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Intel field training vital to mission

Apr 16, 2010

By Sarah M. Rivette/Special to the Paraglide

FORT BRAGG, N.C. -- In a war where it can be hard to tell between friend and foe, the information gathered from foreign nationals can make or break a mission.

Enter the 519th Military Intelligence Battalion, 525th Battlefield Surveillance Brigade, XVIII Airborne Corps. From March 23 to April 1, the battalion took to the ranges of Fort Bragg in preparation for their upcoming deployment to Afghanistan.

"They are learning how to shoot, they are learning how to move, whether dismounted or in a vehicle, they are learning how to communicate and they are learning how to medicate and take care of each other," said Capt. Sarah Moffit, Company B commander. "We set this up so they would see things they would potentially find in theater and be in a situation where the team leader would have to react as they would down range."

Two squads from 2nd Platoon did just that on March 30. The squads convoyed out to the far edges of the training range area where Reservoir International, a military contractor, built a mock Afghani village; and no village would be complete without villagers.

With six Dari speaking, roleplayers and one interpreter to work with, the Co. B Soldiers were tasked with finding information that would eventually lead them to an insurgent cell operating in the area. The mission wasn't easy; especially when villagers interrupted and wanted to see what the Soldiers were going to do to protect the village.

"This was pretty realistic, with the way people were acting," said Staff Sgt. Melissa Porrett, a Soldier from Hampton, Va. who already has an Iraq deployment under her belt. "The roleplayers do a great job of helping the Soldiers understand that a lot of things will be thrown at them all at once and you need to be prepared for it all."

After interviewing villagers, the Soldiers found what they were looking for - the supposed hideout of an insurgent leader. Once the man-made cave was seized, and no one was found inside, the Soldiers began gathering information to determine the way forward. With a slip of paper, they had a phone number and a new destination.

While the training was a simulation planned and executed by their battalion leadership, it helped give the Soldiers a taste of things to come. While down range, their job will be to conduct the same kind of intelligence gathering missions and they will more than likely experience a similar situation.

"I was grateful for this training," said Pfc. Austin Haskins, from Charlotte, N.C. who is gearing up for his first deployment. "Anything is valuable and from here on out, I plan to work on my communication skills so I know what is expected of me at every level."

With a few months left before the deployment to Afghanistan, the Soldiers have time to fine-tune their individual and collective Solider skills.

"I want to work on my leadership skills so I can help my Soldiers while down range," said Spc. Jay Robinson, from Cape Coral, Fla. who has deployed to Iraq. "I'm excited about this deployment, but I'm a little bit nervous because it's a different battlefield."

For Porrett, the training equates to one end goal -- "I just want to make sure all my Joes come home," she said.

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