Brooklyn leader takes command of historic New York National Guard infantry company

By Col. Richard Goldenberg, New York Army National GuardMarch 20, 2017

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NEW YORK -- New York Army National Guard Capt. Dennis Tierney, a Brooklyn resident and Afghan War veteran, took command of Alpha Company, 1st Battalion 69th Infantry-known as the "Fighting 69th"-on St. Patrick's Day, March 17.

The ceremony came following the battalion's 166th time leading the New York City St. Patrick's Day Parade.

The 69th Infantry, originally organized in the 19th Century as a militia unit for Irish immigrants in New York, has led the city's St. Patrick's Day Parade every year since 1851.

The daylong event includes a toast to the regiment's history, a celebratory mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral, the parade up 5th Avenue and battalion recognition of the unit Soldier and NCO of the year.

Tierney replaced Captain Jacob Siegel, himself a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, who is also a Brooklyn resident.

During the change-of-command, the company's flag, or guidon, is ceremonially transferred from the outgoing to the incoming commander, signifying to the unit's members that the leadership of the unit is in new hands.

"I consider the 69th to be my home, and Alpha Company is where I started out, so it is extra special to be selected for command there," Tierney said. "Command alone is extraordinary, and I will be the 3rd generation in my family to serve with the 69th, so this unit really is significant to me."

The ceremony was held at a historic location for the National Guard unit with lineage back to the American Revolution.

The two officers passed the company guidon outside the unit's former armory near 15 East 7th Street and McSorley's Ale House. The historic New York City pub was home to the company during its operations in New York during the 1863 Civil War Draft riots and a plaque that honors the regiment hangs right above the entrance.

The location is a fitting tribute to the Citizen Soldiers of the famous "Fighting 69th," as McSorley's Ale House is considered to be one of New York City's oldest Irish pubs, Tierney noted.

"McSorley's is across from where our old armory used to be before the Lex armory (Lexington Avenue)," Tierney said. "After speaking with the owner of McSorley's, we decided that it would make the change of command ceremony pretty special if we could swing it."

Tierney is currently working full time with the National Guard as a project officer for deployment this summer with the 69th Infantry to Australia in support of Operation Talisman Saber.

He is a traditional Citizen Soldier who works in civil engineering and for the past seven years worked on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's Second Avenue Subway project. Tierney is a 2004 graduate from Hofstra University on Long Island.

"I have seen the 69th marching many times, all the way back to when I was a little kid. It was fun to watch then, and it is fun to take part now," Tierney said.

Siegel, a Reserve Officer Training Corps graduate of Boston University in 2004, leaves the National Guard after twelve years of service that included deployments to both Iraq and Afghanistan to focus on his family and his work as a freelance writer.

While the history of the 69th Infantry Regiment, the "Fighting 69th" is famous throughout the Army, the lineage of Company A precedes the formation of the Irish heritage unit in 1849.

Company A is a direct descendent of the 8th Company, 1st New York Infantry Regiment of the Continental Army, serving at the Battle of Long Island in 1776.

The company reorganized numerous times in the early 1800s before becoming part of the 9th Regiment New York State Militia in 1847, only to consolidate again in 1858 as part of the 69th Infantry Regiment.

In addition to the American Revolution, Company A has seen combat in the American Civil War, World War I, World War II, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as part of the historic 69th Infantry.

"Captain Siegel has done an excellent job with Alpha Company over the past two years and I look forward to building upon what he has already accomplished," Tierney said. "Alpha has a lot of experienced NCOs and Soldiers and I will be capitalizing every opportunity to ensure that knowledge is shared with our most junior Soldiers."