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The transition team intelligence trainer: moving beyond the S2.


Supporting the warfighter with effective intelligence is the primary focus of Military Intelligence (MI) within the context of the conventional American military. The role of the Intelligence Trainer on a Transition Team transcends this scope in that one must also effectively coach, mentor, and develop the Iraqi Army counterpart while taking into consideration the counterpart's realities and limitations. Those aspects of the S2 "lane" such as physical and personnel security, predictive analysis and intelligence preparation of the battlefield are only a few of the tasks which require knowledge and competence on the part of those assigned to Transition Teams as Intelligence Trainers. Throughout this article the term "Intelligence Trainer" is used interchangeably with respect to the Intelligence officer and noncommissioned officers (NCOs) assigned to the team. In order to effectively execute the advising and training mission it is essential that the Transition Team's Intelligence component function as a single entity; distinctions between the duties of the officer and NCOs are, from our experiences, superficial. Functioning together as a team is a prerequisite for mission accomplishment.

While frequently referred to as the "S2", the role of the Intelligence Trainer in a Transition Team requires skills and knowledge beyond those normally associated with a conventional S2 position. Success as an S2 remains connected to the ability to demonstrate those skills required by the commander to help visualize the battlefield. As an Intelligence Trainer success is measured by the ability to influence the Iraqi counterpart and the ability to develop his capability to execute his mission. Competence in MI professional skills remains a prerequisite, but to effectively advise the Iraqi Army (IA) counterpart one must develop skills as a diplomat and a teacher. Knowing the MI profession is one thing, being able to teach it to someone else is a different skill set. Knowing how to get the Iraqis to listen and heed advice is an art form all its own. As an Intelligence Trainer one lacks the positional authority to which we are likely accustomed. Servant leadership and developing the ability to persuade the Iraqis to implement the trainer's suggestions are the keys to success in this assignment. Until a productive relationship is built with the counterpart the ability to effectively carry out the mission is considerably reduced.

In order to effectively advise the Iraqi counterpart, credibility must first be established. Unlike in our western culture, credibility with the Iraqis depends more upon who you are than on what you know. In order to teach, one must first establish rapport with the IA counterpart. This is an assignment that requires the diplomat-soldier mindset. The Trainer's age, family situation, military experience, education, rank, and personality will carry more weight with the Iraqis than professional competence. While this is anathema to the American mindset, when dealing with Iraqis it is the way it is, accept it. During the first several weeks of the assignment, the Trainer invests a significant amount of time simply talking with his counterpart about topics that will seem completely random. These exchanges are the foundation upon which the relationship will be built and it is essential that the initial personal investment is made if there is to be any significant influence (and hence, mission accomplishment) later on down the road. Having discussed how the role of a Transition Team Intelligence Trainer differs from that of a conventional S2, we'll now focus on specifically what MI officers and NCOs can do prior to arriving for Transition Team training at Fort Riley, Kansas, during training, and after arriving in the area of responsibility (AOR) that will increase your effectiveness and chances of mission success.

Initial Preparation--Get Smart

Reading material related to the area and the mission remains the single most important thing you can do prior to reporting for training. The return on your invested time merits the additional effort. Developing your knowledge of the culture, regional politics, historical examples of counterinsurgency, and the differences in communication between high context and low context cultures will make your transition markedly easier and will help establish yourself as the regional expert within your team. Arabs, Islam, and the Middle East by William G. Baker is a particularly useful book in gaining general knowledge on the culture with which you will interact on a daily basis. Counterinsurgency Warfare: Theory and Practice by David Galula is also highly recommended as an introduction to the concepts of counterinsurgency.

In addition to reading about the area and counterinsurgency theory, we recommend reviewing FM 7-8, Infantry Rifle Platoon and Squad, FM 7-20 The Infantry Battalion, and FM 4-01.45, Multi-Service Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures (TTPs) for Convoy Operations. Serving on a Transition Team is one assignment where everyone is an infantryman and everyone fights. It's that simple. By becoming familiar with the basics of fire and maneuver you will enhance your standing both within your own team and with the Iraqis with whom you work.


