WATERTOWN, Mass. – In the early morning hours of April 19th, 2013 the chaos that followed the attacks at the finish line of the 117th Boston Marathon moved west and overtook Watertown, Mass., a town of just over 30,000 people, but along with that chaos came order.
Soldiers and Airmen of the Massachusetts National Guard, state police, local police and a torrent of other local and national law enforcement and Homeland Security forces descended on Watertown. Gov. Deval Patrick asked all citizens to remain indoors while security forces moved methodically through the 20 block area to flush out Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, known to most as suspect #2.
Special Weapons and Tactics units, commonly called SWAT teams went home to home, speaking to residents and ensuring all were safe and accounted for.
“We are currently providing security around the cordon, making sure nobody is running on the streets, and protecting the houses, and making sure that if we have eyes on anything that’s out of the original to call it up the chain of command using the state police, local police, SWAT teams,” said Sgt. Steven Halloran, a military police officer with the 747th Military Police Company.
Over the course of the week the Soldiers of the 747th’s mission changed greatly. On Marathon Monday the Soldiers were providing crowd control and security along the race route. Halloran’s unit was located in Hopkinton, right near the beginning of the race, and could see the starting line, said Halloran.
“We’re coming right off of a drill weekend, so we were all kind of prepared to go to Boston for the marathon to pull security,” Halloran said. “[Our Mission was]To make sure all of the runners were safe, to make sure nobody was running into the crowd, and nobody was getting injured.”
Following the attacks the mission transitioned to a more familiar role for the military police officers.
"The rest of the week was a show of force, like a 'We're here for Boston' sort of thing," said Sgt Joseph Oster an MP with the 747th Military Police Company.
Soldiers of the 747th Military Police Company were deputized, which allows them to possess weapons and live ammunition during a time of crisis in the Commonwealth.
"Today it's a real [armed] MP mission," said Oster. "This is different than anything we've done before (at home."
While SWAT teams continued through the Watertown neighborhood, Guardsmen worked with civilian authorities to maintain the integrity of the perimeter.
“Being out of basic training and being thrown into a situation like this is something, a week ago, I never would have expected,” said Pfc. Connor Sormanti, a military police Soldier with the 747th Military Police Company. “I only started at my unit last Friday. But now that I’m here and on, probably, the most important mission we’ve had in a long time. It feels good, and it’s what I signed up for.”
Though the week has been a trying one, the mood amongst the MPs is one of camaraderie and shared purpose. Tsarnaev was apprehended shortly after interviewing these Soldiers. While there roles may change as the days go on, every Soldier spoken to had a similar message to the people of Watertown, Boston and the Commonwealth.
“Just know that we have your backs, this is our home. We’re all family out here. We just want you guys to sleep well at night,” Halloran said. “And that is why we’re here; to make sure you guys are secure.”