Spc. James G. Johnston, an Oak Ridge,
Tenn., native, now a company intelligence support team analyst with
A Battery, 1st Battalion, 84th Field Artillery Regiment, 170th
Infantry Brigade Combat Team, waits outside a meeting at an Afghan
police station here May 23, 2011. Johnston goes on missions to
collect information that A Battery's COIST uses to put together
intelligence reports. Photo by Army Spc. Nathan Goodall
COMBAT OUTPOST QEYSAR, Afghanistan (11/6/2011) - When he was
training to load and fire artillery rounds, U.S. Army Pfc. Cory S.
Booth, a cannon crew member, didn't think he'd ever work in the
world of military intelligence.
Nevertheless, Booth and
several other field artillery soldiers with A Battery, 1st
Battalion, 84th Field Artillery Regiment, 170th Infantry Brigade
Combat Team, became company intelligence support team members when
they deployed here in February.
“At first, I wasn't sure
about it. I joined to do field artillery,” said Booth, a Petaluma,
Calif., native, now a company intelligence support team, or COIST,
analyst. “But once I started learning about what COIST was, I dove
headfirst and immersed myself in it.”
A COIST provides
military intelligence at the unit level. The team receives and
compiles information collected by platoons and sends it to analysts
who construct assessments of the battlefield.
the team members get information from the battalion's military
intelligence element and add it to their reports for line platoons
to use, said Staff Sgt. David L. Gusst, a Philadelphia native, now a
operations non-commissioned officer with A Battery.
needed for COIST, served as a cannon crew member during two
deployments. This is his first time working behind the scenes
providing combat intelligence support.
Gusst and Booth realize the importance of their work. The
intelligence reports they put together play a huge role on the
“If we miss something on a report, like the location of an
[improvised explosive device] where a platoon is going, they
might run into it,” Booth said.
The serious nature of
their duty position keeps the COIST soldiers working at
their very best every hour of the day, Gusst said.
“We put through as much effort as possible to get as much
information as we can so we can keep our guys safe when
they're conducting their missions,” Gusst said.
COIST soldiers serve dual roles by also manning the
battery's command post. With the COIST being the brain of A
Battery, the post serves as “the central nervous system of
the outpost,” said Staff Sgt. Brian L. Clark, a Cleveland
native, now a platoon sergeant with A Battery.
“Without the [command post], this battery wouldn't function
on a day-to-day basis,” Clark said.
The command post
staff maintains communication with higher headquarters,
alerts the quick reaction force when they are needed,
directs sleeping arrangements for outpost personnel and
more, said Gusst.
One of the biggest responsibilities
of soldiers working at the command post is calling up
medevac requests for injured personnel.
At one point,
injured Afghan policemen came to the outpost for medical
aid. One needed transportation to a hospital for further
treatment. After making the call, Gusst used a smoke grenade
to signal the medevac helicopter.
“Knowing I helped
with that made my day,” Gusst said. “It's something I'll
Because COIST soldiers need
significant amounts of information to put together reports
and effectively run the command post, it helps to get a
couple of them in the field to gain knowledge of the area.
Spc. James G. Johnston, an Oak Ridge, Tenn., native, and
Spc. Alexander P. Stransky, a Memphis, Tenn., native, both
now COIST analysts with A Battery, go on missions for that
“Getting a firsthand look at the people and
environments the platoons go to helps you give a better
description in your reports and debriefs,” Johnston said.
With everyone doing their part, A Battery's COIST is
able to function as one machine. In Stransky's opinion, the
secret to their effectiveness is teamwork.
extraordinary leadership. Without them, I wouldn't be able
to do what I do,” Stransky said.
Gusst expressed the
same thoughts about the soldiers, saying, “I don't think
we'd all work as good without each other.”
soldier with A Battery's COIST is field artillery, they have
gained satisfaction from their new responsibilities, Gusst
“We can give our platoons a heads-up so they're
aware of what's going on in our area of operations, versus
them going in blindly and risking getting someone injured or
hurt,” Gusst said. “It feels good doing that.”
More photos available in frame below
By Army Spc. Nathan Goodall
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