News: Gig Harbor leaders on hand for intel training
Story by Staff Sgt. Christopher Klutts
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. - The term “intelligence collection” can seem ominous and even scary to some people. That might be because stories of cloak-and-dagger conspiracies and fast-paced scenes from blockbuster spy movies are the only exposure many Americans have to intelligence operations.
At a small training town on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, a few community leaders from Gig Harbor had an opportunity to see military intelligence soldiers in action during a training exercise, Feb. 21.
“I’ve never seen anything like it. Unless you get the opportunity to partner, you really have no idea what’s going on inside,” said Jill Guernsey, the Gig Harbor mayor.
When complete, the weeklong Griffin Tomahawk Mission Readiness Exercise will certify the 502nd and 109th military intelligence battalions, roughly 800 soldiers, as ready for an operational deployment.
Guernsey and the other Gig Harbor citizens saw soldiers with B Company, 502nd Military Intelligence Battalion fly in on helicopters alongside their infantry counterparts from 3-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 7th Infantry Division – a snapshot of training events that occur every day behind the base’s gates.
A simulated firefight followed shortly after the soldiers entered the town. But the visitors saw more than the short and intense moments that occur during a training event. They also got to see how much effort goes into planning a military operation.
Col. Daniel E. Soller, the 201st Battlefield Surveillance Brigade commander, explained how the military sets up training scenarios to replicate conditions on the battlefield. Planners try to anticipate actions the soldiers in training may take. Then they develop reactions for the simulated enemy based on real-world intelligence and knowledge of past operations.
“There’s so many more factors that you have to take into consideration than we do in a business decision. And this is life and death, ours is just money,” said Warren Zimmerman, CEO of the Gig Harbor Chamber of Commerce.
Lt. Col. Justin Hayes, the 502nd Military Intelligence Battalion commander, said inviting members of the community to see training events helps to “dispel rumors that we are hiding something.”
“We’re really trying to make the connection so we both know more,” Hayes added. “When we go and interact with the community, they can understand what our day job is.”
Soller said the American people deserve openness and that the military has nothing to hide. And understanding a soldier’s day job can also help Americans put a human face to murky military concepts like intelligence operations.
“We must be open. It is the taxpayers in our local communities that pay for our systems and the training we do here. They need to have a degree of understanding that there isn’t a mystery behind this,” Soller said.