NY National Guard's 42nd Infantry Division Headquarters Welcomes New Commander Saturday

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New York Army National Guard Brig. Gen. Joseph Biehler will be promoted to his two-star rank of major general and take command of the 42nd Infantry Division February 3, 2024.

LATHAM, N.Y. (02/02/2024) (readMedia)-- New York Army National Guard Major General Joseph Biehler, a veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, will take command of the Troy-based 42nd Infantry Division, on Saturday, February 3, at the New York National Guard headquarters in Latham, N.Y.

Biehler previously served as the division deputy commander and commander of the 53rd Troop Command.

The event is open to members of the press.

WHO: Major General Joseph Biehler, incoming commander of the Army National Guard's 42nd Infantry (Rainbow) Division, Maj. Gen. Thomas Spencer, the outgoing commander of the 42nd Infantry Division, and. Maj. Gen. Raymond Shields, The Adjutant General of New York, who will participate in the ceremony as the presiding officer.

WHAT: Biehler takes command of the 42nd Infantry Division during a formal change of command ceremony. The ceremony, which involves the passing of the unit's flag, or colors, signifies the transition from one commander to another. Originally the ceremony allowed the troops to see who they would follow on the battlefield.

Spencer, the outgoing commander, passes the unit flag to Shields, the presiding officer, who then entrusts it to Biehler, the new commander.

WHEN: 1 p.m., Saturday, February 3, 2024. The ceremony will last about one hour.

WHERE: New York National Guard Headquarters at 330 Old Niskayuna Rd. Latham, NY 12110


Reporters will have the opportunity to interview both the incoming and outgoing commanders. Video and photographic opportunities include Soldiers in formation as well as the ceremony in which the unit colors are transferred.

Media wishing to attend the ceremony should contact Sgt. 1st Class Warren Wright, 42nd Division chief public affairs noncommissioned officer, at (303) 968-4908 for access to this secure military facility.


Major General Thomas Spencer

Major General Thomas Spencer has led the 42d Infantry Division since 2021. Prior to his command of the division, he served as the Division Deputy Commander for Sustainment during a year-long deployment to the Middle East in 2020.

Spencer has served in numerous leadership and staff positions in his 34-year career as an officer in the Army and Army National Guard.

He is a resident of York, Maine.

He is a veteran of Operation Desert Shield - Desert Storm where he served as Platoon Leader in the 2nd Battalion, 18th Field Artillery from September 1990 to March 1991.

As a company commander in the 4th Battalion, 4th Aviation Regiment he served as part of Operation Restore Hope, in Mogadishu, Somalia from December 1993 to March 1994.

He served as assistant Division Aviation Officer for the 1st Armored Division, (Forward), in Bosnia from December 1995 – December 1996. He served in Iraq from January 2004 to January 2005 as the Operations Officer of the 197th Field Artillery Brigade.

Spencer holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Southern Maine in Political Science and a Masters in Strategic Studies from the U.S. Army War College.

His military education includes the Army Artillery Officer Basic and Aviation Advanced courses, Army Command and General Staff College, Army War College, and Army Strategic Education Program-Basic.

Spencer's awards include the Legion of Merit, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Army Commendation Medal, the Meritorious Unit Commendation, the Army Superior Unit Award, the National Defense Service Medal, the South West Asia Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Overseas Service Ribbon, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Medal, the Kuwait Liberation Medal, the Army Aviator Badge, and the Parachutist Badge.

In civilian life, Spencer is a Pharmaceutical Sales Manager; for Astellas Urological in New England and eastern New York.

Spencer will retire after more than 36 years of service in the U.S. Army and Army National Guard.

Major General Joseph Biehler

A resident of Webster, near Rochester, New York, Biehler returned to the 42nd Infantry Division in December 2023 following his command of the 53rd Troop Command since 2021.

Biehler will be promoted to the rank of major general in a brief ceremony prior to the change of command.

He is a veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and was part of the division headquarters deployment to Kuwait in 2020, where the Soldiers served as the headquarters for Operation Spartan Shield, the 10,000 Soldier U.S. Army element in the Middle East.

Biehler has served in the Army National Guard since May of 1987 when he was commissioned as an infantry officer. He served as a rifle platoon leader, mortar platoon leader, and support platoon leader, company executive officer and twice as a rifle company commander. He has served in battalion and brigade staff positions as well.

He also deployed to Iraq in 2004 while serving as the operations officer of the 2nd Battalion, 108th Infantry and then as the battalion's commander during a 2012 deployment to Afghanistan.

Biehler also commanded the 27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team which is headquartered in Syracuse but has elements across the state.

He served as the assistant division commander for maneuver of the 42nd Infantry Division from 2017 to 2021.

Biehler is a graduate of the Infantry Officer Basic Course, Infantry Officer Advanced Course, Combined Arms Staff Service School, Intermediate Level Education, the Army War College, Airborne School, Air Assault School, and Ranger School.

He holds a bachelor's degree in management and a bachelor's degree in accounting from St. John Fisher College. He also holds a master's degree in strategic studies from the Army War College.

Biehler's awards include the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal National Defense Service Medal, Army Achievement Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Medal, the Iraq and Afghanistan Campaign Medals, the NATO Medal, the Basic Parachutist Badge, Air Assault Badge, Ranger Tab, and the Combat Infantryman Badge.

Biehler was born in Rochester, New York and graduated from McQuaid Jesuit High School in 1983.

In civilian life he works as a Finance Director for L3 Harris Technologies in Rochester.

He and his wife Sonya have two adult sons.

The 42nd Infantry (Rainbow) Division

The 42nd Infantry Division, with headquarters in Troy, N.Y., has 20,000 Soldiers assigned to elements in New York, Vermont, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New Hampshire.

The 42nd Infantry Division first organized in World War I from National Guard units from around the country. The division's first chief-of-staff, then Col. Douglas MacArthur, said the division would stretch across the United States "like a rainbow" and the nickname stuck. In World War II the "Rainbow Division" landed in France and fought across Germany, taking several major cities, liberating the Dachau Concentration Camp, and occupying Vienna.

Following World War II the division became part of the New York National Guard. Division Soldiers responded to natural disasters, including the major ice storm of 1998, and responded when the World Trade Center was attacked on Sept. 11, 2001.

The 42nd Infantry Division became the first National Guard division headquarters to go to war since 1952 when Major General Joseph Taluto took charge of 23,000 Soldiers in North Central Iraq in 2005. More recently, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo mobilized hundreds of division Soldiers in support of civil authorities in response to Hurricanes Irene in 2011 and Sandy in 2012.

The division headquarters returned to the Middle East in November 2007 as the Army Forces Component Headquarters for the joint multinational Bright Star training exercise in Cairo, Egypt. Division leaders and staff worked alongside partners from the Egyptian 5th Armored Division.

In January 2020, the division headquarters mobilized for operations in Kuwait, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and Jordan in support of Operation Spartan Shield. The Division provided command and control for National Guard and Active Component forces. The Division redeployed in November 2020.

The division now provides training oversight for the 27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 44th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 86th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Mountain), 42nd Expeditionary Combat Aviation Brigade, 197th Fires Brigade, 26th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade and the 369th Sustainment Brigade.

Today, the Soldiers who wear the famous 42nd Infantry patch continue the Division's long-standing tradition of service to the nation, state, and community.