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About MGA - know the story
*** GIS - the beaten track ***

By major Claus E. Andersen, Prince Life Regiment
Head of the Danish Army Military Gespatial Branch at Hærens Ingeniør- og ABC-skole


Even in times with severe cut backs the Army Engineer and NBC-Defence School is growing. The school has been given a new branch - the military geographic branch.
On the 1st of January 2003 the new branch was officially set up.
The branch is divided in two sections - respectively a map section and a GIS section. The map section produces maps as it has always done, for instance bridge and cross country movement maps, maps over exercise areas and survey maps for instance the new terrain and traffic map of Denmark.

What is GIS?

The term GIS stands for Geographical Information Systems. The section which bears this name is destined to spearhead the new branch into an the new technology era, where IT-technology is supposed to help the military leader to make decisions based on geographical knowledge - and hopefully help the leader to make the right decisions. In short you could say that GIS consists of five components. Where hard- and software is one half of the components and personnel, education and collecting/registration of data makes the other half. The five components are inseparable and neither part can exist without the other.

It´s all about well motivated employees

The branch as a whole consists of fourteen men and women. When fully manned this branch will consist of four officers - two majors and two captains; three NCOs all warrant officers; four privates first class and three civilians - one civil engineer, one technical assistant and one GIS specialist with an academic background. It is a powerful crew which in the future will help this unit to solve the extensive tasks ahead.

Map production: 
Lancecorporal Ryan Isaksen is designing a map.

Help from neighbouring countries

This branch will continue to solve tasks as before but is embarking a comprehensive study and development programme concerning GIS. And we have a long way ahead as we realise that countries like Norway, Sweden and the UK are far ahead of us in this field. But this gives us an extraordinary opportunity to look our neighbouring countries over their shoulders in order to gather experience from them in our future work. Thos has resulted in visits to the English as well as the Norwegian engineer schools. Our colleges from the military geographic branch at the Norwegian Engineer School at Hvalsmoen in Norway has visited us last year and informed us about their international operations in regard to the use of geographical information abroad. We will most likely use their experience in our future work. We also visited the Norwegian defence military geographic service (Forsvarets Militærgeografiske Tjeneste FMGT) in Oslo, which is the Norwegian joint authority in the mapping area, and we visited Statens Kartverk which is the Norwegian Mapping Agency.

The Norwegians are in Iraq

It is thought provoking that the Norwegian defence has bought advanced 20 feet containers for their geo cells for employment in international operations. One of them was deployed in Iraq not far from the Danish National Support Element. Each and every one of these containers costs as much as it will cost to buy the new GIS production machinery for our new branch.
The Danish Military Geographic Branch sees it as one of its main purposed to be able to in the future to deploy in international operations, but this will demand a build up of complex and strenuous capacities in the years to come.
We have been lucky to be able to help out with maps in the preliminary phase to the second shipment of Danish soldiers from Skive Barracks to Iraq. They needed maps over the area they had to go down and reconnoitre prior to their mission. Unfortunately we are not yet able to go down and improve existing maps in Iraq, but we hope to be able to do exactly that in the future. The sooner the better.

Challenging future

Will military geographic in the future be an area which will spread to the rest of the operational part of the engineers? And what consequences will this have? These are some of the questions which the future will bring. One of the more comprehensive tasks which the GIS section will deal with in the future is the development of exactly this area.
In daily work the branch has an extensive contact with civilian firms and corporations outside the Defence.

Many contacts

One of our pronounced partnerships is with the Danish Mapping Agency (KMS), which especially the mapping section co works with. Many of the special military maps, as we know them, are made and printed at KMS from overlay patterns made by our mapping section. Not many are aware of the fact that our guys from the mapping section have a crucial influence on the design of the military maps I Denmark. Our branch also has contact with the Danish Forest and Nature Agency, which is providing action plans for restoration and conservation of military areas as well as the counties which are responsible for building and restoration of larger bridges. We also have contacts with the academic milieu in which GIS as an analytic tool is becoming more and more useful.
By the way digital geographic data is the basis for many of the systems in the Danish Army. For instance the new computer based Danish Army Command, Control and Information System (DACCIS), simulation systems, UAV´s and firing support systems of any kind.

Outdated equipment

At the moment this unit needs replacement of all of its production machinery, which is almost teen years old and no longer comes up to the test of time. The personnel are undergoing much training where much of the training is taking place outside the school. For example are two co workers attended an extended GIS course with the Swedish Armed Forces in Sweden.
In spite of all the changes you will still be able to meet the map sections reconnoitre teams in cars and on motorbike on the highways of Denmark in the summer as they are collecting various geographic data to be registered and committed to the military maps, which we know as Bridge and Cross Country Movement Maps. Even though much is changing some things will continue as always, but we are convinced that the new technology will improved geographical registrations as they will become faster and more accurate. We believe that we in the future will be able to collect geographic information at a higher pace than in the past.

The move to Skive Barracks

In connection with defence agreement for 1999 - 2004 it was determined to move the Engineer and NBC Defence School from Farum Barracks on Zealand to Skive Barracks in Jutland. The Military Geographic Branch in the process lost some of its competent personnel. But we managed quickly to replace the personnel and we are now working full speed ahead at our new working place in Skive where new building were build to accommodate the school.
We have opened a new chapter in the history of the military use of geographic information and we are happy to say that we think that GIS will be of immense value to the armed forces in the time to come.
Many have actually wanted to serve with the new branch here in Skive. We take that as evidence that this area is exciting and fun to work with, and we believe that the times ahead will be prosperous in the years to come.