Military Intelligence: differences in starting earlier or later?

Poetic_Mind

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Good afternoon,

As a bit of background, I have always had an interest in the intelligence community and as a current ROTC cadet near the end of his third year, I have been interested in branching MI. I already understand that there are no guarantees about whether or not I will get MI as my branch. There is a lot that goes into accessions after I complete LDAC and when I initially scribble MI as my number one choice at the start of my fourth year. I have just kept it on my mind and one particular question arose that's been in my head for the past week or two.

I had a discussion with a professor on my campus that is familiar with many cadets that went on to become successful Army officers and many of which went MI. During our discussion, he asked me if I wanted to do MI and I said that I do. He then went on to tell me of his experience talking with other cadets interested in MI in his some fifteen years at our university and pointed out something peculiar about many of the cadets: many of them chose not to enter MI straight out of college, but begin MI after having experience in another branch.

His explanation was that with the nature of intelligence, it may be best to understand intelligence from the receiving end of those that use it out in the field rather than begin MI early without that experience. That made me curious and I've looked around to try and grasp the difference between starting a career in MI early and starting with a few years of another branch under one's belt. I am reaching out to the community of MI professionals here in Shadowspear and asking on your opinions on this. Who among you all began MI early and who entered MI from another branch? Are there any significant differences and what is beneficial/problematic with choosing to do one or the other?

For the class of seniors in my school prepared to commission in one month, there are four going MI and one among them that is branch detailing with MI beginning during his fourth year in the Army. The other three are starting MI straight out of college, so we have cadets doing both approaches of starting early and starting later in their careers.

Again, this has only been a thought for the past week or so. I wanted to read some insight directly from you all within the intelligence community.

Best Regards,
PM
 

AWP

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Marauder06 was an 11A before going over to MI. A friend of mine did the same thing only he went Signal after his Infantry days. Those two have done "okay" in their careers. ;)
 

Kraut783

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Speaking from the enlisted standpoint, and IMHO only......I think you bring more to the table in the MI field when you have had a prior MOS. You get to see how MI can help or hurt from the other side of the table.
 

SpitfireV

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I can't speak for the US Army so I'll talk in generalities using my own experience.

Years ago in my old organisation, they used to hire intel analysts directly. This has benefits because it means you can poach- I mean, hire- people directly that have experience. However I found it meant a disconnect between those analysts and the people who had started working the actual job because those analysts didn't know what it was like, say, to tip out a 3000kg Tongan godzilla who only wants to rip your throat out and rip down the walls of the building. This then results in some bad blood when they ask stupid questions that they'd know the answer to if they'd worked the floor beforehand.
 

Brill

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IMO, time spent doing anything other than MI is time that could have been used to sharpen the MI toolset. Hell, I've been doing grinding away since '89 and I'm far from being sharp (so much to learn, so little time).
 

Marauder06

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Marauder06 was an 11A before going over to MI. A friend of mine did the same thing only he went Signal after his Infantry days. Those two have done "okay" in their careers. ;)

Yeah, but I'll "never be successful in SOF." ;)

Poetic_Mind What you're describing is the branch detail program. The branches that need more lieutenants (like Infantry) pair up with branches that need more captains (like MI) and let young lieutenants "branch" one branch but "detail" to another for a certain period. There are different lengths of time for different branches, but I think the usual length is 2-4 years. In my case, I was branched MI but detailed to the Infantry for four years. I'm glad I was an Infantry officer, but at the end of four years I was ready to do something different, which is about the time I reverted to my control branch.

While I think that there are some useful things to be learned by serving in another branch first, I think the best way to "be" something is to do it as often as possible. Therefore, I tend to agree with Lindy.

The main thing that a detail might get for you is credibility. If you walk into your first MI assignment sporting an EIB or CIB and a Ranger tab from having spent some time in the Infantry, it's instant (although not permanent) credibility with the shooters. Something else to consider is that you might be more successful getting either Infantry or MI (which are usually two of the most-sought-after branches) by requesting a branch detail. I did not have the grades for either Infantry or MI when I was going through ROTC, I think the reason I got to do both was because I requested a detail.
 

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The main thing that a detail might get for you is credibility. If you walk into your first MI assignment sporting an EIB or CIB and a Ranger tab from having spent some time in the Infantry, it's instant (although not permanent) credibility with the shooters.

I've seen this from 18-series guys and would add that, while I believe this an advantage over non-tabbed MI guys, it can be a distractor too in that all the "bling" is seen vice the technical background.

"My job is to find the enemy so you don't have to.":p
 

Marauder06

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Part of the problem I saw in Group was that a lot (if not most) of the S2s are former infantry, on their first intel experience straight out of the transition course and the intel advanced course. Total MI experience: absolutely zero. So while there was some initial excitement about a guy who has "walked the walk" tactically, it doesn't always translate into a good S2. Sometimes it's like having a more mature 2LT.
 

BravoOne

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IMO, time spent doing anything other than MI is time that could have been used to sharpen the MI toolset. Hell, I've been doing grinding away since '89 and I'm far from being sharp (so much to learn, so little time).

