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In the U.S. Army, battalion and brigade units have a staff of officers that advises the executive and commanding officers about issues such as operations, security and intelligence, personnel and finance. Each of these staff officers is indicated by the letter "S" and a number. The S2 officer is responsible for the unit's intelligence operations and security. Though the specific duties of the S2 might vary with the unit's function (infantry, engineering, military police, etc.), all S2s are responsible for acquiring and disseminating intelligence. At the battalion level, the S2 officer usually holds the rank of first lieutenant or captain. At the brigade level, the S2 is generally a major.
Planning Intelligence Operations
It is the duty of the S2 Army officer to plan intelligence collection operations. S2 officers have several resources for the job. Satellites and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) capture image intelligence. Signal Intelligence Collectors capture enemy radio communications. Common Ground Station (CGS) Analysts use radar to track enemy vehicles and Human Intelligence Collectors question enemy combatants and civilians. The S2 determines which collection tool is best for the job and implements it accordingly. S2 officers also obtain information from sources in other Army units. For example, it is not uncommon for an S2 to use information gathered from infantry patrols and field artillery Firefinder radar systems to round out the battlefield picture.
Disseminating Intelligence Information
Collecting intelligence is only half of the battle. S2s also have a duty to disseminate intelligence to the relevant decision makers of the unit. After intelligence is collected, soldiers on the S2's staff analyze it and generate reports. One of the most important documents that the S2 staff generates is the Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield (IPB) report. The IPB report provides an ongoing assessment of the location and capabilities of enemy forces, the disposition of friendly forces and potential areas of security weaknesses. This report is submitted regularly to the commanding officer, executive officer and S3 (operations) officer. These officers use the IPB to determine future operational missions and training exercises.
Analyzing the Area of Operations
The S2 has a duty to not only gather information about enemy forces, he must also gather information about the unit's area of operation (AO). Understanding the AO where the unit lives and works is crucial for the safety of all soldiers. This analysis includes understanding the local terrain, weather, civilian population and infrastructure. This information can also be passed along to other units. All AO data is kept in an intelligence database that is maintained by the S2 staff.
Liz Frazier has been producing Web content, instructional articles and trivia for websites such as TopTenz.net and RealDealTechnologies.com since 2008. Her writing interests lie primarily in the areas of politics (specifically public administration and elections), the military, education and forced migration. Frazier has a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from California State University, Northridge.