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NEWS | Jan. 30, 2024

NY Guardsman Ends Career as NCO, Officer and Warrant Officer

By Eric Durr, New York National Guard

LATHAM, N.Y. – A New York National Guard Soldier who served as a sergeant, a lieutenant colonel and a chief warrant officer 4 ended his 42-year military career Jan. 26 during a retirement ceremony at New York National Guard headquarters.

Albert Thiem served as an enlisted chemical warfare specialist, flew helicopters, commanded a tank company, served on a division staff, responded to the 9/11 attacks and mastered the art of electronic and cyber warfare.

Thiem served at five enlisted ranks, five officer ranks, and four warrant officer grades during his career.

Maj. Gen. Thomas Spencer, the commander of the 42nd Infantry Division, praised Thiem as a dedicated Citizen-Soldier who “does a job and does it very well.”

Thiem’s Army Guard service began in 1981 when he enlisted in the Vermont Army National Guard tank company based in his hometown of Bennington at age 17.

Joining the Guard seemed a great way to help pay for college and interesting, Thiem said. Once he got in, he just wanted to stay.

Thiem enlisted in the tank company as a chemical warfare specialist. He served as an enlisted Soldier for five years, reaching the rank of sergeant while training to become an officer through ROTC.

In 1985, he earned a commission as a second lieutenant. He wanted to be an Army pilot but was selected to serve as an armor officer.

With the support of his battalion leaders, Thiem said, he applied again to fly helicopters and was accepted.

He went to flight school, learned to fly the UH-1 “Huey,” and joined an aviation unit in Burlington, Vermont. He eventually commanded an airfield control detachment.

In 1993, he joined the New York Army National Guard to serve with the 42nd Infantry Division’s aviation staff.

He then transferred to the 1st Battalion, 101st Cavalry, and commanded a tank company in Hoosick Falls, just across the state line from Bennington.

Following a significant ice storm in January 1998, Thiem led relief efforts in the small town of Hopkinton in the foothills of the Adirondack mountains. Thiem and his team helped residents cope with a lack of electricity and cold.

He was dubbed the “mayor of Hopkinton,” Thiem joked.

When the Sept. 11 attacks occurred, Thiem and the rest of the 42nd Division staff were at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, preparing for a warfighter staff exercise.

With airliners grounded, they piled on buses and returned home to assist in the recovery mission in New York City.

Then, in 2004, the 42nd Infantry Division was tapped to deploy to Iraq. Thiem served as an air operations officer in the division’s main headquarters in Tikrit.

Thiem said he is proud the 42nd Division’s aviation units flew thousands of passengers and millions of pounds of critical cargo with no losses during the division’s deployment.

Thiem became a full-time Army National Guard officer in 2011. He led the effort to establish the FEMA Region II Homeland Response Force. This team can react to attacks or disasters in New York and New Jersey.

Eventually, Thiem reached the rank of lieutenant colonel, and in 2013, at the age of 49, he faced his mandatory retirement date from the Army. He was not willing to give up his military career yet, Thiem recalled. Fortunately, he said, he was able to join the warrant officer program.

So, Al Thiem began the third phase of his military career, as a warrant officer serving full-time in the Army National Guard.

Army warrant officers are technical experts who occupy a space between noncommissioned officers and officers in the Army rank structure.

The fact that he chose to serve at a lower rank, as a warrant officer, rather than end his military career says a lot about Thiem’s dedication to the Army, Spenser said.

For the next 13 years, Thiem served as an electronic warfare technician for the 42nd Infantry Division.

In this role, he took part in six major command post exercises and a three-week brigade training rotation at the Army’s Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Johnson, Louisiana.

He also spent a year working in cybersecurity during a rotation at Fort Meade, Maryland.

In 2020, he was the division’s electronic warfare technician when the 42nd Infantry Division served as the headquarters of Task Force Spartan, the 10,000-Soldier Army force operating in the Middle East.

Eventually, though, it was finally time to take off his uniform after 42 years and six months.

In his remarks, Thiem said he was “truly humbled” by the many retired Soldiers and former colleagues who showed up for the ceremony.

“It’s the experiences and friendships along the way that have made it special,” Thiem said of his Army Guard service.

He also thanked his wife, Susan, and adult sons, Brian and Walter, for their support throughout his military career.

“They have endured many departures and deployments,” Thiem said.



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