Due to an unpredictable weather forecast, the United States Army Garrison Fort Hamilton change of command ceremony was held indoors rather than up on Engeldrum Bluff with its majestic views overlooking the Narrows.
But the ceremony certainly did not lack its own majesty as a virtual who’s who of elected officials, civic leaders, NYPD, FDNY and top Army brass all gathered to bid farewell to a beloved commander and welcome a new one.
Fort Hamilton Army Base Commanding Officer Col. Peter Sicoli relinquished command to Col. Andrew Zieseniss in a change-of-command ceremony that took place on July 26.
The ceremony was hosted by Vincent Grewatz, director of Installation Management Command (IMCOM). Among those attending were state Sen. Marty Golden, Assemblymember Peter Abbate, New York City Police Commissioner James O’Neill and Captain Robert Conwell, commanding officer of the 68th Precinct.
Col. Sicoli, a New Hyde Park, N.Y. native, is an armor officer who has served in a variety of command and staff positions in combat brigades throughout the U.S. and overseas including multiple combat deployments to Kuwait and Iraq.
Prior to assuming command of the Fort Hamilton garrison, he served as the operations officer with the 3rd Infantry Division at Fort Stewart, Ga.
Sicoli holds a Bachelor’s Degree in History from St. John’s University; a Master of Military Arts and Sciences Degree in Advanced Military Studies from the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.; a Master of Science Administration from Central Michigan University; and a Master of Science in National Resource Strategy from the National Defense University, Washington, D.C.
Sicoli’s new assignment will be as deputy director of Installation Management Command (IMCOM), managing its directors and staff, in San Antonio, Texas.
Prior to the ceremony, Sicoli was presented by Grewatz with the Legion of Merit for exceptionally meritorious conduct and outstanding achievement.
“Peter has been at the heart of probably the most dynamic changes at Fort Hamilton that I’ve seen in my career,” Grewatz said. “Fort Hamilton has always been the face of the Army in New York City but the level of activity and interest that the Army has at Fort Hamilton today far exceeds that which I’ve ever seen before.”
He concluded by calling Sicoli a great leader and thanking him for all the contributions he’s made to the Fort Hamilton installation.
Sicoli thanked Grewatz, calling him a mentor, and said he was looking forward to working more closely with him at headquarters.
Golden — who presented Sicoli with a legislative resolution honoring him — praised him for his leadership and achievement. “Peter has been a godsend to us here at this base,” Golden said. “He’s been a godsend to the military. He’s undertaken a number of commands and received a number of medals for his efforts including the one he received today from Mr. Grewatz. He has truly been a great leader over these past many years not just in this city but in other great cities in the country in addition to the campaigns he’s served in overseas.”
Sicoli thanked O’Neill for taking time out of his busy schedule to attend the ceremony and presented O’Neill with the Commander’s Award for Public Service for outstanding leadership and commitment to the soldiers.
“I actually came here this morning to say goodbye to Pete and I receive a medal,” O’Neill said. “I knew that he understood after taking to him for a couple of minutes what our mission was, not just here in New York City but in the state and the nation, and that’s to keep the people in the United States safe.”
Affectionately known as Col. Z, Zieseniss hails from Saint Louis, Mo., and graduated as an infantry officer from the United States Military Academy in 1995. His first assignment was with the 101st Airborne Division where he held many leadership positions.
In 2012, Zieseniss assumed command of 2nd Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division. While in command, he deployed to Afghanistan in 2014. He then moved to 1st Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division and served as the deputy brigade commander.
In 2016, he graduated from the U.S. Army War College at Carlisle Barracks, Pa., then served two years as a military assistant to Secretaries of Defense Ash Carter and James Mattis before his arrival at Fort Hamilton.
His awards and decorations include the Defense Superior Service Medal, Bronze Star Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters and Meritorious Service Medal with four Oak Leaf Clusters among many others.
Zieseniss recognized his family and all those who had helped him throughout his career. “I couldn’t have done it without you,” Zieseniss said. He also admitted that he was a diehard St. Louis Cardinals fan, but received a round of applause when he added, “But my wife on the other hand, who grew up in Italy, is a big Yankees fan.”
Sicoli thanked his wife Sharon and his family and ended his comments on a lighter note, saying, “I truly will miss Fort Hamilton, Brooklyn and New York City, although I will not miss the BQE and the Belt Parkway.”