Kostrad to launch new intelligence battalion

With unrest, bomb attacks and separatist violence affecting various parts of the country in recent times, many people have condemned the weaknesses of the Indonesian Military's (TNI) intelligence gathering system. In the past, the TNI intelligence system was known to be quite efficient and was so pervasive, particularly during the New Order era, that it delved into not only security and defense matters, but also the social, economic, and political arenas.

The Army's Strategic Reserves Command (Kostrad) has expressed its concern over the recent regression and the need to have a strong and powerful intelligence unit for security, not political, purposes. Kostrad chief Lt. Gen. Ryamizard Ryacudu expressed the dilemma that he and his force faced by saying that while in many respects they had been excised from the body politic, nevertheless the demands for them to be proactive kept increasing. "The challenge for my troops in maintaining the nation's security has become more difficult due to the separatist demands that have been aired among us," he remarked. In response, Kostrad has set up a special intelligence unit dubbed the Security Surveillance Battalion (Tontaikam).

The battalion will begin special training on Monday at Kostrad's newest training camp in the hilly Sangga Buana area of Karawang, West Java. "The intelligence capabilities of my combat units must be improved. But it should be underlined that I only want to create a professional military combat intelligence unit," Ryamizard said.

Operational assistant to the Kostrad chief, Col. Bambang Darmono, told The Jakarta Post that each of the TNI's branches had their own intelligence units. "In the Army, there is an intelligence detachment at each Military Command (provincial) level. There is also, for example, the Sandi Yudha Group IV in the Army's Special Forces (Kopassus) and the intelligence platoon attached to Kostrad's airborne brigade," Bambang said. Kostrad, which comprises about 22,000 soldiers, already has an intelligence unit.

But Bambang lamented that enhancing and improving its capabilities had never been a major priority and that its personnel had never received additional training.

According to Bambang, in January Kostrad decided to reorganize and enhance the capabilities of its intelligence unit. "Through this reorganization, we recruited the Tontaikam members, with its personnel being drawn from each of Kostrad's six infantry brigades," Bambang said. The Kostrad commanders have demanded high standards of would-be members of the new platoon, including an age limit of between 25 and 35 years of age. "We are demanding very high requirements from every member, including a high degree of sensitivity in predicting the weather, and good capabilities in battle field analysis and enemy strength estimation," Bambang said. "We now have six companies of Tontaikam, with each company consisting of between 41 and 50 men," Bambang said.

The two-and-a-half month training course is being held in cooperation with the Army's Kopassus. Five weeks of the course will be under the tutelage of Kostrad instructors, three weeks under Kopassus's instructors, and one week will be devoted to improving the trainees' capabilities in the water. Bambang noted that one of the most crucial skills which the battalion members needed to possess was the power of resistance -- to maintain clarity of thought and analysis despite suffering from extreme exhaustion, whether mental or physical, and at times of intense pressure. The training course includes a daily 25-kilometer race over the hills and through rivers. "While undergoing the course, we will suddenly intervene and make them take psychological tests which they will have to pass with satisfactory results," Bambang explained. [combat intelligence!!]

Bambang said that in the future the platoon would be the first reconnaissance unit sent into a combat zone to collect information on the enemy's strength.

He further revealed that apart from honing their marksmanship using standard SS-1 Army rifles, Tontaikam personnel will also be taught to use the German-produced MP-5 handgun.  While the handgun is not standard issue in the Indonesian Army, Bambang said such training would be necessary as "most of the elite forces in the world use this gun." Kostrad has allocated about Rp 250 million (US$25,000) for the training course.

*Published by The Jakarta Post on March 12, 2001