LATHAM, New York – A New York National Guard Soldier who served as a sergeant, a lieutenant colonel, and finally a warrant officer four ended his 42-year military career on Friday, January 26, 2024, during a retirement ceremony at New York National Guard headquarters in Latham, New York.
Albert Thiem, a resident of Ballston Spa, New York, served as an enlisted chemical warfare specialist, flew helicopters, commanded a tank company, served on a division staff, responded to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, 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.
Major General Thomas Spencer, the commander of the Troy-based 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, as well as being interesting, Thiem said.
Once he got in, he just wanted to stay in, Thiem said.
Thiem enlisted in the tank company located in his hometown of Bennington, Vermont 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 instead was selected to serve as an armor officer.
With the support of his battalion leaders, Thiem said, he applied again to fly helicopters and this time he 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, located in the foothills of the Adirondack mountains. Thiem and his men 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 onboard buses to head home. Back in New York, they responded to New York City to assist in the recovery mission.
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 that 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 throughout 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 non-commissioned 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 training brigade training rotation at the Army’s Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Johnson, Louisiana.
He also spent a year working in cyber security 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.