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Pennsylvania Air, Army Guard merge to provide DNC emergency readiness

A sign sits outside of the National Guard Training Center at Fort Indiantown Gap in Annville, Pa., Aug. 4, 2014. FITG hosts both Army and Air Guardsmen and function as the National Guard headquarters for members of the commonwealth. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. George Roach)

A sign sits outside of the National Guard Training Center at Fort Indiantown Gap in Annville, Pa., Aug. 4, 2014. FITG hosts both Army and Air Guardsmen and function as the National Guard headquarters for members of the commonwealth. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. George Roach)

FORT INDIANTOWN GAP, Pa. -- Leading up to and during the Democratic National Convention held in Philadelphia from July 25-28, approximately 32 members of the 111th Attack Wing from the Horsham Air Guard Station, Pennsylvania, played key roles supporting the DNC here.

Staged at the commonwealth's National Guard headquarters, the 111th ATKW Airmen were critical in both planning and responsive roles -- maintaining readiness for emergency situations requiring the National Guard's assistance.

The Guard mobilizes to protect U.S. domestic interests in times of conflict, potential conflict or natural disaster. For the DNC, Guardsmen functioned in capacities required by the state, not just what they do at their home stations.

Although this year marked the first DNC to visit Philadelphia in more than 68 years, providing support and vigilance in the national spotlight is nothing new to members of 111th ATKW. In September, the unit was called upon to provide support during the Papal visit to Philadelphia. And in both conditions, many members were tasked to perform in multiple dimensions.

Air Force Lt. Col. Scott Meier, 111th Mission Support Group deputy group commander, and member of the Joint Task Force here said that his role supporting the DNC had him wearing three hats.

"My primary roles during the Democratic National Convention is as an assistant [joint staff civil affairs] planner, the [111th ATKW] Domestic Operations Coordinator and, during the day, I'm the deputy commander for the Homeland Response Command and Control.

"We have a smattering of people the whole way across the joint manning document, so the [the Pa. Army National Guard] is getting Air National Guard expertise," said Meier. "And in many ways, the ANG supplies a very unique lens that the Army sometimes doesn't have."

Air Force Master Sgt. Eric Capers, of the111th Mission Support Group and a JTF member, said that his work back home at Horsham AGS prepared him well in serving on an assignment at the state headquarters.

"Since I arrived here, I've been assisting the Army National Guard on setting up accountability measures in support of the National Guards efforts during the 2016 Democratic National Convention," said Capers.

He said that both branches were on location to accomplish the same goal. He continued by stating that overall commitment and dedication to the mission by everyone - Army and Air Guardsmen -- was motivational.

Staff Sgt. Andrew Weaver, a 112th Cyberspace Operations Squadron systems administrator and JTF help desk member, said that his role supporting the National Guard's needs during the DNC was as challenging as it was highly rewarding. "We basically came into an empty building; everything you see here related to computers, communications and basic information and technology needs we set up...," said Weaver. "We were tasked to handle IT problems across the branches and to support the overall mission. So that required us as a JTF help desk to come together and adapt to our customers' needs."

Overall, the 111th ATKW members emphasized that their training and experiences aided them greatly in fulfilling the needs of the state during their supportive role of the DNC.

"The ANG brings more than just airplanes," said Meier. "We have subject matter experts that can really go in depth, well beyond what their primary duties are back home. With the DNC mission, as we started to integrate with the [Army National Guard], they utilized our people right away. So they understood from before that the ANG does bring a host of very unique skill sets and experiences."