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Intel Marines dish on mysterious 0211 duty

Intel Marines dish on mysterious 0211 duty

Aug. 9, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
Marines working in the intelligence community will be some of the last to leave Afghanistan. A company-grade officer reached out to Marine Corps Times to dispel the myths about working in her field.
Marines working in the intelligence community will be some of the last to leave Afghanistan. A company-grade officer reached out to Marine Corps Times to dispel the myths about working in her field. (Staff Sgt. Mark Fayloga/Marine Corps)
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Marines working in the intelligence community will be some of the last to leave Afghanistan. A company-grade officer reached out to Marine Corps Times to dispel the myths about working in her field. (Staff Sgt. Mark Fayloga/Marine Corps)

As the Corps continues its search for first-term Marines willing to make a lateral move into the intelligence field, a company grade officer who once made such a move as a sergeant reached out from Afghanistan to dispel some myths.

As the Corps continues its search for first-term Marines willing to make a lateral move into the intelligence field, a company grade officer who once made such a move as a sergeant reached out from Afghanistan to dispel some myths.

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As the Corps continues its search for first-term Marines willing to make a lateral move into the intelligence field, a company grade officer who once made such a move as a sergeant reached out from Afghanistan to dispel some myths.

There is a lot of mystique when it comes to the Marines responsible for gathering ground intelligence from key local nationals and, at times, interrogating detainees. They often don’t wear name tapes or rank and go by first names or pseudonyms in the field. One Marine Corps Times reporter was once introduced to three human intelligence Marines in Iraq, and all claimed their first name was Doug.

But it’s not all secret squirrel, one intel officer wants Marines to know. She said her community needs qualified corporals and sergeants who are interested in becoming an 0211 counterintelligence/human intelligence specialist to understand what the job is all about before applying.

In June, the Corps put out Marine administrative message 291/14, which solicits qualified first-term noncommissioned officers to try out. Intel is considered a high-demand, low-density military occupational specialty, one for which officials consistently dangle plump re-enlistment bonuses — and the possibility of instant promotion — in front of Marines looking to change MOSs.

The Corps issued a similar MARADMIN last fall. It was the subject of a Marine Corps Times cover story that turned controversial when the intel community fired back against the idea of being referred to as “Marine spies.”

“The term ‘spy’ has a connotation of clandestine operations in foreign countries,” the intel officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Marine Corps Times. “[For] 0211s, 95-plus percent is spent providing intelligence at the tactical level ... in a deployed environment — not running around Germany recruiting Russian defectors.”

In an effort to set the record straight about what life is like as a CI/human intel specialist, the officer presented questions sent by Marine Corps Times to a variety of Marines serving in her community including: senior enlisted 0211s; CI/human intel Marines on their first deployment; and chief warrant officers who work as counterintelligence officers. Their responses, edited for space and clarity:

Q. Why did you decide to make a lateral move to the 0211 MOS?

A. The uniqueness of the job is something that is only available to some Marines — not all Marines. That makes it more interesting. Also, knowing you have the ability to influence tactical operations as an NCO is something not many MOSs offer.

Q. What types of Marines would you like to see considering a lat-move to the 0211 MOS?

A. It doesn’t matter if a potential applicant is an infantryman or an administrative clerk. There have been rock stars from all backgrounds.

We want Marines who are creative thinkers with a desire to excel, work hard, sleep less and who don’t seek recognition. The greatest form of gratitude is a job well done, and in our field, that can equate to saving a service member’s life on the battlefield or identifying and mitigating threats.

Q. The 0211 MOS is chronically in demand — what do you think contributes to the shortage?

A. There are numerous reasons why Marines decide to get out, whether it’s extremely high operational tempo or opportunities in the private sector.

Most we have known tend to separate due to constant orders, year after year. This drains a Marine. But Marines also stay in for follow-on assignments like the promise of advanced schools or additional training, like jump or survival, evasion, resistance and escape training.

Q. What do you think is misinterpreted about what life is like as an 0211?

A. We are not “spies,” this is not the wild West, and we cringe when applying Marines think this is an “alone and unafraid” style of assignment. Marine CI/human intel specialists do the best tactical human intelligence gathering in the Defense Department. If Marines want to know more, they should read Marine Corps Warfighting Publication 2-6.

Q. When working with other intelligence Marines, what are some of the qualities that make them good at what they do?

A. If a Marine has the mental toughness and is a genuine hard worker, they will be good at whatever their job field is. What makes a good intelligence Marine is being able to identify and incorporate all the intelligence disciplines, and incorporate all the information they gather to turn into intelligence. Hard work, dedication and the motivation to do better than yesterday is what makes an exceptional intelligence Marine.

Q. Describe a day-to-day view of what Marines considering a move to that field should expect.

A. CI/human intel Marines in a deployed environment often work 24/7, as opposed to being on shifts. An intel professional cannot determine when and where information will come from and arise. A large percentage of the workday is spent preparing for the next task, and then the follow on administrative requirements once the mission is complete.

Don’t expect 10 hours of sleep, two-hour chows or numerous physical training sessions while deployed. Expect to live, eat and sleep with your supported unit. Embrace the suck.

Garrison tempo is structured around the next assignment, whether it is with a Marine expeditionary unit, a deployment to U.S. Central Command, or for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

Q. What are some examples of the most rewarding missions in which you’ve participated?

A. Being a part of a task force to directly target the green-on-blue threat in Afghanistan. Building and developing an operation that directly contributed to a kinetic strike on a known “bad guy,” removing them from the battlefield. Grunts love it when things go boom — knowing you are a part of that is completely satisfactory.

Q. What do you find to be some of the biggest challenges?

A. The challenges range from policy stemming from Washington to a new commander who had a bad previous experience with intel Marines. Another challenge the Marine Corps will continue to face is the lack of retention of first-tour 0211s. Marines who spend 28 of their 36 months with an intel battalion deployed, on temporary assignment duty or otherwise training in another part of the world will continue to get out after their first tour.

Q. How do you hope to use the skills you have gained as an intel Marine once you leave the Corps?

A. Being able to maintain a high-level security clearance is always beneficial in the civilian sector.

Most of all, the knowledge gained throughout a career in the Marine Corps intelligence field leads to critical thinking and self-motivation.

Q. Do you plan to stay in the Corps for the long haul, or do you plan to use your time in the Corps as a springboard for something else?

A. I plan to stay in because the job satisfaction currently outweighs the challenges and hardships our MOS faces.

Q. How is changing technology playing a role in what you do?

A. Technology will continue to aid and hinder our field. It’s a two-way street for both the Marine Corps and potential adversaries.

Competent and capable 0211s can do their job successfully with a pen and paper. Technology is a useful tool to assist in operations, but should not be used as a determining factor for mission accomplishment.

Q. What else should Marines who are considering a move to intel know?

A. Don’t expect a cakewalk; expect to work hard and be challenged. Staff NCOs, — staff sergeants specifically — dominate the MOS. There are no lance corporal 0211s, so staff NCOs should expect to do working parties. Staff sergeants will take orders from other staff sergeants, so have a thick skin. The only place whiners go is the rear when teams deploy. Do your job well and you will be fine.■

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