By Sgt. Gregory Solman
Col. Marc Breslow, the outgoing commanding officer of the Regional Support Command-South, inverts the motto of combat units with whom he’s served to describe the California State Military Reserve he joined in 2001. “It was,” he says, “high drag, low speed.”
“We were still a pretty sleepy organization,” Breslow says. “We were looking for a mission, with nothing defined as to what we do.”
“Then,” Breslow recalls, “9/11 hit.” And the pace has quickened considerably since, he says.
After the events of Sept. 11, 2001, the SMR found a mission in Common Task Training, but “the problem was that it takes half a unit to teach the other half. We had to train ourselves in how to do CTT.”
The increasing deployment tempo of supported units meant massive solider-readiness processing and other tasks “that gave us true purpose,” Breslow remembers. “We filled that void. And we earned the recognition of the leadership in state headquarters of our contribution to state disaster relief and anti-terrorism efforts. Though still in its infant stage, it was beginning to become our critical mission.”
Now, as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan draw down, Breslow stands on edge of retiring to dual residency in California and income tax-free Tennessee and ending a military career that started after graduating UCLA in 1974 with an ROTC commission.
Assigned to the Army Signal Corps, Breslow had retired from active duty in 2000, realizing that by sheer accident of birth the span of his service encompassed an era unlike anything the Army would face only a year later. “The focus of my entire career had been the Cold War.” During Operation Desert Storm (1991), he’d been assigned to U.S. Central Command, G-6 Operations.
Breslow joined the SMR as a lieutenant colonel and signal officer for Division Support Brigade, 40th Infantry Division (M), and became an operations officer, then commander, rising to full-bird colonel. Meanwhile, he sought a return to active duty and got it, assigned as deputy secretary of the Combined and Joint Staff for the Multinational Force in Iraq, or, as he likes to put it, an administrative “paper pusher for Gen. [David] Petraeus.”
He wouldn’t be the only Breslow to serve, with his family tours of duty culminating in the intersection of his son (Capt. William Breslow), son-in-law (Capt. Merlin Kynaston) and daughter (Maj. Anastasia Breslow-Kynaston) in Aghanistan during 2011—between the four soldiers, nine mostly coincident deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. Col. Breslow’s wife, Chief Warrant Officer 4 Alice Breslow, has served the SMR since 2002.
“Within months of getting out of the military, there was a void,” Breslow recalls. “The void you experience is the sense of purpose and camaraderie that one experiences in military units—the shared sacrifice, the shared hardships. I knew my career was about up on active duty, but I was not ready to give up the esoteric side. [SMR] gave me a renewed sense of purpose, and time in uniform to influence soldiers.”
Breslow regards the growth of SMR during his years as an achievement in which he takes some pride. During his command, he contributed to the development of the CTT, as well as the initial Warrant Officer, Basic Orientation, and Officer Candidate courses. Recruiting problems were rectified and troop levels surged from 79 to the current 289. The Military Entrance Processing System was consolidated. Breslow helped develop the idea of a regional command and the structure below it, including the organization into brigades and battalions and adding the U.S. Air Force support element. All the improvements increased “our visibility with the units we support, which was really important to our viability,” he says.
Breslow believes the SMR should “continue support of the National Guard as our major mission, since we’re not out of the woods in the war on terror. The Guard is lessening its deployment schedule, and SMR should continually focus on terrorism within the U.S., disaster relief in general, and supporting local relief efforts.”
In the event of a state emergency, Breslow says, “we will have an impossible mission to provide support within the local area we live in. We will be consumed with our own survival and support. We must prepare for this contingency. And we should be involved in anti-terrorism efforts while continuing our support of the National Guard. Once we’ve better established the organization, we can concentrate on more and more personnel.”
“One of the things contributing to the respect for [SMR] is our own professionalism,” Breslow argues. “We’ve maintained standards of equipment, uniformity, a rigorous up-tempo, total contribution. That has assisted us in the view the National Guard takes of SMR.”
“I’m regular Army,” Breslow concludes, “We’re as professional as any unit I’ve seen.”
That sincerely held view doesn’t stop the son of a Hollywood television director from his ribbing troops with a hint of Jack Benny-voice in his dry humor, such as when he told an assembly of SMR soldiers that they wouldn’t be picking up a rifle in combat “until the Chinese are streaming across the Mexican border.”
Breslow’s Command Sergeant Major Robert Crebbs laughs when reminded of the comment, and the days before the Breslow era. “Customs and courtesies were lacking. There was no NCO/officer relationship. It had become a good old boys coffee club.”
“Col. Breslow brought in military professionalism,” Crebbs concludes.
Photo by Staff Sgt. Richard Bergquist