Upcoming exercise helps keep security forces in shape

An annual security exercise at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island March 19 through 24 could affect entrance to the base.

Exercise Solid Curtain/Citadel Shield 2012 is being conducted on naval bases and installations throughout the continental United States, and is designed to enhance the training and readiness of Navy Security Forces. While measures have been taken to minimize disruptions to normal base operations, there could be increased traffic around the base or delays in base access.

“During certain security measures, we will go down to a one-gate operation,” said John Spencer, site manager of non-guard services on NAS Whidbey.

There could be other disruptions during the drill week as well, including changes to work schedules, according to Kimberly Martin, NAS Whidbey Island Public Affairs Officer, who said there will be days when only mission-essential personnel will be asked to report.

“Mission-essential depends upon  what the mission of the day is,” she said.

Martin said personnel should check the base’s status before they are scheduled to come to work.

“A variety of communication methods will be used to communicate, including Facebook,” she said. Go to www.facebook.com/naswhidbeyislend to look for status updates and announcements during the drill.

The Navy-wide drill is an annual exercise and is not a response to any specific threat. It is made to seem as realistic as possible, and for good reason, said Spencer.

“The only way to learn is to drill as real as you possibly can,” he said. “You don’t learn lessons if you treat it as phony.”

Gate closures will be announced via Facebook, so anyone with business on base during drill week – not just base personnel and employees – may want to make use of the social media to see if their trip could be affected. Officials want to try to minimize the amount of traffic waiting for access.

“We have to practice, and when you have people sitting at the gates that are not mission essential, they’re targets,” Spencer said.

According to Spencer, it is possible area residents will see police action and hear blank gunfire during that week. Local police and sheriff departments have been briefed and so know what to expect. Area residents are asked to bear in mind there is a drill underway, although it’s always a good idea to follow the “see something, say something” rule of thumb.

“That should be a given every day,” Spencer said.