CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- Counterintelligence is key to current military operations world wide, but since the information gathered is of a classified nature, not many people outside the collectors and their higher headquarters really know about the effort put into this form of information gathering.
Though their numbers were few, the former six-man Human Intelligence Exploitation Team from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) made their efforts known in combat and peacekeeping operations during the MEU's eight-month deployment in 2003 by collecting and processing threat information from the areas the MEU would operate in. Their efforts not only played a key role in the success of the MEU, but also resulted in the team being named the best counterintelligence team in the Department of Defense.
When they returned from deployment, this small team of experts was awarded the DoD Counterintelligence Award for a Counterintelligence Team operating in support of military operations.
Though the official ceremony was held April 29 at the DOD Counterintelligence Conference in San Diego, Calif., the Marines were brought into the II Marine Expeditionary Force Commanding General’s Conference Room May 7 so that Lt. Gen. Henry Osman could personally congratulate them on a job well done. The general extolled the Marines for their efforts and emphasized how a few dedicated individuals can play a huge role in mission success.
The team attributed much of their success to their ability to work independently within the MEU commander’s guidance throughout the deployment.
“The latitude afforded to us by the commanding officer and intelligence officer allowed us to operate at our maximum capacity,” said Chief Warrant Officer-2 Duward Massey, the 26th MEU HET officer in charge.
Shortly after the MEU began its deployment, the unit was called into Mosul, Iraq, to secure the Mosul Airport. Two of the HET Marines were among the first ashore and served initially as the sole Marine counterintelligence personnel in Mosul.
Within 24 hours of arriving, the HET Marines discovered a weapons cache located in a strategically important factory less than 100 meters from the 26th MEU command post. More than 20 fully loaded AK-47s and numerous other rifles, small arms and ammunition were found.
This finding put the HET Marines on the fore of every operation in Mosul. As the MEU began to hand over the area of responsibility in Mosul to the 101st Airborne Division, the HET discovered that Ba’ath Party members were infiltrating the hundreds of people who gathered daily outside the gates of the regime’s former headquarters. These infiltrators were trying to incite violence against U.S. forces and collect intelligence on force vulnerabilities. The team's efforts denied the enemy their collection goals.
Through primarily a counterintelligence source, the Marines were also able to apprehend a Saddam Fedayeen saboteur who was spotted surveying the MEU command post. Upon searching the individual, he was found to have Improvised Explosive Device equipment in his possession that could have been used against the Marines at the command post.
Because of the Marines actions and the validity of their work, members of the 101st Airborne tapped into the team for information during the turn over between the Marines and Army until the last day the MEU was ashore.
Following the combat operations in Mosul, the team was sent out to conduct counterintelligence threat vulnerability assessments of liberty ports and training areas that included Italy, Malta, Djibouti, Albania and United Arab Emirates.
The last call for HET came when the MEU was ordered to Liberia to support peacekeeping operations there as former president Charles Taylor stepped down as president of the troubled country.
As the sole DOD counterintelligence collectors in country, the HET provided outstanding reporting to the Joint Task Force Liberia commander despite the fact that there were usually no more than two HET Marines on the ground at one time.
All told during the deployment, members of the team were able to provide counterintelligence and force protection support to the 26th MEU in seven countries, on three continents, and in both the European and Central Command area of operations.
After the eight-month deployment, the team returned to their parent command at Counter Intelligence/HUMINT Company, 2nd Intelligence Battalion, II MEF, where they split up as they received orders to new units.
By the end of the summer, these Marines will be sent off to various schools and even back to Iraq, where they can put their combat tested, award winning skills back into practice.