- The runners were only visible via cable television and the crowd noise was not within earshot as Massachusetts National Guardsmen from two units supported the 114th Boston Marathon from a location 30 miles away from the race’s starting line.
Eighteen members of the Army National Guard’s 79th Troop Command and seven members of the Air National Guard’s 267th Combat Communications Squadron worked as a Joint team April 19, at the 79th Troop Command headquarters in Rehoboth, Mass.
The primary mission of the 79th Troop Command soldiers was to provide command and control from the 79th Emergency Operations Center for the more than 400 soldiers and airmen who were providing security along the marathon route.
“We are providing command and control and communications for the Boston Marathon; for the 400-plus soldiers and airmen that are activated,” said Army Maj. Jeffrey Winn, 79th Troop Command executive officer. “We coordinate with all the different units that provide soldiers and airmen to the field and we make sure they have lunches, bottled water and the right equipment. We also coordinate to get the buses to pick them up at their local armory and move them to their ‘link up’ location, which is traditionally a police station in each of the towns, where they get their Rules of Engagement briefing and then we track them for pay and accountability purposes,” said Winn.
While the 79th Troop Command soldiers were providing command and control from their primary EOC, the 267th Combat Communications Squadron airmen were prepared to provide a robust backup communications service using their Joint Incident Site Communications Capability system which was set up behind the 79th Troop Command Headquarters.
“We are supporting the 79th Troop Command soldiers that are managing all of the National Guard troops supporting the Boston Marathon,” said Air Force Capt. Joseph Friel, Joint Incident Site Communications Capability officer in charge. “The JISCC is a turn-key communications solution for small teams. We provide 15 laptops and phones with capability for additional user instruments as well. The [JISCC] is transportable, robust and relatively easy to configure and deploy in a short timeframe,” said Friel.
After the initial wave of runners had crossed the finish line, the Guardsmen took advantage of a valuable training opportunity. The 79th and 267th servicemembers demonstrated the capability to conduct their EOC operations in field conditions. The 79th soldiers set up two tents and the 267th airmen provided communication capabilities using the JISCC.
“[Today’s mission] has gone really well. We have a great EOC here in Rehoboth. It has computers, internet, phones, cable television and connectivity with Joint Force Headquarters but one of our great lessons learned from Operation Rising Water [where we provided flood prevention and relief to Massachusetts residents] was bringing in the folks from the 267th Combat Communications Squadron,” said Lt. Col. Paul Landry, 79th Troop Command commander. “This is a great opportunity for us to train together and for the 267th to show us even more of what they’re capable of bringing to the fight. Today we are practicing how they would come in and set up a Tactical Operations Center because if they can set it up here, they can set it up on the Boston Common or on the Marathon route if we needed to be forward deployed,” said Landry.
Both the primary marathon support operations and the field training exercise showcased the strength of the Massachusetts National Guard and the importance of Joint operations.
“Although we’re not a Joint unit here at the79th, we are embracing the whole Joint activity and we’re using some of the best and brightest that both the Army and the Air Force have to offer. We can conduct operations anywhere. We can be out of here and operational in as much time as it takes to pack up a bag and drive wherever we’re going,” Landry.