Approximately 200 soldiers from the 504th Military Intelligence Brigade are preparing for deployment to Afghanistan following a color-casing ceremony at Always Ready Field on Friday.
Soldiers from the brigade’s headquarters will replace the 525th Military Intelligence Brigade and take charge of the land and air intelligence assets in the country. Elements from the 163rd and 303rd Military Intelligence Battalions will also deploy to Afghanistan. The deployment is expected to begin in late September.
Angleton, Texas native Col. Laura Knapp commands the brigade and said the soldiers deploying and those staying at home were expertly prepared to perform their mission to support III Corps, Operation Freedom’s Sentinel and Operation Resolute Support. She said soldiers from the 163rd and 303rd will be deployed as “Task Force Ready” and “Task Force Blue Watch” to provide critical support in gathering human intelligence, signal intelligence, geospatial intelligence, counterintelligence and linguist support.
“’Task Force Ready’ will play a crucial role in the intelligence fight against our enemies,” Knapp said. “On the home front, 504th soldiers under ‘Task Force Vigilance’ will execute sustained readiness operations and provide intelligence collection and analysis support to forward-deployed III Corps units and leaders.”
Knapp explained the need for military intelligence assets to be on the ground in Afghanistan.
“There’s some things you can only do face-to-face, which is talk to a local person to try to gain information and try to better understand the operational environment,” Knapp explained. “You get the best understanding by being somewhere in person, being able to sense with your eyes, to hear (and) to pick up context.”
Knapp said the technology back home allowed for further in-depth analysis of collected data, but that data would have to be collected in theater through human contact.
Knapp said the Department of Defense selected the best intelligence team for this vital role and was excited about what the deployment meant for her soldiers.
“Our mission is to provide intelligence to enable our U.S. and coalition forces to do their job, and their job is to train the Afghanistan military so that they can help secure that nation and the government can continue to build capabilities to take care of its citizens,” Knapp said.
Knapp said deploying in September reminded her of why she and other soldiers fight in Afghanistan.
“This year, we remember the nearly 3,000 people killed 16 years ago in the 9/11 terrorist attacks — attacks that were planned from the very grounds to which we deploy,” Knapp said. “9/11 changed our lives forever, and the Army’s response to the attacks was swift and enduring.”
Knapp said of her soldiers that many of them from all backgrounds and nationalities, including many of those on the field during the ceremony, were inspired to swear the oath in response to the Sept. 11 attack and have served the country valiantly since then.
“I’m very excited, this is a great opportunity for our soldiers,” Knapp said. “To contribute, to provide intelligence, to help enable the mission and to save lives.”
This is the fourth time elements of the brigade have deployed to Afghanistan since 2011. The brigade headquarters last deployed to Afghanistan from 2011 to 2012 and participated in operations that resulted in 108 Combat Action Badges, nine Combat Infantrymen Badges, six Combat Medical Badges, and eight Purple Hearts being awarded to soldiers assigned to the brigade.