The map does more than change the product, it changes how cartographers and other users of geospatial intelligence must think about “our content, customers, technology and acquisitions strategy — the entire system surrounding foundation GEOINT,” said former NGA Director Letitia A. Long, in a message to the workforce in April 2013.
Though a lot had changed between the time of the “Mapping Maidens” and when McDermott first made a map, much remained similar, said McDermott. She and World War II military cartographers, like Bea McPherson, shared a common workspace and common tools.
“I worked in the Ruth Building for several years and remember seeing photos of the building camouflaged,” said McDermott. “I also saw photos of cartographers of that era at work on light tables. My job is mainly quality control, and although I use a computer for my work, I also use a light table when I review maps. It is (still) the best method to get a good look at the finished product.”
The agency’s efforts to make geospatial data available to the users in whatever form they need also remains strong, said McDermott.
“There will always be the need for good data, whether (for) a database in support of digital (products) or traditional paper maps,” said McDermott. “Cartographers possess the knowledge needed to provide the data and to transform that data into usable maps.”
She and McPherson also share a fondness and pride for the time spent as cartographers. A moment that stands out for McDermott came on the heels of a different war, she said.
“After Desert Storm, Saddam Hussein attacked the Kurds in Northern Iraq,” said McDermott. “President (George H. W.) Bush initiated Operation Provide Comfort to shield the Kurds from further attack and to deliver humanitarian supplies. The military requested terrain analysis products over the area, and I was on the team that produced the hand-drafted overlays in six days. As soon as the overlays were completed, they were delivered to the military. We knew our work was important and was going to be used right away. That felt good.”
That feeling continues today, she said.
“I am proud to work in support of the military and to provide a service that is still needed,” said McDermott.