By Steven Fouchard, Army Public Affairs
Petawawa, Ontario — Canadian Army (CA) Intelligence Operators do not get much in the way of public credit for their highly secretive work.
Whatever the trade may lack in visibility, however, noted Sergeant James Hutchinson, who is a member of the CAIntelligence Regiment, is far outweighed by its impact.
“In Afghanistan, our unit provided much of the actionable intelligence for the entire Canadian Battle Group in Kandahar,” he recalled. “That’s a big thing when you think about it. A general is trusting you with the lives of 2,500 Canadian soldiers. You’re expected to be accurate so that when you say, ‘The bad guys are here,’ there aren’t any surprises.”
“Intelligence Operators are soldiers first,” he added, “but we are not ‘gun-slingers’ we are ‘information-slingers’. Our job is to take information gathered in the battlespace and turn it into intelligence. Our weapons of trade are computers and people skills that enable us to communicate that intelligence accurately and in a timely manner.”
Sgt Hutchinson entered military service in 2003, when the British Columbia native had just finished his first year of college across the country in Ottawa.
“I didn’t want to go back to my home town just to work for the summer months. The Reserves offered an excellent opportunity to join a local unit in Ottawa, make a decent living during the summer months, and have part-time job during the school year.”
He had hoped to join the Intelligence trade at the time but it was then limited to applicants who had time in other trades under their belts. Sgt Hutchinson transferred to a Reserve Intelligence unit after serving four years as a Signals Operator.
“I liked it so much I decided to make a career out of it and transferred to the Regular Force in the summer of 2008.”
His current role as Operations Non-Commissioned Officer for the Intelligence Regiment is more administrative than some of his past experiences – he ensures the unit has all the resources needed for training exercises, for example – but Sgt Hutchinson said the variety of tasks available is part of the attraction.
“This trade has a wide spectrum of working environments. One end is working as a collator or analyst in a team environment. At the other end you may find yourself working independently or in a very small team. Later in your career you can apply to work as a liaison in a Canadian embassy or for NATO positions outside of Canada. Many of these foreign postings are unique to the Intelligence trade.”
Discretion is, of course, an important quality in an Intelligence Operator, Sgt Hutchinson noted, but only one of many.
“Someone who is looking to join the intelligence trade should be naturally inquisitive and possess good oral and written communication skills,” he said.
“You may find yourself working alone and solely responsible for the intelligence function, so being intuitive and able to think outside the box is a must. As far as working with computers, an applicant should be able to pick up on new software and know how to gather information from online sources, including social media.”
Increased diversity in the ranks to better reflect the population it serves is a universal priority for the Canadian Armed Forces and Sgt Hutchinson said first-hand knowledge of other cultures and languages is particularly an asset in the intelligence trade.
“Depending upon where we deploy to or focus on, those individuals are heavily leaned on as walking encyclopaedias. Knowing the local culture and customs is a big part of intelligence work and gives Canada an edge. If you’re that person, you can expect to be part of major meetings with locals and officials to help understand the local people.”
Collect, process, analyze and disseminate intelligence;
Identify and analyze intelligence and information from multiple sources, which is likely to affect military operations, national policies, and objectives;
Advise and assist in the coordination of intelligence tools and surveillance systems;
Provide intelligence briefings and written products to commanders and their staff;
Operate, manage and safeguard information technology systems;
Work with and safeguard highly classified material.