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Intelligence Support to the Special Forces Group: time for chance: "the views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Departments of the Army and Defense, or the U.S. Government." First printed in the Summer 2005 issue of the Vanguard.

"If Special Forces looks the same after the war on terrorism, someone will have failed."

--Major General Geoffrey C. Lambert, (USA, Ret.) (1)

Operations in support of the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) have demonstrated the need for organizational changes within the Intelligence Battlefield Operating System (IBOS) at the Special Forces (SF) Group level in order to better support the Group Commanders and the needs of the supported battalions in the most efficient and effective manner possible. Fundamental changes in organization, recruiting, retention, and training are needed for the SF Group IBOS to evolve in order to better meet the challenges of a new operational environment, and to "provide sufficient intelligence" (2) to Special Forces commanders.


"The organization of SF intelligence assets is according to operational and analytical needs." (3) Experiences in the GWOT show that the operational and analytical needs of the SF Groups have changed and persuasively underscores the fact that the IBOS should change to meet these needs. The first change needed is in the way the IBOS is organized within the SF Group. The current IBOS organization in an SF Group nearly mirrors that of a conventional pre-Transformation Army division wherein the IBOS at the division level is split between the division G2 section, the Military Intelligence (MI) Battalion, and the unit-level S2 sections. Currently, SF Group MI assets are dispersed among three different levels within the Group, each with different organization, capabilities, priorities, and chains of command. These three levels (See Figure 1) are the Group S2 section, the Group MI Detachment (MID), and the individual battalion S2 sections, as doctrinally outlined in Chapter 3 of FM 3-05.102, Army Special Forces Intelligence, July 2001.


Although integrated by doctrine throughout the Group, each of these IBOS subcomponents in practice are completely independent of the others, with different missions, priorities, and chains of command. While well intentioned, this current organization has created a redundant and needlessly cumbersome system which has, at times, negatively affected intelligence support to the Group and diluted overall IBOS efficiency.

Maintaining intelligence assets under three different levels of support is not the most effective use of intelligence assets, a fact now recognized in the conventional force. Under the new transformation concept being implemented, the conventional division MI battalion is dissolved and its assets pushed down to the individual BCTs. This revolution in MI support recognizes the need to push intelligence systems and personnel down to the lowest level possible, while still retaining an MI package at the headquarters level that is robust enough to provide credible and effective intelligence oversight and direction to the overall intelligence effort in a general support capacity.

The Group S2 "... is the primary staff officer responsible for all aspects of intelligence, Counterintelligence (CI), and security support in garrison and while deployed," (4) but under the current Group modified table of organization and equipment (MTOE), the only MI assets that the Group S2 section controls in garrison include those assets devoted to routine administrative functions such as physical security, passport control, and the Special Security Officer (SSO) duties. The Group MID controls all of the rest of the Group-level MI assets, and the Battalion S2s control MI assets at the battalion level. This creates a situation in which none of the intelligence assets in the MID or at the battalion level are subordinate to the Group S2 in any way during training and pre-mission preparation. Therefore, although the Group S2 is the staff officer with primary responsibility for the Group IBOS, his ability to influence the overall IBOS is curtailed by the current organization.

FM 2-0, Intelligence, specifies "establishing clean command and support relationships is fundamental in organizing for all operations," (5) but the current command and support relationships are anything but clean. The overwhelming bulk of MI assets in the Group reside in the Group MID, which is subordinate to the Group Support Company (GSC), whereas the Group S2 section is assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company (HHC). The Group MID controls all of the special operations teams (SOTs) -A and -B (Signals Intelligence (SIGINT)), the SOT-Cs (non-doctrinal term used here to describe human intelligence collection teams), and the functions typically associated with the Secure Compartmentalized Intelligence Facility (SCIF), such as the Technical Control and Analysis Element (TCAE) and All-Source Production Section (ASPS). Thus, the MID has oversight of and responsibility for the "tactical" level of MI (SOT-A/B/C) as well as the "operational--strategic" level (TCAE, SCIF, and ASPS) MI assets within the Group. What this means in practice is, that all of the personnel and equipment that the Group S2 needs to provide sufficient intelligence to the Group Commander during operations in both garrison and forward-deployed operations all reside in the MID. This is not an efficient organization.

