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    Cal Guard holds the line at Super Bowl 50

    Cal Guard holds the line at Super Bowl 50

    Photo By Brandon Honig | Pfc. Gioser Nunez of the 670th MP Company discusses Super Bowl 50 security with Mark...... read more read more

    SANTA CLARA, CA, UNITED STATES

    03.01.2016

    Story by Brandon Honig 

    California National Guard

    SANTA CLARA, Calif. - The California National Guard trains tirelessly for every type of emergency. Its soldiers’ and airmen’s skills are finely honed and wide-ranging, but the best-case scenario is that they never have to use them.

    Heading for duty at Super Bowl 50 in Santa Clara, California, troops hoped their mere presence would be enough to keep troublemakers at bay, and to bring a sense of peace to fans who came to enjoy America’s biggest cultural holiday.

    “As a section supervisor, I can’t tell you how many times people walked up to us and said it was amazing – said how secure they felt knowing that [military] security was in place,” said Sgt. Kevin Fraser of the Santa Clara Police Department, which was the lead agency for Super Bowl security. “So many people walked up to shake the soldiers’ hands and asked to take pictures with us. The public was very, very appreciative.”

    From an operational standpoint, he said, the troops were fantastic in their many roles throughout the week leading up to the big game and throughout the year of planning beforehand. With hundreds of thousands of visitors flooding the region for Super Bowl 50, Fraser said the Santa Clara PD knew they couldn't do it alone, and the National Guard was a vital part of the event’s success.

    “Fully staffed, [the Santa Clara PD] is authorized 150 officers. If we had every single cop working, it would not have been nearly enough,” he said. “This model was so successful at integrating the National Guard troops with local law enforcement … [that] this partnership was immensely helpful for us.”

    A trusted presence
    Capt. James Stanfield, commander of the 670th Military Police Company, said no serious security concerns surfaced during the operation, and the events that did occur quickly spiraled down because of the security presence. MPs were posted all around the stadium, which Stanfield said showed the level of trust placed in the Cal Guard by the Santa Clara Police Department.

    “The soldiers understood it when they saw it on the map, that we were everywhere, and most positions were not paired up with police officers,” he said. “It showed the level of respect and authority, that we were performing that mission in the absence of a police officer.”

    The fans asking to take selfies with soldiers at Levi’s Stadium were interacting with members of the 49th MP Brigade and its subordinate units. But that was just one facet of the Guard’s support, which covered the entire Bay Area, including the Super Bowl City and NFL Experience fan venues in San Francisco, as well as the airspace overhead, protected by the Guard’s 144th Fighter Wing.

    A full team effort, the Guard’s presence included both Army and Air Guard hazardous materials-response specialists, rescue teams, communications units and aviation assets, including three types of helicopters and two types of planes. Law enforcement specialists from the California State Military Reserve also provided training and support, and several Army units, including a quick reaction force and a ready reaction force, were on call at their home armories in case they were needed.

    Preparation pays off
    The coordination between Guard assets – and between the Guard and other agencies – was top-notch according to task force leaders, and according to troops on the ground. Spc. Janhannah Cho of the 670th MP Company, who guarded a bridge near the stadium dubbed Checkpoint 11 on game day, witnessed firsthand the benefits of thorough planning and preparation.

    “We were told by our command that our fixed point is our point – that we do not move, because a vehicle or fence-jumper could easily be a distraction that would let other people through the perimeter,” she said.

    When two men climbed over a fence the MPs were guarding early in the day, Cho stayed at her point and called the Santa Clara Police with a description of the men and the direction they were heading.

    “The next think you know, [an Army] helicopter started flying overhead in the direction of the golf course where they were running. Then we saw Santa Clara PD rovers run over there in their [gator] vehicles, and then a Santa Clara police car right after,” she said. “They were on site quickly. I didn’t think it would work that fast, even though we’d been training for it all week.”

    A third man tried to jump the same fence but was turned back by Cho’s partner. Then things calmed down for the rest of the day, Cho said. “They saw people were getting arrested and decided to leave us alone.”

    The helicopter that flew over Cho’s head was an LUH-72 Lakota from 3rd Battalion, 140th Aviation Regiment, which provided live streaming video to commanders on the ground throughout Super Bowl Sunday. Lt. Col. Dillon Haynes, 49th MP Brigade operations officer, said that in addition to delivering valuable information about what was happening on the ground, the aviation support provided his troops with a rare chance to exercise their skills.

