C2PC system gives military tactical position data for New Orleans rescues

Maj. John Rogers

Dawn S. Onley

CAMP SHELBY, Miss.'Thousands of military personnel are combing the streets of New Orleans to rescue survivors of one of the worst natural disasters Americans have ever witnessed.

About two hours north of the city at the Joint Task Force Katrina Operations Center, 160 active-duty members of the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps use computers and digital displays to give commanders situational awareness of search and rescue efforts.

The operations center in this austere military training camp is at the heart of Hurricane Katrina rescue efforts. Military personnel at laptop computers communicate with rescue workers on the ground in New Orleans via satellite phones or by instant messaging. A digital screen at the front of the room displays a grid of the city, showing various areas broken down by ward and the number of rescue workers in each ward.

The grid runs over the Command and Control Personal Computer (C2PC) software system, a tactical map display designed by the Marine Corps. C2PC is based on Microsoft Windows and allows users to exchange tactical position data with Unix-based systems such as the Global Command and Control System (GCCS) and the Tactical Combat Operations System. The C2PC can also display data from the GCCS Common Operational Picture.

Department of Transportation traffic cameras give the staff a glimpse of what is happening at various intersections across New Orleans. Surveillance planes also fly above the city, shooting images and feeding them back to computers in the operations hub.

Army Maj. John Rogers, acting chief of operations, said personnel in the operations center are providing vital situational awareness and management for Katrina search and rescue missions. The end result, according to Rogers, is the center is helping to save lives.

'Our mission is to support FEMA [the Federal Emergency Management Agency] in any way we can do so and to save as many American citizens as we can," Rogers said. 'We're methodically searching the areas and making sure everyone who wants help gets help."

Rogers is stationed at Fort Gillem, Ga., but has been at Camp Shelby since early last week. 'We are the Joint Task Force headquarters,' he said. 'That means that within 24 hours, we execute the commanding general's intent by tasking subordinate task forces and units to execute missions within the joint operational area."

A few days ago, Rogers said, the center received a phone call notifying them that a resident was in trouble and having a difficult time evacuating. He said the center used the C2PC mapping program to learn which unit had responsibility for the area, then sent out an order to quickly route units to the resident's location to effect a safe rescue.

GCN staff writer Dawn Onley is embedded with the Army's 93rd Signal Brigade in Camp Shelby, Miss. She will be sending reports on how the military is helping restore communications in Mississippi, New Orleans and Baton Rouge, La.

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