By Mrs Melissa K Buckley (Leonard Wood)January 18, 2012
FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. -- The mission of moving Geospatial Engineer training from Fort Belvoir, Va., to Fort Leonard Wood is underway.
"Geospatial Engineering is coming home," said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Nicholas Jones, Instructor Development for the U.S. Army Engineer School, geospatial technician.
"It's like Google Earth on steroids," Jones said. "For instance, when we moved from Kuwait to Ramadi, one of the jobs of a geospatial analyst was to brief the commanding general on where they should and shouldn't go, lines-of-sight, best routes, and different things that could affect the movement of that element. Our main job is to allow the commander, at whatever level, to be able to accurately visualize the battlefield, so that any decision made -- when it affects the terrain -- can maneuver and save lives."
Chief Warrant Officer 4 William Jones, geospatial skills division chief, said what a geospatial engineer essentially does is extract information from the earth's terrain. That's why geospatial engineering developed from the earliest form of map making, topography.
"Topographic engineers used to have terrain analysts, which is what we evolved from. We still do terrain analysis, but we don't call it that anymore because we are high-tech," William Jones said. "We look at satellite imagery, elevation data and all of the vector information; which means all of the points, lines and polygons within the data that represents the surface of the earth."
The first geospatial class to begin on post, the Warrant Officer Basic Course, commenced Jan. 9.
Advanced Individual Training is set to begin in April, followed by the Noncommissioned Officer Course in October.
"There was a disconnect in the regiment. Fort Belvoir, Va., is almost in the beltway of D.C. What the move here will do is allow the students to get back to the Army skills that they really need. Doing your technical Military Occupation Specialty, and being part of the Army functions itself is almost as important. The move will provide co-location of engineer training assets, creating a smoother transition from basic training to AIT, and cross-training opportunities between Engineer MOSs," Nicholas Jones said. "Also, our MOS was one of the only ones that didn't have a NCO Academy. So now, our NCOs will benefit from being part of the NCO Academy here at Fort Leonard Wood."
William Jones said the move to Fort Leonard will also shorten the courses.
"The actual day-to-day classroom curriculum won't change a lot, but what will change is the ability to compress our training schedule. Fort Belvoir has a longer training cycle; we can train Soldiers, on average, two weeks faster here at Fort Leonard Wood," he said. "They have access to so many more resources for warrior task and battle drills here. They don't have things like the confidence course at Fort Belvoir; the Soldiers had to travel to other instillations, like Fort A.P. Hill."
The Geospatial WOBC on post is now an 18-week course, AIT will also take 18 weeks, and the NCO course will take 16 weeks to complete.
In addition to time, Nicholas Jones said the move will save money, too.
"Relocating MOS 12Y (Geospatial Engineer) and MOS 125D (Geospatial Engineering Technician) courses will provide a single point of entry for all geospatial engineers. For example, it saves money by not having to fly Soldiers from basic training to AIT in Fort Belvoir," Nicholas Jones said. "Preliminary cost analysis shows a substantial long term savings of $2.3 million per year to the Army by moving Geospatial Engineer training to Fort Leonard Wood."
Geospatial training at Fort Leonard Wood plans to utilize agencies neighboring the post.
"The National Geospatial Agency has its office in St. Louis and U.S. Geological Survey is located in Rolla, so there are a lot of opportunities here to actually work with national agencies within Missouri," Nicholas Jones said. "The move also provides training certification possibilities through local universities."
Because of the relocation Geospatial Engineer Training will be operating at about half its capacity this year.
"Next year, we will be fully operational. We will have 175 to 200 Soldiers here training at one time. We will probably see about 375 for the entire year. All of our courses are considerably long," William Jones said. "Our classrooms only hold 15 students. Once we come online with our new classrooms, we will have a lot of folks here for an extended period of time."
The engineer school is rehabbing 13 classrooms in Brown Hall. The company and the Soldiers will be housed in the barracks across the street.
"Some of our workstations are still in the process of being moved here from Fort Belvoir," William Jones said.
Equipment isn't the only thing being moved to Fort Leonard Wood.
"The move will result in the realignment of one Department of the Army civilian and 38 military authorizations to USAES," Nicholas Jones said.
Looking into the future, Nicholas Jones said Geospatial Engineer Training may get its own building on post.
"The initial brief was to create a Geospatial Center of Excellence, so that we could incorporate all of the schools and reach out to other branches, but the decision hasn't been made yet. Eventually, we would like to incorporate the Marines, Navy and the Air Force as well," he said.