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Borough son heads the ‘Fighting 69th’ brigade

Change of command: Captain Dennis Tierney, right, passes the colors to his first seargeant, Sgt. 1st Class Jairo Aquino, following his assumption of command of the Alpha Brigade on March 17.
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Borough son New York Army National Guard Capt. Dennis Tierney, an Afghan War vet, took command of Alpha Company, 1st Battalion 69th Infantry — known as the “Fighting 69th” — on March 17 in Manhattan. This was the battalion’s 166th time leading the 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 included a toast to the regiment’s history, a celebratory mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the parade up Fifth Avenue, and battalion recognition of the unit soldier and non commissioned officer of the year.

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

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 third 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 E. Seventh St. and McSorley’s Ale House in Manhattan. 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 Lexington Armory on 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.

Updated 2:36 pm, April 7, 2017
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