Fort Sam Houston: Timesaving Communications

Military history buffs know San Antonio as the home of the Alamo, but the city also boasts one of the most important military posts in the Army – Fort Sam Houston.

Fort Sam is currently the command headquarters for the U.S. Army North (formerly the Fifth U.S. Army), U.S. Army South, Fifth Recruiting Brigade, 12th ROTC Brigade, the San Antonio Military Entrance and Processing Station, the U.S. Naval School of Health Sciences, Bethesda Detachment, and houses the Army’s principal medical training facility – the Army Medical Department Center & School (AMEDDC&S).

The AMEDD Center and School is the largest military medical training facility in the world, with more than 25,000 students annually attending 170 different courses in 14 medical specialties, including over 7,000 combat medical technicians. Additional training takes the form of distance learning courses and mobile digital training facilities. AMEDD C&S purchased AxisTV digital signage software to interface with their students more effectively. We spoke with Florence P. Emery, Chief of the Training Program Management Office in the Department of Academic Support and Quality Assurance at the facility, to see how AxisTV is helping them to communicate with the large student body.

“After 9/11, better communication became a priority,” says Emery, an educator turned civil servant for the past 25 years. “We were in the process of upgrading our training materials and classrooms to be more modern, more visual,“ when she and Tim Gregory, Chief of Classroom Technology Support, participated in an AxisTV demonstration. They immediately saw the advantages of Visix digital signage solutions and began the process to have the system approved and championed by command leadership. “It’s an easy system, user-friendly, and the ability to post emergency alerts across the bottom of the screens was a major selling point. Our students are so busy, their time is so compressed – we wanted to make them more self-sufficient in getting the information they need.”

AMEDD C&S is currently running AxisTV on six media players sending content to large displays in entryways, near elevators, in the student processing area and in the dining facility. The system is also delivering content as screensavers for staff as well as in the classrooms. “The screens are all up high where people can’t help but see them,” Emery tells us. “It sure saves a lot of scampering around in the mornings by providing immediate class location information, which saves a lot of time for students and civilian visitors.” The system commonly broadcasts training class information, weather forecasts, welcome messages and motivational quotes. “We use an automated database for upcoming events so everything is as current as possible,“ Emery continues. Content, however, can come from any department.

“I am constantly getting new customers who see our digital signs and want to participate.” Departments usually generate their own communications and then send them to the Training Program Management Office via email. Emery’s department makes sure the content meets current approval guidelines and publishes it to the system. The visual communications can be virtually anything: information on classes, activities, and events; graduation times and locations; emergency notices; candidate solicitation for research projects and studies; information on the blood donor program; announcements from the Moral & Welfare Department; updates on base facilities; an ad for an upcoming golf tournament; even the occasional distinguished visitor welcome notice. “Visiting civilians, politicians and so on, enjoy seeing our signs welcoming them to the base.” From time to time, they also run video from the Pentagon, “such as when the ‘Army of One’ films were being screened on the Internet.”

Prioritizing such a range of communications may seem daunting, but Emery thinks it is worthwhile. “We try to get it all out there, though training, since we are a training facility, trumps a social event if we have to make a choice.”

Emery describes their content as “graphic heavy” and creators utilize an array of creation tools – Photoshop, PowerPoint, and various video authoring software. “I’m happy with AxisTV’s performance. It’s a very good information management and emergency notification tool and a quick way to get the info out there. It improves participation in events and reinforces information from other sources, such as post newspapers. Most importantly, it saves time for staff and students.”