The garrison organization is in stark contrast to the streamlined organization of the Group IBOS when it deploys forward. During combat operations in the GWOT, the SOT-A/B/Cs are split to provide direct support to the individual battalions in their forward operating bases, advanced operating bases, or even to individual operational detachments-alpha (ODAs). Moreover, all of the IBOS Soldiers not attached directly to the battalions fall directly under the Group S2 (see Figure 2). Placing the functions associated with the SCIF under the Group S2 both in garrison and in a forward operating environment and making the SOTA/B/Cs organic to the individual battalions would facilitate teamwork and increase efficiency, but most importantly would transform the IBOS into a "train as you fight" organization.


The intelligence fight is a continuous one; whether deployed forward or in garrison operations, the IBOS provides intelligence support to operations across the SF spectrum. Indeed, "The Intelligence BOS is always engaged in supporting the commander in offensive, defensive, stability, and support operations." (6) Therefore, the IBOS should be configured to provide continuous support by being organized "as you fight." Operation ENDURING FREEDOM (OEF) is a prime example of how the IBOS at the SF Group level must be ready to deploy at a moment's notice to drive operations that bring the SF fight to the enemy.

The 2005 and 2006 SF Group MTOEs repair some of the problems inherent in the current organization by increasing the total number of SOT-A teams from six to ten, with three SOT-A teams going to each SF battalion and the tenth SOT-A becoming the Advanced SIGINT Collection Section at the MID level. (7) Each SF Group will also pick up a tactical unmanned aerial vehicle (TUAV) and Sensor Exploitation Platoon in 2006. The Groups' IBOS efforts would be further enhanced by the addition of a linguist platoon filled with military occupational specialty (MOS) 09L soldiers with language skills representative of their Group's regional orientation.

SF Groups should also have an MI company, as opposed to the MID currently on the MTOE. An MI company whose commander had traditional command responsibilities to include maintenance, supply, and company-level Uniformed Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) would remove those burdens from the Group Support Company commander. With three SOT-As at each battalion, the SCIF underneath the Group S2, and the MI company retaining control of the Group's general support intelligence assets, such as the Advanced SIGINT section, UAVs, and 09Ls (when assigned or attached), the Group IBOS is organized optimally to support Special Forces operations. It is not necessary to have battalion level intelligence assets split between the battalion S2 and a battalion-level MID commander, as has been the case in the past. All IBOS in the battalions should be directly subordinate to the battalion S2. MIDs should not exist at the battalion level. If necessary, the battalion-level SOT-A/B/Cs can be organized as an MI platoon, with an MI lieutenant as its leader, and all other MI assets at the battalion level assigned to the battalion S2 section.

Closely related to the subject of organization, and also important to the Army-wide intelligence effort, is consistency of doctrine and terms within the Army community.

The manuals researched for this article contained different terms for what are essentially the same functions in both the SF Group and the conventional MI community. For example, the terms TCAE and Collection Management and Dissemination (CM&D), both familiar to those versed in SF intelligence doctrine, are antiquated in modern conventional intelligence doctrine, replaced by the terms "Analysis and Control Element (ACE)" and "Collection Management (CM)," respectively. Intelligence related SF doctrine should reflect, to the maximum extent possible, the exact same terms and procedures as the conventional force. Figure Three below depicts a possible modernization of the IBOS at the SF Group level, using modern, conventional intelligence terms.



There exists within the Army a large pool of motivated, talented MI Soldiers who want to work in the Special Forces. However, there is no screening process to speak of with regard to support troops coming to Group. Assignments of MI soldiers to Group are made exclusively according to "needs of the Army" by MI Branch. SF has a tremendous reputation throughout the Army in general and within the MI community in particular, and should capitalize on this by conducting an aggressive recruiting campaign focusing on getting the best men and women we possibly can into the SF Groups. The desired end-state is that the best not only come to SF units, but stay here for a prolonged period of time.

A designated utilization tour after a favorable assessment, optimally three years, should be a precondition of service within a SF Group. With the amount of time and money spent to ensure that SF soldiers are sufficiently competent mentally and physically to perform in a fluid environment, it seems intuitively obvious that that the soldiers that support them should be equally trained and screened in order to provide the SF with the best support available.

