Jim Pelkofski, the Pentagon Force Protection Agency's director of antiterrorism and force protection, said the October 2000 attack on the USS Cole was a "wake-up call" he's been working to answer ever since.
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Jim Pelkofski, the Pentagon Force Protection Agency's director of antiterrorism and force protection, said the attack on Cole was a seminal event, both for the Navy and for him.
"Cole was really the wake-up call for the Navy
"I think that's when commanders in the Navy
really started taking [antiterrorism and force protection] seriously."
, the timing of the attack was portentous.
He was on active duty in the Navy and in the training pipeline preparing to take command of his own destroyer, USS Deyo.
"Even though the Navy
hadn't yet formally adopted [antiterrorism and force protection] as a mission area, when I went to Deyo I said, 'This is one of our mission areas.' So we set out to make as hard a target of ourselves, both in port and underway, as we possibly could," he
command tour, Pelkofski's next assignment was a full immersion into the antiterrorism and force protection world.
He served as the antiterrorism operations plans and policy officer on U.S. Fleet Forces Command staff.
After a final tour in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Pelkofski retired from the Navy as a captain, completing more than 25 years of service.
retired from the Navy
remained committed to serving his
In November 2009, he
saw the job announcement for his
"I read the announcement and it was kind of like lights went off: 'I've done this job before at Fleet Forces Command -- I'm perfect for this!'" he
"I applied and went through the interview process, and fortunately, everyone else up to [Steven E. Calvery, Pentagon Force Protection Agency
director] felt the same, and here I am.
"I wanted to stay in the fight," he
added, "so this is perfect for me, and I'm really proud to be here."
Back in his
Navy days after taking command of Deyo, with memories of the Cole attack fresh in their minds, Pelkofski
crew made their deployment motto: "Shoot to Kill."
"We had this aggressive mind set, and I think it played out throughout the deployment," he
"And it's sort of my personal approach to life, and I bring that philosophy here."
In a 2004 article he
wrote for the U.S. Naval Institute's
magazine Proceedings, he
said the greatest deterrent to an al-Qaida operation is a defense poised to shoot early -- and shoot to kill -- in the event of an attack.
"Terrorists who are willing to die for their cause are deterred only by [the prospect of] certain failure in the execution of their operation," he
"We succeed if nothing happens," said Jim Pelkofski, director of antiterrorism and force protection for the Pentagon Force Protection Agency.
"Nothing happens if you're doing all you can to deter, detect, prevent and defeat a terrorist attack."
Making sure nothing happens also requires the participation of every person who works in the facilities for which the Pentagon Force Protection Agency
provides antiterrorism and force protection support, he
said, so his
directorate has a robust training program that touches tens of thousands of military and civilian personnel.
Greg Shepard, Pelkofski's deputy, said the agency's training efforts start with Level 1 antiterrorism training for Defense Department personnel across the national capital region.
The facilities the Pentagon Force Protection Agency
supports are distributed across the region with overlapping local, state and federal jurisdictional lines, Pelkofski
said, so it makes sense to have a collaborative, educational process to share knowledge and expertise.
To that end, AT/FP University
brings together people from a variety of local, state and federal agencies to discuss antiterrorism and force protection issues they share in common.
"What I really wanted was to create a forum for the exchange of ideas, for the discussion of topics of interest, and to try to delve into the provocative and academic," Pelkofski
"I want it to be truly information sharing -- not controversial, but rather a thought-provoking type of event."
Another training evolution the antiterrorism and force protection directorate originally oversaw -- now part of the training directorate's responsibilities -- is the quarterly tabletop exercise that gathers all key Pentagon Force Protection Agency directorates and offices around a table to walk through a scenario and discuss how they would respond to given situations.
Once the discussion gets going, the process can reveal what Shepard called "gaps and seams" where the overall antiterrorism and force protection plan can be improved.
The most recent tabletop exercise was a complex scenario that Shepard credits to Pelkofski