On Future Military Webs
From Talon On-Line Magazine
When the soldiers of SFOR7 pack up and return home
this fall they will take several months of experience and memories from
their mission to Bosnia & Herzegovina back home with them.
Some soldiers, however, will also leave something behind.
For 49th Armored
Division soldiers 1Lt Craig Yarbrough and WO1 Rodney Hammack, they will
leave behind a concept in Web page design that will have an impact on the
future of military web sites in Europe and around the world.
It’s all because of a web page called ScribeVision.
“ScribeVision is the culmination
of nearly two years of web page development driven specifically by the 49th
AD’s historic mission to Bosnia,” explains Hammack.
“ScribeVision is basically a suite of Web pages that allows users
to share operational information within Task Force Eagle quickly and
The current version of
ScribeVision is now running on an intranet used to share information among
the various forces making up Multinational Division North.
ScribeVision has been adapted to run on a variety of platforms
ranging from ordinary desktop PCs to the giant screen Ops display in the
White House – the central headquarters for MND(N).
“The web pages created for the
division have now captured the attention of higher echelons –
particularly EUCOM (European Command) and USAEUR (US Army Europe)” says
Yarbrough. “Both organizations have sent representatives to Eagle Base
on several occasions to see ScribeVision in action and evaluate its
potential uses elsewhere.”
In fact, EUCOM has summoned
Yarbrough and Hammack to EUCOM Headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany on two
occasions to adapt ScribeVision for uses beyond Task Force Eagle.
“The idea that ScribeVision, a
web product developed by a
National Guard division, has attracted the attention it has from the
active components is very exciting and gratifying” says Hammack.
During their most recent TDY to
EUCOM in mid-August, Yarbrough and Hammack implemented versions of
ScribeVision that EUCOM hopes to use as the web standards for future
operations. Functionality, flexibility and ease of use are the features
that make ScribeVision appealing to organizations like EUCOM that need to
access and distribute information around a theater in a timely manner.
“What ScribeVision does really
well” says Yarbrough “is organize critical information in a fashion
that makes it easily accessible. Even
more significant is that the information displayed by ScribeVision can be
updated by users with no working knowledge of HTML – the programming
language typically used to build web pages.”
Instead, ScribeVision was coded by
Hammack to allow users to provide content utilizing common office
applications such as Microsoft Word, PowerPoint and Notepad Text Editor.
The various files are created by users and dropped into a shared
web folder – ScribeVision handles the formatting and display of the
ScribeVision has been highly
visible during SFOR7’s rotation. Not
only is the web available across the secret MND(N) intranet, but it also
displayed on a large twelve foot high computer monitor in the main
briefing area of the DOC (Division Operations Center).
It was ScribeVision’s adaptation
to the large screen display that attracted the attention of USAEUR’s
Information Division. In
fact, Yarbrough and Hammack agree that ScribeVision was “born to be
“ScribeVision first took off
when it was adapted for the large projection screen display utilized for
the MRE (Mission Readiness Exercise) at Fort Polk in the fall of 1999”
explains Hammack. “Although
I had created tactical web pages for the 49th AD that were used
during training exercises for nearly a year, it wasn’t until the MRE
that ScribeVision was officially born”.
Arriving at Fort Polk just a few
days before the official start of the MRE, Hammack was asked by the G3
Operations area to devise a way to display their status logs, event logs
and informational slides on the large screen projection TV located in the
main operational area known as the BUB (Battle Update Briefing).
Hammack quickly created a web page
that automatically displayed
a series of PowerPoint slides. He
also incorporated java applications that displayed the status and event
logs as ‘scrolling text’ on multiple locations of the screen.
The result was a large screen operational display that allowed a
roomful of soldiers to quickly access the information.
Most importantly, says Hammack,
the G3 was able to update the web page remotely from their own computer.
“The soldier in G3 Ops who is
responsible for documenting significant events in the AOR (Area of
Responsibility) is called the ‘Scribe’.
I designed the web page so that the Scribe could key in the
information in a simple text file that the java application would
automatically import onto the page itself.”
Hammack admits that he called the
web product ScribeVision partly as a joke since he didn’t know what else
to call it.
it probably should have been called something like ‘G3 Ops Display’,
but the name ScribeVision stuck. That’s
what it’s been called ever since.”
Hammack credits SFC Aaron Ortiz as
the ‘original scribe’ behind ScribeVision.
“SFC Ortiz was instrumental in
refining the content to be incorporated into ScribeVision – providing
the suggestions and feedback necessary to complete the product in the
short timeframe available”.
As the MRE
progressed, ScribeVision evolved. Other
content began to be incorporated, including video feeds from CNN, MSNBC,
Video Teleconferencing and aerial cameras.
The video components were overlaid on the ScribeVision web page and
distributed to television receivers around the MRE site.
Once the 49th Armored
Division arrived in Bosnia last February, Hammack and Yarbrough began the
task of implementing ScribeVision in MND(N) – and faced some unique
“The major obstacle was the
large screen display used for ScribeVision in the BUB” says Yarbrough. Unlike the projection display system used at the MRE, we had
to work with a twelve foot high display system called the Clarity Video
Yarbrough says the projection
system used at the MRE could take a standard web page and enlarge it for
the larger display. However,
ScribeVision appeared dwarfed when patched into the Clarity display.
Hammack had no choice but to build a “bigger ScribeVision”.
The result was a version of
ScribeVision built specifically for the giant screen – 2400 by 1800
pixels in size. When viewed
on the Clarity display system, ScribeVision is larger than life –
perhaps the largest web page in military history.
Yarbrough and Hammack will
continue to work with EUCOM and USAEUR on future incarnations of
ScribeVision right up until the transfer of authority to SFOR8.
Both agree that it was worth all the hard work involved in taking
ScribeVision from Texas to the Balkans – knowing that the product will
continue to grow and evolve long after their departure from Task Force