Article excerpt

The mission started early in the morning. Two tactical human intelligence (TAC HUMINT) teams, weapons at the ready, moved through an urban area to meet with a potential source. As the first team took up defensive positions around the coffee shop, the second team moved inside to conduct a "meet" with a local Iraqi national. After half an hour of rapport-building, questioning and sensitizing of the source to the team's needs, the TAC HUMINT team moved out on foot back to their link-up point with their escort team. Suddenly, shots rang out; the team was in contact and received heavy machine-gun fire. After taking cover, the team immediately returned fire, suppressed the threat, bounded back and broke contact without taking casualties. They returned to their base, wrote their HUMINT reports and prepared for the next mission. The two team leaders wore the rank of specialist. A private first class conducted the source meet. The squad leader, a sergeant, graduated from the Warrior Leader Course a week before the operation.

In another operation conducted a month later, two platoons of intelligence analysts and combat support personnel deployed from a staging area in Kuwait and conducted a tactical road march over hundreds of miles of varied terrain to a forward operating base in Iraq. During the movement, the platoons successfully reacted to contact from multiple improvised explosive device attacks and smallarms fire ambushes, and, upon arrival at their destination, immediately began intelligence operations. Within an hour they established an analysis control element with secret and top secret local area networks, tracked an ongoing operation and prepared dozens of target folders to support a squadron attack into Mosul, Iraq. The platoon leaders had been in their jobs for an average of eight months. Only one noncommissioned officer leading the convoy had been a sergeant for more than three years. Half of the NCOs in the convoy had been in the Army or working in the intelligence field for less than three years.

These are stories that could have been drawn from any unit in Iraq or Afghanistan today. In many cases these junior leaders would have been recognized for their gallantry in combat and their ability to rise to an occasion where even more senior leaders would be challenged to succeed. While all of these events did really occur, they did not occur in theater-they happened in the training areas of Fort Lewis, Wash., and on the ranges of the Yakima Training Center, Wash. They are events that reinforced the confidence of the soldiers in their leaders and the confidence of the leaders in their own abilities.

Commanders in today's Army are training their units with a combat focus that did not exist in the conventional force before the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The threats that every unit faces are both poignant and persistent; newspapers, television, even popular movies graphically depict the successes and failures of the Army. The success or failure of an Army at war rests squarely on the shoulders of the team, squad and platoon leaders making critical decisions on an hourly basis. It is in the selection, education and training of leaders at these three levels that commanders and first sergeants are having the greatest impact on the future success of their units in combat. In virtually any military occupational specialty (MOS) in any field, smart, dynamic and well-trained junior leaders are essential in reaching the objective-whatever that objective might be.

In an Army at war, personnel and equipment resources are focused on units currently in the fight, and rightly so. As the Army allocates these resources forward, it leaves gaps in leadership in units that are transforming or activating as brigade combat teams or Stryker brigade combat teams in conjunction with the Army Force Generation cycle. These gaps are especially acute in the military intelligence career field, where technically and tactically proficient soldiers and leaders are in high demand. …