Saratoga County

Guardsmen discuss training, leadership

The most senior and powerful enlisted service members in the National Guard from across the United S

The most senior and powerful enlisted service members in the National Guard from across the United States are meeting this weekend in Saratoga Springs.

“I’m the buffer between the managers and the workers, between the officers and the soldiers,” said Robert Van Pelt, the command sergeant major for the New York National Guard.

Van Pelt works closely with Maj. Gen. Joseph J. Taluto, adjutant general of the New York National Guard.

This first-ever National Guard senior noncommissioned officers conference at the Saratoga Hilton comes at a time when the military is relying on the National Guard more than ever before.

Between 40 and 50 percent of the Army troops on the ground in Iraq are, or will be, from Army National Guard units.

“They are all volunteers,” said National Guard Command Sgt. Maj. David Ray Hudson about the members of the Army and Air National Guards.

“They come into the military knowing that a war is going on,” Hudson said.

Hudson, who is a former captain in the Alaska State Police and an Air Force veteran as well as a 24-year member of the National Guard, said New York state should be proud.

He said about 10,000 state residents have signed up to be in the Guard over the past year or two.

Van Pelt said he has spent a considerable amount of time at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington visiting New York National Guardsmen injured in Iraq.

“We do whatever we can for the soldiers,” said Van Pelt, who lives in Clifton Park and Blue Mountain Lake.

Van Pelt talked about some of the seriously injured guardsmen from the greater Capital Region, including several young men from Charlie Co., 2nd Battalion, 108th Infantry out of Glens Falls and the town of Moreau.

One of these soldiers, Nathan Brown of Moreau, was killed and four were seriously injured in Iraq in 2002. These soldiers were the subject of a national television special two years ago.

Hudson said this conference in Saratoga Springs, which runs through Sunday, is the first time both Army and Air National Guard senior enlisted men and women gathered for a national conference.

Hudson said about 120 men and women from nearly 50 states, three territories (Guam, Puerto Rico and the American Virgin Islands) and the District of Columbia are attending the conference.

Hudson is responsible for advising the National Guard Bureau on enlisted affairs of the 475,000 solders and airmen of the Army and Air National Guard. He is assigned to the office of the chief, National Guard Bureau.

“They have issues common to them and not common to them,” Hudson said during an interview about the Air and Army National Guards.

One of the programs both arms of the National Guard work together on is the Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Units.

Created after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the National Guard sends teams into situations where a weapon of mass destruction, a bomb or chemical weapon, is suspected to have been placed.

The conference allows the senior enlisted service members, who provide critical advice to their state National Guard commanders, the chance to learn from each other and from experts on training and leadership.

Taluto opened the conference Friday morning with a talk. The attendees then visited the New York State Military Museum on Lake Avenue.

On Sunday the senior enlisted personnel will be going to the Saratoga Springs Police Department’s Police Benevolent Association (PBA) Range for a demonstration of nonlethal weapons used in riot control. The entire group will then visit the Saratoga National Historical Park in Stillwater.

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