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NEWS | Dec. 18, 2023

Guard’s Past, Present, Future, Linked in Vice Chief’s New York Visit

By Sgt. 1st Class Zach Sheely, National Guard Bureau

BROOKLYN, N.Y. – The National Guard is the nation’s oldest military organization, tracing its roots back to 1636, and Air Force Lt. Gen. Marc Sasseville educated the Guard’s newest enlistees about its storied history on its birthday.

“For 387 years, we've had men and women answering the call to serve the nation,” the vice chief of the National Guard Bureau said. “Job No. 1 is to fight the nation's wars. Job No. 2 is to serve our communities and citizens here at home.

“The Guard is more relevant than ever,” he said. “It's great to be part of this fantastic, historic organization.”

As part of a larger itinerary to visit Guardsmen across the city, Sasseville administered the enlistment oath to New York Guard recruits at the Fort Hamilton Military Enlistment Processing Station.

He also met with recruiters and their leaders to hear their perspectives on what many have called the most challenging recruiting environment since the establishment of the all-volunteer force in 1973.

The New York Army National Guard’s Recruiting and Retention Battalion has been particularly successful in navigating issues that range from a strong job market to a decline in qualified applicants to fill the ranks. Earlier this year, the New York Army Guard was named the top recruiting organization across the Guard for the third straight year.

The New York Army Guard recorded 118% in the number of enlisted Soldiers, new officers and warrant officers who joined from October 2022 to September 2023, and the number of Soldiers who reenlisted as a percentage of each state’s total Army Guard strength.

A score of 100% means the state met its recruiting goals. Scores above 100% indicate a state exceeded those recruiting goals.

This success is based on an organizational strategy to invest in and emphasize recruiting, said Army Command Sgt. Maj. Anthony Abbate, the New York Army Guard’s Recruiting and Retention Battalion senior enlisted advisor. A quarter of the New York Army Guard’s active force is dedicated to recruiting.

“It’s not just one thing,” Abbate said. “It’s the senior NCO leadership across the state. It’s our ability to hire passionate, patriotic Soldiers who volunteer for recruiting duty. They believe in this. They know that we have a lot of responsibility to provide the units here in New York state with a lot of talented men and women.”

Abbate said he has not seen a decline in the number of people who want to serve. The reasons for their desires to serve vary.

“We’re doing well in high schools and college markets, and with legal permanent residents,” he said. “These are people who are not yet Americans, but they want to be. One of the ways they’re doing that is getting their expedited U.S. citizenship through the New York National Guard.”

Abbate said the Army’s Future Soldier Preparatory Course has been a game changer for recruiting in all Army components, specifically in helping applicants pass the aptitude test required for entry.

This program was established in 2022 and provides education and training to help American youth overcome academic and physical fitness barriers to military service.

“It's amazing what happens when you take a cell phone out of somebody’s hand to put them in a situation where they're getting paid to learn,” he said.

Sasseville said the Guard offers an unparalleled value proposition to the nation, and to the 430,000 or so service members who fill its formations.

“The Guard is set apart because of who we are and what we do,” he said. “Our Guardsmen come in on chunks of time, big and small, to either go downrange and fight our nation's wars, or they come on duty serving their states to get a wide range of missions done.”

The vice chief said the Guard offers its members pride in service to country and community; hands-on high-tech training; education benefits and a retirement pension.

Most Guardsmen serve part time and draw their primary source of income from civilian professions, often in different vocations than their military jobs. This broad scope of skills is what makes Guardsmen so valuable to America, he said.

Abbate said the New York Guard is a juggernaut that offers current and prospective members many opportunities.

“We’ve done a lot since 9/11,” he said. “All the deployments, COVID response, and everything in between.”

Sasseville — accompanied by Army Maj. Gen. Raymond Shields, New York’s adjutant general, and Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chief of the National Guard Bureau Tony Whitehead — also visited New York Guardsmen on station securing transportation hubs in the city as part of Joint Task Force Empire Shield.

Empire Shield is the state’s standing military organization that plans and prepares for defense support to civil authority missions throughout the New York City area. The unit is commanded by a lieutenant colonel and jointly staffed with Army and Air National Guard personnel along with members of the New York Guard State Volunteer Force and New York Naval Militia.

This unit was established on Sept. 11, 2001, and is state-resourced and sustained from the New York National Guard to support state and city emergency management and law enforcement officials with a rapid response force of National Guard members for homeland security missions.

About 500 Army and Air National Guard members serve on the task force.

Sasseville also stopped at the Jamaica Armory in Jamaica, Queens, to view the progress of a major renovation project of the historic 190,000-square-foot building.

This armory is home to the New York Army Guard’s 1st Battalion, 258th Field Artillery, and the 442nd Military Police Company. Once renovations are complete, the space will accommodate 600 Soldiers and serve as a modernized hub for New York Guard response to emergencies in New York City.

At the Military Enlistment Processing Station, Sasseville and Whitehead invited the new recruits to join them in the ceremonial cutting of the National Guard’s 387th birthday cake.

“What better way to spend the Guard’s birthday than welcoming our newest Citizen-Soldiers and -Airmen into our great force?” Whitehead said. “Congratulations to each of you, and welcome to the National Guard.”



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