Photo Information

British soldiers of the 5, 6, and 7 Military Intelligence Battalions, 1 Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance Brigade, board buses to return to the barracks at the conclusion of Exercise Phoenix Odyssey on Sept. 17, 2014. The week-long field exercise, conducted alongside Marines of 2nd Intelligence Battalion, II Marine Expeditionary Force, provided scenario driven tests of their ability to integrate intelligence practices. The two forces have been training in a Military Operations in Urban Terrain facility on Camp Lejeune since the field portion began Sept 11, 2014.

Photo by Sgt. Paul Robbins

Marines, British Army complete Exercise Phoenix Odyssey

19 Sep 2014 | Sgt. Paul Robbins Jr.

After nearly three days of academic collaboration in a classroom setting, U.S. Marines and British Army soldiers dove in to a week-long scenario to test their skills in bilateral military intelligence operations.

Marines of 2nd Intelligence Battalion, II Marine Expeditionary Force, and British Army Reserve soldiers of the 5, 6, and 7 Military Intelligence Battalions, 1 Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance Brigade, completed a field training event named Exercise Phoenix Odyssey from Sept. 11-18, 2014.

The scenario placed the two units inside a Military Operations in Urban Terrain training facility with role players, provided by 2nd Intel Bn., to facilitate a realistic setting. The bilateral force simulated operating in a foreign country and responding to issues such as: humanitarian aid in response to a viral outbreak, civil unrest due to living conditions, domestic terrorism, and civil war.

The decorated urban setting of the MOUT town, meticulously detailed scenario, and interactive role players gave the combined force of intelligence operatives a realistic setting to apply their skills.

“The realism was outstanding,” said Sgt. George P. H. Colquhoun, a military intelligence operative and team medic with 5 MI Bn., 1 ISR, and a native of Wallsend, England. “Considering our current operations, the training value of this scenario in a MOUT facility is an opportunity we wouldn’t want to miss.”

Each day brought new challenges as the bilateral force shared and applied their preferred techniques to a variety of situations. Much of the practical application was done during tactical patrols or the manning of security checkpoints. Some of the major skill sets applied included: the process of gathering intelligence during operations, known as tactical site exploitation; conducting electronic surveillance using ground sensors; battlefield trauma and combat medicine; and intelligence analysis and exploitation.

The entire effort was coordinated through a combined command center, referred to as the intelligence operations center. As the two forces worked together to solve problems and accomplish their missions, they were able to learn from the distinct differences in their counterpart's approach. The Marines demonstrated advanced intelligence processes based in technology and coordinated teams, while the British soldiers demonstrated the effectiveness of the individual intelligence analyst.

“We have fewer personnel, so each operative has to do a little more than just their piece,” said Maj. Paul Gittins, officer commanding of operations support company, 5 MI Bn., 1 ISR Brigade. “Individual analysts working alongside other analysts to solve intelligence problems, that’s the way it is going to happen on the ground.”

Through detailed briefings, observation and technique applications alongside each other, the Marines and their British counterparts improved their interoperability for future operations. Additionally, the individual Marine and soldier came away with new perspectives to apply in their field of expertise.

“Working with them helped us realize how much you can learn from classic intelligence techniques,” said Cpl. Johnny J. Japa, an intelligence analyst with 2nd Intel Bn., and a native of Reading, Pa. “I’m going to take a lot of this knowledge with me as we go forward.”

While the exercise helped both forces strengthen their abilities in field intelligence operations, the British unit also earned an important qualification. The training will count towards the 16 days of field work the reservists must complete annually to qualify as “trained soldiers.”

The units also recognize the utility of the training, given the frequency with which British and U.S. forces cooperate internationally. To continue the benefits and strengthen the bond of the two forces, planning is underway for a reciprocal training exercise to take place in the United Kingdom in the fall of 2015.

“Everything we’ve done in recent years has been part of a coalition, and the coalition partner of choice is the U.S.,” said Gittins, a native of Durham, England. “And for us, because we match more closely as expeditionary forces, the Marine Corps is our organization of choice.”