Guard Spotlight: New York

National Guard Protects New York City Against Terrorism

(Editor’s note: After this story was published on, New York Gov. Cuomo announced that he is deploying another 1,000 New York State Police and National Guard members to patrol New York City’s bus terminals, airports and subway stations after a bombing injured 29 people in the city’s Chelsea neighborhood on Sept. 17.)

SGT Erislav Astanov, left, and SPC Saul Revatta, both part of the New York National Guard’s Joint Task Force Empire Shield, stand guard in a shopping mall and commuter hub at the World Trade Center complex in New York City. Photo by C. Todd Lopez.

NEW YORK CITY – Musician John Legend recently performed at the opening of a new shopping mall inside a facility that also serves as a commuter hub at the World Trade Center site in lower Manhattan.

About 20 service members from the New York National Guard were there at that event as well, though they weren’t there for the performance. They were working as part of a unique security detail seen in few other places in the United States.

Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Soldiers and Airmen with the New York National Guard have served as part of Joint Task Force Empire Shield, or JTFES. The task force puts a military presence on the ground around New York City transit centers, such as at the World Trade Center hub, Grand Central Station, LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy airports, the Port Authority Bus Terminal, and various bridges and tunnels in the city: all places with a lot of people moving into or out of the city.

Headquartered at Fort Hamilton, an Army installation in Brooklyn, N.Y., JTFES was created as a response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

“Our mission is to deter and detect terrorism,” said LTC Peter P. Riley, the task force commander. “We’re not law enforcement. We’re there to support law enforcement. We’re there to deter terrorism and notice any type of inappropriate or suspicious activity that could be terrorist-related.”

For Riley, the mission is gratifying. 

“It’s one of the best jobs in the National Guard,” he said. “You’re keeping your country safe and your city safe.”

For the past 15 years, New Yorkers have seen those service members at transit hubs around the city: in uniform and working in partnership with other agencies to keep New York City safe.

“Now we are part of the culture in NYC,” said LTC Riley. “We are embedded with all the different law enforcement agencies. You have that unified effort where you have all the different agencies working together to defeat terrorism in the No. 1 terrorist target in the world: NYC.”

The task force doesn’t take everybody. First, service members must be members of the New York National Guard. Then they must apply and be accepted into the highly selective positions.

Service members in the Unit train on a variety of items, ranging from various tactical scenarios to what to do after an attack, according to CSM Arnold G. Reyes.

“They are doing all that not only to safeguard the citizens, but because it’s the aftermath they also have to deal with,” he said. “Our job is not only to deter, but to help after the fact.”

SGT Erislav Astanov said that by being part of JTFES, he knows he’s doing something important. Many who pass by him will stop and thank him for what he does.

“A lot of people appreciate us,” he said. “They say thank you for your service, thank you for being here. A lot of people tell me that. A lot of people shake our hands.”

So, if you want to help protect your community, serving in your State’s Army National Guard is a great way to do that. Guard service is a part-time commitment that comes with valuable benefits like money for college and training in a career field. You can explore more than 150 career fields on our job board, or contact a recruiter today.

(Original story, written by C. Todd Lopez, appeared earlier this month in the news section of


Share on FacebookShare on Twitter

STEM Careers in the Guard: A Spotlight on Engineering

This fall, On Your Guard is taking a look at STEM, or Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math careers offered by the Army National Guard. These are fast-growing fields. In fact, the U.S. Department of Commerce is projecting a 17 percent growth in STEM jobs by 2018. Compare that to non-STEM jobs, which are expected to grow by only 9.8 percent.

Why is this news important? Because Guard service is a part-time commitment, many of our Soldiers make the most of their skills training and the Guard’s education benefits to build successful full-time civilian careers.

This week, we’ll take a look at Engineering.

The Engineering field within the Army National Guard offers a lot of different paths. If you’re more of a project planner and big picture person, you might consider the 12T Technical Engineer Military Occupational Specialty (MOS). Technical Engineers conduct land surveys, make maps and prepare detailed plans and drawings for construction projects, including plans for wiring and plumbing.

But If you’re more of a hands-on person, you may want to look into Specialist (SPC) Boomer Paschall’s MOS – 12N Horizontal Construction Engineer. These engineers use heavy construction equipment to clear or prepare land for construction.

“We do football fields, roads, projects like that for the community,” says SPC Paschall.

The idea of serving the community was a major draw for SPC Paschall when he joined the Oregon National Guard five years ago.

“The fact that I could be of service, go home every night for the most part, and be stateside in the community … I was sold. Just giving back, I think it’s a beautiful thing to be able to do that.”

It’s during his annual two weeks of training that SPC Paschall and his Engineering Unit get to work on projects in the community like tearing out overgrown trees and breaking up aging asphalt like they did for a local school’s parking lot a couple of years ago.

SPC Boomer Paschall, (back right) and his Unit pose in front of a firing range wall they worked on last summer with the heavy construction equipment they used to do it.

