Kentucky National Guard front and center at the Kentucky Derby

By Sgt. Maggie Booker, 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

Members of the 617th Military Police Company guard the Kentucky Derby trophy at the Winner's Circe at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., May 6, 2017. The Soldiers were part of a select detail responsible for securing the Derby trophy throughout the weekend. (photo by Sgt. Maggie Booker, 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)

Members of the 617th Military Police Company guard the Kentucky Derby trophy at the Winner’s Circe at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., May 6, 2017. The Soldiers were part of a select detail responsible for securing the Derby trophy throughout the weekend. (photo by Sgt. Maggie Booker, 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -The Kentucky Derby is the largest spectator event hosted by our commonwealth, bringing more than 150,000 people to Churchill Downs and news media from around the world.

This year marked the 143rd running of the Kentucky Derby. For the past 80 years Kentucky National Guardsmen and other fellow service members have been front and center during every aspect of the iconic race.

This year our Soldiers and Airmen could be seen from the time you turned the corner at the intersection of Third Street and Central Ave. where the 198th Military Police Battalion was assisting with traffic control, all the way to the red carpet and Winner’s Circle where select Guardsmen protected the highly sought-after Derby trophy.

A select group of service members were assigned to secure the area around the Winner’s Circle where this year’s Derby winner, Always Dreaming, was presented with the rose garland.

“We’re here to show support to the citizens,” said Senior Airman Neil Nethery with the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Logistics Readiness Squadron. “We show them that we care about them and show them that we support them here and overseas.”

“Derby is an opportunity for service members to work closely with their civilian counterparts and learn the ropes from the locals who serve the city of Louisville every day,” said Spc. Andrew Johnson with the 617th Military Police Company.

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Johnson worked closely with the Louisville Metro Police Department for his third Derby to ensure that traffic outside the racetrack gates ran smoothly.

“LMPD takes us under their wings and shows us the ropes, and then trusts our judgment,” said Johnson. “The Derby is an organizational team building exercise.”

For many service members this is their first time attending the Kentucky Derby.

“If I didn’t join the Guard I would never have the opportunity to be here,” said Sgt. James Barrnett, assigned to the 623rd Bravo Battery Field Artillery. “I’m behind the scenes watching everything happen. It’s awesome.”

Despite cool and rainy weather throughout most of the day, service members and spectators maintained high spirits, and the mission of the Guard was not affected.

“It feels good to get all the ‘Thank Yous’ for our service and feel the support and create relationships,” said Cadet Eric Tollefson 623rd Alpha Battery Field Artillery.

With the help and support of the Kentucky National Guard, citizens and visitors were able to enjoy yet another historic running of the Kentucky Derby.