CAMP BAHARIA, Iraq -- It may be difficult to imagine that the movement and operation of more than 1,000 troops rests in the hands of a 24-year-old lance corporal and his six teammates, but it’s a responsibility Murrysville, Penn. native, Dan Williams, shoulders here everyday.
“A lot of people here have said that the operations we do are intel driven, and I firmly agree with that,” stated the intelligence analyst with 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, a unit from Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., currently conducting security and stability operations in and around Fallujah.
The former computer science student at Philadelphia’s Drexel University helps fellow intelligence Marines, collectively known as the battalion ‘S-2,’ piece together fragments of data on terrorist identities, connections, and whereabouts. The battalion’s infantrymen use this informational mosaic to determine where and when to apprehend these individuals, and what type of threat they may face upon arrival.
“We monitor all types of intel information that we get, and make sure it gets passed down to the guys on the line who need it,” Williams explained. “We’re always analyzing different types of info that we’ve gotten from all sorts of sources, trying to look for any threats to the Marines.”
S-2 personnel acquire information leads from aerial surveillance photographs, Marines on patrol, Iraqi Security Forces, and local citizens. It is then Williams’ job to help his fellow analysts make connections between seemingly unrelated bits of data, or to declare it as fake information altogether.
“Timelines are really important in our job,” he stated. “You don’t want an intel report to be sitting there for a week and not act on it. When stuff comes in, we work to analyze it as quickly as possible to make connections.”
Since his unit arrived here in mid-March, the S-2 Marines have put their smarts to use. Through rapid informational analyses, they have helped apprehend dozens of insurgent supporters and unearth several weapons caches in the area.
The credit, however, is not theirs alone.
“The grunts (infantrymen) are definitely the biggest asset we have,” Williams explained. “They give us more information than we could ever possibly get, because they’re our eyes and ears on the ground.”
That’s not to say that he doesn’t join his infantry brothers-in-arms on missions, however. Intel Marines sometimes accompany grunts on raids, patrols and operations to get ‘eyes-on’ themselves of potential targets.
“We also support the line companies by providing them with documents, like pictures and maps,” Williams stated. “We’ll provide them with our analyses, that way they know which targets to hit and where to go.”
Despite the high tech gadgetry at their disposal, individual analysts like Williams are the truly vital intelligence asset. On their shoulders rests the safety of hundreds of Marines.
“Here at the battalion level is where the real stuff goes on,” Williams said. “Out here, you need to get it done quickly, because there are lives at stake. I never realized that what we do was so important, that it was more than providing maps and little bits of intel.”
As he continues serving his country, Williams also dreams about his future possibilities, both inside and outside the Corps.
“This is something I’ve wanted to do since college,” he explained. “I have career goals to work with government agencies like the CIA and the FBI. My background in military intel, security clearance, and experience with analysis will help me out with that. There are a lot of similarities between what we do.”
Always looking for a challenge, this physical fitness aficionado added that he may also pursue a future in Force Reconnaissance.
However, approximately three years of service remain on his contract, during which Williams will continue helping rid Iraq of its persistent insurgency.
“When it comes down to it, what we do out here is really ‘do or die,’ he said. “Every little bit of information you get, you have to analyze, because there are major repercussions if you don’t. I take this job very seriously.”