Article featured in Geoworld magazine, October 2009, pages 24–27.
The U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., founded more than two centuries ago, has preserved its original mission — to inspire cadets to become leaders with outstanding moral character.
At West Point, an arts and sciences curriculum paired with real-world problem solving and ethics training is balanced by participation in team sports. Practical experience and an appreciation of the physical environment are considered equally important to intellectual growth.
West Point is located 50 miles north of New York City on a plateau high above the Hudson River. The campus is a natural training ground for students who elect to study GIS, which requires gathering, measuring and documenting features that characterize the physical environment as well as storing the information in databases for future reference.
GIS and the Military
Geospatial data have become an integral part of the operational landscape and establishing situational awareness. Military analysts engaged in disaster relief and recovery, humanitarian efforts, reconnaissance, battle-damage assessment, and surveillance missions require up-to-the-minute geospatial intelligence to be successful.
Increasingly, unanticipated events account for a growing number of military operations. Soldiers are called on to support a broad range of activities that require sharp mental and physical skills. In addition to conventional warfare, troops are asked to respond to natural disasters such as tsunamis, wildfires and hurricanes; assist in recovery efforts for hazardous accidents such as chemical leaks and petroleum spills; conduct border-surveillance activities; and patrol airports.
To prepare for a wide range of military maneuvers, observing and recording the operational environment are crucial in developing cadets into officers and leaders.
For more than 200 years, West Point has placed an emphasis on geographic studies. Core classes taught in the earliest days of the academy included landscape and mechanical drawing, topographic engineering, and surveying.
Today, similar studies provide the basic framework for building geospatial awareness. Read the complete article >>