National Guard to help move NATO delegations


(Chicago Tribune)   Hundreds of soldiers from the Illinois National Guard will be deployed in Chicago during next month’s NATO summit to help move foreign dignitaries around the center of the city, among other duties, guard officials said Tuesday.

Another contingent of guard troops will conduct a large-scale domestic response drill outside Cook County during the summit weekend, ready to provide support in the event of any problems in Chicago, said Maj. Troy Scott, deputy director of domestic operations for the Illinois National Guard.

The annual exercise was scheduled for the summit window of May 20-21, Scott said, so a number of troops would be geared up and nearby if they are needed.

Between 500 and 600 Illinois guardsmen will be in Chicago as part of teams moving NATO delegations in civilian vehicles between venues and performing ceremonial tasks related to the meetings, he said. Dozens of motorcades are expected to move dignitaries between hotels and the lakefront McCormick Place convention center, where the meetings will take place.

Guard officials said they were not involved in a military exercise this week in Chicago that has featured Black Hawk helicopters sweeping over the Chicago River downtown.

The helicopters were taking part in a routine training session “in cities across the country,” according to the city’s Office of Emergency Management. The training is to continue periodically through Thursday.

The maneuvers are “designed to ensure the military’s ability to operate in urban environments as service members meet mandatory training certification requirements and prepare for upcoming overseas deployments,” according to a statement released by the office.

Similar helicopter operations received widespread news coverage in Los Angeles in January. Calls to the Department of Defense went unreturned.

Melissa Stratton, a spokeswoman for the Chicago Police Department, said the drill had nothing to do with NATO preparedness.

Just how many protesters may fill Chicago’s streets and how much trouble they could cause remains unknown, but Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Tuesday that he has faith police can maintain order. Emanuel likened the event to a national political convention.

“I want you to understand that this is normally what Charlotte’s going to do for a convention, Tampa’s going to do for a convention,” the mayor said, referring to the Democratic and Republican political conventions this summer. But the mayor conceded that security will be paramount with world leaders in town.

“It’s unique,” he said, “because the whole world will be here.”

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