Written by Michael McGiboney
My personal experience
My first exposure to interactive mapping was TIGR, the Tactical Ground Reporting System used by the military. During my 6 months of training at the US Intelligence School in Ft. Huachuca, AZ, I had been trained on several intelligence analysis programs, including GIS, but it wasn’t until I was actually in Iraq that we got the first roll-out of TIGR. It was an instant hit.
Most soldiers in military intelligence are at the brigade, division and corp level. For every analyst in Iraq or Afghanistan, there are 20 stateside, for every 1 on a FOB, there were 10 in Baghdad at what we called ‘Camp Cupcake’. For every 1 that was embedded in a scout or infantry company there were 3 that stayed on the FOB.
I was one of those that was in a COIST, Company Intelligence Support Team, so our GIS toughbooks were of no use to me in the heat, dust and chaos of being on patrol or a high-value targeting mission.
My unit 3-1 Cavalry was a scout/recon squadron assigned to Wasit Province, SE of Baghdad. My intel section, 6 soldiers, was responsible for the acquisition, analysis, assessment and dissemination of intel within our area of operations. Our primary tool was DCGS-A, a platform that integrated several intelligence analysis tools, one of which was GIS. However for our work in the field ‘outside the wire’, in the heat, dust, cramped spaces of vehicles, we used TIGR.
It was fast, simple and intuitive and it would show what someone else had uploaded in real time, we all could see what was going on in our area of operations, with detailed info and images.
Background on TIGR
Based on feedback from the intelligence and special operations community, DARPA developed a cloud-based intelligence reporting system in 2007 that could be used in the field and required minimal support. It has since been expanded to an app that can be used on military issued smart phones and tablets.
Unlike GIS, which the intel community in higher echelons relies on heavily, TIGR is an easy to use, graphics oriented intelligence reporting program and app that allows soldiers to report information into a cloud in near real time with simple intuitive controls.
General Dynamics explains further: “TIGR is an information-centric solution that empowers users to collect, share and analyze data using a Google Earth like interface backed by network distribution that is resilient to the tactical network challenges. It was developed in line with what Soldiers operating at Company and below needed to increase combat effectiveness across the full spectrum of operations.
TIGR breaks from the traditional hierarchical, bottom-up filtered information flow of reporting, and instead builds on the successes of direct peer-to-peer collaboration. Its collaborative environment provides a unique multimedia solution using graphics, high resolution imagery, line of sight tools, and a searchable database to support the full spectrum of operations (plan, prepare, execute and assess). TIGR assists soldiers in planning and execution by providing:"
The Army culled several redundant intel and mapping systems recently, but TIGR was one that stayed in the system.
Real time essential information would go out over the radio network, but immediate post event intel reporting, with more detail and with pictures was possible with TIGR. Analysts on the FOB would see it instantly and begin deeper analysis and with a better picture could potentially use drone assets to help us more effectively.
Even someone at the Pentagon could see what we were reporting instantly and in some cases like raids on high-value targets, this in fact happened. Sometimes with the madness of an operation and hectic radio chatter and incomplete intel over phone calls and chatroom exchanges between intelligence analysts hundreds and sometimes thousands of miles apart, a quickly uploaded SITREP or SPOT report could clarify the picture instantly.
On the ground if a patrol was forced to take an unplanned route on-the-fly, TIGR could be searched with customizable parameters, for example you could search IED or other hostile events on a route, 200 meters wide, during a specific time frame. This type of instant access to relevant intel would be impossible with GIS.
While TIGR cannot replace the BATS/HIIDES biometric toolkits and databases or the analytical power of GIS, it fills a much needed role on the tactical level.
We even trained scouts in our unit who had no prior training on intel systems, in a matter of days and it allowed them to post incident reports when there were no intel assets embedded in their patrol.
If we weren’t with a patrol, then normally potentially time sensitive intel would not be known to the intel team until after their return and we debriefed them, but with TIGR we could get it in near real time.
More than a few times a photo was posted through TIGR of a vehicle that fit the description of a BOLO and we were able to push UAV assets to the location with 15 minutes and acquire the vehicle.
It isn’t the prettiest in the world, having a very Google look to it, but it is functional and reliable and in these types of situations, you don’t have time to worry about aesthetics.
IT has been 6 years now since I used TIGR and the system has no doubt been upgraded, but I will never forget the powerful advantage it gave us in battling a determined and resourceful foe. Of all the advantages our weapons systems and training gave us, the power of superior knowledge, through actionable intelligence was possible the biggest game changer.
In hostile environments where you are running on adrenaline, constantly moving and needing to be aware of a hundred things at once, a simple user friendly intel collection application allows you to capture events that otherwise would be inaccurately reported hours later.