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As 1st Cavalry lowers its physical profile, commanders are relying more on technology to police their turf. First Cavalry is the first fighting unit to use a computer-based information system billed as, with the military's characteristic immodesty, the Command Post of the Future, or CPOF. Much of what it does--and how it operates--is classified, but CPOF combines satellite imagery and digital maps with analytical software and constantly updated information from the field to give commanders a highly detailed view of their battle space. It allows Chiarelli to detect patterns in enemy activity and respond quickly. It also tells him, in real time, where his troops are and where there's enemy activity.
But, as Bravo Company discovered on its raid, the latest technology is no match for that old data dictum known as GIGO: garbage in, garbage out. Commanders concede they have had little success getting intelligence about insurgent movements. Locals are often too hostile or afraid of reprisals to provide info. That's where the new Iraqi forces are meant to come into the picture. "The Iraqis will be our eyes and ears," says Lieut. General Thomas Metz, commander of the Multinational Corps in Iraq. "This is their country, these are their people."
In the meantime, 1st Cavalry commanders are trying unconventional techniques. When a raid turned up a huge cache of contraband cigarettes, Formica recognized an opportunity for outreach. He had the packs distributed with special wraps printed with hotline numbers, an exhortation to report suspicious characters and the promise of a reward. A smoker called in the first bit of intelligence last week, Formica says. "Here's something you don't hear every day," he says, "but that pack of cigarettes may have saved some lives." --With reporting by Christopher Allbritton/Baghdad