Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall firefighter Jeffrey Lee unrolls a fire hose during the JBM-HH exercise Aug. 4. Photo by Sgt. Nicholas Holmes

Joint base responds to ‘real-world’ events

On Aug. 4, Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall conducted a full-scale exercise that involved real-world events. The exercise provided the joint base, its tenants and

on- and off-post partners an opportunity to react to various emergency incidents.

Dallas Lockley, a JBM-HH operation specialist, said the directorate of operations’ role was response because they had to maintain situational awareness of all on-base incidents.

“Not just on Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall and Fort McNair, but also around (the joint base), explained Lockley. “(We have to) understand … what our partners are doing. Not just talking about tenants and partners (who) work on the installation, but also our partners outside the installation like the Pentagon, Arlington County, (Washington,) D.C., … they may play an integral role into our capabilities and how we respond to a situation. During the exercise, the (base defense operations center) looks at maintaining the awareness not what is just going on, but what could happen.”

Lockley added that the BDOC had to encourage their team to remain task orientated, which was accomplished through teamwork. He said they had to, “communicate with each other, understand what each are doing and place tasks and responsibilities to each individual person inside the operations center as appropriate.

“It’s communication in whole when it comes to the joint base and its partners,” Lockley said. “The partners extend further out— the partners off the installation. These partners will provide additional resources and aid if the joint base needs it. (An incident) can affect our outside partners, not just us. Arlington County needs to be prepared to handle (a situation) as well. (The fire department) and (Directorate of Emergency Services) have a mutual understanding agreement with other emergency services not just the state of Virginia, but throughout the country.”

The BDOC also had to juggle multiple tasks and sometimes at the same time. Lockley said having to do this helps because during a real-world incident, there is going to be the noise of the battlefield and the team has to deal and work through that noise.

The BDOC wasn’t the only post organization that had a vital role during the exercise. Kathy Feehan, the JBM-HH Army Community Service director, said in a real-world incident, ACS would stand up an Emergency Family Assistance Center. An EFAC is an expanded ACS center. It’s intended to provide guidance, assistance and referral services to Family members in the event of an emergency or major disaster, Feehan said.

“What we do as ACS during an emergency, we liaise with our community partners on post and off-post organizations like Child and Youth Services, casualty assistance center, the chapel, (Military and Family Life Counseling Program counselors,) Red Cross, USO and others (who) provide a one-stop shop for service members and Families in need during a crisis situation.”

Feehan added that standing up an EFAC is about recovery. Standing up an EFAC doesn’t mean ACS stops assisting Soldiers and Family members. She said some of the services are stopped because the focus is on providing help with the remaining services. 

She pointed out that the EFAC is also used to control rumors because they have to make sure everyone is receiving the correct information.

“The role of the EFAC is to provide Family members with accurate information that has been vetted to be released by (the public affairs office) so that they are not hearing wrong information that their neighbor may have heard or through other channels that could be incorrect,” she said. “During a real-world incident, we would be in close coordination with PAO to make sure information we are providing Family members is accurate and releasable.”

Feehan pointed out that the EFAC also has the ability to provide services in a virtual environment.
    “As we learned throughout COVID, there is also the ability to provide a lot of these services virtually,” she said. “What if the installation is shut down? We still need to provide those services. We have proven we have the ability to do that through (Microsoft) Teams and other platforms.”

She added that there are different phases of the EFAC. The first phase could be a call center and depending on the incident, there might be a need to have a 24-hour EFAC, which would be the next phase.

“If we need to elevate to that next level, we would have a physical or virtual EFAC, and then the commander could decide to stand up to 24 hours per day,” she said.

Although the incidents weren’t real-world events, Feehan said having the exercise provided ACS an opportunity to work on critical functions.

“(Having an EFAC is) one of those functions you hope you don’t have to provide, but the time is probably going to come when we have to stand up an EFAC in a real-world situation,” Feehan said, “and we definitely want to be ready.”

Lockley said the exercise was helpful because the BDOC can always do things better because there is always room for improvement.

“Not just learn, but continue to work toward … lessons (and) work toward implementing those lessons learned,” said Lockley. “It’s those actions, those follow-on actions we have to continue to put effort into improving.”

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

By Catrina Francis

Pentagram Editor