Post cemetery uses smartphone technology
May 8, 2013
FORT BENNING, Ga. (May 8, 2013) -- The Fort Benning Cemetery is undergoing an overhaul of how it stores the records of the people buried there. It will help with data accountability and help friends and Family members be able to find their loved ones more easily.
Currently, there are about 10,000 people buried in the cemetery, with 8,000 headstones, said to Kirk Ticknor, the chief of Operations and Management Division for the Directorate of Public Works.
Soldiers from the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team are photographing the front and back of each headstone using iPhone 5 smartphones to geo-coordinate each headstone, said Staff Sgt. James Hulsey, NCOIC for the 3rd ABCT. The task began April 29 and will take about a month to complete.
"It maps the actual gravestone to within five meters of its location, that way the Families can use their smartphones in the future and get walking directions to take them exactly to the gravestone that they are looking for," Hulsey said. "We photographed the front and back so that we coordinate the numbers, and then the application we have on the phones additionally will allow for two verification systems ¬-- that way, tombstones don't get mixed up in the process."
Currently, the system is being set up in order to maintain better accountability, Ticknor said, and although Fort Benning has never had a problem with mix-ups in records or headstones, cemeteries across installations are following in the footsteps of the Arlington National Cemetery.
A few years ago, Arlington National Cemetery had an issue with mismatched headstones, Ticknor said, which prompted them to fix the problem with better technology.
"As a result they have modernized their systems, gone to computer databases, photographed all of their headstones and they have a very, very precise accountability system now," he said.
Using a more advanced system for record keeping also decreases the chance of permanent record loss, Ticknor said.
"(By) photographing every headstone and putting them in a database that will be captured forever digitally ... you'll never have to worry about fire or anything like that burning up your records and losing accountability," he said.
Although there is no smartphone app yet, Ticknor said he anticipates there will be. Those interested in searching for a particular headstone should go to the front office, where an attendant is staffed Monday through Friday.