SPC Boomer Paschall, (back right) and his Unit pose in front of a firing range wall they worked on last summer with the heavy construction equipment they used to do it.

SPC Paschall, like all new Soldiers, attended Advanced Individual Training (AIT) to learn the skills he would need to perform the job. Soldiers in this particular MOS learn how to operate bulldozers, backhoe loaders, front-end loaders, Humvees, dump trucks, water trucks (used to keep down the dust during excavation), and grading equipment.

This training also comes in handy when the Guard is called up to respond to natural disasters like floods and hurricanes, or in SPC Paschall’s case, a potential earthquake. He and his Unit have been preparing for this kind of event by training in rubble clearing and search and rescue techniques because of their proximity to the Cascadia Fault line on the Oregon coast, which is “long overdue” for an earthquake.

SPC Paschall says the most important traits to have in his line of work are “attention to detail and safety, and being willing to take advice on how to do things. You’re operating heavy equipment. A lot can go wrong. You definitely need to be aware of your surroundings.”

So while the Horizontal Construction Engineers are busy tearing things down, other Engineering MOSs in the Guard focus on building things up. Just click on the links to learn more about these jobs:

12B Combat Engineer

12C Bridge Crewmember

12K Plumber

12R Interior Electrician

12V Concrete and Asphalt Equipment Operator

12W Carpentry and Masonry Specialist

So if you have an interest in a STEM field, the ASVAB, or Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery should help you identify your strengths. In the meantime, to learn more about any of the Guard’s 150 career fields, visit our job board or contact a recruiter today.

Share on FacebookShare on Twitter

Meeting the ChalleNGe: National Guard Program Turns Out Graduates and Soldiers

Even when a teenaged Brandon Hawkins managed to go to school, which wasn’t often, he didn’t always make it to class. Doubtful he could earn his diploma in time, a school administrator suggested the Maryland teen try a different kind of school in order to graduate – the Freestate ChalleNGe Academy. 

But in order to attend this military school, the young man would have to cut off his dreadlocks. For Hawkins, the haircut was a dealbreaker – that was until he realized after dropping out of high school and working at a local ice cream chain that not many jobs would be open to him without a diploma or GED.

So Hawkins signed up for the 22-week ChalleNGe program. The “NG” in “ChalleNGe”stands for the National Guard. The program, which began in 1993, is sponsored by the National Guard Youth Foundation. Since it started, more than 140,000 student cadets have graduated from the program, which is designed for at-risk 16- to 18-year-olds. The in-residence course teaches life skills like leadership, self-discipline, how to manage personal finances, as well as academics to help students get their high school diplomas or equivalent.

For an in-depth look at the ChalleNGe program, check out the video below. It’s the first of a five-part series filmed at Freestate. 

Just a few years ago, neither Hawkins nor his Freestate classmate, Luis Membreno, could have imagined themselves attending a military school. But both of the men, now 20 years old, not only graduated from Freestate, but they’ve also joined the Maryland Army National Guard as a result of their positive experiences in ChalleNGe.

PVT Membreno, an 11B Infantryman, chose Guard service because of “all the benefits that come with it. I’m learning how to be a more responsible adult, also to manage my life and my time.”

PFC Hawkins is a 15P Aviation Operations Specialist with the Guard where “I supervise helicopter flights, monitor the radio, and handle flight hours. I handle flight plans and go through the crash alert system.”

Because Guard service is typically a part-time commitment, PFC Hawkins is also working for a security firm and considering going to school for two different fields: business administration, because he would like to eventually franchise his father’s Caribbean restaurant, and psychology, because he enjoys talking with people. 

Both he and PVT Membreno have gone back to Freestate ChalleNGe Academy to lend an encouraging word to potential cadets.

“I tell them that it’s all worth it, keep pushing forward,” says PVT Membreno, who hopes to attend the Prince George’s County Police Academy in Maryland. 

PFC Hawkins zones in on the kids who remind him of himself at that age. He also reassures parents that school isn’t really over once the 22 weeks are up. He’s still in contact with his case manager, who checks up with him, more than two years after graduation.

PFC Hawkins and his fiancee, Estephany Martinez.

PFC Hawkins and his fiancee, Estephany Martinez.

“I never really thought I would have that type of support,” he says.

For PFC Hawkins, the best benefit of the ChalleNGe program has been the change in his mindset. 

“My mindset now is to work and build for the future, just expand my knowledge.”

As for his goals in the Guard, “I want to deploy, I want to travel, I really want to jump from job to job, seeing what I can do as far as what schools I can go to, what opportunities they can offer, and what I can actually offer them.”

So if you’re interested in finding out what Guard life has to offer, and what you can give back to your community and your country, contact a recruiter today. Also, check out our job board to explore a Guard career that matches your interests. There are more than 150 options available.


Share on FacebookShare on Twitter