G8 Summit Creates Double Duty for Georgia Guard General
By Master Sgt. Bob Haskell, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga., June 8, 2004 If Terry Nesbitt were in Major League Baseball, he would be the manager of the New York Yankees and the New York Mets at the same time and for the first time during the World Series.
It isn't baseball, but Georgia Army National Guard Brig. Gen. Terry Nesbitt is managing or commanding two large teams at the same time this week during a very public international event taking place on coastal Georgia. It's called the Group of Eight, or G8, Sea Island Summit for the leaders of the world's major industrial countries. And the world is watching.
Maryland Army National Guard Lt. Col. Jim Grove tests his
protective mask with the help of Capt. Steve Conley, a physician's assistant
with the Georgia Army Guard's 4th Civil Support Team, while preparing for duty
during this week's G8 Summit in southern Georgia. Navy Capt. Joseph Hughhart,
right, looks on. Photo by Sgt. Roy Henry, USA
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
A reported 3,000 journalists from around the globe are covering the event, which takes place June 8-10.
The world, it's being said, has come back to Georgia.
It's not the Olympics or the World Series, and Nesbitt's teams are on the same side for the 30th G8 Summit. Security against terrorists and demonstrators out to make trouble is their main mission.
Nesbitt is the first National Guard general to do what he is doing. That involves commanding Army and Air National Guard troops on state or active duty status and soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who are on federal, or Title 10, status.
Nesbitt commands several thousand of those service members during the informal meetings taking place on Sea Island among the leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States. European Union leaders also are on hand.
President Bush and Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue had to approve the idea of a single commander for military forces on state and federal duty. After months of planning, the pieces were all fit together during the first week of June.
"The idea is to provide unity of command and unity of effort for support of the G8 Summit," Nesbitt explained. "It is being looked at, I think, as a model for future homeland defense and homeland security operations so that same unity of command can be put in place to support other homeland security operations or other special events."
President Bush is hosting the summit, which is being held in this country for the fifth time. Security is one of the biggest concerns while those world leaders discuss economic, political and security issues on the exclusive, secluded Georgia island about 80 miles south of Savannah.
The summit has been designated a national security special event, as was the Super Bowl last February in Houston and this week's events related to the death of former President Ronald Reagan.
The security force, being led by the U.S. Secret Service, has been widely reported to number about 10,000 people. Although no one is talking publicly about specific numbers and what everybody is doing, Nesbitt's Joint Task Force G8 includes a large percentage of that force.
The National Guard is one of the major participants. Guard troops from Georgia and 12 other states, split into two major task forces, are supporting local law enforcement agencies in Savannah and in the Brunswick area, where Sea Island is located.
Guard members are staffing vehicle checkpoints and helping to keep traffic flowing along the coastal highways. They are flying helicopters. They are guarding the perimeters of sensitive sites. They are driving foreign dignitaries. They are prepared to help control crowds if they have to.
It is the National Guard's largest national security event since the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. It is the biggest such event for the Georgia National Guard since the 1996 Summer Olympics in and around Atlanta.
It is also a test in command for Nesbitt, who cut his military teeth as a Special Forces officer in Vietnam in 1967-68 and who joined the Georgia Army Guard in June 1973.
About 31 years later, he is responsible for two different teams that play by essentially the same set of rules, but with some specific differences. It's like baseball's designated hitter rule: the American League has it, the National League doesn't.
National Guard troops on Title 32 state status can assist police forces within their state. Troops on Title 10 federal status can't perform law enforcement duties. It's against the law. They are performing other missions.
Having one commander responsible for both groups only makes sense, said Dan Donohue, spokesman for the National Guard Bureau. "As opposed to setting up two parallel headquarters, you have one focal point and a single commander who can respond to the U.S. Northern Command, the federal military force responsible for homeland defense, and to the governor."
Nesbitt has staff members monitoring the state and federal groups to make sure that everyone is doing what they're supposed to and that nobody crosses the state-federal duty line.
The average person in south coastal Georgia this week is likely to see more troops in state status working with deputy sheriffs and local and state police than they are troops operating in federal status. But it's hard to tell the difference: The troops are not wearing signs on their uniforms.
And everyone has essentially the same mission at heart, to keep the world leaders and their staffs safe, to keep the peace and to work together.
"Our people have not dealt with these other agencies, such as the Secret Service, the FBI, and 50 state and local police departments, since the '96 Olympics," said Brig. Gen. Stewart Rodeheaver, the new commander of the Georgia Army Guard's 48th Brigade Combat Team and the commander for the Brunswick task force.
The real challenge, he said, is to maintain command and control of his troops spread over a fairly wide area and "to not disrupt the rhythm of civilian life" for the inhabitants, who want to shop and get to work and back home while the summit is going on.
His soldiers were in place the Sunday before the summit began, Rodeheaver reported, and the only serious situation he had encountered was that local people kept asking to have their photos taken with the soldiers.
That's a situation that any commander can live with.
(Army Master Sgt. Bob Haskell is assigned to the National Guard Bureau, Arlington, Va.)