MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
Marines from 2nd Intelligence Battalion, II Marine Expeditionary Force, completed a new course designed to prepare them for a deployment with the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit early next year, at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., May 22, 2013.
The detachment of 10 Marines was the first to participate in the two-week MEU structures, models, approaches and techniques class, which was created for basic MEU operations by 2nd Intelligence Battalion’s methods group. SMATs are developed as template courses to prepare intelligence Marines for set unit types and missions.
According to Chief Warrant Officer Kevin L. Navratil, 2nd Intelligence Battalion methods group officer-in-charge and native of Jordan, Minn., intelligence Marines normally have no additional formal training prior to attaching to a MEU.
“For intel battalions, MEUs have not been the priority,” said Navratil, who also taught and designed the MEU SMAT. “Our training models have been based on Iraq and Afghanistan, but now that we’re going back to the sea, we have to restructure our training for MEUs.”
The course covers MEU operations, terminology and structuring, as well as several practical application exercises. When developing the course, Navratil and another methods group Marine visited each of the Corps’ MEUs to determine what needed to be in the course and to compile all the varying terminology used by the different MEUs.
“There’s a very, very steep learning curve for our intel battalion Marines when they get to a MEU because they’ve never been taught about the MEU’s operations cycle,” said Navratil, who has experienced multiple MEU deployments. “That is the central theme of this entire course: getting a feel for supporting command decision-making in the fast-paced MEU operations cycle.”
While the normal intelligence operations cycle covers a 24-hour period, the MEU’s cycle is only six hours. According to Navratil, an intelligence Marine’s biggest obstacle when attaching to a MEU from a battalion is adjusting to the change in time tables.
“I’m very excited about the SMATs program and the great lengths to which 2nd Intel Battalion is going to ensure their Marines are optimally prepared for the rigors of the MEU,” said Maj. James G. Allen, 22nd MEU intelligence officer. “Their MEU-centric SMATs program will ensure that our detachment from 2nd Intel Battalion will come to us ready to play ‘varsity ball’ and support that cycle with rapid, operationally relevant intelligence products.”
According to Navratil, the MEU SMAT is also the only SMAT course in the Corps to use real-time, real-world intelligence for its practical application exercises, which prevents both the instructors and the students from knowing what to expect in the research portions of the course. When the instructors want to create a scenario the MEU would normally have to respond to, they simply artificially inflate the current situation in whichever country is being researched.
“Scripted training is hit or miss based on how it’s written, but this, being tasked out and finding the information ourselves, is much more realistic,” said Pfc. Erik J. Gonzalez, 2nd Intelligence Battalion intelligence analyst and native of Zion, Ill. “Getting a feel for what we’d be tailoring our products to is the most useful part of this course.”
These practical exercises run students through one of several scenario types from each of the MEU’s mission sets.
“In this way, when a scenario presents itself on the actual deployment, the Marines will have dealt with something similar,” said Navratil.
“It’s a good cheat code,” said Lance Cpl. Jessica J. Newman, 2nd Intelligence Battalion topographical analyst and native of Jacksonville, N.C. “Instead of being thrown to the wolves, we get a preview of what we’ll be doing on the upcoming deployment.”
After its third iteration, the course will be presented to the Marine Corps Intelligence Activity for approval. If the course is approved, it will be certified and intelligence battalions throughout the Corps will use this SMAT to train their Marines for MEU deployments.
“The fact that 2nd Intel Battalion is providing this training up front removes a tremendous burden from the 22nd MEU intelligence section,” said Allen, a native of Lancaster, Calif. “By enabling the detachment to come to us ready to support our operations cycle and the MEU mission sets at the onset of work-ups, we as a shop will conglomerate and gel sooner and hit the ground running much faster than normal.”
Allen added that the SMAT will leave the intelligence section more prepared for predeployment training, and will also provide the intelligence Marines with an opportunity to explore more advanced, sophisticated training sooner in the predeployment training cycle.
“All of this will culminate in our section having the highest possible level of readiness to support real-world requirements once we are underway,” Allen concluded.
If the MEU SMAT is certified, it could provide this benefit to each MEU, creating better trained and better prepared intelligence sections for their future deployments.