Base police assist visitors at Twilight Tattoo
June 18, 2012
By Rhonda Apple
Since the annual Twilight Tattoo was moved from the Fort McNair portion of Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall in Washington, D.C. to the ceremonial Summerall Field on the Fort Myer portion of JBM-HH, civilian and military police have been busy preparing for and offering behind-the-scenes assistance before, during and after the weekly Army event.
Managing the day-to-day traffic on JBM-HH on the same day a Twilight Tattoo is scheduled takes careful planning and coordination. Parking spots in the Tri-Services parking lot are blocked with traffic cones to prevent military and civilian employees and other visitors from parking in the spaces reserved for buses.
In addition to traffic coming onto the installation in the afternoon and early evening for the Tattoo, there also are other motorists coming and going, who may need to be rerouted. Visitors also come to the officers clubs, swimming pools, the commissary and to visit residents.
"We ensure we accommodate enough room for each and every bus that comes in [to park for Twilight Tattoo]. We also make sure we get all the visitors attending safely across the street [from the Tri-Services parking lot]" said Spc. Maurice Snipe of The Old Guard's 289th Military Police Company. Snipe said if other events coincide with a Tattoo, for example, a party at a resident's home or an event at the Fort Myer Officers Club, at the same time as the tattoo, "that would be our only parking challenge."
On the day of the Twilight Tattoo, members of the 289th MP Co. man their traffic points in police vehicles, serve as crossing guards at cross-walks and provide traffic control in parking lots.
Snipe said he enjoys working each Tattoo and has been helping with traffic control for four years of Twilight Tattoos in the National Capital Region. "We get the chance to interact with a lot of the younger guests here. We're like a hero to the kids -- they see Soldiers on television or in movies and they come to see the show," he said. "Some of these kids aspire to become a Soldier." He said it makes him feel good to have young children wanting to talk to him about the Army. "They want to shake our hands, hug us and pose for photos," said Snipe.
Spc. Keith Hagelthorn, also of the 289th MP Co. and serving on his first Army assignment here and the second year he's worked the Twilight Tattoo event, said he enjoys working out on the installation's roads at traffic control points.
"It gives me the chance to practice doing what I want to do when I get out of the Army, which is work in law enforcement," said Hagelthorn. "I drive a patrol car, respond to [dispatcher] calls and help people out."
Hagelthorn said it's a pleasure to help visitors who come onto the base and not because it's part of the job.
"I highly recommend that people come to see a [Twilight Tattoo] show. It's very informative about the Army, covering [the service's] entire history, and it's entertaining," said Hagelthorn. "It also allows visitors an opportunity to get onto a military installation -- and that's something a lot of people don't seem to get the chance to do."
Sgt. Michael Curtis, police department operations sergeant with the JBM-HH Directorate of Emergency Services, has been working the Tattoo for about three-and-a-half years. He said when it was held at Fort McNair, the buses parked off the installation but on JBM-HH, there has to be accommodation for the buses on base.
Three weeks ago, 2,800 students arrived for a Twilight Tattoo on about 70 coach buses. "It's extremely crucial we have an area to park these buses," he said.
"The parking cones marking the reserved spots are there for a reason and anyone removing the cones will be subject to having their vehicles towed," said Curtis.
He said the MPs help visitors across the crosswalks, give directions, answer questions about parking and other information. Traffic control personnel also have alternate plans that go into action if there's a threat of rain. "The event then gets moved to Conmy Hall," said Curtis. In addition to providing military police assistance at these traffic control points, Curtis said there is assistance at almost every intersection on the installation at these big events. "People are still coming on and off the installation to go to and from the commissary, exchange, Bowling Center, officers club and other locations."
Curtis explained all personnel working the weekly event are briefed one week prior to Twilight Tattoo, about the weather and other criteria necessary to provide traffic control points and event security. "We're also briefed the day before the event and the day of the event, up to two hours before it is scheduled to begin," said Curtis. "There is a weather call at 9 a.m. to determine if it will be held on Summerall Field or in Conmy Hall, then at 1 p.m. there is a final weather call and there is no changing it after that."
If the location is moved, Curtis said personnel are notified and must change positions for traffic control and buses are rerouted to the alternate parking location. "If we have inclement weather, buses are allowed to park near Conmy Hall. There are roads vehicles cannot travel on, and other roads may be shut down," he said.
"Moving the Twilight Tattoo event to JBM-HH was only a challenge to deal with parking the buses but now that we worked out the initial kinks that come with anything new; it's flawless and nice to have the event here," said Curtis.