CAMP SMITH TRAINING SITE, CORTLANDT MANOR, N.Y. (12/28/2017) New York Guard Command Sergeant Major Pamela Parker-Collwood, a former Springfield Gardens, N.Y. resident, retired September 16th, 2017 in a ceremony at Camp Smith, N.Y., in front of fellow militia volunteers of the New York Guard State Defense Force after completing 21 years of volunteer service.
The New York Guard is a force of 500 uniformed volunteers, organized as a military unit, who augment the New York National Guard during state emergencies. They provide administrative and logistics support to the National Guard.
New York Guard members normally train in a volunteer status and are only paid when they are placed on state duty during emergencies.
Col. David Warager, commander of the New York Guard, recognized her contributions of more than two decades with the state's Long and Faithful Service (20-Year) Award and the New York State Medal for Meritorious Service.
If you asked any enlisted volunteer of the New York Guard at Camp Smith over the last decade if they know the name "Parker," they would answer with an immediate "yes," Warager noted.
As the New York Guard's senior enlisted member, her presence was felt everywhere at drill or annual training, Warager said.
"It's important to for all NCOs to be good leaders, and to learn as much as you can. Your troops rely on you more than you know, and they learn from you," she said.
She first enlisted in the New York Guard in1996, assigned to the 88th Area Command and volunteered her time in support of the youth cadet program. Her involvement came as a result of her own son's participation in the program, which helped him go on to JROTC and ROTC, and eventually commissioned as an Army officer. The program was in need of additional cadre, and a friend convinced her to enlist so she could bring her years of civilian experience as a transit supervisor to the program.
Previous military membership is not a requirement for New York Guard volunteer service.
Rising to the rank of master sergeant, she was part of the state active duty callup of the New York Guard following the terror attacks of September 11, 2001. Members of the New York Guard stepped up and provided augmentation to the National Guard forces serving at Ground Zero and around the state, she said.
"We wound up down at the Trade Center distributing supplies to the first responders," Parker-Collwood said. "We had to be all over the place, wherever we were needed."
By 2010, Parker was the command sergeant major of the New York Guard's 12th Regimental Training Institute, returning to her role as a mentor of enlisted members.
Parker-Collwood redesigned the basic training program as today's New York Guard Initial Entry Training program. She adapted Army National Guard training manuals for the role of giving all New York Guard volunteers a common basis of training.
Marching new volunteers in as fresh recruits at the beginning of annual training and then seeing their transformation they made into New York Guard members as they marched out again for graduation was her proudest moment of service with the training institute, Parker-Collwood said.
She was appointed as the New York Guard senior enlisted advisor in 2016, the highest position that can be held by an enlisted member in the New York Guard.
Parker-Collwood's awards include six New York Guard Commander's Citations during her career, as well the New York Guard Commendation Medal, New York State Military Commendation Medal, and New York State Defense of Liberty Medal with World Trade Center Device for her service during 9/11.
But most of all, Warager said, Command Sgt. Maj. Parker-Collwood will be remembered for her unyielding dedication to crafting junior enlisted and NCOs into exemplary leaders.
"You have to remember that people are volunteers and appreciate them," Parker-Collwood said. "But remind them that even though they are volunteers, they have responsibilities."
Parker-Collwood, now retired to Rocky Point, North Carolina, passed her responsibilities on to Command Sgt. Maj. George Hodge III as the new senior enlisted advisor for the New York Guard.