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103rd IEW Battalion reborn at Fort Stewart
soldiers of the new unit stand at parade rest.
Soldiers of the new unit stand at parade rest. Photo by Pat Donahue.

The U.S. Army welcomed an old unit with a new name and new responsibilities.

The 103rd Intelligence and Electronic Warfare Battalion was brought to life Friday morning at Cottrell Field, and Army leaders cited its creation as a step in creating the future force.

“The Army has decided we need a modernized capability to support our future combat operations,” said Lt. Col. Marcus O’Neal, the 103rd’s commanding officer.

Col. David Violand, commander of the 525th Expeditionary Military Intelligence Brigade, said the 103rd will give a division commander better ways to gather and analyze information on an enemy.

“It is an absolute game-changer,” he said. “We bring capacity that does not exist within inside of the division itself.

The 103rd’s activation is the first of many to come, Col. Violand said. The 302nd Intelligence and Electronic Warfare Battalion will be stood up this time next year at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, with the 101st Airborne Division. The 319th, which supports the 82nd Airborne Division, is going through a transformation.

Military intelligence battalions are being brought back, Col. Violand said, to give commanders a better capacity to understand and find the enemy.

“You’ve got human intelligence soldiers, signals intelligence soldiers, geo-intelligence soldiers, imagery intelligence soldiers that are going to augment the capabilities that exist within the 3rd Infantry Division,” Col. Violand added.

The 103rd, which can trace its roots back to World Warr II, was established as a military intelligence battalion to support the 3rd ID when the division was stationed in Germany. It was part of the division during Operation Iraqi Freedom and was deactivated in 2004.

“Activating this battalion symbolizes the Army’s recognition of the need to have an intelligence battalion with unique capabilities directly supporting the 3rd Infantry Division,” said Deputy Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Laura Potter.

Information also has become an asset for forces, Col. Violand acknowledged. Units such as the 103rd and its soldiers will be charged with the tasks of obtaining information and then sifting through it to determine what is pertinent — and what isn’t.

“I think it is tremendously important,” he said. “We’ve seen that play out in Ukraine. If anything, we have been taught that control of information is difficult. There is more data. More data doesn’t necessarily mean a better understanding.”

Currently, there are about 50 soldiers in the battalion and it will be 197 at full strength. They will be taking part in the 3rd Infantry Division’s Warfighter exercise in November.

As the unit gets in equipment, it is also adding to its roster.

“They are very excited,” O’Neal said of the soldiers who already are part of the battalion. “They know what the history of the 103rd is. They understand what the Army needs them to do going forward.”

Lt. Gen. Potter said the Army is undertaking its most significant modernization in the last 40 years, including its equipment, its soldiers and its formations.

“Transformational change is required to keep an enduring advantage over our adversaries,” she said.

Potential enemies include Russia, which has invaded neighboring Ukraine, China, and its continued aggressive tactics in the Pacific, North Korea, which continues to test missiles, and Iran, which has been training and outfitting proxies across the Middle East.

“Taken together, these adversaries, along with violent extremist organizations, gray zone threats and climate-induced threats, create a myriad of simultaneous dilemmas for our Army and our division formations must remain trained and ready to face those challenges when called upon,” Lt. Gen. Potter said.

The 103rd’s soldiers, she said, already have the savvy and sophistication to handle a battlefield saturated with data and can analyze that information with speed and capacity.

“They are growing up with technology I didn’t have,” Lt. Col. O’Neal said. ‘They touch it every single day. We have to get that intelligence quickly and you have to use technology to do that.”

103rd Intelligence and Electronic Warfare Battalion
Lt. Col. Marcus O’Neal unfurls the unit colors of the 103rd Intelligence and Electronic Warfare Battalion at Cottrell Field on Friday, with help from Col. David Violand, commanders of the 525th Expeditionary Military Intelligence Brigade. Photo by Pat Donahue
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