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    With National Geospatial Intelligence Agency's assistance, clarity emerges from 'fog of war'

    With National Geospatial Intelligence Agency's assistance, clarity emerges from 'fog of war'

    Courtesy Photo | Specialist Monica Mitchell, ACE GEOINT, G2 section, 3rd Infantry Division (left), and...... read more read more



    Courtesy Story

    Multi-National Division-Central

    By Ray McNulty
    Multi-National Division - Central

    CAMP VICTORY, Iraq — Multi-National Division - Center formed in spring 2007 as part of the U.S. troop surge. The progress made since then has been well-documented as Soldiers have built a network of patrol bases covering the "belts" of suburbs and agricultural communities surrounding southern and eastern Baghdad. What is less well-known is the surge in support required from other U.S. government agencies in bringing about those gains. In MND-C, one of the most significant of those surge partners is the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.

    The NGA – a Department of Defense support agency and member of the U.S. intelligence community - is a silent partner in the Iraq fight.

    "When the fog of war thickens, as it always does, geospatial intelligence creates a vivid visual picture of the battle space," said NGA director Vice Admiral Robert B. Murrett.

    Murrett explained that the mapping and imagery his staff produces gives commanders on the ground a forward look into enemy territory.

    Based in Bethesda, Md., with locations around the globe, the NGA's mission is exploitation and analysis of imagery and geospatial information to describe, assess and visually depict physical features and geographically-referenced activities on the earth in support of national security needs.

    Over the past year, MND-C forces in central Iraq have launched a series of combat offensives, each targeting a small geographic region around towns and villages deemed strategic for their location relative to Baghdad or their status as enemy sanctuaries. These were areas where coalition forces had not sustained a presence for years; MND-C itself was a new creation under the U.S. troop surge and information on the area was slim.

    Enter the NGA.

    "When the mission enters unfamiliar territory, geospatial intelligence shows the way with maps, charts and imagery," Murrett said.

    Partnered for the last 12 months with the division G2's Analytical and Control Element, NGA's GEOINT Support Team 29 provides 24/7 support to the ACE.

    Analysts work shifts, while the team leader supervises operations and works with the G2 and ACE leadership to focus geospatial analysis where it is most effective in supporting the mission. The team also acts as a conduit for customized reach-back support from NGA's U.S. headquarters.

    According to an unnamed NGA official, the group's mission is highly collaborative, complementing MND-C's other intelligence feeds to give a more complete picture of the ground situation.

    "GEOINT is collaborative. It fuses with information from other intelligence analytical tradecrafts answering the questions, 'When, where, and how often?'" the official said.

    Taking advantage of the visual medium, he explained, GEOINT uses geospatial data to display volumes of information, forming a bridge from raw data points to a refined intelligence picture.

    "In Iraq, we have used GEOINT to effectively pinpoint insurgent locations, identify trends and assist in reducing their effectiveness to conduct operations against coalition forces," the official said.

    As surge operations gained momentum through summer and fall 2007, al-Qaida in Iraq and other insurgents saw attack numbers and effectiveness diminish, leading coalition officials to suspect AQI was either shifting locations or slowly declining as an effective adversary. MND-C has kept up offensive operations into winter and spring 2008, but with an increasingly sharper focus, to wipe out remaining pockets of insurgent resistance. In these later operations, the NGA's support comes into play more than ever.

    "When the enemy tries to hide, geospatial intelligence makes pinpoint precision targeting possible," Murrett said.

    According to their counterparts, the NGA staff is critical to mission success because they allow Soldiers to operate more efficiently in a massive battlespace.

    "They have been a critical force multiplier, and their presence has exponentially increased our GEOINT capacity," said Warrant Officer Scott Potter, ACE GEOINT branch chief, G2 section, 3rd Infantry Division.

    "The depiction and associated analysis of the spatial relationship of events is key to the accomplishment of our mission in Iraq," Potter said.

    On a day-to-day basis, the NGA team assists MND-C units with analytical intelligence assessments, exploitation of imagery, production of graphical analytical products depicting weapons cache finds and improvised explosive device's attack trends, force protection planning and, more recently, general infrastructure repair support.

    After months of intense fighting in areas that once represented the heart of the Sunni insurgency, coalition forces are beginning the transition to stability operations. While the potential for physical harm is reduced in the shift from kinetics to capacity-building, the need for real-time intelligence and ground visibility is unchanged and situational awareness remains a critical factor in success.

    As a result of the shift, support to infrastructure and reconstruction projects is becoming a higher priority for the NGA team.

    One example of that shift involves exploring the potential use of geospatial analysis and advanced technology to assist in monitoring and depicting the health of agriculture in MND-C and the status of the irrigation canal network – crucial capabilities in supporting a region of Iraq that is heavily dependent on agriculture for its livelihood.

    That cooperation and adaptability has earned the agency praise from coalition officials.



    Date Taken: 03.16.2008
    Date Posted: 03.18.2008 16:22
    Story ID: 17503
    Location: BAGHDAD, IQ 

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