Enhanced Force Protection for Navy Recruiters

By Rear Admiral Jeff Hughes
Former commander, Navy Recruiting Command CHATANOOGA, Tenn. (July 16, 2015) Police tape and a makeshift memorial frame the scene at an Armed Forces Career Center, where earlier in the day an active shooter opened fire, injuring one U.S. Marine. The gunman later moved to the nearby Navy Operational Support Center (NOSC) firing multiple shots, killing four Marines and injuring one Sailor. (U.S. Navy photo by Damon J. Moritz/Released) It has been two years since the attack on the Navy Recruiting Station and Navy Operational Support Center in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Over the years, the Navy has developed a robust anti-terrorism force protection (ATFP) program to support our afloat units and ashore forces on Navy installations, however, it took this tragic incident to highlight the vulnerability of protecting our Sailors in areas across the country that are outside the confines of a base. This is certainly of great concern to our Navy recruiting force. Our recruiters operate in hundreds of stations across the country that must be readily accessible to prospective applicants in the communities in which we serve. The increasing threat of homegrown violent extremists, foreign terrorist organizations, disgruntled applicants and criminals, however, required an immediate culture shift to ensure we mitigate this operational risk to our recruiters while still performing our no-fail mission to source the fleet.

The safety of our recruiters is commander’s business and was my responsibility. Since assuming command of Navy Recruiting Command (NRC) seven weeks after the Chattanooga attack, my number one priority was to enhance force protection in NRC. Serving in the Navy comes with a degree of operational risk, but we now fully appreciate that it exists in the CONUS area of responsibility. Thus, the Navy recruiting force has rapidly improved its vigilance and taken an active role in improving its operational posture.

As we developed our enhanced ATFP program, we made sweeping changes throughout the command, both at the headquarters and field levels, to include new policy, guidance, and training to enable us to operate in this challenging and complex environment. It all starts at the individual level, especially in a command with as much dispersion as we require. Every recruiter is markedly more attentive to their environment. They are better at sensing and reporting things that are suspicious or out of the ordinary. They all know and drill to their individual response plans that are nested inside of each station’s tailored emergency action plan. Each station team has fostered active relationships with their local law enforcement partners and included them in planning and exercises. I routinely observed individual recruiters and station leaders making sound force protection decisions when indications and warning dictated or when incidents actually occurred. CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (Aug. 13, 2015) A memorial stands outside of the Armed Forces Recruiting Center in Chattanooga, Tenn. The memorial honors the four Marines and one Sailor who were killed as a result of the shooting in the Navy Operational Support Center Chattanooga July 16. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass […]