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New York National Guard prepares for 2019 hurricane season

New York Air National Guard Lt. Col. Tammy Street, center, commander of the logistics readiness squadron of the 109th Airlift Wing, moves a placard representation of a wing response element during the rehearsal of New York military forces plan for a coastal storm during the 2019 hurricane season at the Armed Forces Reserve Center in New Windsor, N.Y., May 23, 2019.

New York Air National Guard Lt. Col. Tammy Street, center, commander of the logistics readiness squadron of the 109th Airlift Wing, moves a placard representation of a wing response element during the rehearsal of New York military forces plan for a coastal storm during the 2019 hurricane season at the Armed Forces Reserve Center in New Windsor, N.Y., May 23, 2019.

NEW WINDSOR, N.Y. – Eighty New York National Guard senior leaders and staff planners spent May 20-23 at the Armed Forces Reserve Center to discuss emergency response missions and rehearse military missions in preparation for the 2019 hurricane season.

The training brought together leaders from the New York Air National Guard, New York Army National Guard and the state forces; the New York Naval Militia and New York Guard.

The theme for the training was “Information sharing, information exchange,” according to New York Army National Guard Brig. Gen. John Andonie, the director of Joint Staff.

Discussions focused on reporting, mission planning and improving joint interoperability for civil support operations across the New York military force of nearly 20,000 Soldiers, Airmen, Sailors, Marines and volunteers.

“All of you represent the five air wings, Army Guard commands and state defense forces,” Andonie told the attendees. “You are our collective ability to respond to emergencies anywhere in the state.”

“But we’re not perfect,” Andonie said to the group. “So we’ll spend the next couple of days on areas to improve. Ask yourselves during this training, how do we reduce the time from a mission request to a mission response?”

A new topic for the 2019 training included Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosive (CBRNE) response missions and the roles of New York Army National Guard elements recently validated to serve in the Army’s Command and Control CBRNE Response Element (C2CRE) – Bravo.

Michigan Army National Guard Maj. Gen. Michael Stone, commander of the 46th Military Police Command, the lead headquarters for C2CRE-Bravo, addressed those issues during a presentation.

The two elements, one based in the Army Reserve and the other in the National Guard, are designed to shorten the federal response time to a CBRNE incident, reinforcing other National Guard elements in the incident state or the Defense CBRNE Response Force, Stone told the group.

The New York Army National Guard’s 369th Sustainment Brigade recently completed its validation training as the operations section of the C2CRE-Bravo.

Stone highlighted the essential tasks in a CBRNE incident in his command and the importance of understanding intent, communicating clearly and working collectively to save lives.

“In a big event, we’ll need to over-respond and then back off,” Stone said regarding the military response to assist civil authorities in a CBRNE event.

“At the end of the day, it is amazing how our systems are still the same, only the acronyms have changed over the years,” Stone added.

Other topics of the training workshop included communications, mission command, reporting requirements, logistics planning, disaster procurement procedures and civil support training and exercises.

Discussions among the six joint task force headquarters arrayed in the state shared best practices during recent operations. Each task force is responsible for a designated geographical region of the state during a domestic operation supporting local authorities.

The training workshop culminated with the group’s rehearsal and briefing of the Guard’s hurricane response plan for the 2019 season to Maj. Gen. Ray Shields, the adjutant general.

Hurricane season officially begins June 1 and runs through early November.

The timing could not be better, explained Chief Master Sgt. Shawn Peno, the senior noncommissioned officer for the New York National Guard domestic operations staff.

The first named storm of 2019, Subtropical Storm Andrea, arrived early and formed the same week of the training about 300 miles southwest of Bermuda before dissipating in the Atlantic.

The challenge for the New York National Guard is positioning response forces before a hurricane arrives, said Brig. Gen. Timothy LaBarge, the assistant adjutant general for air and commander of the New York Air National Guard.

Commanders from across the joint force walked through their mobilization and deployment of response elements in the hours prior to a potential coastal storm striking New York City and Long Island.

“Who knows where we’ll end up after landfall?” LaBarge said, “but this is a really good starting point.”

Moving thousands of Soldiers and Airmen, their vehicles and equipment from across the state to participate in the response task force represents a real tyranny of geography, said Lt. Col. Shawn Shutts, commander of the 427th Brigade Support Battalion, part of the 27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team based in upstate New York.

“It’s seeing the management of the time and distance piece in planning,” Shutts said. “I’ve been part of this planning for years, but this is the first time seeing this all laid out on a large map.”

“Now that I’ve worked in New York City for the past four years, it’s really a better appreciation of the time and distance considerations for movements and operations in the city,” he said.

The response rehearsal is really a full comprehensive plan, LaBarge said, including not just the entire joint force from the New York National Guard, but the expectation that a dual-status command will employ active forces as well.

“Everybody’s going to want to help, and Title 10, those active-duty forces, are going to be participating. Count on it and plan for it,” he said.

The last major hurricane response in New York State was Superstorm Sandy in 2012. At its peak, the Operation Sandy Force, which included 750 Guard troops from Delaware, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Kansas, Ohio, Massachusetts and New Hampshire, had almost 5,000 troops committed, including more than 600 active-duty Marines, Soldiers and Sailors.

“We have a plan that probably won’t survive first contact with the storm,” LaBarge said, “but getting all of our forces on the same page in preparation is a great start.”

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