FORT BRAGG, NC – What happens in the hours and days following an attack on U.S. Army Special Operations Command’s headquarters by a heavily armed gunman will be critical. To that end, key USASOC staff members and their Fort Bragg counterparts sought to work out the recovery details during a drill called Garnett Embrace.
The two-day exercise aimed to shore up the plan to keep key operations moving while an investigation and building reconstruction, along with the expected confusion, are underway. The exercise was based on a worst-case scenario involving an active shooter who terrorizes the command. Representatives from USASOC’s various directorates worked through a series of tasks, from the casualty evacuation process to restoring basic communication.
“The intent of the tabletop exercise is to focus on the overall response and decision-making process,” said Patrick D. Snyder, Chief of USASOC G-34, Protection Division, which hosted the event. “The exercise is designed to highlight problem identification, emergency response communication and coordination, resource integration, and resolution.”
The G-34 is responsible for the command’s antiterrorism, physical security, operations security, high risk personnel, critical infrastructure risk management and emergency management programs.
A key element of the exercise was integrating Fort Bragg Garrison into the plan. Some of the issues addressed included securing the crime scene; recovery efforts; maintaining unwavering support to USASOCs worldwide mission; operating in a continuity of operations (COOP) environment; and identifying resource requirements necessary to expedite the recovery process for both facilities and personnel.
“The functional task of the G-3 is to train, deploy and provide the best combat-ready Army Special Operations forces,” said Mike Satterfield, USASOC’s senior operations specialist. “If our operational environment is disabled, broke, destroyed, or even damaged, then we cannot meet our mission. This is a ‘no-fail’ mission. Therefore this type of planning to ensure success during these types of events is a must.”
But operational continuity wasn’t the only focus area. The team also emphasized providing the right psychological support to the USASOC workforce.
“Critical incident management is challenging enough, but it’s a whole another animal when the incident happens within the command and control structure itself,” said Lt. Col. Eugene Kim, USASOC Psychiatrist. “The more we anticipate and plan for now, the more space we create for decision making if and when an incident occurs.”
Kim outlined a plan for addressing the psychological needs after a crisis. “From the psych perspective, one of the key challenges is ensuring that appropriate value and weight is placed on leader actions when something like this happens,” Kim said. “Leaders have far more influence on the mental health of their personnel than what a group of therapists can possibly muster.”
The team plans to apply lessons learned from other incidents, including the high-profile Fort Hood shooting to the Pentagon’s response during 9/11. A follow-up drill next summer will help refine the USASOC plan.
The overall goal is to develop a template and standard operating procedure that can be scaled for any sized incident and shared with all major commands on Fort Bragg. “The reason we selected ‘active shooter’ as a scenario is because this is the most difficult scenario to address,” Snyder said. “All other scenarios – fire, flood, tornado – would only require a sub-set of the response required for an active shooter incident.”