Outside the Wire: Intelligence analysts in Army’s 1st SFAB get career-building opportunity
By Staff Sgt. Sierra A. Melendez, 50th Public Affairs Detachment
FORT BENNING, Ga. (Nov. 26, 2017) – Intelligence analysts, or 35Fs, play a critical role in determining changes in enemy capabilities, vulnerabilities, and probable courses of action. The intelligence analyst is primarily responsible for supervising, coordinating and participating in the analysis, processing, and distribution of strategic and tactical intelligence.
“Our job is to think like the bad guy,” said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Robert J. Altizer, a Peachtree City, Georgia, native and senior intelligence analyst for the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade at Fort Benning, Georgia. “We try to figure out their next move before it happens in order to better assist the commander in his or her decision-making process.”
For typical conventional units, this crucial skill is almost entirely done behind the scenes – in front of computers and behind keyboards both in garrison and combat operations.
Nevertheless, for 35Fs assigned to the 1st SFAB, a desk job is a far stretch from the tasks they will perform.
“This is an opportunity intelligence analysts will take with them throughout the entirety of their career,” said Altizer. “Typically our job is behind a computer. Volunteering for the SFAB is a chance for a lot of intelligence analysts [who] don’t necessarily enjoy being cooped up to actually go out on missions and patrols. They’ll be out there with their teams, pulling security and involved in key leader engagements.
“That’s not something many 35Fs have the opportunity to do,” continued Altizer.
The mission set of the newly established unit is unique. Security force assistance brigades are formations specially trained and built to enable combatant commanders to accomplish theater security objectives by training, advising, assisting, accompanying and enabling allied and partnered indigenous security forces.
While advise-and-assist missions are nothing new to the Army, the creation of the SFABs alleviates the enduring effort on brigade combat teams and allows them to focus on frontline threats.
This distinctive mission set is especially idiosyncratic for intelligence analysts who wear two hats in their adviser role.
“We know some of the challenges our counterparts have are specifically with how to leverage intelligence to drive operations or execute targeting and how to incorporate intelligence into combined arms maneuver,” said Maj. Todd J. Harkrader, the 1st SFAB intelligence officer in charge.
Harkrader went on to explain how this creates a dire need for 35Fs in the 1st SFAB’s combat adviser teams.
“It’s something our military does very well but some partner nations struggle with,” continued Harkrader. “That’s why we’re placing such a huge emphasis on recruitment of analysts because of how valuable they are on advisory teams at the battalion, brigade and corps levels.”
Harkrader said he strongly encourages intelligence analysts interested in getting more information on the 1st SFAB to contact their branch manager. He extolled the professional environment of the SFAB and praised the potential for career development, promotion opportunities and most importantly the potential to leave a tangible and enduring impact on host nations.
“It’s a remarkable opportunity to come over and be a part of something incredibly rewarding,” said Harkrader, who previously participated in intelligence security cooperation activities while assigned in Europe. “When you’re able to see our foreign counterparts apply what you’ve taught them and operate autonomously because of the tools you provided them – it’s really gratifying.”
Training opportunities are in abundance for 35Fs assigned to the SFAB. The ability to cross-train between different disciplines and venues across the intelligence community is something most intelligence analysts don’t experience in the Army.
Staff Sgt. Justin Seeley, an Auburn, Georgia, native and intelligence noncommissioned officer in charge for 2nd Battalion, 1st SFAB, vouched for the unmatched experience as a junior NCO.
“NCOs should be interested in joining the SFAB because of the opportunities available to grow in their knowledge base and gain experiences,” said Seeley. “The opportunity to expand [military occupational specialty] skill sets in addition to cross-train is invaluable to any Soldier’s tool bag.”
All 35Fs interested in joining the SFAB should contact the Military Intelligence and Language Branch at (502) 613-5907. Although there is currently only one SFAB activated, the addition of five additional specialized units have been approved and will be activated in the future.
“For me, it has just been the incredible group of professionals that you get to work with,” said Harkrader. “Without a doubt, you’re not going to find this anywhere else in the Army. I know I haven’t in my 14 years of experience.”
To read this story as it appears on the Army News Service, visit www.army.mil/article/197163.