Being highly competent in your intelligence duties is great, but the knowledge of basic tactics will help bring you home alive. When moving outside the wire normally everyone on the team will have to roll due to the limited number of team numbers. Competence with tactics and weapons is a must and for this reason reviewing the technical manuals (TMs) for the M240B medium machine gun, M2 .50 caliber machine gun, M16 rifle, M9 pistol, and M1114 HMMWV is also highly recommended. You will receive training on all of these systems at Fort Riley and in Kuwait, but if you're not familiar with them taking the time to read up on the subject will help flatten your learning curve. Additionally, if you have the opportunity to attend ranges for any of these systems prior to your report date, take the opportunity. Trust us; when you get in country you'll be glad you did.

Driving is another skill that we normally take for granted and yet, once in theater, you never seem to have received enough training. Get used to driving the HMMWV. This seems to be particularly applicable to the officers. Typically the NCOs have significantly more experience driving but in this job everyone must have these skills. Again, you'll get the training at Fort Riley but every little bit of experience you can get before you show up helps.

Start learning the language as soon as possible. This was one area where the training we received fell short of what we needed. Focus on building your confidence with the simple social phrases. You'll gain a lot of mileage with this and it will prove invaluable in building your rapport initially with the Iraqis. Learn to be nice; if you can manage that, the Iraqis will teach you the graduate level phrases over the next year. You should also learn those phrases which you'll need to know in tactical situations where time doesn't facilitate the use of a translator: "Stop", "Drop your weapon", "Turn right/left", etc. One last point regarding language training--make sure the material you're using is for the Iraqi dialect. We spent a fair amount of time using the Rosetta Stone software only to find out later that it was based on standard Arabic and not the local dialect. Consequently the payoff for that effort was significantly less than desired.


Much of your value added as an intelligence professional once in country will come from your ability to acquire and produce imagery products. The Iraqi commanders are much like American commanders in this regard, they all love a picture. Having a working knowledge of the Buckeye and FalconView programs will allow you to make a more significant impact by providing the team and the Iraqis with usable products. If you aren't familiar with these programs, become proficient before you report for training. Once in country you will not only find yourself producing the imagery but you'll also likely find yourself teaching the subject to your Iraqi counterparts. FalconView Lite Compact has been deemed releasable to the Iraqi Army. By having a working knowledge of this program you are able to give the Iraqis something tangible and help develop their long term imagery capability.

Additionally, make sure that you have an AKO-S account set up prior to reporting to Fort Riley. AKO-S will be the only means you have for accessing classified information once you begin your training at Fort Riley. Most of the other team members don't routinely deal with classified information so, at least initially; the Intelligence Trainers frequently serve as the conduit for classified information.

Transition Team Training at Fort Riley--Get Comfortable

Once you arrive at Fort Riley one of the first things you should do is find out which team you'll be replacing and make contact with them as soon as possible. By doing this you and your team can focus your collective training based upon the current reality facing your team. As the Intelligence Trainer you'll also place yourself in a better position to get the most current intelligence from the team that is in country which will help alleviate some of the angst that each team experiences as they are preparing to deploy.

In addition to making early contact with your team in Iraq, make the most of the meetings and training scenarios using interpreters and Iraqi role players. Don't get too concerned with the specifics of the given scenario but focus instead on the use of the translator and the interaction with Iraqis. This is what you'll spend a significant amount of your time doing once you link up with your Iraqi Army counterparts. Becoming comfortable in this environment will prove critical to your future success once you arrive in Iraq. The bottom line: Get used to talking to Iraqis.

