Florida National Guard’s 53rd Infantry Brigade supports RNC in Tampa

Written by  //  August 31, 2012  //  Feature Stories

Soldiers from the 53rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team prepare for civil disturbance missions in early August at Camp Blanding Joint Training Center. More than 1,700 Guard Soldiers were supporting and on standby for possible mission during the recent Republic National Convention in Tampa. Photo by Florida National Guard Public Affairs

By Sgt. Christopher Milbrodt
53rd IBCT Public Affairs

TAMPA (Aug. 31, 2012) — The Republican National Convention in Tampa has been in the planning stages for quite a while, but for the Florida National Guard this event went to the front burner around January.

The 53rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team was tasked with the mission of assisting local, state, and federal law enforcement with security and support if needed.

“We are in support of Civil Authorities, not in control of the operation. At the same time, we are in control of how our forces are employed within those supporting missions,” said Lt. Col. George Rosser Jr., the lead planning officer and multi-agency communications center liaison.

“We invested the time early in the planning process to shape the expectations of the supported civil authorities, to ensure they understand what we can and can’t do,” said Rosser. “When you invest the time to do it right, you make sure the most important piece is taken care of and that’s your Soldiers.”

Soldiers from A Company, 53rd Brigade Special Troops Battalion load a simulated casualty during MEDEVAC training at Camp Blanding Joint Training Center, Fla., Aug. 14, 2012. Photo courtesy of 53rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team

According to Lt. Col. Ralph Ribas, the deputy chief of staff for Joint Task Force-Republican National Convention (JTF-RNC), the planning process was broken into sections to be worked and focused on at each drill weekend: “In March the element from Northern Command joined us and we started having a class on how to prepare the section we were working on followed by the practical application of planning the step designated for that weekend.”

The JTF-RNC, commanded by Brig. Gen. Richard Gallant, is comprised of elements from all branches of active military and Guard forces, as well as personnel from all the alphabet agencies in the federal government.  The composition of the JTF-RNC is a first for the Florida National Guard, as Brig. Gen. Gallant is the commander of both Title 32 and Title 10 service members. This means as the dual status commander, he controls the active duty and Guard personnel.

According to Gallant for an event like this, dealing with the multitude of interagency partners creates an additional set of challenges. The key remains clearly articulating your intent and vision for successful execution of the mission.

“What makes a dual status command more challenging and more interesting is the integration of the staff support element from U.S. Northern Command to fill capability gaps created by the introduction of Title 10 forces and the preparation for consequence management,” said Gallant. “Command is command.”

Col. Chris Benson, USNORTHCOM J 36 division chief and JTF-RNC Title 10 deputy commander, states “one of our mission sets is to enable the dual status commander to fully integrate. The JTF-RNC staff has been the best in their ability to bring information into the joint operations center, asses and integrate it, then ensure all chains of command both Title 32 and Title 10 have the tools to share the information.”

August was a busy month for the 53rd. The month started with two weeks of Annual Training (AT) at Camp Blanding Joint Training Center, followed by the activation to State Active Duty for the RNC.

“It was a fairly simple transition and not too big of a change,” said Pfc. Byron Rodriguezpagan, a cook with Company F Forward Support Company, 2nd Battalion, 124th Infantry Regiment. “It just felt like AT kept going.”

Soldiers of the 53rd’s 2nd Battalion, 124 Infantry Regiment, and 2nd Battalion, 116 Field Artillery Regiment, had the mission of direct support of local law enforcement at the different convention security points. These Soldiers were spread all throughout the downtown areas assisting in the security of critical infrastructure sites of Tampa as well as at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, Raymond James Stadium, and Tropicana Field.

“We’ve seen some protestors here and there, but apart from that there’s been nothing. The city just kept going on with its business,” said Rodriguezpagan.

The overall feeling for the National Guard’s support with the RNC had been a positive one. “I am proud and happy to have worked with the Soldiers of the Florida National Guard,” said Sheila Horox, a Special Agent with the U.S. Secret Service. “I am old enough to be most of their mothers, but I would be proud to call any of them my son.”

Maj. Scott Crozier, an operations officer with Headquarters Co 53rd IBCT, stated “this mission has reaffirmed my belief that the state of Florida, specifically the Florida National Guard, is always capable and able to respond to any situation.”

The RNC might be over and the crowd of visitors and law enforcement returning to normal levels, but the event has left lasting impressions on local and state leadership. There are lessons learned and standards set.

“This will be the model for how these things are done,” said Bob Buckhorn, the mayor for the city of Tampa.