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The case for the MI Ranger.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the U.S. Army Intelligence Center and Fort Huachuca, U.S. Army, Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.

Few combat commanders will deny the importance of reconnaissance to the success of tactical operations. The opposing force (OPFOR) at the National Training Center (NTC) will attest that the success of any visiting unit operation depends largely on the success of the "Blue" force's (BLUFOR) division and regimental reconnaissance teams. Military Intelligence (MI) soldiers--in particular military occupational specialty 98G (Cryptologic Linguist) and MOS 96R Ground Surveillance Systems Operator) soldiers--can be an essential part of the low-level voice intercept (LLVI) and ground surveillance radar (GSR) and Improved Remotely Monitored Battlefield Sensor System (I-REMBASS) reconnaissance teams, respectively. They serve as the "eyes" and "ears" of the commander and, like other reconnaissance units (such as long-range surveillance units [LRS] and scouts), should benefit from the best training and equipment available.

Insufficient Training and Equipment

In my experience, however, these MI teams are neither properly trained nor equipped. They enter combat alongside infantry troops but they do not receive the same tactical training and equipment as infantry soldiers do. The direct support (DS) Ml companies receive late-model nightvision devices and lack access to critical training such as attendance at the Ranger Course. The result is consistent failure to achieve their full potential in contributing to the combined arms fight.

I witnessed this mismatch of training and equipment during a recent rotation at the Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC) at Fort Polk, Louisiana. Our LLVI platoon supported an airborne brigade through two weeks of operations. One mission required the brigade to cross Fort Polk on foot and seize the Shughart-Gordon urban complex from an entrenched enemy force so two LLVI teams and a scout platoon transported by helicopter into the vicinity of Shughart-Gordon. Their collective mission was to determine the whereabouts and activities of enemy forces around the town. In addition, the LLVI tea ms had the critical task of reporting the enemy's call for reinforcements to counterattack.

Watching the scouts and LLVI teams board helicopters, I noticed an obvious mismatch in experience, training, and tools. Both scout team leaders were staff sergeants while the LLVI team leaders were a sergeant (E-5) and a corporal. The scout team leaders were Ranger-school graduates with more than five years of Practical experience in tactical units. The LLVI team leaders had less than two years of tactical experience and little-to-no patrolling training; their MOS (98G) disqualified them from attending the Ranger Course. The scout team leaders carried powerful AN/PVS-14 nightvision goggles, while the LLVI team leaders used worn-out 1 980s-model AN/PVS-7As.

Despite these differences in background, training, and equipment, the infantry and MI teams shared a similar mission. They both faced the common challenge of reporting intelligence from vantage points along a constantly changing and ill-defined front line. Both were forced to maneuver close enough to the enemy to enable line-of-sight (LOS) sensors and systems (the scouts' eyes, the LLVI teams' radio sets) to work effectively. No less important, the teams had to approach and withdraw from these vantage points on foot without detection.

How Did This Happen?

How did the MI soldiers wind up in this predicament? Consider training first. LLVI soldiers are linguists who typically attend the Defense Language Institute for up to a year to acquire mastery of a language such as Arabic, Farsi, or Korean. They also go through basic and advanced individual training to learn how to use their specialized electronic eavesdropping equipment. By the time LLVI soldiers begin their first field assignments in a unit, they are often senior privates first class or specialists. Owing to an Armywide shortage of soldiers in MOS 98G, some of them quickly find themselves occupying team leader positions normally filled by noncommissioned officers (NCOs).

Next, consider the teams' equipment. LLVI teams carry AN/PRD-12 or PRD-13 radio-receiving sets. By doctrine, these radios perform voice intercept and radio direction finding over a range of five to ten kilometers. In practice, however, the PRD series rarely is effective beyond three to four kilometers, a function of geography, terrain, and the weak signals generated by many target enemy radios. The result is that to be effective, LLVI teams have to approach the enemy forces and operate closer to them than Army doctrine describes.

Despite this fact, MI companies that field LLVI teams are consistently at the bottom of allocation priority lists for patrolling equipment such as nightvision devices. LLVI teams should use the best patrolling equipment available in the Army. These MI soldiers also need outstanding training in patrolling and small-unit tactics-probably more than their infantry counterparts at the same stage in their careers.

Infantry and LRS units encourage their small-unit leaders to attend the Ranger Course. In many organizations, possession of the Ranger Tab is effectively a prerequisite to leadership. In divisions and corps, however, this training is unavailable to Ml soldiers, even though they execute tactical missions of comparable complexity and risk.

