Tag Archives: First Responders

On 9-11 – How To Increase Civilian Understanding Of Our Military And First Responders


MILITARY TIMES By Kevin M. Schmiegel and Patrick A. Burke

Addressing the civilian-military/civilian-service divide and ensuring support for our military, first responders, and their families, are critical at this time.

One proven solution to build understanding and increase engagement is the creation of hands-on volunteer opportunities during which civilians can meet our military and first responders in person and learn what they do and what they experience.


“For 18 years our nation has been at war. In the face of conflict and adversity at home and abroad, brave Americans have volunteered to serve not only in our armed forces but as first responders in thousands of communities across the country. Between them, more than 4.4 million men and women have taken an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution and pledged to protect the freedoms and securities we enjoy as Americans.

Since 9/11, however, observers have acknowledged a widening gap of “understanding” between the 2.1 million Americans who serve in our all-volunteer military force and the rest of the population. While our nation’s longest war continues and hundreds of thousands of service members still and will continue to deploy each year, a majority of military families feel increasingly isolated from their communities and disconnected from their civilian counterparts.

Americans are also less personally connected to military service than ever before. According to the Department of Defense, the number of young adults with parents who have served in the military has dropped from 40 percent in 1995 to 15 percent today, and less than 1 percent of the U.S. population currently serves in the armed forces, compared with more than 12 percent during World War II.”

Unfortunately, a similar “civilian-service divide” is developing between the general public and the 2.3 million police and firefighters who also serve in harm’s way. In the most recent Bureau of Justice Statistics survey issued last fall, the number of Americans age 16 or older who had contact with the police declined from 26 percent to 21 percent in four years, a drop of more than 9 million people. This lack of understanding and positive interaction could also be contributing factors to record-low levels of recruitment for both the military and law enforcement.

Examples of how communities are joining together successfully to share experiences can be seen through recent events in Baltimore on June 1, Philadelphia on July 11, and Nashville on Aug. 17, when hundreds of volunteers stood alongside service families to express gratitude in a tangible way. The battalion chief for the Baltimore County Fire Department said it was “the most incredible thing” he had seen in almost 44 years in fire service. That sentiment was further reinforced by the Baltimore Police Department’s chief of patrol, who pointed out officers “needed the community … to help solve issues.”

Fittingly, a similar large-scale service project took place in New York City on Sept. 5 with the production of more than 10,000 signature Operation Gratitude Care Packages and Care Pouches. During the week of Sept. 11, volunteers will deliver those packages to deployed service members around the world and to first responders who responded to the Pentagon attack 18 years ago. These interpersonal activities will help close the gap between those who serve and those who are served and provide avenues to express mutual respect and appreciation.

With the deaths of 15 service members in Afghanistan and 118 police and firefighter fatalities here at home so far in 2019, communities in our country yearn for opportunities to recognize and thank all who serve in uniform. Hands-on volunteerism is the most effective way for American citizens to engage with our military and first responders, forge strong bonds and build sustainable relationships that ultimately will strengthen their communities, as well as strengthen the resolve of the brave men and women who serve and protect them.”



Kevin M. Schmiegel is a retired Marine Corps lieutenant colonel who now serves as the chief executive officer of Operation Gratitude, a national 501c3 nonprofit.

The Honorable Patrick A. Burke is the former United States marshal and assistant chief of police for the District of Columbia, and now serves as the executive director of the Washington D.C. Police Foundation

Deployment of Nationwide Public Safety Network to Begin in 2018




“The deployment of the country’s first nationwide public safety broadband network is expected to begin in 2018, the project’s acting director said June 16.
The First Responder Network, or FirstNet, is envisioned as a interoperable communication system for law enforcement and emergency services personnel that will work anywhere in the United States and all territories. The effort begin in 2012 when Congress authorized $1 billion to kick off the program and created the First Responder Network Authority, which is tasked with building and operating the system.

In April, the First Responder Network Authority received $7 billion from a Federal Communications Commission auction to help the construction of the interoperable emergency system. The organization had until the hearing been reticent to state any timetable for its deployment publicly.

FirstNet intends to issue a request for proposals in 2016, with initial deployment of the system across the country slated for 2018, T.J. Kennedy, acting executive director of FirstNet, told lawmakers during a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on communications and technology hearing.

The network will continue to expand over time with additional coverage and capacity, Kennedy said. “It’s not a static network,” he said. “Every part of the country that has initial deployment will add to that deployment as time goes on. We plan on creating a recapitalized network that can be upgraded and maintained into the future.”
“I’m so excited about what FirstNet promises,” said Rep. Pete Olson, R-Texas. “Please, please, please, get going, get going, get going. We need this.”

Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., said, “A lot rides on this effort. We want to make sure that this is not only done but done very well. It’s a very big deal. It’s a very big deal for our country.”

Lawmakers were concerned about potential gaps in the system, as was Stu Davis, assistant director of the Ohio Department of Administrative Services.

“I’m concerned about the rural and remote areas of the state and to make sure that we have the appropriate coverage,” he said. “It was the message of FirstNet to have consistent coverage across the country, and it’s my fervent hope that that actually happens… But the question is the timing for those rural and remote areas — that’s going to be critical.”

FirstNet is reaching out to rural carriers and telecommunication providers to try to ensure continuous, cost-effective rural build out at every phase of the network’s deployment, Kennedy said.

“We’ve been encouraging them to respond to the draft RFP and respond with solutions, whether that is individually or that is as a team working together in regions or different parts of the country,” he said. “We are absolutely encouraging them to participate.”

FirstNet has also created a working group to try to ensure interoperable coverage in Native American tribal areas, Kennedy said.

To tackle coverage challenges, FirstNet has been looking into the use of deployables in rural areas as well as areas struck by natural disasters. Potential solutions include satellite backhaul and high-powered mobile devices, Kennedy said.

“Having the ability to get communications much deeper into our rural communities for public safety is absolutely critical,” he told lawmakers.

Cyber security is another concern for FirstNet. Kennedy described it as “absolutely critical” going forward. A security architect has joined the FirstNet team to leverage cyber security efforts by the Department of Homeland Security and other agencies, he said.”