With that in mind, the U.S. Army SF Command (USASFC) should initiate some sort of assessment process to screen potential recruits for suitability prior to them coming down on orders to Group. Other Special Operations Forces (SOF) organizations, such as the 75th Ranger Regiment and the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, have an extensive and effective assessment process in place that helps screen who they accept into their organizations.

The screening/selection process does not need to be anything complicated. Appendix L of USASFC(A) 350-1, Component Training spells out individual certification standards that every soldier in an SF Group needs to meet, and can be used as a guide to for the creation of an assessment. (7) Initially, a prospective recruit's records should be screened for previous experience and performance, and to ensure the individual has no limiting profiles or a history of UCMJ or discipline issues.

The physical portion of the selection would consist of a standard Army physical fitness test (with a minimum acceptable score of 210 with 70 points in each event); the Combat Water Survival Test (CWST) (pass or fail), and a 12-mile foot march (with a standard of 12 miles in three hours, with full combat equipment and a 35 pound load).

The final portion of the assessment should be a practical examination of the candidate's ability to do a specific job within the Group. This may, for example, involve a briefing to the Group Commander or Group S2 for officer and senior NCO candidates, and a face-to-face interview and a hands-on equipment practical with representatives of the Group IBOS for the junior enlisted (See Figure 4 for an assessment flowchart). This selection process should be run under the purview of the USASFC G2 and can be conducted at the soldier's home station, under the direction of USASFC G2 representatives sent to the location on temporary duty for that purpose. Alternately, IBOS representatives from the individual Groups can conduct the assessments on a rotating basis.



Experiences in Operation IRAQI FREEDOM (OIF) and OEF demonstrate the necessity of training and equipping support soldiers to levels equitable to those they support. Many times, IBOS Soldiers in particular are called upon to supplement or to completely assume the duties of MOS 18 series soldiers. For example, IBOS Soldiers in the 5th SF Group have been called upon to serve in 18-series (Special Forces) coded positions as Company First Sergeant for a battalion support company, as well as company commander for the Group Support company during OIF. Moreover, SOT-As and SOT-Cs are frequently pushed down to the ODA level, and accompany teams on direct action missions. CI and HUMINT personnel and soldiers assigned to the MID as part of the Army's 09L (Translator Aide) program also directly augment ODAs. These examples illustrate the need for IBOS Soldiers to cross train in areas that are traditionally 18-series specific.

While the SF Basic Combat Course-Support (SFBCCS) (8) is a good start, 18-series specific training should also be considered as part of the training curriculum for IBOS Soldiers in every SF Group. Training that would benefit IBOS Soldiers includes the SF Advanced Urban Combat, the Special Operations Target Interdiction, and the Advanced Special Operations--Level Three Courses. In addition, due to the evolving nature of the support they provide to the ODAs, the Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE)--Level C (High Risk) course should be incorporated as a standard school for IBOS Soldiers assigned to SF Groups.

In the past, MOS 98G (Cryptologic Linguist) soldiers assigned to SOT-A teams were allowed to attend SF Assessment and Selection (SFAS) and the SF Qualification Course (SFQC), where they were trained as 18E (Special Forces Communications Sergeant). Serious consideration should be given to reinstitute this program, particularly as a re-enlistment incentive. This would give 98Gs, the IBOS soldiers who arguably work most closely with the ODAs, invaluable training and complete credibility with the ODAs they support. The time it will take to cross-train 98Gs as 18Es will be offset by repeated assignments to Group over their careers, as well as by increasing the lengths of those tours.

In addition to the training listed above, USASFC should work with applicable agencies to ensure that MOS specific training such as CI, Source Operations Course and DOD Strategic Debriefers Course (DSDB) are available at the times and in the number of quotas necessary to train the number of MTOE slots allocated for those specialties. Quotas to the Strategic Debriefer course have been particularly difficult to come by, resulting in CI soldiers spending their entire tour in Group without being able to attend the class. A training plan based on combining MI and 18 series specific training cannot fail to result in a better trained, more highly motivated soldier, as well as improving the credibility of those soldiers when they interact with those they support. Such training is also closely tied to retention and esprit de corps.

Enlisted soldiers assigned to Special Operations units have the potential to be awarded the "S" identified added to their MOS. MI Branch should ensure that soldiers with the "S" identifier rotate between SOF and non-SOF assignments throughout their careers in order to spread their expertise across the Army's IBOS.


