Ballston Spa resident Al Thiem, an Iraq War veteran, retires after 42 years of service in the Army National Guard

Thiem served as an enlisted Soldier, an officer, and warrant officer during his career

The original release had Albert Thiem's last name consistently mispelled with the "i" and "e" transposed. This is the corrected release. The Division of MIlitary and Naval Affairs regrets the error.

Latham, New York (01/29/2024) — LATHAM, New York --Ballston Spa resident Albert Thiem, who served as an Army National Guard sergeant, a lieutenant colonel, and a warrant officer, ended his 42 and-a-half-year military career on Friday, January 26, during a retirement ceremony at New York National Guard headquarters in Latham.

Thiem, who enlisted in the Vermont Army National Guard in 1981 at age 17, has served as a chemical warfare specialist, led a tank company, flown helicopters, served in key division-level staff positions, and most recently was an electronic warfare expert.

During his career, Thiem transferred to the New York Army National Guard, responded to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, in New York City, deployed to Iraq in 2005, organized and helped lead the New York Army National Guard's first Homeland Response Force in 2011, and served in Kuwait for a year in 2020.

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."

In his remarks, Thiem thanked the many retired Soldiers and former colleagues who showed up for the ceremony.

"I am truly humbled," he said.

He also thanked his wife Susan and adult sons Brian and Walter for their support.

"They have endured many departures and deployments," Thiem said.

During his retirement ceremony, Thiem was presented with the Army's Legion of Merit. The medal is presented for exceptionally meritorious service over a sustained period.

He was also presented with the New York State Conspicuous Service Cross, as was his wife.

Susan Thiem was recognized for her support of her husband during his long career, Spencer explained.

"Without your support, he could not have done what he has done," Spencer told her.

After enlisting in the tank company located in his hometown of Bennington, Vermont, Thiem served as an enlisted Soldier for five years, reaching the rank of sergeant.

In 1985 he earned a commission as a second lieutenant through Army ROTC and became an armor officer. Eventually he went to flight school, where he learned to fly the UH-1 "Huey" and joined an aviation unit in Burlington, Vermont, where he commanded an air traffic control detachment.

He 1993 he joined the New York Army National Guard to serve with the 42nd Infantry Division. He then transferred to the 1st Battalion, 101st Cavalry where he commanded Charlie Company in Hoosick Falls, New York.

Following a major ice storm that hit Northern New York in January 1998, Thiem led relief efforts in the town of Hopkinton for several weeks.

Thiem went back to serve in the aviation section of the 42nd Infantry Division and deployed to Tikrit, Iraq with the division's headquarters serving as the Operations Air Officer.

Thiem said he is proud of the fact the division's aviation units flew thousands of passengers and millions of pounds of critical cargo without loss during the division's deployment.

Thiem became a full-time Army National Guard officer in 2011, working to establish the Homeland Response Force, a team that could react to major attacks or disasters throughout New York and New Jersey.

Eventually, Thiem reached the rank of lieutenant colonel, and at the age of 49, he was facing his mandatory retirement date from the Army.

He was not willing to give up his military career yet, Thiem recalled, so he investigated joining the warrant officer program so he could serve longer.

So, in 2013, he 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, Spencer 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 took part in 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 served as 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.

Thiem eventually reached the rank of chief warrant officer four.

His goal now, Thiem said, is to spend more time with his wife, traveling and enjoying time at their cabin in Maine.

During the ceremony, Thiem was promoted from chief warrant officer four to lieutenant colonel, the highest rank he previously held during his career.

Retiring Army personnel are typically awarded their highest rank achieved as they end their service.

Theim's military awards include the Bronze Star, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Army Reserve Components Achievement Medal, the Iraq Campaign Medal, the Humanitarian Service Medal, the Army Overseas Training Medal, the Aviation Badge, and the Parachutists Badge.

Media Attachments

New York Army National Guard Lt. Col. Albert “Al” Thiem, a Ballston Spa resident, stands at attention alongside Major General Thomas Spenser, the commander of the Troy-based 42nd Infantry Division during his retirement ceremony at New York Army National Guard headquarters in Latham, New York on January 26, 2024. Thiem served more than 42 years as an enlisted Soldier, and officer, and then for over 10 years as a warrant officer. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Major Jean Kratzer)