By Kathi Ghannam, Office of Corporate Communications
Imagine a U.S. pilot on an aerial reconnaissance mission over hostile territory when the engines of his aircraft shut down. He ejects and lands safely in unfamiliar enemy terrain. Suddenly, he’s very grateful for the evasion chart and “blood chit” stowed in the pockets of his flight suit.
The chart, known as an EVC, and chit are produced by the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency in partnership with the Department of Defense Joint Personnel Recovery Agency.
The EVC helps the pilot survive and safely navigate to an area where friendly forces can reach him, and the blood chit contains messages written in multiple languages that call on local civilians to help him.
Since the early 1980s, NGA and its predecessor agencies have worked with JPRA and its predecessor agencies to build functional and accurate products to help isolated personnel get back into friendly control, said John Fristoe, functional manager of the DOD evasion chart program and chief of JPRA’s Evasion Aids division.
Because of the work the agencies do, today’s pilots carry EVCs and chits made of a highly versatile and durable material. They can be used to hold water, haul food, stay warm, block the sun and cover wounds.
EVCs cover all sorts of terrain, like jungles, deserts, islands and mountains. Pilots carry those most suited to the areas over which they will be flying.
On the chart, the pilots will find some fairly common features, like a map with a legend, time zone information, contour interval information, and instructions on orientation and navigating, day or night, without a compass.
The charts also have many features not found on traditional maps, like advice for preventing hypothermia, dehydration and other exposure-related ailments, and instructions for placing a limb with a compound fracture in traction to set the bone.
There is also a list of edible and nonedible plants and animals, and step-by-step instructions for testing foods to see if they are poisonous, a list of predatory animals and other dangerous species indigenous to the areas the charts cover, and instructions for treating snakebites.
The charts are the results of tremendous teamwork, said Karl Knirr of NGA West’s EVC production team. NGA and JPRA routinely update the EVCs to help ensure those who use them have the best chances for survival. JPRA is in direct contact with users in the commands and in the field to glean the details of what they need. Then, JPRA informs NGA of any necessary changes.
Knirr and other members of the NGA West EVC production team and JPRA began redeveloping and transforming the EVC into a digital product just before 9/11, he said.
But since 9/11, the EVC production team and the chart have changed dramatically, said Knirr. Before digitization, EVCs took up to four months to create, were only available in 1:250,000 scale and had only one type of camouflage pattern. Back then, JPRA would send NGA mock-ups, or layouts, of how the charts should fit together and detailed lists of indigenous plants, animals and other marginal data to include on the chart.
Now, the EVC team uses the latest digital information and imagery to best fit the user’s needs when making or updating a map, said Knirr.
The NGA EVC production team has visited the Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape (SERE) School to learn the survival uses of their products to ensure a greater understanding of the user’s needs, said Meri Ford, former NGA liaison to JPRA.
There is also ongoing interaction between instructors at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency College and students at JPRA’s SERE school in Spokane, Wash., and the Personnel Recovery Education and Training Center in Fredericksburg, Va. JPRA personnel routinely attend basic GEOINT classes at NGA’s East campus in Springfield, Va., said Ford.
NGA and JPRA have a crucial relationship, and NGA is involved in nearly every aspect of JPRA operations, said Len Kerney, JPRA deputy director for intelligence. The crews sent to rescue those in peril also use GEOINT provided by NGA to plan and execute their missions.
GEOINT is also used in to determine the most reliable and accessible materials in each area of operations so people will know how to aid in their own rescue, if necessary, said Ford. Toward that end, NGA recently created the ¬first comprehensive standardized manual of distress signals for use by isolated personnel and rescue forces.
Ford also established a database of ground-to-air signals specific to various areas of responsibility to ensure operators can use indigenous materials to aid in their recovery, she said. For instance, laying out a tarp or space blanket or starting a ¬fire will draw attention to an area that might go otherwise unnoticed.
Each member of the team constantly looks for ways to improve the customer’s product and reduce costs, said Yates. For example, simply reducing the number of times the EVC is folded during production, from 32 to eight, saves thousands of dollars per product run. The material is pliable enough for users to fold so it fits in their uniforms.
A team also manages the requirements and fulfillment process to ensure the right amount of stock is on hand or on order. This saves money by reducing excess inventory that must be destroyed when it becomes obsolete, said Monique Yates, NGA deputy National System for Geospatial-Intelligence operations executive.
Together, the products NGA and JPRA produce aid U.S. efforts to recover and return isolated, missing, detained or captured personnel. And true to the JPRA motto, they help ensure “that others may live … to return with honor.”
To learn more about the JPRA, visit their website: http://www.jpra.mil/index.htm