Straight Talk About Training
Mission essential task lists drive the train of the 703d MI Brigade


By Col. Robert R. Murfin

     The 703d MI Brigade is a special purpose U.S. Army Intelligence and Security Command unit, similar to some other INSCOM units in terms of mission and organization. As the Army component of the Kunia Regional SIGINT Operations Center, the 703d is organized, staffed and equipped to perform a specific intelligence mission. The brigade’s mission is to conduct joint intelligence operations responsive to warfighter and national requirements, reinforce forward-based military intelligence units on order and operate the Regional Technical Control and Analysis Element.

     As described in FM 25-101, Battle Focused Training, brigade, battalion and company commanders have developed mission essential task lists for their units. The lists include actions absolutely essential to accomplish their assigned portions of the brigade’s mission. Army doctrine and brigade training guidance give priority to training which supports these mission essential tasks. In fact, FM 25-100, enjoins us to do the essential things first. Each commander will have to determine wisely what is essential. Nonessentials should not take up time required for essentials.

Operations in Time of War
     In the event U.S. forces are committed to combat in the Pacific region, the 703d MI Brigade’s specific target set might be adjusted, but the mission and mission essential task lists would remain basically unchanged. This essentially places the brigade at war now — "all day, all night, every day, all year." There are no time-outs.

     Since we are continually engaged in our form of combat, we must be trained and ready to perform our mission and mission essential tasks literally each day. Some of these tasks (collection, production, and sustainment) are accomplished daily. Other tasks (integrating reservists or augmentees and deploying soldiers) are exercised or actually accomplished periodically, more frequently of late.

Training in Operational Units
     FM 25-100, Training the Force, provides specific guidance for organizations such as the 703d MI Brigade. "Mission essential tasks may be...operational activities required to accomplish (the brigade’s) ongoing mission." For this reason, the 703d MI Brigade mission essential task lists and training program have been developed around our operational activities. All training is based on and in support of our mission essential tasks as a matter of priority. First and foremost, we must be competent collectors, processors, analysts and reporters of intelligence. And while we have other training requirements, training and training management within the 703d MI Brigade focus on intelligence operations.

     The center of individual intelligence training in the 703d MI Brigade is a set of job qualification requirements. This is a specific group of critical individual tasks which have been developed and validated for most Kunia Regional SIGINT Operations Center duty positions. The J3 Training Department conducts or arranges for individual skill instruction which trains job qualification requirements tasks to standard when coupled with on-the-job training. The J3 Joint Language Center provides language training. The J2 and J6 organize security and automation training which satisfies operational Regional SIGINT Operations Center requirements and meets Army standards. The 703d MI Brigade maximizes joint training opportunities and intentionally avoids duplication of training offered by the Regional SIGINT Operations Center. While much training is conducted in the joint environment, commanders are still responsible and accountable for ensuring the training and readiness of their soldiers.

Army Common Training
     Additionally, the Army establishes requirements and standards for training which are common to all soldiers without regard to unit mission or mission essential task lists. Physical readiness, common task and weapons training are among these requirements. Similarly, noncommissioned officer, warrant and commissioned officer professional development schools are required, but not linked to specific unit mission essential tasks. This training is important to the overall professional development of soldiers and their potential role as leaders in a variety of organizations.

     While mandatory tasks, conditions and standards are specified, commanders have significant latitude regarding how often, and with what intensity, to conduct such training. Establishing the unit’s "band of excellence" for training (including required training) is the commander’s responsibility.

     Army training doctrine explicitly recognizes that units and individual soldiers cannot attain proficiency in every Army task. Commanders are directed to narrow the focus to a reduced number of vital tasks essential to mission accomplishment. The band of excellence for each type of training or training event should be consistent with, and supportive of, each unit’s mission essential tasks list.

     For example, unit physical training objectives for an MI company in a divisional battalion are likely to be very different from a company of the 703d MI Brigade. The mission essential tasks lists, battle tasks and conditions under which task are to be performed are wholly dissimilar. Both units conduct physical training, and the tasks, conditions and standards of the Army Physical Fitness Test are the same for all. Individual soldiers in each unit should strive for a high level of fitness to improve their individual readiness and health. However, the division’s MI battalion logically requires a higher level of unit fitness than the 703d MI Brigade. Similarly, the type, frequency and intensity of most training will be different for companies with different mission essential tasks lists. Commanders of each unit focus training on the battle their unit fights. For the 703d MI Brigade, this battle is our day-to-day operational mission in support of regional warfighters.

Department of Army Civilians
     Our civilian members are part of the 703d MI Brigade’s total Army team. They fill key roles in intelligence and support operations. Brigade leadership trains civilians in specific skills from the mission essential tasks lists and provides opportunities for general professional development. Resources (time and funds) are specifically allocated for this purpose, and our civilians are eligible for nearly all training offered to their military counterparts. Commanders are responsible for developing the skills and leadership potential of all members of the brigade, including civilians.

Skills Course
     Courses producing skills not directly linked to mission essential tasks lists, such as Air Assault School are made available to deserving 703d MI Brigade soldiers consistent with unit mission essential tasks — generally on a not-to-interfere basis. Many of these courses build competence and confidence, which are important to leader development. The brigade’s senior noncommissioned officers approve training for qualified enlisted soldiers.

NCO Business
     Virtually all training conducted by the brigade is intended to develop the MOS-specific or Army common task proficiency of individuals. Noncommissioned officers plan and conduct such training by both tradition and doctrine. Warrant officers have a special role to train and instruct in skills in which they have special expertise. Commissioned officers establish training priorities and ensure required resources (time, equipment and facilities) are available. NCO leadership, especially first sergeants and command sergeants major, inspect training and enforce individual skill training standards. This is no different in the 703d MI Brigade.

Bottom Line
     In the 703d MI Brigade, the relationship between training and operations is further enhanced with the integration of the brigade’s leaders into operations. They routinely lead their soldiers in the conduct of joint intelligence operations.

     The unit mission essential tasks lists drive training in the 703d MI Brigade with priority to training focused on our battle and based on our approved unit mission essential tasks lists. This is Army doctrine. It is the brigade’s standard. It is the way we conduct training.

     Col. Robert R. Murfin is the former commander of the 703d MI Brigade, U.S. Army Intelligence and Security Command. He is presently assigned to the National Security Agency as the director of the National Security Operations Center.

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   Last Updated: July 02, 1997