By Annika Moody, ODNI Office of Strategic Communications
The National Counterterrorism Center Joint Counterterrorism Assessment Team, or JCAT, laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery on Dec. 14, 2021 to honor not just unidentified service members, but everyone who has sacrificed in service to our country.
“It’s very humbling,” said Detective Michael Doherty, a NCTC JCAT fellow from the New Jersey State Police Department. “We still have our mission to do here on the stateside to protect the families of those who are overseas and the loved ones that still remain here for our soldiers.”
JCAT is made up of state, local, tribal, and territorial first responders from all across the country. They work with intelligence analysts from the NCTC, the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to research, produce and disseminate counterterrorism intelligence.
“(JCAT is) a cool partnership,” said Lt. Shawn Hall, NCTC JCAT fellow. “While we are here, we delve in and create products at the unclassified level. We take intelligence that’s coming through at the classified level, identify tactics that could be used against us here on the home front and then build products to be able to keep us safe.”
Hall has been a first responder with Jacksonville Fire and Rescue in Florida for 15 years. When he heard about the JCAT program, he immediately wanted to join.
“The majority of first responders do not have a clearance,” said Hall. “By having programs like JCAT where you’re taking those classified products or classified information and then building [unclassified] products identifying those tactics and trends to keep us safe will prevent further tragedies.”
The JCAT program began in 2007 and pulls team members from across the U.S. where they come for a one-year fellowship, leaving family, friends and homes behind to travel to northern Virginia to participate.
The program usually is 12 months long, but some fellows can extend up to 18 months, said Hall.
“It’s a huge commitment on the home agency, the fellow, their family, and then also the community here in (JCAT),” said Hall.
Hall comes from a family of veterans. His father and brother are both retired military. His father served 26 years in the Navy and his brother served 20 years in the Army. While Hall serves as a first responder, he feels tied to the military and understands some of the sacrifices that are made to answer that call to service.
On Veterans Day, Hall took his 14 year old son to lay a flower at the Tomb of the Unknown Solider. The experience got him thinking about all the times he’s seen the ceremony and he began the process of figuring out how to make that happen for JCAT.
“I thought, ‘is there a way that I could actually lay a wreath at the tomb of the unknown?’ I found the website about a month and a half ago, just applied to see if it could happen and they approved us,” said Hall.
Only four people were allowed to approach the tomb to lay a wreath, and Hall hopes that this becomes a tradition for the JCAT team
“I was humbled, I really was,” said Detective Perry Beaver, a FBI JCAT fellow from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department. “This is like no other, to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Solider.”
There are many first responders who are veterans, but even to those who are not, the tomb represents the sacrifice of all of those called to serve.
“It’s about sacrifice,” Hall said. “The Army does a great job of highlighting the sacrifice their military members have done, not just those who are known, but also those who are not identified. It is not the same level of sacrifice, but it’s a sacrifice with our families to come here to the Intelligence Community.”
Hall is at the end of his time with JCAT, but between laying the wreath and the lifelong friends he has made he will never forget his time in the Intelligence Community and will work to pass on the knowledge he’s learned to his own community.
Learn more about JCAT products and the program here.