Watching the building of a community around ever-advancing tradecraft is one of the many joys of being involved with USGIF programs. The Foundation’s annual gathering at the GEOINT Symposium reaffirms many of the important characteristics of our community and reveals many hidden strengths.

The YPG (Young Professionals Group) Lounge at the Symposium is one such strength. The exhibit floor has many competing demands for attention and requires participants to allocate their time wisely. The late-afternoon YPG mentoring sessions are always a highlight for me. Geospatial practitioners gather to discuss the issues of the day and create a dialogue in which the mentors serve as facilitators for the rich content that is continuously teed up by the participants. One such session at GEOINT 2019 was conducted without a microphone; young professionals gathered in a tight circle, intently discussing world politics and ideas as to how GEOINT mission contributions could help mitigate global challenges in this geopolitically unsettling time.

A conversation led by “digital natives” during the GEOINT 2019 general session reaffirmed that the incoming generation of geospatial practitioners will not suffer unnecessary bureaucratic peccadillos and are willing to exhibit leadership—both technical and programmatic—to achieve superior mission outcomes. The speed of technology coupled with the ingenuity and innovation of journeyman experts is essential to our community. I am encouraged to know that Ben Foster, Army Staff Sergeant Aljune Lerio, and Katie McGaughey are advancing the tradecraft.


GEOINT 2019 opening presentation: Digital Natives – Empowering the GEOINT Enterprise from Trajectory On Location on Vimeo.

In the GEOINT 2019 exhibit hall, the Innovation Corner offered “speed-geeking” in the form of mission-focused lightning talks. I benefitted from witnessing the passion with which Liz Lyon advances the importance of human geography with her team. Liz’s impressive social media following is yet another measure of our community’s strength.

NGA Director Vice Adm. Robert Sharp speaks with GEOINT 2019 Golden Ticket Winners.

The Honorable Sue Gordon, PDDNI, had lunch with an exceptional cohort at GEOINT 2019—the 30 USGIF Young Professional Golden Ticket winners. Sue’s ability to simultaneously teach, mentor, and instill passion has earned her a reputation as a superstar leader that is richly deserved. Her ability to foster group collaboration around the tabled topics and then to evaluate the discussion was described by one participant as “magical.” Watching NGA Director Vice Adm. Robert Sharp deftly handle sharp-edged inquiries from Golden Ticket winners also nicely reflected our community’s passion to share and mentor while challenging and encouraging.

The K-12 generation of potential geospatial practitioners visited GEOINT 2019 and engaged with YPG leaders and USGIF’s Portable Planet map of North America. One San Antonio area Boy Scout in a group led by Golden Ticket guide Caitlin Marsh of Ball Aerospace visited the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) booth. While explaining the HEXAGON film return process, an NRO employee asked the Scout how fast a satellite moves on orbit. Without hesitation, the scout replied, “17,000 miles per hour.” The group was blown away as the Scout’s proud mother looked on, reported Caitlin.

And, at this year’s Symposium, GEOINTers donated $5,775 to fund the shipment of USGIF’s Portable Planet map of North America and corresponding learning materials to schools throughout the country. This year’s event was a true representation of GEOINTers giving of their time, talent, and treasure to build a community that reflects the values of its members.

Nicely done and thank you to all! See you this fall at one of our many exciting events, to include the GEOINTegration Summit, Geospatial Gateway Forum, and GEOINT Community Week.

Featured image: From left to right, Army Staff Sergeant Aljune Lerio, Katie McGaughey, and Ben Foster participate in a special opening presentation at GEOINT 2019.

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Posted by The Honorable Jeffrey K. Harris