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A Call for Justice: NY Guard Members Demand Governor’s Intervention Amidst Chaos


In our previous discussions on the New York Guard, we delved into a broad spectrum of topics, including the significant number of discharges across the ranks—from senior non-commissioned officers and high-ranking officers to even the lower-enlisted soldiers—for various reasons. One notable topic we covered is the refusal to grant waivers for soldiers with shaving profiles. This condition, recognized by both the US Army and the National Guard, leads affected individuals to develop hives across their face after shaving. Our exploration aimed to shed light on how such policies impact the personnel within the New York Guard, contrasting their approach with the accommodating measures of other military branches.

The transformations within the organization extend well beyond medical waivers, with the most significant adjustment being the downsizing of each Area Command from brigade-sized units to platoon-sized ones. This restructuring left numerous soldiers without designated positions. To address this, these soldiers were reassigned to the 12th Support Command Detachment, a unit colloquially known by various names including the “control group” and, among New York Guard members, the “Punishment Unit.” This shift posed considerable logistical challenges for many, turning what used to be a brief 10-15 minute drive to their local unit into a daunting journey of several hours to Camp Smith, New York, significantly impacting the daily lives and commitments of hundreds of soldiers across the state.

Another pressing issue emerged with the introduction of the New York Guard’s attendance system, Gops, designed to monitor soldiers’ attendance and ensure they meet the required 75% participation rate. This system, however, proved to be flawed, providing inaccurate data on soldiers’ attendance records. Remarkably, soldiers who attended 100% of their drills found themselves recorded with a mere 17% attendance rate in this faulty system. In the face of these inaccuracies, soldiers falling below the threshold found themselves without the possibility of obtaining waivers for work obligations, personal commitments, or medical issues. Moreover, the opportunity for makeup time, which was assured by Brigadier General Peter Riley, the Commanding General of the New York Guard, in 2023, was not honored. Our investigations reveal that many, if not all, of these significant organizational changes were directed by Colonel Stephen Ryan. Feedback from a wide array of sources, including those who personally know Colonel Ryan and those who have served under him, consistently lacked any positive remarks. Even a personal friend and fellow soldier described him as “not a friend of soldiers,” highlighting a disconcerting disconnect between leadership actions and soldier welfare. We discuss more in the following article – Click Here to Read.

In other features, we delve into interviews with two former New York Guardsmen, each with decades of service in the New York Guard, who were abruptly dismissed. Additionally, we explore the complete shutdown of the New York Guard’s social media presence. Our coverage includes links to these articles, offering a comprehensive look at the series of events that have unfolded.

Strict Policies At New York Guard Lead to Loss of Veteran Guardsmen, Two Soldiers Share Their Story

The Silence of Service: New York Guard’s Social Media Sites Taken Offline

In every grievance presented to us, Colonel Ryan emerged as the pivotal figure, making decisions that invariably led to adverse outcomes. A particularly alarming accusation came from a former New York Guard doctor who claimed he was directed by higher-ups to identify any possible fault in soldiers or officers during physical examinations to justify their discharge.

These widespread discharges, alongside the drastic reorganizations and the reassignment of soldiers and units, compelled numerous members of the New York Guard to seek intervention from the Governor’s Office of New York, hoping for redress and a reversal of these unsettling trends.

In a detailed letter to Governor Hochul, Anthony Antonucci, a former First Sergeant of the 56th Area Command within the New York Guard (NYG), outlines the circumstances leading to his dismissal, which he attributes to minor administrative issues and baseless accusations, presenting them as indicative of larger problems of misconduct and unfair treatment within the NYG. Antonucci, who has a long and distinguished record of service both in the NYG and outside of it, including significant contributions during the COVID-19 pandemic, expresses his disillusionment with the NYG’s leadership, particularly targeting COL Stephen Ryan for creating a hostile work environment, engaging in dishonest behavior, and potentially being involved in criminal activities. He suggests his removal was strategic, aimed at silencing him as a witness in an ongoing investigation and facilitating Ryan’s control over the NYG, especially concerning the management and future direction of its medical unit. Antonucci hints at pursuing formal action through an Equal Employment Opportunity complaint to address what he perceives as discriminatory actions and a hostile work environment orchestrated by COL Ryan, urging the Governor to investigate these matters to restore justice and integrity within the NYG.

