Thursday, July 29, 2010

Boy Scouts and supporting the National Scout Jamboree Part I

An informal AAR of the event that my unit, the 14th PAD and it’s seven Soldiers attended. This is not the official opinion of the JTF-NSJ, the U.S. Army, or the DOD. Unlicensed reproduction or distribution without the express written consent of the NFL is strictly prohibited.

So, I got to spend two weeks at Fort A.P. Hill, Va. from July 20th to August 5th supporting the National Scout Jamboree. It may come as a surprise to most people that there is actually a military Joint Task Force with a Brigadier General as commander, assigned to support the BSA with this event every 4 years since it has been held on a military installation. The JTF is about 2,000 service members comprising of everything from firemen, military police, logistics, medics, entomologists and yes, of course, public affairs.

It’s a large event with more than 50,000 scouts and leaders in attendance and 20,000 visitors expected. This year is the Centennial Celebration of the founding of the Boy Scouts of America in 1910, so it only compounds the issue with the number of people that would be interested in attending this event. The Jamboree which is usually held every four years was delayed one year to allow for it to take place on the centennial.
The military support to the event is a joint operation. All services and all components were represented from the active duty Marines and Army to the Air Force Reserve and Coast Guard Auxiliary. Much like Captain Planet these forces only combine when rings are held together and magical words are incanted.

So, basically one week before the event there is an exercise to ensure that everyone is on the same page concerning consequence management, reaction drills and most importantly powerpoint slide format. Heaven knows that the military would stop operating without Outlook and Powerpoint. If Powerpoint stops then we essentially stand up walk out of our offices and don’t return. It’s in the contracts, read it sometime.

Exercises are great when done with realism and when designed to test the limits of the system. The JTF exercise was pretty impressive with every thing from moulage, fake damaged body parts and blood, to on-post shooting incident exercise, to protests, and the introduction of a certain pushy, hard-nosed, NBC affiliate reporter, Chip Chipperson. Let me tell you, Chip Chipperson is a real asshole. His slogan, “Chip Chipperson doesn’t report the news he makes the news.” Chip is my newsman alter-ego with the quick-wit of Keith Olbermann and the paranoia and delusion of Glenn Beck and Alex Jones.

Here’s the deal though, when you bring 2,000 people together from 5 services, 4 components of those services, and about a hundrity bajillion different units no one really knows what they are supposed to do or what the other guy isn’t supposed to do for the first couple of days. Cue Yakety Sax. That’s what should be playing for the first few days. Because really it’s just people running in and out of doors being chased by a half-naked, middle-aged man.

But with the help of a good, realistic exercise those kinks are worked out and create at least a functional unit and eliminates the need for Yakety Sax or Benny Hill.

So, the first two days we were there we both documented and participated in the exercise. Plane crashes, media engagements, on-post shooter incident, out of control protestors, out of control fire. I think at the end of the two days of the exercise the JTF could say they were prepared for anything short of the alien abduction of a Boy Scout and even then I’m sure NORTHCOM and NORAD have some sort of contingency plan they fall to for that sort of thing.

...More to follow...

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“A thousand high-fives a day quota.”

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