Familiarization with the Iraqi area of operations in general terms is an obvious must for the Intelligence trainer. Don't get into detail regarding specific areas because there is a high probability that you will end up somewhere else (the assignment of individual Training Teams upon arrival remains a dynamic process). Instead focus on the big picture. Know the locations of the major coalition units, know the general structure of the Iraqi Army (or police if that is applicable) and how they're geographically situated, and know the general trends regarding insurgent TTPs. Don't spend too much time developing specific TTPs on your own. The insurgent tactics change very quickly and the team you're replacing will likely have their own TTPs in place, usually for a very good reason. When prioritizing your effort, start by making yourself smart on the big picture and then work your way down. This will help guard against investing too much time learning about things that may be irrelevant by the time you actually get to your final destination in country. One of the best resources we've found for overall situational awareness is the daily email distribution of intelligence summaries (INTSUMs) provided by U.S. Army Intelligence and Security Command (INSCOM). If you send an email from your SIPRNET email account to and ask them to add you to their distribution list, they will send you copies of the INTSUMs from all of the major commands in the U.S. Army Central Command (CENTCOM) AOR. This saves a significant amount of time since the daily INTSUMs are pushed to you instead of you having to hunt for each individual report.

Two other subjects in which you will likely find yourself intimately involved include foreign disclosure and operational security (OPSEC). While OPSEC doctrinally falls into the operational realm of the S3, the reality is that you will likely be called upon as the subject matter expert. When training at Fort Riley, ensure that your team develops a mindset that values OPSEC. Bad habits are hard to break; trying to break bad OPSEC habits in-country can prove lethal. Becoming smart on foreign disclosure is a must. In your day-to-day dealings with the Iraqi Army your team will, out of necessity, have to share information with your counterparts. Knowing the difference between disclosure and release, knowing what the criteria are for each, and ensuring that the proper guidelines are followed will be one of the contributions that you make as an intelligence professional that will help your entire team. You should receive more detailed training on this subject once you arrive in country (the rules are constantly changing) but knowing the basics of the process before you arrive will make it easier for you to assimilate the theater specific details once you get here.

One last area that you should concern yourself with prior to departing Fort Riley concerns the handling of evidence. When you're offered training on this subject, pay attention. If you're not comfortable with the subject, ask for more training. This particular area is one where you will need to invest a significant amount of personal effort. As an area of command emphasis that falls right into the lane of the Intelligence Trainer, you must exercise due diligence. Failure has major repercussions and, left unsupervised, your Iraqi counterparts can generate a disproportionate amount of pain for all involved since the failure to follow proper procedures will likely result in the release of the suspected insurgent.


Upon Arrival in Iraq--Become a Chameleon

Once you arrive in theater you'll receive additional training in Kuwait and at the Phoenix Academy located at Camp Taji, Iraq. Little of the training you receive here will be new but it generally covers old subjects at a higher level of resolution. Once you link up with the unit you are replacing you will begin the Relief in Place/Transition of Authority (RIP/TOA). At this stage your learning curve is almost vertical. If you approach RIP/TOA with this in mind it will actually make your transition easier. Keep a list of questions you want the established Intelligence Trainer to answer since you will likely forget many of the points once you actually arrive due to the accelerated pace.

Once you begin your RIP/TOA, it is critical that you begin establishing rapport with your Iraqi counterpart. You will likely spend a seemingly inordinate amount of time discussing things that in any other circumstance would be considered trivial, here it is not. The rapport you establish will largely dictate the future success or failure of your mission. Don't forget that standing within the Iraqi culture comes from who you are, not from professional competence.

When establishing your relationship with your Iraqi counterpart, pay particular attention to demonstrating the importance of the intelligence NCO. Initially, we recommend that you always go visit your counterpart as a team. This will reinforce the concept of the intelligence team and help ensure that the Iraqis understand that the NCO speaks with the officer's authority when the officer isn't available. The IA remains an officer centric organization which can result in the marginalization of the U.S. NCOs. By presenting yourselves as a team you can substantially mitigate this risk.

