Kentucky MPs partner with USVI Police for hurricane relief

By Sgt. Tosha Cobler, 940th Military Police Company

Private Hannah Highley with the 940th Military Police Company conducts routine traffic stops with the Virgin Island Police Department in St. Thomas, USVI Oct, 20, 2017. Traffic Control Points were set up across the island to check for stolen vehicles as well as curfew enforcement. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Tosha Cobler)

WALTON, Ky. — Approximately 120 Soldiers from the Kentucky Army National Guard’s 940th Military Police Company deployed to St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands Oct. 1-27, where they assisted with support to civil authorities in the wake of Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

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“We are so very proud of every Soldier of the 940th and the job they do. They are always there to answer the call, regardless of the mission,” said Lt. Col. John Blackburn, commander of the 198th Military Police Battalion. “We’re glad things came together for us to help the people of the Virgin Islands. Being a part of the team providing support is a proud moment for the 940th and the Kentucky National Guard.”

The 940th mission set included presence patrols, critical site security, traffic control and curfew enforcement.

Kentucky MPs worked with local Virgin Island Police Department (VIPD) to enforce curfews, performing an estimated 14,000 joint patrol hours. With extensive damage across the island, security was required at shelters and infrastructure sites. Soldiers also worked traffic intersections across the island as nearly 80% of the island was without power leaving few traffic lights operable.

“This was not only a MP mission, this was a National Guard mission and the 940th played a crucial role in support of local authorities,” said Capt. Jared Stakelin, commander of the 940th. “The relationship we built with the Virgin Islands Police Department will be a lasting one and a quality learning experience for this unit.”

“Sure we provided what assistance we could to help the Virgin Islands recover, but we are a better MP company because of this mission and the people we interacted with.”

The 940th was augmented by members of Kentucky’s 223rd, 438th and 617th Military Police Companies, and the 1103rd Military Police Detachment.

“It’s missions like these that are the reason I joined the National Guard,” said Private Dean Gollar. “The people of the Virgin Islands were in need in a big way and we were able to use our training to help them. Everyone there was so happy to have us around, I think we made them feel safe. It was a great experience and I really feel like we made a positive difference.”

The Kentucky National Guard sent Soldiers from the 63rd Theater Aviation Brigade to serve in various roles in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Florida following Hurricanes Irma and Maria. Airmen from the 123rd Airlift Wing have also conducted search and rescue and airlift evacuations throughout the Caribbean and currently have air crews working to assist Puerto Rico with supply deliveries.

Overall, nearly 300 Kentucky Guardsmen have assisted with relief operations since Hurricane Harvey first hit in August.