Marine Counterintelligence Specialist

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I've been fascinated with Marines in the Counterintelligence/Human Source Intelligence (CI/HUMINT) field ever since I met a few of them during my last tour in Iraq. They were sharp and professional, and yet the most colorful characters I'd ever met in the Corps, short of my Drill Instructors.

They clearly enjoyed their work, taking advantage of the opportunity to effect costume changes, call each other by hilarious codenames like "Mr. Cornelius," and even challenge each other to a mustache-growing contest.

But they also had a heavy load to carry and pulled it off like consummate professionals: Talking day and night with enemy prisoners of war and gathering every bit of information they could to help prevent terrorist attacks, improve battle plans, and bring "high-value targets" to justice.

Duties and Responsibilities

Whereas intelligence specialists are usually the behind-the-scenes analysts -- think map rooms and computer banks --Marines in Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) 0211 specialize in thwarting enemy spies, saboteurs, and terrorists. Trust me, I'm not just saying that because it sounds cool (even if it does.) While no job could ever actually be as entertaining as a James Bond film in real life, there are still folks out there who try to get a better picture of the battlefield the old-fashioned way: Getting info from human sources, face-to-face.

CI/HUMINT Marines are deployed in small cadres attached to a larger unit, such as an infantry regiment, where their mission may consist largely of interviewing or interrogating captured individuals, to determine whether or not they're actual enemies and, if so, determine what they know that can help the Marines in-theater avoid threats and get a few steps ahead of their foes.

0211s, acting on the info they've gleaned, might also conduct "liaison operations" -- that is, hopping a ride into town with an infantry squad to pick up higher-value intelligence targets they've identified by interrogating the small fish.

Let's be clear, though: CI/HUMINT Marines are bound to the laws of war.

So despite what we see on television and in film, let's not confuse "interrogation" with, say, "beating someone's undercarriage with a large rope." It takes a much smarter cookie to make someone tell you what you want to know without laying a finger on them.

Military Requirements

CI/HUMINT is not an entry-level MOS, and like many of the jobs that are only open to currently serving Marines, it comes with rank restrictions: Only corporals (E-4) and sergeants (E-5) may move laterally into the 0211 MOS. In addition, hopefuls must be at least 21 years old, and both the Marine and his/her immediate family (including parents) must be US citizens due to security requirements. This job, after all, involves sensitive intelligence and requires a Marine with a top secret security clearance.

Other requirements include a General Technical score of at least 110 on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, a valid US driver's license, tested typing speed of at least 30 words per minute, and (big surprise) the ability to deploy worldwide.

Entry into this job is also strictly controlled by the requirements to submit to a polygraph examination and pass an interview with a board composed of CI/HUMINT professionals.

Education

Education requirements for 0211s are extensive, and begin with up to six months -- but no more -- of on-the-job training with seasoned CI/HUMINT Marines at a Fleet Marine Force unit before going to formal school.

The schooling itself consists of the four-and-a-half month long Counterintelligence/HUMINT Basic Course at the Marine Corps Detachment in Dam Neck, Virginia. According to the American Council Education (ACE), the course accomplishes its goals through " audiovisual materials, discussion, laboratory, and practical exercises." The goal is to graduate students that can not only conduct lawful counterintelligence investigations but also analyze information in order to "predict a terrorist incident" and prevent acts of terrorism and sabotage.

ACE recommends college credits for counterintelligence studies and intelligence analysis for the CI/HUMINT Basic Course.

Interesting note: I was sad to discover that, after 2009, ACE no longer recommends credits in "applied psychology." (What can I say? I used to be a psych major, and "applied psychology" sounds kind of deliciously menacing in a Homeland sort of way.)

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