With the spotlight on her career and accomplishments, her first comments are not about herself but deal with a misconception about her chosen career field.
“For some reason, Soldiers believe that chaplain assistants are people who go to church a lot or who have gotten into some kind of trouble and therefore get assigned to work with the chaplain’s office. In truth, it’s an official military occupational specialty, and we go to school to be trained,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Marylena McCrimmon, the 21st Theater Sustainment Command’s senior chaplain assistant.
Command Sergeant Major McCrimmon was pinned June 8 at a ceremony on Panzer Kaserne. She is now the highest ranking chaplain assistant in the Army.
Command Sergeant Major McCrimmon is very respected in her field.
“The senior chaplain assistants from U.S. Army Europe in Heidelberg, from Southern European Task Force in Vicenza, Italy, and from Installation Management Commands across Europe are here to cheer her success,” said Sgt. Maj. Pamela Neal, senior chaplain assistant in Europe. “She is not only well respected, but also very well liked.”
The pinning itself was a historic occasion. There is only one command sergeant major position in the Chaplain Corps, and Command Sergeant Major McCrimmon, the second female to be promoted to that rank, is the first chaplain assistant to be pinned in Europe, Sergeant Major Neal said.
“I really wanted to show my support. Today is a great day for all of us. Command Sgt. Maj. McCrimmon has touched and influenced a lot of lives in a positive way. She has earned this position because she epitomizes what an NCO and a chaplain assistant should be,” said Master Sgt. Evelin Montealegre, SETAF command chaplain’s noncommissioned officer in charge.
“No one would have traveled here if she didn’t have a place in our heart as well as our professional respect. She is my role model and represents everything a Soldier wants to be,” said Sgt. 1st Class John Alam, NCOIC with the installation chaplain at U.S. Army Garrison Grafenwöhr and Vilseck.
Nonetheless, it’s not what Command Sergeant Major McCrimmon would have predicted for herself when she joined the Army 24 years ago. She grew up, attended school and graduated from college in St. Pauls, N.C.
“I wanted to move to a different place but wouldn’t go without having a job lined up,” she said. “I thought I would stay in the Army for four years, but ended up liking my job so much, the re-enlistments just kept coming.”
To become a chaplain’s assistant, she had to attend a seven-week course on how to support the Army’s religious ministry after basic combat training.
“We are required to uphold high moral standards, we must have the ability to support all religions and we cannot object to bearing arms,” Command Sergeant Major McCrimmon said.
But this, of course, does not explain her success.
“You lead by example; you don’t just tell, but show. Soldiers see you doing the right thing, they try to emulate you; they see you doing something bad, you lose all their respect,” she said.
Sergeant Major Neal, who has been friends with her since they joined the Army, has a different take.
“Only the top performers make it to the level she has. She is in the top 1 percent of her MOS, which corresponds to her selection to sergeant major and later command sergeant major,” Sergeant Major Neal said. “She has reached all the benchmarks that guarantee success. She has been a drill sergeant, a first sergeant and an instructor.”
Col. Thomas MacGregor, 21st TSC’s command chaplain, said he agrees.
“I have witnessed her consistent conduct both at First Army and at the 21st TSC,” he said. “Strength of character and a deep love for Soldiers and their families have been the hallmarks of this outstanding NCO leader.”
And that love of training and leading Soldiers will serve her well in her new assignment as the command sergeant major of the U.S. Army Chaplains Center and School in Fort Jackson, S.C., where she will be in charge of overseeing the training programs.