The Response
By Col. John Dwyer, PAO, NJDMAVA

The story of the New Jersey National Guard’s involvement in the events after 911 reads like a history of every major military event the United States is involved in at the homefront level. NJNG units are involved in security, recovery and logistical support missions, as well as military operations connected with the Sept. 11 attack. New Jersey Guardsmen are providing security at nuclear power plants and airports, as well as flying fighter missions over the Northeast corridor and managing donations.

The 177th Fighter Wing of the New Jersey Air National Guard has been flying combat air patrol missions in support of North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) since the morning of Sept. 11. Several hundred members of the wing are currently on duty for the emergency and 177th Security Forces have been called to federal active duty and have been deployed to Air Force bases nationwide.

The last time the 177th flew combat air patrol missions was during their deployment to Prince Sultan Air Base, Saudi Arabia, in support of Operation SOUTHERN WATCH (Nov. 4 - Dec. 15, 2000). While deployed at Prince Sultan Air Base, 177th pilots flew missions to enforce the southern no-fly zone over Iraq. The wing’s past experience in maintaining air defense alert and flying air sovereignty missions enabled the 177th to quickly reconfigure its aircraft and begin flying combat air patrols shortly after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

“As we collectively grieve over the tragic events of Sept. 11, the men and women of the 177th Fighter Wing remain focused on conducting our around-the-clock operations in support of NORAD and the American people,” stated Col. Mike Cosby, commander of the 177th Fighter Wing. “What greater privilege could we have as citizen-airmen than to help guard our homeland during this time of crisis.”

More than 150 soldiers of the 50th Brigade of the New Jersey Army National Guard were called to duty by the Governor on Oct. 2 to provide additional security at three of New Jersey’s airports by Nov. 5. After strict screening and specialized training by the FAA, these soldiers deployed to Atlantic City, Mercer County, and Newark airports where they are providing a “highly visible, armed force to enhance existing security and reassure the American people’s faith in flying.” Armed Guard soldiers are stationed at every security checkpoint at each airport. The public’s reaction to the presence of National Guard soldiers has been very positive. NJARNG soldiers have been assigned to security checkpoints at every terminal. New tasks will include luggage checks, perimeter patrols, access control, and general airport terminal security.

In response to President’s Bush’s call for increased National Guard presence at airports, Acting Governor DiFrancesco authorized an additional forty soldiers to be mobilized and deployed to Newark, Trenton-Mercer, and Atlantic City Airports. The additional Guard personnel will be on duty from Nov. 15 through Jan. 7 to help augment security during the busy holiday travel season. Soldiers will be drawn from the battalions of the 50th Brigade of the NJARNG.

The 108th Air Refueling Wing has sent approximately 50 security police to Washington, D.C., to assist in providing security for key facilities and government buildings. Those personnel were part of the Presidential Call-up and will be deployed for up to a year’s time. The 108th continues to fly routine refueling missions in support of the Air Force daily, including refueling the fighters involved in combat air patrols over the northeast corridor.

Thirty 42nd Division Support Command troops are operating the donation warehouse at the Military Ocean Terminal at Bayonne. The Guardsmen are providing daily warehouse support to the Salvation Army, which is managing donations. More than 1,200 tons of donated material has been received warehoused to date.

Soldiers from the 50th Brigade were deployed on Oct. 8 to augment existing security at the two nuclear power stations in New Jersey following a request from the Governor. No specific threats were identified, but it was considered a prudent precaution to bolster security at these key facilities following the military action in Afghanistan. This mission will continue for as long as the need exists.

Currently more than 240 NJARNG soldiers are augmenting police security at key Port Authority facilities in New Jersey including the George Washington Bridge, Lincoln Tunnel, Holland Tunnel, and Port Authority Trans-Hudson (PATH) facilities. Soldiers are from combat units of the 50th Brigade and will rotate units every few weeks. While deployed, the soldiers will be housed at local armories. Duties include security of key buildings and transportation hubs, cargo inspections at river crossings, and traffic control at security checkpoints. The troops deployed full-time on Oct. 27.

The soldiers are initially being drawn from the combat units of the 50th Brigade of the New Jersey Army National Guard. The first unit called for this duty was the 2nd Battalion, 102nd Armor with subordinate units in Newton, Hackettstown, West Orange and Somerset. Units will rotate security duty every few weeks until the mission is completed. Currently the 2-102 Armor also has 40 soldiers mobilized as part of the task force providing security at Newark Airport. While deployed, the troops will also be housed at local National Guard armories.

National Guard chaplains statewide have been providing ongoing counseling to families, deployed personnel and rescue workers in all locations from Ground Zero to Atlantic City since the start of the emergency.

Army Guard helicopters based at Trenton-Mercer airport have been providing on-call support to the FBI and other federal agencies conducting post-attack operations. To date NJARNG helicopters have flown more than 110 missions since Sept. 11.

The New Jersey National Guard has been operating its Emergency Operations Center at Fort Dix 24/7 since the emergency began. Subordinate operations centers are also working 7 days per week in Somerset, Atlantic City, and Caven Point.