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By Spc. Brett Hornback, 133rd
Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Kentucky
National Guardsmen and Louisville Metro Police Department officers partnered to
help keep the world-renowned tradition of the Kentucky Derby alive Sep. 5.
Guardsmen from the 198th
Military Police Battalion assisted local law enforcement in pulling security in
and around Churchill Downs.
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The 146th Kentucky Derby was
not a typical Derby. In an effort to mitigate COVID-19, only the race
personnel, select television broadcasters, and owners and riders of horses
participating in the Derby, along with their families, were allowed to attend
this year’s Derby. The small attendance made for a nearly empty Churchill
In previous years, the duties
of guardsmen assisting with the Derby have entailed traffic coordination,
trophy security detail, and ground security. This year’s Derby conditions left
guardsmen with a slightly different role.
Due to various protests in
Louisville that were concurrent with the Derby, many guardsmen were posted
outside the walls of Churchill Downs, to assist in security of the entire
perimeter. The diligence of the guardsmen and local law enforcement officers
ensured the constitutional rights of those inside and outside of the Derby were
According to Sgt. Lashawnte
Smith with the 198th MP Battalion, many interactions between the Soldiers and
people passing by Churchill Downs were positive. In one occurrence, Smith
explained that one Soldier gave his flag patch to a local youth and left him
with words of encouragement.
“There's a lot of new Soldiers
and I think for them, it's a good start,” said Smith. “Today was a good example
of what they should be doing as Soldiers, as far as learning how to interact
with the people. So I think it's a positive situation.”
Guardsmen from Kentucky Air
National Guard’s 123rd Airlift Wing served as trophy security detail during the
event. Air Force Master Sgt. Charles Wilding with the 123rd Logistics Readiness
Squadron was among those in the detail. According to Wilding, this year’s derby
was a proud moment for all military personnel serving.
Inside the walls of Churchill Downs, the Derby was no less celebrated than in previous years. The event was broadcast globally so that people across the world could partake in the excitement of the long anticipated race.
“I've known about this my whole
life and been out here a couple times in the stands but never on this side of
it though, this is far more rewarding,” said Wilding.
For many, the Derby can be
recalled as a long history of celebration. With the help of Kentucky Service
members, the Derby was able to provide a day of excitement and even a sense of
normalcy in the midst of unusual circumstances.