 

Dear Governor Hochul,
I am writing to you concerning the unfortunate circumstances surrounding my recent
removal from the position of First Sergeant of the 56th Area Command within the New York
Guard.

It is with a heavy heart that I bring these matters to your attention, in the hopes of finding
resolution and justice. I am a highly decorated veteran of the NYPD with 20 years of service and
a lieutenant with the Congers-Valley Cottage Volunteer Ambulance Corps. With an unwavering
dedication I have also proudly served the NYG for over two decades, contributing diligently to
its missions and objectives. Over the course of my tenure, I have held the rank of acting Sergeant Major in the G3, been honored to receive recognition for my meritorious service, including a prestigious medal for processing over 200 physicals during the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown to facilitate promotions, recruitment, and retention stability for the NYG. I accomplished this over the course of 18 months at the height of the pandemic. Over my 11 years as the First Sergeant for the 244th Medical Unit, I orchestrated the seamless relocation of the entire clinic on multiple occasions, all executed with utmost professionalism and commitment. Moreover, I readily and willingly accepted a reduction in rank from acting Sergeant Major of the G3 section in NYG HQ to First Sergeant of the 56th AC, as requested by COL Stephen Ryan, for the betterment of the NYG.

In my personal time, I raised almost $1,000 in donations for the New York Guard
Association, showcasing my dedication to the service member’s needs. During the height of the
COVID-19 pandemic, I personally collected over $50,000 worth of personal protective
equipment generously donated by various Rockland County EMS organizations and delivered to NYC Covid centers on my own time, including masks, oxygen tanks, gloves, gowns, shields, nebulizers, hazmat suits, and more. I received a letter from the New York National Guard thanking me for my efforts. However, the New York Guard has refused to grant me the award I had been put forward for, reportedly as a form of reprisal following my dismissal.

Regrettably, I find myself unfairly removed from the esteemed position of First Sergeant
of the 56th Area Command due to an administrative oversight involving the incorrect checking
off of a box on a form. This action, taken out of context and without consideration for my long standing record of exemplary service, has dealt a severe blow to my morale. Additionally, I have
been reprimanded for utilizing the abbreviation “1st SGT” instead of “1SG,” a practice which I
have employed consistently for over a decade without incident. It is disheartening to face
disciplinary action for matters as trivial as these, particularly considering my extensive tenure
and contributions to the NYG. Furthermore, I have been unjustly accused of rushing a soldier
through the Guard Readiness Test, a test which I and another service member invented. Such
baseless accusations undermine my integrity and dedication to upholding the standards of
excellence within the NYG.

I have been subjected to baseless accusations of “breaking and entering” into my own
office. This allegation is a gross misrepresentation of the situation. For several months, NYG HQ
failed to provide keys to the 56th AC building and so it was standard practice to utilize makeshift
methods, such as a screwdriver or pliers, to secure and access the building. On the day of the
alleged incident, I advised the 56th AC Commander that I would be visiting my office to collect
my Service Uniform in preparation for a military gala. During the alleged incident, I was engaged in a discussion with Mike Panzer, the Deputy Administrator for Camp Smith. I am the
owner of Anchor Fence Contractors Inc. and previously installed the perimeter fence and slide
gates around building 500 and that prompted a conversation about Camp Smith’s damaged
fencing needing repairs. This interaction with Mr. Panzer underscores the baselessness of the
accusations and displays there were no nefarious intentions or actions on my part. Following this incident I faced unjust treatment, including unwarranted aggression and verbal abuse from COL Stephen Ryan.

I sincerely believe the actions and behaviors of COL Stephen Ryan are unbecoming of an officer and a gentleman. He has created a hostile work environment, engaged in dishonest and unethical behavior, and is allegedly involved in criminal activity as reported in an ongoing

lawsuit. His disrespectful and offensive behavior towards NYG service members undermines the
principles and values of the organization and the NY State military code of conduct. I personally
believe that my removal from the position of First Sergeant was arranged to eliminate me as a
witness in the investigation concerning LT Cisneros and MAJ Doria, and to facilitate the
appointment of COL Stephen Ryan’s associate. Had he approached me as a gentleman, I would have gladly stepped down to allow anyone else to take the position, rather than the underhanded manner in which I was removed.

