State of the Union: Reserve Security Support

 

A Coast Guard boat crew from Station Washington patrols the Potomac River in a 25-foot Response Boat-Small in Washington, D.C., Jan. 30, 2018. The members conducted security patrols along with partner agencies for the State of the Union address. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class David Micallef

 

Story by PA2 Dustin Williams

Wind screams across the Potomac River as Coast Guardsmen put on cold weather gear, strap on gun belts and check their weapons. The pier at Coast Guard Station Washington, D.C., buzzes with serious conversation while members look down river toward the Capitol, where President Trump will give his first State of the Union address in a few short hours.

Away from the water a small group of Coast Guard reserve members gather around Chief Petty Officer Rick Schiffer for a mission brief.

“We are trying to keep the capital safe during a critical event here,” said Schiffer, a , a maritime enforcement specialist at Sector Maryland National-Capital Region. “It’s a big annual event to be at the State of the Union address and, for obvious reasons it’s a high-profile target, so we need to do what we can to protect the waterfront.”

Chief Petty Officer Rick Schiffer, reserve maritime enforcement specialist from Sector Baltimore, briefs other mobilized reservists for their mission securing the waterfront during the State of the Union Address in Washington D.C., Jan. 30, 2018. A total of 13 reserve Coast Guard members were mobilized to augment Coast Guard security efforts in protecting the Potomac River and shoreside facilities. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Dustin R. Williams

A few moments later, they set out on security patrols along shore-side facilities with government vehicles.

About two miles away near Coast Guard Headquarters on Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, Coast Guard members in an Incident Command Post (ICP) work to keep communication flow between all of the partner agencies.

In charge of this task, is Lt. Cecilia Robinson, a reservist on an extended active duty contract at Sector Maryland-NCR as the chief of river operations. Serving as primary liaison officer in the ICP, she coordinates communication between agency representatives.

“We have four agency reps. One is at joint forces headquarters, we also have one with U.S. Capitol Police, one with the Secret Service multiagency communication center and with Department of Homeland Security Emergency Management Agency,” said Robinson. “With people sitting in those strategic spots, in addition to us monitoring different databases, we are able to communicate requests upon us or any requests we may have toward other agencies. That’s pretty much what the ICP in here is doing, making sure we keep a good common operating picture.”

Coast Guard reserve Lt. Cecilia Robinson works as the incident command post liaison officer coordinating joint agency security efforts for the State of the Union Address in Washington D.C., Jan. 30, 2018. A total of 13 reserve Coast Guard members were mobilized to augment security efforts in protecting the Potomac River and shoreside facilities. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Dustin R. Williams

 

A total of 13 reservists were given positions between the security teams on and along the river and in the ICP.

“I believe it’s key to include the reserves because, of course, by nature they are supposed to be a just-in-case support system for the everyday workings that may be going on at sector. You may not want to pull some your personnel from there, so you want to use your reservists during moments like this so you can keep the everyday going and the reservists can step in and help out with these activities,” said Robinson.

The reservists at Sector Maryland-NCR get the opportunity for an experience that maybe other sectors don’t offer just because of where we are located, said Robinson. Exposure to the national special security events that are planned using the National Incident Management System provide the reservists vital opportunities to prepare for contingency responses that are also managed with NIMS. These events enable reserve personnel to work towards their required qualifications that are critical to major incidents like natural disasters and oil spills.

The State of the Union address involves coordination of security efforts on a massive scale, all in the hopes that in an emergency, first responders can act quickly and efficiently.

Robinson said she almost wants their activity to be nonexistent, because that means that nothing’s going wrong. She thinks it is good that they are there just in case, even if it is a minute possibility that anything will happen. She would rather be prepared for something than not.

At the end of the night, the State of the Union address went on without the need for emergency action. Coast Guard crews returned to shore from the freezing cold of the Potomac and packed away their gear and firepower, the lights of the Capitol and Washington Monument flickering behind them. The reserves, having answered the call of duty, returned to their day jobs until needed again.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Frederick Delaney, a reservist at Sector Maryland-NCR, equips law enforcement gear for his mission protecting the waterfront during the State of the Union address in Washington D.C., Jan. 30, 2018. A total of 13 reserve Coast Guard members were mobilized to augment Coast Guard security efforts in protecting the Potomac River and shoreside facilities. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Dustin R. Williams