Training Focuses on Ensuring Nothing Happens
By Paul Taylor
Pentagon Force Protection Agency
WASHINGTON, Apr. 28, 2011 Though it may sound counterintuitive, training means ensuring nothing happens when the mission is making sure terrorists don’t strike.
Pentagon Police Department Assistant Chief Scott Joswiak participates in an antiterrorism and force protection tabletop exercise, March 2, 2011. DOD photo by Paul Taylor
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
“We succeed if nothing happens,” said Jim Pelkofski, director of antiterrorism and force protection for the Pentagon Force Protection Agency. “Nothing happens if you’re doing all you can to deter, detect, prevent and defeat a terrorist attack.”
Making sure nothing happens also requires the participation of every person who works in the facilities for which the Pentagon Force Protection Agency provides antiterrorism and force protection support, he said, so his directorate has a robust training program that touches tens of thousands of military and civilian personnel.
Greg Shepard, Pelkofski’s deputy, said the agency’s training efforts start with Level 1 antiterrorism training for Defense Department personnel across the national capital region.
The training covers events that have taken place and provides insight about terrorist groups that operate in the area. “We want people to realize that terrorism isn’t just a thing that’s overseas,” Shepard said. “We have to be aware of it here.”
The aim, he added, is to raise awareness so people who see something that’s out of the ordinary recognize it for what it is. “Then they’ll know to come back and present that information to us so we can act on it,” Shepard said, noting that the reporting process is the most important aspect of the antiterrorism and force protection business.
Surveillance equipment is helpful, Shepard said, but isn’t the whole solution to vigilance.
“A lot of people concerned with security invest millions of dollars in cameras,” he said. “Well, cameras are great if you want to know what happened after the fact. They don’t help you prevent anything. But people can. People who report things that are out of the ordinary may help prevent terrorism and help us to bring those guys to justice.”
A lot is at stake for the many DOD-leased facilities in the national capital region, Shepard said, because being located in an urban environment, they do not have the relative safety and security of being located on gated military installations. People in leased facilities rely heavily on the Pentagon Force Protection Agency antiterrorism officers who help them develop and implement AT/FP plans and programs specifically tailored to their individual facilities.
To ensure those services are as good as they can be, Shepard said, the antiterrorism and force protection directorate is developing a career training continuum for antiterrorism officers that includes a training master plan, job qualification standards, and formal and informal training sessions. And the increased emphasis on the professional development of the antiterrorism officers already is paying dividends, he added.
“One of the things I’m really proud of is that our [antiterrorism officers] stood up a process at the leased buildings to actively and methodically exercise their plans,” Shepard said. “For instance, they go in and give the active shooter briefing, then follow up with a tabletop exercise, then follow up with a walk-through exercise. They’re able to show people how, in situations that have actually happened, they really can protect themselves if they are aware and if they have a plan and a process in place.”
The antiterrorism and force protection directorate also oversees a relatively new innovation called “AT/FP University.” The facilities the Pentagon Force Protection Agency supports are distributed across the region with overlapping local, state and federal jurisdictional lines, Pelkofski said, so it makes sense to have a collaborative, educational process to share knowledge and expertise. To that end, AT/FP University brings together people from a variety of local, state and federal agencies to discuss antiterrorism and force protection issues they share in common.
“What I really wanted was to create a forum for the exchange of ideas, for the discussion of topics of interest, and to try to delve into the provocative and academic,” Pelkofski said. “I want it to be truly information sharing –- not controversial, but rather a thought-provoking type of event.”
Another training evolution the antiterrorism and force protection directorate originally oversaw –- now part of the training directorate’s responsibilities -- is the quarterly tabletop exercise that gathers all key Pentagon Force Protection Agency directorates and offices around a table to walk through a scenario and discuss how they would respond to given situations. Once the discussion gets going, the process can reveal what Shepard called “gaps and seams” where the overall antiterrorism and force protection plan can be improved.
The most recent tabletop exercise was a complex scenario that Shepard credits to Pelkofski.
“He came up with the concept of doing a Mumbai-style, combined arms attack,” Shepard said. “The exercise looked at the tactics, techniques and procedures of that attack, then overlaid them here to see how they would work on us.
“The best way to find out is to test the process,” he continued. “We did that, and I think it was really well-received by the directorates, because they were able to see how a scenario could start off slowly someplace else, then pick up steam as it ends up on the Pentagon reservation.”
For many, training and work are two different things. But the antiterrorism and force protection directorate considers training its work, Shepard said, citing a March 4, 2010, shooting at the Pentagon as an example.
“We anticipated [that such an incident could happen],” he said. “We had talked about the lone-wolf scenario, and we had exercises about it, and when it happened, everybody reacted the way they were supposed to. Planning and training is essential to what we do, and we all believe that whole heartedly, because at the end of the day, I can go home and say I’ve done my job if nothing’s gone boom and nobody’s been injured by a terrorist event.”