721st MI Battalion:
Going the Distance

The soldiers of the 721st MI Battalion believe in sweating in peacetime to reduce bleeding in war: they train as they will fight to support warfighters

by Capt. J. R. Johnson

     The Army must continue to work toward a multi-echelon trained force, especially within the intelligence battlefield operation system. The training which military intelligence soldiers receive must reinforce the concept of readiness training and the tenets found within Battle Focused Training, FM 25-101.
     Based upon these tenets, the 721st MI Battalion, 702nd MI Group, at Fort Gordon, Ga., uses a variety of readiness training, local training and military schooling to maximize the benefits to its soldiers. Battalion leaders plan to leverage the best all around tactical training opportunities for educating its soldiers. These opportunities include duty with a field unit, confidence building schools and local area training executed with internal resources. The results have proved so positive that training openings are filled with volunteers immediately.
     The Army’s REDTRAIN program is directed at MI soldiers (captains and below) at all echelons. It is outlined in AR 350-3 and designed to be "the means by which senior intelligence officers and commanders can ensure quality intelligence during wartime. During times of peace, REDTRAIN contributes funds for the training of intelligence units and selected individuals."
     The 721st MI Battalion uses REDTRAIN program as part of its training plan. The battalion’s soldiers support the mission of the Gordon Regional SIGINT Operations Center by providing intelligence support to unified commanders. Soldiers with over 41 separate military occupational specialties sustain and maintain the force in the field.
     The battalion deploys soldiers to global operations in support of warfighters at all levels. In addition to the intelligence and support missions at Fort Gordon, battalion soldiers have supported operations in Saudi Arabia, Bosnia, Turkey, Germany, Qatar, Korea and Guam.
     Leaders and soldiers believe in and support "sweating in peacetime to reduce bleeding in war." Training initiatives intersect the operational path and the tactical path, producing well rounded, multi-echelon, trained MI soldiers.

The National Training Center

     At the National Training Center, soldiers execute assignments within the opposing force (11th ACR). For MI soldiers and officers alike, the 11th MI Company assigns soldiers to work in their specialty in various battlefield situations. Soldiers may find themselves as the electronic warfare expert in an opposing force tactical operations center, working directly for the task force commander, or on a TRQ-32 intercept team. They may find themselves going forward with the division reconnaissance to set up a tactical listening post, sending intelligence to the rear, or acting as a jamming team during an attack. Officers command a TRQ-32 platoon, as a member of a forward deployed division reconnaissance team detailing the defenses of the enemy, or as an S2 to the opposing force. Our soldiers have participated in all of these activities.

Air Assault School

     Most soldiers enlist to see the world and experience "Army training," and the 702d MIGroup’s 721st MI Battalion provides its echelons above corps soldiers the "adventure training" they desire.
     Through vigilant and total command support, 721st MI Battalion soldiers are graduating from the Air Assault School.
     The soldiers love the opportunity to have some "HOOAH" training; the positive influences are reflected in the workplace–and in retention figures.
     Further, it has enhanced the unit’s physical training program. Each morning, the Air Assault candidates fall out to conduct physical training oriented toward success at Air Assault School. This tends to be more focused than standard physical training with an emphasis on rope climbing and force marches. The candidates love the training, as do those soldiers who want more out of daily physical training.

Advanced Warfighting Experiment

     The Advanced Warfighting Experiment allows our unit to train soldiers on tomorrow’s systems. The 721st participated in Advanced Warfighting Experiment exercises at Fort Hood, Texas, and Fort Bragg, N.C. During the Fort Hood experiment, 98C soldiers experienced Land Information Warfare Activity training. They coordinated different airborne systems, imagery and ground operators to collect and identify different radio signals. During the Fort Bragg rotation, 98J analysts operated tactical equipment in the field. In both cases, soldiers got the hands-on training necessary to support the battalion’s mission.

Warfighter Focused Training

     The 721st MI Battalion has deployed numbers of soldiers into combat areas or potential hot spots. Battalion leaders ensure soldiers are ready for any possible contingency and ready to assume a new mission with the gaining unit. They stick to stringent training standards and adhere to the training guidelines in AR 350-41, Training Units.
     The battalion also operates the Preliminary Primary Leadership Development Course. There are fewer opportunities for junior soldiers to get real troop leading experience, so battalion leaders developed a local school to provide practical experience in drill and ceremony, instruction and field operations. The result of this preliminary course is a 100 percent success rate at Preliminary Primary Leadership Development Course and five Commandant’s List graduates in the last 12 months.
     On a complicated battlefield, there is no way of ensuring a soldier who operates miles behind the lines won’t end up fighting with the infantry. The soldiers of the 721st MI Battalion must have the blood of the warfighter flowing through their veins. Soldiers train regularly on weapons ranges and all nuclear, biological and chemical tasks. They perform common task training throughout the year along with a standardized, timed, four-mile run. Battalion soldiers complete road marches of various lengths up to 12 miles (the battalion standard is three hours), a triathlon, strenuous physical training and obstacle courses.
     The extensive effort to maintain specific skills and train for future conflict ensures the soldiers of the 721st MI Battalion are prepared to go the distance...any time, any where.

     Capt. Johnson is assigned as the battalion executive officer at the 721st MI Battalion, 702d MI Group, U.S. Army Intelligence and Security Command, at Fort Gordon, Ga.


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   Last Updated: May 29, 1997