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Two hundred and forty years ago, selected members of the Massachusetts militia were called upon to be ready to defend their homes the minute they were called.
These Minutemen were prepared to drop what they were doing, grab their muskets, and muster on the village green with other friends and neighbors to defend their communities. They were our first quick-reaction force, and understood the important role they played in protecting their homeland.
And 125 years before that, in 1640, Dutch settlers in Manhattan, who belonged to the Burgher Guard (the city’s Citizens Guard) were instructed to report to the settlement’s fort when they heard a cannon shot fired. Today, of course, that call to duty is going to come as a phone call, or a text message.
I don’t expect you to respond in a minute, but I do expect all members of our Army and Air National Guard, as well as the New York Naval Militia and New York Guard, to be ready when that call to duty comes. After a bomb exploded in New York City’s Chelsea neighborhood on Sept. 17, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo turned to the New York National Guard and asked us to increase our security presence at the city’s transportation hubs (see story on page 12).
Our men and women responded to the call and we were able to meet the governor’s goals for an increased security presence. We rapidly identified Soldiers and Airmen for this duty, processed them, qualified them on their weapons, and deployed them in the airports and train stations. Whether it is a security concern, flooding, a snowstorm, or a hurricane, the governor and the people of New York are looking to the men and women of the New York National Guard for a response. It is no longer of question of if we get the call, but when. It is up to each of us to be ready.
Winter means snowstorms and inclement weather and there’s always a chance that Guard Soldiers and Airmen will be asked to help the state response.
So what does readiness mean for a modern-day Minuteman?
It means making sure your unit has good contact information for you so that you can get that phone call, e-mail or text message quickly, and respond to your chain of command. It means making sure your employer and family know that you have an obligation to respond when called for military duty. Don’t let your boss be surprised when you tell him or her that you’ve been called upon to serve New York.
It means keeping your gear ready to go. Packing a “go bag” of basics — extra uniforms, toilet items, and other necessary gear — and keeping it on hand is always a good idea. It saves time when you don’t need to find basics. It means ensuring that important documents are in a place where your spouse can find them in your absence, and that your finances are in good order.
It can also mean making sure that your family has emergency supplies — extra water, flashlights, warm clothing — so they can take care of themselves while you are on duty.
If you know somebody on one of our Citizens Preparedness Corps training teams, ask them for some hints on what you can do to have your family ready for a weather emergency. They’ve got plenty of good tips. You can also take an online course in emergency preparedness here: http://www.prepare.ny.gov/online-citizen-preparedness-training
Being ready also means being ready to fulfil our federal mission.
We may not be deploying as many Soldiers as we have in the past, but Army Guard units are still going downrange (see stories on pages 16, 17).
In this case being ready means making sure you’ve met individual training requirements like having a PT test on file, qualifying with your weapon, and meeting height and weight standards. Do everything you can to avoid missing a drill so you don’t miss training you need.
Federal deployments, of course, are usually well scheduled in advance, so that gives all of us — Soldiers and Airmen alike — time to get ready for those calls to duty.
So take some time out and plan now for the things you need to do when the call to duty comes. You’ll have more than the minute that our colonial forefathers had to respond when their call came. As Brig. Gen. Pat Center asked all of us during our hurricane briefing this summer, “are you ready?” The answer needs to be YES!!! We have some 380 years of Minutemen response behind us to live up to. Thank you for doing your part to be ready today.