CAMP HANSEN, OKINAWA, Japan -- Tactical site exploitation (TSE) is an investigative task in which Marines go into a possible enemy location, search for, and gather as much forensic material as possible in a constrained amount of time. The limited time is because it is usually conducted in hostile environments.
Despite having very little time to conduct the task, it is an integral part in information gathering. It is an effective way to gather information on things such as; the location of high value targets, determining if a site is an improvised explosive device manufacturing house, or discovering enemy plans.
TSEs can be conducted by anyone, but an effective TSE needs to be done by a well-trained team. Staff Sgt. Gustavo Pesquera, a criminal investigator with CID, 3rd Law Enforcement Battalion, III Marine Expeditionary Force Information Group, set up a TSE in order to evaluate his Marines. He planted and concealed several props within a building to serve as forensic material. Pesquera gave the Marines a scenario and a set amount of time to collect as much evidence as possible.
“You never know how much time you have at a site,” said Pesquera, a native of San Juan, Puerto Rico. “You don’t know if the enemy will come attack or if there’s another mission that needs to be accomplished. Due to our background as criminal investigators, we know what the bad guys think and we know exactly what to look for that would give us the most intelligence.”
CID Marines train for TSEs because they have variable scenarios which often lead to unpredictable situations. To ensure the search and collection of forensic material goes as smoothly as possible, CID Marines take several steps in preparation.
Before anything, a team of Marines is formed with one designated leader and another as assistant leader. The team leader receives a brief on what needs to be obtained during the TSE and then passes on the information to his team. The team will then prepare all the equipment they would need, which usually includes cameras, chalk, tape, sample vials, latex gloves and paper bags.
Sgt. Michael Rauch, a criminal investigator with CID, 3rd LE Bn., III MIG, and his team were told the building they were searching was a possible IED manufacturing house and had eight minutes, due to possible nearby hostile forces, to gather evidence that explosives were being made.
The two-story concrete building had many rooms and even more inconspicuous places to hide things. Each scenario is different, but how TSE is conducted and the basics always remain the same.
“Repetition is what makes you better,” said Rauch, a native of Kettering, Ohio. “It builds muscle memory. So when it’s time to actually execute, you know what to do. When your mind shuts down and your body freaks out, you just go with what you know and what you trained for.”
Pesquera observes Rauch’s team as they take photos of the area, mark rooms that possibly contained important materials, and then gather the evidence. Rauch and his team finish the TSE with a few seconds to spare. They grab all of their equipment and secure the evidence, before sprinting a quarter of a mile down the road to their designated rendezvous.
After they consolidated, Rauch and his team met up with Pesquera, who gave them several tips that will continue to improve their skills when conducting TSEs.
According to Pesquera, he’s confident that his Marines will be a great asset to operations in the information environment when the time comes to implement their skills.
“Tactical site exploitation is extremely important for everybody to know,” said Pesquera. “I believe everybody should know at least a basic form of TSE, because anything could lead to intelligence. If everybody is able to do their part, the intelligence and everything we could get [from] doing TSEs could lead to us becoming a better warfighting organization than we already are.”