Training Your Company Intelligence-Support Team

by CPT Juan P. Feliciano

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Many factors must be considered when establishing and training your company intelligence-support team. It is very important that you have your battalion or squadron commander’s support.

The first factor to consider is your CoIST’s modified table of organization and equipment. It is crucial that you have the right Soldiers for the job. The Soldiers selected must have analytical, briefing and quick decision-making skills, a penchant for working with computers and technology, and other desired skills the troop commander deems necessary.

The second factor to consider is CoIST capabilities. You have to determine what you want your CoIST to routinely accomplish. The simplest way to do this is to establish subtasks during prebriefs, mission phases and debriefing that the CoIST will be able to follow every time, thus creating consistency. Figure 1 is a suggested checklist to help establish consistency.

The last factor to evaluate during CoIST training is resources. As we shift toward a decisive-action environment, it is essential that we resource the CoIST with the proper tools to accomplish their mission. Using analog systems to back up digital capabilities is a must. A dedicated radio and Blue Force Tracker will allow the CoIST to mitigate communication issues and operate over large distances until on-the-move digital communications are part of your MTOE.

What should your CoIST look like?

To have an effective CoIST, you will need to select quality Soldiers who have longevity in the unit and will be a part of the CoIST for at least one year. The Soldiers selected as analysts should have no other duties other than CoIST. To facilitate this requirement, Soldiers should come from the company/troop headquarters platoon since these Soldiers will most likely man your command post. During our National Training Center Decisive-Action Rotation 12-05, the 3-1 Cavalry Squadron S-2 shop successfully used six-Soldier CoIST teams. The CoIST officer in charge was the troop executive officer, and the noncommissioned officer in charge was a sergeant from Headquarters Platoon. The troop also provided three more Soldiers to the CoIST to serve as analysts.

What made this CoIST different from the all the CoISTs I have worked with was the addition of a 35F Soldier (military-intelligence analyst). Although resourcing the troops with intelligence Soldiers from the squadron S-2 shop severely degraded manning, providing the troop with an intelligence subject-matter expert produced results well worth the cost.

Another requirement is that all your CoIST members at a minimum possess a secret security clearance. This allows your CoIST access to sensitive and secret information. The CoIST’s ability to maintain constant communication with and provide progress reports to the company/troop commander is essential.

What should your CoIST be able to accomplish? This may vary due to the type of unit (infantry, Armor and Cavalry), mission, etc. Being in a Cavalry unit, I wanted my CoIST to be experts on intelligence preparation of the battlefield. I also wanted them to conduct prebriefs, debriefs, battle tracking, tactical questioning, and lethal and non-lethal targeting, and to know how to operate all our organic systems (Distributing Common Ground System-Army, Tactical Ground Reporting Net, robotics systems, One-System Remote Video Terminal, Biometric Automated Toolset and Handheld Interagency Identity Detection Equipment).

Being part of an armored reconnaissance squadron also meant that the CoIST had to learn about “passive” infrareds. We spent the first couple of months teaching priority information requirements, infrareds and indicators, and how they link to information collection. We also developed reporting formats that led to effective reporting the CoIST used to obtain information from their platoons to answer and develop new PIR for their prebriefs. The big training should be well resourced, and the schedule should be discussed during battalion / squadron training meetings (Figure 2).

Our squadron trained our CoIST during sergeant’s time training – every Thursday we trained from 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. I was fortunate that my brigade has a Counter-Improvised Explosive Device Integration Cell. Their training capabilities included CoIST, Human Intelligence Control Cell, Al Taqaddum Airbase, biometrics (BATS, HIIDE, Secure Electronic Enrollment Kit), site exploitation, robotics, field-training-exercise support, IED/homemade-explosives awareness and handheld detectors. We used the C2IC team significantly and conducted joint training with other battalions as well. The best training for your CoIST is hands-on at the company/troop level.

CoIST should be involved in all your operational orders and rehearsals, not only in a field environment but in garrison as well. Use them to brief weather effects for ranges, gunnery, live-fire exercises and terrain analysis for road marches. Having them brief and prepare products as often as possible will only improve their skills. After training the CoIST, ensure they are involved in as much collective training as possible using your standard operating procedures to validate them. Employ them in all gunnery and field-training problems with specific training objectives nested with the company/troops. This will allow you to finalize your SOP and have a quality product.

Equipping your CoIST

For your CoIST to be successful in any environment, it must have the proper equipment. This should be a mixture of analog products and other equipment that will allow your CoIST to maintain communication with all their elements. If your company/troop can acquire secure and nonsecure router-access-point terminals or Harris 117G radios – which will allow you to send and receive data while maximizing your frequency-modulation capability – you can rectify these problems. If this is not a feasible option, all you can do is optimize your current systems. Planning with your S-6 for re-transmit capabilities is necessary.

In an effort to cut down on radio traffic on the command net, we created an operations and information net. The operations and intelligence net should be used as the primary method of communication during operations for the CoIST.

Another great organic asset you have available is BFT. BFT is going to be your most reliable source of communication while on the move or out of FM communication range; the CoIST should own a BFT or have access to one at all times.

CoIST should be able to create overlays, continuously populate significant activities and send reports and information. Furthermore, your SOP or Annex B should address the CoIST primary, alternate, contingency and emergency plan (Table 1).

Finally, as we transition into a decisive-action environment, revisit the analog tools. Your analog products should include maps, acetate, markers, notepads and site-exploitation equipment so you can transition to counterinsurgency operations. We gave our CoIST lapboards (Figure 3), which allowed them to conduct all their duties without relying on digital systems.

As our focus shifts from COIN to decisive action, you want to ensure that all levels, especially company/troop, have clear situational awareness and understanding of not only the present but what lies ahead as well. The fastest and most effective way of communicating this is through the CoIST.

There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to training your CoIST. With the right Soldiers, clearly defined CoIST standards, proper equipment and tough, realistic scenarios in a time-constrained environment, your CoIST will achieve success and enable the company or troop to perform at its full potential in any environment or mission.


CPT Juan Feliciano is the S-2 for 3-1 Cavalry Squadron, 3rd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Benning, GA. He previously served at Fort Hood, TX, as assistant battalion S-2, 2-8 Cavalry, 1st Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division; tank company executive officer, Delta Company, 2-8 Cavalry, 1st Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division; and tank company platoon leader, Charlie Company, 2-8 Cavalry, 1st Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division. His military schooling includes Cavalry Leaders Course, Military Intelligence Captains’ Career Course and Armor Basic Officer Leader Course. CPT Feliciano holds a bachelor’s of science degree from Florida International University in criminal justice. He is the recipient of a Bronze Star medal for serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom during 2009-10.

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