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Hokanson Visits Guardsmen Safeguarding Las Vegas New Year’s Eve Celebration

  • Published
  • By Army Sgt. 1st Class Zach Sheely,
  • National Guard Bureau

LAS VEGAS – Amid throngs of people ringing in the New Year, the National Guard’s senior officer met with Nevada National Guardsmen on duty to safeguard “America’s Party” — one of the largest New Year’s Eve celebrations in the country.

About 200 Nevada Guardsmen supported local and federal law enforcement agencies to ensure safety, assist with crowd control and provide medical support.

“Everywhere I go, I learn something new,” said Army Gen. Daniel Hokanson, the National Guard Bureau chief. “Sitting through the interagency briefings, I learned how they work, how the Guard is represented, how the law enforcement agencies look at event coordination, and how they can leverage the National Guard in key areas where we have great capability.

“The other thing is, we look to our senior leaders to share what they've learned with other states, to say, ‘Here is what we learned. Here's how we did it. Here's what we did right and here's what we did wrong,’” Hokanson said.

Every New Year’s Eve, Las Vegas Boulevard is closed to vehicular traffic to allow for pedestrians to walk the Strip and count down the final minutes of the year. At midnight, the casinos launch a choreographed fireworks show from their rooftops to mark the start of the New Year. This year, officials expected crowds to top 400,000.

The Nevada Guard has worked with Clark County Emergency Management and the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department to support the celebration since 1999. This annual occasion is categorized by a Department of Homeland Security special event assessment rating, which requires interagency cooperation to maximize public safety.

When designated under this rating, the federal government assists and supports state and local officials. This help can include explosive detection canine teams, cyber risk assessments, venue screening and field intelligence teams, and air security and tactical operations support.

The Nevada Army National Guard’s 1st Squadron, 221st Cavalry Regiment serves as the primary Guard unit overseeing operations and personnel on the Strip and Fremont Street on New Year’s Eve. Additionally, the 92nd Civil Support Team provides atmospheric monitoring and on-site analysis of any suspicious substances.

The Nevada Air National Guard’s 152nd Medical Group supports two area hospitals with about 35 personnel for triage assistance in case of an emergency.

The Nevada National Guard supports state, county and local agencies at numerous large-scale events in Southern Nevada. Nevada Guardsmen were activated to support the inaugural Formula 1 Las Vegas Grand Prix in November and will provide similar support for the Super Bowl in February.

Hokanson said one aspect that sets Guardsmen apart is the connective tissue they form within the communities they serve.

“Some of the law enforcement officers I met are also in the Guard and vice versa,” he said. “So, they were working with other people that they had worked with before.”

Army Maj. Timothy Frederick, a plans officer with the Nevada Guard, said the partnership between the Nevada Guard and the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department is seamless.

“The coordination prior to missions ensures success at execution,” said Frederick, who also serves as a sergeant in the LVMPD event planning section. “Further, assigning LVMPD officers, who are also in the Nevada National Guard and speak both languages as liaison officers, ensures effective employment and mission command for our forces.”

“Planning and working together before an incident are critical,” Frederick said. “Everyone understands each other’s goals and intent prior to the event. You should never meet for the first time during a critical incident.”

Nevada Gov. Joe Lombardo, a former law enforcement officer who also served in the National Guard, met with Hokanson and told him he sees the Guard as a force multiplier.

“Since my time in the National Guard, the Guard has significantly increased its capability and force,” Lombardo said. “The strengthened functionality of the Guard benefits our citizens, state and country.”

Hokanson explained that because the National Guard is the combat reserve of the Army and Air Force, it also adds significant value to the 2,800 communities where Guardsmen live and work.

“Because we’re manned, trained and equipped to fight and win our nation’s wars, we can do just about anything,” he said.

The CNGB walked a portion of Las Vegas Boulevard with Air Force Maj. Gen. Ondra Berry, Nevada’s adjutant general, Command Chief Master Sgt. Cameron Pieters, the Nevada Guard’s senior enlisted leader, and LVMPD Sheriff Kevin McMahill to talk with the police officers and Guardsmen securing checkpoints along the most crowded areas of the Strip.

Hokanson talked with Army Staff Sgt. Jacob Sheire, a senior scout with the 221st Cavalry Regiment. Sheire has supported the New Year’s Eve operation four times and told Hokanson he takes great pride in the mission.

“People love to see us out here,” Sheire said. “You can tell some are a little cautious at first, but then they see a smile. I think it helps them just enjoy a nice, safe holiday.”