The California State Military Reserve is the Golden State’s official state defense force. It is a part of the California Military Department, along with the state’s Army National Guard and Air National Guard. The CSMR’s mission is to augment the National Guard in a variety of support roles, and to specialize in homeland defense and emergency management missions.
State headquarters are located in Sacramento, and the CSMR Commander is Brig. Gen. Timothy Albertson. There are CSMR units all across California, with regional commands established in the north and south.
CSMR Soldiers wear uniforms nearly identical to those of their National Guard counterparts, the main difference being the “California” name tape on the front of the Army Combat Uniform, in place of “U.S. Army.” Some CSMR units are tightly integrated with National Guard detachments for training and other purposes.
While CSMR Soldiers are not paid for drills and some voluntary active duty, they do receive the same pay as their CNG counterparts while on state emergency duty. For example, during the wildfires that plagued California in 2007 and 2008 hundreds of CSMR Soldiers were deployed in a wide variety of support functions, working alongside the Guard.
While many CSMR members have prior military service, many do not. The CSMR welcomes both, offering veterans an opportunity to use their skills and providing “non-priors” an opportunity to serve in uniform. The CSMR has need of many occupational specialties, including law enforcement, medicine, legal affairs, public affairs, logistics, personnel management, communications and more.
CSMR Soldiers drill at least one day a month (usually a Saturday); some units more often than that. Each Soldier is expected to do 200 hours a year of service in a combination of drills, classes and other support activities.
The CSMR is not part of the federal armed services; its commander-in-chief is the governor of California. However, the President of the United States has constitutional authority to call all state militias (which would include the CSMR) to national service in an emergency. CSMR Soldiers take an oath to uphold the state and federal constitutions, and to obey the orders both of the governor and the president.
Even without a federal role, the CSMR has, from time to time, stepped over state lines. When Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast in 2005, CSMR Soldiers were activated and sent to the New Orleans area to assist in recovery. CSMR Soldiers also assist in the Global War on Terror, by helping train National Guardsmen in a variety of functions, including weapons and tactics.
Although our Soldiers are not routinely paid, they do receive some material benefits. Soldiers with perfect drill attendance receive an annual $125 uniform allowance, and CSMR Soldiers in good standing are eligible for a free college tuition program, along with their National Guard colleagues.
For most of our Soldiers, however, the biggest benefit is to serve their state and country in uniform, continuing a tradition going back to the Minutemen at Lexington and Concord.