Intel in Guard SF Support

b_sav

Airborne Intel
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Greetings,

Finishing my undergraduate degree in a few months which will allow me to pursue my Army (NG) career more. I saw that 20th group is near me in Maryland and wanted some perspective on life as intel support with them or any SF group, especially if there are any HUMINTers on here. My main questions pertain to expectation management: does airborne qualified support jump every few months? Are deployments readily available to those who seek them?
 

DA SWO

SOWT
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Greetings,

Finishing my undergraduate degree in a few months which will allow me to pursue my Army (NG) career more. I saw that 20th group is near me in Maryland and wanted some perspective on life as intel support with them or any SF group, especially if there are any HUMINTers on here. My main questions pertain to expectation management: does airborne qualified support jump every few months? Are deployments readily available to those who seek them?
You'll get 4 (often more) jumps annually if you are in a jump slot.
 

Florida173

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Because coordination with air assets is sometimes a pain, we generally will get away with multiple jumps during a drill weekend if it works out. Ends up being such a time sink for the air ops folks in the smaller SOF units because of all the coordination. I always thought it ends up being a big distraction. Then a lot of the 19th and 20th groups end up just doing mega MUTAs just to get everything in. But you do get remain on airborne orders and should be able to jump a nice variety of aircraft. I can't speak specifically for Maryland since most of my experience has been with Alabama and Florida.

I can't really say much about deployments since I pushed most of my through my contracting side.
 

Cookie_

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My main questions pertain to expectation management: does airborne qualified support jump every few months? Are deployments readily available to those who seek them?

As others have said, you'll get to jump enough to stay current, more depending on how your air coordinators do their job.

For example; My unit has 9 training events (drills+AT) for FY21, and we've already got jumps scheduled for 7 of those.

If it's rotary wing aircraft we'll get 1-3 jumps that day depending on how many jumpers we have and weather. If it's fixed wing you'll get 1, weather permitting.

As for deployments, the answer to your question is "sorta". The teams deploying make the decision on what sort of support they need. If they need all the Intel guys then cool, you'll go.
If they only need a handful of dudes, it's gonna be the Intel dudes the team has worked with previously/heard of first, then new guys.
This is true (in my experience/talking to our team guys) regardless of MOS.

An SF Company has Intel slots now?

IIRC there are a handful of Intel dudes with our SF CO, but I'm not aware if they are actually slotted to the unit or if those guys are just on loan since the FSC/BSC/HHD is in state as well.
 

b_sav

Airborne Intel
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As others have said, you'll get to jump enough to stay current, more depending on how your air coordinators do their job.

For example; My unit has 9 training events (drills+AT) for FY21, and we've already got jumps scheduled for 7 of those.

If it's rotary wing aircraft we'll get 1-3 jumps that day depending on how many jumpers we have and weather. If it's fixed wing you'll get 1, weather permitting.

As for deployments, the answer to your question is "sorta". The teams deploying make the decision on what sort of support they need. If they need all the Intel guys then cool, you'll go.
If they only need a handful of dudes, it's gonna be the Intel dudes the team has worked with previously/heard of first, then new guys.
This is true (in my experience/talking to our team guys) regardless of MOS.



IIRC there are a handful of Intel dudes with our SF CO, but I'm not aware if they are actually slotted to the unit or if those guys are just on loan since the FSC/BSC/HHD is in state as well.
Are support guys jumping the steerable chutes or the ankle breakers from airborne school?

also, are you able to speak on school availability for the 35 series guys? Not necessarily the sexy pathfinder/ air assault/ ranger, but more so the intel-specific ones. I ask because a lot of colleagues in these support roles have made it sound like they have the option to guard bum and go to schools at the drop of a hat, but it sounds too good to be true...
 

