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National Guard supports local authorities with Pope Francis visit

By D.C. National Guard | Sept. 24, 2015

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The D.C. National Guard provided security and traffic control support to local authorities throughout Pope Francis's visit Thursday to Washington, D.C., his first visit to the United States as the leader of the Roman Catholic Church.

Elsewhere Friday, New York National Guard personnel provided similar support to local government when the pope visited sites in New York City.

On Saturday and Sunday, the pope will have eight scheduled stops in Philadelphia, where about 3,600 Pennsylvania troops will be on duty. Nearly 180 members of the New Jersey National Guard were summoned to assist various agencies with traffic control.

In the nation's capital, more than 400 Soldiers and Airmen were on duty providing security assistance and traffic management in several points near the Basilica, along the parade route, the ellipse and the National Mall.

Personnel in Washington supported local authorities until Thursday afternoon to ensure safe and secure events during the visit.

"Our primary mission is to support local authorities to make this a safe event for the thousands of people who will be in the District to see the pope," said Maj. Gen. Errol R. Schwartz, D.C. National Guard Commanding General. "We are in direct support of the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department, the D.C. Department of Transportation, the U.S. Park Police, and U.S. Secret Service."

On Tuesday, the D.C. Metropolitan Police swore in D.C. Guardsmen supporting the mission as special police.

Guard members from several other states including West Virginia, Massachusetts, Alaska, Kentucky, Delaware, Nebraska, Maryland, Nebraska, and California were also supporting the mission.

The West Virginia National Guard's Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and Explosive Enhanced Response Force Package, or CERFP, deployed to D.C. to support the overall mission. The CERFP provides search and rescue, decontamination and medical support in the event of natural or man-made disasters.

Members from other states are supporting the D.C. National Guard's 33rd Civil Support Team. The CSTs were established to deploy rapidly to assist local authorities in determining the nature and extent of natural or manmade disasters; provide expert technical advice on response operations; and help identify and support the arrival of follow-on state and federal military response assets.

The CST can identify agents and substances, assess current and projected consequences, advise on response measures, and assist with requests for additional military support.

Contributing: National Guard Bureau