Fort Belvoir Community shows unity during missing person situation
January 12, 2012
Fort Belvoir emergency services personnel displayed their ability to work together during the missing person situation New Year's weekend.
Fire & Emergency Services, Fort Belvoir Police Department, Belvoir's Military Police Investigators, the U.S. Coast Guard and Fairfax County emergency services worked 20-hours from Jan. 1 to Jan. 2 to find the wife of a U.S. Army Soldier who lives on post.
"The first command post was a combined command post at Surveyor and Soldier Roads," said Fort Belvoir Police Chief, Timothy Wolfe. "We shutdown Surveyor and put all the equipment and light trucks right there."
By the time Wolfe arrived on the scene at 7:15 p.m. Jan. 1, FES had already set up the command post. Wolfe became the incident commander at that point since the situation moved from a rescue situation to a missing person situation.
The command post being set up made Wolfe's job much easier.
"At that point, all I need to do is get briefed, find out what we've done and then figure out what our next move is going to be and what resources we need to start to draw from," Wolfe said.
Headquarters Battalion also got involved in the search as Lt. Col. Dwayne Bowyer, Headquarters Battalion Commander received notification of the incident around 7 p.m. He arrived at the scene a little after 9:30 p.m. and was immediately brought up to speed on the steps that FES and Belvoir law enforcement had taken.
"As soon as I walked up, Chief Wolfe briefed me on everything that was going on," said Bowyer. "He backtracked and gave me an entire timeline on everything that happened and all the different things they had done up until that point; not only with the DES and FES, but also what MPI had done."
After learning all that had been done by the emergency personnel, Bowyer felt he had enough information to call Garrison Commander Col. John Strycula.
Everyone involved felt the communication between the organizations was good and no one group tried take over the situation.
"The command post was unified so it didn't mean that Tim Wolfe was in charge of anything," said Wolfe. "It's not an 'I'm in charge kind of thing' it's we talk to each other we take ideas, and we work together very well. That's what it's for because somebody else will think of something that will help out."
The missing person was found at 2 p.m. Jan. 2 after calling a friend and informing that friend of her whereabouts.
The ability of Belvoir's emergency services to act quickly and decisively gave confidence to everyone involved that a similar outcome can be achieved should a similar situation occur in the future.
"I think it validated our ability to quickly assemble a site command post and quickly gain command and control at the location," said Bowyer. "Our emergency services guys are the professionals. For us the green-suiters, we do this when necessary, but the other guys do this stuff everyday. It was good to see their subject matter expertise at work."
Servicemembers and spouses on post volunteered to help with the search parties and the Woodlawn Village Neighborhood Watch program along with the Belvoir Enlisted Spouses Club brought coffee, water, sandwhiches and other refreshments to the Community Center on Sunday Jan. 2.
The outpouring of support from the community pleasantly surprised all of the emergency personnel and the Garrison staff.
"You saw the caring and the compassion of everybody wanting to come out and do whatever they could to help," said Bowyer. "You hear about it all the time in our military family, but to see it in action was really nice."