Marauder06

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I am an MI officer (HUMINT, SIGINT, CI, IMINT, All-Source) and commanded the Group MI Det and the Group Support Company in 5th Group. I deployed with 5th Group to Iraq in the early years of the war there and subsequently did six more tours to Iraq and Afghanistan with various units of the National Mission Force. Some caveats:

-this was a long time ago, and below is my opinion and experience only
-others here will strongly disagree with what I'm about to say and that's fine
-5th Group isn't 20th Group
-Active Duty isn't National Guard
-I'm speaking completely as a support guy and not an "operator"
-people change, and sometimes organizational cultures do
-this was a long time ago (yes, I know I said that already)

I don't feel like I'm in a position to address your questions about jumps and deployments, but to specifically respond to this:
wanted some perspective on life as intel support with them or any SF group, especially if there are any HUMINTers

An an organization, SF doesn't have the same perspective on support troops that other SOF organizations do, which is largely (IMO) reflected in the fact that--unless something changed in the last few years--there is no assessment, selection, and training pipeline for support troops going to an SF Group. As a result, the support pax are a mixed bag; some are good, some are bad, but most are average. This is in contrast to other SOF organizations, who value--and put time and other resources towards--their support personnel and consequently have (again, IMO) a higher level of enabler competency and therefore respect from those whom they support.

Culturally, SF are conditioned to believe that they can do it all internally. That makes total sense for organizations which are designed to operate in austere conditions in 12-man person A-Teams. However, between that culture and the issue I identified above, typically (IME) if you ask someone in SF who the best intel person they know is, it's usually an 18F. It's almost never someone in an intel MOS. To me, as an intel professional, the worst part about it is that they are often right. That's a problem, on many levels.

The consequence of the above is that support troops are looked down upon by the 18-series personnel they support in a way I did not experience (or observe) in other organizations I was assigned to or that I supported downrange. So what's life like as a support troop in an SF unit? Three words: "second class citizen." Just know that going in.

Because the Teams rarely worked with intel back in garrison (SOTAs being a notable exception), there was little trust or confidence in our abilities downrange. Our HUMINTers were largely confined to the FOBs because, as everyone knows, red-hats are not to be trusted outside of the wire. That was very frustrating to my folks. Contrasting that with my experiences in other units and in subsequent deployments, it was a deep disappointment.

as for this:
also, are you able to speak on school availability for the 35 series guys? Not necessarily the sexy pathfinder/ air assault/ ranger, but more so the intel-specific ones. I ask because a lot of colleagues in these support roles have made it sound like they have the option to guard bum and go to schools at the drop of a hat, but it sounds too good to be true...

Well, if an organization doesn't know what your capabilities are, they're not going to value your contributions. If they don't value your contributions, they're not going to thing you're important. If you're not important, are they going to spend time and money on you?

For us, it was VERY hard to get Group to support training for intel types. I remember one Command and Staff where the Group S2 briefed that some of his guys were on tap to go to Pathfinder Database training (an intel system that I don't think is used anymore--no connection to Pathfinder School). One of the S3 folks got upset and wanted to know what support guys were doing going to Pathfinder (he thought it was the school). It wasn't that an support guy was taking a Pathfinder slot from an SF guy (there was a Pathfinder school at Fort Campbell, where we were stationed, so it wasn't exactly hard to get slots), he didn't want a support guy to go to Pathfinder School. He calmed down after the Group S2 very patiently explained what the Pathfinder Database training was. It was a bizarre exchange and gave me some insight into how enablers were viewed in Group. "We don't need it, we just don't want YOU to have it." I have some additional vignettes related to equipping enablers that I won't go into because this is already getting into "TL;DR" range.

At any rate, contrast the experiences above with the ones from my time in, say, the 160th, where the attitude was, "OK, we have two Pathfinder slots in the next class. Who do we have who we think will be a first-time go? S2, you're up!" Because I had to try out to be in the 160th, and I went through part of the training pipeline, and because of the organizational culture, I was considered an important and valued part of the team. Everyone had their job to do, and for the most part, no one automatically assumed they could do mine. It was a good place to work.

The above notwithstanding, 5th Group was very good to me. They were my foot in the door in the world of SOF, I earned my first "above center of mass" eval there, and I got two company commands there. But given a choice, as a support guy I would rather go back to just about any other Army SOF unit because of the organizational culture.

