The worst nightmare of a military unit movement officer or commander is being in a crisis situation with unmovable equipment. With accurate dimensional data, air certifications, and lifting and tiedown information for each piece of equipment, this would not happen. In real-world contingencies, however, equipment is often unmovable because it was improperly secured or crammed into an overloaded cargo compartment during shipment or because it was pressed beyond its design limitations.
To solve this problem, the Military Traffic Management Command Transportation Engineering Agency (MTMCTEA) in Newport News, Virginia, has automated the equipment characteristics file that it has been maintaining for over 30 years. This file contains dimensional characteristics and air certification requirements data for reportable items of equipment for all Army tables of organization and equipment (TOE's). It also contains data on Navy construction battalion and limited Air Force equipment. In fact, this file is the data base of the U.S. Forces Command (FORSCOM) computerized movement planning and status system (COMPASS). Army units report their equipment data and movements to COMPASS through the transportation coordinator-automated command and control information system (TC-ACCIS).
The equipment characteristics file also is used to create the Army portion of the type unit characteristics and type unit equipment detail files. Additionally, this file is the foundation of the automated air load planning system, which allows planners to produce certifiable air load manifests electronically, leaving behind the pencils, paper, and templates they used for so many years.
In the past, MTMCTEA updated the equipment characteristics file with pen and paper and passed this information to a data transcriber and on to FORSCOM through the worldwide military command and control system. All background material on each piece of equipment, such as pictures, weight tickets, and lifting and tiedown diagrams, was documented on 5- by 7-inch index cards maintained in a Rolodex file.
Now, MTMCTEA has automated the equipment characteristics file using a SUN 2000 computer. In the first step, transportation specialists reviewed characteristics data for each piece of equipment and processed their transactions using the equipment characteristics master data file (ECMDF). The ECMDF includes not only the Army equipment characteristics file, but the Marine Corps equipment characteristics file; air certification file; Supply Bulletin 700-20, Army Adopted/Other Items Selected for Authorization/List of Reportable Items; and the Army TOE file. The Marine Corps equipment characteristics file is maintained by a Marine Corps transportation clerk at MTMCTEA and provided to the Corps for their movements. To update the COMPASS system, the transportation specialists transferred the data transactions to FORSCOM using the worldwide military command and control system.
Although MTMCTEA had automated successfully the data transactions for the equipment characteristics file, the background material for each piece of equipment still remained on 5- by 7-inch cards. The second step in automating the file was to scan the background material so it could be transferred to the computer. Photographs, computer-aided designs, level-one engineering drawings, and lifting and tiedown diagrams were manipulated to obtain the clearest possible images during scanning. These images were cross-referenced to each piece of equipment by line item number and index. Now, through a query function of the primary ECMDF screen, the user can view dimensional data and images instantly.
The primary ECMDF screen (bottom of page 18) includes basic dimensional data, the description and configuration of the equipment, air certification status, cargo category group code, and transportability criteria for pallets and containers. The user can select any image from the image screen and, if desired, pull up a second screen and view two entirely different pieces of equipment at once. This capability is a tremendous help to movement officers and load planners who are preparing for deployment. Although initially limited to users at MTMCTEA, the ECMDF will be accessible on the World Wide Web in the summer of 1997.
The third step in modernizing the equipment characteristics file was to convert the transportation "bible," Technical Bulletin (TB) 55-46-1, Standard Characteristics (Dimensions, Weight, and Cube) for the Transportability of Military Vehicles and Other Outsize/Overweight Equipment (In TOE Line Item Number Sequence), to compact disk-read only memory (CD-ROM) version. Mike Buescher, a computer specialist in the systems integration division at MTMCTEA, converted the TB, which is published by MTMCTEA, to CD-ROM, along with approximately 1,000 images. The resulting CD can be used on any DOS personal computer running Windows 3.1 with a CD-ROM reader (bottom of page 9). Instructions for loading and operating this new and exciting version of the transportation "bible" are on the CD. Although initially developed with data only in standard U.S. measurements, a metric equivalent also is available in limited quantities.
TB 55-46-1 will continue to be published in hard copy and is available through pinpoint distribution from the U.S. Army Printing and Distribution Center (USAPDC), Baltimore, ATTN: ASQZ-BDC, 2800 Eastern Boulevard, Baltimore, Maryland 21220-2896. The CD-ROM is available from MTMCTEA while supplies last. Official distribution of the CD-ROM will be made through USAPDC in 1997, so customers should make sure they are on USAPDC's pinpoint distribution list.
MTMCTEA is making transportation data that support deployments worldwide a part of the Department of Defense's digitized battlefield. For information about the ECMDF or TB 55-46-1 on CD-ROM, call (804) 599-1661 or DSN 927-1661, or write to MTMCTEA, ATTN: MTTE-SI, 720 Thimble Shoals Boulevard, Suite 130, Newport News, Virginia 23606-2574. E-mail addresses are email@example.com or buescherm @baileys-emh5.army.mil. Questions about distribution of TB 55-46-1 may be sent to the above address or e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Karen L. Timmons is a transportation specialist in the systems integration division at MTMCTEA. She has an associate degree in business management from Thomas Nelson Community College in Hampton, Virginia. She completed a 2-year internship for transportation specialists with MTMCTEA.