NY ANG member is first woman, Airman to serve as state’s top enlisted leader

  • Published
  • By Eric Durr
  • New York National Guard

Chief Master Sgt. Amy Giaquinto, was the first woman to serve as command chief of the New York Air National Guard’s 5,800 members when she took on the job in 2016.

Now she’s got two more firsts to her name.

In October 2017, the Ballston Spa, New York, resident became the first Air National Guard member–and the first woman–to serve as the top enlisted advisor to the adjutant general of New York.

She’s now the senior noncommissioned officer dealing with issues impacting the enlisted Soldiers of the 10,300-member New York Army National Guard as well as the Airmen of the New York ANG. 

Since 1979, when the position originated, the job has been filled by seven Army National Guard command sergeants major, who were all men. 

“I’m looking forward to getting out and about and learning about the Army, meeting the Soldiers and hearing their stories,” Giaquinto said. “This is a learning curve for me. However, we have great Army Guard leaders across New York who will be ready and willing to help me.”

Giaquinto started off her military career wearing green, as an enlisted Soldier from 1984 to 1987 in Germany. Quite different from serving in a joint position at a senior level, she said.

Giaquinto replaced Command Sgt. Maj. David Piwowarski, who served in that role while also acting as the command sergeant major of the New York Army National Guard.

Piwowarski will now continue to serve as command sergeant major for the New York Army National Guard, while Giaquinto wears two hats as New York National Guard senior enlisted leader and ANG command chief.

The job switch will make Giaquinto competitive for the top enlisted positions at the national level, explained Maj. Gen. Anthony German, adjutant general of New York, while also ensuring a first rate SNCO was doing the job.

“Command Sgt. Major Piwowarski has been in the position for the last two years. He did a great job, and he is now competitive at the national level to be the command sergeant major of the National Guard, or any other position the Army needs,” German said. “So to be fair, on the Air Guard side, I wanted to make sure we were competitive on the national level.”

Giaquinto has the skills to go out into the field, learn what Soldiers and Airmen are concerned about, while also communicating on his behalf, German said.

Giaquinto played a key role in putting together classes to help Guard Airmen learn what they need to know to advance their careers, German said. He’s challenged her to look into doing the same thing for Army Guard Soldiers, German added.

After leaving the Army in 1987, where she served as an administrative specialist at U.S. Army Europe Headquarters in Heidelberg, Germany, Giaquinto had a 10 year break in service. 

In 1997 she joined the 109th Airlift Wing in Scotia, New York, the New York Air Guard unit which specializes in flying in the Antarctic and Arctic. 

She served in information management, administration and human resources jobs at the 109th AW between 1997 and 2011. She also deployed to Afghanistan in 2009 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

From 2011 to 2013, she served as personnel superintendent at the New York ANG Headquarters in Latham. 

In 2013 she was named command chief for the 109th AW, a position she held until 2016.

“I am pretty excited that I am the first female in this job,” Giaquinto said. “I hope it breeds awareness that just because it has never been held by a female, and it has never been held by an Air Guard member, that doesn’t mean that it can’t. We have to get out of the mindset that just because that’s the way it has always been doesn’t mean that is the way it has to be. People should be selected for ability and potential, for diversity of thought and experience, and not judge a book by its cover.” 

In her role as state command chief for the ANG, she’s been visiting Air Guard units around the state talking to Airmen and hearing their stories, Giaquinto said.

She brings what she learns; that they are constantly training to be mission ready, supporting domestic ops and supporting warfighting efforts, while still pursuing professional development; back to German and other Air Guard senior leaders. 

“Now I’ll be doing the same thing on the Army side,” Giaquinto said. “I want to make sure the command sergeants major, the sergeants major and all the other NCOs, have everything they need to be able to train, mentor and develop their Soldiers.”

It will be more challenging meeting Army Guard Soldiers because they are spread out in more than 40 locations around the state, while the Air Guard’s personnel are centralized at five bases.

Giaquinto thinks her experiences as an active duty Soldier and traditional and full-time Air Guard member will help her relate to New York’s Soldiers and Airmen. 

“I joined the Air National Guard as a single mom with a full-time civilian job, so I know what it is like to be in the military with young children,” she said.

She’s also now part of a dual military family. Her husband is a member of the 109th AW, she has a daughter in college, a son just starting high school and a married daughter in the Kentucky ANG.

“I think my situation helps me relate to Soldiers and Airmen and family members too,” Giaquinto said. “I’ve been the one deployed with the family back home, and I’ve also been the one at home while my husband was deployed. I think my life and work experiences help me relate to Soldiers and Airmen. I hope the Soldiers and Airmen are comfortable talking to me.”