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BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan– Somewhere in Afghanistan is a dark room filled with rows and rows of computers. From the glow of the computer screens Soldiers can be seen analyzing the information gathered from various airframes.
It is the Soldiers of Company D, 3rd Battalion, 214th Aviation Regiment, Task Force ODIN-A (Observe, Detect, Identify and Neutralize – Afghanistan) that make up the Aerial Reconnaissance Support Team. As part of the 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade, TF Falcon, it is the responsibility of the ARST to efficiently provide the analyzed information to ground units to help seek and destroy enemy insurgent operations in Afghanistan.
The ARST is the central point of multi-source intelligence, conducting the initial exploitation of photographs and video, providing actionable information to tactical level maneuver units upon request. The ARST is comprised of teams of real-time full motion video analysts, as well as a team to analyze the intelligence collected by TF ODIN-A’s aerial assets. There is also a quality control production team to ensure all products created in the ARST are accurate and disseminated in a timely manner.
“There are teams conducting anywhere from five to six tasks at any given time” said Staff Sergeant Loyd Smith, a senior imagery analyst and ARST non-commissioned officer in charge of D Co., 3rd Bn., 214th Avn. Regt., TF ODIN-A. “ARSTs are not common in the Army. There are at least two units that use them: ODIN-A, here in Afghanistan and Task Force ODIN-Iraq”.
The All Source Analysis Team provides situational awareness to the ARST and other intelligence teams, by tracking and gathering intelligence, products, and assets in related areas of operation. All of the teams in the ARST work in unison to illustrate the most accurate, near real-time picture to the war fighter.
“We are not like any intelligence unit I have ever seen,” said Staff Sgt. Christopher Ryan, also of D Co., 3rd Bn., 214th Avn. Regt., TF ODIN-A. “I’ve never heard of so many imagery analysts in one unit. [Compared to] a division’s typical Analysis Control Element, we are much smaller and mission specific. But, we are customer driven, in that we do not [task] our own assets. The main purpose of the ARST is to provide (intelligence) to the ground forces.”
The assets of TF ODIN-A are requested by ground units to perform a variety of jobs ranging from providing reconnaissance images to providing real-time updates of their environment. Many of their additional tasks and duties remain classified to prevent the enemy from further evolving their tactics.
Because of this novel concept of operation, the ARST is a point of interest to distinguished officials across the battlefield. Task Force ODIN-A has hosted multiple visitors, from general officers of all branches, to foreign militaries, to civilian government officials and agencies; all curious to see what the ARST and TF ODIN-A is bringing to the fight. These capabilities briefings are almost always delivered by privates first class and specialists.
”VIPs want to hear from the lower enlisted Soldiers,” said Smith of why his Soldiers are the voice of the ARST. “It helps to prepare (junior enlisted Soldiers) for their next assignment [where giving briefings will be] a part of their job.”
From the time TF ODIN-A set foot in Afghanistan in 2008 and established the ARST, new ARST teams have developed into a vital and reliable source of intelligence making quite a name for themselves.
“With our multi-sourced assets and personnel, the ARST truly lives up to our company name: the Delta Company Death Dealers,” said Staff Sgt. Robert Martinez, shift NCOIC of D Co., 3rd Bn., 214th Avn. Regt., TF ODIN-A. “The enemy might never see our face, but they will always fear our name.”
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