CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. --
U.S. Marine Corps Counterintelligence/Human Intelligence, or CI/HUMINT, specialists with 1st Intelligence Battalion, I Marine Expeditionary Force Information Group, conducted a tactical exercise at the Infantry Immersion Trainer, Oct. 19, 2020.
The IIT is a training range designed to replicate a specific location where Marines could operate. This training is especially unique due to the involvement of contractors who act as role players that match the simulated environment.
CI/HUMINT specialists train to detect and deny terrorism, espionage, sabotage and subversion while gathering insight on the battlespace by using humans as intelligence receptors. This skillset allows Marines to make sound decisions during operations.
Infantrymen and Marines from other various military specialties within 1st Intelligence Battalion supported the CI/HUMINT Marines during the training.
Staff Sgt. Thomas Timmons, a CI/HUMINT specialist with 1st Intelligence Battalion, participated alongside the other Marines within the IIT.
Timmons said CI/HUMINT Marines are a versatile and educated force that are effective wherever they operate.
“We’re trained to the highest standard. We can operate in any environment, anytime, anywhere,” said Timmons. “Our main goal before we reach any operational environment, whichever it may be, in any country, is that we do extensive research on that environment.”
The exercise was a precursor to future deployments and emphasized a CI/HUMINT specialist’s purpose during an operation.
“Our role is to go out with security and intermingle with the population,” said Timmons.
During the exercise, as the Marines provided medical care and security to the area, they were required to communicate to locals with the help of interpreters. These interactions established a positive reputation within the community.
“It’s all about the hearts and minds. What is their perception of us? It’s very hard to operate in an environment that is hostile toward you,” said Timmons.
Lance Cpl. Anthony McCann, a rifleman with 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, a squad leader for the exercise, acknowledged how vital the role players were to the effectiveness of the training.
“The role players’ job is to immerse us into different types of scenarios to help us with actual environments that we might see on deployment,” said McCann. “If we didn’t have the role players here, it would not be as effective at all.”
As the Marines provided humanitarian assistance, they also faced the threat of insurgents ambushing their base of operations or firing at them while on patrol. Simulated contact with the enemy refined the skills and tactics necessary for the Marines to function efficiently in combat.
“The Marines have learned a lot. They’ve gotten much better than they were when they got here,” McCann said. “Now I can take these guys and successfully complete a combat patrol.”
Timmons said the environment had a realism that can be stressful regardless of the fact that no one is actually in imminent danger.
“To be able to come into a simulated environment like this with realistic visual aesthetics, smells, sounds… A lot of the younger guys, to include myself at times, really see how overwhelming it can be to go on just a basic security patrol,” said Timmons.
Timmons explained that the rigors of training directly translate into confidently executing orders during operations.
“This environment induces necessary stress that we can learn how to function in; therefore when we actually get out there, we have something to fall back on,” said Timmons. “It really prepares us to move forward.”
Timmons commended the Marine Corps’ ability to use technological advances to its advantage as training continues to evolve.
“The training has advanced,” said Timmons. “This is the most realistic training that I’ve ever been involved in in the Marine Corps.”
Timmons said he wants to inform others about the mission of CI/HUMINT and understand how they can leverage them to their full potential in support of unit efforts.
“At the end of the day we’re enablers,” said Timmons. “We’re here to enable those who are in a combat area to do their job.”
CI/HUMINT helps build the foundation for Marines to succeed abroad. The occupational field requires Marines that can conduct the efficient execution of duties necessary for mission accomplishment.
Recruiters determine a Marine’s capacity to serve within the field through a series of in- depth screenings to establish eligibility for a top -secret clearance. An applicant must also be the rank of corporal or sergeant due to entry only being available by a lateral move. Marines interested in joining CI/HUMINT are encouraged to contact a career planner for additional information.