Capital Region Joint Force Headquarters Readies for Battle
By Tom Mani
Special to American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Aug. 5, 2004 A new command is taking its shakedown cruise this week in the National Capital Region. With spanking-new systems for protecting the seat of government, a new team of joint service members to work with and the mission of safeguarding the people and their institutions, the Joint Force Headquarters National Capital Region is coming into its own.
The joint operations center for the Joint Force Headquarters
- National Capital Region networks area military with the national homeland
defense structure. Shown here prior to the ribbon-cutting ceremony Aug. 2, it
is now in use and will be manned as needed for exercises, operations and
contingencies. Photo by Tom Mani
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
On Aug. 2, the headquarters took the wraps off major command-and-control systems, a fully networked Joint Operations Center and an integrated Mobile Command Center, and put them to use.
"This represents the center of the flagship," Army Maj. Gen. Galen B. Jackman, commanding general of JFHQ-NCR, told staff members gathered in the new Joint Operations Center for the afternoon ribbon-cutting.
Jackman, who commands U.S. Army Military District of Washington as well, praised the teamwork of the organization's operations and planning cells and the Naval Air Warfare Center in developing the new operational capability. That capability is manifested in both a JOC and a Mobile Command Center, parked just outside the Fort McNair building that houses the JOC. Finishing touches were still being put on the JOC even as it was coming on line in the global war against terror.
The tools are due for a workout now in Determined Promise 04, a U.S. Northern Command readiness exercise that is serving as the validation exercise for JFHQ- NCR, formed last October and due to achieve "full operational capability" this October.
"This is our piece of transformation," Army Col. James R. Bartran said, "taking an Army administrative headquarters focused on ceremonies and base support and transforming it into a joint and interagency operational command.
"It's all starting to come alive now in this exercise," Bartran said. "The people, the equipment, the tools. There's a lot of energy here, and it's the first chance to stand up and do what we are expected to do, to execute our new mission."
The JOC has more than 50 work stations with both secure and nonsecure network access from each station, secure and nonsecure phones on each desk, secure and nonsecure video teleconferencing, an around-the-clock radio/watchdesk operation, networked links with law enforcement and civilian agencies as well as integration with the NORTHCOM secure communications systems.
Add to this Geospatial Information System capability, "red phone" hookup, and satellite communications to and from the Mobile Command Center and a smaller communications vehicle obtained since Sept. 11, 2001, that the command nicknames "Dagger."
The 41-foot-long MCC is built on a commercially available truck chassis, a 10- wheel Freightliner, but the inside, including the overall dimensions, is entirely to specifications drawn up with the task in mind, integrating fully with JOC.
Now, the Force Protection team, the rest of MDW and the Joint Forces Headquarters are better able to communicate with each other and with the other agencies, federal and local, that they need to work with in Determined Promise or any real-world scenario in the capital that calls for a military response.
In a sense, the new Operations Center and Mobile Command Center were born in the embers of the attack on the Pentagon.
Army Col. Egon Hawrylak, a former MDW operations officer who has taken the post of civilian deputy operations officer, said the Army command's Pentagon Sept. 11 recovery effort pointed out the need for a better operations center and for a mobile command capability.
Hawrylak credited Maj. Gen. James T. Jackson "for making the tough early decisions." The then-MDW commanding general needed both to be onsite at the Pentagon and to take daily update briefings at the MDW Emergency Operations Center. "We had no vehicle then that was capable of anything more than a nonsecure telephone connection," Hawrylak said. "The EOC was basically an unclassified environment.
"(Jackson) made the commitment to secure a modern mobile command center and to fund it from the MDW budget," Hawrylak said. Army funds also were earmarked for a major building renovation that would include an up-to-date operations center.
The Sept. 11 attacks also pointed to linking the military services for joint defense of the homeland nationally, as with U.S. Northern Command and the North American Aerospace Defense Command, and at the military and political nerve center, with a Joint Force Headquarters National Capital Region.
NORTHCOM ultimately funded the National Capital Region's JOC, and achieved the capability far sooner than would otherwise hav e been the case. But for both the JOC and the MCC, the operations planners were already thinking jointly.
The NavAir Warfare Center's Special Communications Requirements Division at St. Inigoes, Md., was well equipped to handle the job and had handled similar tasks for the Defense Department and other agencies. They were well chosen to get MDW out of the "Conestoga wagon" from which it was operating.
NavAir personnel from Patuxent River, Md., also helped to determine requirements and find the best ways to meet those requirements.
Jackman, prior to cutting the ribbon in the JOC, asked his staff, both MDW and JFHQ-NCR, for two things. "First I want you to leverage these tools to the maximum," he said, using them to obtain the clearest situational awareness and then to facilitate acting in the best and most coherent way.
"Take care of and improve on these tools," Jackman further counseled, suggesting that the step forward, while large, was still just a milestone on a longer journey.
(Tom Mani is chief of command information for the U.S. Army Military District of Washington and the Joint Force Headquarters National Capital Region).