The ceremony was delayed to accommodate the large audience of more than 300 people still arriving at Buckley Air Force Base, Aurora, Colorado.
“I’ve officiated many retirement ceremonies,” U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Laura Clellan, Colorado National Guard assistant adjutant general, Army said. “But to actually feel it for myself is surreal.”
Family, friends and fellow guard members gathered to recognize Clellan, one of their top leaders, at her retirement ceremony held at the Chief Warrant Officer 5 David R. Carter Army Aviation Support Facility, BAFB, Nov. 3, 2019.
Clellan’s goodbye to the CONG following her many years of service was filled with thanks and praise to those who helped her develop into the leader she became.
Throughout her military career, Clellan served in every component of the Army. She entered Active Duty May 24, 1989, before serving in the U.S. Army Reserves. She transferred to the Colorado Army National Guard in 1998.
Her nearly 30 years of service meant she had experienced a lot of change throughout her career.
“When I came in, in 1989, there were very few women in our (military police) company,” she said. “I think we’ve come a long way since then. The military is much more inclusive of women, sexual orientation, religion and race.”
Clellan added that the military seems to have made changes almost faster than society. Reflecting on the present, Clellan said she was appreciative and proud of the position she held within the CONG.
“Serving as commander of the Colorado Army National Guard has been an absolute honor and a real opportunity,” she said. “I am proud to call all of the Soldiers my brothers and sisters in arms.”
Being in the Guard is being in the business of people – and at every level – there are mentors and friends (that) service members meet along the way, Clellan said.
“The Colorado Guard is a family. You grow up with people,” she added. “I’ve grown up with the military police community since I first came in.”
She said that the 978th Military Police Company at Fort Bliss, Texas, showed her what it was like to become a member of a team.
“With a team is how you get stuff done,” Clellan said. “In the 978th (MP Company), we were the best platoon, and we were a team.”
Clellan received multiple awards and certificates from commanders at many levels within the Army National Guard, and parting gifts from units within the state of Colorado, all which were a testament to her service and the impact she made.
Members of the MP community presented a personalized gift recognizing her for many years as their leader and mentor.
“There are so many good leaders you’ve created,” U.S. Army Col. Isaac Martinez, CONG’s chief information officer, said. “When you look at the number of senior Non-commissioned Officers that have risen in this organization, it’s amazing to see what we’ve accomplished.”
Clellan said the success of the CONG was due to the staff she worked with day in and day out.
“In the 21 years I’ve been in this organization, I’ve never had a better group of staff than what we’ve had in the past five years,” she said. “There’s not one weak link.”
She said she had many opportunities to serve and deploy with various members of the CONG. In particular, she expressed her praise for the team she worked with while deployed to Hungary and Afghanistan. She mobilized and deployed three times.
“Some of my best moments were when I was deployed,” she said. “I had a really great time on those deployments and have lifelong friends.”
In October 2017, Clellan was promoted to the rank of brigadier general. For her final two years of service, she was selected by U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Michael Loh, the adjutant general of Colorado, to serve as assistant adjutant general - Army.
Loh spoke highly of Clellan’s leadership qualities, and how she brought about positive change during her time serving in the CONG.
“Brig. Gen. Clellan made a lasting impact … by strengthening the integration of our diverse joint force (of the CONG),” he said. “She instilled a culture within our Guard that allowed us to take care of the citizens, not only of Colorado, but also those all the way over in Afghanistan, and everywhere in between.”
“We’ve been through some hard times,” Clellan said. “I just really appreciate what everybody does in this organization.”
Clellan said that she is looking forward to retirement and plans to spend her free time traveling and enjoying the outdoors with her loved ones.
She surprised her family members with vacation plans. However, she said she doesn’t plan on spending all of her free time travelling. She also plans to ski the mountains of Colorado and enjoy biking in the snow with her spouse, Steph.
“Now we get to do all the things we haven’t been doing, like bike riding, skiing and golfing,” Clellan said. “I’m going to learn (how) to just hangout, I promise.”
Clellan’s spouse, mother and out-of-state family members attended her formal retirement ceremony. One family member, however, could only attend in spirit.
“My dad was enlisted in the Navy and he served on nuclear submarines,” Clellan said. “I really wish he were here today to see and experience this with us. He absolutely instilled some serious values in me.”
As a civilian, Clellan will continue to work at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife in Lakewood, Colorado, as the chief of leadership and employee development, coaching teams and leaders in problem solving, work methods and procedures.
“My office has been pretty empty for the past few years,” said Clellan. “But watch out, because they’ve got me full-time now.”
Before transitioning solely to civilian life, Clellan reflected on what she would miss most about the military and being a member of the COARNG.
“I think what I’ll miss most is the camaraderie,” she said, “I’m going to miss the opportunity to serve for people.”
She then gave parting advice after her many years of service.
“Our responsibility as leaders is to see the potential in individuals, no matter their ethnicity, age, gender or branch,” Clellan said. “We, as individuals, gain strength from the whole team, and the team is strong from the diversity of those individuals.”