US Army Lt. Col. Marcus D. O’Neal, commander of the new 103rd Intelligence and Electronic Warfare Battalion, salutes during a ceremony marking the activation of the unit on Fort Stewart, Georgia, Sept. 16, 2022. The 103rd IEW Battalion will support 3rd Infantry Division by providing multi-domain intelligence collection capabilities to the division headquarters. US Army photo by Spc. Duke Edwards.
FORT STEWART, Ga. — When US Army Col. David Violand thinks about the war in Ukraine, he sees a conflict where information is a weapon and controlling it “is very difficult,” and that’s going to be true of all future battles, too.
So the Pentagon spun up the 103rd Intelligence and Electronic Warfare Battalion here.
It’s going to resemble Violand’s 525th Expeditionary Military Intelligence Brigade in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, but it’s designed to directly help the 3rd Infantry Division achieve “information dominance” over its enemies.
“It's an absolute game changer,” Violand told reporters here on Cottrell Field on Sept. 16. “We bring capacity that does not exist inside of the division itself. It gives the division commander a new set of collection capacity, and analytical capacity to better understand what the enemy looks like and how he can apply his resources to get after defeating that enemy.”
US Army Col. David E. Violand, commander of 525th Expeditionary Military Intelligence Brigade, passes the colors of the 103rd Intelligence and Electronic Warfare Battalion to its new commander, Lt. Col. Marcus O'Neal, at Fort Stewart, Georgia, on Sept. 16, 2022. The 103rd IEW Battalion will support 3rd Infantry Division by providing multi-domain intelligence collection capabilities to the division headquarters. Photo by Noelle Wiehe/Coffee or Die Magazine.
It’s back to the future for an Army that eliminated divisional military intelligence battalions 18 years ago, thanks to a Pentagon push to create a more modular and interchangeable force structure.
Although the name is a little different, the 103rd IEW Battalion's roots go back to the 103rd Military Intelligence Battalion, which was formed in 1981 to stitch together the 852nd Army Security Agency Company and the 3rd Military Intelligence Company.
In 2003, soldiers in the 103rd helped seize Iraq’s Saddam International Airport and the restive city of Fallujah before rotating back to Fort Stewart.
Since then, a high-tech boom in artificial intelligence and other technologies has allowed battalion-sized units to quickly analyze a flood of human intelligence, signals data, and geospatial information from satellites.
US Army Pfc. Alexander Rankin, a geospatial intelligence imagery analyst assigned to the 525th Expeditionary Military Intelligence Brigade from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, participates in Warfighter Exercise 22-4 at the Mission Training Complex, Fort Stewart, Georgia, on April 11, 2022. US Army photo by Sgt. Robert P Wormley III.
That’s why Violand predicts the roughly 190 soldiers in the reborn 103rd will give the Rock of the Marne a “better warfighting capacity to understand the enemy, track the enemy, find, fix, locate, and kill the enemy, if necessary.”
“And so you're leveraging,” he said. “Leveraging technology, leveraging AI capabilities, partnering machine and man to understand and kind of get through that data to get to those critical nuggets of information that actually can translate to decisions. That's hard work.”
The reactivated battalion’s commander, Lt. Col. Marcus O’Neal, said all of this was just another sign of a modernizing Army.
“We're always looking forward, looking at potential threats that are out there,” O’Neal said. “We're constantly assessing. We are planning to continue to look at that, and then see where our gaps are. And when we see that we have gaps, we adjust for it.”
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Noelle is a former staff writer for Coffee or Die through a fellowship from Military Veterans in Journalism. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and interned with the US Army Cadet Command. Noelle also worked as a civilian journalist covering several units, including the 75th Ranger Regiment on Fort Benning, before she joined the military as a public affairs specialist.
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