National Guard August 2012 : Page 26

Securing Big Events By Ron Jensen Political conventions, summits and other high-profile gatherings are attractive targets for mayhem. That’s why authorities like to have the Guard on hand—just in case MARSEILLES, Illinois N A SUNNY Sunday af-ternoon in late May, about a dozen Illinois National Guardsmen carrying riot shields respond to a shouted order and advance in formation into nothing more threatening than a stiff warm breeze. Meanwhile, about 90 miles north and east, scores of Chicago police-men, also carrying riot shields but O | wearing bulky protective garb, stand their ground against demonstrators at the NATO Summit hosted by the city. The two events are not unrelated. About 325 Guardsmen are going through a weekend of inactive duty training at the Marseilles National Guard Training Center, a task that was spun forward from September on the drill calendar when the NATO pow-wow was announced. The Guardsmen are a National Guard Reaction Force leaning forward in case events spiral out of hand and reinforcements are required on the streets of the Windy City. “I have one unit on standby to be able to respond,” says Lt. Col. Loren LeGrand, the commander of the 2nd Battalion, 123rd Field Artillery, during the training. Vehicles are at the ready and LeGrand’s force is prepared, if called, to provide any number of missions, including crowd control, protection of critical infrastructure and extraction of key personnel. As it turns out, Chicago’s finest, backed up by Illinois state troopers, handle everything thrown at them on the long weekend. The Guardsmen stay in Marseilles and train. The Guard has built a reputation for responding without warning when 26 Na tional Guard

