FARGO, N.D. — Upon stepping into the North Dakota National Guard’s Joint Task Force-East, the headquarters for flood operations across eastern North Dakota, a visitor sees a wall of screens filled with every key piece of information leaders need to make timely and sound decisions regarding troop response. It’s part of what the military calls Knowledge Management. Elements of it have been used in past flood fights, but this is the first time the entire Knowledge Management concept has been incorporated.
What it means, in short, is connecting those who know with those who need to know. The elements are married in the Common Operational Picture, or COP, which displays every piece of information a commander may need to make a sound decision.
Two young Soldiers, under the guidance of Sgt. Maj. Kevin Keefe, set up the system, relying on their military training and civilian education to make for a seamless process.
“Staff Sgt. (Nick) Suko and I handle Knowledge Management for Joint Task Force-East,” said Sgt. Justin Valenti. “We organize all the information that the commander is going to look at, so it is important that we provide the information that is accurate and up to date so that he can make critical and timely decisions.”
Keefe says the information isn’t just fed up to the commander, but flows both directions through the chain of command to ensure everyone has the necessary tools.
Valenti, a senior majoring in emergency management at North Dakota State University, and Suko, who helped in the Knowledge Management arena with his unit, the 141st Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, both deployed to Iraq with the 191st Military Police Company and have seen the importance of Knowledge Management in combat missions. Now, they’re incorporating the concept to enhance decision-making processes within their hometown of Fargo and in the Red River Valley.
“I think it’s a very good thing to have Knowledge Management incorporated in the flood fight,” Suko said. “We can put all of the information that comes in into the COP so it’s up there for the commander to see and use for decisions.”
The COP displays Blue Force Tracker information, which uses GPS technology to pinpoint the location of Guardsmen’s vehicles, whether they’re operating traffic control points or resource control points, on a quick response force team or monitoring levees. Guardsmen can communicate with one another and with supervisors via the system, as well. Additionally, the National Guard Mapper, which coincides with ArcGIS, is regularly updated with troop presences, water levels and flood suppression material locations. Valenti plugs the points in and communicates with personnel in Bismarck, resulting in labeled maps within 15 to 20 minutes of any change or movement. A video feed from a Border Patrol remotely piloted aircraft flying over flood-prone areas adds to the feed, as does a map of North Dakota Department of Transportation road conditions and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration river water levels. U.S. Geological Survey data incorporates historical flows of the river into the COP, and WebEOC, which is used through the North Dakota Department of Emergency Services, displays all significant events happening in the state. A separate Force Array chart shows all National Guard units, the number of Guardsmen available and the number already serving on flood duty.
Also new to this year’s flood operations is video feed from the nose of the North Dakota National Guard’s OH-58 Kiowa helicopters. A camera sends real-time information to commanders in Joint Task Force-East. Guardsmen communicate with the pilots via radios to instruct them what areas to cover with the camera, which also can operate in infrared and night-vision modes. It allows reconnaissance of flood-prone areas for officials, as well as the opportunity to observe missions on the ground.
“Knowledge Management gives the commander a better picture of what the units operating in Joint Task Force-East are doing and helps him make on-the-spot decisions since all information is displayed in front of him on the Common Operational Picture,” Valenti said.
To keep that picture up-to-date, he and Suko work a 12-hour dayshift during which they continuously track water levels, ensure both the digital and analog COP are current and inform the commander, Col. Steve Tabor, and other leaders of any significant activity. In the evening, Spc. Jackie Ust takes over, providing the same information during the quieter 12-hour night shift.
The Soldiers’ expertise and effort have not gone unnoticed by Guard leaders. During a visit to Joint Task Force-East earlier this week, Maj. Gen. David Sprynczynatyk, North Dakota adjutant general, presented Valenti and Suko with coins for excellence in recognition of their work in Knowledge Management.
Since the 2001 terrorist attacks on America, the North Dakota National Guard has mobilized more than 3,500 Soldiers and more than 1,800 Airmen in support of the Global War on Terrorism. Currently, about a dozen North Dakota Guardsmen are serving overseas while more than 4,000 remain in the state for emergency response and national defense. For every 10,000 citizens in North Dakota, 65 serve in the North Dakota National Guard, a rate that’s more than four times the national average.
Photos: High-resolution photos to accompany this release are available on Flickr: www.flickr.com/photos/ndguard. Navigate to the photo set titled “Joint Task Force-East – Flood 2011.”
Video:Video to accompany this release can be viewed at and downloaded from DVIDS.
B-roll of Maj. Gen. Sprynczynatyk’s visit: http://www.dvidshub.net/video/112073/north-dakota-adjutant-general-visit.
B-roll of Joint Task Force-East: http://www.dvidshub.net/video/112075/b-roll-joint-task-force-east-command-fargo-nd
For more information
National Guard Forces Ready for Quick Response in Richland County (April 6, 2011)
Guardsmen Begin Flood Duty in Fargo (April 5, 2011)
National Guardsmen Prepared for Flood Response, with Additional Resources Available through EMAC (March 30, 2011)
National Guard to Conduct Flood Exercise in Fargo (Feb. 28, 2011)
Guard Exercises Flood Response Plan (Feb. 16, 2011)