February 27, 2002, 23:25 EST

Security mission a "chance of a lifetime" experience

by Maj. Cotton Puryear
Virginia National Guard Public Affairs Office

 
The "Ice Sheet" in Ogden Utah was venue for the curling event, and one of the two main duty locations for Virginia soldiers serving at the Olymppics. (Photo by Maj. Cotton Puryear)

SALT LAKE CITY - Guard soldiers from all over the Commonwealth of Virginia recently spent several weeks in Utah to support security augmentation at the 2002 Winter Olympics Games. They were part of a force of over 3,000 National Guard soldiers from 25 different states that helped civilian volunteers and law enforcement personnel provide security to the Olympic venues.

“Our primary responsibilities have been to assist the law enforcement officials with the magnetometer operations and the screening of individuals entering the venues, and the screening of vehicles,” said Chief Warrant Officer Ralph Whaley, the officer in charge of the Virginia soldiers serving in Utah. He explained that the magnetometer is a metal detector that everyone entering an Olympic venue had to pass through.

The soldiers from Virginia fell under the command of the Utah National Guard, which had been given the responsibility for the augmentation mission. The Guard worked very closely with law enforcement personnel and Salt Lake City Olympic Committee personnel to coordinate their efforts.

Virginia’s soldiers received first class treatment from their Utah counterparts. “The Utah chain of command has really take care of us,” said First Sgt. Scott Borowski, from HHB, 1st Battalion, 111th Field Artillery. “They have gotten us all the equipment we needed and fed us very well.”

Borowski described their schedule as grueling and many days were filled with long hours, especially during the middle part of the games when most of the activities were going on. But despite the long hours, Borowski is proud of how Virginia’s soldiers accomplished their mission. “They have stood up very well, and we are very proud of how they have stood up through the entire mission,” he said.. “They have kept a really good attitude through the entire mission.”

The soldiers had very positive experiences with the spectators coming through their security check points to watch the events. Spec. Larry Seamans, Jr., from Battery C, 1st Battalion, 246th Field Artillery, said, “They have welcomed us in and thanked us for doing the job we are doing.”

Staff Sgt. Dwight Darren Hodges, from Company C, 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry, agreed and said, “There has been no hostility, they have really been supportive and have been joking about it in a good sort of way.”

Even though the soldiers were pulling long hours of duty shifts, they were still able to make the most of their time in Utah. Many soldiers got to see different Olympic events like biathlon, downhill skiing and men’s hockey. Since they were guarding the venue where the curling event took place, a number of soldiers were able to get inside the venue to see the unusual event up close.

Many of the soldiers felt that this was a once in a lifetime opportunity for them to serve their country in this way and to experience the international flavor of the Olympic Games. Sgt. Matthew Proctor, from Company C, 429th Forward Support Battalion, said, “this has been a chance of a lifetime” and “a wonderful experience.”

Whaley said “On duty, we have seen all kinds of Olympians and their coaches. It has been really neat seeing all the world in one place coming through our stations where we have been working.”

Spec. Delano Medley, from Battery C, 1st Battalion, 246th Field Artillery, said he enjoyed having the chance to be help with the security, and it was satisfying being around the athletes and “seeing the smile on their faces.”

Many of the soldiers had come to duty in Salt Lake from guarding Virginia’s airports. One soldier, Spec. Charles Prosser, Jr., from Battery E, 3 Battalion, 111th Air Defense Artillery, has served flood relief in Franklin, security duty at the nuclear power plants in Virginia, as well as security force at Fort Pickett.

Cpl. Michael Killian, Company B, 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry, Spec. Gregory Henrich, from 54th Field Artillery Brigade and Spec. Brian Dove, from 229th Engineer Battalion, managed to get snowboarding on four different occasions. One time when they couldn’t get a rental car, the rented a 14-foot U-Haul truck to get to their destination.

While on duty, the soldiers also had some interesting experiences meeting the athletes, who had to come through security checkpoints just like the spectators. While serving at a vehicle security check point, Sgt. Benjamin Glenn Kramer, from HHC, 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry, got to meet Australian athletes that were celebrating after they won their first ever gold medal in speed skating.

Kramer also got the opportunity to physically hold the medals the athletes had won in competition. He said, “It felt like a lifetime achievement in the palm of my hands.”

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