LATHAM, N.Y. -- Whether they're running a lanes training exercise at Camp Smith or launching a mission from Gabreski Air National Guard Base, it can be easy for our NCOs to forget that they are part of something bigger than their battalion, squadron, brigade or wing.

Sure, the Army National Guard and Air National Guard are part of the Army and Air Force. That's right on our uniforms.

And that means we have different leadership structures, different cultures, and even different professional languages.

An Army National Guard Soldier says "M-Day" to describe a part-time Soldier while our Air Guard Airman talks about "traditional Guardsman."

Soldiers have Military Occupational Specialties while Airmen talk about their Air Force Specialty Code.

Our NCO rank insignia are different and until recently we even had different combat uniforms.

But whether it says Army or Air Force on your uniform were all part of the entity known as the New York National Guard.

That means we share a history, which starts with the Dutch settlers on Manhattan, and includes the militiamen who fought British raiders during the American Revolution and the New York National Guard response to 9/11.

Together, we play an important role in coming to the aid of the people of New York. And we work together more often than you'd think.

Army and Air Guard members respond when a hurricane threatens Long Island, when the Southern Tier faces flooding, or when a snowstorm hits our in Western New York.

New York National Guard Soldiers and Airmen serve together on Joint Task Force Empire Shield to help protect New York City's vital transport hubs from attack and serve jointly in the New York National Guard Counterdrug Task Force. They also serve together in the 2nd and 24th Civil Support Teams, the units trained to identify chemical, radiological, biological and nuclear threats.

Our Air Guard and Army Guard officers work side-by-side in our Joint Forces Headquarters.

In our operations section, for example, an Air National Guard officer serves as the deputy to an Army Guard operations officer. And an Air Guard officer is the inspector general for the New York National Guard, with Army Guard NCOs and officers working for her.

During disaster response missions, standing up joint task force headquarters puts our staffs side by side as well. Army and Air Guard experts often work together jointly for operations, logistics, communications or personnel administration to put forces out on disaster sites.

One of my goals as senior enlisted advisor for the New York National Guard is to develop more jointness in our Army and Air Guard NCO corps. While we may have different service tags on our uniforms, I believe there is a lot we can learn from each other.

Army and Air Guard NCOs face different challenges and responsibilities that contribute to their different cultures.

I grew up in the Air Force culture and it's where I am most comfortable. We have a different way of doing things than the Army may. But I've learned from fellow NCOs in the Army that the way they do things works too.

Our Army and Air Guard NCOs are going to be called on more and more frequently to work together while responding to state missions. I want us to understand the challenges we each face and the things we can learn from each other.

Everything new that we learn is another tool in our toolbox when it comes time to solving problems.
To help this process I will be holding a joint senior NCO conference later this year. My goal is to get our senior enlisted leaders together to exchange ideas, share common challenges, and determine what the best ways are to make our New York National Guard better.

As senior NCOs we are the problem solvers the officer corps turns to when things need to happen. There are things we can learn from each other. Nobody has all the answers and we can always learn from each other. We can put our training and experiences in combat, here at home to serve our state and nation.

We NCOs must own the responsibility for making the New York National Guard better and more effective. We must be willing to learn from other NCOS in different units and in different services.

Sergeants make things happen and by working together as Army and Air Guard NCOs, who are all part of the New York National Guard, we can support our leaders, take care of our troops, and serve our neighbors better in 2019.