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Intel Marines shift focus to sea

Jul. 27, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
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A detachment of North Carolina-based intelligence Marines will receive new training to adapt the skills they've honed on battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan to missions at sea.

A detachment of North Carolina-based intelligence Marines will receive new training to adapt the skills they've honed on battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan to missions at sea.

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A detachment of North Carolina-based intelligence Marines will receive new training to adapt the skills they’ve honed on battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan to missions at sea.

Ten Marines with the 2nd Intelligence Battalion out of Camp Lejeune, N.C., are preparing to deploy with the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit in early 2014. But for the past decade, most of them have focused on gathering intelligence on the ground.

Now, as the Corps returns to its expeditionary roots, Marines in that community are experiencing a “significant mental paradigm shift,” said Maj. James Allen, intelligence officer for the 22nd MEU.

“When I woke up every morning in Iraq, I knew where I was going to have to focus my intelligence efforts — Iraq,” Allen said. “The MEU is a global crisis response force, and our commander could be asked to provide Marine solutions to complex problems anywhere in the world with very little notice.”

Intelligence Marines deploying with the MEU not only will participate in academic and practical instruction as part of the six-month MEU pre-deployment workup, but they’ll have their own internal training, as well. By starting that training early, the means the intelligence component will be at peak readiness to support the MEU commander during the first field exercise, Allen said.

The members of the detachment who are joining the MEU’s existing intelligence component have very specialized skills, and they need to learn how best to work together, Allen said. That means topographic, imagery and oceanographic analysts who are subject-matter experts in their trade will learn how to function work as a team, he said.

“For our team to win, the whole has to be greater than the sum of its parts,” Allen said. “I need them all working together seamlessly, synthesizing their respective skill sets into a greater whole.”

Ultimately, the intelligence Marines need to be able to anticipate crises and missions, and provide the MEU commander and his staff with information they need to plan and respond.

“We are the commander’s tool to analyze, assess and anticipate what’s over the next hill, both literally and metaphorically,” Allen said.

And doing that at sea brings forth a different set of challenges than they faced in Iraq or Afghanistan.

“We could pack a lot of personnel and a lot of gear into al-Asad or Camp Leatherneck,” Allen said. “In the expeditionary sea-based model, we’re much more constrained.”

That means planning ahead and making deliberate choices, he added. They won’t have the option of taking everything they want, and they won’t have a steady flow of gear coming in and out to replace supplies. Bottom line, Allen said, is that they have to be much more frugal with their intelligence resources.

Capt. Eric Flanagan, a Marine spokesman at the Pentagon, said the same holds true across the this is true for all in the Corps as the service shifts back to its amphibious roots. Marines in nearly every community, who were used to performing their jobs with plenty of space constant access to space and constant resupply will have to be mindful of the facing constraints that arise aboard ships.

“MEUs have never stopped deploying,” Flanagan said. “As we get back to our amphibious roots, Marines used to deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan will just relearn those skills, but we’ve always done this.”

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