Posts From January, 2014

Texas Military Forces stargazing - a modern day Lewis and Clark Expedition

A sextant, the same tool used by the Lewis and Clark Expedition in the early 1800s to map the western United States, and is still being used today by the Texas Military Forces (TXMF). David Rolbiecki, Chief of survey for the TXMF, uses this sextant to obtain precise measurements of the earth.
A sextant, the same tool used by the Lewis and Clark Expedition in the early 1800s to map the western United States, and is still being used today by the Texas Military Forces (TXMF). David Rolbiecki, Chief of survey for the TXMF, uses this sextant to obtain precise measurements of the earth. Rolbiecki is hoping to use his research to feed the National Geodetic Survey, and ultimately help to improve elevation measurements for the Global Positioning System, or GPS. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Capt. Martha C. Nigrelle/Released)

Story by: Capt. Martha Nigrelle

CAMP MABRY, Texas - In 1804, President Thomas Jefferson enlisted Meriwether Lewis and William Clark to lead an  expedition across the western frontier to the Pacific Ocean, to “record the face of the country.” As history books can  attest, the Corps of Discovery Expedition was a success. Today, some of the same methods Lewis and Clark used in the  1800s to map the new territory, and the future of the United States, are being utilized in the Texas Military Forces (TXMF).

 David Rolbiecki, Registered Professional Land Surveyor of the State of Texas and Chief of Survey for the TXMF oversees  land surveying for the organization and introduced the classic practice of geodetic astronomy, using the sun, moon and  stars to conduct measurements of the earth, at Camp Mabry, in Austin, Texas.

 According to records at the Library of Congress, Lewis and Clark created the first maps of the mid west and western  portions of the United States. They started at Lake Michigan and extended out to the Pacific Ocean. In order to properly  chart these maps, Lewis, using geodetic astronomy, took astronomic observations (looking at the stars) along key points,  thus enabling him to ascertain latitude and longitude and create a more accurate map. 

 With online maps, Global Positioning Systems (GPS), and google earth, one might think this practice is no longer  necessary.

 Rolbiecki explained that the National Geodetic Survey (NGS), an agency that falls under National Oceanic and  Atmospheric Administration, and works with the Department of Defense’s Global Positioning System (GPS), to provide the  framework for all GPS positioning activities in the U.S. is extremely accurate when measuring horizontal distances, but when looking at GPS derived elevation data, GPS is not quite as accurate. NGS is looking to improve this, using astronomic observations to augment GPS observations used in gravity research. 

Shooting from what looks like a concrete post situated in the middle of a field at Camp Mabry, Rolbiecki and Mark Hinojosa, a TXMF Land Survey Technician, are using replicas of the same equipment used by Lewis and Clark. Using their equipment and methods, Rolbiecki is able to look to the stars for accurate latitude and longitude readings. 

And the concrete post - a permanent astro-geodetic pier which is an extremely accurate and stable platform to use for astro-geodetic observations.

“The purpose of the pier is to add a permanent, high-accuracy legacy monument to the existing Camp Mabry survey control network,” said Rolbiecki. The astro-geodetic pier provides a platform for precise astronomic observations using optical theodolites, and training in celestial observations using a marine sextant - all tools of the geodetic practice.

“Establishing the astro-pier at Camp Mabry benefits any planning and design endeavors [for the TXMF]. It also allows an opportunity to learn how to perform astrometric observations and practice celestial navigation,” said Kristin Mt Joy, Cultural Resource Program manager for TXMF and a registered professional archeologist.

Rolbiecki first joined the Army in 1982 as a geodetic surveyor and spent time surveying for the Army in Virginia, Hawaii, and Maine before coming back to Texas. He is currently on the board of editors for the Journal of Surveying Engineering and is also a chief warrant officer for the Texas Army National Guard. For his guard duties, he is a planner, but when he comes to work at Camp Mabry, Rolbiecki is known as the man who is passionate about astro-geodetic work.

“Mr. Rolbiecki is very smart and sometimes it is hard to translate his knowledge and skill set! But cultural resources has learned a lot since partnering with his team,” said Mt Joy.

Rolbiecki’s unique skill set has benefited both the land survey department, as well as, the cultural resources department of the TXMF.

“The Cultural Resources Program has been partnering with the land survey team to record historic features across Camp Mabry's historic district. The astro-pier established by Mr. Rolbiecki not only provides a permanent station for geospatial reference, it has allowed the cultural resources staff to learn about how mapping and orientations were derived with historic equipment,” said Maj. Richard Martinez, environmental manager for the TXMF. “At an upcoming archaeological conference in 2014, military archaeologists and academics will have an opportunity to see demonstrations of orienting at the astro-pier.“ 

“[Astronomic] observations on land are obsolete due to high-accuracy GPS,” explained Rolbiecki. “I still practice this science and art.”

