FORT SILL, Okla., Aug. 3, 2017 -- The Army became the first service certified to teach the Digital Image Exploitation Engine program (DIEE) across the Department of Defense.

The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) approved the program in April, and the Fort Sill Army Targeting Center (ATC) staff and instructors from 428th Field Artillery Brigade worked feverishly to update the Precision Fires Course to include the new software.

At the same time, the ATC passed its two-year accreditation check by the NGA.

"We knew our two-year review was coming up. That gave us about three months to get everything done. Between the contract instructors and us at the Targeting Center it was a lot of man hours," said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Nathan Dukellis, ATC targeting officer.

The first class to go through the new Precision Fires Course graduated July 21. The students were a mixed group of active-duty, Reserve, National Guard, NGA employees and instructors from other services.

The Army Targeting Center along with the 428th FA Brigade created the screen shots for the new 40-hour course. He said the previous course certified students on two tools and two target coordinate mensuration methods. Now they leave the Fires Center of Excellence certified on two tools and three target coordinate mensuration methods.

Remarks from the first class showed the course only needs minor tweaks.

"The feedback from NGA was, 'Clean up these couple things on some processes and the Army is good for two more years with [target mensuration only].'"

The DIEE program was developed by the Naval Air Warfare Center in China Lake, Calif. It eliminates the need to manually transfer target coordinates from one software to another.

Chief Warrant Officer 4 Houston Burke, Army Precision Fires functional manager, said the Army Targeting Center has been looking for software with this capability for the last eight years.

"We always had to piecemeal software. You could do one piece on this software, but then you had to print it off, get the numbers and hand jam it into another piece of software. We've been working with the joint community to come up with software that would allow you to do all of it at one time," said Burke.

He said although DIEE won't save a lot of time, its help with ensuring accuracy is vital to the force.

"Once you get down to doing it you'll save 20 to 30 seconds. Which if someone is shooting at you that's a big deal, but what it really saves is the human error of having to manually type in grids. If you're typing in a grid to a house that's sitting next to a hospital and there's people shooting at you from the house at coordinates 37 that's the last two numbers but you type in 73, that moves it almost 40 meters away and now you're hitting the hospital.

"Our weapons have gotten so accurate that they go exactly where we tell them to go. We just have to make sure we're telling them to go to the right place," said Burke.

Dukellis said they have only scratched the surface on the DIEE program's capabilities and eventually it can be used across target development as a whole.

"This course is only teaching the target mensuration piece of it, but it also helps with the collateral damage piece and the weaponeering piece as well. Eventually it will build and we'll be able to use it in all three pieces."

He added DIEE allows the user to pass coordinates between echelons as well.

"I could do my work at a brigade fire support cell and I could save a scenario file and send it via file share or classified email and you can open up that scenario file and see all the work I did. It's going to facilitate quality control checks."

He said as the Army works with the Air Force and other services in cross domain fires capabilities, DIEE's file format will allow flexibility and growth.

Burke said another capability DIEE gives is updated imagery that matches what Soldiers see in near real-time. He said it takes NGA's imagery and overlays scene-based imagery the user can manipulate.

"You can go in and if you know a vehicle is parked in a certain place, you can draw in that vehicle.

Or you can bring in a template and you can put in multiple different structures. You can build it to how it actually looks and you can run different scenarios. Before you had to do that in multiple different systems and each system wouldn't take the input from the other one. It would take the coordinates, but that was about it."

Now that the Army Targeting Center and 428th FA have the course done to NGA's standards, they will work to get units that are deploying certified to use DIEE first.

"They're already pounding at the email door. We had to get the Army course right and we had to get NGA to say yes, that's good so we didn't put something out and then have to change it because we messed something up as we were building the course," said Dukellis.

After a Soldier is certified in DIEE, they have to pass practical exercises to keep up their certification.

"We track every person by name and when they took it," said Burke. "It's just like a PT test you have to take it every six months to stay in good standing."

Dukellis said ultimately the DIEE program is going to be help the Fires and joint force now and in the future.

"It's going to be another tool for the force to use to do what we already do, just a little better."