CORTLANDT MANOR, NY --- The nearly 14 straight hours of whiteout conditions from the storm that blanketed the Hudson Valley Region on March 14 were pierced by the constant movement of New York Army National Guard Soldiers and loud thrum of their vehicles.
The New York Army National Guard 53rd Troop Command activated more than 450 Soldiers and utilized Humvees and light/medium tactical trucks to provide transportation for first responders through deep snow to augment local and state police traffic control activities as part of New York State’s response to what the Weather Channel called " Winter Storm Stella", from March 13 to 18, 2017.
The blizzard-like conditions that dumped over two feet of snow in some areas of the Hudson Valley Region made travel dangerous, challenging and nearly impossible even for first responders.
“We train for this, and we’re always up for the challenge,” said Sgt. Nicholas Flaz, an automated logistical specialist with Charlie Company of the 101st Signal Battalion.
However, the challenge for these Soldiers during this particular winter mission meant to endure frigid temperatures, perilous driving conditions and to be awake and alert for long hours over the span of several days.
But to some New York Army National Guard Soldiers, like Pfc. Nevor Yard, these challenges are actually adventures – and they wouldn’t have it any other way.
“It’s about doing something different, it’s about the adventure,” said Yard, a nodal network systems operator with the signal battalion’s Alpha Company.
“We’re out here preventing accidents, helping people and saving lives,” Yard said.
Across New York State, nearly 1,450 New York National Guard Soldiers and Airmen responded to Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s deployment order as the northeaster the Weather Channel designated as Stella hit New York.
More than 1,200 Guard Soldiers and Airmen were on duty at one point and more than 180 vehicles were used. Troops put more than 15,000 miles on those vehicles in communities across New York, providing traffic control, conducting joint patrols with the state police, aiding motorists in distress and moving mounds of snow.
On Long Island, National Guard Soldiers and Airmen prepared to close off the Long Island Expressway if necessary and in New York City members of Joint Task Force Empire Shield prepared to conduct mobility support missions.
When it became clear that the heaviest snow had hit central New York, particularly Oneida and Broome counties, Soldiers and Airmen from other regions shifted their efforts and engineers from the 827th Engineer Company in Horseheads were called to duty.
In Utica, members of the 2nd Battalion 108th Infantry patrolled snow covered roads to help identify abandoned cars and helped 35 residents who were stuck in cold cars get to shelter. Other Soldiers and Airmen cleared snow from fire hydrants.
In the Binghamton area, the 827th Engineers helped the village of Deposit clear heavy snowfall, earning thanks from the mayor and local residents.
"The National Guard has been crucial because in our municipality, we just don't have the manpower, we don't have the actual vehicles to haul the snow out and we don't have the machinery that we need to do it," said Deposit Mayor Robert Rynearson Jr. in a local news interview. "I don't know where we'd be without them."
The engineers then went on to clear snow from SUNY Binghamton parking lots so the university could reopen after four days of cancelled classes.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo praised the New York National Guard during his travels across the state.
“I can't say enough about the National Guard,” Cuomo said. “They have been fantastic, in every storm, every emergency.”
“And you know, the National Guard, they leave their home, their families are very often in the same circumstances as the families they're trying to help. So it really is the essence of public service,” he added.
Spc. Ashis Roy, whose wife is pregnant and scheduled to deliver next week, knows all too well the sacrifice and balance an Army National Guard Soldier must make in support of others.
“We all have busy lives and places we’d rather be, but we know our role here is important too,” said the nodal network systems operator with Alpha Company, 101st Signal Battalion.
“The National Guard becomes a part of your life, a part of who you are,” Roy said.