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


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