Virginia Guard military police personnel assist with security at 57th Presidential Inauguration

Virginia National Guard Soldiers from the Manassas-based 266th Military Police Company operate traffic control points in Washington, D.C. in support of the Presidential Inauguration in the early morning hours of Jan. 21, 2013. More than 600 Virginia National Guard Soldiers and Airmen joined a force of approximately 6,000 National Guard personnel from 25 states and territories supporting the inauguration with traffic control, crowd management, communications and chaplain support. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Terra C. Gatti, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — More than 300 Virginia National Guard Soldiers and Airmen were sworn in as Washington, D.C., special police and assisted with security operations at the 57th Presidential Inauguration Jan. 21, 2013. The Soldiers and Airmen, from the Manassas-based 266th Military Police Company, the Virginia Beach-based 229th Military Police Company, the Staunton-based Detachment 1 of the 266th MP Company, the Fredericksburg-based Headquarters Company, 116th Brigade Special Troops Battalion, and the 192nd Security Forces Squadron at Langley Air Force Base, directed traffic and provided assistance to civilians along H and K streets, in the area near the inauguration parade route.

“It was a really good experience to be able to do something for my country. I’m proud to be called upon,” said Spc. Lauren Menefee of Winchester, a Soldier with Det. 1 of the 266th MP Company.

“It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to be part of the inauguration,” agreed Pvt. Brian Raskin of the 266th MP Company. “It’s an honor to serve my country and do a real-life scenario for the National Guard.”

The military police personnel were part of the more than 600 Virginia National Guard Soldiers and Airmen who joined approximately 6,000 National Guard personnel from 25 states and territories supporting the inauguration in Washington, D. C. and Northern Virginia. In addition to traffic control and crowd management, Virginia Guard personnel assisted with communications and chaplain support. An additional 100 personnel from the Virginia Army National Guard, Virginia Air National Guard and Virginia Defense Force conducted mission command and sustainment support and stood by in reserve for other possible missions.

A Virginia National Guard Airman from the 192nd Security Forces Squadron from Langley Air Force Base directs traffic Jan. 21, 2013 in Washington, D.C. Members of the 192nd SFS were integrated into platoons with the Virginia Army Guard’s 229th Military Police Company during the four-day mission. (Photo by Tech. Sgt. Meghan Skrepenski, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

The units arrived at Fort Belvoir on Jan. 19, the 229th with approximately 140 personnel, including Airmen from the 192nd SFS, and the 266th with approximately 130 Soldiers. Once they were inprocessed by the D.C. National Guard and sworn in as Washington, D.C. special police, they traveled in two separate vehicle convoys into the city, where they established a base of operations at McKinley Technical High School. While the unit leaders spent Jan. 20 planning for the mission, the majority of the Soldiers and Airmen took advantage of the downtime to conduct refresher training at the platoon level. These classes included directing traffic, setting up traffic control points, drivers training and interacting with the media.

The servicemembers were visited by Virginia Secretary of Public Safety Marla Graff Decker, Maj. Gen. Daniel E. Long Jr., the Adjutant General of Virginia, and Command Sgt. Maj. Dennis Green, the Virginia Guard Senior Enlisted Advisor. The three visited Soldiers and Airmen, learned more about their upcoming mission, thanked them for representing Virginia, and reminded them to stay safe and warm on the big day.

On Monday, at 3:30 a.m., a steady stream of Virginia National Guard humvees left McKinley Tech and snaked through the cold, dark streets of D.C. Once on site, the Soldiers and Airmen established 22 traffic control points along H and K streets.

The mission, which lasted from 4 a.m. until after 6 p.m., provided the Soldiers and Airmen with the opportunity to put their training to the test and use their skills in a real-world environment without the danger of combat.

“We all got a lot of experience, especially the ones who haven’t deployed before,” Menefee said.

“This is my first experience where we dealt with real traffic and that was valuable,” explained Spc. Kenneth Curry of Covington, who is assigned to Det. 1, 266th MP Co. “This mission let us make decisions and see how it feels to be leaders. It was great to be able to see your training be put to use.”

“It’s a new experience but it’s great to put my medical training to use,” agreed Staff Sgt. Matt Bass of Yorktown, a medic with the 229th MP Co. “I can take this experience and use it as I move on in leadership and train medics under me to take my spot.”

Airmen from the 192nd SFS were integrated into two platoons from the 229th MP Co., working side by side with their Army counterparts.

Virginia Secretary of Public Safety Marla Graff Decker and Maj. Gen. Daniel E. Long, Jr., the Adjutant General of Virginia, visit Virginia Guard Soldiers and Airmen at their staging site in Washington, D.C. Jan. 20 as they prepare to support the 57th Presidential Inauguration. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Terra C. Gatti, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

“It’s always great working with the Army,” said Tech. Sgt. Justin Connor. “It’s important to gain experience working in a joint environment like this.

By also working alongside civilian law enforcement agencies in a scheduled event, the units also gained valuable experience which will help them should they be called upon for an unscheduled event at the state or federal level.

“We train on this and it was good to finally put it to use in a real environment where you need to stay alert and pay attention,” said Sgt. Elizabeth Bullis, a team leader with the 229th MP Co. “We got to work with several different agencies and we’ll be ready to help people when they need it.”

In addition to working with civilian law enforcement personnel, the mission also gave the troops an opportunity to interact with the public. Many inauguration attendees stopped and asked for photos with the Soldiers and Airmen. Others just thanked them for their service. Meanwhile, several local businesses sent employees out to provide free coffee and snacks to the Soldiers and Airmen on duty nearby. With temperatures in the 30s, it was a gesture that was much appreciated by the Virginia Guardsmen.

“This helps show the public what we can do and that we’re doing what we’re trained to do,” Curry said.

“It was valuable because we used a lot of our MP skills and we interacted with the public,” said Spc. Krystal Stevenson of Det. 1, 266th MP Co. “Our unit worked together, demonstrated teamwork and built up unit cohesiveness.”

The Virginia Guard troops all seemed to appreciate the mission and looked forward to putting their experiences to use in future training and real-world scenarios.

“This is a once in a lifetime event. I’m excited and happy to be a part of it,” Connor, of the 192nd SFS, said. “Other than being cold, it’s been a great mission.”

“The role of the National Guardsman is to be the Citizen Soldier willing to provide for the common defense both at home and abroad, and I couldn’t be more proud of my Soldiers and how they performed throughout this mission,” said Capt. Michael Duggan, commander of the 266th MP Company. “The Presidential Inauguration is one of the great celebrations of our democratic traditions and we were honored to answer the call to serve in any capacity for this historical event.”

More on this event:

Photos: Virginia MPs assist with inauguration security – Jan. 21, 2013