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National Guard Maintains A Large Presence in Sandy-Impacted Areas

Fewer than 100 Guardsmen and women remain from the initial 1,000, though they still provide a valuable service

It’s Sunday afternoon. A few hours ago guardsmen were stationed along the barrier island, huddled in the rain around makeshift fire pits or loaded up in Humvees touring the still-devastated landscape. Now, they’ve taken their positions in armchairs in front of the big screen to watch with mild interest as the Cowboys take on the Bengals.

More than a month ago the National Guard was deployed in New Jersey to help assist with evacuations prior to Hurricane Sandy. They remained for the immediate aftermath to assist with search and rescue. Finally, what was anticipated as only a three to five day deployment for observation and surveillance has turned into a two-month stay.

The continued presence of the now less than 100 National Guardsmen and women along the Jersey Shore remains an indication that some of the most seriously impacted towns are still days and weeks away from getting to the point where they can patrol themselves, but for the men serving and the residents whose homes they’re guarding, the continued promise of safety is hardly an imposition.

“We like to joke that we provide cheap labor,” Staff Sgt. Ray Butterwick said from Silverton’s EMS station Sunday. “It is cheaper to have us here, but we’re happy to help and everyone that’s here wants us to be here.”

Though the personalities of the guardsmen are different, their lengths of service ranging from months to decades, and their career motivations varied, they’re all here for the same reason, to help. And while a decade of war has distorted the Guard’s purpose and seen more platoon deployments overseas in combat areas than ever before, it’s being able to provide assistance to those who need it most, here, on our shores, that's worthwhile.

“It’s nice to be in the Guard and to do something on the humanitarian side,” Butterwick said of the Sandy duty. “That’s our purpose, that’s what we’re here for: to help our communities in times of disaster.”

And the help has been warranted, too. Butterwick and his platoon, comprised of New Jersey residents, hail mostly from towns that were spared from Sandy, save downed trees and power outages. Even knowing tat the hurricane’s impact on the shore had been significant, it still came as a shock to see it first hand.

“It was a little surreal,” he said. “We came in not knowing to expect but were still surprised at the destruction, houses washed away and missing. It was akin to a warzone. I’ve been in parts of Iraq that I can honestly say are comparable to this.”

Butterwick and his platoon have been stationed in Toms River to patrol Ortley Beach for nearly a month. They’ll remain in Toms River until on or about Jan. 1, according to most estimates. When they first arrived they bunked in an unheated warehouse before being moved to an armory. Eventually, Silverton EMS offered their facility to house locally deployed guardsman, giving them a warm place to relax in between 12-hour shifts.

It was a welcome offer in exchange for their continued vigilance of the barrier island – a separate platoon stationed in Brick covers that township’s section of the barrier island – a deal that’s made sweeter by near-daily offerings of home cooked food and snacks that are delivered to the station and the many variations of a simple thanks extended by local officials and residents who have been looking for a steady hand following Sandy.

“We just want to make it as comfortable as possible for them,” Silverton EMS Vice President Kevin Geoghegan said. “Our crews are in and out so we were happy to share the space. When they have a few hours or a day off, we’re glad they can relax here.”

Silverton isn’t alone in its support of the guardsmen. In Sea Bright, where the National Guard set up a small tent city before moving out over the weekend, local restaurant owners from towns like Sea Bright and Red Bank helped keep them well fed by donating and preparing food on a regular basis. Troops there were also treated to a concert by Train, which filmed a Sandy relief special for the town’s residents and first responders.

And though the deployment hasn’t been one necessarily of excitement for the Guardsmen, it’s been invaluable to the towns and their residents who have struggled in Sandy’s wake.   

In the weeks following Sandy, the National Guard provided much-needed 24 hour a day support on the barrier islands. With towns lacking the personnel and resources to provide the same coverage and without the ability to staff the island with State Police, an unlikely prospect simply because of the massive costs that would have followed, the Guard stepped up. Running two, 12-hour shifts a day, the Guard provided a presence, one that offered property owners of impacted towns a feeling of relief and one that warned off prospective looters and, as is still the case in many towns that have seen destruction, disaster tourists.

With power restored to the impacted towns and other services, like natural gas, expected back in the next couple of days, the Guard has scaled down to one shift a day, the overnight 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. shift. It’s a welcome change for the guardsmen who have been stationed there for the past month, Butterwick said.

“Most of them have responded really well, but it’s kind of a morale thing,” he said. “You work six days a week you’re working 72 hours. It’s been a real challenge though we’ve been lucky to get a day or two off a week.”

