NY Guard volunteer force senior leader reflects on 20 years of state service

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WEST POINT, N.Y. (01/12/2018) Former New York Guard state defense force commander and Garden City resident Brig. Gen. Stephen A. Bucaria reflected on his 20 years of service to the State of New York December 2, 2017 at the annual New York Guard holiday celebration at West Point, N.Y., providing guidance and vision for the next generation of New York Guard volunteers.

Bucaria retired in August 2016 after 20 years of volunteer service as a member of the state defense force, the New York Guard. He was the commander of the New York Guard from July of 2014 until August 2016.

"Accomplish the mission and take care of your people," Bucaria told the holiday celebration attendees, saying that this simple thought summed up his service with the New York Guard.

Bucaria joined the New York Guard in 1996, providing legal services as an attorney with the 7th Regiment. He joined a group of professionals whose talents and experience were utilized during difficult and stressful times in the lives of the state's National Guard Soldiers and Airmen, he said.

A graduate of Hofstra Law School, in his civilian career Bucaria was elected in 1993 to the District Court of Nassau County and then in 1995 was elected Justice of the Supreme Court of the State of New York where his work continues to this day.

His volunteer service in the Guard was simply an extension of his commitment to public service, Bucaria said. The New York Guard is the state's uniformed defense force which augments the New York Army and Air National Guard during state emergencies.

New York Guard members are true volunteers, Bucaria said. They receive no pay for routine training but are paid when placed on State Active Duty orders during an emergency. New York Guard members assist National Guard units with logistics and administrative support during emergencies and also undertake missions in the field.

After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Bucaria and his team helped cordon off the World Trade Center site, decontaminate trucks and inventory materiel.

Ordered to duty the morning of the terror attack, on September 12 Bucaria and his unit of lawyers arrived in New York City. After an initial deployment of five days in Manhattan, he helped organize a distribution center at a supermarket warehouse in Hicksville, Long Island for relief supplies.

It was here that rank and privilege were left at the door, Bucaria remembered.

Looking back, Bucaria said, September 11, 2001 forever and fundamentally changed not only the world we live in but the New York Guard as well.

These volunteers became working soldiers, spending hours unloading trailers of relief supplies, sleeping on unfolded cardboard boxes, often on the floor, and doing anything they could to respond to the attack, he said.

After his 9/11 experiences, Bucaria transferred from legal affairs and became the New York Guard's deputy commander for operations.

In that role, he planned and executed changes to the organization's training and promotion policies.

The next challenge was leading the reorganization of the New York Guard when Bucaria became the defense force commander in 2014. The shift in focus and organization shaped the New York Guard force that deployed across the state in 2017, for flood response on Lake Ontario to

The New York Guard that we all serve today owes an enormous debt of gratitude to Brig. Gen. Bucaria, said current acting commander Col. David Warager.

"His talents and skills have helped to shape the organization we are so proud of. His legacy of professionalism will be remembered long after we have moved on to other challenges," Warager said.

Story by New York Guard Spc. Richard Mayfied.