JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. --
Airmen assigned to Air Force District of Washington participated in a headquarters-level Continuity of Operations Exercise this week while working from dispersed locations within the National Capital Region, Maryland and Virginia.
As the exercise played out, senior planners injected scripted scenarios that tested the participants’ abilities to resolve issues that impacted mission-related operations amidst less-than-normal working conditions
One scenario called for a coordinated contingency response to a large storm system that threatened mission-essential functions here. Some of the mock disruptions included power outage, major and minor infrastructure damage, loss of network connectivity and dangerous conditions for personnel and on-base residents on Joint Base Andrews.
These disruptions caused many of AFDW’s civilian and military workers to telework from their homes. Some were re-located to an alternate operational facility away from Joint Base Andrews where they coordinated responses to the scripted scenarios in accordance with prepared plans.
“This emergency response exercise is intended to give our staff and directorates a chance to rehearse their respective COOP plans,” said Lt. Col. Glenn Garcia, AFDW’s Global Readiness Division exercises branch chief. “Deficiencies and gaps are noted if any contingency event prevented access to our normal workspaces.”
During the three-day contingency response exercise, Garcia said he and other senior AFDW leaders had to coordinate extensively with civilian counterparts, other leaders assigned to Joint Base Andrews’ host wing and Joint Force Headquarters-NCR in order to use assets as part of the contingency response.
“Probably the biggest challenge during the exercise was coordinating effectively with other agencies while working away from normal workspaces,” said Garcia.
Col. Elizabeth Larson, AFDW’s Operations, Plans and Requirements director, said she hopes the exercise prepared participants to better determine what must be done and how to accomplish the mission despite disruptions caused by an emergency event, like a natural disaster.
“I would like all the Airmen to think about how they would do their job without an office, a laptop or cell phone connectivity,” said Larson. “I want them to tap into the ingenuity and creativity I know they all have.”
Larson added that success in the exercise is measured by actions taken after the exercise.
“By avoiding repeating mistakes from previous COOP exercises and identifying areas to improve our efficiency and work priorities, we’ll know we’ve been successful,” Larson said.
COOP exercises are required by Air Force Instruction. AFDW conducted this week’s exercise independently from other Air Force organizations.
During an actual unplanned and hazardous event, like a natural disaster, the 320th Air Expeditionary Wing, headquartered here, would activate as the Air Force Service Component to Joint Task Force-NCR and assumes administrative control of the base and its workforce. Normally, the AFDW commander serves as the wing’s commander.