News: Joint Defense Operations Center helps keep International Zone secure
Story by Maj. Jon Powers
BAGHDAD, Iraq - Behind a heavy steel door on Union III lies the nerve center for the International Zone. Behind several rows of computers, Soldiers, Airmen and contractors sit, waiting for the next emergency. Behind the calm demeanor in the room lurks the possibility for chaos at any moment.
The Joint Defense Operations Center has been quiet lately, and that is good news for all.
Maj. Robert Bryan is the Joint Area Support Group - Central chief of operations in the JDOC. "The JDOC serves as the 9-1-1 center of the IZ; anytime anything happens within the IZ, whether it is indirect fire or coordinating a tier one move for the government of Iraq, that gets coordinated through us," said Bryan. "If there is an incident with IDF or suicide vest out at one of the early control points we coordinate the emergency response out to the incident."
"A lot of it is a common sense approach; we rely on the battle drills," said Bryan. "Everybody in here has a very specific position, some days you are busier than others ... you've got to be flexible and expect the unexpected."
The "J" in JDOC is there for good reason, too. "We have liaisons from Sabre, KBR, Triple Canopy and each one of them brings something unique," Bryan said. Several contractors work in the JDOC. "Triple Canopy handles a lot of the internal checkpoints; KBR handles emergency fire, emergency medical transport, and vehicle recovery. Sabre handles all of the contracted working dogs."
Spc. Wentworth Grayman was originally assigned to the radio dispatch but has changed jobs. As the Command Post of the Future computer operator he brings the more important occurrences to life. Making graphics and chronological charts to show events in the IZ, he provides those with no knowledge of the IZ or the JDOC an easy way to understand what they do.
Grayman explained these reports consisted of "getting the chronological order of who called who, and the who, what, where, why from the eyes on the ground, capturing the battle damage assessments and response times." When bombs aren't landing, Grayman tracks the movements of government officials or supplies through ECPs and the IZ.
"I have to keep my ears open, listen for what is going on," said Grayman.
"If IDF comes in [Grayman's] going to spend a good portion of his day preparing a story board which captures the imagery of the point of origin, point of impact and the battle damage assessment and that goes all the way up to MNF-I [Multi-National Forces-Iraq]," commented Bryan.
A few of the JDOC operations are pro-active rather than reactive. The job of the S2 Intelligence officers is to look forward, not back. The S2 officers coordinate the intelligence activities and produce summaries and analysis for use in JDOC operations. The IZ Police work their desk operations from inside to provide a traffic and security viewpoint.
"We have the ability to work with the commander of the IZ Police to deploy them and next door we have the JOC [Joint Operation Center] so whenever we have to coordinate a tier one move or significant event it has to work through the JOC because the Baghdad Brigade is manning all of the ECPs," said Bryan.
The JOC is the most recent addition to the JDOC. After the January IZ Transition ceremony, Iraqi army and Iraqi police dedicated staff to an office adjoining the JDOC. Sharing space in this office are the liaisons to the 1st Infantry Division who represent the Multi-National Division - Baghdad.
Twenty-four hours a day the JDOC stands ready to react to emergencies and coordinate a response. 11 JASG-C Soldiers on three rotating shifts ensure an expedient professional response to all of the IZ's problems, any time day or night. But since arriving, Bryan has noticed a distinct change in the day-to-day business in the IZ.
"When the 45th was here it was a lot more crisis management. There was a lot of IDF and a lot less political stuff that is going on. We have 27 specific battle drills and none of them talk about how to deal with a political incident involving tier one or tier two government of Iraq officials," remarked Bryan.
Bryan admits that the most challenging aspect for the JDOC comes in the form of the competing interest between security and access. "We still have the role that the 45th had, when there is a fire or IDF or medical emergency we are the ones who deploy the assets to put out the fire," Bryan said. "But we are also involved from a political standpoint; if we jam up at tier one at an ECP and it is perceived that it was caused by Americans, it could have political ramifications," he said. "We don't have a battle drill for that. We have to apply the access control measures in the IZ defense op-order, but at the same time try to please the politicians."
One of the greatest concerns for the JDOC is protecting the high-ranking government officials who visit the IZ on an almost constant basis. In December 2008, Bryan had to protect the most powerful politician in the world, President George W. Bush. The plans for the president's visit originated at Multi-National Corps - Iraq but much of the staffing and execution became a JASG responsibility.
Operationally controlled by MND-B, the JASG-C had to block the side streets that accessed the main routes and minimize the number of contracted security personnel that were in the IZ.
"This worked out well because we did not have a lot of the resources needed to action the Corps' plan. We ended up having everyone from the JASG go out and man a certain position inside the IZ, it was a lot of work," explained Bryan. Much of the former President's visit was in and around the IZ; and considering there was not a single hiccup in the security plan, the JDOC proved their competence.
Looking to the future, Bryan sees a whole new set of challenges for his replacements. "There are going to be a lot of changes inside the IZ; our duties aren't going to necessarily change but as the Green Zone continues to transform, they are talking about opening new roads, like the sunken highway to the north. Some huge changes that are going to happen have already pinged the 32nd and let them know some of the changes because they are going to affect where the ECPS are, and how people move around the IZ," he said.
Even though the JDOC is quiet now, constant reminders of how that could change appear almost daily.
"A lot hasn't happened in the Green Zone but a lot does happen in the red zone, close to the Green Zone - attacks and IDFs. Inside the Green Zone we feel safe, but just outside there is still a lot going on," Grayman concluded.