Story by Donna M Cipolloni on 02/15/2019
NAS Patuxent River security forces and first responders were repeatedly tested from Feb. 4-15 as they responded to numerous drills designed to evaluate their training and readiness during the Navy's annual two-week Citadel Shield-Solid Curtain antiterrorism/force protection exercise.
On Feb. 4, first responders and medical corpsmen from Naval Health Clinic Patuxent River were onsite at a simulated aircraft mishap with six injured crew members. On Feb. 5, security dealt with unauthorized drone surveillance at Gate 3 and the driver of an automobile who had breached the installation's airfield.
Another drill Feb. 6 simulated a disgruntled Pax River employee in the lobby of Center Stage Theater carrying an improvised explosive device bio-weapon.
"He had the device strapped to his chest," said Eric Schotter, installation training officer at Pax River. "He contacted the [command duty office] and local news agencies and announced his plan to explode the bomb, stating that it had a special twist' that would have lingering effects."
The scenario called for the bomber to eventually detonate the device, releasing a weaponized bio-agent and injuring multiple personnel. After a bomb-sniffing Military Working Dog swept the theater's perimeter and parking lot, emergency services vehicles and the hazmat unit arrived to deal with the casualties on scene.
While that scenario played out, installation and department leaders also participated in the exercise by convening in the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) where, in the event of a real-life incident, the command decisions would be made that affect Pax River's operations and personnel.
"In the EOC are representatives from various departments around the base, such as administration, logistics, air operations, fire and emergency, and security," explained Patrick Gordon, NAS Patuxent River public affairs officer. "They're receiving information from the field and reporting it to the Pax River commanding officer, who serves as the incident commander. He then directs what happens next, such as releasing AtHoc emergency messages to personnel, gate closures, increased force protection conditions, building lockdowns, whether aircraft fly in or out, etc."
This particular drill called for the commanding officer, whose response was also being evaluated, to be called into a mock press conference to answer tough questions from role players acting as reporters.
"He's as much a part of the team being evaluated as anyone else because this is his installation," Gordon noted.
Citadel Shield that portion of the exercise which focuses entirely on activity within the fenceline wrapped up with a final drill Feb. 7 when a call came in reporting a man with a rifle inside the River's Edge Catering and Conference Center. That exercise included a simulated casualty near the front of the building and a brief hostage situation before the attacker was neutralized by responding police officers.
Ever-present during all of the drills is a small cadre of safety observers and evaluators in brightly colored vests surveying the situation, asking questions and writing down their observations.
Follwing closely on the heels of Citadel Shield was Solid Curtain, consisting of national-level exercises centered on command, control and communications between all echelons Navywide. Pax River's Solid Curtain exercise involved rasing the Force Protection Condition (FPCON ) of the installation from Bravo to Charlie, a process that involved increased security patrols, heightened security presence at the gates, and even a full closure of the Pax River's Gate 2 for two hours Feb. 13.
After each exercise, all groups involved share their reactions to the event and provide feedback on what they saw happen, what went well, and what can be improved upon.
At the end of both weeks, a more in-depth briefing will occur within each agency to review the individual drills and discuss what went right or wrong, followed by a detailed After-Action Report created for all of the events that is then sent to the region.