Cavalry Deploys To Air Bases

Photos and story by Tech. Sgt. Mark Olsen, NJDMAVA/PA


There’s a new team in town. One hundred and fifty-two members of the 5th Squadron, 117th Cavalry, have been transformed into the 5-117th Armor Reconnaissance Squadron and deployed to McGuire Air Force Base - 120 troops - and the 177th Fighter Wing - 32 troops - as part of Operation Noble Eagle to provide additional base and flightline security.

"As an Air Force leader I'm very happy to see our young troops, both enlisted and officer, be exposed to the professionalism and unique skills of the New Jersey Army National Guard NCO corps," stated Capt. Mark C. Anarumo, Operations Officer, 305th Security Forces, McGuire Air Force Base. "That experience will be a great addition to theireadership toolbox."

"My staff has integrated into all the Air Force staff sections," said Capt. Tim Cole, Commanding Officer, 5th Squadron, 117th Cavalry. "My people are performing law enforcement backup, internal and external security, checkpoint 9 vehicle search - we're everywhere."

Since the events of Sept. 11, the 5th Squadron, 117th Cavalry has been one of the most deployed units in the NJARNG. Following the terrorist attacks against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, 5th Squadron guardsmenwere placed on state active duty and Title 10 federal status to perform security missions at the Hudson River bridges and tunnels, Newark International Airport, the Salem Nuclear Power Plant, and at other key infrastructure throughout the state. The unit was again placed on alert in the weeks surrounding the first anniversary of Sept. 11th.

“Most of my troops served at the bridges and tunnels, as well as other state security missions. Only five of the 32 have never done anything like this before,” observed 19-year New Jersey Army National Guard veteran Staff Sgt. Alfred Lamar, NCOIC of the Atlantic City International Airport detail of the 5-117th Armor Reconnaissance Squadron.

“It has been a vast learning experience, doing duties that are not in our MOS’s (Military Occupapational Specialties),” stated 2ndLt. Robert Jenkins, Officer in Charge of the newly constituted 5- 117th Armor Reconnaissance Squadron at Pomona. “Even though it looks similar to what we did at the bridges and tunnels, there is a much greater level of responsibility here.”

If the idea of having an Army Guard unit serving at Air Guard and active-duty Air Force bases seems strange it’s because it’s never been done before. The constant demand for Security Forces worldwide has resulted in a strain on the Guard, Reserve, and the active-duty Air Force Security Forces.

On Jan. 11 the entire 5th Squadron, 117th Cavalry reported to their various armories around the state to begin pre-mobilizationtraining in preparation for up to one year of active duty service. This followed an historic agreement between the Secretaries of the Army and Air Force and Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs.

Following the premobilization training, Lt. Col. Michael V. Shute, Squadron Commander, chose 152 soldiers to be deployed. After six days at Fort Drum, N.Y., the troops arrived at their respective duty stations on Feb. 10.

“The way the Air Guard traitheir security forces is fantastic,” noted Staff Sgt. Lamar. “They prepared us very well for what we are doing. This will help some of the younger troops who are interested in law enforcement as a career.” The majority of the troops deployed are between the ages of 18 and 38.

“So far so good. I'm on the day shift and am doing a completely different job than I was trained for. have a cooking MOS,” said Spc. Amy Pendola, the only female deployed to the 177th. Prior to volunteering for the mission, Pendola attended the Moore College of Art and Design thanks to the Guard’s tuition reimbursement plan.

Moreover, knowing that they are a critical element of our nation’s war on terrorism and a key player in Homeland Security missions is very important to the New Jersey Army Guardsmen. “Some of my troops feel that if they can’t deploy overseas, they’d rather be here making a difference,” observed Staff Sgt. Lamar. “I know Homeland Security is very important and appreciate being part of this mission,” concluded Spc. Pendola.

Spc. Pendola’s statement underscores the new duties and reality facing the New Jersey Army National Guard unit. Traditionally, the majority of 5th Squadron troops serve with tank, mortar, or scout units; utilizing the M1 Abrams main battle tank, 81mm mortars mounted in M-113 armored personnel carriers, and helicopters to provide rapid deployment/combat capability. The 5th is a subordinate unit within the 50th Armored Brigade, 42nd Infantry Division.

Inevitably the question comes up: can the Army and Air Guard perform the same mission together? Based upon the response of both the leadership and the troops, the answer is yes.

All are members of "New Jersey's Hometown Team.