November 11 marks Veterans Day, and, in a new tradition, Horace Mann School hosts a special program to honor members of the HM community who are veterans of the U.S. Armed Services, or who are currently serving our country in various branches of the Military.
This year’s event was scheduled for November 8, 2012, when alumni, administrators, faculty, staff and their families were invited to a reception to recognize veterans and members of the military. The event, scheduled to take place at the historic 69th Regiment Armory in Manhattan, had to be cancelled, because the Armory is currently housing 500 New York National Guard Soldiers and Naval Militia deployed to assist in relief efforts in the state following Hurricane Sandy. Lieutenant Colonel Seth Morgulas ’89 plans and directs the operations and missions performed by these troops, along with 4,000 other men and women of the National Guard, in his position as the Joint Assistant Chief of Staff for Operations (J3) of the Joint Task Force established to support recovery efforts during Hurricane Sandy.
The Horace Mann School Alumni and Development Office was able to schedule its Third Annual Veterans Day event at the Armory, as it had in 2011, through the assistance of Lt. Col. Morgulas, who was previously based there. After serving at this legendary home of “The Fighting 69th” Lt. Col. Morgulas, then a Major, served through an office at The Harlem Armory. This past summer the HM alumnus—and Horace Mann School parent—was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and was appointed Assistant Chief of Staff for Operations, Training, Security and Intelligence at 53rd Troop Command in Cortlandt Manor, New York. A 1993 Distinguished Military Graduate of Johns Hopkins University, who earned a law degree from the University of Chicago Law School, Lt. Col. Morgulas was commissioned in May 1993. After several years of active service he worked, from 1999 to 2002, as an associate in mergers and acquisitions and as an associate and assistant portfolio manager at two New York financial firms. He returned to active service in 2002, and served in Iraqi Freedom II/III.
Working under Brigadier General Michael C. Swezey, Assistant Adjutant General-Army, New York National Guard, Lt. Col. Morgulas has been running all National Guard-related hurricane relief efforts at the operational level. He’s been involved with this operation since the end of October, when Sandy set its sights on the New York region. “Our headquarters is organizing the work of all New York National Guard soldiers involved, whether Army, Air, Naval, Militia… That’s 4,500 troops from New York and at least four other states,” said Lt. Col. Morgulas. “I’m based in Cortlandt Manor where we have our Emergency Operations Center. We control all the operators moving in New York right now. The 69th Regiment Armory, where Horace Mann was going to have its Veterans Day event, is in use housing about 500 soldiers,” Lt. Col. Morgulas said of the majestic National Historic Landmark that was built in 1906.
Lt. Col. Seth Morgulas '89 stands with New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo at a meeting on National Guard relief efforts following Hurricane Sandy at the National Guard Joint Operations/Emergency Operations Center at Camp Smith in Cortlandt Manor, NY.
“While we are disappointed that we had to cancel our Veterans Day event, we certainly understand the significance of this situation,” said HM Head of School Dr. Tom Kelly. “We initiated our Veterans Day program in 2010, for the purpose of recognizing veterans and service men and women from within the Horace Mann School community, and we look forward to renewing this new tradition next year. It is an honor to be connected, through Lt. Col. Morgulas, to these selfless individuals who are doing so much for all of us in the New York region. We also take pride in the fact that Lt. Col. Morgulas is an active member of the Horace Mann School community. Hundreds of families within the HM community were and still are deeply affected by Hurricane Sandy, and we are personally experiencing the importance of the work of The National Guard,” Dr. Kelly added.
“Most often, we are distant from the areas where these brave men and women serve, both in war and in peacetime. That is why we decided, a few years ago, to bring our veterans and service people close, to give them due recognition. Though we will not be able to do so in person this year, I extend warmest greetings on behalf of the entire Horace Mann School community to our veterans and service people on the occasion of Veterans Day. We also offer our deepest appreciation to the National Guard troops who are helping all of us, and our neighbors, get back on our feet.”
National Guard troops helped evacuate Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan after the hospital's generators failed to work during a power outage in Lower Manhattan. Rafael Castellanos '09, an EMT with the Central Park Medical Unit, was among the first responders who worked alongside National Guard and hospital personnel to rescue patients.
The work of the National Guard
Lt. Col. Morgulas noted that the troops now housed at the 69th Regiment Armory have been there since October 28, 2012, conducting operations in advance of the storm. “They’ve been doing everything from evacuating Bellevue Hospital when its generator failed and power was out in lower Manhattan, to replacing batteries in the towers that make cell phones work. They also provided over 800,000 meals to people without power, mostly in Chinatown and downtown Manhattan, Staten Island and southern Brooklyn,” he said.
Anticipating a storm of strength unprecedented for the New York region, National Guard troops were mobilized in advance under the State Active Duty plan, Lt. Col. Morgulas explained. “They will remain on active duty for whatever time is required. That includes our New York troops, along with soldiers we have here from Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware. We’re responsible for Westchester, Rockland, Putnam, and Orange Counties, as well as Nassau, Suffolk, and the five New York boroughs.”
Lt. Col. Morgulas has been in emergency mode since before the storm, sleeping in his office above the Joint Operations/Emergency Operations Center at Camp Smith in Cortlandt Manor since October 27th. He noted that the National Guard was well-prepared to respond, because of regular hurricane training that troops undergo and experience. They’ve been conducting similar operations since 9/11. Information supplied by military meteorologists was also of great assistance. “Every spring, around April and May, we have a hurricane season working group. Things happened pretty much as we had planned, and things have gone pretty smoothly. There weren’t many surprises, except, maybe one. We didn’t expect quite as much involvement by the Federal government,
“One of the things we’ve always talked about is getting a storm surge, and possible flooding in the tunnels. We have military meteorologists who work with the federal government. They expected more rain and wind, but we anticipated the coastal flooding along Long Island and Manhattan. Closing the subways, the tunnels and the bridges before the storm was a very good thing to do,” said Lt. Col. Morgulas. “Unfortunately, there’s just nothing you can do once water comes pouring into the Battery Tunnel, except manage the consequences and clean up.”
Though the winds and rain have subsided, the New York region now faces the major challenge of housing people displaced by Superstorm Sandy. “It’s difficult because of how densely populated the city is,” said Lt. Col. Morgulas. “There are about 40,000 people who need to be housed, yet there are few places to do this, and numerous challenges. This will be an ongoing issue for FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) to work through.”
As for his own housing needs, Lt. Col. Morgulas finds his office accommodations just fine, as long as he was assured of his family’s safety in their Manhattan apartment. “Our only concern was Sam ’27,” he said of his son, who became a student in HM’s Nursery Division in Manhattan in September 2012. “He was just anxious to get back to school.”
Lt. Col. Seth Morgulas '89 helped Horace Mann School host a Veterans Day reception in honor of veterans and service men and women from the HM community at the 69th Regiment Armory in Manhattan on Veterans Day 2011. HM Director of Alumni Relations Greg Zuroski stands with Lt. Col. Morgulas.