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New intel course trains Al Qaeda interrogation

by Sgt. 1st Class Donald Sparks

FORT HUACHUCA, Ariz. (Army News Service, Feb. 24, 2003) -- A new course at the U.S. Army Intelligence Center began last month to train soldiers how to extract intelligence from Al Qaeda detainees.

The Intelligence Support to Counter Terrorism course began Jan. 27 to specifically train the next rotation of National Guard and Army Reserve military intelligence soldiers heading to Guantanamo.

The course resulted from a visit to Guantanamo Bay a few months ago by Brig. Gen. John Custer, U.S. Army Intelligence Center and Fort Huachuca acting commander. He returned from the detainee facility there convinced that the military intelligence soldiers on the ground needed to be better equipped to gather information.

After briefing Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld on the limited training the intel soldiers had to obtain critical information from Al Qaeda, the Intelligence Center devised a new course to help support the global war on terrorism.

"The significance of this course is that we have a different threat now and it's based on the global war on terrorism," said Col. James Slavin, commander, 112th Military Intelligence Brigade. "The Intelligence Support to Counter Terrorism course's curriculum is the first phase we're doing.

"This is the initial pilot program and it's focused on supporting Joint Task Force-Guantanamo and the operation against the detainees there from Afghanistan."

Slavin mentioned the three-week course is based upon some shortcomings Custer identified at the camp holding Al Qaeda detainees.

"So we went and took the lessons learned from the folks who are in there now who had never had any training at all before they went in and asked, 'how can we do this better?" Slavin said.

On Nov. 12, the 306th MI Battalion was given the mission of standing up the course and had only three weeks to come up with resources, instructors, a curriculum and to begin instruction.

"We really had no expertise in terrorism here so we had to go out to different agencies for subject-matter experts for the common core of the class," said Stephen McFarland, course trainer developer/instructor.

McFarland mentioned the school sought what he called the 'alphabet soup' of agencies for subject-matter experts to come in and teach classes.

He also was able to have Middle East experts from the University of Arizona come in to teach.

When developing the course, McFarland knew there were some pivotal classes that needed to be taught on the platform so the soldiers heading to Guantanamo would have a better understanding of the detainees.

"Most of these soldiers are Christians and know nothing about the Muslim religion," McFarland said. "And they know nothing about terrorism and why a person turns into a terrorist. That's why we brought in the professor of Muslim studies. His job was to show the other position and explain why do they do this. It really got these soldiers thinking."

Slavin and McFarland both agreed one of the most crucial keys to making the course successful was to have instructors who'd been on the ground and had an understanding of the situation at Guantanamo.

For that reason, Sgt. 1st Class Rodger Guin, Joint Interrogation Group Operation noncommissioned officer in charge, Guantanamo, was brought on board as a subject-matter expert.

He was deployed to Guantanamo last August for six months and worked in operations and collecting management. Through working in operations, Guin said he was able to grasp the overall picture of the mission.

"We're working with new doctrine everyday," Guin said. "We're basically writing our own doctrine on how to do this type of business. A lot of the things we do have never been done before and we're discovering new and better ways to improve the instruction here at the school house for the soldiers who are eventually going to go out and fight this global war on terrorism."

With so much information being taught in a short span, the focus is to get the soldiers ready to go so when they hit Guantanamo, the learning curve will be dramatically decreased. Slavin pointed out two main goals needed to accomplish the mission and keep the learning curve down.

"First, they have to work as teams," Slavin said. "The analysts must support the interrogators. Normally the analysts support the commander, but now they're supporting an interrogator so he can go off and ask the right questions."

He added intel soldiers have done this type of teamwork approach before, but it's specific for Guantanamo because it needed to be reinforced.

"Secondly, for all the analytical work that has to be done, it takes an analyst with a different mindset to go after and find different data," he said. "And for the interrogator, different kinds of approaches are needed for these folks."

As far the future of the course, Slavin said the course will be more global oriented because, "the threat is not just in Afghanistan, it's also in the Philippines and the Middle East."

Also, much of the training in the course will be incorporated in the Warrant Officer Course, Officer Basic Course and other military intelligence specialty courses, officials said. The next ISCT is scheduled for July and will be five weeks long.

McFarland mentioned the course has had it's expected challenges, but so far it is meeting its core objectives of preparing the soldiers for their mission at Guantanamo.

"The course is doing what it's designed to do, but we can better it and will better it," he said. "We've attempted to make the course modular and as the world situation and doctrine changes, we'll just pull out one module and plug in another for a different terrorist group. We made it that way so we can quickly change over."

(Editor's note: Sgt. 1st Class Donald Sparks is the NCOIC of the U.S. Army Intelligence Center and Fort Huachuca Public Affairs Office.)

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