Magazine article National Defense


Magazine article National Defense


Article excerpt

Army wants to make 'every soldier a sensor'

"EVERY SOLDIER is A SENSOR" is a catchphrase employed with increasing frequency by Army generals. But what does it mean?

To some, it is simply increasing awareness about the dangerous environments infantrymen find themselves in. To others, it is more literal: technology can be used to gather intelligence - observations, photos, etc. - and send it back to analysts.

Army Lt. Gen. William Boykin, undersecretary of defense for intelligence, said after the Vietnam War the Defense Department allowed the individual services to go their own way on intelligence gathering. The military lacked focus on the issue until the early 1990s when the need to improve intelligence gathering was recognized. Even then, there were few resources allocated to tackling the problem.

"Now we're up against insurgents. And there's nothing more important [in fighting an insurgency] than intelligence. And there's noth- " ing more important within the intelligence community than human intelligence," Boykin said at a National Defense Industrial Association special operations conference.

For the military, human intelligence is much broader than the clandestine work carried out by the CIA, he said.

"Two guys in a spider hole putting eyes on a target is human intelligence. A guy sitting in an attic of a building with a long telescope that's human intelligence," he asserted. "It can be clandestine. It can be overt."

When the Army went to Iraq in 2003, it brought an intelligence system that was designed to fight conventional enemy formations, noted Col. Ralph O. Baker, former commander of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team of the Army's First Armored Division. Once the brigade began cordon-and-search operations in Baghdad shordy after the invasion, it became clear that the existing intelligence gathering, analysis, and evidence collection methods were all inadequate for countering an insurgency, Baker wrote in the MarchApril 2007 issue of the Army's "Military Review."

"Our ability to successfully prosecute intelligence operations was directly linked to the ability of our soldiers to collect, preserve and exploit evidence," Baker wrote. "To remedy that, we initiated a training program to give our soldiers and leaders the skills they needed to manage evidence."

Building on the lessons learned by units such as Bakers and others, the Army is emphasizing the importance of intelligence operations at every level. The service is now pushing the "Every Soldier is a Sensor" slogan in basic training, said Lt. Gen. Thomas Metz, deputy commanding general and chief of staff of the Army Training and Doctrine Command.

"I want every soldier to believe it and make that come true. I want every soldier to know that he can make a difference. That he can be the sensor," Metz told reporters at an Association of the United States Army conference. A computer simulation game named after the slogan is being used to test soldiers' skills in detecting threats. There is also an "Every Soldier is a Sensor" lane at Ft. Jackson, S.C., where trainees move through a forest looking for anomalies - suspicious objects placed diroughout the track that should make them pause. Some hazards are more obvious than odiers, such as wires sticking out of the ground.

"I want soldiers constandy scanning the world around them ... I want them to be awake," Metz said.

Gen. William Wallace, TRADOC commanding general, said he knows of drill sergeants who place sand bags under bunks to see how long it takes for a trainee to alert others that something is out of the ordinary. Sometimes it can take several days. Eventually the drill sergeant will ask the recruits if they noticed the bag, and if so, why they didn't bring it to his attention.

For Boykin, all this is a positive sign that the Army is focusing on intelligence gathering. "That sounds like a counter insurgency concept," he said of the soldier as sensor idea. …

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