DEVENS — When U.S. Army infantryman Barry Gallant left the 25th Infantry Division in 1978, he sought a police position and was hired in Londonderry, N.H., the same year.
He stayed for five years then left to become a Metropolitan District Commission (MDC) officer. When the MDC came under state control in the Weld administration, Gallant became a Massachusetts state trooper in 1992.
As base realignment and closure hit Fort Devens in 1996, “they were looking for someone with municipal experience or community policing for the 55-team (radar), and who could do a lot of interaction,” he said.
Seasoned by his experience at the municipal level that gave him the ability to successfully interact with other law-enforcement agencies, Gallant came to Devens to assume, among his regular duties, the role of liaison to the military stationed here.
“With the recent increase to the nation’s threat level and constant risk of a terrorist attack, communication between law-enforcement agencies is crucial,” Lt. Charles McPhail said when nominating Gallant for this year’s Nashoba Publishing Extraordinary Service Award.
“Trooper Gallant’s exchange of sensitive and sometimes classified information with the military and Department of Defense police at Devens is vital to the Devens community,” he said.
“Devens is basically a small-town environment, and we (state police) deal with people on a community level,” Gallant said.
It’s different from surrounding towns, he said, due in part to the military component but also at the basic traffic-control level because of the variety of vehicles that must be monitored.
“There are military vehicles, through-traffic and the plethora of trucks,” he said. “We try to keep volume flowing at a reasonable rate.”
Each state trooper stationed here has fulfilled a community policing requirement established by MassDevelopment, said Gallant.
“In 1996, Lt. Dennis Galvin was commander,” he said. “He knew I was a veteran, and that I showed an interest in the military. He detached me to be a liaison.”
Between 1996 and 2002, Gallant attended a number of briefings with the Devens Reserve Forces Training Area (RFTA) commanders and subordinates, advising them on policy and safety. He also briefed all military units during their summer training sessions.
“I was tasked to interface with the Army CID (Criminal Investigation Division) for joint operations until the Department of Defense police came up,” said Gallant.
He works with military drug and alcohol officer Maggie Ward regarding sensitive personnel issues. The job also requires him to be aware of state police assets available to the military, should they be needed for a Most Vulnerable Area (MVA). He would be the first to assist.
During his tenure, Gallant had been detached as a liaison to former Devens commander Lt. Col. Merritt Otto’s Emergency Operations Center.
“That was important because it facilitated quick response, directing National Guard and Reserve forces to vulnerable parts of the state after 9/11,” said Gallant. “ThreatCom (domestic security communications) increased and the state police aided with DRFTA security until the MPs came up from Fort Dix.”
He continues to assist with medical emergencies and the Red Cross in locating personnel.
“There’s a lot that goes on that people aren’t aware of,” said Gallant. “It’s a whole public safety network.”
A Waltham native, Gallant lived in Hopkinton, Framingham and Westborough before moving to Northbridge, where he currently resides with his wife of 22 years, Darlene. They have three children — college students Andrew and Jennifer, and a ninth-grader, Lauren.
“It’s a unique job,” said Gallant. “I like the municipal aspect. All police departments, state or local, have their own unique requirements. At Devens, there’s a combination. It’s a matter of equilibrium, and we’ve done a good job since 1996 keeping that feeling of utopia.”
He’d recommend state police work to individuals with an interest in law enforcement provided they understand the level of responsibility as being different from federal or local police.
“It’s a highly individual choice,” he said. “We probably have one of the best state police forces in the country.”
The military police presence has given state police “breathing room” by taking over low-volume police work, he said. Troopers have more time to concentrate on duties such as community police work for Shriver Job Corps, the veterans center and Frances W. Parker Charter Essential School’s recreation events, not to mention acting as a screening agency for the 4,000-acre South Post.
“Lt. Col. (Caryn) Heard has been very pleasant to work with,” he said. “She’ll be going to War College. She’ll be missed.”
“I’m very pleased and gratified with this award,” said Gallant. “I want to thank all my colleagues in the public safety network and Nashoba Publishing for this type of recognition. I also thank my family for their continuing support of my career,” he said. “It definitely helped.”