By Tech. Sgt. Michelle Thomas 154th Public Affairs
While leaders from 21 Pacific Rim countries met this past week in Hawaii to hash out economic growth, trade issues and disaster response, a considerable number of Hawaii National Guard citizen Soldiers and Airmen were on hand to support the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit.
Soldiers and Airmen with the Hawaii Army and Air National Guard were called to duty as part of the APEC designation as a National Special Security Event (NSSE) in anticipation of more than 20,000 delegates and 2,000 media scheduled to attend from November 7-14. When an event is given an NSSE designation by the secretary of Homeland Security, the U.S. Secret Service creates a security plan that includes law enforcement and public safety at the local, state and federal levels. State Civil Defense was staffed at a higher level to coordinate consequence management.
“The Hawaii National Guard had been ramping up for this event for a year to support local, State and federal authorities. I am very proud of how well our Soldiers, Airmen and civilians carried out their tasks with the utmost professionalism”, said Maj. Gen. Darryll Wong, State Adjutant General. The joint active duty/National Guard effort to provide security and other support to civil authorities was designated Joint Task Force Kupa’a (JTF KUPA’A) “The preparation for any National Security event is truly a cooperative effort among civil authorities at every level. The commitment we received from U.S. Pacific Command and U.S. Army Pacific supporting the dual status command structure was tremendous.” said the commander of Joint Task Force Kupa’a, Brig. Gen. Gary M. Hara. “It has been an extraordinary process for us; from the training hours our Army and Air Guardsman have put in preparing, to the actual execution. It has been a smooth process, and we are truly proud of the efforts of our citizen Soldiers and Airmen during this highly visible and important venture.”
Working with the Honolulu Police Department, Guardsmen manned Humvees that blocked off streets near Waikiki, and provided traffic control on some routes heading towards the summit venue in west Oahu, where President Barack Obama hosted the other heads of state. Airmen also provided key support for the U.S. State Department as liaison officers and drivers for the different member economies of APEC. Other Hawaii Guardsmen aided in several areas to include media relations at the Hawaii Convention Center and at the Hotel in Waikiki, where the White House press corps was set up to file stories and stream live feeds.
At prior NSSEs, demonstrations had led to riots and property damage, so for APEC, Hawaii National Guard Soldiers and Airmen were ready to help the Honolulu Police Department with any civil disturbances. Those forces remained on standby throughout the APEC summit as the limited number of peaceful demonstrations were never large enough to exceed the HPD’s capacity to handle. Guardsmen from other states including Alaska and Colorado were flown in to join forces with their Hawaii counterparts providing CBRNE (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and High-Yield Explosive) preparedness support.
“The theme we tried to stick to going into this was ‘one team working together,” said Capt. Cezar Cuadros, commander of Troop A, 1-299th Cavalry “Regardless of where we are from, Guardsmen are going to do what needs to be done and that’s what they did.”