View Full Version : CI or bust: Why now is the time to go counterintelligence

03-25-04, 01:02 PM
Issue Date: March 29, 2004

CI or bust
Why now is the time to go counterintelligence

By C. Mark Brinkley
Times staff writer

CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. — There’s no coming back from counterintelligence.
Seriously. No coming back.

If you sign on to become a tactical human intelligence collector, you can’t go back to your old occupational field. It’s stay in CI or get out of the Corps.

And that’s just one reason not to sign up.

You’ll also spend two-thirds of your time deployed to some austere hot spot, often working alone or as part of a small team. That goes for married people, too. The strain cracks all but the strongest relationships.

Still, people that take the job seem to love it. The community has high retention, holding about 80 percent of its Marines.

But tough prerequisites have the Corps pressing hard to find qualified, new first-term corporals and sergeants willing to take the road less traveled. Right now, Corpswide, there are vacancies for 100 noncommissioned officers.

Still, as desperate as the Corps is for human intelligence gatherers, the bar is set high. Candidates — who may come from any occupational field — must be age 21 or older and have GT scores of 110 or higher. Expect to undergo a background check, possibly a polygraph test, and have your record book picked apart. Candidates also must pass a screening that involves a personal essay and a research project on world affairs.

Only 10 percent of the people who try out will have the goods to make it.

So why bother?

“This is why you join the Marine Corps,” said 1st Lt. R.M. Schwartz, 25, executive officer for 2nd Counterintelligence/Human Intelligence Company, 2nd Intelligence Battalion. “The heart of what we do is in support of the combatant commanders.”

Right now, hundreds of counterintelligence Marines are spread to the far reaches of the globe — most of them to Iraq — in support of operations. Their goal is simple: to prevent terrorism, sabotage, espionage and subversion.

They call it “finding the right door to kick in.” Sounds high-speed, and it is, but not in a secret-agent way.

“We don’t want James Bond 007 wannabes,” Schwartz said. “There’s nothing spooky about what we do.”

What these Marine counterintelligence specialists do is get out among the masses, talk to people, collect information, assess what it all means and report it back to their commanders. They analyze foreign military programs, activities, capabilities and intentions. They monitor foreign insurgencies and counterinsurgencies.

They research, collaborate and brief.

And then they do it all again.

The pace is crazy, the deployments are lengthy and the opportunities to make a difference are frequent.

“The enemy doesn’t always wear uniforms these days,” said Capt. Michael Dubrule, the 2nd CI/HUMINT company commander. “CI allows the infantryman to take the fight to the enemy.”

In Iraq alone, CI teams have made a tremendous impact. Program officials credit CI information with helping to recover missing American prisoners of war in Tikrit, locate Army Pfc. Jessica Lynch in a hospital outside Nasiryah and find Saddam.

“But your heart has to be in the MOS and what the MOS can offer you,” said one Marine staff sergeant, who helps recruit new Marines to the program. “You have to want it.”

That means not telling reporters your name, for one thing, and keeping a low profile. It means not joining just for the money, though the MOS typically offers highest re-enlistment bonuses available. People who do move into counterintelligence can earn thousands of dollars more per year.

There are other perks for those who pass the rigorous screening process. There are opportunities for language training at the Defense Language Institute, seats in Survival, Resistance, Evasion and Escape school or jump school, and training in high-speed driving courses and elite marksmanship courses.

And the job opportunities on the outside, where the same work often means big money, steal more than a few CIs away from the Corps.

The field is closed to women because teams often are attached to tactical commanders in combat environments, Schwartz said.

Few career opportunities in the Marine Corps come with such stringent guidelines, but few offer the same rewards. The trade-off is years spent abroad, seeing the world and protecting fellow Marines.

“That’s the reality of this MOS,” the staff sergeant said. “We deploy. A lot.”

Where to get the intel
Marines want to learn more about a lateral move into counterintelligence/human intelligence can contact a CI recruiter. DSN phone numbers for the recruiters, by region:
West Coast — Camp Pendleton, Calif.


East Coast — Camp Lejeune, N.C.


Okinawa — Camp Hansen


Hawaii — MarForPac


Norfolk, Va. — MarForLant


Quantico, Va.


MCAS Cherry Point, N.C.


Additional areas (HQMC)