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CONTACT: Lt. Col. Richard Goldenberg, 518-786-4581
FOR RELEASE: Saturday, Nov 20, 2010

Historic New York City National Guard Unit to Change Command

Media Advisory

NEW YORK (11/18/2010)-- New York Army National Guard Maj. James Gonyo II assumes command of the Army National Guard’s historic 1st Battalion, 69th Infantry; known as the "Fighting 69th" in a change of command ceremony this weekend in Manhattan. Gonyo, an Officer Candidate School graduate who earned a Bronze Star in Iraq last year, replaces Lt. Col. John Andonie as commander of the 159-year old historic Army National Guard unit. WHO: New York Army National Guard Maj. James Gonyo takes command of the 1st Battalion, 69th Infantry from Lt. Col. John Andonie in front of hundreds of battalion Soldiers. WHAT: Change of command ceremony for the historic "Fighting 69th," the Army’s 1st Battalion, 69th Infantry. WHEN: Saturday, Nov. 20 at 9 a.m. WHERE: New York State Armory, 68 Lexington Avenue, N.Y., N.Y. MEDIA OPPORTUNITY Visual imagery includes the passing of the unit colors of the 69th Infantry from the outgoing commander to the incoming commander. Interviews with leaders and Soldiers from the unit. News media wishing to attend the event should contact Lt. Col. Paul Fanning at 518-786-4581 by Friday at 4 p.m. for access to the New York State armory during the early morning Saturday ceremony. BACKGROUND The change-of-command ceremony will be conducted at the unit’s historic armory at Lexington Avenue in Manhattan. Andonie, who took command of the 1-69th in November, 2008 moves onto a new assignment at the New York National Guard’s Joint Force Headquarters as deputy director of operations and training. In the change-of-command ceremony, the battalion’s flag, or colors, are 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. In this case the 42nd Infantry Division Deputy Commander, Col. Brian Balfe, will transfer the colors from Andonie, the outgoing commander, to Gonyo, the incoming one. The 1-69th Infantry is headquartered in the historic Lexington Avenue Armory in New York City. The battalion’s Company A is also based there, while Company B is located in Huntingdon and Freeport, Suffolk County; Company C has elements at Camp Smith in Westchester County and Leeds, Greene County. Company D is in Bayshore, Suffolk County. Maj. James Gonyo II: New York Army National Guard Maj. James Gonyo II enlisted in 1991 and received his commission in 1995 through the Officer Candidate School program at Fort Benning, Georgia. Gonyo has served in a variety of leadership, command and staff assignments, including rifle team leader, detachment commander, rifle company commander, battalion air operations officer, tactical officer for the New York National Guard’s Officer Candidate School, New York City Region Commander of the New York National Guard Counterdrug Task Force, deputy logistician for the 53rd Troop Command, Valhalla, battalion executive officer, logistics officer and acting brigade operations officer. He deployed to Iraq and served in Baghdad with the 53rd Army Forces Liaison Team in 2009. While there, Gonyo served as a strategic planner with the Multi-National Forces Iraq Combined Joint Operations Directorate. He worked as an action officer to develop Iraq’s National Border Security Strategy. Gonyo has an Associate of Science in Business Administration from Clinton Community College, Plattsburgh, New York, and a receiving an Associate of Science in Business Administration/Accounting and a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology / Criminology from the State University of New York at Plattsburgh. His decorations include the Bronze Star Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal (3rd Award), Army Achievement Medal (2nd Award), Army Reserve Components Achievement Medal (4th Award), National Defense Service Medal (2nd Award), Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal with campaign star, Humanitarian Service Medal, Non Commissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, Army Reserve Components Overseas Training Ribbon (2), New York State Military Commendation Medal, NYS Long and Faithful Service Award (15 yr), NYS