By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Patrick Dille, RIMPAC Public Affairs
JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii – As exercise Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2012 entered the final weeks, amphibious operations; gunnery, missile, anti-submarine and air defense exercises as well as counter-piracy, mine clearance operations, explosive ordnance disposal and diving and salvage operations that dominated in the first half gave way to a coordinated, tactical phase, where a Navy Reserve intelligence team helped drive the scenario.
Thirteen Reservists specializing in military intelligence integrated with the naval expeditionary force (NEF), one of seven joint task force commands working under the combined force maritime component commander to respond to the military scenarios of RIMPAC. The Reservists’ analysis of things like bomb attack reports, enemy activities and civilian emergencies within the fictitious exercise scenario were directly accessible to expeditionary force leaders.
The Reserve intelligence team, made up of five officers and eight enlisted Intelligence Specialists (IS), integrated into the watch center at the NEF command post on the waterfront of Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii. The NEF command post also housed Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group (EODGRU) 1 command operations.
Two of the Reserve intelligence team officers, both explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) specialists, served as liaison naval officer (LNO) consultants at the Pacific Warfighting Center (PWC) on Ford Island, while two intelligence officers served at the NEF command post, one as a watch captain and the other overseeing intelligence operations. The third officer, Capt. Paul Jensen, is the commanding officer of the EODGRU 1 Reserve component, and served as deputy NEF commodore during the exercise.
“Getting to take part in a real world, high-level exercise, the training, the experience can’t be attained anywhere else,” said Jensen. “You can’t attain that on a drill weekend, you can’t get it at a Reserve-only exercise; our immersion into the jobs we would do if we were called upon to activate is the main point of us coming here, and the main value that we take away.”
The Reserve intelligence team’s immersion during RIMPAC involved living and working in air-conditioned tents at the EODGRU 1 compound, the unit whose headquarters became NEF headquarters during RIMPAC. According to Jensen, the NEF is a relatively new concept where an adaptive force package is assembled from Navy Expeditionary Combat Command forces based on a specific mission and then deployed as the lead element into a conflict to assist the host nation with internal defense, and air and sea port defense until the arrival of follow on forces. The adaptive force package is assembled with capabilities that can range from explosive ordnance disposal, diving and salvage, maritime security, naval construction (Seabees), maritime civil affairs, intelligence, riverine, and combat camera. This year, NEF had command and control over 18 units from coalition partner nations including Australian, Russia, and Canada, in addition to U.S. forces and the Reserve intelligence team who contributed niche support at the headquarters level.
“I have found that it is one of the best cases of integration of reservists and the active component,” said Jensen. “They’re not looking for stuff for us to do, we immediately integrated in and offered up increased capacity in those mission areas that they maintain.”
One key mission area during the tactical phase of RIMPAC was locating simulated improvised explosive devices. For the intelligence team, this meant the IS’s monitored the internal network known as “CENTRIX,” where the exercise scenario is played out in a sort of virtual reality. Intelligence information was sent, or “injected,” into the intelligence watch monitor by exercise controllers know as “the White Cell,” or by other exercise sources, through notes within CENTRIX, usually an email.
“In real life, it would be coming in from all different directions,” said Intelligence Specialist 1st Class Brad Vancleave, a nine-year Reservist serving as request for information (RFI) and information collections manager. Information sources could include people returning from the field giving direct reports to the NEF intelligence team, or “cell.” They would also include field teams briefing the NEF commanders after a mission, or field specialists collecting information using sophisticated surveillance equipment.
“The intel guys don’t do as much outright collection as they do assessment — what it means,” said Jensen. “And then they have a product they can give the commander so he can make decisions based on that, and then potentially send out EOD or other forces as required.”
During RIMPAC, the field teams serving within NEF operated in simulated field conditions in order to add an element of increased reality to the scenario. Dozens of air conditioned tents were set up in compounds, known as tent cities, scattered across Ford Island and Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. It was from these tent cities that expeditionary forces reacted to the information the seasoned Reserve IS’s analyzed.
