“Lights, sirens and an increase of security onboard the base,” said Director of Installation Training at Naval Support Activity Bethesda (NSAB), Janelle Massiatte, as she described what base residents, staff and patients may experience during the upcoming Solid Curtain training exercise.
From Feb. 17 to 28, security forces will execute the Solid Curtain-Citadel Shield training exercise. The operation, a security and anti-terrorism training drill, is designed to evaluate patrolmen and security force responses. It will involve simulated delinquent behavior at gates and other areas of the base, many of which may be visible to the public and cause minor disruptions to those unaware of them.
These events will occur at random times in undisclosed locations throughout the base and may include a variety of security related disruptions such as: visitors using false credentials to access the base, uses of the Giant Voice loudspeaker which will require appropriate action, unattended packages of unknown origin, arrests and mass casualty exercises. “Pretty much every day of the exercise something will be going on,” said Massiatte.
On Feb. 27, the operation will culminate with an Active Shooter exercise. Both Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC) and the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences will participate in the exercise. To notify personnel of an active shooter, the installation will utilize multiple notification systems, to include Giant Voice. Code White is the hospital emergency code utilized to notify all command personnel of an active shooter and to shelter in place.
In the event of a real-life Active Shooter, staff should first ensure the safety of patients and visitors. Whether you’re outside or inside a building, you should immediately shelter in place. If you’re inside, secure the area, lock and barricade doors, turn off radios and computer monitors, close blinds and block windows. Also, silence cell phones, keep yourself and others out of sight and take adequate cover behind concrete walls or filing cabinets.
Although the potential for delays and disruptions will always exist, steps will be taken to ensure base operation is minimally interrupted. On the day of the drills, as a reminder to patients and visitors, flyers will be handed out at the gates and parking garages. There will be posters throughout clinics, leading up to the event, and on the day of, also as a reminder.
At WRNMMC, staff and patients should expect minimal impact on hospital operations. There will be no interruption to patient care and treatments in progress, however appointments will be temporarily delayed during the 15 minute shelter-in-place exercise. “Our staff are responsible for taking care of patients and visitors here, and this exercise is a great example of our continuous efforts to help maximize their safety and security while visiting Walter Reed Bethesda,” said Chris Gillette, emergency manager for WRNMMC.
To ensure the safety of the base during the exercise, a group of training experts will directly oversee each activity. These evaluators, identifiable by large yellow, billed hats, will be aware of the specifics of the training module and the surrounding location. The group will have the authority to pause the training module or change its location if it begins in a high traffic or potentially hazardous location. Among them will be members of the Auxiliary Security Force who will continue to function in place of security personnel engaged in training.
Training targets, who will initiate simulated disruptions for an exercise, will pose no clear or apparent threat. These trained police officers will be easily identifiable to the public by a bright yellow vest. Although they may require physical confrontation in order to be neutralized, they will only engage on-duty security personnel involved in the exercise.
Staff, residents and patients with real emergencies will not be affected during the training, as safety managers and essential personnel will operate as, what NSAB Emergency Manager, Ron Kunz, describes as “white cells.” These upper level security and emergency managers will initiate the training exercises by sending calls over the security dispatch radio to inform security personnel of upcoming events, and continue to monitor channels for real emergencies.
“These people know exactly how this drill is supposed to operate,” said Kunz. “If a situation escalates, the white cell can deescalate the situation to continue the exercise. If there is a real emergency they will know and can dispatch other personnel to help.”
The base will operate under force condition Bravo during the event, which means “[residents, staff and patients] can expect that there should be a slight delay, because we will conduct 100 percent ID checks at the gate,” said Massiatte. However, despite recent history, according to Kunz, there will be no gate closures. “In the past we had to check our barrier plan, so we actually had to secure the gate, but since we did it successfully we don’t have to do it again this year,” said Kunz.
“Our goal is to make sure everything is operating normally, make sure there are no safety violations and make sure that all of our security forces personnel are following standard operating procedure,” said Training Instructor Master at Arms 1st Class George Sangriu. “Every part of this training is under control.”
Even though staff, residents and patients are encouraged to be mindful of the drills taking place, everyone on base is reminded to “remain aware,” said Kunz. “Just because we’re training doesn’t mean we don’t still have to worry about real world dangers. Don’t hesitate to call about something suspicious. If you see something, say something.”
To report any suspicious activity on base, contact emergency services at 301-295-1246, or dial 777 from any installation land line.