29 Oct. 2008
PR# 2008-569

Geospatial Shop Supports ISAF, Afghanistan

German Army Master Sergeant Bjoern Ehlenberger logs in the day's job orders submitted by International Security Assistance Force members while Spanish Major Miguel Cortez inspects a new map printed in the geospatial shop at ISAF Headquarters

KABUL, Afghanistan - "You have to understand the terrain you are fighting on," said German Army Master Sergeant Bjoern Ehlenberger, production manager in the Geospatial shop at International Security Assistance Force citing the importance of maps in the fight against the insurgency.

ISAF’s geospatial shop recently demonstrated its broad range of skills when part of the bridge for Bala Murghab, Afghanistan, recently came to an impass in its journey through Regional Command West.

"This was an ISAF project where they support the Afghan people with a bridge over a big river," explained Sergeant Ehlenberger.

"They transported the parts of the bridge on the road, but they got stuck in RC West. They tried to get some information from us on how they could fly the parts from one town to another town. We did some terrain analysis for them, and we made some 3D movies to help find out the best way for them to fly. They didn’t end up flying, they ended up taking the parts over the road, but we showed them what our shop, our team, was able to do."

"Everybody needs maps for planning and operations," said Spanish Army Major Miguel Cortes, ISAF Chief Geospatial Officer. Receiving about 10 to 15 requests a day, the geospatial shop uses from one to two plotter rolls of 30 meter paper to support ISAF employees in their missions.

The types of maps requested in a job order vary from terrain analysis, special, rescue, satellite imagery, and the standard map versions of the country as produced by the Afghan nation. Eighty percent of the satellite images used to make the maps have been updated within the last two years.

"We at ISAF are the top of the geospatial pyramid here," explained Cortes. "Then there are Regional Commands, then under the RC’s are the Provincial Reconstruction Teams, the Task Forces, and special elements. We are also the liaison element with Afghanistan’s mapping agency. We have provided them some training and we try to coordinate their production for some needs we have, like understanding their city names."

"In Afghanistan, you can call a village three different names," continued Cortes, "and all of them are correct. But the problem is, you put one name on one map and a different name for the same place on another map, and we are going to have a problem, especially in the automatic system. If you try to create a database with the different names, for example using two u’s when you spell the city name, and then the next time you write the same city name you use two o’s, for the automatic system, they will be two different places."

Romanian Army Lt. Col. Lawrenciu Mandocescu placed an order for maps Oct. 27 and plans on using one of the maps he receives from the geospatial shop in his preparation for a Presidential and Provincial Council Election 2009 brief with ISAF CJ-5 about the upcoming election. 

Geospatial Operator German Master Sergeant Jenoe Heidrich produced the maps for Mandocescu.

"They want to have one map for the upcoming voting registration and one from the previous voting registration, 2005," explained Heidrich. "They want to compare the sites, the stations, how many they had in the previous and how many they have now."

"Also, we want to send the map to the Independent Electoral Commission in Kabul," said Mandocescu. "This commission prepares the elections and deals with the voter registration process. We at ISAF want to help this commission have a secure election in 2009."

Contact Information ISAF Public Affairs Office
Tel: +93 (0)799 51 1155 - Mobile: 0093 (0) 799 55 8291 pressoffice@hq.isaf.nato.int - www.nato.int/isaf/