CORTLANDT MANOR, NY -The New York National Guard's historic Camp Smith Training Site now has its own garrison flag and the Soldiers who support the installation are wearing their own distinctive unit patch.
The patch replaces the New York National Guard Joint Force Headquarters patch soldiers who work at Camp Smith have worn for years. The new flag indicates that Camp Smith is also Training Center Garrison Command: New York.
The new patch and flag mark Camp Smith as a component in the Army National Guard Training Center network that stretches across the country with centers in almost every state.
The 41 soldiers assigned to run the 1,585 acres of Camp Smith, which first opened as a National Guard training base in 1882, marked the change on Monday June 3 with a flag unfurling and "re-patching" ceremony at the training center's highest point overlooking the Hudson River.
The new garrison flag was unfurled by Command Sgt. Maj. Thomas Seifert and then each soldier ceremonially traded their old patch for the new one. The soldiers also had a picnic lunch and shared a cake with a copy of their new flag on it.
The change is part of an effort to provide better service to the Guard and other units which Camp Smith and other Army National Guard training centers support. The National Guard started to organize its own network of Training Center Garrison Commands in 2007 and the patch the Camp Smith Soldiers now wear was authorized in 2011.
The first National Guard-wide training session for National Guard Garrison Commanders was held in 2012 in Georgia.
The Active Army created Garrison Commands in 2002 to manage its bases across the United States and around the world. This separate command structure took the burden of running a post like Fort Drum off the shoulders of the major unit commander so that he or she could focus on their mission and training.
The National Guard Training Center system is designed to do the same thing for the National Guard, recognizing that it takes a special kind of expertise when Soldiers are responsible for running a post and training operations on the post, said Lt. Col. Robert Epp, the Camp Smith Commander.
Adopting a garrison flag, and wearing a distinctive patch is a way of building pride in what his soldiers' do, Epp said.
Camp Smith, which was originally named Camp Townsend and renamed after Governor Al Smith in 1924, has been the New York National Guard's main training facility.
The facility has played host to National Guard Annual Training as well as served as a mobilization facility for the National Guard. Camp Smith has also been used as a command and logistic hub during state responses to disasters ranging from the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, to the response to Tropical Storm Irene in 2011 and Hurricane Sandy in 2012.