Securing Big Events

Ron Jensen

Political conventions, summits and other high-profile gatherings are attractive targets for mayhem. That’s why authorities like to have the Guard on hand—just in case.<br /> <br /> MARSEILLES, Illinois<br /> <br /> ON A SUNNY Sunday afternoon in late May, about a dozen Illinois National Guardsmen carrying riot shields respond to a shouted order and advance in formation into nothing more threatening than a stiff warm breeze.<br /> <br /> Meanwhile, about 90 miles north and east, scores of Chicago policemen, also carrying riot shields but wearing bulky protective garb, stand their ground against demonstrators at the NATO Summit hosted by the city.<br /> <br /> The two events are not unrelated. About 325 Guardsmen are going through a weekend of inactive duty training at the Marseilles National Guard Training Center, a task that was spun forward from September on the drill calendar when the NATO powwow was announced.<br /> <br /> The Guardsmen are a National Guard Reaction Force leaning forward in case events spiral out of hand and reinforcements are required on the streets of the Windy City.<br /> <br /> “I have one unit on standby to be able to respond,” says Lt. Col. Loren LeGrand, the commander of the 2nd Battalion, 123rd Field Artillery, during the training.<br /> <br /> Vehicles are at the ready and LeGrand’s force is prepared, if called, to provide any number of missions, including crowd control, protection of critical infrastructure and extraction of key personnel.<br /> <br /> As it turns out, Chicago’s finest, backed up by Illinois state troopers, handle everything thrown at them on the long weekend. The Guardsmen stay in Marseilles and train.<br /> <br /> The Guard has built a reputation for responding without warning when a Tornado drops from an afternoon sky or a lightning strike ignites a raging wildfire.<br /> <br /> But not every domestic task performed by Guardsmen requires a minuteman mentality. Preplanned events, too, often have Guardsmen on duty. They have been written into the plans for everything from recent Super Bowls to political conventions—the common denominator being large crowds and lots of media, both of which attract those desperate for attention, or worse.<br /> <br /> The Florida National Guard will be on hand when the Republican National Convention is held Aug. 27 to 30 in Tampa, Fla. One week later, the North Carolina Guard will be present when the gavel drops on the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C.<br /> <br /> Guard planning officers from both states were in Chicago in May to see things unfold with the NATO Summit.<br /> <br /> “We started this a little over 18 months ago,” Maj. Gen. Emmett R. Titshaw Jr., the Florida adjutant general, says of the planning involved.<br /> <br /> Since then, he has become familiar with an encyclopedia of agencies that will play a role in the event. He says he is dealing with anywhere from 50 to 80 local, state and federal outfits as he prepares his force to support the convention.<br /> <br /> “I’m involved with everybody,” he says. “This is the biggest interagency show that I’ve ever been involved in.”<br /> <br /> He rubs shoulders with everybody from the Secret Service to the FBI to U. S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM) to the Department of Homeland Security to the Tampa Police Department and on and on.<br /> <br /> “It’s massive,” Titshaw says, and as many as 1,700 Florida Guardsmen may be involved.<br /> <br /> If an event includes foreign participation, like the NATO Summit, that list grows to include the State Department, as well as the organizations that accompany the foreign delegation.<br /> <br /> “They call them National Security Special Events for a reason,” says retired Brig. Gen. Joe Kelly of the Minnesota Guard. He was dual-status commander when the GOP held its convention in St. Paul, Minn., four years ago.<br /> <br /> “There are challenges because of all the pieces and parts,” he says.<br /> <br /> But the success of the convention that nominated Sen.<br /> John McCain and then-Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as the Republican presidential ticket had a simple recipe.<br /> <br /> “To us, it came down to relationships,” Kelly says. “It’s no more simple or hard than that.”<br /> <br /> Kelly did a lot of face-to-face meeting, he says, a lot of “I’m Joe Kelly ...” so that when the convention began, he knew who was who and they knew him.<br /> <br /> “People are more likely to pick up the telephone and talk to someone they know,” he says.<br /> <br /> As people often say, standing at the rubble pile—or the opening ceremony— is not the time to be exchanging business cards.<br /> <br /> There is residual benefit. In Illinois, the Guard formed new relationships and strengthened old ones as it prepared for the international gathering.<br /> <br /> Brig. Gen. Robert Pratt, who served as dual-status (Title 10 federal and Title 32 state) commander for the event, says, “By having this National Security Special Event, we’re more ready should a catastrophic event happen in Illinois.” <br /> <br /> This was the first time the state used the dual-status commander, and Pratt says, “The dual-status commander does work. It unifies the effort.” <br /> <br /> Kelly says having a Guardsman wearing the two hats during the convention was a positive lesson learned.<br /> <br /> “One of the things we heard was that the civil authorities … like to have one person to go to,” he says.<br /> <br /> “They don’t want to have two generals or two colonels. I give credit to NORTHCOM for continuing to develop that concept.” <br /> <br /> Col. Chris Benson, the deputy division chief for operations at NORTHCOM, says, “In 98. 9 percent of the cases, that dualstatus commander is going to be a National Guard officer.”<br /> <br /> Benson described NORTHCOM’s role as “kind of a traveling road show.” <br /> <br /> The command is on hand to offer federal assets that might not be available in the state or through the Emergency Management Assistance Compacts states have with each other.<br /> <br /> “Us coming and supporting them is the best way,” he says, “rather than doing it the opposite way.” <br /> <br /> The Guard does a variety of tasks at big events. In Chicago, about 400 Guardsmen acted as drivers, getting delegates from the airport to their hotels and to the venues where Summit events took place. Others handled media requests and a weapons of mass destruction-civil support team was on hand for the worst that could happen.<br /> <br /> In all, about 1,800 Illinois Guardsmen were involved.<br /> <br /> Col. Christopher Lawson, the chief of the state’s joint staff, says it feels good to be doing a big mission in the state.<br /> <br /> “The last decade,” he says, “we’ve been more soldier than citizen.”<br /> <br /> For North Carolina, the convention is an opportunity to develop a joint task-force package that will work whether political delegates or hurricanes blow into the Tar Heel State.<br /> <br /> “The [joint task force package] we have probably isn’t sufficient for a largescale event,” says Maj. John Ebbighausen, the planner for the convention.<br /> <br /> To accommodate the convention, the state moved forward a Vigilant Guard exercise from March 2013 to the time of the convention, which, for preparation purposes is the equivalent of a Category 4 or 5 hurricane, he says.<br /> <br /> “We wanted to put together a real world force package,” he says. While the convention’s goal is to nominate President Barack Obama for a second term, the North Carolina Guard wants to validate a force package that can accommodate up to 10,000 soldiers and airmen responding to a large-scale catastrophe, Ebbighausen says.<br /> <br /> “The Vigilant Guard provides a training opportunity while the DNC provides a real-world scenario to accomplish this goal,” he says.<br /> <br /> Both Titshaw and Ebbighausen say the biggest challenge for the Guard when taking part in such a big event is paying for the effort.<br /> <br /> “Funding, for us, is the biggest issue,” says Titshaw.<br /> <br /> There is simply no established way to fund the Guard involvement, which Titshaw expects to be “in the low millions, depending on what the city and the Secret Service ask for.” <br /> <br /> Ebbighausen says the lack of clear financial support for the event impedes planning.<br /> <br /> “To preposition forces becomes more difficult,” he says. “In fact, it’s problematic.”<br /> <br /> Titshaw says it should be an easy problem to overcome, especially for political conventions, which are held every four years. He says the Reserve Forces Policy Board in the Pentagon wants funding put in the five-year program objective memorandum so states that host the events can better prepare.<br /> <br /> “Why we don’t build it into the program, I don’t know,” he says.<br /> <br /> While the Illinois Guard’s Rapid Reaction Force battled nothing stronger than spring winds during the NATO Summit, the Minnesota Guard’s Rapid Reaction Force was called to action on the convention’s first day in 2008.<br /> <br /> “We were joking about it ahead of time that there is almost no possibility that we’ll get called out,” says Col. Bill Lieder, who was the operations officer for the joint task force. “We always plan for the worst and hope for the best.” <br /> <br /> But in the first hour of the convention, demonstrators caused enough havoc to require the St. Paul Police Department to seek help. Guard troops were put on the Wabasha Street Bridge to free law enforcement to restore order.<br /> <br /> “We were ready,” says Lieder. “One hour from request to on the street is pretty impressive.” Unless something like that happens, few people will ever know the Guard is on hand for a big event.<br /> <br /> Unless Air Guard jets do a flyover, Guardsmen are pretty invisible and few people are aware of their involvement.<br /> <br /> But that’s OK.<br /> <br /> “The right people will know,” says Lawson of Illinois. “This is a way to serve our public and do it in the most humble way possible.”

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