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News | April 22, 2019

Outside 80: Analyst preps community for emergency response

By Luis Delgadillo DCMA Western Regional Command

It’s Saturday, March 2, and William Matthews stands among his fellow California State Military Reserve members and a group of active and reserve Coast Guardsmen.

Surrounded by the salt air and sea breeze of Coast Guard Base Los Angeles-Long Beach, he provides an overview brief for the two-day course for which they are all present. He is soft spoken but his words carry weight.

Matthews is here because he enjoys passing on the emergency management knowledge he has gained over the years. During the week, Matthews works as a management analyst at the Defense Contract Management Agency’s Stockton office.

His agency work can range from the mundane like reviewing official travel plans to coordinating and managing continuity of operation plans with Western Regional Command contingency planners.

“It’s a credit to him and boost to our capabilities in line with our region’s COOP plans,” said Larry Adams, chief of mission support for DCMA’s Western Regional Command. “Having his emergency management expertise really helps, especially when you consider the number of fire-related emergencies that occur around the state.”

In class, students describe their backgrounds and their experience with emergency response. There are varying levels of experience with the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Incident Command Structure. Many students hold jobs in local emergency response or law enforcement.  

Members of Matthews’ CSMR unit, sit in the audience and along with the members of the Coast Guard, they’ll spend 14 hours over the next two days, gaining a certification to become all-hazards liaison officers.

According to its description, the course “provides local- and state-level emergency responders with a robust understanding of the duties, responsibilities, and capabilities of an effective liaison officer on an all-hazards incident management team.” Matthews, a sergeant major in the state military reserve, often takes his training team all over the state.  

“It’s fun. It’s interesting, and it serves a purpose, a real purpose,” said Matthews. He is in Los Angeles, on his own dime and on his own time. The training missions with the CSMR usually mean he is on unpaid orders, but he often finds lodging at nearby military installations with availability.

The “fun,” as Matthews describes it, comes from getting to discuss his passion with other emergency management professionals.

The approximately 1,250 members of the state military reserve operate under California’s State Military Reserve Act of 1963. The act reads in part, “Such forces shall be additional to and distinct from the National Guard and shall be known as the State Military Reserve. Such forces shall be uniformed under such conditions and subject to such regulations as the Governor may prescribe.”

Compensation only occurs when the governor orders members of the state military reserve to active duty.  But it isn’t about money for Matthews. As is evident by his work in his hometown of Manteca, California, financial compensation does not drive his passion for community service

“I am a part of Manteca CERT, Community Emergency Response Team, I am a part of Manteca SAFE (Seniors Assisting Fire Effort) that helps out ‘fire’ and the Manteca Rapid Response Team in my local community, and the amateur radio club,” he said.

Community emergency response teams are community based groups, which educate volunteers about disaster preparedness. As a member of the CERT, Matthews has been able to encourage the city to stand up a command center. “We’ve kind of pushed and prodded them a little closer to getting ready for emergency services,” said Matthews. 

When he isn’t on the road with his LNO training team or volunteering for the night shift at the state’s joint emergency operations center, Matthews pursues his other passion, the care of his 1951 Dodge M37 ¾ ton 4x4 truck. Along with the truck, he said his other collectible is a working AN/PRC 77 or Army Navy Portable Radio Communication transceiver. The radio set, which was first used in Vietnam in 1968, also connects Matthews to his amateur radio club. 

“I’ve got some militaria, not a lot, but I’ve got some. My wife said I could have a truck,” said Matthews. “She said if I want another one I got to get rid of this one so I haven’t gone there.” Matthews dreams of a motor pool but his wife Linda, while supportive of all of his activities, usually brings him back down to earth.

They get to share in the joy of the M37 every year during community events. “We have a golf cart parade in December and they always want me to be the last golf cart in the parade, kind of protecting others… and I’ve got a sign on the back that says ‘convoy ahead,’” he said.

The nostalgia for military items stems from his experiences in Vietnam and his career in the Navy.

“I was an air crewman on carrier based aircraft, we did search, and surveillance up and down the coast of North and South Vietnam.” Matthews said.

He left the service after his initial enlistment and returned to civilian life finding work with the U.S. Forest Service.

“I was working with crews in the woods, I was running crews in the woods,” said Matthews. The short stint was his first foray into emergency response but the after a few seasons, wanderlust called him back to military life.

He rejoined the Navy, initially in the same career as his first enlistment. Then at the 17-year mark, he transitioned to a job as a career counselor, eventually retiring as a chief petty officer after 20 years of service.  “I ended my service in the Navy as a command career counselor for Naval Station Pearl Harbor, Hawaii,” said Matthews.

After another brief stint with the forest service, Matthews began looking for another type of experience. Coincidentally, at around the same time he joined the state military reserve, he was hired at DCMA.  

To say that Matthews knows how to stay busy is an understatement, he also recently became certified as a veteran service officer for a local military association. Despite the workload outside his normal DCMA career, he wouldn’t have it any other way.

“The way that things are happening in the state of California and elsewhere in the country … someone is having a bad day, the community is having a bad day,” he said. “There have got to be people there to help sustain the effort to get things back on track, whatever that looks like.”