Ground Suveillance Operations in Bosnia

by Staff Sergeant  Timothy D. Tolison

The air is muggy and all one can hear is the buzz of a thousand mosquitoes in the air; silently out of the darkness a three-man team moves out of the prone position to a ranger file formation. This group of soldiers are “Screaming Eagles” ; they are a ground surveillance systems (GSS) team serving in Operation JOINT GUARD (OJG) in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The team is part of Delta Company, 311th Military Intelligence Battalion from Fort Campbell, Kentucky. Delta Company is assigned to the 519th MI Battalion from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, for OJG as the Direct Support MI Company for 3d Brigade, 1st Infantry Division. The company consists of eight GSS teams, five from the organic 311th assets and three teams from the 103d MI Battalion. There are also six tactical human intelligence (TAC HUMINT) teams, which provide force protection to the supported battalion task forces of 3d Brigade. The company is task- organized with soldiers from 13 Active and Reserve Component units.

Remotely Monitored Battlefield Surveillance System (REMBASS) operations changed significantly in its peacekeeping role during OJG, in Bosnia-Herzegovina. The Task Force (TF) Eagle intelligence requirements moved beyond merely confirming or denying activity. The GSS teams had the mission to monitor the resettlement activities— not an easy task. The soldiers and leaders of the Intelligence and Surveillance (I&S) platoon have often wargamed ways to deploy REMBASS to better support the TF commander. The TF had many areas to monitor and not enough assets to cover them all. This is where the GSS teams helped, allowing roving patrols to cover other areas.

The mission was to establish a “trip-wire” effect around the NAIs. The mission had two phases.

Phase One

First, the teams established a sensor “trip-wire” system around the areas of major concern, environments the returning refuges were resettling. This “trip-wire” yielded real-time intelligence of any unusual activity between midnight and dawn, such as persons moving along trails or routes. A one-page document, the REMBASS summary (REMSUM), synopsized activity during the prior evening. This document eased communication flow be- tween the teams and the S2. The REMSUM allowed the S2 to have a clear picture of the activity in the sector overnight. As time passed, the teams began to see patterns forming and this required more detailed analysis.

The teams do not receive schooling to conduct analysis, and the trained intelligence analysts did not have time to analyze the trem- endous amount of information. Therefore, the GSS teams had to fill this void. Teams assisted the S2 in many ways and became very active in conducting analysis. After analysis, the teams reevaluated the mission and decided to move the sensors off approved (engineer cleared) routes. More resettlement was occurring and it was obvious that no one conducting hostile acts would infiltrate along routes of heavy Stabilization Force (SFOR) patrolling. This led to phase two of the operation: authorization for the teams to operate off approved routes.

Phase Two

Given the very real land mine threat in Bosnia-Herzegovina, the teams needed force protection. They incorporated combat engineers into the plan. The engineers’ primary responsibility was to probe and proof the implant site as well as to provide additional security for the teams. The engineers performed flawlessly and established a habitual relationship with the teams. This performance and relationship ensured the protection of soldiers and equipment.

The platoon gained second- source confirmation by using the TAC HUMINT teams to confirm activity that the GSS teams were reported through local sources. TAC HUMINT was also helpful with cross-cueing. In other words, the TAC HUMINT-gathered information helped the S2 know where to focus sensor strings for future operations. This tactic yielded big dividends.

The teams conducted more than 80 missions in heavily mined areas of Bosnia-Herzegovina for an extended period at night and off cleared routes. They continued to conduct dismounted operations and became the resident experts for their area of operations. The GSS teams earned the respect and admiration of commanders throughout TF Eagle and other military units and many units recognized them as the ones who knew the area better than any others.

REMBASS has been a force multiplier for Task Force Eagle. Through detailed planning and nearly flawless execution, the teams have made a difference and have made commanders more aware of the assets that are avail- able to them. The new doctrine, which the teams helped establish, will aid in training other soldiers in the future.

Staff Sergeant Tolison is a ground surveillance system squad leader in the 311th MI Battalion at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.