NEWS | Sept. 27, 2021

COOP exercise tests DMA's ability to relocate in an emergency

By A.J. Coyne | Virginia National Guard Public Affairs Office

Virginia Department of Military Affairs state employees conducted a continuity of operations exercise Sept. 14-17, 2021, at the State Military Reservation in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

The exercise, which simulated an emergency that forced DMA employees to leave Fort Pickett and relocate to Virginia Beach, provided an opportunity for 29 DMA employees to test their network connectivity, perform their work functions from a different location, conduct staff visits and face-to-face coordination with SMR staff and tenant organizations, and troubleshoot their standard operating procedures and continuity binders.

“The purpose of our exercise is to practice relocating away from Fort Pickett and continuing to operate, ensuring we can connect to all websites we need in order to provide uninterrupted support to the agency,” said Don Sutherland, chief financial officer for the Virginia Department of Military Affairs. “Secondary purposes are to familiarize our new employees with SMR and to conduct staff visits with SMR headquarters and tenant organizations.”

“We conduct the COOP exercise with most of our state staff from building 316,” said retired Brig Gen. Walt Mercer, the Department of Military Affairs Chief Operations Officer. “It’s a chance to confirm that if we ever have to displace and operate from our COOP site at SMR, we can still accomplish all of our missions.”

According to Sutherland, it proved to be an important learning experience for all involved.

“The exercise was successful as we were able to accomplish our mission in all functional areas,” he said. “We did learn some lessons about printer connectivity that we will apply for the future.”

The exercise, which is held biennially, was last conducted in 2018. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was delayed from 2020 to 2021.