More National Guard troops will likely be called out to protect major events nationwide in the aftermath of the terror attack on the Boston Marathon, Guard officials said Wednesday.
In Boston, more than 900 troops from the Massachusetts National Guard remained on duty for a second day past the end of the marathon to seal off the Boylston Street end of the race, now a crime scene, and to provide security for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority train lines.
Guard and state officials gave no estimate on how much longer the troops will stay activated.
"Massachusetts National Guard soldiers and airmen will continue to assist the City of Boston and civilian law enforcement for as long as needed," said Maj. Gen. L. Scott Rice, the adjutant general of the Massachusetts National Guard.
“We have no word yet on how much longer we’ll continue the mission,” said Lt. Col. James Sahady, a Massachusetts Guard spokesman.
On the MBTA, “we’re doing spot checks” of backpacks and packages, and providing a presence on the platforms, Sahady said. In several instances, Guard troops gave aid to travelers who needed help, including a woman who fainted on a train platform.
Sahady said Guard troops have routinely been tasked to assist civil authorities with security at a variety of events, and he expected that the Boston Marathon attacks would prompt calls for more Guard troops.
The Massachusetts National Guard's 79th Troop Command is providing command and control of all troops activated for the marathon.
In the 12 years since 9/11, the National Guard has been called upon frequently to provide security at major events and on holidays, “and in light of what’s happened [in Boston], those who put on events will be looking to tap the Guard” for more troops, said John Goheen, a spokesman for the National Guard Association.
“Since 9/11, we’ve grown dramatically in our ability to respond” to a range of requirements from state authorities, from disasters to attacks and threats of attack, Goheen said. “We have very seasoned forces that function well in chaos” from their experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan, Goheen said.
The frequent callups have strained Guard resources and the ability of troops to transition smoothly back to civilian life. The problem was highlighted Wednesday at a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee in an exchange between Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Sen. Joseph Donnelly, D-Ind.
Donnelly said that about 1,000 Indiana National Guard troops had been called up and were in training for months to deploy to Egypt for the peacekeeping force in the Sinai and to the Horn of Africa, only to be told recently that their June deployment was being canceled and they were being replaced by active-duty troops.
“These off-ramp decisions are really challenging” for Guard troops, Donnelly said. “Many of them lost their jobs, many of them lost health care,” and some who had re-enlisted to deploy were now being denied their re-enlistment bonuses, Donnelly said.
Hagel said he was unaware of the Indiana Guard’s problem, but “I will find out.”
“We’ll go back and work on it,” he said.