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News | April 22, 2019

A training program like no other

By Brian Murphy, DIA Public Affairs

In order to support the warfighter, the Defense Intelligence Agency plans, manages and executes intelligence operations during peacetime, crisis and war.

DIA deploys every day, which requires sending people into harm’s way. But before a single intelligence professional packs their bags and boards an aircraft, DIA needs to know these dedicated individuals are trained and ready to handle whatever adversity might come their way.

For members of DIA’s Strategic Expeditionary Group and Global Security Division, that assurance comes via their one-of-a-kind training program.

“When the Global Security Division stood up to support SEG professionals, they were all based at the headquarters in Washington, D.C,” said Christy Stephens, chief of the Enterprise Learning Center, Joint Base San Antonio. “They [GSD personnel] typically went through the traditional training an analyst or an administrative officer who was going to deploy might take, but they weren't going through the same training SEG personnel were. There was different training for different people who were ultimately going and doing the same mission.”

Now, SEG and GSD personnel conduct their training at the same place at the same time, which ensures everyone is held to the same standard. Just as importantly, it creates a bond with the team members who might not have known each other previously, but will be asked to work closely together during a deployment.

The shared experience of pre-deployment training and seeing how each person reacts to stressful situations the scenarios put them in helps to create a team mentality before the deployment even begins. The intent is to develop respect, trust and support in a low-threat environment, which translates to a more effective team once they’re deployed.

 “For the training evolution, you have to work as a team to accomplish it,” said Crystal G., a staff officer with SEG. “When you go through an experience like that, team building is going to happen.”

There is no such thing as a cookie-cutter intelligence professional, meaning there are times when a former Special Forces soldier ends up deploying with a newly hired analyst who recently graduated from college. Needless to say, their backgrounds and experiences differ drastically, which can create a challenge when it comes to training.

“Our training program brings everybody up to a common level, so that now you don't have to worry if you’re deploying to support a person who has never touched a firearm,” Stephens said. “We put everyone through extensive training, so they are proficient by the time they actually go out to do the job.”

Shortly after arriving at SEG or GSD, new employees go through Initial Skills Training, which includes land navigation; Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape training; an introduction to firearms; as well as a deep dive into the gear and communication tools they are issued during a deployment.

From there, SEG and GSD professionals go into Advanced Field Training, a 17-day program of intensive training, which includes firearms, driving, medical and more. Once the employee completes all required training, they’re ready and able to deploy.

When these individuals deploy, the cycle doesn’t stop there. Once they return from that mission, they meet with instructors to share insights into what they saw during their deployment to ensure everything SEG teaches is as current and up-to-date as possible.

 “The best thing about our training is that it’s constantly evolving to meet tactics, techniques and procedures that we see in the battlefield,” Crystal said. “Each one of us, when we come back from a deployment, we meet with the training office and provide our after-actions review, saying, ‘These are the new threats. These are the new things we are seeing.’”

Thanks to this progressive approach, the training program is constantly evolving. With each deployment, these intelligence professionals gain real-world experience through on-the-job training. When the time comes for that employee to deploy again, they don’t go through the same exact training a second time.

“With a lot of programs, you go through it five times and nothing ever changes,” Stephens said. “That’s not the case with our training program. As your skills progress, the training progresses.”

Ultimately, what makes this program truly unique is that it is designed to work with employees on a one-on-one basis, ensuring each and every person who goes through each cycle receives exactly what they need to be mission ready.

“You can really just focus on work and the tasks at hand,” said Crystal. “The way the training is conducted now really gets you in a good mindset for whatever comes next.”