My experience isn't everyone's experience, your mileage may vary. Additionally, I didn't really understand what it was like to be support in an SF Group until I left Group and moved on to higher-tier SOF units. It was culturally very different to be in units where 1) everyone had to try out to be there and 2) valued the enabler side of the house. I think a lot of people who think being an enabler in Group is good, have never served in another SOF unit to have something to compare it to.

I'll close by saying I want to make it clear that I'm not bad-mouthing SF. I think the long term members of the site will confirm that I hold SF in high esteem and think they have an important and valuable mission. Being ops in SF is *way* different than being support in an SF group. My point is, if you have a choice and you're an enabler, I recommend you choose to support a different SOF organization. If you don't have a choice, or if you're looking for a way in, time in Group may be a good one for you.
 

DZ

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I think a lot of the problems @Marauder06 explained would be fixed if either A) SF ran some kind of screener/assessment for it's support. Or B) Being an enabler in an SF Group wasn't an option straight out of AIT.

As a guy who started as Group Support and is now an SF guy, Mara is spot on.
 

Intel Nerd

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I think a lot of the problems @Marauder06 explained would be fixed if either A) SF ran some kind of screener/assessment for it's support. Or B) Being an enabler in an SF Group wasn't an option straight out of AIT.

As a guy who started as Group Support and is now an SF guy, Mara is spot on.

I think an additional benefit would be better opportunity for volunteers. I've been in the Army just over ten years and I'll be pinning SFC soon and I've never had the opportunity to go to an SF Group as an enabler. Branch would only offer subsequent/back to back tours at IBCTs by going to 82nd. As a 35F, going from IBCT, to IBCT, to IBCT, to do identical work offers no/limited growth in the profession.

Wow!

knowing nothing about anything, that just seems like the wrong environment for someone straight out of MOS school to get his/her feet wet.

In Big Army we called them "SF Babies" because they grow up there and sometimes it can cause some issues. I've met plenty of rock solid SSGs leaving Group, but I've also met individuals leaving so they can be an SNCO and it's not a good transition into Big Army. I think a lot of that comes down to adaptability, but as someone who hasn't had the opportunity to be assigned to an SF Group, I can't speak on how they perform there. I definitely agree support MOSs shouldn't go straight to SOF though.
 

Marauder06

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Wow!

knowing nothing about anything, that just seems like the wrong environment for someone straight out of MOS school to get his/her feet wet.

...especially with no assessment/training pipeline to weed out the non-hackers.

The Rangers and 160th both take junior soldiers. But they still screen, assess, and train them prior to turning them loose in the unit. SF does not.
 

SOSTCRNA

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...especially with no assessment/training pipeline to weed out the non-hackers.

The Rangers and 160th both take junior soldiers. But they still screen, assess, and train them prior to turning them loose in the unit. SF does not.
That’s very interesting in I had not thought about that before. Seems odd and I can’t think of why it would be the case
 

DZ

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That’s very interesting in I had not thought about that before. Seems odd and I can’t think of why it would be the case
My guess is because of the size of SF. 5 active duty groups, each with 3 line battalions and 1 support battalion, that's a lot of battalions that need support personnel.
 

Intel Nerd

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My understanding (second hand access to an assignment manager) is that HRC doesn't want to lose control of the assignment process. They prioritize personnel management, not talent management (as much as they claim, it's simply not true). A happy medium is the S SQI, which allows the force to better identify who should be retained or send to additional SOF assignments.

There's also an annual SNCO board in January to determine if new SNCOs should be brought in, and if current ones should be retained or sent away. It's a one page form that has basic feedback on the SNCOs performance and is a way for the non 18/37/38 SNCOs to be pulled in or forced out based on performance.

I *do* think that SF Groups should be able to hire their own people. Although the size as mentioned by @Marauder06 provides some hurdles, any kind of screening process designed by USASOC would probably be better than no system. Especially considering that RASP and Green Platoon double as training and are not just a suck fest designed to weed out quitters.
 

SOSTCRNA

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My guess is because of the size of SF. 5 active duty groups, each with 3 line battalions and 1 support battalion, that's a lot of battalions that need support personnel.
My thought also.
 

Marauder06

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The thing is, it wouldn't be that hard to do. Someone even came up with a potential blueprint ~15 years ago.

