Chatting to the coalition

Coalition forces in Iraq are now able to communicate more effectively among themselves and with the Iraqi people thanks to ‘coalition chat line’ software that uses ‘instant messaging’ techniques.

A working group led by Chris Hillenbrand, the US Office of Naval Research’s (ONR) science advisor at the Naval European Command, developed the system by modifying a program that the Mitre Corporation had developed.

They used the Mitre program, called TRIM (or trans-lingual instant messaging) in conjunction with a machine-translation engine from Logomedia Corporation that they then integrated with other commercial IT hardware.

In November 2003, Hillenbrand and his team took 10 notebook computers loaded with the chat line software program to Iraq. Over four days, they installed it at the US-allied Multi-National Division (MND) headquarters at Al Hilla, a site run by a Polish unit at Karbala, a Spanish operation in Ad Diwaniyah and for a Ukrainian brigade at Al Kut. The Ukrainians were also able to use Cyrillic character sets with the chat line.

The chat line capability proved so popular that the US-allied Multi-National Division (MND) then installed it on more than 200 computers.

The team now is responding to requests for the chat line capability from the US senior army commander in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez and the British commander in southern Iraq.