According to the NGS official website, the vertical data they are looking for would provide elevation accuracy within a two centimeters level from almost any location in the U.S., improving location information to the millions of people who use GPS every day. In order to complete this project it is necessary to measure the stars. NGS is actively recruiting people who can conduct these celestial surveys.

Rolbiecki is hoping to be one of those people.

In the mean time, Rolbiecki set up the astro-geodetic pier, or control station, on Camp Mabry in order to have a precise location from which to measure the sun, the stars, and the moon. This paired with his sextant, artificial horizon and chronometer, the same tools that Lewis used 200 years ago, has set Rolbiecki up to record the face of Texas for the future.

Military Women in Transition event coming to Camp Mabry

Commentary by: Michelle McBride

What will you do when you or your spouse decide to retire? How do you disconnect from what you have always known and handle the transition into a civilian workforce? Where do you start? These are the big questions many women in our Texas Military Forces are asking themselves daily. What some women may not know is that there are others with similar backgrounds willing to offer assistance in preparing for these big changes.

On Sunday, Feb. 16, 2014, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., the Texas Military Family Support Services will host a “Military Women in Transition” event at Camp Mabry in Austin, TX. According to Shandra Sponsler, deputy branch manager of Family Support Services, the event is meant to help women in all phases of the job search, or career enhancement process, learn valuable skills. The plan is to teach attendees vital skills through a series of activities such as mock interviews to help prepare for the real thing.

“Since Sept. 11, 2001, more than 33,000 Texas National Guardsmen have been called to active duty to serve their Country,” Sponsler said. “Upon their return, many need help transitioning from active duty to life as a civilian- particularly in recent years where a tough economy combined with limited job opportunities has made finding gainful employment especially difficult.”
The event schedule includes presentations, workshops, resource booths, roundtables with hiring managers, and a professional clothing closet for participants to ‘shop’ for FREE new or gently worn career-related outfits.

This is a free event which includes refreshments and youth activities for kids 6 and up. If you would like to attend please register at For more information, please contact Shandra Sponsler at or 512-782-5771.

This event is open to all branches of service.

Texas Medical Brigade holds Change of Command

Posted on: 26 Jan 2014

Texas Medical Brigade holds Change of Command

Story by: SSG Timothy Pruitt, Texas State Guard PAO

Camp Mabry, Texas – On Sunday January 26, 2014, the Texas Medical Brigade held a change of command ceremony to honor the outgoing commander, BG Luis Fernandez, and the incoming commander, BG David Cohen.

Photo of Change of CommandPhoto of Change of Command 2

Diversity in the Texas National Guard Reflects MLK’s Vision


Story by: Spc. Michael Giles, 100th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

Diveristy, MLKIt is not everyday that a man or woman gets the opportunity to voice their opinion to the masses. Even less likely is the occurrence that not only is the message heard, but repeated time and time again to the point that the original speaker becomes a household name and the message legendary. Such are the words spoken by Dr. Martin Luther King on that fateful day in 1963 on the steps of the Lincoln memorial in the nation’s capital in Washington, D.C.

King came from humble beginnings in Alabama, but even as a young man, he seemed destined for greatness.  Born January 1929 in Atlanta, Georgia, King began breaking boundaries as a teenager. His scores on college entrance exams were so exceptional that he skipped high school graduation and entered Morehouse College at the age of 15. With a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology, King entered seminary in 1948 and went on to become the third generation Baptist minister following his father and grandfather.  

King was well known as a passionate and charismatic public speaker throughout his life and ultimately became recognized as one of the nation’s most significant civil rights leaders.  King is known by most for his involvement in the bus boycott that led to the 1956 Supreme Court declaration that bus segregation was unconstitutional and for the march on the Washington Mall where he delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech. His leadership was instrumental in helping the United States achieve its current level of racial equality, which is reflected in the diversity of the Texas Army National Guard.

Recognition and celebration of King’s contributions include the Nobel Peace Prize, which he received in 1964, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal, which were awarded posthumously to him in 1977 and 2004. There are an estimated 700 streets in 39 states that are named after him, and the third Monday in January every year has been declared a national holiday in his honor.

Cpl. Cornelius T. Rivers, a counterintelligence agent with the Headquarters Command 71st Theater Information Operations Group, appreciates the racial diversity he sees among the high-ranking Soldiers he works with.

 “I don’t think that would have been possible had it not been for Martin Luther King,” said Rivers. 

“His speech was not just for African Americans,” he said, referring to King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. “It was equal opportunity for everyone.”

Sgt. Maj. Wilson L. Early, 36th Infantry Division’s former command sergeant majorsaid that he has seen the military become more mindful of diversity since he enlisted in 1979.

“We come from all walks of life, with many experiences,” he said. “Bringing this all together and making it work takes leaders with the mindset of mission first and the understanding that any one of us can become the leaders of tomorrow.”

Early said that the Army needs to continue making opportunities for all to succeed.  “We have had diversity at the highest levels in the Texas Army National Guard and our Army,” he said. “When Soldiers see Senior Leaders that look like them and come from the same background as them, we all do better as an Army.”