I MUST concur. Speaking from the enlisted side I do not care for what happens when some NCO comes to MI into a leadership position straight from reclass school. They are really behind the 8 ball and those under them look at them and shake their head at a lot of things. Everyone expects an MI LT. to be deep in the learning process but their job is different as managers. NCOs need to KNOW how to DO the job and that takes time.
 

Crusader74

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Do Officers do exactly the same MI course(s) as NCO's ? How many are there?
 

Marauder06

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There are specific courses based on rank (e.g. basic training, Officer's Basic Course), others based on duty description (e.g. G2X course), still others for special skills (e.g. ASOC) that are not rank-specific.
 

Crusader74

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There are specific courses based on rank (e.g. basic training, Officer's Basic Course), others based on duty description (e.g. G2X course), still others for special skills (e.g. ASOC) that are not rank-specific.

Cheers Mara.
 

Poetic_Mind

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I MUST concur. Speaking from the enlisted side I do not care for what happens when some NCO comes to MI into a leadership position straight from reclass school. They are really behind the 8 ball and those under them look at them and shake their head at a lot of things. Everyone expects an MI LT. to be deep in the learning process but their job is different as managers. NCOs need to KNOW how to DO the job and that takes time.

That would be what worries me if I were to branch detail, should I choose that option next September. My question would go out to someone like Marauder06 who was detailed infantry and then went MI. Sir, how far behind the 8 ball do you think you were? Lately, I've been hearing that MI just doesn't take a whole lot of 2LTs, but like to branch detail their guys because there are more open spots at the CPT level than anything else.
 

Marauder06

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That would be what worries me if I were to branch detail, should I choose that option next September. My question would go out to someone like Marauder06 who was detailed infantry and then went MI. Sir, how far behind the 8 ball do you think you were? Lately, I've been hearing that MI just doesn't take a whole lot of 2LTs, but like to branch detail their guys because there are more open spots at the CPT level than anything else.

Captain is the numerically superior rank in the entire Army; more officers are captains than any other rank. MI needs far more captains than 2LTs, hence the branch detail. Win-win for the combat arms and combat support branches.

My own career is not a good example because I didn't have what I considered my first "no shit" intel job until I was a very senior captain. Most of my career has either been as an infantry officer in an infantry unit, in a direct leadership job, or in SOF, where I had some non-traditional intel jobs.

If you branch detail, as long as you realize that you're operating at a deficit when you report in to your first intel gig, and you do something to mitigate it in advance, you'll be fine. Some branch detail officers do a spectacular job in their first intel gig, others go down in flames. Most of the latter were guys whose ego didn't permit them to make the mental transition from "supported" to "supporting." Additionally, intel work can be exceedingly mentally difficult sometimes. Guys who excel physically aren't always the same ones who excel mentally. And those who are both physically and mentally excellent make the jump over to SF and we never see them in the MI ranks anyway ;)
 

BravoOne

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" intel work can be exceedingly mentally difficult sometimes"

...despite all the military intelligence jokes floating around this is very much true. Its also a job that can make you/intel the turd in the punch bowl very easily if you dont have your stuff together as we have seen in recent years due to a few critical errors made by the National Intelligence Community.
 

moobob

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MI is very enlisted/warrant-centric. I think a lot of O's that branch directly into MI get disenchanted when they report to a unit and end up the battalion maintenance officer or the S-2 of an Air Defense Artillery unit that literally does nothing.

The vast majority of intel jobs for officers involve a lot of briefing other people's work. There are exceptions that aren't really up for discussion.
 

x SF med

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Yeah, but I'll "never be successful in SOF." ;) But you ate in an SOF DFAC once, right? And issued some analysis for an operation... :-":D

Poetic_Mind What you're describing is the branch detail program. The branches that need more lieutenants (like Infantry) pair up with branches that need more captains (like MI) and let young lieutenants "branch" one branch but "detail" to another for a certain period. There are different lengths of time for different branches, but I think the usual length is 2-4 years. In my case, I was branched MI but detailed to the Infantry for four years. I'm glad I was an Infantry officer, but at the end of four years I was ready to do something different, which is about the time I reverted to my control branch.

While I think that there are some useful things to be learned by serving in another branch first, I think the best way to "be" something is to do it as often as possible. Therefore, I tend to agree with Lindy.

The main thing that a detail might get for you is credibility. If you walk into your first MI assignment sporting an EIB or CIB and a Ranger tab from having spent some time in the Infantry, it's instant (although not permanent) credibility with the shooters. Something else to consider is that you might be more successful getting either Infantry or MI (which are usually two of the most-sought-after branches) by requesting a branch detail. I did not have the grades for either Infantry or MI when I was going through ROTC, I think the reason I got to do both was because I requested a detail.

Good points Mara. I was getting ready to Early Commission before I withdrew from USAR Control Group - I was going to get Infantry with an initial detail to FA for 2 years... but I got religion and an SF contract and became an NCO.
 

Brill

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Good points Mara. I was getting ready to Early Commission before I withdrew from USAR Control Group - I was going to get Infantry with an initial detail to FA for 2 years... but I got religion and an SF contract and became an NCO.

I seriously do not understand why anyone would want to become an officer. No offense intended, but I personally do enjoy watching an inexperienced sailor/solider learn his trade and then become a proficient intel bubba. Teaching, coaching, and mentoring is the BEST part of my job. It's like a mustache with titties...only different. :D
 
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