News: Horn of Africa’s operating picture becomes visual
Story by Staff Sgt. Amanda Smolinski
FORT BRAGG, N.C. - "Knowledge is of two kinds: we know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information upon it.” – Samuel Johnson, British Author, 1775.
Under sponsorship from the Office of the Secretary of Defense for Advanced Systems and Concepts, U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command (Airborne) Soldiers joined members of the Maritime Civil Affairs and Security Training Command in a two-week class on Mapping of Human Terrain. MAP-HT is a program that teaches new ways of visualizing a battlespace. The course included fundamentals of the software program, how to input information into the database, and a culminating exercise in which they utilized simulated reports from the field to create recommendations in an exercise area of operations.
Currently, USACAPOC(A) soldiers are using MAP-HT during operations in support of the Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa. Soldiers from the 490th Civil Affairs Battalion, USACAPOC (A) located in Abiliene, Texas, participated in the course along with staff members from the G2 and G3 sections. The 490th will be deploying to Africa in the near future in support of the CJTF in which they will be staffing the Civil Information Management cell. The general staff sections will be acting as a “reach-back” capability for soldiers in theater; a resource soldiers use to receive additional information they cannot otherwise get. The course material is teaching participants precisely what they will need to conduct their jobs while working in the CIM cell.
“As the class comes to an end, I have learned that MAP-HT is an excellent tool for tracking incoming information into a database that gives us the ability to do link analysis, create maps and organize data in a way it can be analyzed,” said Capt. Paul Stambough, incoming CIM cell Director to CJTF-HOA.
The concept of MAP-HT is to centralize data and products on networked servers to promote information sharing among users of civil and socio-cultural information.
“The hardest part of the upcoming mission will not be getting information, it will be getting the ‘correct’ information in order for us (CIM cell) to make a sensible recommendation to the Command,” said Stambough.
Army and Navy Civil Affairs teams are the primary users of the software; information gathering begins at the lowest level. In order for the CIM cell to input data into MAP-HT, Civil Affairs teams must upload their information to a central repository by using the supporting component of MAP-HT, called Tactical Ground Reporting software. The Civil Affairs teams input their reports into TIGR which are sent to the CIM cell, which is put into MAP-HT and analyzed.
Paul Ogg, the MAP-HT software product specialist and instructor, has been an integral part of the initiation of this software in CJTF-HOA. He has spent numerous months training USACAPOC(A) soldiers within the United States and overseas to ensure the program runs smoothly. Ogg explained that MAP-HT is a brand new concept which has been with CJTF-HOA for a year and a half.
“Civil Affairs soldiers have the knowledge… they also have the documents,” said Ogg. “Once the data is inputted into MAP-HT, the information now becomes visual and not just readable.”
MAP-HT displays real-time data that is broken down into civil and socio-cultural information. Each of those sections are divided into entities such as a place, person, or event that is displayed on a map overlay. The information can then be used to create a range of visualization products, including link diagrams, time wheels, and density plots.
Classes will continue as long as units go into the Horn of Africa. Strategies are also being developed in order to allow returning units to maintain access with the MAP-HT software. They will be able to view current and past information without the ability to change it. This way, skill sets can be maintained and the software will be a common operating tool with longevity.
“Ultimately, the future of MAP-HT will be that everyone within a theater is using the program,” Ogg said. “They will be able to create a search query for a faster response than scrambling through numerous document libraries.”