Tate-Nadeau will oversee Illinois National Guard's Domestic Operations
SPRINGFIELD, IL (03/07/2015)(readMedia)-- March 7 Col. Alicia A. Tate-Nadeau made history when she was promoted to brigadier general, the first female in the Illinois National Guard to earn the rank. However, to her it is not about gender; it is about being the best.
"Being a leader transcends gender and everything else," she said. "I never wanted to be the best female officer. I wanted to be the best officer."
Maj. Gen. Daniel Krumrei, Illinois National Guard Adjutant General, promoted Tate-Nadeau of Chicago and formerly of Delavan, Illinois. She was joined by her family, friends and approximately 200 Illinois National Guard Soldiers and Airmen during the ceremony at Camp Lincoln's Illinois Military Academy in Springfield, Illinois. Tate-Nadeau's children, Lindsey and Gavin, and retired Maj. Gen. Randal Thomas, former Illinois National Guard Adjutant General, joined Krumrei to pin on her new rank.
Her goal of being the best officer looked a little different more than 30 years ago when Tate-Nadeau was enjoying her college years at Southwestern Oklahoma State University in 1984. At the time, she was studying business and was busy with her sorority when the Dean of Women recommended she take a Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) course to improve her grade point average.
"After one course I found out I loved it and I was pretty good at it," she said. "I didn't realize she brought me on a course that was life changing for me. That one lady, caring about me, had such a dramatic impact on my life. If it hadn't been for her I never would have been introduced to the military, let alone 30 years of service."
She soon transferred to the University of Central Oklahoma, then graduated and earned her commission to second lieutenant in 1986 through its ROTC program.
Tate-Nadeau said her leadership style is rooted in the standard she learned from retired Col. Norman Aschenbrenner, her battalion commander while she was company commander for Headquarters, Headquarters Detachment, 44th Chemical Battalion in Sycamore, Illinois, from 1989 to 1991.
"He taught me there was only one standard, for the men and women who serve. Make a decision that is good for your Soldier or you're wrong and he was going to hold you, as an officer, accountable for that," she said.
A few years later, as a married mom working on her master's degree in hospital administration, she transitioned from a traditional, one-weekend a month Guardsman to a full-time Active Guard Reserve (AGR) Soldier in 1997.
Since then, Tate-Nadeau's subordinates have experienced her early-rooted leadership style first-hand.
Sgt. Maj. Mary Dixon of Chapin, Illinois, with the 108th Medical Battalion in Chicago, first worked with Tate-Nadeau at the Regional Training Institute in Springfield, Illinois, when Tate-Nadeau was the officer in charge from 2002 to 2003. Soon after, Dixon followed Tate-Nadeau to Macomb, Illinois, to help re-establish the previously deactivated 44th Chemical Battalion.
Dixon said she is still committed to Tate-Nadeau and her leadership.
"I would go anywhere she asked right now, almost without question," Dixon said. "I still feel that devotion. I would love to be on her team again."
Dixon adjusted her personal and professional schedules to attend the ceremony.
"It's not often we have the opportunity to witness an event like this and I really believe no one deserves this opportunity more than Colonel Tate-Nadeau," she said. "I was fortunate to work with her for years, and I wanted to be there to show my support."
Maj. Eric Davis of Mt. Pulaski, Illinois, with 2nd Battalion, 122nd Field Artillery Regiment in Chicago, worked with Tate-Nadeau from 2008 to 2009 when she was the Illinois Army National Guard's Director of Plans, Operations and Training.
He admitted she often pushed him to his limits, but said he never felt she set him up for failure. He also said the last thing he ever wanted to do was disappoint her.
"She's one of those people you don't want to let down because she's a good leader who will always have your back," Davis said. "You always knew where you stood...she chewed you when you needed it and gave you praise when you deserved it. I always felt she had my back."
Throughout her career, Tate-Nadeau held multiple positions, including various command and director-level positions such as Chief of the Joint Staff; Director of Plans, Operations and Training; 404th Chemical Brigade Deputy Commander; 44th Chemical Battalion Commander and 5th Civil Support Team Commander. She also deployed to Iraq with Multi-National Division (Central South) as the Chief of Operations, Plans and Public Information.
In her current assignment as the Illinois Army National Guard Assistant Adjutant General, the Adjutant General placed her in charge of domestic operations, overseeing Illinois National Guard homeland security response and programs such as the State Partnership Program with Poland. Prior to this position, she served a three-year tour as the National Guard Bureau Liaison Officer to the Israeli Home Front Command, in Ramla, Israel. In December 2014, Tate-Nadeau retired from the AGR program and transitioned back to a traditional Guardsman when she accepted a civilian position as the Region V Federal Emergency Management Agency Incident Management Assistance Team Leader in Chicago.
Out of all her positions in the Illinois National Guard, Tate-Nadeau admitted one of the hardest, yet most rewarding, positions was one she originally did not want. In September 2003, she was ready to work in operations while Thomas, then the Illinois National Guard Adjutant General, appointed her as the Illinois National Guard Public Affairs Officer (PAO).
"I literally cried in a corner when I got it," she said. "It was the hardest job I've had...in the beginning of the war when we were taking so many casualties. However, it gave me an opportunity to tell the Soldiers' story and to give honor to the men and women who have died. The people I've served have stayed with me forever."
Her dream job in operations as the Illinois Army National Guard's Director of Plans, Operations and Training came in 2007, immediately following her PAO assignment.
With more than 30 years of military service and now a new full-time career, Tate-Nadeau said her greatest accomplishment is not her career. It is her children.
"The men and women I've served have been amazing, but the two people who have taken the brunt every time duty calls are those two kids," she said. "They're my biggest supporters and I could not have done it without them."
Along with her family, Tate-Nadeau said she is blessed with a group of friends who have helped her and her family throughout her career. She said her Delavan neighbors never hesitated to pick up Lindsey, now 24, and Gavin, now 18, from school or help with significant life events while she was deployed or travelling.
"It's kind of hard to do a military career without a whole team behind you helping you," she said. "I thank all those people in my life who allowed me to have my military career."
Throughout her career, Tate-Nadeau said it was never about being the best and brightest, but rather surrounding herself with the best and brightest. She also said it was never about ultimately wearing a star on her chest. It was about being her true self for her Soldiers.
"There is no cookie cutter way to leadership," she said. "You can only be who you are in your heart, because Soldiers know that."