Four members of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will deploy to Uganda in mid October to test-fly a normally ground-based route reconnaissance device. Two Europe District Forward Engineer Support Team members and two U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center technicians will take part in a joint military training exercise called Natural Fire 10.

Using the Automated Route Reconnaissance Kit, or ARRK, during this exercise is a direct way to provide a practical application in a scenario situation and demonstrate to USARAF and AFRICOM headquarters staffers how USACE field force engineers can support contingency operations, said Keith Cromartie, chief of the District's Emergency Operations Center.

Mounting the ARRK on helicopters gives colleagues on the ground a real-time aerial view of a specified area such as a disaster site or damaged bridge. It also allows for the upload of existing site or route conditions to geodatabases, allowing commanders to make quicker, more informed decisions on transportation routes.

"These exercises allow participants to build relationships with people they may work with in the future and learn from each other, and give them a chance to showcase new technology that can make a response effort more efficient in emergency and disaster situations," Cromartie said.

"The ARRK continuously surveys the area,t providing the team with an immediate visual recording allowing us to track a route," said Darrell Cullins, a FEST member from the Europe District.

"It gives us the ability to survey roads to give us an idea of surface material and conduct bridge assessments to determine what equipment can be transported over the bridges," he said. "With this information, we can brief the commanders on a recommended route as well as a back-up route."

The ARRK is still in the deployment, verification, validation and accreditation phase, according to the ERDC fact sheet.

Team members attended training at the USACE Readiness Support Center in Mobile, Ala., to learn how to properly utilize the ARRK equipment, said Chris Hood, a FEST member from the Europe District.

"We had the opportunity to get a feel for the equipment by taking it up in the air and trying it out in a real environment," he said. "We're excited to see the ARRK in action, and I think participants will be pleasantly surprised with what the ARRK can bring to disaster situations."

NF 10 is an annual Joint Chief of Staff-sponsored, U.S. Africa Command-scheduled and U.S. Army Africa-conducted disaster exercise. U.S military forces from all services will participate along with ground military forces from five East African partner nations - Uganda, Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania.

The exercise consists of three parts - a table-top exercise, live-fire field exercise and humanitarian civic assistance exercise. The exercise will take place in Kampala, Entebbe, and Kitgum, Uganda.