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Marine Corps Support Facility Blount Island hosts annual exercise. The purpose of the exercise is to evaluate the police force’s training in responding to the scenarios. Another critical task was to establish a Unified Command with local responders to properly react to the threat. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Nathan Hanks)

Photo by Nathan Hanks

Marine Corps Support Facility Blount Island hosts annual exercise

1 Oct 2019 | Nathan Hanks, Visual Information Specialist G1 Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany

Keeping Marines, civilian-Marines and contractors safe is the primary focus for the Marine Corps Police Department at Marine Corps Support Facility - Blount Island, Jacksonville, Fla.

Checking identification cards, base passes and granting access to the installation is all in a day’s work for the police officers.

The morning of September 26 started out like most do with routine checks. The early morning rush hour came and went. All of that changed when an approaching car set off the police officers’ radiation detectors, causing a chain reaction of disruptions for the rest of the day.

This was the first of two scenarios that set MCSF-BI’s annual full-scale exercise, Final Denial 2019, in motion.

Lt. Col. Todd Walsh, director, Operations, MCSF-BI, said the exercise is an annual event that involved MCSF-BI’s personnel and community first responders.

“The purpose of the exercise is to evaluate the police force’s training in responding to the scenarios,” he said. “Another critical task was to establish a Unified Command with local responders to properly react to the threat.”

According to Walsh, evaluators assessed the command's ability to respond to the event and exercise the command and control required to coordinate with installation responders and first responders within the community.

“In working with community first responders, the command has developed scenarios which assisted our support facility police force in responding to an individual attempting to run the gate as well as a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device scenario,” he said.

Walsh explained that the exercise is the culmination of deliberate planning sessions over the past several months with the MCSF-BI’s staff and local authorities. 

“This exercise enables us to work side-by-side with the local agencies in a training environment in the event of a real emergency,” he added. “This is critical not only for the subject of this exercise, but the wide spectrum of events, both man-made and caused by nature that require the command to work effectively with local first responders and local agencies.”

Khareem Rice, police officer, Marine Corps Police Department, MCSF-BI, was at the main gate conducting identification checks when a suspect tried to gain access to the installation.

“I looked at the identification card of the first person and it did not match him,” Rice said. “I said ‘this is not your ID’ and that was when he sped off. After he sped off, I yelled to my partner ‘gate runner, hit the emergency barrier button!’”

The barrier was deployed, preventing the suspect from entering the installation.

Immediately after that, a second vehicle approached Rice.

“A lady driving in a separate vehicle handed me her ID and it did not match her either,” he said. “I told her ‘this is not your ID’ and asked ‘where did you get it from?’ I then instructed her to turn off her vehicle and step out. At the same time my radiation detectors started to go off.”

Rice, a retired enlisted Navy law enforcement officer, said the scenario unfolded within five to 10 seconds.

“Everything happened at once and it was chaotic,” he said. “My first priority was not to let anyone gain access to the installation that was not authorized. My second priority was to detain the second person because I didn’t know if they were working together.”

Rice, who has been working for the MCSF-BI police department for nearly three years, said he received similar training a few months ago that prepared him for the exercise.

“The main thing is to be calm and do what you are trained to do,” he concluded.

Reset: Second scenario began with a chase, exchange of gunfire and suspicious package.

  In the second scenario, the suspect was able to make it past the final denial barrier before the police officer was able to activate it. The driver had parked the vehicle at the front entrance of a building, exited the vehicle and ran to the fence line directly behind the building, attempting to escape.

“Shots fired, shots fired!,” rang out across the police officers’ radios as the suspect opened fire on the police officers.

MCPD police officers pursued the suspect to the fence line and ultimately neutralized him. As they approach the abandoned vehicle, their radiation detector continued to alarm.

Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal and Jacksonville Sherriff Office Hazardous Detection Unit responded to the vehicle and neutralized the device.

Jacksonville Fire Rescue Lt. Shawn Hall, assigned to Emergency Management, helped evaluate the unified command process between the MCSF-BI police department and Jacksonville Fire Rescue.

“My job was to observe the interaction between the lieutenant with Marine Corps Police Department that established command and our Jacksonville Fire Rescue chief, who arrived later, making sure that conversations were happening and they were mutually beneficial to both agencies,” Hall said. “This was one of the best exercises, communications wise, I’ve seen here at the base.

“This was more realistic than a lot of the other exercises in the past,” he added. “I like having an exercise that the participants could see tomorrow.”

According to Hall, he has participated in several exercises at MCSF-BI.

“In years’ past, it’s typical between law enforcement, regardless of federal, state or local, and fire, we kind of work on our own silos,” he said. “This time they did not. I observed both at the tactical level and at command level that interaction going on constantly.

“I’ve worked with the Marine Corps Base for multiple years and seeing that progression from working in silos to working together as a cohesive unit makes me extremely proud.”

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