Another difficulty the Group IBOS faces is in the area of retention. We frequently lose high quality IBOS troops to other SOF organizations, promotions, or retirement shortly after they arrive at Group. Before accepting an individual into Group, he or she must understand that there is a minimum commitment of three years as a condition for being assigned to the unit.

A contributing factor to the retention issues within the IBOS involves the experience level of our company grade officers. Current trends show that the overwhelming majority of MI captains who are assigned to SF Groups are coming straight from the MI Captains Career Course (MICCC) in their very first MI assignment after previously serving in a different branch. Our battalion assistant S2s are all second lieutenants on their first assignment straight out of the MI Officer Basic Course.

In addition to the Captains' lack of practical MI experience, one of the problems with accepting non-branch qualified (NBQ) captains into the Group is the simple fact that to get promoted, they have to get command; to get command, they will have to leave Group since the only command available is the Group MID, which by MTOE is filled by an MI major. Because the captains must leave Group to a command assignment, this creates a revolving door effect wherein we get NBQ captains straight from the advanced course who stay a year to 18 months and then have to leave to get into the queue for command. Their backfills are MI captains straight from the advanced course, who will shortly have to leave Group for command, and so on.

While we have been very fortunate recently with regard to the quality of our Battalion S2s, we cannot count on that trend to continue. All of the Battalion S2 positions and the Group MID should go to branch qualified captains. Some would argue that with the new MIDs opening in each SF battalion, the branch qualification issue is resolved. However, with no budget, no property book, no arms room, and no UCMJ authority, and with the battalion MID commander's immediate rater not being a battalion commander, these positions should not count as "command time," particularly when compared against the requirements and responsibilities of commands in other units.

The Group S2 assignment should go to a branch qualified major. If we continue to send NBQ captains to SF Groups, and if company or detachment command remains a requirement for branch qualification, USASFC should consider making all of the headquarters and support company assignments that are coded for 18A captains into 01A (non-branch specific) assignments to allow for branch qualification within the Group for not only MI officers but other support branches as well. Battalion assistant S2s should be experienced first lieutenants with at least one previous MI assignment before Group. An excellent way to ensure this experience is a "lieutenants to Korea" program much like the one in place at the 75th Ranger Regiment. This would involve a lieutenant favorably assessing as previously explained, then being assigned to the Second Infantry Division for a year, with a follow-on assignment to an SF Group.


In conclusion, IBOS support to the SF Groups is adequate, but not optimal. Fundamental changes in the areas of organization, recruiting, retention, and training are needed for the IBOS to adapt to the changing operational environment and to help guide the IBOS towards fulfilling its full potential. USASFC should seriously consider dissolving the MID at the Group level, implementing an assessment program to screen IBOS Soldiers prior to their assignment to an SF Group, and including IBOS Soldiers in 18 series specific training that would make them more valuable, relevant, and credible to the ODAs they support.


(1.) Major General Geoffrey C. Lambert, Commanding General, JFK Special Warfare Center and School, in the May 2004 edition of Special Warfare, May 2004 magazine, page 24.

(2.) FM 3-05.20, Special Forces Operations, June 2001; Special Forces Imperative #11---"Provide Sufficient Intelligence."

(3.) FM 3-05.102, Army Special Operations Forces Intelligence, July 2001.

(4.) 5th Special Forces Group Modification Table of Organization and Equipment (MTOE) for 2005 and 2006.

(5.) FM 2-0, Intelligence, dated May 2004.

(6.) Ibid., 1-2.

(7.) USASFC(A) Regulation 350-1, Component Training, 28 June 2001.

(8.) SOF Vision 2020 and the Way Ahead, slideshow, 2003.

At the time of submission Captain Charles Faint was the battalion S2 for 2nd Battalion, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne). His previous assignments include Platoon Leader, D Company, 1-327 Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division (Air assault); Commander, D Company, 102nd MI Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division; Commander, MI Detachment, 5th SF Group (Airborne), and Commander, Group Support Company, 5th SF Group (Airborne). He is a graduate of Georgia Military College and Mercer University, and holds degrees in Engineering and Technical Communication from these institutions, respectively.
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Author:Faint, Charles
Publication:Military Intelligence Professional Bulletin
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2006
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