BOSTON - More than 800 Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Maine National Guardsmen assisted federal, state and local law enforcement agencies in eight cities and towns to keep the route safe for runners as they hit the road for the 118th Boston Marathon, April 21, 2014.
The National Guard provided Civil Support teams from 20 states specializing in chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear (CBRN), and improvised explosive detection teams, as well as medical and security personnel to help local communities along the 26.2-mile route to ensure the race was safe and successful.
The 79th Troop Command of the Massachusetts National Guard formed Task Force Patriot, commanded by Col. Mark. A. Merlino. Task Force Patriot supervised and planned the Guard's efforts and successfully coordinated with inter-agency partners to support the Boston Athletic Association as they continued to carry on the world's oldest marathon.
"The Massachusetts National Guard is proud to support the 118th Boston Marathon is working closely with officials from the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, the Boston Athletic Association and more than 15 inter-agency federal, state and local partners to ensure the race will be safe and successful," said Lt. Col. James Sahady, state public affairs officer for the Massachusetts National Guard.
This year's race was categorized as a National Special Security Event by the Department of Homeland Security because of the bombings, and subsequent manhunt in 2013.
Maj. Gen. L. Scott Rice, The Adjutant General of the Massachusetts National Guard said, "We are well-prepared to provide medical and security support to our civil authorities and communities, enhancing safety for the 2014 Boston Marathon. Our National Guard Soldiers and Airmen are proud to be an integral part of this historic race and our nation's 'Boston Strong' spirit of competition, compassion, and community."
A significant change in the Guard's security strategy this year was that all of the security personnel were armed military police soldiers and security forces airmen. During previous marathons Guardsmen were unarmed while supporting the event. The National Guard Civil Support Teams that advise and help first responders to detect chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and explosive weapons were also armed.
Lt. Col. Matthew Woolums, commander, 1st Civil Support Team, Massachusetts National Guard, said, "We train year-round to advise and assist incident commanders and first responders to detect and deal with chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear devices. This year we added more explosive detection training, and our Soldiers and Airmen will be carrying weapons," he said.
All public safety agencies committed to carrying out the safety plan in a way that did not diminish the runners and spectators fun. Since last year the public interest in supporting the cities greatest race resulted in 36,000 runners registering for the Boston Marathon compared to 27,000 last year. The combination of more runners and tighter security has been a challenge for planners.
"It's great to be here, and to know that we are doing everything we can to keep people safe," said Airman 1st Class Eric Lapworth, Security Forces Specialist, 102nd Intelligence Wing, Massachusetts Air National Guard.