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Military leaders from Joint Forces Headquarters-National Capital Region (JFHQ-NCR), District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia National Guards, and civilian emergency managers conducted an operational tabletop exercise Feb. 11-12 at Washington Navy Yard to exercise regional response plans in the case of a catastrophic incident affecting the metro area.

The Ambitious Guardian Table Top Exercise (TTX) provided an open forum to discuss decision making between active-duty and National Guard leaders and Federal and State Emergency Management Agencies in the event of a 6.5-magnitude earthquake causing major infrastructure damage across the greater metro.

“Ambitious Guardian 14 TTX is the result of a DoD initiative directing Joint Forces Headquarter-National Capital Region to conduct a table-top, or discussion-based, exercise to examine command relationships in the National Capital Region,” said U.S. Navy Lt. Russell Cude, Joint Operations and Plans, Naval District Washington. “It enables us to take an in-depth look at everyone’s capabilities and pre-planned responses and it allows us to enhance our response framework during an exercise scenario so that we are better prepared in case an actual event ever occurs.”

During the two-day exercise, more than 150 military leaders and civilian agency members focused on command and control responses to help identify problems and solutions during a tiered plan ranging from initial and sustained incident responses to cascading effects and transition to recovery. Major issues outlined included loss of communication lines, food and water shortages, power outages and sanitation for area residents.

“The exercise is important because between D.C., Virginia, and Maryland, there are multiple commanders that are responsible for their own individual interests, and this exercise will emphasize response coordination, resource integration and allocation, and problem identification and resolution in order to help develop or expand each agency’s existing procedures where necessary,” Cude said.

While the earthquake scenario was not based on any particular event, Cude cited U.S. Army Gen. Charles H. Jacoby’s March 2013 testimony to the House Armed Services Committee, in which Jacoby said Hurricane Sandy offered a glimpse of what a large complex catastrophe across a large area could look like.

The Naval District Washington (NDW) Crisis Action Team and emergency managers also held an in-house TTX at the Regional Operations Center at the same time, Cude added, using JFHQ-NCR’s operational-level scenario and running a more tactically-focused discussion on how NDW’s individual capabilities could further support military and federal partners.

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