Governor Andrew M. Cuomo speaks at a press conference at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City, March 27, 2020. The convention center will be an alternate care site as part of New York’s multi-agency response to COVID-19. (Photo by Senior Airman Sean Madden)
NEW YORK — New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo praised the courage, skill and dedication of members of the New York Army and Air National Guard during a press conference at the Javits Convention Center in New York City on Friday, March 27.
“You are the best of us, and when we call on you, you are there,” Cuomo told Guardsmen in the audience during his daily press briefing on New York efforts to contain the COVID-19 coronavirus.
The governor’s comments came during a press conference held at the Javits Center to mark efforts to convert the facility into a 1,000-bed hospital to ease the strain on city hospitals coping with coronavirus patients.
“If we had a year to do this we wouldn’t have been able to get it done, “said Col. (Dr.) Jamie Green, the New York Army National Guard medical liaison at the Javits Center. “But we’ve gone and created a hospital in just four to five days. From scratch.”
Members of the New York National Guard’s 133rd Composite Supply Company helped unpack, layout and assemble the hospital facilities.
“Every time the National Guard has been called out, they have made every New Yorker proud and I am proud to be with you yet again and I am proud to fight this fight with you,” the governor said.
“I bring you thanks from all New Yorkers who are so proud of the sacrifice you are making, the skills you are bringing and the talent you are bringing and you give New Yorkers confidence.”
The governor also emphasized that the Guard men and women were part of an historic moment.
“Ten years from now, you'll be talking about today to your children or your grandchildren and you will shed a tear because you will remember the lives lost. You'll remember the faces and you'll remember the names and you'll remember how hard we worked and that we still lost loved ones,” he said.
“And you'll shed a tear and you should because it will be sad. But, you will also be proud. You'll be proud of what you did. You'll be proud that you showed up. You showed up when other people played it safe. You had the courage to show up. You had the skill and the professionalism to make a difference and save lives. That's what you will have done,” Cuomo said.
1st Lt. James Rucinski, a member of the 104th Military Police Battalion, said the governor’s comments summarized the mission for him.
“I am from New York City, born and raised from Manhattan, and I’ve never seen anything like this. And this is quite an amazing operation to be part of,” he said.
“The governor’s press conference really summed it up well when he said it was an historic event,” he said.
New York Army National Guard Sgt. Andrew Golson, a member of the 133rd Composite Supply Company from Brooklyn, said he and other members of the company were proud to be part of the mission.
“As a military member we are here for the people. So any time we can assist and help in any capacity, we are all ready for the call. I think that is something that is going to be a mark in history that we are all proud to be a part of,” he said.
Getting the hospital up and running “is just the beginning of the fight,” said. Col. Dennis Deeley, who has been tapped to head a National Guard led unified command post at the Javits Center.
In his remarks to the Guard Soldiers in his audience, the governor emphasized that this effort will be long term.
“This is a different beast that we're dealing with,” the governor said. “This is an invisible beast. It is an insidious beast.”
“This is not going to be a short deployment. This is not going to be that you go out there for a few days. We work hard and we go home. This is going to be weeks and weeks and weeks,” he emphasized.
The governor also stressed that he would be demanding more of National Guard members than he normally does.
“This is going to be a long day and it's going to be a hard day, and it's going to be an ugly day, and it's going to be a sad day,” Cuomo said.
“The rescue mission is to save lives and as hard as we work, we're not going to be able to save everyone. And what's even more cruel is this enemy doesn't attack the strongest of us. It attacks the weakest of us,” he added.
The governor also promised his support to the National Guard Soldiers and Airmen and their efforts.
“I promise you I will not ask you to do anything that I will not do myself. And the same is true here. We're going to do this and we're going to do this together,” he said.
“At the end of the day, nobody can ask anything more from you,” Cuomo said. “That is your duty, to do what you can when you can. You will have shown skill and courage and talent.”
“You'll be there with your mind, you'll be there with your heart and you'll serve with honor. That will give you pride and you should be proud. I know that I am proud of you,” he said.
“So I say, my friends, that we go out there today and we kick coronavirus' ass, that's what I say. And we're going to save lives and New York is going to thank you. God bless each and every one of you,” Cuomo said.