Every year on Patriots' Day, the 102nd Security Forces Squadron deploys a team of Airmen to line the route of the annual Boston Marathon, augmenting local law enforcement by providing crowd control and ensuring public safety. Normally a positive and routine detail for these Airmen to perform, this year their experience was much different.
The 18-man team, who reported for their detail at 5 a.m. on April 15, found themselves in the midst of an emergency response effort later that afternoon after two bombs were detonated near the finish line of the marathon, where three lives were lost and more than 180 injured. They remained on duty until 5 a.m. the next morning.
"During the marathon the majority of us were posted along the 20-mile mark, also known as 'Heartbreak Hill'," recalls Tech. Sgt. Michael Anderson. "We didn't see or hear the bombs going off, but received word shortly after the incident. I immediately phoned our NCO in charge, Tech. Sgt. Bryan Burger, who then informed me he was on his way to pick us up in a van so we could come together to figure out what to do next--we all wanted to help."
As word about the bombs spread throughout the area, law enforcement began to close roads because everything was suspected as being a bomb--trash cans, boxes, vehicles, everything, according to Anderson.
"We then received a tasking from The Adjutant General's office to report to Boston Common to receive further instructions. We arrived as the first military personnel there and then met up with state police officers to receive further instructions," said Anderson.
From the muster at Boston Common, a few Airmen were sent to the John F. Kennedy Library, where there was some suspicious activity shortly after the explosions at the marathon. Another small team reported to Faneuil Hall Marketplace where large crowds are often seen.
Later into the evening hours, the 18 Airmen then received a mission to secure hundreds of citizens' personal belongings that had been cordoned off in an area near the finish line on Boylston Street.
"The majority of the items belonged to the marathon runners who were scheduled to pick them up after they crossed the finish line," stated Tech. Sgt. Bryan Burger, 102nd SFS, "however, many runners never crossed the official finish line and we diverted elsewhere. These runners were without cell phones, wallets and other personal items. It was our job to secure these items, and the perimeter of the area, until they could be safely returned to their owners," he said.
The 267th Combat Communications Squadron (267th CBCS), Massachusetts Air National Guard, also played a big role in the incident response efforts. A team of six were also already in the area supporting the marathon with their Joint Incident Site Communications Capability (JISCC) facility in Rehoboth and quickly sprang into action when the news broke about the bombing. They broke down their equipment and were escorted by police to Boston Common to set up the JISCC facility there. The JISCC provides local emergency responders with communications capabilities such as computers, web access and telephones. Because communication lines were heavily congested at the time, this capability was crucial to the response efforts.
"Even though we were in our own back yard, it had that feeling like we were back in Iraq or Afghanistan again," said 1st Lt. Christopher Qubeck, 267th CBCS. "Everyone was on edge, keeping an eye out for who was walking around. It was very surreal."
The 267th CBCS JISCC facility remained operational in Boston Common until Tuesday evening, when they were relieved by the 26th Signal Company, who brought in their JISCC.
President Barack Obama praised the Guardsmen for their efforts, saying the National Guard responded heroically.
Also see below Air Force Report that aired on April 18.
YOUTUBE VIDEO OF AIR FORCE REPORT 4/18