Terrain Team Ensures Roads are Mapped Out
April 13, 2007
LOGISTICS SUPPORT AREA ANACONDA, Iraq, April 12, 2007 - Most offices have them, but trailer six in the 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary)'s compound here, holds a very large one.
Operating out of a small trailer is a four-member contingent of the 70th Engineer Company, (currently attached to the 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) ), who have the responsibility of making maps by request of the ever-changing roads of Iraq. And of course, they have a very large plotter printer for printing out their custom-made maps.
"All of our maps are mission-dictated," said Sgt. Byram D. Faulk of Washington, D.C., the terrain team noncommissioned officer-in-charge.
The team creates maps requested by units who need the maps for specific reasons. They may need a map outlining bodies of water, or other terrain features, or they may just need a more current map then they already have, Faulk said.
Many of the maps the team creates are pieced together from scratch using imagery and data gained from other sources. These maps may take a while to generate, but maps made from information already in their system can be finished in a day, Faulk said.
The map-making process has come a long way since its inception. Faulk said soldiers in his military occupational specialty used to draw out sketches of maps by hand, and creating a map from scratch could be a very lengthy process.
"It used to take about a month to make a map," Faulk said, "now it takes a day."
The map-makers now use current map-constructing digital software to piece together their maps, but even their modern equipment can run into glitches.
"It only takes one little error, and it can mess up the whole production," said Pfc. Evan L. Brasseur of West Charleston, Vt., a terrain analyst.
Sometimes equipment breakdowns and waiting for repairs can put them behind in production, Brasseur said, but they are usually able to keep up with demand.
The active-duty contingent said their job is different in Iraq than at home station. Brasseur said they have a slower work pace in the States, and there it is mostly training; while in Iraq, they have real-world demand on a daily basis.
We basically train to deploy," he said. The soldiers seem to enjoy their work, and take pride out of helping their comrades.
"The coolest part about this job is even though I'm not outside the wire, I get to use imagery software every day that shows me what the land looks like," Brasseur said. "Even if I never leave the base, I know what's out there."
Part of the terrain team's job is to analyze the roads and land, identifying areas which may cause potential problems. They use their expertise, along with intelligence information on past problems, to determine what kind of situations are most likely to pose a threat.
"I get gratification when someone comes back and says, 'hey, that map you made really helped us out,'" Faulk said.
The unit creates maps for anyone going off the base who asks for one, regardless if they are military or civilian.
"Being able to support different branches of the military with our products is great," said Pfc. David B. Nicholson of Indianapolis, Ind., also a terrain analyst in the unit. "People seem to be happy with our work, because they keep coming back."
The unit, based out of Baghdad and scattered throughout Iraq, arrived here in September. They are an important part of moving soldiers from one place to another, and continually make a complicated job look easy.
"Some people may think we just push print to make a map," Faulk said. "But that is not the case."