PHILADELPHIA - The Pennsylvania National Guard completed its mission Monday Sept. 28, 2015, in support of law-enforcement agencies during the World Meeting of Families and papal visit in Philadelphia.
Thousands of members of the Pennsylvania National Guard were stationed throughout the region before in the days surrounding the Sept. 26-27 event in order to manage crowds, maintain emergency routes, and support security efforts. Many of the soldiers were also assigned to provide logistical support for those performing this mission to include supply efforts, equipment and vehicle maintenance, and medical support.
Dubbed Operation Iron Angel, the mission was performed as part of a cohesive effort by state and federal emergency-management and security agencies to ensure the safety of event attendees which was estimated near 860,000.
First Lt. Tom Gordon of Elizabethtown was among the soldiers activated for the mission, with the 328th Support Battalion based out of West Chester University.
"Our mission from West Chester University (was) sending soldiers to work with local law enforcement and emergency personnel in the Delaware County area with SEPTA Regional Transit Lines," Gordon said. "I'm very excited, because I grew up in this area. I'm happy to keep Philadelphia safe and provide support in any way needed."
The presence of Department of Defense personnel like the National Guard members was intended to enhance overall security effort through their unique capabilities.
Among those capabilities are the Homeland Response Force and Civil Support Team. These units are trained and ready to respond, at a moment's notice, to disasters as great as chemical, biological, or nuclear attacks. Fortunately no such credible threat existed, however, so these teams spent the weekend training at Fort Indiantown Gap.
Because most National Guard members serve part time in the military while employed full time as a civilian, they are members of the communities they serve. For instance, Spc. James Murdick, who serves with the 1-112th Infantry Battalion in Cambridge Springs, also works in the emergency room at the Millcreek Community Hospital in Erie. He was on hand to provide medical support during the event.
"I love taking care of people," Murdick said. "The most gratifying thing someone can do is take care of someone else."
"It's also an amazing training opportunity," added fellow medic Spc. Evan Smith.
Since Sept. 11, 2001, The Pennsylvania National Guard has deployed more than 40,000 soldiers and airmen in support of overseas contingency operations and served more than 2 million duty hours in support of domestic operations including hurricanes, blizzards, flooding and high-profile public events similar to the papal visit.