By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Katherine Brooks Hofman, Commander, Navy Reserve Forces Command Public Affairs
CHICAGO (NNS) -- A team of 56 Reserve Sailors from Commemoration of the War of 1812 Navy Security Forces (COMWAR 1812 NR NSF) provided security for U.S. Navy ships during Chicago's Air and Water Show and the city's commemoration of the War of 1812, Aug. 15-19.
After a three-week break from other War of 1812 events the COMWAR 1812 NR NSF team regrouped to support the second phase of the Commemoration of the War of 1812 throughout the Great Lakes region.
A core group of 22 members provide continuity to COMWAR 1812 NR NSF, protecting ships and visitors during the historic weeklong commemoration events.
The events in the Great Lakes region act to showcase the Navy and its forces to the local community.
Although the COMWAR 1812 NR NSF mission is to protect the fleet, several of the members are seasoned civilian law enforcement officers who understand the benefit of working with the public to provide information as well as providing force protection.
Master-at-Arms 1st Class Robert Evans recognized the value of public relations as a part of the security forces mission.
"People are sometimes intimidated by us. We are looked at as big guys with guns," said Evans. "Once you begin talking to them and they realize you are a regular guy it opens up the lines of communication. They are here to see the ships and they have questions. We are here to engage with them."
Evans said he takes pride in being both a Navy and civilian police officer, and he enjoys acting as a positive role model to children through public interaction.
"I tell them to be good, eat their vegetables and stay in school, then they can grow up and do what I do," he said.
Sometimes the experiences the Sailors have with the public have an unexpected and profound impact. Master-at-Arms 1st Class David Utz was touched by his experiences in Chicago during public tours.
"People ask about why we are here and where we are from. Overall the reception is positive. I can't tell how many thank you's I have gotten for my service," said Utz. "It is definitely motivating and makes me feel good to be a part of the Commemoration of the War of 1812."
Utz, the father of a six-year-old son, fondly recalled interacting with a child and his parent at the event. "The little boy had a piece of paper in his hand. He had drawn a picture with a blue crayon of a fighter jet. He held it up to me and said, 'I made this for you,'" said Utz.