Wargame provides real-world scenarios for joint base, partners, NCR

By Catrina FrancisJune 10, 2021

NCR wargame
JBM-HH and its partners in the National Capital Region participate in a wargame May 17 through 20 on Fort McNair. The wargame provided an opportunity for the players to react to different scenarios.
(Photo Credit: Photo by Jamie Hickman)

On May 17 through 20, Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall and partners from surrounding military and civilian agencies participated in a wargame on Fort McNair in Washington, D.C. The wargame provided participants an opportunity to solve real-life problems.

Jamie Hickman, a JBM-HH operations specialist, added that the scenarios were looked at from the standpoint of a 24-hour period and the participants looked at installation resilience, combatting extremism and contingency planning.

He pointed out that installation resilience was how JBM-HH and Fort McNair would function if the East Coast faced natural hazards.

“We looked at East Coast hurricanes, which are an annual occurrence,” said Hickman, “and we know they can cause tremendous damage to people and to infrastructure. How do we address that? Fort McNair is on the waterfront there is potential for flooding, which can affect operations and people’s livelihood. In addition to that, on the Virginia side, we know that flash flooding can occur based on the low-lying runways. Even though the base itself is on the high ground, it can still affect safety. We validated our systems in place to mitigate what we know is going to be a regular threat to the base.”

Hickman added that community partners like Arlington County Police and the Metro Police Department would be on hand to assist if their help was needed during a hurricane.

Hickman said that in the last year the joint base and the NCR have experienced extremism.

“We already have systems in place,” he said. “(The wargame) renewed our appreciation for the partners we have outside the joint base, whether it’s the Pentagon Force Protection Agency, MPD or ACPD. These are people we count on having those partners in the same room. As Col. Bowling, (JBM-HH commander), said, ‘you don’t want to wait until the crisis comes to exchange business cards.’”

Contingency planning provided the joint base and its partners an opportunity to improve its current posture and force.

“It was a great success, and we received positive feedback from Col. Bowling as well as our outside partners,” Hickman said. “It is an opportunity by having (our outside partners) to speak and participate. I think they validated their own systems are became of aware of opportunities to grow.”

Maj. Jennifer Biser of the 701st Military Police Group at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, said the wargame proved to be an invaluable exercise that not only identified on areas that they need to focus on, but to gain a better understanding how mission partners will operate in an emergency or critical event.

“The challenges posed by the War College team from Carlisle Barracks were realistic and forced the exercise participants to think critically, collectively and develop a plan to work as a team to work through the critical event,” explained Biser.

Capt. Brian Verderese of the command and coordination bureau U.S. Capitol Police pointed out that the exercises are critically important in discovering vulnerabilities and testing assumptions if inclusive of the correct individuals.

“The other benefit is the scalability of the exercises, giving them function for smaller units, such as (personnel security detachment) units that can be applied to various locations and scenarios during their regular course of protective operations,” said Verderse.

As an outside agency partner, USCP interacts with the two installations mostly in a special event posture such as state funerals. In addition, the department’s protective missions regularly has its agents operating on Arlington National Cemetery and JBM-HH. However, as one of the law enforcement agencies with jurisdiction in the surrounding area, USCP is a potential responder to incidents at Fort McNair to assist MPD as the primary responding element, said Verderese.

“The three day exercise timeframe was clearly beneficial from the installations standpoint to work through issues, test assumptions and recommend improvements,” he said.

Lt. Kevin Riley, Arlington County Police Department Special Operations Section, agreed with Verderese. He said the exercise was very successful from an outsider/non-Department of Defense perspective because it brought relevant stakeholders together to work through many layers of a rapidly evolving and expanding incident.

“(The wargame was a) large and diverse group representing various stakeholders to include nonlaw enforcement/first responder units,” Riley said. “It is valuable as a first responder to understand some of the ripple effects of our immediate actions for the long-term response and recovery.

“I believe Lt. (Steve) Taphorn and I walked away having learned a lot about how JBM-HH would respond, some of the limitations they regularly face and areas we can continue to improve.”

Pentagram editor Catrina Francis can be reached at catrina.s.francis2.civ@mail.mil.