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Intelligence unit joins fold again

Reactivation of 109th Military Intelligence Battalion fills out new 201st Battlefield Surveillance Brigade

Published: 01:57PM October 16th, 2008
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Phil Sussman/Northwest Guardian

Lt. Col. Robert A. Snyder, Jr., 109th MI Commander, stands in front of the honor guard during the 109th Military Intelligence Battalion activation ceremony Oct. 9, 2008.

A unit with a proud history officially returned to Fort Lewis last week.

The 109th Military Intelligence Battalion was reactivated during an Oct. 9 ceremony at Watkins Field. Formerly assigned to 9th Division, the 109th MI Bn. was reborn as part of the 201st Battlefield Surveillance Brigade, one of three such brigades in the Army.

“This is an important moment in the life of our new battlefield surveillance brigade, which is gaining the second of its two military intelligence battalions today,” said Col. Robert P. Whalen Jr., 201st BfSB commander, during the ceremony. “It’s great to see you again 109th. Welcome back.”

The other two battlefield surveillance brigades are the 525th at Fort Bragg and the 504th at Fort Hood. According to Lt. Col. Robert A. Snyder Jr., who assumed command of the 109th, the 525th will soon depart Iraq and be replaced by the 504th.

“They’re going in as we speak,” said Snyder of the 504th. “And then we will replace them about this time next year. We’ve got roughly a year.”

Snyder will build the 109th, whose motto is “Seek and Disrupt,” from scratch at Fort Lewis.

“Our unit, because they’re bringing it on quickly ... there’s a lot of things we don’t have,” Snyder said.

“It’s like building an airplane while you’re flying it.”

Snyder recently held a newcomers’ briefing for 77 Soldiers, which brought the battalion’s strength to 110 on the way to an eventual end state of 290.

“We’re building,” Snyder said. “When I came in this summer, I was the ninth person to sign into the battalion.” The 109th previously was in existence from 1981 to 1991, so its colors were uncased for the first time in 18 years at the ceremony.

“After speaking with many of the (109th) alumni over the past few weeks, I ... found out that this MI battalion was not only leading the 9th Infantry Division but also leading the Army in battlefield deception operations and electronic warfare during the Cold War era,” Snyder said.

Snyder pointed out that his battalion will do human-intelligence and signals-intelligence collection. He added that the 109th “will be decentralized across the battlespace, covering different missions for different maneuver commanders everywhere.”

The 109th will likely have Soldiers in different geographic areas simultaneously.

“The only thing I can do is build the centralized concept in training and then do decentralized execution,” Snyder said.

“The things that I focus on are tactical and technical proficiency.”

That emphasis on team-building fits perfectly with the I Corps battlefield imperatives, in which teamwork is the essence of network-enabled fighting and adaptive leaders.

Snyder said he and 109th Command Sgt. Major Angel M. Chavez have discussed the importance of team chemistry to the battalion’s success.

“We think, over time, that we’re going to manipulate and move people here and there to get the right chemistry,” Snyder said.

Whalen noted that following 11 months of training, the 109th will deploy to assist other U.S. service members.

“At the end, these troops will earn the greatest privilege of all,” said Whalen, “the opportunity to save lives in combat by anticipating the enemy and by identifying danger before it strikes.”

Snyder conceded that building the battalion would be a challenging task and that he would ask a lot of his Soldiers. “We don’t have a lot of time,” Snyder said.

“It’s quite an honor. It really is. It’s a big job, and it’s going to be tough.”