If you were awake at 6 a.m. last Friday, you may have been privy to the traffic reporters warning the public that Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC) would be experiencing heavy traffic at the gates, and likely the congestion would spill over into Wisconsin Avenue. Luckily, the reporters were wrong.
Although commuters were greeted by guards in their protective gear and helmets, Naval Support Activity Bethesda (NSAB) ended their portion of the Navy-wide Solid Curtain/Citadel Shield exercise with the best “silent bang” of all time; according to NSAB Commander Capt. Frederick “Fritz” Kass, the exercise went just as planned and the pre-planning efforts of key stakeholders paid off.
“Without the cooperation of our tenant commands, there would have been a significant impact to the local community in terms of traffic congestion. While the security portion of the exercise would have still been successful, I think we feel a greater sense of accomplishment knowing we were able to pull it off without a negative impact to local commuters,” said Capt. Kass.
Solid Curtain/Citadel Shield is the Department of the Navy's annual Anti-Terrorism/Force Protection exercise designed to enhance the training and readiness of security forces across Navy installations in responding to threats and providing greater force protection. One of the major concerns in planning the exercise was the impact on the local community in areas of heavy commuter traffic due to increased force protection measures at the installation gates.
“While we wanted to make the exercise as realistic as possible and ensure our security forces received the training they needed, we were also very cognizant of the potential impact we could have on people commuting during the morning rush hour,” said Troy High, NSAB Director of Operations.
Finding that balance between conducting an effective exercise and minimizing impact was something carefully considered during the exercise planning process, requiring cooperative efforts of all the tenant commands, including the two largest tenants: WRNMMC and the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences.
“In addition to the planning processes taking place on the installation with our tenants, one of the key planning factors involved keeping a focus on our community outreach and strategic communication processes. Effective communication and collaboration with our state, county, and local officials is really the only way to run an integrated exercise.” said Janelle Massiatte, NSAB Director of Training and Readiness. “Communication and individualized pre planning with key stake holders definitely played a large part in preparation for this event,” she said.
The installation ran through a variety of security scenarios, including an attempted surveillance of the base, an unauthorized entry and increased security procedures for those entering the installation such as bag and vehicle searches.
“Security did a great job,” said High. “I really feel like they not only performed the way they were supposed to, but went above and beyond in the vigilance and dedication they showed.”
During the exercise, many of the organizations on base reduced the number of people coming to the installation on Friday by encouraging them to take leave, authorizing telecommuting or changing their normal hours to limit traffic at the gates during increased security inspections.
According to Rear Admiral Patrick Lorge, Commandant, Naval District Washington, it was this overall cooperation both at NSAB and around the District that made the exercise a success.
"I could not be more pleased with the outcome of the exercise. I am continually amazed at the work being done at the installation level to ensure the safety of our workforce, Sailors and their families. We simulated real world conditions to accurately assess our strengths and limitations and I am confident that we are prepared. We will apply lessons learned as we continue to refine plans and procedures, but overall the exercise was a tremendous success," said Lorge.