Defense of Liberty Medal with WTC Device, NYS Aid to Civil Authorities Medal, NYS Counterdrug Service Ribbon, NYS Exercise Support Ribbon. Gonyo currently serves as an Active Guard and Reserve Officer. He and his wife Karen have three children. Lt. Col. John Andonie: Andonie, from Clifton Park, N.Y., has been a member of the New York Army National Guard since 2000. In 2004-05 he deployed to Kuwait as the Deputy G-3 (Operations Officer) for the Troy, Rensselaer County-based 42nd Infantry Division and directed day-to-day combat operations as the Officer in Charge of the divisions Tactical Operations Center in Tikrit. He was awarded the Bronze Star for meritorious service in a combat zone for his service in Iraq. Lt. Col. Andonie then served as the Director of Military Support for the New York National Guard Joint Forces Headquarters, with a mission of coordinating military support for civilian authorities. After Saturday’s ceremony, he will serve as deputy director of the New York National Guard’s training and operations section at the Joint Force Headquarters in Latham, N.Y. Andonie also served as a Reserve Officers Training Corps instructor at Siena College in Loudonville, Albany County, prior to his deployment to Iraq. Along with the Bronze Star, Andonie’s awards include three Meritorious Service Medals, five Army Commendation Medals, three Army Achievement Medals, the Iraq Campaign Ribbon, the National Defense Service Medal, and the Parachutist Badge. He and his wife Kathleen have two daughters, Rachel and Elizabeth. The 1st Battalion 69th Infantry The 1st Battalion 69th Infantry traces its heritage back to 1851 when the Second Irish Regiment of the New York State Militia was organized. That regiment was combined with others to form the 69th Infantry Regiment, which became a part of the famous Civil War "Irish Brigade." Reportedly the 69th got its nickname as the "Fighting 69th" from Confederate General Robert E. Lee during the Battle of Malvern Hill in 1862 in Virginia, when it forced the "Louisiana Tigers" Brigade to retreat. Ironically, the 69th fought in the same brigade as the Louisiana Tigers during its deployment to Iraq in 2004 and 2005 when the 69th was part of the brigade, now the 256th Infantry Brigade of the Louisiana Army National Guard. In World War I the 69th was redesignated the 165th Infantry and fought as part of the 42nd Infantry Division, the Rainbow Division, the second U.S. division to arrive in France. The author of the poem "Trees", Joyce Kilmer, was a scout in the 69th Infantry and died while serving in France. In World War II the 69th was part of the New York National Guard’s 27th Infantry Division and invaded the Islands of Makin and Saipan and fought on Okinawa. In 2004 the battalion was mobilized for service in Operation Iraqi Freedom. As part of the 256th Brigade Combat Team the battalion secured "Route Irish", the road from Baghdad International Airport to downtown Baghdad. At one time this was termed the most dangerous road in Iraq and the 1-69th turned that around. During the course of Lt. Col. Andonie’s command, the 69th Infantry had numerous achievements. More than 300 Soldiers from the 69th Infantry served with the New York Army National Guard’s 27th Infantry Brigade in Afghanistan as part of Combined Joint Task Force Phoenix in 2008. The battalion conducted the largest St. Patrick’s Celebration in recent history in honor of returning Soldiers from Afghanistan, hosting the U.S. Ambassador to the UN, the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command Commander and Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The unit mobilized and deployed over 100 Soldiers in April 2009 with the 2nd Battalion, 108th Infantry to participate in COBRA GOLD, a bi-lateral exercise in Thailand sponsored by the U.S. Army Pacific Command. The 69th Infantry mobilized and deployed over 500 Soldiers in June 2009 with equipment over 2,000 miles to Fort Knox, KY for Annual Training. More than 200 battalion Soldiers deployed in October 2009 to participate in ORIENT SHIELD, a bi-lateral exercise sponsored by U.S. Army Japan.
© NYS DMNA Press Release:Historic New York City National Guard Unit to Change Command
Page Last Modified: Nov 22, 2010