Now that the 244th medical unit has been disbanded, rumors suggest that the NYG is
attempting to establish a new medical unit, one devoid of physicians, possibly with the intention
of granting COL Ryan greater control and influence. An alleged incident involving COL Stephen
Ryan asking a physician to falsify medical records raises serious doubts about the integrity of a
proposed physician-less medical unit under his authority.
Given the egregious circumstances, I am left with no choice but to consider pursuing
formal action. The consistent pattern of unjust treatment, baseless accusations, and retaliation,
coordinated by COL Stephen Ryan, may necessitate filing an Equal Employment Opportunity
complaint. This complaint would detail the discriminatory actions and hostile work environment
created by COL Ryan, including his alleged involvement in unethical behavior and criminal
activity.
In light of these unfortunate events, I implore you to investigate my case with careful
consideration. I remain steadfast in my commitment to the principles and values of the NYG, and I trust that justice will prevail in this matter. It is imperative that these matters are thoroughly
explored to uphold the principles and values of the NYG, ensure accountability, and restore
justice to the organization. Thank you for your attention to this important issue. I eagerly await
your response and the opportunity to address these concerns further.

Sincerely,
Anthony Antonucci



In a comprehensive letter to Governor Hochul, Dr. Michael Doria, a former commander and decorated veteran with extensive service history in the U.S. military and the New York Guard (NYG), expresses deep concern over issues of misconduct, retaliation, and discrimination within the NYG, particularly highlighting actions by NYG Deputy Commander, COL Stephen Ryan. Doria recounts his distinguished service and contributions, especially during the COVID-19 crisis, before detailing troubling incidents of unprofessional conduct, lack of accountability, and improper leadership behavior, including the mishandling of issues related to 1LT Alexander Cisneros and unwarranted scrutiny towards Doria himself. He criticizes the leadership’s failure to address these problems, which compromised the integrity and effectiveness of the NYG, and recounts experiencing personal attacks, potential discrimination, and obstruction of recognition for his service. Dr. Doria requests an investigation into the leadership’s conduct, particularly COL Ryan’s, corrective actions for the injustices faced, and underscores his commitment to integrity and accountability in the military forces, while reluctantly considering an Equal Opportunity complaint as a last resort for resolution.

Dear Governor Hochul,

I hope this letter finds you well and in good spirits.

I write to you today with a sense of duty and a deep concern regarding recent events that have transpired within the New York Guard. I am the former Commander of the 56th Area Command; a decorated combat veteran with nearly two decades of unwavering dedication to service across various capacities within the U.S. military, including roles as an enlisted member, officer, reserve, and active duty. Culminating in distinguished service as one of the most decorated O-3 officers in the U.S. Coast Guard upon my retirement. I have always held myself to the highest standards of professionalism and integrity.

As the first and sole clinical neuropsychologist of the U.S. Coast Guard, I had the honor of serving as the program manager for the Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury Program for the entire branch. During my tenure with the New York Guard, I assumed the role of Chief of Behavioral Health. I was part of a select team of behavioral health professionals mobilized for the COVID-19 mission, where I worked tirelessly at the morgues during the peak of the pandemic in NYC, Westchester, and Putnam counties. My contributions during this critical period garnered numerous accolades and awards, underscoring my dedication to serving the state of New York.

Regrettably, I find myself compelled to bring to your attention a series of troubling incidents that have left me questioning the integrity of the leadership within the NYG, particularly of NYG Deputy Commander, COL Stephen Ryan. Throughout my tenure in both the U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Army, I have never encountered such conduct from any officer, commander, or non-commissioned officer. I firmly believe that the conduct and demeanor of COL Stephen Ryan are inconsistent with the standards expected of a senior officer. Despite my dedication to duty and distinguished service, I have found myself ensnared in a web of unwarranted retaliation and discrimination.

