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Home : News
NEWS | April 27, 2020

New York National Guard sustaining fight against COVID-19

By Eric Durr New York National Guard

LATHAM, N.Y. – On Sunday, April 26, 55 days after the first COVID-19 case was diagnosed in New York, the New York National Guard had more than 3,600 troops on duty as part of New York’s response.

This includes 2,996 New York Army National Guard Soldiers and 464 New York Air National Guard Airmen. Members of the New York Naval Militia and the New York Guard, the state defense forces, are also on duty as part of the mission.

The New York National Guard has organized six regional joint task forces – on Long Island, New York City, the Hudson Valley, Capital Region, Syracuse and Buffalo – and two special-purpose task forces to muster troops and organize missions across the state.

A dual-status command task force under the command of Brig. Gen. Michel Natali, the assistant adjutant general, Army, leads efforts to employ active and National Guard military resources in New York City. A dual-status commander can deploy both active duty and National Guard forces under the direction of the governor.

The dual-status command is supporting 2,700 military and civilian medical staff working at Jacob Javits Convention Center in Manhattan, where a field hospital was erected in March. U.S. Army Soldiers of the 44th Medical Brigade are helping staff the Javits New York Medical Station, where more than 1,089 patients have been treated.

New York National Guard members are managing the Javits site as the unified command post for the multi-agency response.

New York Air National Guard Pararescue Airmen, from New York’s 106th Rescue Wing, trained as emergency medical technicians, are assisting in city hospitals.

The New York National Guard is also supporting the alternate care facility at the South Beach Psychiatric Center on Staten Island.

New York National Guard Soldiers and Airmen are continuing to support 10 drive-thru testing sites outside Albany and in New York City, Long Island and the New York suburbs.

Since the first site at Glen Island State Park near New Rochelle was established March 13, Soldiers and Airmen have helped test 159,132 New Yorkers. New York State has tested more than 700,000 people across New York at hospitals, walk-up test sites, and locations run by county and city governments.

While the New York National Guard’s main focus has been to assist with the state’s COVID-19 effort, other missions are continuing.

Air National Guard Members of the 107th and 174th Attack Wings, based at Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station and Hancock Field Air National Guard Base in Syracuse, respectively, continue to fly MQ-9 remotely piloted aircraft above battlefields throughout the Central Command Area of Operations.

Soldiers of the 42nd Infantry Division are deployed in Kuwait and other locations in the Middle East in support of Operation Spartan Shield. Other New York Army National Guard elements continue to prepare for deployment.

To ensure that one of the most unique New York Air National Guard missions – controlling the air defense of the eastern United States – was not interrupted by COVID 19, members of the 224th Air Defense Group and the Eastern Air Defense Sector are following strict social distancing and stringent equipment and facility cleaning measures.

“We can’t create trained air battle managers, radar technicians, and weapons and aircraft controllers overnight. And there’s no place we can get them from,” said Col. Paul M. Bishop, the 224th Air Defense Group commander. “Making sure our core operational force remained healthy was the only way we had to achieve mission assurance.”

Other civil support missions also continue. The New York Army National Guard State Aviation Office is planning annual wildfire-fighting helicopter training flights in May.

As the duration of “New York on Pause” nears two months, food distribution has grown into a major mission for the Guard. The missions began with the distribution of meals students in the New Rochelle school system missed by not being in class when the state responded to this initial outbreak cluster in Westchester County.

In the Bronx, Yonkers, Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and Manhattan, the New York National Guard has distributed 2,421,465 meals.

In Westchester County, Guard troops distributed 84,991 meal packages. In Albany County, 2,432 meals were delivered or picked up by quarantined residents as of April 23.

New York National Guard Soldiers and Airmen have been working at the regional food bank in Latham, preparing 97 pallets of food for shipment across northeastern New York.

Soldiers helping to process and ship goods at the regional food bank in Schenectady delivered 1,711 meals as of April 23.

In Chenango County, 2,804 meals were distributed April 21-23.

A one-time food support mission April 24 in Amsterdam provided 1,000 meals to families.

“It feels great to be doing something hands-on to help the community. My guys and girls are super motivated and happy to be here,” said 1st Lt. Mike Flicking, a member of Headquarters Company, 27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, and the officer in charge of the operation.

New York Soldiers and Airmen have continuously conducted logistics missions, including warehousing and distribution of medical supplies at six sites in the Hudson Valley, the Albany area and Mohawk Valley.

Soldiers distributed 3.8 million protective masks to five counties and moved another six pallets of masks April 23. At Stewart Air National Guard Base, Soldiers working the warehouse mission delivered 41 pallets of personal protective equipment to multiple locations.

More than 48,650 gallons of hand sanitizer packaged at a prison facility in Washington County have been delivered statewide.

One of the most important missions has been assisting the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner of New York City in the dignified recovery of human remains from homes, nursing homes and other locations.

About 250 Soldiers, primarily from the 101st Signal Battalion, the 152nd Brigade Engineer Battalion and the 2nd Battalion, 108th Infantry, are handling this duty.

Similar assistance is also being provided to the medical examiners in Westchester and Orange counties.

Soldiers continue to answer phones and provide administrative support at New York City call centers. Soldiers and Airman working in a call center in Rotterdam until April 20 handled 188,266 calls.

And Soldiers continue packaging COVID-19 test kits for the New York State Department of Health at an old armory at the Sage Colleges in Albany. The team has put together 373,050 testing kits that have been distributed across New York.