Last month’s bombing in Manhattan’s downtown Chelsea neighborhood led to Governor Cuomo’s call-up of an additional 1,000 NY State and National Guardsmen. If you used major New York City transit hubs like Penn Station and Grand Central Terminal in the days following the Sept. 17 explosion, the presence of these military and law enforcement members was no small comfort.
The National Guard’s activation also led to my activation & deployment at Camp Smith, in Northern Westchester, with the New York Guard, which augments and supports the NY National Guard. My activation led to me taking a few days away from my regular day-to-day job on the NYPA Digital Communications team. That’s me in the photo, at the far left, taken at an August recruiting event at Stewart International Airport during the annual air show.
I was assigned with other New York Guardsmen to work with the National Guard and other military units from the Army and Air Force, rotating into Camp Smith and then deployed down to Manhattan. We were assigned to Range Control, assisting with rifle qualifications at Camp Smith’s ranges, traffic control, mess duty and security.
Some of the National Guard units that were activated had not fired a weapon in more than a year, so it was important that they went through target practice to make sure that the troops would be fully effective in real-life situations.
The New York Guard is a state volunteer emergency response force, augmenting and supporting the New York National Guard with manpower and skills. Its mobilization last month was the first time it had been activated in response to an emergency event since Superstorm Sandy in October 2012.
I was proud to be able to support New York State’s response to the Manhattan bombing. All of us who were activated & deployed last month took the situation and our responsibilities very seriously.
I’ve always wanted to have some involvement with the military. Both of my grandfathers served in World War II—one in the Pacific and the other in North Africa, Sicily and Italy—so I have that in my family background and hold the armed services in the highest regard. My father-in-law also served for many years in the U.S. Army Reserve and retired as a Lieutenant Colonel, with many years of service at West Point, so you can say that I am part of a military family as well. At 42 years old I have been in the New York Guard since 2013, and just re-enlisted for another three years. Right now my rank is Specialist, Grade E-4.
The New York Guard is different from the New York National Guard in that NYG units cannot be deployed outside New York State. My unit, the 56th Brigade, has experience in Military Emergency Management, Force Protection, Traffic Control and other military specialties.
It has been a great experience. The members of my guard unit are great, salt of the earth types—a great bunch of people—and I’ve learned a lot, especially about military emergency management preparedness for any one of a number of disasters.
While I’ve only been mobilized once during the last three years, my service commitment involves both weeknight and weekend duty at Camp Smith several times a month, with traffic and security responsibilities, administrative juggling work and family, but everyone pulls together and to make it happen, and I get to fulfill my desire to serve in the military and do some good for New York.
On the work end of things, New York State Military Law allows for state employees engaged in military service to be absent from work for up to 30 days military leave without affecting their salary or other compensation. NYPA and my department—Corporate Communications—have been nothing but supportive of my service in the New York Guard. It’s made a big difference and I’m very grateful for the backing that I’ve received.