By Air Force Capt. Jay Ostrich
Special to American Forces Press Service
Sept. 22, 2009 - More than 2,500 Pennsylvania National Guardsmen have been called up to support the international G-20 Summit, a global economic summit, being held here Sept. 24 and 25. Operation Steel Kickoff started Sept. 20 with a joint reception, staging, onward movement and integration point process led by the Guard's 213th Area Support Group, which is working out of a hangar at the 171st Air Refueling Wing in Coraopolis, Pa.
In short, the four-point process acts as the gateway for the soldiers and airmen assigned to the mission.
"We're the support role, helping the soldiers and airmen get out and do the things they need to do," said Army 1st Lt. Matthew Springer, the team leader for Operation Steel Kickoff's JRSOI process. "Our focus is on ensuring the war fighter is getting the things they need to be successful in their mission."
This is the first joint operation of this magnitude for the 213th ASG, and because it is taking place in their home state, the operation has instilled many with an extra sense of pride.
"It's always a great experience when you can help, especially when it's here on the home front, a mission right here in the state of Pennsylvania," Springer said.
The mission starts administratively, Springer said.
"We're checking for ID cards, orders, dog tags and critical personnel information" he said. "Once they're in-processed, soldiers and airmen move to medical where they receive their flu shots."
After being medically processed, the servicemembers are briefed by public affairs, legal, medical and intelligence. Once they've completed the briefings, they're ready for the mission, Springer said.
Following the check-in process, soldiers and airmen wasted no time in practicing techniques needed to help local, state and federal authorities keep Pittsburgh safe as demonstrators take to the streets in protest of the worldwide economic summit.
Several hundred joint task force members practiced throughout the day with movement techniques, formations and crowd and riot control at Crane Armory here.
"We're working hard right now because we have Army and Air Force members who haven't trained together before," said Army Sgt. 1st Class Ronald Bittner, a platoon leader from 1/110th, D Company. "We are working to mesh, because we all take a lot of pride in this mission."
Even the veterans are experiencing something new.
"This is definitely a different mission," said Air Force Master Sgt. Pauline Gonzalez, a 23-year veteran and personnel specialist with the 211th Engineering Installation Squadron. "It's very hard and very challenging, but it's been a rewarding experience."
As the sun set on the first day of training for the big event, the Guard continued to practice in case protests become a threat to people and property.
"We have a duty and responsibility to make sure the citizens are protected," Gonzalez said. "Demonstrators have their rights, but they have to exercise them peacefully and within the law."
(Air Force Capt. Jay Ostrich serves with the Pennsylvania National Guard public affairs office.)