Cpl Claude Pellerin – the Map Mapper

By Bruce Deachman, The Ottawa Citizen, March 24, 2010

Bruce Deachman of The Ottawa Citizen profiled the world of Canadian Forces Base Petawawa. He looked at the jobs of 24 people on the base with stories, and photo slideshows. This is one of two Military Engineer stories.

Cpl. Claude Pellerin, 35, was a forest technician when he joined the military as an artilleryman in 2003. He has deployed once, as field artillery.

“I’m a GeoTech — Geomatic Technician. I’m from Notre-Dame-du-lac. I’ve been in the military for 61⁄2 years.

“I joined for the challenge. I was a forest technician. I was using RGS 3.2 at the time — geomatic software — in forestry. I decided to join the forces in the combat arms as a field artillery, and from there decide if I wanted to move on to a technical trade, which I did after three years. And I came to Geomatic Technician from my background in forestry, using geomatic tools.

“I’ve been in Petawawa since August — this summer. I finished my training in May and got posted here in August.”

Capture, store, analyze, process, present, disseminate, manage

“At the end of the line, they call it the 5 plus 1 task — capture the data; store; analyze and process; present the data; disseminate; and manage.

“We don’t have typical days. Things are really fast here, and from day to day the tasking is changing constantly.

“A common task is to produce a map for an exercise. On the screen here is a map that will be used for Maple Guardian in January and February 2010 down in California, showing the terrain with exercise data on it.

“The data was supplied to us and we put it all together the way we needed, with the symbology we needed, with actual exercise names used and exercise data used to try to reproduce the name that’s going to be used overseas.”

A good map

“A lot of things are important to a military map. Accuracy is very important. And constancy on the way it displays certain data — the guys on the ground are used to seeing certain data represented with a certain colour, and they become familiar with it and this is really important to them.

“The way that we’re going to present the data — the projection used, the data used, the grid — this all has to be standard for the guys on the ground.

“The information we get comes from MCE — Mapping and Charting Establishment, the model ship for a Geotech. They give it to us as data. They work in partnership with the U.S. military. If it comes in a finished format, we just ship it out the door. If it’s a raw format, like this data here, we make it our own — massage the data and assemble it how we want it.

“You can think of the data as different layers. The base layer could be imagery or simply not use a background. And then you draw on a contour line, and a road over top of it. And you have the town and boundaries, and a lake and a river, so that at the end you have a big picture.

“We get tasked to produced a map. A lot of discussion goes on in the background about exactly what they need on the map — what is the scale they need? What is the extent they need? What do they want to see exactly on the map? And then we build the map, slowly, from all the information we have from the client. 

“We’re doing a lot of maps here in Petawawa. There’s a lot of training occurs here in Petawawa, and there are a lot of requests for (maps of) different parts of the training area, and different products.

“There are always updates. You have newer aerial photography. You have new structures being built. There are constant updates and different demands. There’s specific data that some unit is going to request, to add on to a product or create with a specific name. 

“There are certain maps you’re going to spend two hours on and it’s out the door. Some maps you can spend two weeks working on.”

“At the end of it, you have an end result. You did something and you helped the guys on the ground.

“I think we always keep in mind that the guys on the ground are going to use this map. Me, personally, coming from combat arms, I used a lot of maps and I know how using a map — especially with a background in forestry — and you always keep in mind that somebody’s going to have to use this map, and you try to keep it simple for him.

“You don’t want to create a product that’s not going to be usable by anybody.

“For me, you read a map. If I write in a language that nobody can read, I’ve failed. It’s useless.

“We’re learning constantly. Constantly. 

“The Mapping and Charting Establishment — We Show the Way. Ostendamus Viam.”

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