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News | Jan. 13, 2022

Guardsmen backfill staffing shortage at NH prison

By Staff Sgt. Taylor Queen

A detachment of New Hampshire guardsmen returned to the state prison Jan. 12.

For the next two months, 25 soldiers and airmen will assist corrections workers in Concord with safety and security operations, the same mission they supported a year ago at the height of the state’s pandemic relief efforts.

Activated as part of Operation Winter Surge, they will fill staffing gaps caused by a spike in cases of COVID-19.

“We’re just stepping in to help relieve some of that stress,” said Staff Sgt. Michael Lagare, the teams’ noncommissioned officer in charge.

The troops are from the 157th Security Forces Squadron, 941st Military Police Battalion and 237th Military Police Company. To prepare for the next 60 days, they conducted more than 40 hours of specialized training led by Capt. Scott Towers, commandant of the NH Department of Corrections academy.

“The training has been very thorough,” said Airman 1st Class Joshua Pincince of the 157th SFS. “It has been a lot of classroom, going over policies and what to expect, as well as a good amount of combatives.”

For some guardsmen, this will be their first time working on the other side of the prison wall. Others were activated for the first call-up.

“It’s going to be a big change for me,” said Pvt. Andrew Lang of the 237th MPs. “I never thought I would do something like this. It will give me a good idea of what it is actually like for people in there.”

Despite everyone’s willingness to help, the mission will force some to establish new work-life balances.

“In the last year I’ve been on eight or nine different COVID support missions,” Pincince said. “It makes going to school very hard. But anything I can do to help the state is worth it.”