“This is old-hat for me,” said Vancleave. As a civilian, this is what I do. I came from a tent in Afghanistan, and was a little hard-pressed to know I’d be in a tent in Hawaii; but this is how it is in theater, this is realistic.
Just before attending his first RIMPAC this year, Vancleave spent six months in Afghanistan as an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) pilot with a military contractor. He also deployed in 2003, just after joining the Reserves, for more than a year with SEAL Team 5 as a targeting analyst focused on human intelligence. Between his job flying UAVs and gathering intelligence with the Navy, Vancleave has spent more than four years boots-on-ground in Iraq and Afghanistan, experience that helped him separate kernels of valuable information from chaff.
Vancleave and the other IS’s on watch stayed keenly focused on intelligence injects related to smuggling routes, weapons smuggling, narcotics, improvised explosive device detonations and discoveries, and other land-based reports.
“I tracked those instances, and then they got reported on our built-slides for the update brief, or for the PWC to focus in on imagery collection so that we could take that information and get something further,” said Vancleave. “It’s not as much about the capabilities right now as it is about the process.”
“A lot of them have done multiple deployments, and they’ve worked as [intelligence] specialists and intel analysts during those deployments; that’s an incredible value-added skill set to bring to the team that they didn’t have without our folks,” said Jensen. “It’s more, it’s better; it’s not an issue that they couldn’t do it without us, it’s that they can do it a lot better with us.”
The Intelligence Reservists made the exercise more dynamic for EODGRU 1’s Intelligence Exploitation Team (IET) by adding realism to their field operations. Chief Intelligence Specialist Eloy Rodriguez, EODGRU 1 Reserve element leading chief petty officer and watch supervisor, along with the other Reserve IS’s on his team, served as role players impersonating foreign nationals whom active duty IS’s on the IET, known as hum’inters because of their human-intelligence gathering specialization, interviewed. This interview activity simulated the way hum’inters would gather human-intelligence information in the field, a process involving interaction between human intelligence collectors and people living in the local population.
The information the hum’inters gathered from Rodriguez and the other Reserve IS’s wouldn’t have changed the course of the structured exercise, but if the hum’inters hadn’t asked the right questions in the right way, Rodriguez said it could have made reaching their goal more difficult.
“This side-play helps drive how the intel analysts from EOD build their target development so that they can defeat the IED networks,” said Rodriguez.
Rodriguez trained early on as an aerospace engineer, and has since become a paralegal at a law firm in San Diego. He joined the Navy as an IS in 1987 and gained experience along the way working with UAV aircraft as part of the Naval Special Warfare Command beginning in 2001. In 2007, he started working with EOD, and has maintained that connection ever since. RIMPAC 2012 marks his fourth, and his experience with the biennial exercise ranges over 20 years.
“My first one was in the ‘90s,” said Rodriguez. “My last three have been with EOD, and I’ve seen it grow to this point where there’s an incredible level of detail.” He said this year’s incorporation of human intelligence collection had direct impact on EOD’s actions.
“It’s like getting the ground truth from the locals to determine if there is infiltration of bad guys in the area of interest,” said Rodriguez. “They ask just general questions to find out if this individual that have moved into this area are actually from there, and if they’re coming from somewhere else, what their intent is: is their intent to be a part of the community and contribute, or is it something else?”
As the tactical phase of RIMPAC progressed, Rodriguez began rotating his team through the watch floor and out into the field with EOD technicians to exercise their full range of skills.
“What that does is, it builds a trust with the EOD techs; they’re like, wow, this guy can shoot,” said Rodriguez. “So, the credibility of that IS has now just grown exponentially, and that EOD tech can now come to us with confidence in our abilities.”
The Reserve intelligence team continues to support NEF and EODGRU 1 through the end of the 36-day RIMPAC, the world’s largest international maritime exercise that involves twenty-two nations, more than 40 ships and submarines, over 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel. Members of EODGRU 1’s Reserve element also supplement real-world operations, in addition to exercises, including the unit’s eight-month mission as Joint Task Force (JTF) Troy in Baghdad in 2011 where they were responsible for exercising command and control of operational explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) forces throughout Iraq.