Eucom offers window on its operations

If you want a quick snapshot of deployed U.S. forces engaged in everything from peacekeeping missions to air strikes, check out the home page of the U.S. European Command (www.eucom.mil), whose 13-million-mile area of operations extends from Bosnia and Kosovo to the northern no-fly zone over Iraq.

As topical as today's headlines, the Eucom World Wide Web site offers up information immediately, with the top stories of the day - covering actions in Kosovo and Iraq - prominently displayed at the top of a no-nonsense opening screen.

The Eucom Web site makes it easy for visitors to mine for information, with topics covered under the standard headings well known to anyone who has taken a journalism class: "Who," "What," "When," "Where" and "Why." In a nod to its own medium, the Eucom site has added a sixth "W" to that list, "Web," which offers the site index, search features and a list of new files and page titles.

This simple organization makes it easy for even a newcomer to search the site, which is packed with powerful links that, at each subsequent mouse click, pop up more detailed information.

Clicking on a Kosovo headline pops up a home page that offers a map of Serbia and a brief text description of where Kosovo fits into that country. This is followed by page after page of news links, drawn from a variety of sources, including White House statements picked up by the Armed Forces Press Service, State Department briefings through the U.S. Information Service and U.N. Security Council Resolutions via a link to the U.N. Web site.

Hitting the "Operations" button under the "What" heading provides an excellent overview of Eucom's disparate missions, providing links to Kosovo-related operations, including Operation Eagle Eye, the ongoing aerial surveillance of that country conducted by U2 spy planes, unmanned aerial vehicles and Navy P3 patrol planes. Click on the names of those aircraft, and a fact sheet pops up them and their capabilities.

You then can check out Operation Northern Watch, the Eucom-supported air missions over Iraq, from both operational and policy perspectives, again with a wealth of links that draw from a multitude of U.S. government and international sources. This section also provides live links to the Operation Northern Watch Combined Joint Task Force, headquartered at Incirlik Air Force Base, Turkey.

These links serve citizens curious to know more about Eucom's in-the-news missions. But the Eucom Web page, like many other Defense Department sites, has a dual function, designed to provide detailed information to members of the command as well as personnel scheduled for transfer into the command. These sections provide access to information that can turn the horror of a transfer to a new command in a new country into an easy-to-manage task.

Much of this information is contained under the "Who" heading. Clicking on the "Headquarters" link pops up a welcome page that contains links to the headquarters sponsorship program home page as well as the Web site of the Stuttgart, Germany-based 6th Area Support Group, which handles in-processing and support for the command. This is boilerplate, but it is the kind of boilerplate that can make a key difference to a core Eucom audience - its own personnel.

The Eucom site uses graphics and photos sparingly and remains mercifully Java applet-free. The command has managed to add some real texture to its site by choosing drawings, rather than photos, to illustrate the headquarters section - a surprising and enjoyable touch that lends some warmth to that boilerplate.

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