For most soldiers in the CSMR, NCO of the Year honors—along with the California Commendation Medal and the California Achievement Medal—would seem like the apotheosis of a long career. But Staff Sgt. Alex Christenson—1st Squad Leader in A Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Brigade (AS) RSC (S)—lends the impression that he’s just getting started.
In December, Christenson was awarded that trifecta for his participation in two impressive interoperability exercises in preparation for emergency-services or disaster relief operations. Operation Patriot Hook demonstrated the interoperability of the Incident Commander’s Command, Control and Communications Unit with the National Guard as well as other emergency-management units and state and local resources. It was conducted at the Naval Auxiliary Landing Field in San Clemente. “It was also an exercise in our air mobility operations,” Christenson adds, “as we continue to train with transporting the truck and its crew via airlift.”
The second exercise, Operation Makani Pahili, took place in Hawaii with J6 and its IC4U. That tested the interoperability of National Guard units from California, Nevada, Alaska and Hawaii. The exercise was conducted in conjunction with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to prepare the units for responding to a hurricane or other natural disaster—especially where SMR might be deployed out of state.
That exercise was split into two teams to test communications with police, fire, Red Cross and FEMA. “This was an exercise designed to bring military and civilian resources together in a join effort to support Emergency efforts for FEMA Region 9.” Christenson says. “Operation Makani Pahili was the first time (to my knowledge) that CSMR troops were deployed outside of California since Hurricane Katrina.”
Christenson received his awards before a formation at Joint Forces Training Base, Los Alamitos, along with his wife, Cassie, parents, James and Patricia Christenson, his platoon sergeant Staff Sgt. Richard Johnson, the senior enlisted Sergeant Major for 2nd BN, Sgt. MAjor Ivor Burton, Alpha Company Commander for 2nd BN, 2nd Lt. Noelle Jewell, Commander of 2nd BN, Capt. Daniel Woodward, Brigade Sergeant Major Command Sgt. Major Gary White and Brigade Commander Lt. Col. Chris Cervantes, among others.
“I’m proud to represent 2nd Battalion as the NCO of the Year,” Christenson says. “Bringing this award back to 2nd Battalion in San Diego is a testament to the caliber of soldiers and NCOs that 2nd Battalion produces, thanks in large part to the leadership and senior NCOs in that unit. Their passion for training and consummate attention to detail contributed to the honor and privilege of accepting this special recognition.”
A software analyst in the network and hardware services department of Jack Henry and Associates, a financial data-processing software company, Christenson says that some of the skills in that civilian occupation transferred to his IC4U duties.
Born in Indonesia and adopted by his parents, he double-majored in economics and political science at Whittier College and earned a master of arts degree in leadership and organizational studies at Azusa Pacific University.
Christenson only joined the CSMR in 2007. Since then, he participated in Operation Fall Blaze, assigned to the demobilization processing at Joint Force Headquarters. He’s also been a line safety and tower control for ranger operations at Camp Roberts. He took part in the J6 Signal Symposium and the 40th Infantry Division’s Defense Support for Civil Authorities exercise in 2011, during which he ran the IC4U in support of the the first Civil-Military Operations Center (CMOC) in California. And he is 26 years old.