Las Vegas Sun

November 15, 2018

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Heightened military presence accompanies Las Vegas holiday festivities

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L.E. Baskow

The Nevada Army National Guard’s Pvt. Kimberly Hernandez and 2nd Lt. Drake Pfeifer patrol the baggage area at McCarran International Airport with hundreds of others in the 72nd MP group to supplement local law enforcement agencies during the New Year’s holiday period on Friday, Dec. 29, 2017.

Soldiers NYE Security

The Nevada Army National Guard's SSG Kris Hayman begins patrolling at McCarran International Airport with hundreds of others in the 72nd MP group to supplement local law enforcement agencies during the New Year's holiday period on Friday, Dec. 29, 2017. Launch slideshow »

Through the weekend, travelers at McCarran International Airport and revelers on the Strip and downtown Las Vegas should notice an increase of armed National Guard personnel patrolling in their camouflage fatigues.

Their security mission — a partnership with law enforcement to allow “flexibility to respond quickly should any contingency arise anywhere in the region during the holiday” — is not new, but the doubled military personnel this year compared with last is, according to the Nevada National Guard.

Per Metro Police’s request and approval from Gov. Brian Sandoval’s office, more than 350 soldiers and airmen were dispatched beginning Friday. Shifts of roughly 1,500 Metro officers will also patrol Las Vegas.

Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo said this week that there is no specific or imminent threat, while Commissioner Steve Sisolak said that this year’s festivities “never will be as safe as (they) will be this year.”

The soldiers and airmen will work 12-hour shifts and for the first time on Sunday will also be scattered at Fremont Street for “America’s Party Downtown,” Lt. Col. Mickey Kirschenbaum said.

On Friday morning, the military personnel patrolled the Las Vegas airport. Some held rifles while others held guns in their holsters.

Spc. Dulce Alaniz, who was assigned to the airport, spoke about maintaining vigilance and said that there are plenty of “what if” scenarios, but that they’re prepared “for absolutely anything, any potential threats.”

Although the Oct. 1 shooting is still fresh on minds, there is no correlation between the mass killing and the National Guard presence, Alaniz said. “There are a lot of things that can happen, things that have happened.”

About Las Vegans and the tourists who will be in town, she said, “We’re just here for them. We’re here to protect them. We’re here smiling. We’re happy to be here and to be able to help them out.”

Additionally, the federal government in mid-October designated Las Vegas New Year’s Eve festivities as a Level 1 Special Event Assessment Rating — its highest — from the SEAR 2 designation last year, Lombardo said.

Metro in the past several years has petitioned the federal government for the SEAR 1 designation, Lombardo has said. The upgrade involved a months-long period of conversations that preceded the Oct. 1 shooting, which killed 58 and injured more than 500 concert attendees.

This affords local authorities a substantial amount of federal resources to include air support, intelligence agents and medical personnel, officials said. Also, this year, spotters used in the past in elevated positions will have snipers accompanying them, officials said.

The elevated security is in addition to roughly 800 bollards installed on the Strip this year to deter a possible vehicle attack.

The Nevada Highway Patrol announced on Friday that its Commercial Enforcement Troopers were checking commercial vehicles coming into the valley and that they are equipped with specialized tools to prevent “hazardous materials” from entering Las Vegas.

Staff Sgt. Kris Hayman, who also was commissioned to the airport, said this is his eighth year assigned to the mission.

Civilians approach to ask why there are military personnel at the airport, Hayman said, noting that they should not be intimidated. “This isn’t in response to anything; we don’t have anything crazy gong on, we’re just doing what we normally do,” he said.

“We are you, everybody here in the National Guard comes from Nevada, all of us are local citizens as well,” Hayman said.