NEWS | April 16, 2021

Dagger Forge III trains troops to become elite Signals Intelligence Lethal Soldiers

By David DeKunder 502nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

The UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter descended before landing in a remote area as several troops got out and made sure the perimeter was safe from the enemy they were about to engage in.

As they quickly got off the helicopter, the troops went to the ground and drew their weapons, just in case the enemy might appear. After securing the area, the helicopter took off, ascending into the sky.

The force, consisting of eight members, then proceeded to set up equipment, communicating with another team of troops in the field.

The troops then spread out into the wooded area to find the enemy. Their mission: gather intelligence on the enemy, locate and capture them and seize any intelligence equipment and cache of weapons they may have.

This scene was part of a signals intelligence field training event known as Dagger Forge III, conducted April 5-9 at Joint Base San Antonio-Camp Bullis by the 717th Military Intelligence Battalion, part of the 470th Military Intelligence Brigade at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston.

Dagger Forge III trained 40 active duty members, who underwent physical, technical and tactical training to become Signals Intelligence Lethal Soldiers.

“This event trains them to be well-rounded and tactical SIGINT collectors,” said Lt. Col. Steve Burroughs, 717th MIB commander. “It enables them to be certified as SIGINT Lethal Soldiers and they can do any mission we expect of our tactical ground SIGINT collectors.”

Burroughs said trainees’ physical endurance is tested by undergoing the Army Combat Fitness Test to ensure they are combat fit and ready for any scenario they will encounter in battle. Additionally, the servicemembers ruck march a total of 47 miles with their full kit and gear.

The trainees undergo battle drills where they learn warrior tasks, including how to fight if they are compromised with the intent of using their signals intelligence, or SIGINT, equipment to find and fix the enemy, how to survive in the field, medical training and technical SIGINT training. The trainees are then tested on their technical expertise and knowledge.

To complete their training, service members participate in a simulated exercise in which they are placed in four teams consisting of six to eight members, who are flown by helicopter to a remote location where they must find and engage an enemy force of 20 fighters in the field.

Each of the teams are briefed on the enemy and their positions, with each team developing their own plan on how they will go about capturing the enemy, seizing the enemy’s intelligence equipment and a weapons cache.

Dagger Forge III was a joint exercise consisting of active duty members from the Army, Coast Guard and Marines.

“The unique advantage of having it being multi-component as well as joint services is that’s how we fight in combat,” Burroughs said. “We’re never going to do anything alone anymore, so having the Marines with us, who are a significant combat force for the ground as well as the Coast Guard, they are taking on more and more signals intelligence missions to defend our nation across the globe. So, having that team together helps us to fight as a team of teams to win our nation’s wars.”

Spc. Charity, 717th MIB SIGINT team lead, said the training she underwent during Dagger Forge III was challenging, including when she had to conduct a briefing for commanders in planning and executing a simulated field exercise.

 “It was very challenging but very informative,” Charity said. “It helps us with retaining our information from what we’ve learned and also learning how to create a mission and learning how our different levels operate in order to carry out or execute the missions.”

Petty Officer 3rd Class Tristan, Coast Guard Cryptologic Unit Texas intelligence specialist, said he viewed the training as an opportunity to work with his SIGINT counterparts in the Army.

“It’s been a great experience working with these guys and trading tradecraft, seeing how I can help and what new stuff I can learn about how the Army conducts business,” Tristan said.

The Dagger Forge training event, which started in 2020, is conducted three times a year with the next training exercise scheduled for September.

(Editor's Note: Some last names have been removed for security reasons.)