Another major part of establishing rapport and cementing your relationship with your Iraqi counterpart will involve learning about their reality. Determining your counterpart's limitations and constraints (both personal and organizational) will help establish your baseline. Assess whether or not your counterpart has credibility with his commander (i.e., Is he in "the circle of trust"?). Evaluate with an open mind the roles of the NCOs in the Iraqi unit you're advising. Every unit is different; don't stereotype. See for yourself how the NCOs are utilized and make your own determination as to how you can help the Iraqis develop and improve the NCO Corps within their unit.

The relationship between you and your American counterpart working with the Coalition Forces unit partnered with the Iraqi unit you're advising is also extremely important. The best results come when the two of you work as a team. The Coalition Forces have imagery and special intelligence, but the IA generally has better human intelligence (HUMINT). By developing these relationships with your American partner unit you can facilitate the use of Coalition Forces' assets to cue IA HUMINT and vice versa, thus facilitating more effective intelligence collection on both sides.

The last relationship that we'll highlight involves the interpreters assigned to your team. Get to know them, know their priorities and motivations, know their strengths and weaknesses. Some of the translators are better with interpretation, some are better with translation. Some have pretty good field craft and others are better at document exploitation. Personalities become a significant factor. Learn about the personal dynamics between your interpreters and the Iraqis. Some of the Iraqis can understand and relate to one particular interpreter better than others. The same concept applies to the American side of the equation. Take care of them by ensuring that they are paid on time (sometimes they aren't), that they have the appropriate body armor and equipment (some don't), and always ensure that they're looked after when you're outside of the wire. They're part of your team and they need to be treated accordingly. Failure to take care of your interpreters will have adverse consequences for your team that will cripple your chances for mission success.


Serving on a Transition Team will likely be an experience unlike anything you've experienced so far in your military career and the challenges facing Transition Teams are unique to each team. What we've focused on in this article are those facets of basic Soldier and professional intelligence skills that we believe have a more universal application to Transition Teams serving in Iraq. Flexibility and teamwork provide the foundation upon which your team's success will be built. From the perspective of the Intelligence Trainer remember these five things:

1. It's their war. They have to win or lose on their own. Your goal should be to train yourself out of your job.

2. You're not the S2, you're an advisor. If you're doing a lot of S2 operational work, you're failing. Focus on improving the Iraqis' processes.

3. Never forget that you can learn from them as well. It's their country. Your counterpart can teach you a thing or two if you're willing to learn.

4. Provide professional counsel and show the Iraqis the right direction. Constantly apply the common sense test. If it doesn't pass the sanity check, tactfully rein them in.

5. Stay in the shadows. Seldom should you be seen or heard when in public. Let your Iraqi counterpart receive the credit.

Editor's Note: The writers are currently serving as Intelligence Trainers for Military Transition Team 5/4/6 at Forward Operating Base Falcon, Baghdad, Iraq where they are training Iraqi Army soldiers.

Major Chad Quayle has previously served as a Rifle Platoon Leader, Company Executive Officer, and S1 with the 3rd Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault). Other assignments include serving as an infantry battalion S2, MI company commander, and strategic analyst in C/J2 Estimates, CFC/USFK, Yongsan, Republic of Korea. Major Quayle has a BA in political science from the University of Georgia and an MBA from the University of Hawaii. Readers may contact him at

Sergeant First Class Zachary D. Smith is currently on his fourth tour in Iraq. His previous assignments include Intelligence Analyst, 1st Squadron, 11th ACR; S2 NCOIC, 701st Main Support Battalion; Targeting NCOIC, 3rd U.S. Army, and Intelligence Trainer, 24th Infantry Division Forward. He is currently pursuing a degree in Computer Science from Franklin University. Readers may contact him at zachary.smith@us.
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Author:Quayle, Chad; Smith, Zachary D.
Publication:Military Intelligence Professional Bulletin
Date:Apr 1, 2007
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