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Army Activates First Interrogation Battalion

By Elaine Wilson
Special to American Forces Press Service

FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas, April 17, 2006 – The first joint interrogation and debriefing battalion in the Army stood up April 12 during a ceremony here.

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Soldiers participate in the activation of the first joint interrogation and debriefing battalion in the Army April 12 during a ceremony at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. Photo by Spc. Jason Merrell, USA

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Army leaders are taking lessons learned from the 2003 Abu Ghraib detainee abuse incidents in Iraq to revamp the intelligence field. Changes include the activation of dedicated interrogation battalions and a new joint training center for the intelligence career field.

The 201st Military Intelligence Battalion is the first of four joint interrogation battalions -- two active and two reserve -- to be activated in the next several years. Its mission is to conduct detainee screening and interrogation missions in support of military operations throughout the world, such as Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.

"Being the first dedicated interrogation battalion in the Army, the spotlight is on these fine soldiers and their leadership," said Col. Richard Saddler, commander of the 470th Military Intelligence Brigade and keynote speaker at the ceremony. "Fortunately, they are the finest our nation has to offer, and they will do well in their upcoming missions."

The 201st Military Intelligence Battalion comprises 147 active duty soldiers, all specializing in interrogation and intelligence.

The concept for the battalions came about, in part, as a result of a 2004 investigation led by Maj. Gen. George Fay into the Abu Ghraib abuse of detainees.

"The Department of the Army, based on the Fay report and other weaknesses in how we conducted intelligence operations, recognized the need for dedicated interrogation battalions," Saddler said.

"Prior to this, the command and control stopped at the company level. The Army needed the command and control a battalion structure can provide," explained Lt. Col. John Strycula, battalion commander, who previously served as chief of intelligence operations for U.S. Army Europe and 7th Army in Heidelberg, Germany. Also, soldiers were in smaller elements embedded in units throughout the world instead of consolidated into "highly trained units."

While the Army will retain oversight and provide the manpower in theater, the battalion can plug in other services and agencies as needed, Strycula said.

"We can bring on Air Force, Marines, Navy, whatever the mission calls for," he said.

Strycula said he is looking forward to the challenge of commanding the first-of-its-kind battalion.

"I'm honored and excited about commanding this battalion," Strycula said. "There's a lot to do, but this battalion will not fail.

"This battalion will succeed because of the competency, motivation and professionalism of the soldiers you see standing before you," he added. "They are that impressive, and I am honored to serve with them."

Along with the new battalion, plans for a new joint training center at nearby Camp Bullis are in the works.

"This interrogation center of excellence will feature a (major training) event that all interrogation units will rotate through to ensure they are battle ready on all interrogation and warrior tasks before they go to war," Saddler said.

A timeline hasn't been set, but Army leaders are taking the fast track on the initiative, Saddler said. "They are committed to improving capabilities, and doing it quickly."

(Elaine Wilson is editor of the Fort Sam Houston News Leader.)

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageArmy Lt. Col. John Strycula thanks friends and family for their support during the 201st Military Intelligence Battalion activation ceremony April 12 at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. Strycula is the new commander of the first interrogation battalion in the Army. Photo by Spc. Jason Merrell, USA  
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