CAMP BULLIS – During the hot sweltering weeks of August the 303rd Military Intelligence Battalion, 504th Expeditionary MI Brigade, conducted training here.
The 504th routinely trains here throughout the year, but this time the battalion tested several processes, such as the new integration to multi-function teams and a pilot program called FORSCOM Interrogations Performance Testing.
“Our unit recently realigned to the format of MFT,” Sgt. James League, Company B, 303rd MI Bn., 504th EMIB, said. “It was more like a test to see where we are at as far as accomplishing tasks, bringing out (signals intelligence) and (human intelligence) and see how they work together.”
The signals intelligence uses various equipment to examine foreign communications and relay the information back to higher command. Human intelligence collectors gather intelligence from humans and send the information to higher command.
One of the key differences with this recent training is that it’s on a COVID environment.
“It was definitely different,” Sgt. 1st Class Felix Llanasfalcon, 303rd MI Bn., said. “Interrogations used a divider made from PVC pipe. Masks were taken off to see facial expressions but there was a barrier. We utilized the entire building so Soldiers were able to have distance. There was one door for going in, and one door for going out. There were also temperature checks. Hand sanitizer was everywhere.”
For the Soldiers in the field and not in the building, it was a little different, especially with outside temperatures on the rise.
“Obviously, we have to take steps to make sure we are not spreading COVID,” League said. “I don’t think much changed, we accomplished everything that we needed to. Just everything was done wearing masks. It was hot, so wearing masks was not optimal. Every day was a heat CAT 5.”
League said that during missions there were times that Soldiers were able to take their masks off because of social distancing.
Llanasfalcon said during the training, there were several skills Soldiers excelled at. The Soldiers communicated continuously and were more prepared for missions.
“Everyone came out there with a willingness to learn,” League said. “Our platoon only became an MFT platoon a few months ago. We saw a lot of growth on both sides of the house. A lot of knowledge was shared between SIGINT and HUMINT. A lot of faces out there amazed at what we are capable of.”
League said that it is important to continuously train so teams are able to assess where they are at with their equipment and how individual Soldiers perform with the equipment. They were able to use older signals systems. He said that skills can depreciate over time and it is important to train at the individual and collective levels.
Both Llanasfalcon and League saw more cohesion with teams as a result of more quad level training.
“Each day we were swapping leadership levels,” League said. “That tied into movement, planning chow, and executing the mission. It put people in a position to gain perspective on the collective mission.”
“A lot of team leaders took pride and ownership in what they were doing,” Llanasfalcon said.