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By RUSTY DENNEN
On a good morning, traffic on and around the Dahlgren Navy base is congested.
But next week, it'll be backed up at times each day--and particularly bad next Friday--during Solid Curtain/Citadel Shield. The annual security exercise runs Monday through Friday.
"We have been super proactive" in getting the word out on the exercise this year, said Jeron Hayes, spokeswoman for Naval Support Activity South Potomac. That's the host command for Naval Support Facility Dahlgren in King George County and Naval Support Facility Indian Head in southern Maryland.
"All of the [tenant] commands have put out information individually to employees" asking them to be prepared to adjust their schedules accordingly.
The exercise involves mainly security personnel.
Many civilian workers and contractors work flexible hours--their workday begins when they start work, whether it's 8 a.m. or 10 a.m. They're being encouraged to work outside of the office, if possible, and to arrange schedules with supervisors, if necessary.
That's not always easy.
In a memo to employees, Capt. Michael Smith, commander of the Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division, noted that administrative leave, or excused time, is not authorized for the exercise "because it is a planned management activity." The center is the base's largest tenant command.
Smith directed department heads "to work with employees to rearrange work schedules" so that workers can build up credit hours to cover any lost time.
"Employees who want to avail themselves of a different work schedule," he wrote, "may take annual leave, compensatory time, credit hours earned, or request leave without pay."
He added: "No one is being forced to take leave. If you choose not to report for work you must request leave from your supervisor via normal procedures."
Hayes said Smith has met with base and civilian groups, including schools, to explain what's happening and how they might prepare.
Base employees and contractors who are not deemed essential personnel are being advised to avoid going to work Friday, the busiest day for the exercise.
That day, venues such as the base theater, library, post exchange and commissary will be closed. Day care services will be the exception, and will remain open for essential employees who do have to work, Hayes said.
"Due to the lack of services during the exercise, military retirees, nonresident dependents and others who would normally have base access should not plan on visiting the installations during this week," Hayes said. In addition, the Dahlgren and Indian Head bases will not be issuing visitor passes that day.
The security exercise has been going on for at least a decade at Dahlgren. The purpose is to train base security to deal with various scenarios--for example, a terrorist attack or an explosion.
In past years, some employees and Dahlgren-area residents have complained about the traffic disruptions. There are long backups at the main gate, and it is inconvenient for anyone trying to get to Potomac Elementary School, which sits about half a mile outside the main gate.
Hayes said the Virginia Department of Transportation will help get the word out next week.
Kelly Hannon, spokeswoman for VDOT's Fredericksburg District, said a traffic camera from Interstate 95 at Ladysmith will be temporarily moved to a spot on U.S. 301, south of State Route 206, to monitor traffic flow.
"We'll also have some message boards saying this exercise is going on, and that [motorists] need to be aware of congestion," she said.
"If you're traveling from New Jersey, you might not know about it, so we wanted to work in conjunction with the Navy to see what we can do," Hannon said. Drivers can check on traffic conditions online, at 511virginia .org, and by dialing 511.
Rusty Dennen: 540/374-5431
Solid Curtain/Citadel Shield will be conducted Monday through Friday in the Navy's National Capital Region.
The annual exercise is designed to enhance training and readiness of Navy security forces to respond to threats to installations and units.