Principally, I wish to address the matter of 1LT Alexander Cisneros. Despite my diligent efforts alongside 1SG Antonucci to address 1LT Cisneros’ glaring lack of professionalism, poor performance, and repeated insubordination, our concerns were met with prolonged inaction from COL Stephen Ryan and BG Peter Riley. Notwithstanding promises of resolution, our repeated appeals were met with indifference until we were ordered by BG Riley to counsel 1LT Cisneros. Astonishingly, COL Ryan expressed concern over the potential negative impact on 1LT Cisneros’ reputation, rather than addressing the clear evidence supporting disciplinary action. During the counseling session conducted by CPT John Boyle, 1LT Cisneros refused to acknowledge any wrongdoing and subsequently declined to sign the counseling form. Regrettably, 1LT Cisneros responded with baseless accusations against me in a formal complaint to DMNA, including claims of sensitive document destruction, service member requests for transfer out of the 56th AC, a discarded cabinet, and the creation of a toxic work environment, all of which are demonstrably false and merely serve as a smokescreen to deflect accountability.

It is imperative to note that the Adjutant General issued orders stipulating that State Active-Duty service members are not to be involved with their organic unit. This issue became particularly significant with 1LT Cisneros, who persisted in retaining his position as S1 in his organic unit despite being on SAD. Furthermore, 1LT Cisneros went so far as to issue unauthorized orders without the requisite approval from NYG HQ, subsequently deceiving command by falsely asserting he was following my orders. Such blatant disregard for protocol not only undermines the chain of command but also raises serious questions about New York Guard compliance with TAG directives.

Simultaneously, I found myself subjected to unwarranted and excessive medical scrutiny. Despite being deemed fit for duty by my physician following an off-duty accident, 1LT Kiana Piedrahita, a Nurse Practitioner acting in her capacity as the NYG Medical Officer, refused to medically clear me. Unable to substantiate any legitimate grounds for finding me unfit due to the accident, she resorted to demanding access to my VA medical records, a move that I firmly believe was coordinated at the direction of COL Stephen Ryan. It appears evident that this unwarranted probing into my medical history was a deliberate attempt to exploit my prior medical retirement from the U.S. Coast Guard as a pretext for removing me from my command position within the NYG. Such actions not only bespeak a gross abuse of authority but also undermine the principles of fairness and respect for medical privacy.

It is with profound dismay that I note a stark disparity in treatment, wherein numerous current members of the New York Guard who have undergone medical retirement from federal armed services and are beneficiaries of VA disability compensation have been allowed to continue their service unimpeded. However, I find myself unjustly singled out and subjected to discriminatory actions aimed at impeding my continued service within the NYG. This glaring discrepancy not only highlights a clear lack of consistency in policies but also raises troubling questions about the motivations behind the targeted actions directed towards me.

During this period, I was temporarily removed from command, pending completion of the DMNA investigation and my medical clearance. It has now come to my attention that numerous members of New York Guard Headquarters have retained their positions of authority despite being implicated in a lawsuit alleging egregious misconduct, including retaliation, corruption, and perjury. This alarming revelation not only casts doubt upon the integrity of the leadership within the NYG but also raises serious concerns regarding the prioritization of accountability and the equitable application of disciplinary measures. Such disparities in treatment only serve to exacerbate existing grievances and undermine confidence in the institution’s commitment to upholding ethical standards and fostering a culture of transparency and equity.

Following my inquiry into 1LT Piedrahita’s request for access to my VA records in the context of evaluating my recent accident, I was met with evasion and a lack of transparency regarding the necessity of such documentation. This inquiry resulted in a distressing incident involving COL Stephen Ryan’s overt religious insensitivity, evidenced by his exclamation “Jesus Christ!” , directed at me, during a conference call, a blatant affront to my deeply held religious beliefs. Furthermore, his subsequent verbal abuse, witnessed by CPT Gabriel Felix, BG Peter Riley, and 1LT Piedrahita, only served to compound the disrespect and humiliation endured during the call. My attempts to defend myself against such mistreatment and to halt further degradation seemed to only infuriate him further.

I was summarily and permanently removed from my position as Commander of the 56th Area Command without any prior notice or opportunity for recourse. BG Peter Riley terminated my position as commander citing the ongoing DMNA investigation involving myself and 1LT Cisneros as the reason for my dismissal. Subsequently, I was unjustly relegated to the State reserve list under the pretext of medical reasons, a decision executed without adherence to established military regulations mandating a formal medical board review. This egregious breach of protocol further underscores the arbitrary nature of my dismissal and highlights the urgent need for accountability and redress within the New York Guard. Moreover, it is clear to me that my removal from the New York Guard was motivated by factors unrelated to my fitness for duty.

