Faced with growing threats, the Army on Wednesday stood up a military intelligence brigade to support operations in Africa.
The 207th Military Intelligence (Theater) Brigade was activated during a ceremony at Caserma Ederle in Vicenza, Italy. The newly created brigade will share an installation with U.S. Army Africa, its parent organization, and it is the first theater MI brigade dedicated solely to Africa.
The brigade was created to counter increased security threats on the continent and provide Army Africa and U.S. Africa Command with a theater MI brigade that's focused solely on African problem sets, according to information from the Army.
This includes conducting intelligence collection and exploitation to help disrupt transnational and trans-regional threats and promote stability on the continent.
"There's a variety of violent extremist groups throughout Africa," said Col. Timothy Higgins, the brigade commander.
In East Africa, the top priority is containing Al-Shabaab, a Somalia-based militant group with ties to al-Qaeda, while the threat in Central Africa is Islamic extremist group Boko Haram. Meanwhile, the Islamic State terror group is an emerging threat in the north.
The MI brigade also will support military-to-military engagements in an effort to grow partnerships with partner African countries, Higgins said.
"We're unique because it's the continent of Africa," Higgins said.
Military Intelligence soldiers place new unit patches on one another during the activation ceremony of 207th Military Intelligence Brigade on March 16 at Caserma Ederle, Italy. The brigade will serve as the Theater Intelligence Brigade for U.S. Africa Command.
Photo Credit: Staff Sgt. Lance Pounds/Army
As the brigade continues to build to its full operating capacity, it will work to counter challenges such as the vast size of its area of responsibility, which spans 54 countries, as well as the ability to move quickly across the continent, Higgins said.
"Also, there's a variety of languages and cultures in Africa, so that just also increases the challenges for the brigade," he said.
The medical threat also is another challenge, he said.
"We saw that with Ebola and USARAF's initial response to Operation United Assistance [in Liberia]," he said.
The brigade, which currently has about 450 soldiers but is set to grow to more than 760 by this time next year, has three battalions, Higgins said.
The 307th MI Battalion, a forward collection battalion, is stationed in Vicenza, and the 522nd MI Battalion, an operations battalion, is in Wiesbaden, Germany. The third battalion is an Army Reserve unit from Illinois, the 337th MI Battalion.
Once the brigade is fully operational, it will be able to provide "small, scalable teams to build partnerships, build capacity on the continent with our African partners," Higgins said.
"It's very exciting," Higgins said. "Africa is a very challenging location. We'll be working with not only partnered forces but coalition and U.S. allies and partners from different nations."