KHOWST PROVINCE, AFGHANISTAN
KHOWST PROVINCE, Afghanistan – They’re far removed from their nickname as far as reputation and moral code is concerned. But for three young U.S. Army warrant officers known as the “Dot Mafia” and attached to the Fort Knox, Ky.-based 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Task Force Duke, their devotion to family, loyalty and each other would make even Don Corleone proud. More importantly, their combined expertise has been instrumental in protecting fellow soldiers and local civilians in TF Duke’s area of operations.
James Ross, an all-source intelligence technician from Seattle, Chris Sherrett, a human intelligence technician from Orlando, Fla., and Norman Rosentreter, also an all-source intelligence technician from Waco, Texas, all became warrant officers within the last two years. As holders of the Warrant Officer 1 rank, with its lone uniform square or “Dot” reflecting their grade, they can frequently be the brunt of jokes by senior warrant officers, which naturally comes with the territory for officers new to the corps. All kidding aside, however, the three readily show the necessary seriousness toward their duties in the remote provinces of Khowst, Paktya and Ghazni.
“A lot of what we’ve been able to do has prevented the enemy from having any major successes in our area,” said Ross.
What they do is furnish TF Duke leaders with assessments of battlefield threats and how to mitigate them. More specifically, human intelligence technicians are primarily responsible for supervising and conducting information collection operations, while all-source intelligence technicians coordinate and participate in the analysis, processing and distribution of strategic and tactical intelligence.
Having such timely, comprehensive and accurate intelligence allows commanders to then weigh relevant factors before making tactical decisions.
For Ross and his fellow warrant officers, stationed at Forward Operating Base Salerno, their crucial intelligence mission is quickly summed up in just a few short words.
“We determine where the enemy is and what they’re trying to do,” said Ross.
All three arrived at Fort Knox in the latter half of 2010, while the 3rd BCT, 1st Inf. Div. was away for a month of pre-deployment training at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif.
“Missing out on NTC put us behind the power curve,” said Sherrett.
With seven previous deployments spread among the three, however, the former enlisted soldiers with their intelligence backgrounds were quick studies in their roles in making a brigade intelligence section function effectively.
Ross’ present deployment is a case of déjà vu. He was stationed at FOB Salerno in 2007 during his first trip to Afghanistan. Because of that experience, said Ross, he’s much more familiar with the area, targets of opportunity, and the personalities of the enemy he confronts daily.
“I think we’re doing well,” said Ross, of his combined efforts with Sherrett and Rosentreter.
The intelligence obtained and processed by Ross and his team, and taken into consideration by their superiors, has been instrumental in seeing more than 1,000 enemy fighters killed or captured by TF Duke soldiers since their arrival last January.
Seeing new aspects of the intelligence field, and on the job training that can’t be taught in a classroom, have yielded other benefits for the three warrant officers, besides the paramount one of removing dangerous criminals from the battlefield.
“It’s been a tremendous learning experience, [being] exposed to things I never could have imagined,” said Rosentreter.
Sherrett echoed the sentiment.
“I’m glad to have deployed as a warrant officer; we’re going to take this deployment in a combat environment as the foundation of our career,” he said.
Combat environment aside, the three can usually be found spending their limited free time together, usually by playing cards and going to the gym.
Sherrett, who has two children with his wife Alina, and Rosentreter, a father of two with wife Geri, credit family as instrumental in maintaining a positive deployment outlook.
“I couldn’t continue to deploy without the family support system I have, and if I didn’t have it, it would really impact my work,” said Sherrett.
Even more telling and helpful, is that Geri and Alina are friends, and help each other and their respective families while the 3rd BCT, 1st Inf. Div. is away.
The soldiers converse with their wives 3-4 times weekly via Skype or the telephone, which they say does much to bridge the miles. And even though their deployment is more than halfway done, and it’s tempting to look forward to their homecoming, all three know much work remains.
It’s important work, doing their best to ensure that battlefield threats are stopped in their tracks, before comrades or innocent civilians are seriously injured. But hearing the three warrant officers tell it, the daily tasks of gathering and processing crucial intelligence information remains much more than just a three-man job, and is made possible only through some very special people.
“We just have an exceptionally talented group of soldiers working with us,” said Ross.
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This work, Solid intel the main racket for TF Duke’s ‘Dot Mafia’, by SFC John Zumer, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.