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Las Vegas welcomes Guard presence for New Year's Eve

Spc. Rainier Frost of the 137th Military Police Company guards a gate in Las Vegas during Operation Vigilant Sentinel. NV ARNG photo by Spc. James Pierce, 106th Public Affairs Detachment

Spc. Rainier Frost of the 137th Military Police Company guards a gate in Las Vegas during Operation Vigilant Sentinel. NV ARNG photo by Spc. James Pierce, 106th Public Affairs Detachment

LAS VEGAS -- About 400 Nevada Guard soldiers and airmen trained with local law enforcement for Operation Vigilant Sentinel, a joint force training exercise spanning the New Year's Eve holiday. Guardsmen worked in association with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police to provide security for about 300,000 visitors celebrating the new year in Sin City.

Capt. Denisse Ramos, the commander of the 137th Military Police Company, has participated for the past nine years and expressed the importance of Guardsmen working with local law enforcement.

"We are a law and order detachment. If the state activates us for a natural or man-made disaster, it's with local law enforcement," Ramos said. "So we need to know their tactics."

Operation Vigilant Sentinel provides the setting to learn those tactics.

"There are a lot of people on New Year's Eve and we want to protect them," said Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Officer Stephanie Sherwood, who joined the force five years ago.

Sherwood said the event presents a challenge for Metro, so she and the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police welcome the Nevada Guard's help.

Guardsmen assist in the training exercise by keeping an eye on suspicious activity at McCarran International Airport and directing travelers to various locations on the Strip.

Soldiers and airmen training at the airport had the most exposure to civilians. As tourists from all over the world flocked to one of the most visited destinations to celebrate the new year, the Guardsmen's presence provided an additional sense of security.

"We feel the impact of their service and we know they serve alongside Canadian soldiers, which means a lot," said Carson Ludwick, a visitor from Calgary, Alberta. "Their presence makes us feel safe."

Vigilant Sentinel is a chance for Guardsmen and police to practice working together and gives the Guard the ability to provide the state additional reserve resources.

Guardsmen do not have the authority to make arrests and must defer to local law enforcement. The Guard's main purpose is training, along with serving as a show of force and backup if the need arises for Metropolitan Police.

Metropolitan Officer Mike Passarge, who worked hand in hand with the soldiers at a security checkpoint, said he appreciates the Guard's presence on New Year's Eve. In 2008 Passarge was hit by a drunk driver while on duty. His injuries have required him to serve on light duty since the accident.

"Since I am light duty and can't make suspect contact, these soldiers are my hands," Passarge said.

This exercise is done every year to give the soldiers and airmen a real-life training exercise. It also allows them to work with local law enforcement agencies and ensures readiness in the event a state or national emergency.

"If there's ever a major disaster, we want to make sure that we're on the same page," Sherwood said.

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