By Capt. Joshua Daugherty
133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
For the 28th year in a row, Kentucky National Guard Soldiers and Airmen were called on to help make possible the Bluegrass's largest one-day festival known as Thunder Over Louisville April 21, 2018.
The mission of the Kentucky National Guard was nothing new, supplement Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) to provide additional security and traffic control and man the cannons on the George Rogers Clark Memorial Bridge, but perhaps the circumstances were different with such a large attendance expected. The weather was near perfect; mild temperatures and slight breezes would boost momentum for hundreds of thousands of spectators. The stage was set for a monumental festival.
"This is my tenth time working Thunder with the Kentucky National Guard," said Staff Sgt. Michael Kinney of the 223rd Military Police Company. "My favorite part of working this event is experiencing the overwhelming support shown by the community and taking pictures with the kids. Our mission is to support Louisville Metro Police Officers and we are prepared to do so, as needed, but hopefully we do more hand shaking than anything else."
With higher attendances comes increased concerns over security. Lieutenant Dale Massey of the LMPD conducted the mission brief just prior to Guardsmen and LMPD taking the street for security patrols. Serious threats were discussed, but the briefing focused more on having positive encounters with the public.
"We encourage people to enjoy themselves within legal limits and to take disputes elsewhere," said Steve Conrad, Chief of Police for LMPD. "Try to have fun and take time to take pictures with the kids."
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer also attended the mission brief to encourage both LMPD officers and KYNG Soldiers.
"Do your very best, say a little prayer and stay safe," said Fischer. "Thank you to all our police and National Guard supporting this event and helping make it enjoyable for everyone in attendance."
Those sentiments were echoed by many who attended the event as patrons thanked Soldiers and police up and down the river walk. One Soldier recounted his experiences with working Thunder.
"We want to make everyone feel safe and the event to go as smoothly as possible," said Sgt. Dustin Bielefeld, a native of Louisville and five-time veteran of supporting Thunder. "It's a great crowd here at Thunder. It's fun and I like the support shown by the community."
In all, nearly 150 military police from every unit in the 198th Military Police Battalion were tasked with supporting the LMPD with both security patrols and traffic control points. Several other Soldiers from the 198th, who are also on LMPD, supported in their LMPD status because it was critical to have every LMPD member present supporting the event. Other soldiers from the 138th Field Artillery Brigade and 2112th Transportation Company provided the "thunder" from the bridge with transporting and firing six 105 millimeter howitzer cannons used to initiate the start of Thunder and again throughout the fireworks display. Five members of the Djiboutian military, in conjunction with our state partnership program, were also present on the bridge and able to fire the cannons during the fireworks portion of the event. Airmen from the Kentucky Air National Guard were also on hand, both on the ground and in the air as members of the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron parachuted from a C-130 as part of the air show.