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Story by: Eric Durr - Guard Times Staff
Dated: Mon, Sep 17, 2007
New York’s use of National Guard Soldiers and Airmen in a full-time Homeland Security role is a model for what the Guard should be doing around the country, Lt. Gen. Steven Blum said following a New York City visit on Sept. 17.
New York’s Division of Military and Naval Affairs has had a force of National Guard Soldiers and Airmen, along with members of the Naval Militia and all-volunteer New York Guard, doing security duties in a state active duty status since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center. The force size has contracted and grown depending on security alerts, but now consists of about 500 members on duty at New York City’s airports and train stations and at upstate New York nuclear power plants.
The next step, New York Adjutant General Joseph Taluto told Blum during his New York City trip, is to turn Joint Task Force Empire Shield into an operational force. This means giving the force its own state-purchased equipment and giving task force members the ability to serve as first responders during New York City emergencies, Taluto explained.
He came to New York City to get at what the New York National Guard is doing in the Homeland Defense arena for the state, Blum said.
Capabilities the New York National Guard already has include a OH-58 equipped with night-vision television camera which can feed real-time on site images back to state and New York City disaster preparedness officials,. The state is exploring acquiring wireless devices with GPS systems that can be used to track the location of National Guard elements on duty in New York City and provide real-time data to the task force commander, Taluto told Blum.
New York is standing up a new Civil Support Team, charged with identifying radiological, chemical, and biological threats, that will be focused on New York City. The New York National Guard will also stand-up a chemical company in New York City that provides additional capabilities, Taluto said.
New York State relies on National Guard forces --which include the state’s Military Emergency Board Service and an already active Civil Support Team to detect chemical and radiological threats-to support the state’s police and fire departments, Michael Balboni, the state’s Deputy Secretary for Public Safety told Blum. The National Guard serves a variety of customers, Balboni said.
Turning the existing administrative task force organization into an operational force would reduce the Guard’s response time substantially when responding to state emergencies in New York City, Blum said. The direction New York is going is the right one, he said. It is a model that other states and territories can follow, he added.
Blum and Taluto visited New York National Guard Soldiers on security duty at LaGuardia International Airport, and at the PATH terminal at the site of the World Trade Center. Blum visited Joint Task Force Empire Shield Headquarters at Fort Hamilton, New York and observed demonstrations of emergency command post tents and chemical decontamination facilities.
The two generals also met with New York City Office of Emergency Management Commissioner Joseph Bruno. They discussed the ways the National Guard can assist the city in emergencies and toured the city’s emergency command post.