Tracking down the 'soldier in a haystack'

A U.S. Army soldier keeps an eye out during an early morning patrol in Bayji, Iraq in 2006.

Army Spc. Jose Ferrufino

'Saving Private Ryan' was a fictional movie about a group of Army soldiers looking for one of their own in France during World War II, but this has been a real problem for the military.

The Army is trying to solve it with the Deployed Theater Accountability System. Tested in Iraq and Afghanistan, DTAS tracks and updates in real time the movement of battalions of soldiers no matter where they are.

Before DTAS, 'it took 24 man hours a day to add up all the spreadsheets to tell Gen. Abizaid where the soldiers were,' said Lt. Cmdr. John Kilgallon, product manager for the accountability system. 'We had little money and needed a new system.

'Now, we can find people when we need to, do a strength analysis,' and other tasks in a matter of minutes rather than days, Kilgallon said.

Jointly funded by the Marines and the Army, the system has been certified and accredited and has a backup system. The Joint Chiefs Staff likely will give the go-ahead for worldwide deployment.

'The system runs across an IP network, usually the [Secret IP Router Network],' he said. 'It could connect through satellite or however they need to get on the Internet.'

Only one person can enter data, which gets routed first to the theater database and then back to all commanders in real time.

The message packets are small, 2k to 3k, Kilgallon said. And 'once you enter information in DTS, it will track you throughout your entire career. That is our goal.'

Stay Connected

Sign up for our newsletter.

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.