California State Military Reserve Regional Support Command – South
Story by Staff Sgt. (CA) Veronica Fraga
Joint Forces Training Base, Los Alamitos, CA – 6 SEP 2014
The Saturday morning buzz of activity was typical for a CSMR Unit Training Assembly (UTA), but the heightened sense of anticipation was something new. Soldiers across the facility seemed to be keeping a closer watch on the time, and as the noon hour approached, they hustled to wrap up training activities and administrative tasks. In small groups, pairs and singles, elements from all CSMR units in the southern region, began migrating as one toward the open courtyard behind the Liberty Theatre, in Building #6.
Chaplains, Chaplain Assistants and Soldiers from the 3d Battalion had been setting-up the cooking area, the chairs and tables, since morning, making ready for the 1st Chief Hazel “Nell” McCown Barbecue, an event scheduled to serve every uniformed member of the command. This Soldier welfare event took months of planning, was organized by the chaplains and got funded by the Chief’s spiritual community, the Seal Beach United Methodist Church. By the time the temperature neared its high of 92°, an unprecedented crowd of 250 CSMR Soldiers had filled the space causing the water and ice station to become the most popular spot in the house.
Chaplain Capt. (CA) Brenda Threatt opened the afternoon’s events, signaling a welcome and a remembrance of Chief Hazel McCown – “Nell” to her friends and her family at church. McCown was a career Soldier who had bonded with her new military family, the Soldiers of the CSMR, during her 17 years of state uniformed service, here, Threatt explained. Sharing with friends, enjoying good food, and charting an opportunity for fellowship – it was a parting gift to the Soldiers of the SMR from the Chief, the first of a now-annual celebration made possible by a Soldier welfare fund she had established at her church before she passed away in 2013.
The atmosphere in the courtyard pulsed with the energy of connection and common goals. As the courtyard filled with talk and spots of laughter, most Soldiers anticipated the arrival of the Commander of the CSMR, Brigadier General Timothy Albertson. Col. (CA) Donald Thornley introduced the CSMR Commander, presenting a summary of the General’s combined service and civilian achievements to an quieted yet alert assembly.
Albertson couldn’t have picked a more ideal time to address the regional command at “Los Al”, providing a clear update on the organization’s progress toward “command goals for alignment and integration with the California National Guard.” General Albertson, an accomplished military flight surgeon and civilian professor of medicine, assumed command of the CSMR in January 2013 and quickly rose to the challenge in leading the organization through an historic period organizational change. Command goals now call for more intense support to the California National Guard (CNG). This change is being driven through external integration, internal and external alignment, and indicates unprecedented levels of support and engagement between the California National Guard and California State Guard.
General Albertson, standing within arms reach the nearest CSMR Soldiers, told the audience of Soldiers and family members, he was impressed with the Soldiers’ appearance and motivation he had witnessed throughout the morning. More specifically, he expressed approval for the efforts of the 1st Brigade (Civil Support) and 2d Brigade (State Military Police) toward mission integration with the CNG’s 40th Infantry Division (ID) and the 49th Military Police (MP) Brigade.
With the CSMR’s change initiative now nearing the end of year two in its three-year plan, General Albertson touched on some ongoing challenges, such as delays in processing of recruiting packages, which he is taking steps to address. He also advised that, as the CSMR continues to move forward with its transition into an organization that bears arms, our mission will be on the skyline and our responsibility will be to meet exacting Army training standards.
Despite his demanding schedule, General Albertson stayed to participate in presenting awards and congratulating graduates of a new pilot program for accelerated on-boarding of new recruits. The commander then took time to enjoy a barbecue lunch with troops before resuming his itinerary.
The Chaplain Corps expresses its appreciation to Pastor Tia Wildermuth and the congregation of the First United Methodist Church for honoring the life of Chief Hazel “Nell” McCown, and making it possible for her love for the CSMR to live on. The chaplains also partnered with the Golden State Chapter of SGAUS to facilitate this event. CSMR Chaplains and Chaplains Assistants who helped make it possible included: CH Chris Fowler, CH Roy Twaddell, CH Brenda Threatt, CH Randy McConnell, CH Caroline Taylor, Sgt. Bonnie Pollan, SGT Michael Moran, SGT Sam Nacisvalencia, SPC Scott Richards, and SPC Brian Grafton.