the exercise is the unmanned aerial system (UAS) simulator using Multi-User Simulator Environment (MUSE) software.

Several tools are available that the students will also see when they get to the field. Students use FalconView[TM], RemoteView, and ArcGIS as visualization and exploitation tools. We are currently evaluating Socet-GXP as an exploitation tool. PSS-SOF is used for targeting and when a mensurated point is required. The students communicate through mIRC, a chat tool, and Voice over Internet Protocol (VOIP) which is used for secure voice communication. Every effort is made to incorporate the Distributed Common Ground Station-Army (DCGS-A) tools whenever possible.

Training in the STX is focused on using imagery, geospatial data, and intelligence to keep the warfighter informed of the current situation and to help predict what the enemy is going to do next. Students manage UAS operations in COIN missions as well as a conventional warfare situation. 2CMV AGI products are created in response to intelligence requirements and are included in the daily brief. Recent additions to the STX include using commercial and National imagery as well as full motion video to satisfy information requests generated from other exercises within the JI-CTC. Students manage a requirements database and attempt to answer each request with a suitable GEOINT product. Through this they learn the basics of time and asset management. During the exercise targeting scenarios are introduced as time sensitive requirements for mensurated points. The result of the targeting is witnessed by a UAS on station and the student can report BDA.

A Joint Service Work Station (JSWS) simulator is used to provide cross cueing for UAS operations. Our students are instructed in the basics of moving target indicator (MTI) analysis prior to the STX. The UAS mission manager communicates with the mission planner through mIRC chat tool and VOIP. The NCOIC communicates with the cadre using the same means to receive missions and intelligence reports. Tactical reports (TACREPS) are passed over VOIP and also posted to PathFinder.

Each day ends with the Battle Update Brief. Students prepare a professional military brief for the commander complete with PowerPoint slides, GEOINT products, and AGI. The students are preparing for the brief all day and are eager to report the successes of the day, yet are anxious about facing the commander to report mission failures. Not every scenario has a happy ending. The ultimate outcome depends upon student interaction, reactions to situations, and communication. Feedback is critical to learning so each day ends with an after action review where each situation is discussed and lessons are learned so mistakes will not be repeated. Each morning begins with a new mission and another chance to excel.


The key to GEOINT training today is to continue to train the basics and then focus on today's counterinsurgent/counterterrorist situation, by having the students prepare professional GEOINT products that satisfy a particular intelligence need. The students learn to work as individuals and as a team to ensure success using DCGS-A tools whenever possible. Students graduate the 96D10 course knowing full well they are likely to be in a combat zone on their first assignment. We cannot assume they will have a year or more to learn the skills necessary to perform their mission. We provide them with the skills, knowledge, and experience to work in a production center, division ACE or a BCT as part of a GEOINT team.

The Soldier and civilian cadre here at Fort Huachuca are dedicated to producing the finest Imagery Analysts. Feedback from the field is critical to improving the quality of our training. Many of our scenarios are based on real situations. As operations continue in areas such as Iraq, we will continue to update training based on lessons learned. The Soldiers graduating this course will not only be on the cutting edge of GEOINT technology, but will hopefully lead the field by introducing their peers and supervisors to new and better ways to analyze geospatial data.

Mr. Tim McClune enlisted in the Army in 1984 and graduated from the Imagery Analyst Course at Fort Huachuca, Arizona. His imagery analysis assignments include CM&D, III Corps, Fort Hood, TX; 452nd MI Detachment, 172d Light Infantry Brigade, Fort Richardson, Alaska; V Corps ACE, IMINT Requirements, Heidelberg, Germany, and Third U.S. Army, IMINT Requirements, Fort McPherson, Georgia. He was deployed in support of the V Corps DISE; Operation Joint Endeavor; and TSAR AB, Hungary 1996 Coalition Task Force. He instructed imagery analysis at the 5-104 MI Battalion (USAR) and was a training developer for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. As a civilian, Mr. McClune has served as an instructor and training developer for USAIC. Currently, he is responsible for developing the 96D10 STX and incorporating GEOINT training into the course.
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Author:McClune, Tim
Publication:Military Intelligence Professional Bulletin
Date:Jul 1, 2007
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