By Pvt. Cassandra MonroeNovember 26, 2008
Like the Democratic National Convention, the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn., in September, was designated a National Special Security Event by the Department of Homeland Security, which means it was of heightened national interest and required high-levels of security.
To satisfy the increased security requirements, authorities established a military joint task force, including approximately 1,600 Soldiers Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen from active-duty, Reserve and National Guard units.
The task force played an important role in freeing up local law enforcement personnel so they could focus on higher law enforcement requirements, said Brig. Gen. Joseph Kelly, Joint Task Force Republican National Convention commander and assistant adjutant general of the Minnesota National Guard.
"This is a unique event and the National Guard is doing what it always does, which is to be there to help civil authorities and back them up when there is an event that requires more capabilities than what they can handle," said Kelly.
Servicemembers' specialties ranged from explosive ordnance disposal and explosive detection dog teams to a Marine Corps chemical biological incident response force and security forces.
That expertise came in handy the afternoon of Sept. 1, when the St. Paul Police Department requested that 150 Minnesota Army National Guard Soldiers from the 1st Combined Arms Battalion, 194th Armor assist them with crowd control downtown, after demonstrators became increasingly aggressive.
"Our main mission was to support local law enforcement," said 1st Lt. T. Zdon, an armor officer with the unit. The Soldiers provided assistance in two key ways, said Zdon. "One: we provided a good number of forces used to support them. Two: we provided a good military presence."
The 1-194th also provided Soldiers who could assist with riot control tactics to keep crowds under control.
"We trained for a couple days, learning how each squad has an assigned task," said Spc. Ben Doran. "We generally work together and support each other, using shields and batons to keep crowds back. We want to use the minimum amount of force necessary to complete the mission."
Officials said the response time of the 150 Soldiers was remarkable, and the effect of their presence was evident in the quelling of the demonstrators.