Delmar resident and New York Army National Guard Major Sean Flynn will tell the story of the National Guard's 1st Battalion, 69th Infantry's transformation from a force of part-time Soldiers into a battle-hardened formation charged with securing the most dangerous road in Iraq in 2005. He will speak Saturday, March 8 at the New York State Military Museum in Saratoga Springs.
The talk starts at 2 p.m. and is sponsored by the Friends of the New York State Military Museum, a non-profit group which raises funds to support the museum.
Flynn, who now commands the New York City-based battalion, wrote a book about the battalion's history from the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 to the battalion's successful mission to secure the 7.5 miles of highway running from the Baghdad Airport in to the Green Zone.
The highway, dubbed Route Irish by the military was a key route for the military, civilian contractors, and journalists in the days following the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Insurgents repeatedly attacked traffic on the road. The 69th was given the mission of halting those attacks.
Flynn's book "The Fighting 69th: From Ground Zero to Baghdad" outlines how the battalion was called to help secure lower Manhattan with other Army National Guard units in the days after the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and then went on to Guard West Point. He discusses the unit's mobilization and training for combat and the deployment to Baghdad in 2004/2005 in which 11 Soldiers lost their lives.
The 1st Battalion, 69th Infantry traces its history back to 1851 when Irish immigrants organized a militia regiment. When the unit joined the New York State Militia in 1851 it was numbered as the 69th Regiment.
In 1861 the 69th New York State Militia was one of the first northern militia regiments to respond to Abraham Lincoln's call for troops at the start of the Civil War. The unit fought in the first Battle of Bull Run and distinguished itself in that fight. When the regiment returned to New York City after three months, most of the men volunteered to join the 69th New York Volunteer Infantry for three years.
The unit earned fame as the heart of the historic "Irish Brigade" of the Union Army during the Civil War, fighting in all the major battles in the east from Fredericksburg to Gettysburg and beyond. Its nickname reportedly came from Confederate General Robert E. Lee who referred to it as "that fighting 69th Regiment."
In World War I the regiment mobilized in 1917 and was renumbered the 165th Infantry Regiment. William "Wild Bill" Donovan earned a Distinguished Service Cross and Medal of Honor serving first as a battalion commander and then regimental commander. He went on to create the predecessor to the CIA during World War II.
The regiment's World War I Chaplain, Father William Duffy was famous both during and after the war and a statue of the priest now stands in Times Square.
Poet Joyce Kilmer, the author of the poem "Trees" served as a scout in the regiment before being killed in action. The regiment was the subject of a 1940 movie "The Fighting 69th" starring Jimmy Cagney and Pat O'Brien about its World War I exploits.
In World War II the regiment fought in the Pacific on Makin, Saipan and Okinawa.
The battalion, in honor of its Irish heritage and early role participating in the New York City St. Patrick's Day Parade, has led the city parade since 1851.
Flynn was named to command the battalion in January and is currently a full-time National Guard officer who serves as chief of operations at the New York National Guard Joint Force Headquarters in Latham. In that position he is responsible for coordinating the National Guard response to domestic emergencies in New York State, like the Mohawk Valley floods in the summer of 2013.
He continues to serve in that position while also commanding the 1st Battalion, 69th Infantry in his traditional National Guard role.
The battalion is headquartered at the historic Lexington Avenue Armory in New York City and has units located at the Farmingdale Armed Forces Reserve Center on Long Island, the Camp Smith Training Site near Peekskill, and the Leeds Armory in Greene County.
He responded to Ground Zero with the 1st Battalion, 69th Infantry on Sept. 12, 2001 when, along with other members of the New York National Guard, the National Guard provided response and recovery support to the City of New York. He went on to command a company of the battalion at the United States Military Academy at West Point when the unit was charged with providing security for that location later in the fall of 2001.
Flynn earned his commission in 1994 through the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps at the University of Maryland at College Park and holds a BA in Journalism. He served in the Air Force as a public affairs officer from 1994 to 1997 before joining the Army National Guard.
He has served as an infantry platoon leader, division operations officer and as a rifle company commander and battalion executive officer.
He is a graduate of the Infantry Officer Basic and Advanced Courses, the US Army Command and General Staff College, the Department of State's Afghanistan Field Orientation Course, the Department of Defense's Joint Public Affairs Officers Course and the military's Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape training course.
Flynn's awards and decorations include the Combat Infantryman's Badge, Bronze Star Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Air Force Commendation Medal, National Defense Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, and the NATO Medal.