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Thane Yost said that the "will to win is worthless if one does not have the will to prepare". This will to prepare is the goal of Solid Curtain/Citadel Shield (SC/CS) 2012, which will take place next week. Naval District Washington (NDW) has begun reaching out to the community in preparation for the exercise.

SC/CS has been conducted annually since 1999 as the largest force protection exercise in the continental United States and is a key part of the Navy’s strategy of preparation for the unexpected. However, the public and communities around NDW installations are being told well in advance that the operation is taking place.

"We use a variety of methods to reach out to the community and let them know what's going on," said John Imparato, director of corporate information management for NDW. "The most important thing is to understand why we do it."

In the past, simulated events have ranged from an active shooter being present at Washington Navy Yard to an aircraft explosion at Naval Air Station Patuxent River. Although the exercise has become an annual fixture at naval installations throughout the country, the repetition is key to ensuring that Navy personnel are prepared for any type of emergency, at any time.

According to Imparato, it is extremely important to inform the public and to keep lines of communication open during exercises such as SC/CS due to the potential impact on the efficiency of local emergency services. Since the activities taking place during SC/CS are indeed simulated, but will look as if though they are quite real, an unsuspecting member of the community could easily be panicked should they stumble upon the exercise in progress.

"There are activities going on at all our bases that might confuse them or make them nervous if they don't know what's going on," said Imparato.

The Navy is reaching out to local law enforcement, fire and other first responders, as well as community organizations and even local apartment buildings to make sure that everyone is well aware that the exercise is taking place. Imparato notes that these efforts are not completely comprehensive, but that the idea is to be as proactive as possible in spreading the word.

Although the primary goal of community relations efforts leading up to SC/CS is promoting awareness about the exercise, it is not expected for the public to make the final distinction regarding whether a perceived problem is indeed "real" or not. Instead, the desire is for the average member of the public to let their first responders make that distinction.

"'See it, say it' is always a good policy," said Janelle Herring, community planning liaison officer for Naval Support Activity Washington. "So if something doesn't look or feel right, please contact the appropriate agency. They can determine if it is part of the exercise or not."

Due to the increase in Force Protection Conditions (FPCONs) which dictate tougher security at perimeter checkpoints, there is a potential for traffic buildups at gates which could spill out onto public roads. While it is thought that this impact should be minimal on the average member of the public, the potential for minor disruption is there, which makes informing the community all the more important.

"We, [the Navy], have an understanding that these exercises help us do better" said Imparato. "To people on the outside, they don't always recognize that; it might be an inconvenience that traffic is backed up [from the gate]. I think that it's positive for people to understand why we're doing this."

While the general public has no responsibility to assist or participate in SC/CS, it is still vital to keep lines of communication open while the Navy's first responders' skills are put to the test. With the proper information being made available, the path is open to a successful and useful exercise.