In March 2014, the Department of Homeland Security and the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) had a problem. For months, both agencies had spent countless hours setting up a large community engagement program in North Carolina. There were repeated calls and meetings with Muslim American religious leaders to explain why the two counterterrorism organizations thought it was imperative to run something called a Community Resilience Exercise in Raleigh. The event was on the cusp of being canceled.
The C-REX, as it was called within government, is a hypothetical scenario that unfolds in stages, appearing to show a person radicalizing to violence. Usually run with a crowd evenly split between law enforcement and community partners, it is meant to facilitate a discussion on what role each side can play in terrorism prevention. Each side takes the role of the other, so community partners are law enforcement and vice versa. This role reversal helps set the stage for a better understanding of the limitations and misconceptions each possesses when trying to disengage an individual from extremist action.