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Joint Task Force Civil Support Ready When Terror Hits Home

Marine Corps News

Release Date: 4/5/2004

Story by Army Capt. Cherice Carlos

FORT MONROE, Va.(April 5, 2004) -- You're relaxing at home watching your favorite TV show when the program is interrupted by that annoying beep. You know what's coming next. You start reciting the lines that you've heard so many times before: "This is a test of the emergency broadcast system. This is only a test.." But this time, the voice urges you to stay indoors, close all windows and doors, and bring all pets inside. Little do you know that this will be the worst day of your life.

About 170 members of Joint Task Force Civil Support are continually preparing for the worst-a catastrophic terrorist attack on our homeland. Daily operations in the JTF-CS headquarters at Fort Monroe center on planning and integrating the Department of Defense response to a chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, or high-yield explosive situation in the United States or its territories.

JTF-CS is a subordinate unit of U.S. Northern Command, a unified combatant command formed in October 2002 to plan, organize and execute both homeland defense and civil support missions. In a CBRNE situation, the commander of JTF-CS, when directed by the commander of U.S. Northern Command, and on the authority of the Secretary of Defense, would deploy to the incident site, establish command and control of designated DoD forces, and provide military assistance to civil authorities to save lives, prevent injury and provide temporary critical life support.

JTF-CS itself was established in October 1999, two years before the Sept. 11attacks. In the late nineties DoD leadership identified an unmet need for a joint planning effort focused on consequence management during catastrophic domestic CBRNE situations. JTF-CS was formed subsequent to the Unified Command Plan of 1999 to fill that strategic void.

"While other DoD units in the past and today continue to have capabilities in this particular arena, we're the only organization within DoD whose exclusive role is CBRNE consequence management. It's a total focus for us," said Col. Richard Kokko, JTF-CS deputy commander.

Rather than trying to address an infinite number of scenarios with slightly varying factors, JTF-CS plans its response to terrorist attacks by focusing on the capabilities that might be required of the Department of Defense by its partners in the National Response Plan. Capabilities-based planning is both effective and time-efficient.

Depending on the type of attack, requirements could vastly differ. For example, after a chemical attack, JTF-CS may be asked by the Lead Federal Agency, most likely the Department of Homeland Security/Federal Emergency Management Agency, to provide military personnel and equipment to perform chemical detection, monitoring and decontamination as well as provide medical treatment. On the other hand, a nuclear attack could bring requests for engineering crews to remove debris, search and rescue personnel and medical specialists. Fortunately for the citizens of the nation, the Department of Defense has resources developed for warfighting that can be made available to support civil authorities in times of national crisis with the approval of the Secretary of Defense.

JTF-CS is setting standards for military operations in a domestic CBRNE consequence management environment. "JTF-CS is in a unique situation in that there's no course out there in how to do CBRNE consequence management. This is very much an evolving organization," Kokko said. JTF-CS is not Kokko's first joint assignment but it is his first involved with consequence management. He readily admits that planning for consequence management operations is significantly different from planning for overseas expeditionary operations with which he is familiar.

"There's no doctrine, tactics, techniques or procedures that specifically define who we are. It's not like going into an infantry battalion or helicopter squadron where there are set procedures that are already well-defined," said Kokko, a Marine infantry officer since 1974. "JTF-CS is an organization that intellectually has to continue to grow and has to review what we do and how we do it. There's so much changing within the national environment and how DoD operates within the interagency," said Kokko.

"It's a very dynamic situation right now. We have to be current, we have to be relevant, we have to always be thinking and asking the right questions." Shortly after Sgt. Stephan Nutter arrived at Joint Task Force Civil Support, he too realized that this was a "different" type of unit. Nutter, a Marine Corps reservist mobilized to JTF-CS in October 2000, is the unit's Comptroller Chief.

"One of the biggest differences I see at JTF-CS is that we're not authorized the use of an M-16 or a nine millimeter," Nutter said. "As a Marine, first and foremost I'm a rifleman -- a trained killer." But JTF-CS fights no conventional opponent. The effects of a CBRNE event are the enemy of JTF-CS. "Infantry tactics don't work in a consequence management mission."

Nutter has seen JTF-CS mature from an organization of less than 60 people to its current complement of approximately 170 personnel, including members from all services, defense contractors and federal government employees. When Nutter arrived, JTF-CS did not have a budget function. He spent many nights poring over policies and regulations to help set up the section and then becoming comfortable enough with budget procedures and processes to train others.

In working to establish the section, Nutter admits that working in a joint environment is definitely a different experience. "You quickly learn that there are different ways of accomplishing the same task. The Marine way is not the only way," Nutter commented. "You definitely have to adapt to interacting with the sister services and civilian agencies."

After more than seven years of using the Marine Corps' budget system in his previous assignments, Nutter was required to learn and use the Navy's accounting system while U.S. Joint Forces Command, a Navy executive agent, was the higher headquarters for JTF-CS. When JTF-CS transitioned to an Air Force executive agent, U.S. Northern Command, in 2002, Nutter was required to learn and use the Air Force's accounting system.

Nutter says that having been a part of the process was worth serving through the unit's growing pains. "JTF-CS is setting the mold for other units in the future," Nutter said. "The attacks of September 11 made our mission more real. I feel fortunate to be a part of a unit that could come to the rescue of the American people."



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