(page 23)

https://fas.org/irp/agency/army/mipb/2006_01.pdf

If SF wanted it, they could make it happen. They could make SOMETHING happen. But they don't. And that's OK because it works for them. I think it would work better if they would invest a little more in their enabling infrastructure, but I'm not in that business anymore.
 

DZ

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Thanks for linking that, it was a good read. I think some kind of screening for more direct support personnel like MI, or mechanics, and then limiting the rest of the MOS's to a second tour or later assignment to Group, would fix 90% of the problems we have with support in SF.

Sadly I'd say more often than not, we don't get the kind of support we need, so we end up doing most things ourselves, which creates an inherit distrust in our enablers. It shouldn't be that way, from our end or their end.
 

Marauder06

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My understanding (second hand access to an assignment manager) is that HRC doesn't want to lose control of the assignment process. They prioritize personnel management, not talent management (as much as they claim, it's simply not true). A happy medium is the S SQI, which allows the force to better identify who should be retained or send to additional SOF assignments.

There's also an annual SNCO board in January to determine if new SNCOs should be brought in, and if current ones should be retained or sent away. It's a one page form that has basic feedback on the SNCOs performance and is a way for the non 18/37/38 SNCOs to be pulled in or forced out based on performance.

I *do* think that SF Groups should be able to hire their own people. Although the size as mentioned by @Marauder06 provides some hurdles, any kind of screening process designed by USASOC would probably be better than no system. Especially considering that RASP and Green Platoon double as training and are not just a suck fest designed to weed out quitters.

So my understanding is that there has been some progress on this front. Some SF Groups do have, or at least had in the past, some type of internal screening function. But it was personality-based and not institutional. Also, I think SF has an MI battalion on the books, I don't know the details and I'm not sure I'm getting that right. But whatever they have now is better than what they had before, which was nothing.

The problem with the S identifier is that it's basically the "Army Service Ribbon" of SOF: you didn't have to do anything to earn it other than be in the unit. The S doesn't mean you were really good at your job, it just meant you didn't really suck bad enough for someone to want to do the paperwork. It's also after-the-fact, with no assessment, selection, or training attached to it.

I'm interested in the SNCO board you mentioned. Who runs that, and what is the mechanism for forcing someone out? Does Group just go short after that? Because in a "needs of the Army" assignment, it's typically "Hey, we gave you a guy, if you got rid of him for something other than a crime or relief for cause, he's yours until he PCSs."
 

Intel Nerd

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So my understanding is that there has been some progress on this front. Some SF Groups do have, or at least had in the past, some type of internal screening function. But it was personality-based and not institutional. Also, I think SF has an MI battalion on the books, I don't know the details and I'm not sure I'm getting that right. But whatever they have now is better than what they had before, which was nothing.

The problem with the S identifier is that it's basically the "Army Service Ribbon" of SOF: you didn't have to do anything to earn it other than be in the unit. The S doesn't mean you were really good at your job, it just meant you didn't really suck bad enough for someone to want to do the paperwork. It's also after-the-fact, with no assessment, selection, or training attached to it.

I'm interested in the SNCO board you mentioned. Who runs that, and what is the mechanism for forcing someone out? Does Group just go short after that? Because in a "needs of the Army" assignment, it's typically "Hey, we gave you a guy, if you got rid of him for something other than a crime or relief for cause, he's yours until he PCSs."

Great questions.

They have since updated the SQI S requirements. You need to actually request it now, and I know people who've been in Group 3 times that don't have it, and some that performed well on one tour and received it. They changed this about 12 months ago.

OLD
Code:
S
(Rescind 201910)
Title:
Special Operations Support Personnel
Proponent:
United States Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School (USAJFKSWCS)
a.
Description of positions.
Identifies selected positions for special operations support personnel.
b.
Qualifications.
(1) Must be Airborne qualified (except for CMF 15).
(2) Successfully complete OJT/OJE and serve 18 months in their primary MOS with a U.S. Army
Special Operations Command subordinate unit.
(3) Award of SQI will be accomplished in accordance with AR 614-200.
c. Restrictions. For use with any MOS except MOS 11, 12, 13, 14, 18, 19, 37, and 38 series in SOF
organizations. Withdrawal of the SQI may occur when the local SOF commander determines the
individual to be unqualified or at the request of the individual.

