Louisville’s finest: 223rd Military Police augments LMPD at 25th Thunder

Story by Sgt. 1st Class Gina Vaile-Nelson, 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

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Pfc. Allison Shontz, Pvt. 1st Class Dillion Morvel and 1st Lt. Maria Burns, military police assigned to the 223rd Military Police Company patrol River Road from Seventh Street to Ninth Street April 18, in support of Thunder Over Louisville security detail. More than 1,200 Law Enforcement Officers and 140 military policemen patrolled the Riverfront to ensure crowd safety. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Gina Vaile-Nelson)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Before sending the Louisville Metro Police officers and Soldiers from the Kentucky National Guard’s 223rd Military Police Company out on foot patrol, Louisville’s mayor, Greg Fischer and Metro Police Chief Steve Conrad had two important messages: stay safe and keep Louisville safe.

“I thank you LMPD and Kentucky Guard,” Fischer said, “we can’t do this without you.”

More than 1,200 officers made up the combined force of LMPD, Kentucky Guard, Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, Kentucky State Police and federal law enforcement agencies. LMPD and the Guardsmen conducted foot patrols that roved the waterfront from 4 p.m., until the last spectators receded from the downtown area.

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Soldiers assigned to the 223rd Military Police Company receive a patrol plan from the Louisville Metro Police prior to hitting the streets April 18, in support of Thunder Over Louisville. More than 1,200 Law Enforcement Officers and 140 military policemen patrolled the Riverfront to ensure crowd safety (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Gina Vaile-Nelson)

“We are very grateful for what the National Guard provides us,” said Sgt. Phil Russell, Louisville Metro Police commander of media, public relations.

“With a half-million people in downtown Louisville, we absolutely need the support of the National Guard. We are grateful for the extra set of eyes and the partnership that we hope continues,” he said.

The partnership comes easy for the Louisville-based 223rd MPs. While unit leadership didn’t have an exact number of Soldiers employed by LMPD, their network of police contacts is extensive. Several Soldiers are employed by civilian police departments, and are familiar with the way civilian departments operate.

“We conduct training for events like this when we get our field time,” said 1st Sgt. Mike Ochs, 223rd MP Company first sergeant. “We get briefings from the mayor and police chief, and they always comment on how critical the support of the Kentucky Army National Guard is.

“It’s good for our Soldiers to hear that, it really puts everything into perspective as far as what our role is. We always have good camaraderie with LMPD during Thunder and Derby support; there is never any animosity that this is their turf, we work as one.”

Ochs said the law enforcement presence is important for the attendees to feel safe and secure during Louisville’s largest party. But he said all Soldiers representing the Guard is an important mission as well.

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Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer thanks Louisville Metro Police Department and the Kentucky National Guard’s Louisville-based 223rd Military Police Company for their support to Thunder Over Louisville security April 18, in Louisville. More than 1,200 Law Enforcement Officers and 140 military policemen patrolled the Riverfront to ensure crowd safety. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Gina Vaile-Nelson)

“When you are here, and in the uniform, you are an ambassador for the United States military, but especially the Kentucky Guard,” he said.

The 223rd MPs had more than 140 Soldiers supporting LMPD and representing the Guard.

First platoon leader, 1st Lt. Maria Burns, was one of those foot-Soldiers, logging miles between a three-block radius on River Road, from Seventh Street to Ninth.

“This is my third year working Thunder,” Burns said. “We mingle, talk to people and just show them that we are here if they need us.”

Burns said there was one incident two years ago where her team assisted LMPD with dispersing a crowd at the Louisville Skate Park after firecrackers were set off.

“This year, I don’t think we’re going to see anything like that here, this crowd looks pretty happy.”

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