By Sgt. 1st Class John Etheridge
128th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
Several hundred Soldiers from around the country and around the world arrived at Camp Williams, Utah to participate in the annual military intelligence exercise Panther Strike, June 2, 2019.
Panther Strike is a combined exercise sponsored by the 300th Military Intelligence Brigade, Utah Army National Guard, designed to train and evaluate each of the military intelligence specialties to include human intelligence, signal intelligence, geospatial intelligence, and counter intelligence at the team, brigade and division levels. The exercise is comprised of Soldiers from the Army, Army National Guard and Army Reserves, as well as Soldiers from Canada and the United Kingdom.
“Panther Strike is important because it is one of the few exercises in the country where we have a very robust footprint of military intelligence Soldiers and support structure together at one place,” said LTC Kiley Laughlin, commander of the 223rd MI Battalion, California Army National Guard, the host and command unit for this year’s exercise.
“[Panther Strike] emulates a multi-component, multi-discipline, multi-echelon, brigade-level intelligence exercise that comes with an external validation.”
Although the exercise is large and encompasses the whole military intelligence spectrum, the key focus is on the basic tasks and integration of the different specialties.
“I would like to go back to the basics and fundamentals and have the Soldiers practice and reinforce their individual and collective training tasks for whatever intel profession they have,” said Laughlin. “And more importantly integration, when you take that knowledge and information and do it alongside the other disciplines, the training value is maximized and becomes even more exponential.”
In the past, the exercise focused on training for a counter insurgency or COIN strategy. Starting last year, the exercise changed focus to train for an enemy with similar capabilities to the U.S. military known as a peer-to-peer foe.
The first week, Soldiers go through in-processing followed by demanding classroom training in their various intelligence specialties to prepare them for the field training portion of the exercise.
Due to the new focus on a peer-to-peer foe, the classroom training was especially important for the military intelligence Soldiers.
“We haven’t captured a peer nation platoon on the battlefield in a conventional situation in a really long time,” said Staff Sgt. Dan Mealy, an instructor with the HUMINT training team. “There have been new laws and regulations added to interrogations and screenings. We need to adapt to the modern world so we are teaching them the way to perform it effectively, correctly, and legally for tomorrow’s war.”
The second week the intelligence Soldiers put to the test what they learned in the classroom during a week-long field training exercise. The field portion includes an intensive 48-hour period of constant operations where the military intelligence specialties work together to provide information to the commander.
“Bringing people out to an environment like this, you have to get out of your comfort zone, and you have to think creatively, and critically. It’s about problem solving on the fly,” said Staff Sgt. Kurtiss Erickson with the 341st MI BN from the state of Washington, about the Panther Strike field exercise. “We need to maximize efficiency, the way we do that is by getting out here and seeing what works and what doesn’t work in a field environment.”
Another emphasis for the exercise is working with international partners. This year’s Panther Strike has a large contingent of military intelligence Soldiers from Canada and the United Kingdom.
“As we continue into the 21st century, and we continue to tackle and address more complex situations both here and abroad, I think we become more holistically reliant on our partners whether they are British or Canadian,” said Laughlin. “When we deploy in a coalition environment, what we learn here at Panther Strike can prepare our Soldiers for that kind of environment in the future.”
Although Panther Strike is only two weeks, its large-scale and fast operation tempo offers the military intelligence community a lot in terms of integration and the sharing of ideas and tactics.
“Panther Strike is special because we do so much in so little time. It’s very grandiose,” said Laughlin. We have an environment here at Camp Williams where people can come from all over the country and the world and exchange ideas about tactics and protocols and it is something that we can really use and learn from to continue to improve ourselves in the future.”
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