By Master Sgt. Aaron Smith, 102nd Intelligence Wing
/ Published May 05, 2014
OTIS AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Mass. -- The events at last year's Boston Marathon were tragic. During the aftermath 102nd Intelligence Wing airmen were in Boston to help local authorities with security and communication. One year later, airmen returned to the marathon route, determined to help authorities prevent another tragedy and prepared to respond in case something did happen.
More than 40 airmen from Otis Air National Guard Base were stationed at various locations along the route. Each one had a hand in making sure that the event went as planned, using their particular skillset to make this "Marathon Monday" a safe and happy event.
Communication is key:
In an emergency, communication is crucial. The high-profile nature of this event and need for security drew agencies from around the country, including the FBI, DEA, and out-of-state National Guard units. Having that many organizations and people communicating in a relatively small area, using a variety of equipment, and not interfering with each other can be a small miracle. The 267th Combat Communications Squadron did just that though, for National Guard units involved in the marathon.
Preparing for these events involve a lot of planning. Two days before the race even began, MSgt. Michael Forte of the 267th CBCS, traveled to Army armories in Taunton, Massachusetts; Greenwich, Rhode Island; and Reading, Massachusetts to deliver a communications briefing to more than 450 soldiers, including The Adjutant General of the Rhode Island National Guard.
Showing just how much of force multiplier the 267th is, only two individuals from the 267th headed up to Boston during the marathon and were able to provide support for radios, two communications facilities, and several Humvees with radios. Sgt. Forte noted, "We programmed close to 400 radios that were spread throughout the route. The Army Guard brought some of their own assets in addition to the 200 radios we provided so we had to get the two types of radios to talk to each other."
As the day wound on the preparation paid off. Sgt. Forte said, "During the day we went along the route, stopping at the checkpoints where the soldiers, or airmen, and checked on anyone with a radio. We swapped out a few dead batteries, fixed some antenna issues, but there were no large problems." The support that the 267th provided didn't go unnoticed, Sgt. Forte said, "As far as we were told everything went off flawlessly. It was a very successful event and they were happy to have us. I was told that the battalion commander in Wellesley said that this was the first time he's ever had successful COM from one end to the other and that that put a smile on his face."
Security and safety were front and center at this year's marathon and the 102nd Security Forces Squadron (SFS) was there to help. Twenty-five airmen from the SFS started their day on Otis at 2:45 in the morning. Senior Airman Dana Crovo, of the 102nd SFS, explained, "We got our radios, armed up, and were briefed. Thin it was on to the bus heading towards Hopkinton High."
The important authorities placed on keeping this event safe was evident when the bus pulled into Hopkington High School. Amn. Crovo noted, "When we got there it was as if every single law-enforcement agency was pulling in there at once. It was like a concert of cops coming in from everywhere. There were troops in formation, you even had State trooper recruits coming through in formation."
After receiving a briefing from a variety of agencies, Security Forces dispersed to their assignments, some with Massachusetts State Troopers and others posted along the marathon route. Law enforcement officers weren't the only ones aware of security, though. "Everyone had that feeling inside, and even those who in awe of the military and police presence, were also on the watch for anything suspicious" Crovo said.
Amn. Crovo said that, despite the large security presence, the events of the day were still enjoyable. "You see all the military presence and you see the helicopters above, but then you see the families out there having a good time and it was a good day", he explained. Amn. Crovo went on to say, "It was good to be part of that, it felt good. The people that had that experience last year. Seeing the runners, just everyone was happy that day. Knowing that we were a part of that, even if it was in a very small way, was good."