    “Our intelligence and operations sections had an opportunity for the first time to look at live video in a Defense Support to Civil Authorities operation … which gave our personnel a chance to provide real-world, real-time analysis in a domestic support role,” he said.

    Working well with others
    Working together with other military units is a core skill of the National Guard, and many soldiers and airmen also work every year with partner agencies like the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) and the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES), both of which played important roles at Super Bowl 50.

    Super Bowl 50, though, likely involved more local, state and federal agencies than any event the supporting units had previously worked. On the federal side, for instance, soldiers worked hand in hand with Customs and Border Protection, guarding and escorting shipments to different sites after they had been screened by CBP.

    “[The interagency coordination] went very well because we spent time developing those relationships ahead of time,” Haynes said. “The planning sessions paid off during the execution. … If something needed to happen, we’d already figured it out beforehand.”

    Staff Sgt. Nicholas Emmerling was in charge of making sure the different agencies could speak to each other through the Incident Commander’s Command, Control and Communication Unit, or IC4U. A California Military Department invention, the IC4U was first fielded for a military operation during Hurricane Katrina.

    “The IC4U is all about interoperability: being able to cross-talk from our ‘green’ networks to their ‘blue’ networks,” said Emmerling, the noncommissioned officer in charge of communications for the 49th MP Brigade. “It’s a very robust platform that has pretty much every citizen band and law enforcement band you can access. Then cross that together with some of our technology that’s in there, and if the stuff ever hits the fan, [the IC4U] will come in very handy.”

    When it comes to interoperability, Emmerling is an example of the unique capabilities the Guard brings to domestic operations. A former police officer for two Bay Area departments, Sunnyvale and Mountain View, Emmerling also has worked in sheriff’s dispatch and Emergency Medical Services in San Luis Obispo County.

    “We’re here to help the first responders in case there is an incident, so it definitely helps to have that background and familiarity with the systems and also with the people we are working with,” he said. “That’s why we’re so close [to the stadium] but just outside the perimeter – because we’re poised to assist them if we get called.

    “‘Always Ready, Always There,’ right?”

    A career highlight
    Most of the soldiers and some of the airmen who supported Super Bowl 50 set up camp at a BMX track behind Levi’s Stadium, where many of them stayed in tents for more than a week. They weren’t exactly first class accommodations, and some soldiers were understandably disappointed they wouldn’t be able to watch the game. As the big day crept closer, though, excitement began to build throughout the Bay Area, and the BMX track.

    “As the week progressed, and especially the last day, when gear was full battle rattle, we were all pretty pumped up for the Super Bowl and that everything we had been training for was finally happening,” Cho said. “We didn’t come here to have fun. Our mission was to protect and provide security and to help the local PD. You can’t let your guard down because people are having fun [without you].”

    Stanfield agreed his soldiers were pumped. They were excited at the opportunity to employ their craft, he said, and the Super setting only added to it – especially after the game, when they were treated to a walk on the field.

    “Some soldiers expressed that they wished they could have watched the game,” Stanfield said, “but they all appreciated it at the end, when we went on the field and saw the gravity of the event and how much of a difference they had made.”

    Senior Airman Steven Williams of the 147th Combat Communications Squadron said he has supported a wide variety of domestic missions in his seven years in the Guard, but none quite like this.

    “It’s definitely a unique experience. It’s exciting to see all the helicopters going around and all the commotion,” he said. “The whole function of why I joined the National Guard is so I can serve my state in addition to federal missions. It gives you a good warm fuzzy feeling to be able to do that in your community.”

    Cho, who deployed to Afghanistan in 2012, said she’s glad she got to use her MP skills to protect people in her home state. Dealing with people who aren’t “bad guys” requires a different mindset, Cho said, and for the MP who joined the Guard at 17 because she wanted to be part of something bigger than herself, this was a mission to remember.

    “It’s a great honor to serve Super Bowl 50, for sure,” she said. “This goes down in history.”

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    NEWS INFO

    Date Taken: 03.01.2016
    Date Posted: 03.01.2016 14:24
    Story ID: 190712
    Location: SANTA CLARA, CA, US 

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    Cal Guard holds the line at Super Bowl 50