New Embark Gear Saves Time

9 Mar 2004 | Pfc. Christopher J. Ohmen

The operations section of II Marine Expeditionary Force and computer information section of Headquarters Battalion, 2nd Force Service Support Group, here, streamlined the embark process for deploying units flying to their destination.

Sergeants Michael R. Schmidlkofer and Bernie J. Hizon, G-6 programmers, worked together to create a program using a digital scale and a database of Marines and sailors to create a manifest of the personnel being deployed.

This idea started turning into reality about a month ago, but they had a few problems acquiring the necessary gear.  Two and a half weeks later, the gear problem was fixed, and Schmidlkofer and Hizon had a working product.

Lieutenant Col. Davis A. Stewart, operations information management officer, G-3 section, II MEF, Hizon and Schmidlkofer took the gear up to Marine Corps Air Station, Cherry Point for the initial test of the program and gear on Feb. 23

The gear required for this new system to work includes a laptop computer, the digital scale that plugs into the laptop, barcode scanner that reads the information on the front or back of the identification card and database with the servicemembers information.

“We had a problem getting the right database with the Marines and sailors who were getting deployed so we ended up using one that had a list of all the Marines in the Marine Corps,” Schmidlkofer said.
After setting up the system and doing a test run with their own information, they were ready to go.

Right away, they noticed a few bugs in the system after the first test group.  If the barcode on the back or the front of the identification card is worn off, they would have to manually type in the servicemembers social security number.  Hizon and Schmidlkofer did not program that feature into the interface they created.

Also, if the information for the Marine or sailor was not in the database, they will have to type all the information in by hand.
The output for this program, once all the Marines and sailors have gone through this process, is in the form of a spreadsheet that gives basic information.

“For the first run, Sgt. Hizon and I had to ‘wing it’ as far as what type of output would be created from the program and what the interface let us input by hand,” Schmildkofer said.

A few days and a lot of suggestions later, the program received an overhaul and all of the bugs they encountered before were worked out.  They are now able to type in social security numbers by hand, organize the Marines and sailors by mission number or unit location number and are able to remove someone from one list and add them to another.

Luckily, there was a chance to conduct a second test not long after the modifications were made to the program.  Those involved with the embark process at Cherry Point were impressed with the performance of the new system. 

“Combat Service Support Detachment 21 was so impressed with the updated system they want one complete setup at Cherry Point ready for use in three weeks time,” Schmildkofer stated.  “They first want to see that it is reliable enough to replace the system they currently have.”

With the old embark system the servicemembers had to line up in alphabetical order to be checked against the roster in the computer and their weight with gear going aboard the plane had to be manually entered into the system.

This new system allows servicemembers to line up in any order and when they stand on the scale their weight is sent right into the computer with the rest of the data needed from the identification card.
This system is still in its infancy as far as what they hope it will be capable of when it reaches its full potential.