Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced today that Col. David Martinez, an Albany resident and veteran of the Iraq War, has been named to command the New York Army National Guard’s historic 369th Sustainment Brigade. Nicknamed the “Harlem Hellfighters” and based in New York City, the unit traces its lineage back to the African-American soldiers of the 15th New York Infantry formed just before the United States entered World War I.
“The Harlem Hellfighters are one of the most storied units in American military history,” Cuomo said. “Its soldiers fought proudly and distinguished themselves in World War I, and also served with distinction during World War II, Desert Storm, and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. I am proud to announce that Col. Martinez will be taking command of this honored group as he continues to protect and serve the people of New York.”
During World War I, the unit was renumbered as the 369th Infantry Regiment by the Army and fought under French command because American commanders did not trust African-American soldiers at that time.
The 369th, which is the subject of the recent Max Brooks graphic novel “The Harlem Hellfighters,” served more than six months on the front lines during World War I, sustained 1,500 casualties, and its soldiers received 171 Legion of Honor or Croix de Guerre awards from the French government.
Albany native Henry Johnson, who became famous for defeating a German patrol during an engagement in May 1918, was a member of the 369th. The unit’s band – made up of professional African-American musicians – is also famous for introducing American jazz music to Europe.
The 369th Sustainment Brigade oversees a number of logistics units across New York. Soldiers from the 369th Sustainment Brigade have served in Iraq and Afghanistan and been involved in several recent joint exercises in Africa. The brigade’s job is to coordinate the delivery of supplies to a division-sized combat force.
Martinez replaces Col. Reginald Sanders as the commander of the brigade.
Martinez was commissioned through the University at Albany Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program in 1984 and has served in a number of positions in the New York Army National Guard. These include a headquarters company commander, rear area security officer, battalion maintenance officer, executive officer, intelligence officer, operations officer, and division intelligence officer. He has also held a number of positions at National Guard headquarters.
He is a qualified ordnance and military intelligence officer.
In 2005 Martinez deployed to Tikrit, Iraq, as commander of the 642nd Military Intelligence Battalion in support of the 42nd Infantry Division.
Martinez is a full-time employee of the New York Army National Guard who is responsible for operations and training of all New York Army National Guard elements across New York, and was formerly the head of the New York National Guard’s domestic operations section.
Martinez holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University at Albany and a master’s degree in public administration from Marist College. He is a graduate of the Army War College, where he earned a master’s degree in national security studies, and the Army Command and General Staff College as well as the Military Intelligence Officer Basic Course and the Ordnance Officer Advanced Course.
His awards include the Bronze Star, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Army Commendation Medal, the Iraq Campaign Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Combat Action Badge and the Air Assault Badge.
He and his wife Pauline, who is also a member of the New York Army National Guard, have two adult sons (source).