Change in DA Policy Needed

In September 1994, a change in Department of the Army (DA) policy effectively barred Ml soldiers--and other non-combat-arms MOS holders--from attending the Ranger Course. The exception to this policy is soldiers in 96R and 98G MOSs. Some 96R soldiers can qualify for Ranger school; also, 98G soldiers can qualify if they sign up for the Special Forces. Citing budget constraints as the primary reason for the change, the Army redefined the Ranger Course from a small-unitleadership school to a combat-skills school reserved only for "personnel whose mission is to engage in closecombat, direct-fire battle" and for those in select MOSs that habitually support infantry battalions. The Army strictly limited the list of specialties that support infantry battalions, and Ml was not among them. There was a strong suspicion that the real reason for the change was to deny admission to female soldiers at a time when females were greatly expanding their access to combat positions across the military.

At the present time, women are allowed to serve on LLVI teams. Based on my observations of Ml units at JRTC, 98G soldiers who are members of LLVI teams serve in direct combat positions. DA should recode these positions as P1 (highest propensity for direct combat) and place them out of bounds to women. Earlier this year, the Army under-took a similar reclassification for all positions within the new reconnaissance, surveillance, and target acquisition (RSTA) squadrons in the Stryker brigades for similar reasons. Using the same logic, we should reevaluate selected positions in the division Ml battalions. Once reclassification is complete, Ml soldiers who fill LLVI teams should receive admittance to the Ranger Course. The Army also needs to designate LLVI team-leader slots as Ranger-coded positions, reflecting the real nature of their tactical responsibilities.

LLVI teams are not the only Ml units that confront a similar tactical challenge. I-REMBASS teams composed of soldiers in MOS 96R carry remotely emplaced sensors into areas occupied, or soon to be occupied, by the enemy and they also deploy motion-detecting GSRs along likely enemy avenues of approach. The sensors provide early warning of the advance of enemy troops and vehicles. I-REMBASS and GSR sergeants have to be just as accomplished as infantry small-unit leaders in combat-related skills, including infiltration, exfiltration, and tactical evaluation of terrain. The 96R MOS is not on the list of MOSs accepted in Ranger school (although some may qualify) but a realistic assessment of the 96R's role in combat suggests that it should be.

More Than Training Changes Are Necessary

Training is a significant part of the solution for the skills and equipment mismatch between Ml and infantry teams in the Army division but it cannot resolve it alone. The Army needs to funnel the best patrolling equipment, such as nightvision and ground-positioning system devices, to selected MI units no less than it does to infantry battalions. Ml leaders must do a better job of--

* Educating infantry leaders on how Ml teams work with their infantry partners on the battlefield.

* Explaining Ml technical systems and their capabilities so that the tactical operations properly integrate the equipment. The S2 should not be the only member of the battalion or brigade staff who understands and knows how to use these teams.

* Integrating their training with the combat arms battalions. Among other things, the LLVI teams must train with scouts.

Given their current levels of training and equipment, our MI voice-intercept and ground-sensor teams enter tactical operations at a severe disadvantage. Many combat arms commanders will not deploy the teams forward to where they can be most effective because they think the teams will be captured or killed. That is not the MI teams' fault. In my experience, our LLVI, GSR, and I-REMBASS soldiers do a superb job with the equipment and training they have. Now it is time for the Army to provide these Ml teams the schooling and gear they need to achieve their potential as full partners of the infantry on the combined arms battlefield.

My special thanks to Lieutenant Colonel Robert Whalen and Captain Michael Jeffress for their assistance with the research and writing of this article.

Commissioned through the ROTC program, Captain Tom Spahr received a Bachelor of Arts and Science degree in History from the University of Delaware. He served as the Assistant S2 of the 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment and 2-325th Battalion, and Collection and Jamming Platoon Leader, B Company, 3 13th Ml Battalion, 82d Airborne Division. His next assignment was as the Collection Management and Dissemination Officer, 75th Ranger Regiment, where he participated in combat operations in southern Afghanistan from October to December 2001. After completion of the Ml Captains Career Course, he will serve as an Assistant S2, 7th Special Forces Group at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He is Jumpmaster and Ranger qualified. Readers may contact the author via E-mail at and by telephone at (706) 464-7789.
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Author:Spahr, Thomas W.
Publication:Military Intelligence Professional Bulletin
Date:Apr 1, 2003
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