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NEWS | April 23, 2024

New York National Guard Sharpens Disaster Readiness Skills

By Master Sgt. Warren Wright, New York National Guard

CAMP SMITH TRAINING SITE, N.Y. - Soldiers from the New York National Guard’s 42nd Infantry Division honed their command and control capabilities as the Region II Homeland Response Force April 15-19 at Camp Smith Training Site near Peekskill.

The exercise tested the Citizen-Soldiers’ ability to manage a simulated incident involving the detonation of an improvised nuclear device.

“It’s essential for us as an Army, especially in the New York National Guard, to make sure we are ready to be called upon in both a combat environment as well support our governor and our elected officials in a (defense support to civil authorities) role,” said Brig. Gen. Christopher R. Cronin, the commander of the 2nd HRF. 

The HRF supports the state response through casualty assistance, search and extraction, decontamination and medical triage.

The exercise ensured “our staff (is) ready to support our downrange units that will be deployed forward in support of the civil authorities,” Cronin said of the HRF command and control team.

In addition to managing the response, the HRF had to troubleshoot a simulated vehicle accident requiring the hospitalization of National Guard Soldiers and a lack of personnel to cover affected areas.

“The Army does a great job of making sure we’re a professional organization that leads, trains, reevaluates who we are and what we do, and comes up with better solutions to implement that training so that our missions are successful,” Cronin said.

While the HRF command and control element managed the response from a central location away from the simulated affected area, other Soldiers with various National Guard units from across the state exercised their capabilities in a realistic training environment at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey.

“We are training as part of the Homeland Response Force with a mission primarily for search and extraction of victims due to any kind of chemical, biological, radiation (or) nuclear event,” said Capt. Christopher Monteferante, commander of the 827th Engineer Company. “A mission like this is the worst-case scenario. It’s going to be chaos; it’s thousands of victims and a lack of order. Being prepared for something like this allows us to try and save as many lives as we can and help the community recover from such a tragedy.”

During their portion of the training, Soldiers and Airmen from the 827th Engineer Company, the 222nd Chemical Company, and various other units combed through concrete and metal rubble in full protective suits.

“We never know when tragedy is going to strike, and it’s always better to be prepared and not need this asset as opposed to needing this asset and not having it,” Monteferante said. “What stands out is actually getting on the pile, getting in the suits, and having the Soldiers run through for real with everything set up. It gives a better sense of realism than we can accomplish in our home station armories.”

In the coming months, the New York National Guard’s 53rd Troop Command will take over the HRF mission for the region. While this is the last time the 42nd Infantry Division will lead the 2nd HRF, the lessons learned during this exercise and past training will allow future HRF teams to continue the mission and grow the National Guard’s response capabilities.

“A lot of the Soldiers in the 53rd have been part and parcel over the past decade, two decades at the HRF, so it’s not anything new to them,” Cronin said. “We’ve just improved the process. We’ve incorporated some new technologies for tracking our support to our local civil authorities. So that’ll be a combat multiplier for them.”



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