Force protection plan a ‘timely alert’

by Debbie Sheehan

 

Public Affairs Office

The world will never be the same again. The terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon have changed everything; from our sense of security to how we get to work.

“There was a plan in place, but we went from 0 to 60 overnight, so to speak,” said Lt. Col. Stephen N. Wood, Garrison commander, here. “By sheer coincidence we were scheduled to conduct “Timely Alert II”, a force protection exercise on Sept. 11 and because of that some of the concrete barriers were already in place.”

Wood said people on post told him when they first saw live footage of the events unfolding at the World Trade Center, they thought it was some elaborate training video to accompany the exercise.

Firefighters here said others told them the same thing. “You really outdid yourself this time,” a worker said to Captain “Jack” Rindt, training officer for the Fort Monmouth Fire Department. Rindt could only express his sorrow while he acknowledged that indeed, what people were seeing was not a movie, even if it looked like one.

As smoke continued to waft from lower Manhattan last week, things changed here. “The visible culture of how we do business has changed,” said Wood. “And we have the broader implications of how we are going to protect our Army.”

Wood said there are changes in place that are visible. “You can see the barriers, the closing of Oceanport Avenue, forcing traffic onto Route 35 and streets like Seven Bridges Road. That was a necessary move and we are grateful to Monmouth County for their cooperation. Because of the force protection exercise, we were leaning forward in the foxhole, but we executed measures to put things in place.”

In a video message prepared for command personnel, Maj. Gen. William H. Russ said, “in this time of heightened national concern, we have implemented increased security measures--some of them quite apparent as we drive to our offices and go about our daily business. Many other measures are less apparent but equally effective. All are intended to ensure the safety of our community.”

 “As you know,” he continued, “we have implemented a tight security program at the gate entrances to our installation, requiring that all vehicles be registered and that all passengers have current identification cards. We apologize for the inconvenience but ask for your understanding and full support because these security measures are essential for your safety.”

“At this point 12,000 vehicles have been registered and many other force protection measures are in place,” Wood said.

“For the most part, this has been an open post of 35 years,” said Wood. “I’m sure it has been a shock for local residents to see gate houses on Oceanport Avenue, but I have met with the mayors of The Two Rivers Council and they have been very supportive and are carrying our message back to their towns.

“We are looking into ways to expedite movement at the gates, by adding personnel. We will be making assessment requirements and through the chain of command find ways to cut down the waiting time at the gates.”

Wood said that in addition to using cadet candidates from the United States Military Academy Preparatory School, here, DA civilians may become involved in safety enforcement.

“We are still going to have people here on temporary duty, or contractors coming to do a job or trucks making deliveries,” Wood said. “We have policy in place, but we are looking at ways to make processing easier. For example, we will have delivery trucks using only one entrance and then they can be escorted more easily to their destination.”

Wood said that the Post Exchange and Commissary are open and urges retirees to keep visiting them.

“They need to get their vehicles registered and as long as they have proper identification, they are welcome here,” he said.

As events unfolded last Tuesday, Fort Monmouth services were called out to help in various capacities. The Fire Department deployed to the Highlands to assist passengers coming from Manhattan by ferry. Firefighters assisted close to 5,000 by decontaminating skin, eyes, clothing and personal effects.

The 754th Ordnance Company (Explosive Ordnance) deployed that afternoon, driving to “Ground Zero” to support search and rescue efforts and to aid the Secret Service. They were on duty for three days before being relieved by another team.

“During this national crisis, I have been proud of our law enforcement personnel augmented by many of our soldiers who performed a superb job in securing our installation”, Russ said in his video message.

“Our command firefighters and emergency services personnel showed their professional mettle and superb sense of service in responding to calls for support in the wake of the events. I am also extremely proud of the outstanding performance of our civilians and soldiers, who deployed to New York City with thermal imaging cameras, cell phone locating equipment and other systems to aid in the search for victims.”

“And, I’m proud of the great work our Information Systems Engineering Command personnel are doing in the National Capitol Region to restore and renovate the Pentagon and relocate personnel,” Russ said.

Members of the Patterson Army Health Clinic also deployed to assist at Fort Hamilton, N.Y. medical facilities and on the Navy hospital ship Comfort. Patient administration personnel from Patterson also deployed to assist hospital staffs in New York City.

A memorial service was held last Friday on post and Chaplain (Col.) John Stake offered some thoughts he had penned.

 “This is the time and this is the place where we must call upon our deepest resources. Our bedrock values and spiritual faith inform our thoughts and attitudes toward the unthinkable realities displayed before us. And our thoughts and attitudes will shape and propel our actions.

“Our actions can serve our outraged feelings or serve others and our country. Our better selves or our worse selves will emerge in our responses to this despicable terrorist act. Look within your heart past your pain and shock of loss, past your desire for revenge, and past the isolation of your personal fear.

“Look to the place within your heart of faith, of hope and of charity.”

As the workforce moves about the post, they are being reminded to be aware of their surroundings and anything unusual. “We have 5,000 people on the Main Post, another 3,500 in the Charles Wood Area. Those are a lot of pairs of eyes,” Wood said.

“In addition to our formal security procedures, it is important for all of us to increase our vigilance and report any suspicious persons or activities to appropriate authorities,” said Russ.

“Caution is the word,” Wood said. “I have had e-mails from members of our workforce asking if this is a safe place. My reply is that I believe it is. I live here with my family. I know that since this has been an open post for so long, people are not used to restrictions, but it is something that will have to become a way of life. We cannot have lax security for the sake of convenience. Force protection is everyone’s business,” said Wood.