Analyst David Cooley deployed to Kenya for two weeks to support Exercise Civil Bridge in November 2012. David has previously deployed to Afghanistan as an analyst in three separate tours between 2010 and 2012, and has worked for the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) for eight years.
The Military Stabilisation Support Group (MSSG), a tri-service unit, works to facilitate civil-military cooperation (CIMIC) and provides military assistance to stabilisation and development in many countries. MSSG also partners with allies around the world to help develop capability overseas and this is often done closely aligned with its civilian counterparts in the Cabinet Office Stabilisation Unit (SU).
MSSG have units widely deployed across the world to support a variety of operations and exercises and consist of primary military stabilisation practitioners who provide expert advice and support on deployed operations such as Afghanistan.
One of the key activities MSSG carries out on operations is gathering a detailed understanding of local people from a social, economic and political perspective. This requires gathering, analysing and sharing a variety of data which feeds into the overall military and civilian planning to ensure the needs of the local people are included in military decision making. In addition, through building these relationships with locals, MSSG can help support local people.
Part of MSSG’s collective training is Exercise Civil Bridge, a joint military-civilian exercise allowing stabilisation practitioners to train and exercise under realistic conditions.
With the support of the MSSG, Dstl used this exercise to trial the suitability of software running on laptops and tablet computers to collect data and conduct analysis while out on the ground, assessing the benefit tablets have over the more traditional pen and paper. The intent was to assess whether using software and tablets provide a useful capability in the field.
Apart from the odd interruption of monkeys stealing food or giraffes wandering around the HQ, a typical work day was consistent with that of a standard deployment; starting at 0800 and usually finishing around 2200. However, as the HQ was based on a game reserve the view was significantly better than all the other HQs I’ve worked in.
My role on the exercise was to support Dstl’s trial, assisting the military with using the technology, supporting and conducting analysis on the collected data as necessary and gathering feedback from the users on their views of new technologies, such as the tablet computers.
Being embedded in the HQ meant I was able to provide instant support to the MSSG by assisting with Centres of Gravity analysis, producing network and influence maps and drawing out conclusions and recommendations that the tools helped identify. These contributions help to provide a solid evidence base to inform decisions and I was also able to solve technical issues and advise on how to use the software.
The MSSG were keen to trial the software and tablets and during the exercise and I received very useful feedback. This will help inform future decisions on developing software and whether to continue to use tablets as a means for data capture. In addition, the analysis capabilities provided by the software better enabled MSSG to operate on the ground and understand the complex environment they were operating within.