REAR ADMIRAL ZAKRISKI takes command of the New York Naval Militia at a ceremony in June. (New York Army National Guard photo by Spc. Andrew Valenza)
REAR ADMIRAL ZAKRISKI takes command of the New York Naval Militia at a ceremony in June. (New York Army National Guard photo by Spc. Andrew Valenza)

Rear Admiral Timothy Zakriski of Immaculate Conception parish in Glenville is the newest commander of the New York Naval Militia.

The local Catholic took command June 22 during a ceremony held at Schodack Island State Park. Admiral Zakriski took over for Rear Admiral Ten Eyck Powell, who had been commander since December 2014.

“It was something that worked well for me,” said Admiral Zakriski of his military career. “I was always the quietest kid in the class. I often tell people, ‘If anybody told you would be doing what you do 20 years ago, would you believe it?’”

“He’s a very, very kind, gentle man,” said Rev. Jerome Gingras, pastor at Immaculate Conception. “He’s extremely faithful to the Church and is present every week. He’s a real gentleman. People like that, I like to see in a position of government.”

Militia’s service

Formed at the end of the 19th century, the Naval Militia is comprised of more than 2,800 members, a mix of volunteers from the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard Reserve, as well as some full-time employees.

A part of the New York State defense forces, the militia has been called upon to help in statewide emergencies, complementing the Army, Air National Guard and New York State Guard.

Admiral Zakriski joined the New York Naval Militia in 1980, the same year he graduated from Union College in Schenectady with a degree in engineering and enlisted in the Marines.

He recalled the work his team would do to aid residents across the state: for instance, when Hurricane Irene hit the Northeast in 2011, the New York Naval Militia helped set up sandbags around Niskayuna in Schenectady County to prevent further flooding. In 2012, when Superstorm Sandy hit New York City, Naval Militia members were sent down to distribute food and water.

Admiral Zakriski recounted a moment when the power went out at a hospital in New York City, and a handful of patients couldn’t be moved because of their condition.

The hospital “had a standby generator on the top floor, so we had to carry cans of diesel up 15 stories to keep filling the generator up,” he said.

Always knew

Growing up in Schenectady, Admiral Zakriski always thought about going into the military. His father, who served during World War II, warned his son about the difficult balance between military and home life, but the future admiral and his friends always played two games: baseball and “Army.”

During his military service, Admiral Zakriski married his wife, Kathleen, and they had two sons. He found that finding a balance for everything was indeed hard at times.

But “that’s part of being in the military,” he said. “It’s the little sacrifices you don’t realize until they happen.”

Missing parts of his sons’ lives was difficult, he said, but he also knew that military life was something he “wanted to experience.”

Over three decades of service, Admiral Zakriski held positions such as commander of the Naval Mobile Construction Battalion and serving in the Naval Facilities Engineering Command.

In 1994, during the height of the Bosnian War, Admiral Zakriski was called into active duty and served as engineering coordinator for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Bosnia. He helped set up shelters and build roads.

“I grew up in a family with a great work ethic. Working a lot does not bother me; I like to keep my mind working,” said the admiral.

Faith and future

In 2007, he was deployed to Umm Qasr, Iraq, for a year, serving as a Base Development Officer. Before he deployed, he worried about what would happen should he die.

“I’m a good Catholic, and I know there’s an afterlife, so the idea of death doesn’t fear me. But the fear of not being there for my son’s is the factor that is most considered in my mind,” he said.

Admiral Zakriski said his faith has helped him: “I believe faith makes you a stronger person. You believe in something and it’s not just you believing in yourself all the time.”

In civilian life, the admiral worked for the New York State Department of Public Service, doing telecommunications. He recently retired from that position.