The radio crackles and a hush falls over a group of military intelligence Soldiers from D Company, 41st Brigade Engineer Battalion. They gather around a map inside the command tent and listen as a Soldier provides an update. He and his company are conducting a foot patrol and they need to cross a waterway, but they have arrived to find that the bridge is impassable.
As the transmission ends, the Soldiers begin discussing the situation. One traces his finger down the length of the waterway and locates a second bridge. "Can they cross here?" Others move to their laptops and begin looking at intelligence reports to determine the best course of action.
While this scene is something that is often seen on the battlefield, 1st Lt. Emma Smith, company executive officer, said that being able to replicate these conditions during the company’s MI Training Strategy (MITS) exercise is something new and very valuable to the MI Soldiers, and it will enhance overall ground combat readiness.
"This is the most realistic situation-based training that these Soldiers can get outside of a brigade training or a combat training center exercise," she said. "Being out in a field environment and having to learn how to set everything up and troubleshoot problems is going to prepare us to function properly in the future."
During the training, Soldiers from different MI disciplines, such as Human Intelligence, Signals Intelligence and Geospatial Intelligence, will hone their skills and develop their abilities to work collaboratively with one another, as well as in support of maneuver units in the field.
In addition to the Soldiers in the command tent, the company also has assets out in the field, gathering intelligence as they work alongside Soldiers from 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team. Both units are engaged in a complex situation-based simulated training exercise.
While MITS is not new, this is the first time the specialized technology that is enhancing the exercise – the Intelligence Electronic Warfare Tactical Proficiency Trainer (IEWTPT) – has been used on Fort Drum. Matt Madson, lead IEWTPT training support specialist, said that the hands-on training the system provides is extremely valuable to MI Soldiers.
"The IEWTPT is designed to allow MI Soldiers to practice their skills and gain proficiency in using the actual systems that they would use in a combat environment," he said. "They can gather and collect intelligence, analyze it, prepare reports to maintain an accurate picture of the battlefield, and provide the commander with intelligence to drive his maneuver operations."
"The IEWTPT gives Soldiers an accurate representation of what a real battlefield would look like and an opportunity to practice all aspects of the job they would be called upon to do in theater," he added.
A veteran who served as an MI Soldier for 23 years, Madson said the program allows him and his fellow support specialists at the Lt. Col. Darrell Townsend Mission Training Complex to modify and push out a set of pre-designed training missions or to create a customized training scenario tailored to an MI unit’s needs.
"We have the ability to create simulated real-world scenarios in different locations and terrains," he said. "As Army missions change and transition, we have the ability to create scenarios that are geared toward counterintelligence or decisive action training environments, or we can create a hybrid training experience."
Madson said that the impact of this much more in-depth training will have a synergistic benefit to the entire division, as intelligence is a major component of ground combat readiness.
"The intelligence Soldiers who are coming in to train are going to benefit the maneuver commanders, because they will be able to provide them with a much clearer, actionable intelligence picture," he said. "That is an essential to allowing the commander to make the best tactical decisions possible."
Smith said that the IEWTPT will allow MI Soldiers to develop individual tactical proficiency, and it will be an extremely useful asset as the company prepares to support the division during collective training exercises and in future contingency operations.
"It starts with the youngest Soldier in here learning how to use the equipment and pull information," Smith said. "By physically executing these tasks, they are learning the skills they will need when boots are on the ground and lives are at stake."