Fort Lee training exercise deals with mock protestershttp://www2.timesdispatch.com/rtd/news/local/article/FLEE02_20090901-212402/289794/
By Luz Lazo
Published: September 2, 2009
SLIDESHOW: Mock protest at Ft. Lee
FORT LEE -- Motorists along state Route 36 just outside Fort Lee slowed down yesterday morning to take a peek at the soldiers in full gear guarding the main gate.
About a dozen protesters held posters and chanted, "No more hate! No more hate!"
The base's law enforcement made sure the demonstrators stayed calm and outside Fort Lee's perimeters.
It was a peaceful and short demonstration, but such an unusual scene that a traffic backup seemed inevitable.
"What's going on?" asked a passing driver.
Fort Lee law-enforcement, civilian and military personnel were simulating a protest as part of a three-day anti-terrorism and force-protection exercise at the Army base.
"It is really important to do training like this," said Garrison Commander Col. Mike Morrow, noting the Army's dedication to protect its soldiers and their families.
Throughout the year, Fort Lee officials conduct emergency training, analyze local crime trends and national threats to prepare for different scenarios, from protests to shootings to more violent attacks, Morrow said.
Training today consists of a more violent scenario, base officials said.
"We look at all the ways that somebody would try to do us harm," Morrow said. "We train for as many contingencies as we can and we work closely with the local communities."
Fort Lee law enforcement -- made up of military police, Army Civilian Police and contract security guards -- is conducting this week's training in collaboration with the FBI and Chesterfield County police, Morrow said.
In yesterday's simulation, demonstrators protested against the trial of a soldier who is a white supremacist. Police directed traffic, and military police kept the protesters outside the gate and asked them to back up from the entrance as the demonstration escalated.
In a real scenario, the Civilian Police would handle arrests on federal property, said Fort Lee Police Chief Joseph Metzger. Local police would be called to assist, he said.
Fort Lee has never dealt with such a situation, Metzger said.
Fort Lee is considered a critical infrastructure, just like all military bases, airports and power plants, and ensuring the integrity of these facilities has become a homeland security priority, particularly after the Sept. 11 attacks.
Security training at Fort Lee, for example, has increased since 9/11, Metzger said.
"We have come a long way," he said, "in training with the threats that we face today."