LATHAM, N.Y. - Two brothers who deployed to Iraq together in 2005 marked the end of their service in the New York Army National Guard during a joint retirement ceremony at the New York National Guard Headquarters.
Lt. Col. Joseph Claus, age 47, a Cropseyville, New York resident, will end his military service after 30 years on Dec. 15.
His brother, Master Sgt. Leonard Claus, age 50, from Grafton, New York, ended his military service on Nov. 15, after 33 years in uniform.
The two brothers were both awarded the Meritorious Service Medal by Col. David Martinez, the director of intelligence for the New York National Guard.
Both brothers started their careers in the active Army and worked in Military Intelligence units during the Cold War before they joined the Army National Guard. Both men worked in the intelligence operation of the 42nd Infantry Division in Tikrit Iraq; Len Claus as intelligence fusion cell non-commissioned officer in charge and Joe Claus as the intelligence collection management officer.
"We've been through a lot in thirty years," Joe Claus said.
"And it's good to know that no matter what you always have somebody who has got your back," Len Claus added.
The fact that they deployed together to Iraq caused some worry for their families but "being there together we were able to lean on each other a little bit and use that to calm not just ourselves but our families as well," Len Claus added.
"This is pretty amazing that between the two of them they have 63 years of service," Martinez said.
Both brothers have had "magnificent careers," he added. It's not that unusual to have family members serving together in the National Guard, said Joe Claus.
"I think the New York Army National Guard is a family business. There are been a lot of families that have worked with us, so it is not that we are that unusual," he said.
The National Guard itself often feels like one big extended family, Joe Clause added. Soldiers get to know each other well through exercises, training deployments, and state emergency call-ups, he explained.
Len Claus enlisted in the Army as signals intelligence specialist in 1984 and attended the Defense Language Institute where he learned German. After completing his military education he joined the 108th Military Intelligence Battalion in Wildflecken, Germany, where he monitored East German communications.
"Here I was straight off the farm in Grafton, 17 years old, and 12 weeks later I'm doing PT under the Golden Gate Bridge (at the Presidio of San Francisco), Len Claus said. " You couldn't get any better than that. I may have peaked early."
After leaving the Active Army in 1989 Len joined the New York Army National Guard in 1991 and was assigned to the intelligence section of the 42nd Infantry Division in Troy, New York. In 2001, after another break in service due to his civilian job, he joined the 642nd Military Intelligence Battalion, which provided intelligence information to the 42nd Division.
He deployed with the 642nd to Iraq as part of the battalion where he worked as an intelligence analyst in the division's intelligence collection center.
Len Claus remained in the 42nd Infantry Division until 2011 when he was assigned to Company B of the 27th Brigade Special Troops Battalion where he served as the signals intelligence platoon sergeant.
In 2012 he deployed to Afghanistan with the 174th (Forward) Stability Transition Team/Security Force Assistance Team, a New York Army National Guard special unit that worked with the 3rd Brigade of the 2nd Infantry Division to train Afghan security forces.
After returning from Afghanistan he was assigned to the New York National Guard intelligence directorate where he served as senior intelligence and security non-commissioned officer.
His awards include the Bronze Star, the Army Commendation Medal, the Army Achievement Medal, the Iraq Campaign Medal, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Army Overseas Service Ribbon, the NCO Professional Development Ribbon, and the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, the National Defense Service Medal and the NATO Medal.
Len Claus currently works as the Rensselaer County Department of Public Health Emergency Preparedness Coordinator.
Lt. Col. Joe Claus joined the Army in 1987 and served in military intelligence like his brother. He left active duty in 1991 and joined the New York Army National Guard's 42nd Infantry Division in the intelligence section.
In 1994 the division headquarters went through its first Warfighter exercise, Joe recalled. There was a lot of pressure to perform well so the division would not be disbanded, he said, but the division did well.
In 1995 Joe decided to go back on active duty. He served another three years in the Active Army, which included a deployment to Saudi Arabia in 1997/1998 as a military intelligence instructor for the Royal Saudi Land Forces.
After leaving active duty he rejoined the New York Army National Guard and received a direct commission as a second lieutenant.
One of his first missions was the division headquarters response to the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, which destroyed the World Trade Center towers in New York City. Joe Claus and other members of the division were on duty to assist in the recovery operation in lower Manhattan.
In 2005, Joe served as the 42nd intelligence collection cell manager in Iraq in 2005.
He did great work in that job, according to Lt. Col. Christopher Ciccone, deputy director of intelligence for the New York National Guard.
"I can tell you story after story of Joe Claus interdicting bad guys on the battlefield, and collecting information that had operators maneuver on them to take them off the battlefield," Ciccone said. "He is a fantastic military intelligence officer."
From 2010 to 2013, Claus commanded the headquarters detachment of the New York Army National Guard's Joint Force Headquarters. He's also served as a logistics planner and mobilization officer.
During his service in the 42nd Division he traveled to Japan and Australia and other missions took him to Germany, Kuwait and Great Britain, Joe recalled. He was also part of the National Guard headquarters cell during the Presidential inauguration in January 2017.
Claus is a graduate of the several military intelligence officer's schools and Army Command and General Staff College.
His awards include the Bronze Star, the Army Commendation Medal, the Joint Service Achievement Medal, the Army Achievement Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, the Iraq Campaign Medal, and the Non-Commissioned Officer Professional Development Medal, and the Air Force Commendation Medal.
In civilian life Joe Claus serves as Emergency Services Chief, responsible for the police and fire departments at the Watervliet Arsenal, the Army's cannon manufacturing plant just north of Albany, N.Y.
"The Army has been great to me. It is pretty much everything I wanted, "Joe Claus said. " I walked straight out of high school into the military. It has given me opportunities you can't find anywhere else."