CAMP HANSEN, OKINAWA, JAPAN --
Prior to every successful military mission or operation, there is a period of time for gathering information, drawing up battle plans and weighing out options. Within the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, the S-2 holds this responsibility.
“We collect information, apply analysis and create intelligence that helps drive the commanding officer’s decision making cycle.” said Maj. David Rubio, officer in charge of the S-2.
When it comes to planning in the 31st MEU, every move or decision taken by the MEU was made on information supplied by the S-2.
As a vital part of the 31st MEU, this section is made-up of several smaller departments that keep the section ready with fresh information. Though the methods of collecting information used by the S-2 vary in nature, each department makes the MEU a contender in any scenario. The S-2 scours feedback from meteorological monitoring, topographic imagery, analytical imagery, both seismic and acoustic monitoring, and all-source analysis.
“We’re giving the operations what they need to get a leg up,” said Cpl. John Stone, a meteorological and oceanographic analyst forecaster with the 31st MEU.
Weather is a major factor in any mission. The MEU’s METOC analysts prevent the weather from being a surprise to Marines on the ground, but due to the amphibious nature of the MEU, their responsibilities are far greater. The 31st MEU, is the Marine Corps’ only continuously forward-deployed MEU, often finds itself on the shores of many different locations where the weather can change in a moment’s notice. The MEU’s METOC analysts must forecast weather for various scenarios and this need pushes the MEU to be flexible and lethal in operation.
In a mission setting, understanding the immediate area is a massive advantage for Marines in the field. Navigation of the mission area is integral to success. Without prior knowledge to the area of operation, Marines would be lost in the dark.
“We do a lot more than put data on a map,” says Staff Sgt. Dale Murray, production analysis chief with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit. “By gathering data and displaying it on a graphic, you reduce uncertainty over the battle space.”
The S-2’s geographic intelligence specialists lay out the land for the 31st MEU’s areas of operations. These areas research the roads, demographics, hydrology and geology of locations within and present the information to those operating in the mission space. This information can affect which routes or strategies will be used to achieve mission success.
Working hand-in-hand with the 31st MEU’s GEOINT specialists are imagery analysts. While GEOINT specialists research the layout of the land, imagery analysts focus on the specifics of the area of operation, exploiting the fine details, said Sgt. Alex Pena, an imagery analysis specialist for the 31st MEU.
The imagery analysts of the 31st MEU pull imagery from satellites, focusing on minute details embedded in the battle space. This attention to detail allows information as specific as which way a door swings in an enemy compound or which route hostiles frequent while on patrol. Imagery analysts provide information that paints a clearer picture of what the mission setting will look like.
Anything can happen during a mission. Hostile movements can be unpredictable and plans can turn upside down. To combat this friction, the S-2 has an arsenal of sensory and surveillance equipment that can track anything from tanks to personnel, according to Cpl. Cameron Parish, a ground sensor surveillance operator with the 31st MEU.
“We are here to confirm or deny enemy presence,” said Parish.
Attached to a multitude of tasks groups, ground sensor surveillance operators insert themselves into a mission area, scattering and camouflaging sensors and locating hostiles nearby. With ground sensor surveillance operators, S-2 continues to guide Marines out of uncertainty even in the middle of the mission.
Before any mission takes place for the 31st MEU, the early stages of planning are pieced together by the S-2’s team of all-source analysts. Each all-source analyst proves vital roles in building opportunities in getting the upper hand against adversaries.
Each all-source analyst brings a different perspective and outlook to the table. This unique aspect to their job allows them all to look at the same information from alternate angles. Being open-minded and thinking out of the box allows these Marines to pick out information from multiple outlets including various departments of the S-2, as well as news-media and open-source material. With this abundance of information, lines can be drawn and information analyzed. All-source analysts provide relevant general information prior to any mobilization, according to Cpl. Ryan Reinbolt, an all-source analyst with the 31st MEU.
The 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit has its challenges. To deal with them, the MEU looks to the S-2 for information on how to engage.