The guardsmen who remain have volunteered for the duty, Butterwick said, and are comprised of veterans like himself – Butterwick, a member of the 112 Field Artillery has been in the military for 17 years and has completed tours of both Iraq and Afghanistan – and new Guard recruits like Pvt. Spc. Lawrence Harris who completed basic training over the summer.

“It’s been rewarding,” Harris said. “The best part has been being able to help and meet people from the different towns. It’s been great to build relationships with the other soldiers who are in this with you.”

For all of those serving, Butterwick said the experience has been a good one, if only because the work they’re doing is recognized.

“People are really happy to have us here. They know we’re out there for public safety and to look out for them and they appreciate it,” he said.

Jennifer B December 10, 2012 at 05:20 PM
I am the wife of Sergeant First Class Butterwick.( not Staff Sergeant). I am very proud of my husband, and all of the soldiers that have given their time to help those devastated by Hurricane Sandy. They have sacrificed precious moments with their family for the support of other families. There is nothing about the Natuonal Guard that includes merely a weekend commitment. They are committed 24/7, here and overseas, to all that are in need. I am proud to be a Military Wife. Hooah!
suz December 10, 2012 at 05:36 PM
And you should be Jennifer....Thank you for your sacrifice also.
Bowie Thelonius December 10, 2012 at 06:08 PM
I was more than happy to see the National Guard in my area, especially when we were without power. Nothing like total darkness to make you realize how vulnerable you can be. Many thanks to the men and women of the Guard!
Bob Crawford December 10, 2012 at 06:54 PM
I own a local tree service company and we have been donating truckloads of firewood once a week since Thanksgiving to their checkpoints (just my way of giving back to the community and helping our military). I can't understand why they do not have temporary heated guard quarters set up at the checkpoints.
Mark Bernstein December 10, 2012 at 06:55 PM
Thank you very much for your presence in the towns that suffered a loss. your presence not only made the places safer but showed that we have a great military.
Big Whitey December 10, 2012 at 07:16 PM
I have to agree with Uncle Moe. All they did here in LB was stop me from bringing my dog to the beach. And why does FEMA need so much fencing and security for their camps? Here in LB, places started opening Tuesday morning, and the police were shutting them down. Why? The Broadway chicken guy got arrested. The Liquor had to watch for police as they sold me my rum. It did demonstrate how quick we will be rounded up and fenced in.
BN December 10, 2012 at 08:06 PM
People need to stop whining. When the Guard shows up you bitch about their presence. When the Red Cross arrives, you bitch that they're not doing enough. Count your blessings and STFU!
Irina December 10, 2012 at 08:16 PM
@Uncle Moe....You miserable old fart. My kid is in the NJ National Guard. She was assisting YOU and the rest of us. Risking their lives for ungrateful pigs like YOU. How dare you? It's muts like you that KARMA comes looking for.
Irina December 10, 2012 at 08:19 PM
Thank you Jennifer and your husband. My daughter is in the National Guard and I couldn't be more proud of her, and all of these good people. HOOAH!!!!!!!
Big Whitey December 10, 2012 at 08:21 PM
Like I said, the Guard did nothing here in LB but keep me from the beach, and I live on an ocean block. My blessing are because I prepared for the storm, didnt evacuate like ordered to, and cleaned up my own place afterwards. In other words, I rolled up my sleeves and got to work. That is what America used to do before we started relying on someone to show up and do it for us.
Big Whitey December 10, 2012 at 08:28 PM
And this is not a diatribe against those people in the Guard, they do what they are told, and do it right. I am just saying we didnt need them here in LB to patrol the beachfront and keep people off the beach. This used to be a free country.
Willy Nilly December 10, 2012 at 10:07 PM
It's time to end this culture of soldier worship. They are not gods, they have a job to do, and they are paid for it.
J.JONES December 10, 2012 at 11:05 PM
@Moe ..your kidding ..these men and women in the National Guard were there to help protect from the scum from robbing your homes until they get repaired or people had the chance to get there property...Your just a big Idiot...Go National guard and Thank YOU
Eddie December 11, 2012 at 12:14 AM
Willy Nilly, what branch of the service did you serve in? What have you done for your country during your lifetime? I am thinking NOTHING but take care of yourself. Thank you NJA- ARNG for what your doing. I know you get paid, but it is nothing next to your regular jobs.
Angelica Chavez December 11, 2012 at 12:43 AM
