By Capt. Derek Kamach
1st Cavalry Division public affairs
CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE ADDER, IRAQ - "Mission" can mean many different things for soldiers deployed to Iraq.
For many, their mission involves combined patrols with Iraqi counterparts, for others it means conducting resupply operations or providing food services to hungry soldiers.
For the Human Intelligence Collection Team members of Alpha Company, 3rd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Advise and Assist Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, the mission can vary from day to day. The intelligence collection teams and the Operational Management Team that provides them guidance know each day will present new challenges that require skills unique to human intelligence collectors.
"We complete a variety of training prior to arriving at our first duty station that provides us the skills necessary to successfully operate in the most challenging environments." said a collection team member conducting military source operations at Contingency Operating Base Adder.
The very best collectors possess a detailed knowledge of the environment in which they operate, are experts on subtleties of interpersonal communication, and have an ability to quickly adapt to any situation.
They also must be as tactically savvy and comfortable conducting missions outside the wire as they are sitting behind a computer polishing intelligence reporting. Gathering intelligence is simply half the job, reporting it is the other.
Today's human intelligence operations are broader than those of the past, due in part to the non-linear battlefield in which collectors operate. Human intelligence collectors liaise with host nation officials and intelligence counterparts in order to bolster collection capabilities. They debrief allied forces and civilian personnel, including refugees, displaced people, third-country nationals and local inhabitants, and interrogate enemy prisoners of war and other detainees as well as exploiting documents, media, and materials.
Collection Technician Chief Warrant Officer DeVaughn Rice said his troop is doing incredible work and that the soldiers in his platoon deployed ready and able to accomplish their mission.
"We have a lot of junior soldiers in their early 20s displaying maturity that's well beyond their years and rank, and that's one of the main reasons that they're successful," Rice said. "It speaks highly to the quality of the NCOs in this platoon and the training we underwent at home station."
This training is put to the test as human intelligence collection team members integrate with 3rd Advice and Assist Brigade's land-owning battalions in order to provide critical intelligence support to force protection and targeting efforts. Before team members can meet with any source, detailed planning and coordination must take place. Each team works diligently to prepare key points of discussion for every meeting. This preparation ensures meetings remain focused on relevant intelligence requirements, avoiding the potential pitfall of wandering conversations.
They then coordinate acceptable times and locations for meetings, a process that can require considerable effort in order to ensure source comfort and safety. Meeting durations vary from a few minutes to several hours depending on the nature of the meeting and the sources' availability.
Once the meeting concludes, collection team members return and immediately begin processing the information into draft intelligence information reports. Clarity is paramount when writing intelligence reports and each draft undergoes scrutiny from multiple echelons prior to release.
For time-sensitive information that requires immediate dissemination, human collection team members publish concise narrative reports with essential information called SPOT reports. These reports carry critical importance.
"These are reports that can ultimately save soldiers' lives and allow commanders to make decisions that alter enemy attack cycles," said a soldier from Alpha Company.
Teams also stand ready to assist with independent or joint interrogations in order to garner additional intelligence from detainees. At a moment's notice they can prepare specific approaches and deploy to outlying detainment facilities to conduct interrogations.
Information collected during interrogations is processed and published following review from higher echelons.
Depending on the detainee's level of cooperation and availability, team members can conduct several hundred interrogations of a single detainee.
While interrogations may be few and far between in today's fight, team members routinely conduct missions with the various battalions in order to keep intelligence flowing. They embed with patrols and travel to objectives where they provide the expertise and capabilities beyond standard tactical questioning.
People are any organizations greatest asset. Exploiting the knowledge they possess provides the commander with critical intelligence that drives decisions.