NEW
Code:
S
(Effective 201910)
Title:
Special Operations Support Personnel
Proponent:
United States Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School (USAJFKSWCS)
a.
Description of positions.
Identifies selected positions for special operations support personnel.
b.
Qualifications.
(1) Must be Airborne qualified (except for CMF 15).
(2) Successfully complete OJT/OJE and serve 24 months in their primary MOS with a U.S. Army
Special Operations Command subordinate unit.
c.
Restrictions
. For use with any MOS except MOS 11, 12, 13, 14, 18, 19, 37, and 38 series in SOF
organizations.
d.
Exceptions:
As an exception for award.
(1) Awarded upon departure from USASOC organization.
(2) Soldier must be in good standing and display great potential for future USASOC assignments.
(3) Be recommended by the first ARSOF Colonel in the Soldier’s chain of command.
(4) All requests for SQI S must be processed through the first ARSOF General Officer Command DCS
G1.

So the old system was easier and put the onus on the command to remove it, but on this system you need 33% more time in the organization and the first ARSOF O6 needs to support it or it won't be processed. Small change.

Also for that SNCO Board, here is the info. Worksheet attached.

USASOC FY21 MSG/SFC SOF ENABLER TALENT MANAGEMENT SLATE ANNOUNCEMENT.

The United States Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) FY21 MSG and SFC Special Operational Forces (SOF) Enabler slate board will convene on 25 January - 29 January 2021. Active Duty Service members in the rank of SFC to MSG (in one of the MOSs listed), who are interested in submitting an application for an assignment within USASOC, may do so IAW the instructions at the following link. Suspense for applications is 6 Nov 20. https://www.milsuite.mil/book/docs/DOC-873650
 

Attachments

  • USASOC Talent Management Worksheet Ver 1 (1).pdf
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Cookie_

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@b_sav

We jump the steerable chutes, but I wouldn't call the T11s anklebreakers. As our riggers like to remind us, "the MC-6 has a lower fatality rate but a higher injury rate." Most of our injuries occur because of "experienced" guys trying to flare/chase the truck, or newer jumpers not finding the wind.

As to schools, it depends a lot on your unit. I know our intel guys seem to get school slots fairly frequently (especially SOT-A boys), but understand that I'm also at the BN support location; we're more seen by leadership here.

As @Marauder06 pointed out, the team guys often don't know who their enablers are or what their jobs are. They way I've found to beat that is simple office politics; make sure the CO/1SG and other important people (team daddy, Cadre leadership, etc) know who you are and what you can do. I'm not "that foodservice NCO", I'm Cookie. I do the same thing with all of my jr enlisted as well.

The other issues is the one @DZ mentioned; they tend to either get subpar "big army" styled support, or such bad support that they wind up doing it themselves.

Demonstrate that you are value added, and that you're willing to acquire knowledge.
I've done stuff like take one of our Assualt kitchens to a training range to provide hot chow, and still had my cooks do whatever training was going on. The majority of tabbed dudes at those training events were unaware my section had that capability, and were super impressed by it.

Do things that are outside your job. Ask a Bravo to come teach your guys basic room clearing/weapons techniques, or a Delta to do a quick CLS "tourniquet, wound packing, chest seals" type class. Go ask if you can join them on a ruck or other PT event, obviously within reason to your soldiers' physical abilities. Anything that shows "My crew and I want to show we can do stuff other than just be XMOS".

ETA: I've been told my unit used to have a "selection/InDoc PLT" but were told that it got shut down by state when the unit integrated females.

We're working on rebuilding one that has "recommended performance standards", IE "we can't send you to another unit for not meeting these, but you will be bottom of the OML here, so you may want to transfer". Basically a 70 in each ACFT event, a 1:30 6 mile road march with 35#, and 30 min 3 miler/40 min 4 miler(still debating). Nothing too hard, but stuff actually requiring some commitment.

We also are trying to develop a SOF history/SOF enabler history/expectations type thing as well.
 
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