FORT HOOD — Spc. Kayla Green calmly took notes as she listened to the interpreter repeat in English what the Afghan man had said in Pashto.
She continued to ask questions to gather information from the source about a suspected terrorist, eventually asking the man to draw a map to the terrorist’s suspected location.
After gathering everything she needed, Green logged out of the system and moved on to her next training task.
Green was one of many soldiers from the 163rd Military Intelligence Battalion, 504th Battlefield Surveillance Brigade, to utilize the Intelligence Electronic Warfare Proficiency Trainer, a program that allows soldiers to learn to communicate through an interpreter by simulating virtual interactions.
When Green spoke into the headset’s microphone, she had to use short, precise questions to keep from getting lost in translation, while also building a rapport. Otherwise, the virtual source could become hostile, just as a real person might. When she asked for the map, a “hand-drawn” map appeared in the printer.
“It’s a really good refresher,” said Green, a human intelligence soldier. She deployed with the unit last year, but spent most of that time interrogating detainees at a detention center in Kandahar, instead of out in the communities of Afghanistan.
“It’s important to maintain that skill set. It’s talking to people, but it’s more than that,” she said.
The battalion returned in July from a yearlong deployment to Regional Command-South, and will return to the same area in late summer.
The three-day training event, conducted by Charlie Company over the past week at one of Fort Hood’s mock village training sites, was the first of many field exercises to prepare for the upcoming deployment.
Throughout the training, Capt. Brandon Taylor, Charlie Company commander, said he wanted to see each soldier gain an understanding of the fundamentals of their specialty.
“If we have a solid foundation, all the rest comes easy,” he said. “We don’t want to build bad habits.”
Staff Sgt. David Marrero, a human intelligence platoon sergeant in Charlie, said he hoped to see his soldiers’ leadership and teamwork improve.
“I want to see the team’s ability to organize themselves and their thoughts, instead of just going out and talking to people and not having a goal in mind,” he said.
As human intelligence soldiers, his platoon trained on talking to local Afghans — played by other soldiers.
Soldiers playing Afghans had been given a scenario and the platoon had to collect the pieces of the puzzle from them over the three days that would lead them to capture a person of interest.
Human intelligence is just one specialty of the battalion. The other half are the signal intelligence soldiers, who use equipment to gather information.
As they begin training, Staff Sgt. Daniel Dunning, a signal intelligence platoon sergeant in the company, said he was focused on getting soldiers familiar with the equipment they’ll be using downrange. Many of the soldiers are new to the unit and have not used the equipment specific to their deployment.
“I’m not looking for 100 percent. I’m making sure they are confident in themselves and everyone else,” he said. “It’s tough, especially with new soldiers right out of training. A deployment is a mindset more than anything.”
Information from the two disciplines is combined by leadership to create a bigger picture, he said.
The entire battalion will spend February at Camp Bullis near San Antonio, to conduct more intense training. Later this year, soldiers will head to the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif.
Contact Rose L. Thayer at email@example.com or (254) 501-7463. Follow her on Twitter at KDHmilitary.