by SGT Brett McMillan
DEVENS RESERVE FORCES TRAINING AREA, Mass. � Long a leader in weapon technology, the U.S. Army used information technology � with its own Internet communication system � to assemble and disseminate timely information at Petroleum, Oil and Lubricants Exercise 2002 June 14-28.
POLEX headquarters, overseen by the Army Reserve�s 475th Quartermaster Group here, took advantage of Army Knowledge On-line to receive daily situation reports, logistics status reports and sensitive-item reports every morning, said LTC David Mireles Jr., chief of the liaison office and deputy commander of 647th Area Support Group, El Paso, Texas.
�It�s a good way for the Army to be moving,� Mireles said. �All our military and civilian full-time staff has established accounts. I�ve seen quite a few of the staff using it here.�
More than a thousand quartermaster, transportation, Signal and medical soldiers from Reserve and National Guard units around the northeastern United States trained during POLEX.
�This is exactly what we want AKO to do � add value to the Army by integrating the portal into day-to-day operations,� said COL Bob Coxe, the Army�s chief technology officer. �AKO represents a basic set of tools that are optimized for information dissemination for the entire Army. But in reality, these tools are optimized for smaller organizations where the work gets done. It fascinates us to learn of the many uses folks in the field have found to use AKO to incorporate into their organizations.
�The ultimate compliment and the greatest indicator of AKO success would be when soldiers take AKO for granted as their place to get things done and simply assume it�s their place to get their information,� Coxe added.
For now, Mireles said soldiers are mostly using AKO for email, but he pointed out a lieutenant who recently took advantage of one of the system�s other capabilities.
�While it�s great for communicating with units,� said 1LT Tracy Bernhardt, liaison officer for 300th Quartermaster Company, Peru, Ill., �the thing I like about it is that I was able to access and view all my records through my AKO account as I was preparing to submit a packet for the Active, Guard and Reserve Program.�
Soldiers� records were formerly accessible through microfiche but are now available for them to view on the Internet if they have an AKO account. In August 2001, the Army mandated that all soldiers and Army civilians establish AKO accounts, which are available to new users at http://www.us.army.mil/.
AKO is also set up to allow document sharing, said CPT Patrick Swan, command-information officer, 214th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, Richmond, Va.
�Our unit�s mission is to tell soldiers� stories from this exercise,� Swan said. �Even with overnight delivery, it still takes a day to physically move a CD-ROM with stories and photos to our higher headquarters for this operation at Fort Dix, N.J. But with AKO�s Knowledge Collaboration Center, we just upload our large photo files to the central AKO database we�ve established. Soldiers from our higher headquarters, 318th Press Camp Headquarters, can then download the photos and stories and begin processing them immediately to send to soldiers� hometown newspapers or to local post newspapers.
�The bottom line for us is if we can move our stories faster through 318th and to a newspaper editor, we stand a much greater chance to have those stories run before they become old news,� Swan said.
Although MAJ William Klaus, 327th Quartermaster Battalion liaison officer for POLEX, said while he doesn�t use his AKO email account much, on a scale of one to 10, he rates AKO a nine. �As far as the military news and direct links, I think it really covers just about everything you could want,� he said. �I don�t know what I would do to improve it.�
SGT McMillan is with the Army Reserve�s 214th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment.
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