A palm tree Christmas

Col McGregor

Col McGregor

MARCH AIR RESERVE BASE, CALIF. -- It's just a week after Thanksgiving, but already the holiday spirit is thick in the air. As a person who grew up in Savannah but has lived largely in snowy northern states such as Massachusetts and Ohio for the past seven years, it is a little strange for me to cruise past palm trees, listening to Christmas music on the radio at this time of the year.

However, my travels in the Air Force have taught me that it matters little whether you are hanging your Christmas lights in your trailer in Afghanistan or constructing a manger in your yard in tropical Hawaii, the holiday spirit remains unchanged and especially strong in our military tradition.

The holiday spirit is already present here on base, too. The Hap Arnold Club has decked their halls with Christmas trees and I've been seeing festive decorations up in offices across base. Airmen are dusting off their Santa costumes in preparation for squadron holiday parties. The Top Three Association is again coordinating submissions for the greeting card lane at the front gate and other base organizations are rounding up donations for holiday philanthropies, such as the Security Forces Association's toy drive for kids at Loma Linda Children's Hospital.

An ensemble from the Air Force Band of the Golden West will be here Monday, Dec. 13, and as they have in past years, they will travel to buildings around base to serenade Team March members with classic holiday songs. But before that, it will be Kid Rock and the Twisted Brown Trucker Band serenading on base with a free concert on Saturday, Dec. 11.

This Friday, I am pleased to be hosting the annual holiday reception on base for our local community leaders. This reception is a long-standing tradition for the base and it is my chance to thank the community for the tremendous support they have shown the base and our servicemembers over the past year. The level of support from the community is amazing, from the military ball to the military affairs committees to the volunteer support at the deployment center, there's nothing base-related they won't support.

While the base normally holds the reception in the Hap Arnold House this year, we will be holding it here at the headquarters building. With headquarters building renovations set to begin the first week of January, this will be a great chance to show some of our community leaders the "before" condition of the building. I'd like to welcome them back when renovations are complete so they can see the quality of work that has been done in the preservation of this important historic building.

Just as renovations are about to start at this building, renovations are beginning to kick off across base, most notably the Fitness Center renovations that began last week and the upcoming ground breaking for the new indoor firing range. The new year will see the start of even more projects, including the ½ mile running track.

In my 34 years in the Air Force andAir Force Reserve, I've been trying to get an assignment west of the Mississippi River, in California in particular. Now that I'm here, I'm enjoying the unique riches the holiday season in Southern California will offer.

For the first time in my life, I'll be living within a few hours of a ski hill and, not only that, I'll be able to spend a day skiing and the next day go running and mountain biking in the sunshine. Now I'll just wait to see if anyone in the family gets discovered by Hollywood...after all we now live in the golden state of the land of opportunity.