NCO TEAM LEADERS:
Building and Showing Confidence
by Sergeant Sammy Villela
It is still dark as the three soldiers walk up to the infantry brigade headquarters armed with PVS-7 night vision goggles, M16A2 rifles, and 9-millimeter pistols, and wearing complete load-carrying equipment and KevlarTM. They are not infantrymen, but neither are they strangers to the brigade. As they enter the double doors of the headquarters, a slim, leather-faced sergeant first class with a 101st combat patch halts them at the door and asks to see their ID cards. After the standard security procedure, they are on their way down the hall to the brigade S2's office. As they enter the busy office, a young captain turns and faces the team, smiles, and extends an open hand to the familiar team leader---familiar, too, because of the rapport built through constant liaison and coordination visits both in the field and in garrison. Familiar too because of the many exercises, deployments, and Emergency Deployment Readiness Exercises they have endured together. Familiar, also, because this team is the DRF 1 team of the MI Company.
What? An MI company with a division ready force (DRF) 1 team? Yes, that is correct! It is a team of two counterintelligence agents and one interrogator.
However, this is not the only team that the MI company provides for the DRF. The DRF 2 and 3 teams from the MI company include:
- Ground surveillance systems (GSS) teams.
- Low-level voice intercept (LLVI) teams.
- A transcription and analysis (TA) cell.
- A TLQ-17 TRAFFICJAM team for jamming enemy communications.
- The headquarters element, consisting of a retransmission team, NBC (nuclear, biological, and chemical) warfare noncommissioned officer, supply element, and team of intelligence analysts to form the Analysis and Control Team (ACT).
Teams, teams everywhere. All of the collection assets listed above, and MI's most visible support to the brigade task force (TF) are small, independently operated, mobile teams. The leaders of these teams range in rank from specialist to sergeant. Thus, one must say that the MI company's successful support of a combat infantry brigade TF depends heavily on the abilities of young, tough, decisive, and capable team leaders with initiative and an unmatched "can do" attitude. To be successful, team leaders must be "confidence builders" and "confidence show-ers."
The Need for "Confidence Builders"MI NCOs have to build the confidence of their team members. Consider the TLQ-17 team leader, for example. That leader trains his team's soldiers on all aspects of the system, including vehicle and equipment maintenance and battle drills. The team members must be able to step up and successfully perform in the team leader's place, should that team leader be injured or killed.
The CI team leader must coordinate safe passage through another unit's area of operations when his team is on its way to a traffic control post (TCP), or just conducting battlefield circulation. This coordination includes obtaining the call signs and frequencies of those units, so that the CI team members can call for help should they need it.
The LLVI and GSS team leaders must be proficient enough to look at a map, perform their terrain analysis, and choose a site that will allow their teams to be most effective. Then they must plan a route to the site that is both fast and safe.
These team leaders and their teams must be tactically proficient to the point that their battle drills are performed to the same standard, if not a higher standard, than those of an infantry team. They must be able to break contact successfully when ambushed or stumbled upon by enemy forces.
The Need for "Confidence Show-ers"MI puts young NCO leaders in charge of extremely important, sensitive, and high-visibility collection operations. Therefore, it is imperative that our team leaders be extremely technically and tactically proficient. They are the ones who are "selling" that collection asset. They are the ones who show up at mission-planning and operations order (OPORD) briefs to coordinate the use of their personnel and equipment, most of the time in conjunction with numerous officers and senior NCOs.
This requires that team leaders demand answers from captains and lieutenants to ensure that they can accomplish the mission and maintain the highest possible levels of safety for their soldiers. They must be assertive and smart in making recommendations to the brigade or battalion S2, who will determine their final courses of action on the battlefield.
They must, if nothing else, instill in their S2s a sense of confidence that they can be trusted to conduct operations that could save hundreds of lives and a sense that they are mature, capable, technical experts in their fields. The S2 must be confident that no soldier knows a particular system better than that team leader and that the S2 can rely on the team leader's recommendations. This is why good briefing skills are important for all team leaders to have and to demonstrate. They must have good communication skills to clearly relay issues to their teams and to their S2s.
Developing the Team LeaderGood team leaders are not born--they are made. Senior NCOs and officers in the MI company have a responsibility to develop good team leaders. The first sergeant and the platoon sergeants should ensure that the team leaders are doing the right thing---
- Conducting tough, mentally challenging physical training.
- Soldiering the way they should.
- Paying close attention to detail.
- Meeting standards and surpassing them.
- Training soldiers the way they are going to fight, as small, three- to five-member teams.
- Ensuring that the commander allots enough time for proper execution.
- Seeing that the teams build good cohesiveness.
First sergeants should remember that not all good ideas come from sergeants and above; junior members of the team sometimes suggest better alternatives. The more informed the soldiers are, the less likely they are to engage in the speculation and interpretation processes that can cause orders to be misconstrued or rumors to be started.
Commanders: there is one critical thing that you must understand about these tactically proficient MI soldiers. As the Army continues to draw down, those who remain will have to meet increasingly tougher requirements. This means that, on average, the soldier of the future will be much more educated than soldiers in the past. This general increase in the average soldier's knowledge may lead to more "questioning" of your orders. These soldiers will not want to know simply what to do, but they will also want to know why they must perform the tasks at hand. "Inquiring minds want to know," and are common among the MI soldiers of today.
Show Off the Team!Finally, the MI Company should simply show off. You read right---show off! Show the brigade and everyone in the brigade TF the MI company's mettle. Proudly show them those AN/PRD-12 Light weight Man-Transportable Radio Direction-Finding Systems, radars, and those Improved-Remotely Monitored Battlefield Sensor Systems during static displays. Explain exactly what they do and how they work. Explain the value and importance of the TA cell. Let the CI/human intelligence team explain to them how traffic control points (TCPs), CI force protection source operations, and population resource control measures can greatly enhance the effectiveness and security of our combat forces.
All of you team leaders show them what you and your teams are made of when it is time to go to work. "Hump those rucks" right alongside the infantry soldiers. Eat with them, joke with them, and fight alongside them. Take pride in your soldiers and your equipment. When your teams do something good, give credit where credit is due. Commanders, ensure that the brigade and battalion staffs know when your collection teams do something spectacular. Ensure they know who the team leader is and ensure that the leader and the team get the recognition they deserve.
ConclusionThe MI Company is unique, mainly because of the quality of the soldiers it requires and retains. I am proud to have served in a company that challenged and conditioned my mind, body, and soul---a company of "Intelligent Barbarians" with a "can do" attitude. NIGHTHAWKS!
Sergeant Sammy Villela recently served as a counterintelligence agent in B Company, 311th Military Intelligence Battalion, at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. Since writing the article, he has changed duty locations.