It is my fervent belief that the retaliation and discrimination directed towards myself, PFC Alexus Velez-Cortes, and 1SG Anthony Antonucci were orchestrated with the sole intention of silencing witnesses who could potentially refute the baseless accusations made to DMNA by 1LT Cisneros. The deliberate targeting of individuals involved in the investigation reflects a concerted effort by COL Stephen Ryan and NYG Command to conceal their own failings and evade accountability for their shortcomings in leadership. By leveraging minor infractions and exploiting loopholes, command sought to dismiss us from the New York Guard as a means of shielding themselves from scrutiny and preventing the truth from coming to light. It is apparent that command’s primary objective was to conceal the investigation. Such Machiavellian tactics only serve to erode trust and confidence in the leadership of the New York Guard and must be unequivocally condemned.

With profound sadness, I reflect upon the stark contrast in my interactions with COL Stephen Ryan, from a time when he expressed admiration for my accomplishments as a senior MAJ and specifically selected me to command the 56th Area Command, to more recent encounters characterized by his irrational outbursts, verbal abuse, and demeaning behavior. It is difficult not to draw the inference that my sexual orientation may have played a role in this drastic change in attitude and treatment. While I cannot definitively ascertain the motivations behind COL Ryan’s conduct, his shift in demeanor raises troubling questions about the potential influence of homophobic bias or prejudice.

Moreover, I was apprised by COL Ryan of the outcomes of a recent service member survey, denoting it as “not good.” Disappointingly, I was not afforded access to the actual results nor provided with clarification on the specific deficiencies indicated. Upon review, it became evident that the survey exhibited a notable bias towards soliciting opinions primarily concerning local units, rather than offering a comprehensive assessment of NYG command, leadership, or policies. This absence of transparency, coupled with the skewed nature of the survey instrument, impaired the reliability of the feedback obtained and raises pertinent concerns regarding the efficacy of the evaluative process.  Further underscoring the perception that leadership is concealing its own inadequacies.

It is with great disappointment and a profound sense of injustice that I must bring to your attention the matter of my Faithful Service Award, which I was rightfully entitled to receive two years ago. Despite the award being approved in the fall of 2023, I have regrettably not received it. Furthermore, when I requested the award upon being placed on the state reserve list, I was informed by CPT John Boyle, the current 56th AC Commander, that CPT Gabriel Felix had concluded that I did not meet the requirements. CPT John Boyle asserted that this action constituted retribution. Such arbitrary denial of recognition for my dedicated and faithful service is not only deeply disheartening but also serves as a stark reminder of the systemic injustices and discriminatory practices that continue to permeate the New York Guard. I implore you to address this grievous oversight and ensure that I receive the recognition I am rightfully owed for my years of unwavering commitment and sacrifice in service to our state.

In light of these grave concerns, I respectfully request that your office initiate a thorough investigation into the conduct of the leadership within the NYG, particularly COL Stephen Ryan, and take appropriate measures to address any instances of misconduct or abuse of authority. Additionally, I urge you to review the circumstances surrounding my removal from command and take corrective action as necessary to rectify this injustice. As a dedicated servant to my country and state, I remain committed to upholding the principles of integrity and accountability that are essential to the functioning of our military forces. I trust that with your intervention, justice will prevail and those responsible for misconduct will be held accountable.

While I am reluctant to pursue an Equal Opportunity complaint at this juncture, I must acknowledge that if the current circumstances persist and there is no resolution forthcoming through other means, it may become an unavoidable course of action. Despite my preference for seeking resolution through alternative channels, I am compelled to prioritize the protection of my rights. Thus, while I remain hopeful for a just resolution, I must also recognize the possibility that filing an EEO complaint may become necessary to address the issues at hand and ensure that justice prevails.

I am grateful for your attention to this matter and am fully prepared to offer any further information or assistance that may be necessary.

Dr. Michael Doria


If you’ve been impacted by the recent changes and issues within the New York Guard and wish to bring your concerns to the Governor’s attention, you can reach out to the Governor’s office Kathy Hochul through the link provided below:

Click Here To Contact New York Governors

OR

You can also call their office at 1-518-474-8390


Source: Anonymous Former New York Guard Soldiers

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