My dad is one of the soldiers stationed at LB and he has been there since the day after the storm. I left our house (which didn't have electricity or heat) to go to LB because he felt that we were safe and knew that other areas needed his help. As his daughter, I sometimes get upset because we have to deal with things that happen at home without him, but I admire his dedication as a soldier to helping others and I know he does it from the heart (yes he gets paid, but his salary at his regular job is higher). Honestly, I feel insulted when I see comments about ungrateful people that don't value the efforts that soldiers in the guard make to help them out, and the sacrifices their families make when they don't have them around. Next time you talk about soldiers as a nuance, think about the things that would happen if they weren't there; because its easy to talk when you are safe, but I am sure that if they weren't there and robberies were occurring, everyone would be complaining about the lack of presence from the guard.
J.JONES December 11, 2012 at 01:22 AM
Angelica you should be proud and tell him Thank You
Susan S December 11, 2012 at 01:56 AM
Angelica - some of us really DO appreciate it. I like to think more people than not.
WMS826 December 11, 2012 at 03:08 AM
FEMA camps are being built in Jackson and black helicopters are seen flying all around the area. Union Beach is now a Russian naval base and the Chinese have landed in San Diego.
Barbara December 11, 2012 at 04:44 AM
Are they really building a FEMA camp in Jackson? And if they are is the barbed wire facing in or out?
George Clark December 11, 2012 at 05:20 AM
wms829 is it gonna be a red dawn tomorow and if so, do you need any ammo? lol. It is scary what millitary doctrines have made one or many do terribel things unto many others for love of country or God or more truly for just straight up cash. I'm not saying any of our troops are or have done these things. Just saying it's scary to think what we can be taught or tricked into doing onto one another on massive scales. shalom.
George Clark December 11, 2012 at 05:20 AM
wms829 is it gonna be a red dawn tomorow and if so, do you need any ammo? lol. It is scary what millitary doctrines have made one or many do terribel things unto many others for love of country or God or more truly for just straight up cash. I'm not saying any of our troops are or have done these things. Just saying it's scary to think what we can be taught or tricked into doing onto one another on massive scales. shalom.
BobDee December 11, 2012 at 06:22 AM
If we are allowed to be armed, open carry and protect our property we wouldn't need the military to do it for us.
Tom Cular December 11, 2012 at 11:14 AM
It's my bet that you never served in the military, and if you were old enough during the Vietnam era, you probably would have ran to Canada. Folks like you turn my stomach.
Tom Cular December 11, 2012 at 11:19 AM
Be proud of your dad and ignore the moaners and groaners who never lifted a finger to help others, they're not worth it.
WMS826 December 11, 2012 at 11:25 AM
How does barbed wire change direction??
WMS826 December 11, 2012 at 11:28 AM
Truthfully Franklin Roosevelt and JFK had these camps in motion during the red scare of the 1930's and the Cuban Misslie Crisis of JFK's 1960's. Check it out. They may not be building these now as i joke tongue in cheek, but there is a goverment plan in place should things get dicey and the goverment begins to fall. there always have been.
Tim O C December 11, 2012 at 12:34 PM
@BobbyDee you can carry in Fla and Tex do you think they have no crime lol gotta love the right wing nut jobs
Rachel Tomasi December 11, 2012 at 12:58 PM
The vast majority of us are very thankful for our safety and problems such as looting that were almost entirely prevented thx to police and guard precense vs what the potential was for it and as stated by another especially when we were literally and figuratively in the dark due to power AND CELL outtages and the general feeling of well being they gave us, as well I'm sure as those who were either staying hours away with family or whose second homes were here. To those whose daughter, husband and father etc are all here or were THANK YOU and please thank them again for us. The overwhelming outpouring of food warm drinks and anything the people could do to say Ty proves the gratitude of the people!!!
Christine N. December 11, 2012 at 01:18 PM
Thank you National Guard for all that you have done and continue to do to keep families safe that were affected by Hurricane Sandy! God Bless you All :)
doreen December 11, 2012 at 01:30 PM
I am grateful for all the national guard, police, fkre,and everyone else who when we are in need step in. They put others first before themselves. I for one felt safe having police at the end of out street monitoring who was going in and out.it didn t bother me when tbe firemen went door to door to make sure we were ok and our gas was off I don t understand people who are bothered by these things or bya siren waking them up at midnight!! As soon as i see or know of the police , Fire department or milatary i know help is here and my sense of security restored. All i can say is thank you for keeping me safe

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