Using GIS for Navigating Special Events

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In April of 2019, the Sapper Training Company hosted the Thirteenth Annual Best Sapper Competition on Fort Leonard Wood.  While planning for the competition that had 50 different events, the 169th Battalion Commander in charge of the Sapper Training Company, wanted the commanders above him to be able to proceed to all events with ease.  When trying to figure out how to get the commanders above him the information they needed to get to any event they wanted, the problem arose of how to give out the information, or what to display on a map of the individual events.  Quickly, the Battalion Commander contacted the lead instructor in charge of training the Geospatial Engineers (12Y) on Fort Leonard Wood to acquire his assistance.  Once the lead instructor understood the concept of what the Battalion Commander wanted, he went back to the schoolhouse and enlisted the help of soldiers that had completed their geospatial engineer training and were awaiting their next assignment.

The expectations of the Battalion Commander were to get a map print out of the event locations and routes that the soldiers would be traveling during the competition.  The product that the Senior Instructor provided to the Battalion Commander was an interactive PDF that allowed an individual to select a training area the event is being held at and it would automatically pull up your GPS in the phone showing you directions to the event selected.   To produce this, they used a 50k topographic line map, hillshade derived from Shuttle Radar Topography Mission two, and BuckEye ten-centimeter spatial resolution March 2014.  They used WGS 1984 UTM Zone 15N as a projection for this project.  While building this product the soldiers used ArcGIS.  When laying out how they wanted the product to look they placed the large overall map that displayed all the events and routes in the middle, then they placed a photo of every individual event around the border of the large map.  Once complete and all the events were placed correctly, the photos were then geo tagged with the correct location of where the event was going to be held on Fort Leonard Wood.  Once that was complete, they exported it to a PDF.  After opening the PDF you could select the individual event that you wanted to visit and it would automatically open you to the navigation application and show you the directions to the desired event location.

The product was used tremendously during the competition and created by soldiers that were new to the geospatial profession.  Even though the product that was produced was easy to make, it is rare to see in the Army.  Most people in the Army do not know these types of products are able to be created within the Army.  This is a clear sign that shows knowledge is power, and that a lot of people do not know what capabilities the Geospatial Engineers can aid their organizations.  At the same time the engineer regiment has recognized this short fall and are working to make sure that engineer officers who attend Basic Officer Leadership Course and Captain Career Course are better educated on the capabilities that the Geospatial Engineers offer.  As an engineer officer it is our job to ensure and educate other professions in the military of all the capabilities that we can support them with.  This project is only one of many things that the Geospatial Engineers can do that very few people outside of the geospatial community know are possible.  It is especially important that engineer officers educate leaders around them of the capabilities that they have at their disposal.

Not only can military operations use these types of products, but other organization can use them as well.  For example, look at all the ranges and locations there are for people to visit, or training areas that a person might need to go to.  If they had a product or PDF that they could access on their phone and custom made for that area, they could click on that area and go to that location.  It would take the guessing out of where a person is supposed to arrive.  The same product could be used within realtor companies, drilling companies, and any other companies that deal with traveling to different locations they are not familiar with.  These types of products are very rare, and an individual doesn’t often come across these products. This is a prime example that shows the geospatial profession and technology are underutilized, when there is a wealth of knowledge and information that can be gained by companies and individuals willing to use the geospatial profession to better their organization.  

About the Author

Micheal Allen Young, CPT, U.S. ARMY, was born and raised Summersville West Virginia. Young attended Marshall University (WV), graduating with a Bachelors of Art in General Studies and commissioning through the ROTC Program in 2013. He then attended the Engineer Basic Officer Leader Course at in 2014 and was assigned to 821st Engineer Company, 1092nd Engineer Battalion, West Virginia National Guard.  There he served as a Platoon Leader for 24 months.  He then served as a Battalion Plans Officer for 15 months.  In 2017 1LT Young transitioned to Regular Army, joining B Co, 169th Engineer Battalion as the Companies Executive Officer. CPT Young is married to Mrs. Sharon Young and has four children, Brycen (11y), Kaden (8y), Liam (4y), Jackson (2y).

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