By Jaime Luyster (USAG West Point)March 18, 2016
WEST POINT, N.Y. (Mar. 18, 2016) - The temperatures are rising at U.S. Army Garrison West Point and spring is upon us, but let's not forget the cold temperatures endured a few short weeks ago.
We put so much thought into preparing ourselves for the 10 seconds it takes to get from the front door to our vehicle. From oversized winter coats to automatic car starters, most of us are winterized for our journey to begin the work day.
As we enter West Point, warm in our cars, a security guard from the Directorate of Emergency Services awaits our arrival and checks our identification with a warm greeting and a hearty "have a nice day." Rain or shine and exposed to the elements, they are our first line of defense.
While checking identification and inspecting vehicles entering the installation is essential, this one responsibility among many provided by the DES, often goes unrecognized.
"Every day there are people in the Directorate of Emergency Services who stand and do their job in the elements of the hot sun, the rain, the sleet and the snow. These servants of our community are a very special breed. They deserve our respect as they do their tasks 365 days a year, seven days a week, 24 hours a day," explained Deputy to the USAG West Point Garrison Commander, Thomas Cowan.
"It is often a thankless job. They have to enforce rules which most of us find inconvenient but are necessary for people to live and operate safely around each other, whether that is a parking issue or a fire code issue. They stand ready to do everything to protect you or come to your aid, often putting their life on the line for you, their customers," Cowan added.
While the DES is dedicated to providing a safe and secure environment for all who work, live and visit the over 16,000 acre installation, they face many unique factors.
Unlike other U.S. Army installations, West Point is home to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, a federal service academy that has a full range of academic, military and NCAA athletic activities.
"West Point is the only Army installation that has to implement the same security requirements as any other Army installation, while also supporting the USMA mission that allows civilian access to tour the installation," explained the Director of the DES, Lt. Col. Matthew Allison.
Included within the DES are the Military Police Company, Provost Marshal Office, Fire and Emergency Services, and Physical Security Office.
The Military Police Company, Department of the Army Security Guards, Game Wardens and the West Point Fire Department serve as West Point's First Responders.
"The MP Company is faced with a very challenging task here at West Point. All of the VIP visitors, graduation, hunters and fishermen, Army football games, funerals, tourists, special events, security of the central area and gates make it extremely difficult for Soldiers to train, attend schools, take leave or at times have predictable time off" USAG West Point Command Sgt. Maj., Command Sgt. Maj. Joel Crawford said.
In addition to accommodating West Point Army football games, which can attract over 35,000 fans on game day, and the thousands that attend special events such as the 4th of July celebration, the MP Company has the challenge of also working with fewer Soldiers than normal MP companies.
Most recently, the MP Company and Department of the Army Security Guards took on the added mission of providing security for the area in which the USMA Cadets have their classes and barracks, the Central Post Restricted Area. This involves providing security checks at static locations as well as walking patrols in order to mitigate the threat of an active shooter, the intrusion of a lost visitor and to provide security if needed in a timely manner.
In the midst of their busy schedule, the MP Company strives to always improve their fundamental skills which are critical to supporting the community.
Currently being planned is "Green Cycle" training that has not occurred in recent memory.
Green Cycle training will include law enforcement certification courses as well as trainings focused on active shooter situations, felony traffic stops, domestic disturbance and other scenarios that could potentially take place at West Point.
"This is your prime training cycle and will focus on situational based training", explained Crawford.
The West Point Fire and Emergency Services of the DES also play a vital role in ensuring the safety of the West Point community. They accomplish this by providing emergency responses to fires, medical emergencies, water related emergencies, automobile extrication, hazardous material calls and any other emergencies that may occur.
They also provide an abundance of programs and activities for the community including CPR and first aid training (at no cost), child car seat checks and inspections, fire station tours, children birthday party appearances, assisting Boy/Girl Scouts with emergency preparedness and providing home inspections on request.
An integral component of the DES is the Physical Security Branch. As the Army downsizes, obtaining the best physical security equipment possible has become critical.
The responsibilities of the Physical Security Branch includes oversight for many contracts including the electronic security systems (keyless entries, video management systems and intrusion detection systems) and maintenance of the physical security equipment (active vehicle barriers, bollards, physical gates and access control points).
Additionally the Physical Security Branch provides oversight, training and supervisory duties for the Installation Visitor Control Center operations and the Department of Army Security Guards program.
The essential role, while sometimes overlooked, the DES has on USAG West Point and the USMA community is obvious.
"There is nothing that happens on this Installation, whether it be day to day operations or a significant special event, that DES is not an essential element to its success," stated U.S. Army Garrison West Point Commander, Col. Landy Dunham.
The DES looks at their contributions as a team effort.
The relationships the DES has maintained with city, state, and federal law enforcement entities aid in improving the security here at West Point and cannot be undervalued, Allison discussed.
Allison is also quick to recognize the support USMA staff and the West Point Garrison provides the DES. "Without their support, DES would not be able to ensure the mission of providing a safe and secure environment for the West Point community in its entirety," Allison explained.
"So next time you see [DES individuals], give them a smile and thank them for protecting you and your family and for being willing to risk all for you in an emergency", Cowan said.