This past month Milcord participated in the Cobra Gold military exercises in Thailand, demonstrating our Office of the Secretary of Defense Human Social Cultural Behavior (HSCB) Modeling Program project, a Socio-Cultural Knowledgebase using a Semantic Wiki. Cobra Gold is an annual joint training exercise held in Thailand and sponsored by the U.S. Pacific Command and the Royal Supreme Thai Command. One of the world's largest multinational exercises, it draws participants from 24 nations, including the armed forces of Thailand, Republic of Singapore, Japan, Republic of Indonesia, Republic of Korea and the United States. Nearly 13,000 military personnel, approximately 7,300 of them American troops, participated in Cobra Gold 2011. The event improves participating nations' ability to conduct relevant and dynamic training while strengthening relationships between the militaries and local communities.
Participating in the exercises was a fantastic experience, as we traveled across the country speaking with Soldiers and Marines at various bases gaining valuable feedback regarding how our tool can support socio-cultural data management for complex operations with the ultimate objective of transitioning our ONR supported R&D into operational use in the field.
One of the highlights of the trip, in meeting with a group that had recently deployed to Afghanistan, we used the Socio-Cultural Knowledgebase to look up the exact area of their deployment and view information about the tribal dynamics, provincial and district contextual knowledge, and data on political figures and powerbrokers relevant for their area. For the Afghanistan and Pakistan area, the Semantic Wiki covers more than 3,000 tribes and ethnic groups, documenting their traditional alliances, disputes, human terrain map, and other pertinent information to operations. The wiki also has articles for almost 700 individuals of significance for the region.
Our use of a semantic wiki platform enables the representation of the human terrain knowledge as facts and relationships. The representation of this knowledge in a semantic wiki has the additional advantage for faceted browsing and answers engine queries. For instance, the semantic wiki can answer questions like “What are the tribes in Kandahar Province and their traditional disputes?” as a table which dynamically is generated every time a new fact is added that fits this question. Getting firsthand feedback from the very people you want your research to support is a rewarding experience. We hope to be able to return next year and participate in the field exercises, showing how our tool can directly support socio-cultural knowledge management for civil affairs and humanitarian operations. The picture above is from the opening ceremony of the exercise in Chiang Mai as I present our Socio-Cultural Knowledgebase using a Semantic Wiki to the dignitaries in attendance while the picture below is from our travelling road show.
Additionally, while it was quite the busy schedule for the two and half weeks I was there, we were still able to find time for sightseeing, taking in historic temples, a Muay Thai boxing match, and even a visit to a fish spa. And of course, sampling the incredible array of Thai street food was amazing; I still dream of the delicious steamed pork buns I had in Bangkok and Chiang Mai.