News: NY Guard soldiers assist with election in storm-battered areas
Story by Eric Durr
BRENTWOOD, N.Y. - New Yorkers who are still without power in the Hudson Valley and on Long Island in the wake of Hurricane Sandy will get some help in casting their votes on Election Day from the New York Army National Guard.
The modern, high-tech voting machines which replaced the mechanical voting booths New York counties used for years, need power to operate. That's a problem at 34 polling locations in Nassau County on Long Island and at 19 polling places in Rockland County in the Hudson River Valley.
To ensure the voting equipment has the power they need, the New York State Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Services called on the New York National Guard, which has deployed over 3,300 troops to cope with the aftermath of Sandy.
On Sunday, soldiers and airmen working on Long Island pulled small, home-style emergency generators out of storage, serviced them, fueled them up, and made sure they run. Today Guard Soldiers will deliver the generators to designated polling locations.
One of those Guard soldiers working the mission was 1st Sgt. Javier Lugo, senior enlisted adviser for the 442nd Military Police Company, from Yonkers in New York City.
The last time he was involved in elections was as a Soldier in Iraq in 2009, Lugo said. Then he guarded polling places in Basra against terrorist attacks during Iraqi elections.
Now he and his Soldiers were working behind the scenes to help Americans cast their ballots.
"We want to make sure civilians have the opportunity to vote," Staff Sgt. Morgan Gorman, motor sergeant of the 206th Military Police Company, said. "It's important to make sure that they (exercise their rights) and are able to vote in this election."
Frenzied, organized lines took each generator from in-the-box to ready-to-go. An assembly line of Soldiers from the 102nd Military Police Company, the 206th Military Police Company, and the 442nd Military Police Company worked to unpack, prepare and distribute the generators from a state facility.
"Everybody came together," Gorman said. "It's cool to see all these different units come together. This is how the Army is supposed to work."
On Election Day itself, Guard Soldiers will stop by the polling places at regular intervals to fuel the generators or swap them out with replacements if need be. But the Guardsmen will not be on-site at the polling places.
The polling site mission was one of many being undertaken by the National Guard as New York recovered from Hurricane Sandy. Guardsmen continued to provide emergency food and water at distribution sites across New York City and conduct checks on private homes as directed by emergency management officials.
In Westchester and Rockland counties members of the Army National Guard were assisting utility crews in restoring the electrical grid by marking downed lines and keeping the public away. This frees up utility crews to do the skilled work.
On Saturday the New York National Guard also dispensed 30,000 gallons of FEMA-delivered emergency fuel at locations in Brooklyn, Staten Island and Queens.
The New York Army National Guard also configured two HEMTT 2500 gallon fuel tankers to deliver civilian gasoline to emergency vehicles and shipped them to New York City from Albany on board a New York Air National Guard C-17 belonging to the 105th Airlift Wing.
The crews to operate the vehicles were already in New York City, so it made more sense to transport the configured fuel tankers down there by air rather than have the Soldiers make the four hour trip to Albany, explained Col. Pat Center, Director of Logistics for the New York National Guard.
On Sunday almost 800 Guard Soldiers from Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Delaware arrived in New York to assist in the recovery efforts. These Army National Guard units brought equipment and capabilities the New York National Guard no longer had on had to respond.
The New York Army and Air National Guard has been a powerful force in the State's efforts to prepare and respond to the Storm," said New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. "As we work to recover our communities, these additional troops and equipment will be invaluable assets, and I thank the governors of these states for their quick response to send assistance to the State of New York."
Arriving in New York City Sunday were:
• the 272nd Military Police Company of the Massachusetts Army National Guard
• the 28th Military Police Company of the Pennsylvania Army National Guard
• the 1484th Truck Company of the Ohio Army National Guard
• the 1049th Truck Company of the Delaware Army National Guard, which will bring 176 Soldiers and 72 vehicles
• Company A of the Brigade Support Battalion of the 2nd Brigade 28th Infantry Division, Pennsylvania Army National Guard
These units, provided by the other states, bring military trucks and Humvees, which are useful for running food and water distribution sites, augmenting police and fire operations, and doing health and welfare checks in neighborhoods at the direction of civilian emergency responders. They will be housed in a logistics support area at Floyd Bennett Field in Queens.
New York requested the additional units through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, or EMAC, system. EMAC agreements allow the governor of one state to send personnel, equipment, and commodities to help disaster relief efforts in other states. When National Guard units of one state are lent to another state, they fall under the command of the governor of the receiving state.