NEWS | July 29, 2016

Security Forces remain vigilant

By Spc. Avery Cunningham 172nd Public Affairs Detachment

The Vermont National Guard Force Protection, the Vermont State Guard and Headquarters, Headquarters Company, 86th Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 86th Brigade Combat Team (Mountain), Vermont National Guard, provides security during Vigilant Guard 2016. This exercise runs from July 22, 2016, to August 2, 2016. Vigilant Guard is a national level emergency response exercise, sponsored by the National Guard and NORTHCOM, which provides National Guard units an opportunity to improve cooperation and relationships with regional civilian, military, and federal partners in preparation for emergencies and catastrophic events.

"The primary mission of Force Protection is to provide protection to, in this order, the people, the assets and training that takes place on military property," said Officer Mike Aher, the security supervisor with the Vermont National Guard Force Protection.

Because of their role, they have an important mission during Vigilant Guard 2016 when service members, civilians and agencies from multiple sites and countries arrive at the training sites.

"Our first line of defense is vetting people and screening and interviewing people coming onto the property," said Aher. " Our second line of defense is keeping an eye of what's going on inside and around the property."

"We obviously want to make sure we know who we let onto the facility, and we want to keep track of them and make sure everyone that is on this facility is safe," said 1st Lt. Joseph Allard, site security, HHC, 86th BSTB.

Soldiers from Allard's unit have been operating in conjunction with the Force Protection to ensure the safety of participants. His Soldiers aid Force Protection by screening participants and by checking-in visitors to the facility for the exercise.

"By having a screening process, we hope to filter out anything that could be a hazard to our employees, our civilians here and our visitor, as well as ensure that they have a safe training environment," said Allard.

Despite the help from the Vermont National Guard, Force Protection still faces new challenges during the Vigilant Guard exercise.

"We have to meet full measure with security," said Aher. "Now is a very important time to be very diligent and one of the challenges we have is dealing with time constraints."

Force Protection must clear civilians entering military posts before they can go to their sites for the exercise, and because each lane is on a timeline so units can train, Force Protection has to work quickly and efficiently, said Aher.

To facilitate the process and as an additional security measure, a supplemental system using badges was introduced.

"We've developed a very extensive badging system for Vigilant Guard that identifies people, military and civilians, by the role they are playing in the exercise whether it’s a participant or support personnel," said Sgt. Maj. Guion, state security manager, Joint Force Headquarters, Vermont National Guard.

Even with the substantial increase of visitors on the military installations, Force Protection meets the goal through training and professionalism.

"We've done additional training on interviewing and access control procedures to enhance this," said Aher. "We had to go through and do some training on other forms of acceptable identification that are not normally accepted here on base and how to make sure the identification is legal and authentic."

While the visiting participants challenge the security forces and require additional resources to meet the security demands, they are also presented with an opportunity to observe the collaboration of multiple government and state agencies.

"This is our chance to show them the caring, nurturing side we have for our fellow statesmen and civilians and show them that we're training to take care of them as well, not just to fight," said Allard.