Whether for a state funeral or a terrorist attack, Maj. Gen. Galen Jackman is on the front line in Washington.
Sometimes late at night, especially when it's raining hard or snowing, Maj. Gen. Galen B. Jackman quietly slips out of the comfortable Victorian he shares with his wife, Cathy, and two sons at Fort Myer, Va., and goes for a walk. He makes his way to Arlington National Cemetery and climbs the hill overlooking Washington, where the remains of three unidentified American soldiers killed in World War I, World War II and Korea are buried in the Tomb of the Unknowns. In the dark, Jackman watches the sentry guarding the tomb. Twenty-four hours a day, 365 days a year, soldiers from the elite 3rd U.S. Infantry, more popularly known as the Old Guard, stand watch in a meticulously executed ritual. The midnight visits are a moving and deeply personal experience for Jackman, and they affirm his faith in the constancy of the values of service.
As commander of the Military District of Washington, Jackman oversees a string of regional military installations, including Arlington National Cemetery, and presides over ceremonies honoring presidents and privates. He meets world leaders at White House events and he comforts grieving families whose only Washington connections are those they've made arranging for a soldier's burial. Literally and figuratively, Jackman is the face of the military in Washington, where his presence has been ubiquitous during major national events, such as President Bush's second inauguration. A tall man, whose youthful face is a foil to his ramrod straight posture and precisely cropped gray hair, Jackman became a familiar figure to many Americans during round-the-clock news coverage of the funeral for former President Reagan in June 2004. He escorted former first lady Nancy Reagan through the elaborate state affair.
Yet Jackman's responsibilities in Washington run far deeper than the ceremonial role the public sees. He also is commander of Joint Force Headquarters National Capital Region, where he is charged with marshaling military support to respond to another terrorist strike in Washington. The joint force is responsible for a 2,500-square-mile region that spans six counties in two states and the District of Columbia. The job is without precedent-Jackman is the first to hold the position, created Oct. 1, 2003, and he has had considerable freedom to mold it as he sees fit.
"I don't receive a lot of detailed guidance. There is an enormous amount of trust on the part of the Northcom commander [Adm. Timothy Keating] and the chief of staff of the Army [Gen. Peter Schoomaker]," says Jackman. Formerly the operations director at U.S. Southern Command, the military organization responsible for military activities in Latin America, Jackman was a key player in U.S. counternarcotics operations and is intimately familiar with the challenges of working joint military operations and with other federal agencies.
"As we got into the war on terrorism in Latin America, we took a posture that we were not in charge, but we were willing to work with whoever was in charge so that we weren't threatening [other agencies in turf battles]," Jackman says. "I think I was well-schooled in that."
Based at Fort McNair near the Washington Navy Yard, the joint force organizes about 4,000 troops from disparate elements of the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard into a regional force capable of responding to a range of threats in the metropolitan area. Under Jackman's command are combat troops, missile defense units, cargo planes, patrol boats, building engineers, nuclear, chemical and biological weapons specialists, and communications experts. The joint force reports to U.S. Northern Command, the Colorado-based military organization that is responsible for preparing and organizing military units that could be used on the home front in a national emergency.
Jackman is quick to point out that military assistance would come only at the behest of civilian agencies, and a civilian-most likely the secretary of Homeland Security-would be in charge of any operation. One of Homeland Security's key accomplishments has been to publish the National Response Plan, the operational concept behind the federal government's involvement in mass-casualty events, and the National Incident Management System, which essentially prescribes procedures that all responders at the federal, state and local level would follow during a terrorist attack or natural disaster. "The NIMS codified the incident command structure from the federal to the local level," Jackman says. "Within the framework of those documents, everyone understands the military is not in charge. I think that was very important in laying out the roles and responsibilities of who's in charge here in the United States."
Several of Jackman's emergency-management counterparts at civilian agencies formerly served in the military-FBI Assistant Director in Charge of the Washington Field Office Michael A. Mason, U.S. Capitol Police Chief Terrance W. Gainer and Homeland Security Operations Center Director Matthew E. Broderick are all former Marines. They understand what the military can bring to the table in an emergency, Jackman says.
Among the most significant military assets is a 41-foot truck that looks more like a recreational vehicle than a sophisticated mobile communications center. The Mobile Command Center carries enough high-tech radios and satellite communications systems to enable virtually anyone in government to talk to anyone else inside or outside federal agencies, on secure or unsecured lines, regardless of the communications systems; share electronic data; and monitor television and radio broadcasts.
Army Lt. Col. Michael Kasales, director of plans, training and exercises for the joint force, says it is essential that agencies throughout the Washington area work together routinely to establish relationships and a common understanding of one another's capabilities and responsibilities. "The hardest part for the military is to show up with what is needed, where it is needed. The last thing you want is a military convoy blocking traffic [during an emergency]," Kasales says.
The joint force continually plans for emergencies, particularly in conjunction with high-profile events that might be attractive targets for terrorists who want to maximize media attention. "From an operational standpoint, we look across the [government] and see what special capabilities we have that the military can bring to the assistance of [other federal agencies]," Jackman says. "Let's say we would have some kind of radiological dispersion device that we had to deal with here. We've already done the planning with various agencies that would respond to that. There are special [response] packages that are already developed in anticipation of [various] scenarios."
Jackman says he loves the diversity of his job, which defies routine. He cites his experience aboard Air Force One on June 9, 2004. The president's plane was carrying Jackman and the Reagan family to Washington for Reagan's state funeral the following day. Jackman was in the office President Bush uses when he flies, briefing Nancy Reagan about the ceremony, when he caught a television news report that an unidentified plane had entered the restricted airspace around Washington and the Capitol was being evacuated.
"We were descending, preparing to land," Jackman recalls. He immediately had an aide contact his operations center at Fort McNair to find out what was happening. Within several minutes, he learned that the unidentified plane was a twin-engine Beechcraft King Air carrying Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher. Before landing, he was able to assure Mrs. Reagan that the ceremony would be unaffected.
"One minute I'm in a kind of ceremonial role, and then an incident thrusts us into a security role," Jackman says.