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thedrifter
01-17-06, 01:48 PM
January 23, 2006
Connecting the dots
Every Marine should be trained to collect intelligence, general says
By Gidget Fuentes
Times staff writer

SAN DIEGO — Every Marine an intel collector? Sure, it’s not as catchy as “every Marine a rifleman,” but it’s where the Corps is heading, according to top Marine officials who gathered here for a conference.

The Marine Corps is continuing with its plan to push more command and control, tactical mobility and intelligence to smaller units, Brig. Gen. Joseph Dunford, the Corps’ operations director, said during a Jan. 9-12 conference held by the Armed Forces Communications Electronics Association and the U.S. Naval Institute.

However, a big challenge is about gathering intelligence that helps these small units “find, fix and finish” the enemy, he said.

“Traditionally, locating or finding the enemy is really a difficult thing. It’s something that has been very costly,” said Dunford, who led 5th Marines in the 2003 Iraq invasion.

“We still are continuing to be challenged to locate and find the enemy — and, in some cases, even to identify the enemy. The enemy has the initiative in most cases. He determines when and where he is engaged,” he said. “He certainly is maintaining the initiative with things like [roadside bombs].”

With more decentralized small units, “we have to come up with a better way of providing a site picture of the enemy to our small-unit leaders,” Dunford said.

So “we need to do a better job at the fight for intel,” he said.

“We’re simply at this point not connecting enough dots. That’s not to say that our Marines are not aggressive. … We train our Marines to assess the situation, to recognize a pattern of enemy behavior and then to conduct operations.

“The issue is, how effective are those operations? What we want to do is to make sure we are connecting more dots in the future,” he added.

Cultural awareness

Initiatives underway include instilling cultural awareness to broaden a Marine’s ability to collect information and intelligence, Dunford said. “It’s a process by which we, throughout a Marine’s career, intend to grow his capability in a culture and language.”

All schools are getting “a focus on intelligence,” he said. “We’ve had great success over the years with the emphasis that every Marine is a rifleman. And in the future, we want to emphasize equally that every Marine is an intel collector.

“With these measures, Marines are going to be much better able to understand the environment that they’re in, they’re going to be able to make contacts and relationships to help them develop intelligence,” he added.

“They’re going to develop intelligence for their own use, but they’ll also have a much better appreciation for what their commander needs.”

Information collected from a growing array of sensors, including unmanned aerial vehicles used in Iraq and Afghanistan, generates more intelligence, officials noted, but also requires more analysis and better management, so special operators and ground forces aren’t overwhelmed by all the information.

Managing the load and force

“Today, there’s a lot of information, but … our challenge is: How do we manage this whole load of information and data?” said Capt. Sean Pybus, a Navy SEAL and commander of Naval Special Warfare Group 1 in Coronado, Calif., on Jan. 11 during a panel discussion with special operations leaders.

Increasing data and growing networks are helping provide a better “common operating” picture and “data that they need at the right time,” Pybus said, but managing it remains critical.

Military officials said they’re eyeing ways to use technology to help them grow their special operations forces — especially since recruiting qualified men is a big concern because of continuing combat operations and the growth of private security firms that hire former military.

“We do not have enough SEALs,” Pybus said.

“We have a program to attack that from the recruiting side to get better candidates” through the pipeline with more robust screening and preparation.

But “this is a real challenge,” he added, noting that “we may ask industry to help us with this recruiting piece.”

Boom in biometrics

One of the hot subjects at this year’s conference is biometrics, which assess a person’s physical characteristics, such as fingerprints, retinal scans, facial structure and voice.

It’s a growing part of new technologies in systems used for homeland security, border protection, anti-terrorism and other missions.

“The biometrics piece is critical,” said Army Col. Edward Reeder, commander of 7th Special Forces Group who spoke at a panel, adding that the systems can help distinguish friend from foe.

Reeder said such systems “allow us to track the people who work for us,” a plus in places in Afghanistan where local workers go from base to base getting work, and where fingerprints off a rocket-propelled grenade round could identify an enemy fighter.