Inside a nondescript building, a calm readiness fills the jamboree’s nerve center

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Housed inside a secure location at Fort A.P. Hill is a building that few get to enter.

It's not on any map, and most staff, participants, and visitors don't even know it exists.

But behind a tall, barbed-wire fence and inside a nondescript white building is a communications nerve center. It's a network of military, state, local, and BSA personnel who keep their fingers on the pulse of the jamboree.

Its official title is the Joint Multi-Agency Operational Command Center, or JMAOCC (pronounced "jah-mohk"). To enter, you either need to be "on the list" or have a military escort. Once you get past the checkpoint, it's like a scene from "Apollo 13." To your left, video monitors show dozens of security cameras steadily panning across the jamboree site. In front of you is a satellite image of Fort A.P. Hill, a weather radar, and a communications chat log. Another giant projection screen to the right shows Fox News.

Everywhere you look, people are at work. Representatives from each branch of the armed forces talk on their cell phones or busily type on their laptop computers. BSA officials, Virginia state police, and emergency medical personnel review the minute-by-minute schedule posted on the wall. They're ready for any crisis that might arise.

Even though the place was nearly full, it wasn't noisy. You get the feeling that everyone is calm but prepared.

Col. Vic Dallin leads the operation. He's part of the U.S. Northern Command, or NORTHCOM, which coordinates multi-agency events such as this one. Col. Dallin has worked at a G-20 summit, a presidential inauguration, a Republican National Convention, and a Democratic National Convention.

That made him more than qualified to lead the jamboree, where hundreds of thousands of participants, staff, and visitors have descended on Fort A.P. Hill over the past week.

By housing all critical units under one roof, each agency can respond to a medical, weather, or security crisis immediately.

The 2010 National Scout Jamboree is just the latest example of a strong relationship between the BSA and the branches of the U.S. armed forces, Col. Dallin said.

"The Scouting organization and the military have principles and ideas that are very much aligned," he said. 

Thanks to the largely invisible efforts of those working in the JMAOCC, this event can live up to organizers' promises to make it the safest jamboree yet.

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About Bryan Wendell 2817 Articles
Bryan Wendell, an Eagle Scout, is senior editor of Boys’ Life, Scouting and Eagles’ Call magazines.