JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO, Texas —
Soldiers in the 505th Military Intelligence Brigade introduced their unit to Air Force Gen. Lori Robinson, commander of U.S. Northern Command and the North American Aerospace Defense Command during her Feb. 2 visit to Joint Base San Antonio. In only 16 months, the brigade has grown tenfold and the Soldiers were excited about getting to share that news firsthand with their senior commander.
“It’s extremely significant because we are the theater intelligence brigade for Army North and U.S. Northern Command,” said Col. Dustin Shultz, 505th Military Intelligence Brigade commander. “We only activated about 16 months ago, so we are designed to support this area of operations and her coming here helps the Soldiers and civilians understand the significance of their role in supporting them.”
“It’s also significant for our Soldiers to see their senior commander,” added Command Sgt. Maj. Richard Hall.
The 505th Military Intelligence Brigade conducts theater-level multidiscipline intelligence collection and analysis operations to support the U.S. Army North preparation for unified land operations, conduct of security cooperation activities and force protection within the U.S. NORTHCOM area of responsibility to contribute to the defense and security of the United States and its interests.
Five temporary facilities were designed to ensure the brigade could operate at a minimal standard at JBSA-Camp Bullis, which predominantly consists of shooting ranges and training grounds.
“As we develop as a formation and get to fully operational, they look at potentially putting us on JBSA-Fort Sam Houston proper, but we do have basic capability and architecture to get after the mission that we’re designed to do,” Shultz said. “We do an extensive amount of training out here. In order to ensure that our Soldiers are ready, we have to make sure that we validate them so when they have not received all of their requisite training at their Army schools, we will do some on-the-job training and also have subject-matter experts come out and train our formations.”
Soldiers participating in this training have the opportunity to gain valuable experience and knowledge that will help them throughout their career.
“The Soldiers in this brigade have the opportunity to work and support an Army service component command,” said Lt. Col. Ivan Palacios, Brigade S3. “Those are lexicons or terminologies that you pick up when you’re a senior non-commissioned officer or you get to the field-grade level, so Soldiers from E-5 and up get to get exposure on how a feeder intelligence brigade supports an Army service component command that ultimately supports what we just saw in a four-star commander.
“That linkage there is an exposure to these Soldiers that will remain for the rest of their career,” Palacios said.
Meantime, many of these Soldiers helped stand up a unit that likely will stand the test of time.
“I think it’s really important to note the rapid expansion of the intelligence capability of the brigade,” said Steve Butler, Theater Ground Intelligence Center chief. “At the end of the last fiscal year, we had just a handful of intelligence Soldiers performing intelligence missions in this brigade. Today, we have 56-plus Soldiers dedicated to intelligence mission, as well as the rest of the support unit.
“We have on any given day at least 45 Soldiers producing intelligence supporting ARNORTH and NORTHCOM,” Butler continued. “We provide 24/7 intelligence and indications warning for ARNORTH, located at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston, co-located with the G2 and the ARNORTH commander, as well as fulltime support to the ARNORTH G2 analytic cell, supporting the ARNORTH commander.
“We have gone from really being a planning and preparing command in September to being an operational command today – in a very short period of time,” Butler said.
The brigade also exemplifies the concept of total force integration.
“We represent what the Chief of Staff of the Army is getting after: total force integration,” Shultz explained. “We have an enterprise of continuum of service. We have drilling Reservists one weekend a month. We have active-duty Soldiers assigned to us. We have civilians. We have AGR Soldiers, which are still Reservists but also on full time to support the readiness of the formation. Some of our Reservists are on long-time orders designed to support a mission.
“It shows that we can get after this and absolutely have our Soldiers represent the best of the Army and the best of their skill sets,” the brigade commander said.
Brigade deputy commander Lt. Col. Shawn Dodge is focused on unit readiness.
“My biggest priority is readiness and making sure that the Soldiers are ready for their mission,” Dodge said. “The senior leadership of all services have made it very clear to us that readiness is the No. 1 priority. That’s physical readiness, individual readiness, and now as we continue to develop, team readiness, and on a go. Really can’t get into the fight or do any of this stuff unless we’re ready, so really focusing on that.
“Also, as the deputy commander, really trying to establish tactics, techniques and procedures, or TTPs, and making routine actions routine,” Dodge said.
Palacios piggybacked on Dodge’s thoughts.
“Being the first active duty in a Reserve-heavy formation, it opens the eyes to an active-duty person what the Reserve TTPs are,” Palacios said. “It also creates linkages between the theater that we support – which is predominantly active – and linking Reserve world with active-duty world to create a unity of effort.”
“The most important thing to me is taking care of our Soldiers and civilians so they can do their mission,” Hall added.
Maj. Leticia Walpole applauded Shultz’s leadership for bringing “the best of the best together” and noted that “the brigade has built a really, really strong relationship with the generals in Mexico.”
Although there is talk of perhaps moving the brigade onto JBSA-Fort Sam Houston in downtown San Antonio in the future, some would just as soon stay at JBSA-Camp Bullis.
“I like all the wildlife and the hills,” Hall said. “This is not like the rest of San Antonio. It’s the beginning of the hill country.”
“I like walking in in the morning and hearing the machine-gun range going,” Butler added. “It makes me feel good.”