NEW YORK CITY (Sept. 11, 2012) - Eleven years after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York City and at the Pentagon, Soldiers, Airmen and sea services personnel from the New York National Guard remain on duty to prevent terrorist attacks throughout the city.
Joint Task Force - Empire Shield has been on duty at the direction of the New York governor to serve as sensors and deterrents to terrorist activity.
The task force has close to 300 service members from the Army National Guard, Air National Guard and New York Naval Militia to guard and patrol potential targets such as airports, train and bus stations, and even the waterways surrounding the city.
Working with 54 partner agencies to include New York City Police Department, Port Authority Police Department, U.S. Coast Guard, Transportation Security Administration, and the Department of Homeland Security, the task force sends Soldiers and Airmen to points in the city for shifts that coincide with heavy commuter traffic.
The service members are armed and are authorized to use necessary force to defend themselves, fellow service members and civilians.
The task force can assist with traffic or crowd control as necessary, but they do not have arrest authority. Typically they stand guard near police officers to assist them when needed.
The fact that there has not been an incident where the task force has been present can be attributed to its existence.
"You don't know what you prevent," said Lt. Col. Peter Riley, Joint Task Force - Empire Shield commander. "The fact that we haven't had a major attack in the city says something about the task force."
In addition to New York City, the task force operates at Peekskill Bay near West Point and the Joint Force Headquarters for the National Guard in Latham, NY.
One portion of the task force is on Mission 1, which is at posts that are not to be abandoned if there is an incident. A second portion is on Mission 2, which is at posts that can be left to respond to an incident. A third portion stays at Fort Hamilton to respond to last-minute needs, and the service members rotate missions each week.
Soldiers and Airmen still attend their weekend training with their M-Day unit in addition to their full-time job on the task force.
"We give a better-trained service member back to their unit," Riley said.
Most of them have civilian jobs being held for them while they serve on the task force. Some of the service members are geographic bachelors and live in barracks until they have a pass to go home.
Even with the demands placed on task force service members, it is a coveted position and only those who meet high performance and conduct standards are selected and retained.
"It's a privilege to be on this mission," said Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Ed Mondezie, senior enlisted leader of Joint Task Force - Empire Shield.