Citadel Shield-Solid Curtain (CSSC), the Navy’s annual anti-terrorism, force protection (ATFP) exercise, will be underway Navywide – and at NAS Patuxent River – Feb. 6-17, 2023.
Conducted by U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM), Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, and Commander, Navy Installations Command (CNIC), CSSC uses realistic drills and scenarios to enhance the readiness of Navy security forces and ensure seamless interoperability among the commands, other services, and agency partners.
“The exercise, which plays out over a two-week period, tests our Emergency Training Plan and pre-planned responses (PPR), and it’s a continuation of training for our security forces,” explained Matt Nalley, Pax River’s installation training officer. “It allows us to evaluate whether we have the correct procedures in place in the event of an emergency situation; and any drills involving an integrated response will show how well departments such as security, fire, emergency management, and public works communicate and work with each other.”
Week one’s Citadel Shield focuses on installation-level training, and all scenarios will occur entirely within the Pax River fence line. In the past, those scenarios have included active shooter, hostage situation, gate runner, unmanned aerial surveillance, mass shooting, protesters at the gate, suspicious package, and release of a biological weapon, among others.
In addition to hearing sirens or seeing emergency vehicles on the road responding to drills in progress, Pax personnel can expect to receive advance emergency response notifications multiple times over a number of days and might, at times, be inconvenienced.
“We do our best to minimize disruption, but personnel might experience gate delays or temporary changes in traffic or parking patterns as the different scenarios play out,” Nalley noted.
The Solid Curtain portion, occurring during the second week, is a national-level exercise centered on command, control, and communications between all echelons Navy wide where everything that happens at one installation affects every other installation, even if only in a minor way.
For instance, if leadership – NORTHCOM, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, or CNIC – sees trends or incidents going on in one or more areas that they feel may also impact a different area, they can selectively put installations, regions or the entire NORTHCOM area of responsibility into a heightened force protection condition.
“That might again prompt further delays, closures, and emergency notifications at Pax,” Nalley said. “We ask people for their patience and remind them that the ultimate purpose of these training exercises is to ensure the protection of those who work and live onboard the installation.”
NAS Patuxent River leadership is especially aware of base impacts after last year’s CS/SC exercise.
“While there were inconveniences, we learned some valuable lessons during last year’s exercise, particularly about traffic flow off base in an emergency,” added Nalley. “We are committed to the philosophy of ‘train like you fight,’ so we’ll be exercising that scenario again with additional information regarding base evacuation zones to ease the flow of traffic off base.
With any increase in FPCON, gates will close to protect the base and our occupants. If Pax elevates the FPCON during the workday, the base intends to conduct an ordered departure, offering the workforce an opportunity to evacuate in an orderly fashion. While Pax River can utilize a “training time out” to pause the scenario locally for emergencies and unforeseen circumstances- real world events will not afford that opportunity. Personnel on base during these exercises are asked to be prepared for major delays as a precaution.
“We want to be as upfront as possible to our mission partners and residents; anticipate the intersection of Taxiway Alpha and Cedar Point road will be closed at some point during the second week of the exercise – the week of Feb. 13 – as driven by U.S. Fleet Forces’ direction to elevate the Force Protection Condition to Charlie. Telework during these days is highly encouraged to avoid major traffic issues,” said NAS Patuxent River Commanding Officer Capt. Derrick Kingsley.
Personnel are also encouraged to check notifications posted on the NAS Facebook page at www.facebook.com/NASPaxRiver and Twitter @NASPaxRiverPAO.