The Role of TransASK

During a fast breaking crisis, a military command must accomplish a tremendous amount of planning and coordination in a very short period of time. The TRANSCOM Crisis Action Team (CAT) is a special entity within the command that takes over such functions during crises. CATs face a severe training problem. Because of the short term of many military assignments, many of the action officers who are assigned to the CAT have little experience in their current jobs, and, in the frantic atmosphere of a crisis, their co-workers do not always have time to give them much help.

The basic job of the TRANSCOM CAT is to determine what materials and personnel the commander-in-chief wants shipped, to verify the accuracy and priority of those requirements, and to schedule transportation that meets the commander-in-chief's timetable. Much of this job requires interacting with a complex military planning system, and following up on questionable data by directly contacting people who can explain and verify it. Newly assigned officers have many problems within this structure, which requires them to:

The role of TransASK is to provide guidance on these and other similar issues on an as-needed basis, as an officer is accomplishing his mission either in a crisis or during a training exercise.

TransASK captures the expertise of transportation planners at TRANSCOM and other commands in the context of their experiences during Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Twenty-five experienced people, ranging from generals to noncommissioned officers, were interviewed. Their expertise is most often conveyed in the form of first-person stories (quite literally "war stories") which are vivid and memorable to a viewer. Trainees find these stories easier to apply to their current problems than the decontextualized advice typically contained in "lessons learned" documents.

TransASK is designed with the officers' jobs in mind. The challenge in designing the human interface was to make it rich enough that a user could easily find the answers to specific questions, but simple enough that he would not be overwhelmed. To make it easy to find information in the system, the interface gives the user a set of graphical displays organized around the situation that brought the user to the system in the first place: the user is filling a particular role in the CAT, he is engaged in a task required by that role, and he is having a problem accomplishing the task. Selecting a role, task, and problem from the displays brings the user to a story relevant to his current concerns.

Next Story ASK Systems and Books

Outline Where am I in the content of the book?

Give Me Alternatives

What Is Next?

What Led To This?

What Should Be Avoided

What Can Be Done?

Give Me Background

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