Guardians of the Nation's Capital

By Jackman, Galen B. | Army, October 2004 | Go to article overview

Guardians of the Nation's Capital


Jackman, Galen B., Army


U.S. Army Military District of Washington

The mission of the U.S. Army Military District of Washington (MDW) is to deter, prevent and respond to attacks in the National Capital Region (NCR); provide force protection; conduct ceremonies and special events; provide administrative, legal and support services; and serve as the senior mission command for assigned installations.

Its purpose is to safeguard the nation's capital, support our nation's leadership, dignify the Army and armed forces, sustain positive relations with the American public, and enable mission success, high morale and discipline in MDW.

MDWs subordinate units include the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), the U.S. Army Band (Pershing's Own), Arlington National Cemetery, the 12th Aviation Battalion, the MDW Engineer Company (MDWEC) and Raven Rock Military Complex. MDW is the senior mission command for Forts Hamilton, Meade, Myer, McNair, Belvoir, A.P. Hill, and the Joint Personal Property Shipping Office for the Washington area. As the senior mission command, MDW works in partnership with the Northeast Region of the Installation Management Agency and the mission organizations located on the assigned installations.

Perceptions of MDW are as diverse as its missions: the sentinel at the Tomb of the Unknowns; Pershing's Own marching in an inaugural parade; and elements of MDW and its sister services conducting a state funeral for the 40th President, Ronald W. Reagan. MDW is also widely known for its one-of-a-kind units, the Fife and Drum Corps and the U.S. Army Drill Team.

There is no more memorable representation of MDW accomplishing its operational mission than its involvement in rescue and recovery efforts following the Pentagon attack on September 11, 2001. Soldiers preparing for the annual Spirit of America historical pageant laid down their Brown Bess muskets and provided invaluable support in the rescue effort at the Pentagon; musicians played a critical role in the credentialing process and the MDW Engineer Company was one of the first responders to provide rescue and recovery at the Pentagon.

The U.S. homeland, including the National Capital Region, has become a major theater of operations. MDW is now considered forward deployed in this theater, relevant and ready for the defense of the nation's strategic center of gravity. High visibility, critical government institutions and military installations and the presence of national symbols and international activities make Washington, D.C., a potential target for future terrorist attacks. Each day reminds us that the region is an active front in the global war on terrorism.

At the direction of the secretary of Defense, MDW has completed a year of organizing into a standing joint force headquarters for the National Capital Region (JFHQ-NCR), transforming its historic role as guardian of the nation's capital. In this new joint and interagency role, the JFHQ-NCR plans, coordinates, maintains situational awareness, and when directed, uses forces for homeland defense and military assistance to civil authorities in the National Capital Region. It also coordinates directly with the commands responsible for air and maritime operations. For major events, such as a state of the union address, the World War II reunion and memorial dedication, a state funeral, the Presidential Inauguration, and for crises like the Capitol Hill ricin incident, the JFHQ activates a joint task force (JTF) designed to deter, prevent and respond to terrorist attacks.

This JTF, under the command of U.S. Northern Command, brings together significant capabilities: air surveillance, maritime surveillance and interdiction; confined space rescue; critical site and infrastructure protection; casualty evacuation; explosive detection; chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and high-explosive response; tactical air movement and evacuation, military force protection and escort, medical response and base support. …

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