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Guardsman Helps Keep G8 Secure

By Master Sgt. Bob Haskell, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga., June 9, 2004 – There is something different about this security detail for most National Guard soldiers and airmen taking part in annual Group of Eight Summit June 8-10.

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Staff Sgt. Robbie Hopkins is among the many Georgia National Guard troops helping to keep the G8 Summit secure without ever getting to go to Sea Island, where the talks are taking place. Photo by Master Sgt. Bob Haskell, USA

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Georgia Army Guard Staff Sgt. Robbie Hopkins is a case in point: He has not gone to Sea Island, nor will he go there. So he will not see the place he is helping to keep secure.

Sea Island is the secluded, exclusive resort on the southern Georgia coast where President Bush is hosting the leaders of the world's seven other industrialized democracies and many other heads of state for three days of meetings.

Hopkins and other citizen-soldiers from his unit out of nearby Brunswick are on duty a few miles away at the Georgia Ports Authority complex on Colonel's Island.

"It's always a privilege to be called up for such a big event," said Hopkins in his matter-of-fact Southern manner.

He is serving at a distance because Sea Island is off limits to everyone who does not reside there except for the dignitaries and their staffs and the security personnel who possess the proper credentials.

If you're Robbie Hopkins, you can't just drive on over to see all of the excitement.

That is unusual, considering that Guard members have had "up-close and personal" looks at the venues for the last two Olympics held in this country the Atlanta Summer Games in 1996 and the Salt Lake City Winter Games in 2002.

And Guard troops pressed into duty will never forget the horrible sights and smells of the smoldering Pentagon and the rubble of the World Trade Center after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

But Hopkins takes this week's somewhat detached duty in stride, because he's one of the Georgia National Guard's old hands at this business and because he knows how to follow orders.

He worked Georgia's devastating floods of 1994, he said, when he helped to retrieve caskets floating down overflowing rivers. He was on duty during the '96 Olympics. He pulled airport security duty in Albany, Ga., for nine months after the terrorist attacks.

He had barely finished a vacation following a year of active duty as a medic in the Washington, D.C., area when he got the call to help support the G8 summit and to report June 1.

All of that military duty has made things challenging with his civilian job, acknowledged Hopkins, who is a paramedic supervisor for Mitchell County Emergency Medical Services. But there is also the satisfaction of doing a vital job for a historical event such as the G8 summit, he said.

"You may play a small part, but you've got to look at the big picture, and security plays a big role," Hopkins said. "It's especially critical since 9/11."

(Army Master Sgt. Bob Haskell is assigned to the National Guard Bureau, Arlington, Va.)

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