Talon On-Line Magazine

ScribeVision Leaves Mark
On  Future Military Webs

Reprinted From Talon On-Line Magazine
September 2000

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.  

EUCOM TDY - 1LT Craig Yarbrough and WO1 Rodney Hammack were summoned to EUCOM (European Command) to install a web product  as a prototype for future Joint Task Force web pages.

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 easily.”

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 information.

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 big”.

“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 retrospect, 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 challenges.

“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 Wall.”

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 Eagle.

The Original ScribeVision – ScribeVision began as a web page created mere days before the start of the Mission Readiness Exercise at Fort Polk in November of 1999.

The Original “Scribe” – SFC Aaron Ortiz, pictured here at the MRE in 1999, was the G3 Ops scribe who provided input used to create the original version of ScribeVision.

Multimedia ScribeVision – As the MRE progressed, multimedia elements such as live video feeds were incorporated into the ever evolving ScribeVision.

ScribeVision Grows – ScribeVision became even bigger when implemented after the 49th AD’s arrival in Bosnia.  The web product was enlarged to fill up the 12 by 10 foot computer monitor used for briefings.