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German exercise helps put NATO on the map

All roads led to northern Germany for NATO’s military map makers – as they convened in Sennelager for a major cartographic exercise organised by the ARRC.

The specialist troops from 16 different nations came together for the week-long exercise, to share their technical expertise in creating bespoke mapping.

The training was designed to develop the planning and analytical skills of the geospatial personnel, and help them learn to create digital and paper maps that are useful to military commanders.

British Royal Engineer officer Lieutenant Colonel Simon Finch (pictured above right) explained: "It’s fascinating really – what we are doing is presenting a lot of information that is extremely complex. And by simplifying what is complicated, it can allow commanders to make decisions in a quicker manner.”


The troops were supported by a range of experts to assist with their map making, including specialists from the Met Office and the cultural protection organisation ‘Blue Shield International’.

Dr Emma Cunliffe from the Blue Shield explained how cultural heritage is yet another consideration. She said: "One of the key lessons is where to find cultural data – and why it matters just as much as what the weight of a tank is and whether it is going to sink into a bog.

"The importance of understanding cultural touch points is that they are likely to be highly significant in community tension, understanding the areas where your battlespace will be highly congested with cultural buildings and avoiding them if that’s an option. So, it becomes about risk management and informed decision making.”


The exercise was held in Sennelager’s Normandy Barracks, known to generations of British Army soldiers based in Germany – and until this year home to 20th Armoured Infantry Brigade. The return of NATO troops to the camp demonstrates its continuing use as an important training area.

Lieutenant Colonel Finch added: "It’s fantastic being based here in central Europe as it gives us the opportunity to draw more people in. This exercise is truly pan-NATO.

"And I believe we’re very fortunate that the British Army is retaining this (base) as a training facility. It’s absolutely perfect for what we require and we’ll be coming back!”

Sergeant Evan Durkin from the US Army (centre above) concluded: "It’s been a wonderful experience to come out here and share in all the geospatial analysis that these different nations have put together, and create some really amazing maps.

"Map making is just one of the many things that go on behind the scenes. It doesn’t normally end up on the movie screens, but we’ve all worked very hard and we’re very pleased with the outcome.”

Story by Allied Rapid Reaction Corps Public Affairs Office

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