Early said that living in and creating an Army that reflects Dr. King’s dream is an ongoing process.

“The dream continues,” he said. “As we continue to make strides in this direction the dream continues to move. We have some great leaders making good decisions for the future of our Army.  Trust in them.”

Two Del Rio JOIC Analyst Receive Texas Homeland Defense Service Medals

The Two with the awardsDel Rio, TX—During a staff assistance visit, Operation Border Star Officer In Charge Col. Thomas Hamilton presented two members of the Joint Operations Intelligence Center (JOIC) the Texas Homeland Defense Service Medal.

Chief Master Sergeant Paul Lankford, Operations Manager of the Del Rio JOIC, and Staff Sergeant Jane Stahl, senior mission support specialist, were presented the medals on January 2, 2014 during a Texas State Guard staff assistance visit. The medals were awarded for, “Satisfactory service in defense support to the State of Texas under civilian authority.”

The JOIC, managed by Border Liaison Officer (BLO) Arthur J. Miller, provides border intelligence report products to local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies to aid in combating border related crime. Miller, a retired Texas Ranger, said, “We daily receive law enforcement reports from law enforcement agencies in our eight county area of operation (AOR), process them, add them to our data bases, then send out daily, weekly, and monthly intelligence reports.” He said the JOIC gets requests for special project-intelligence-reports, and is able to customize its data-base-stored information into the report format that is most useable for that agency.

Miller said his team works hand-in-hand with the Del Rio Sector Border Intelligence Center (BIC) daily, and each shares information with the other. “In fact, when Border Patrol needs air support, members of the JOIC dispatch the Department of Public Safety (DPS) helicopter to help out. It could be to locate illegal aliens in the brush, lost parties, rescue missions, or other humanitarian efforts.”

Additionally, the JOIC sends out BOLOs, Officer Safety and Awareness Bulletins, Training Bulletins, and Concealment Bulletins.

The Del Rio JOIC’s AOR consists of the following counties: Val Verde, Zavala, Dimmit, Uvalde, Real, Edwards, Maverick, and Kinney. The JOIC is funded by Operation Border Star funds, which also helps provide grant money for enhanced operations in its AOR to combat drug smuggling, alien smuggling, weapon and ammunition smuggling, and cash smuggling.

TXSG Trains for Emergency Response

Posted on: 14-JAN-14

Story by: Capt. Esperanza Meza

PFC Bannister and PFC Becker evacuate role player, SGT Cherie Southard from 4th Regiment, away from the mocked gas leak area.
PFC Bannister and PFC Becker evacuate role player, SGT Cherie Southard from 4th Regiment, away from the mocked gas leak area.

STEPHENVILLE, Texas – Tarleton State University and other local Stephenville landmarks served as training sites for a hurricane spawned tornado that caused wide spread damage as part of the scenario this past weekend. Wide Area Damage Assessment (WADA) and shelter management training were part of the tasks conducted by the volunteer citizen soldiers as observers, from TSU Emergency Management and TXSG HQ staff monitored the exercise to ensure effective communications with other key military and civilian personnel.

TXSG Major Wendell Sadler, Tarleton professor and key member in planning the event stated, “The goal of the exercise was to impress upon the TXSG, local authorities and private agencies, that disasters are going to happen and that we need to have a structure to implement,” he said. “Whether it’s setting up a shelter, a point of distribution (POD) for supplies or providing a meal, each agency must be in place to be fit into that structure in a support role.”

Local areas utilized for shelters were the Paradigm building of First Baptist Church, the National Guard Amory, Stephenville Parks and Recreation gym, the former firehouse on Harbin and Tarleton State University. The Texan Stars dance team and Rock House Residents from TSU also participated in a significant manner as role players.

Training provided Saturday morning and afternoon were necessary to keep the troop’s skills sharpened and ready for any emergency they may encounter. Two regiments, 19th and 4th along with members from 4th Air Wing, plus personnel from the Tyler Medical Unit and Military Auxiliary Radio System (MARS) were deployed by short briefs sent out at different times by the main operations center as to where to travel to and given instructions of their tasks for the mission, then report back to their perspective units.

TXSG representatives, Brigadier General Jake Betty, the Deputy Commanding General of the Texas State Guard, Colonel Paul Watkins, Chief of Staff, Army and

19th Regiment 1st Battalion troops, (L) PFC Joshua Smith and (R) PFC Hunter Becker, carry one of the Texan Star dance team members, Nichole Fort, playing as the injured victim, for medical attention during the WADA exercise while Callie Childers, Texan Star, PFC John Rizo (L) and PFC Ronny Bannister(R) look on.
19th Regiment 1st Battalion troops, (L) PFC Joshua Smith and (R) PFC Hunter Becker, carry one of the Texan Star dance team members, Nichole Fort, playing as the injured victim, for medical attention during the WADA exercise while Callie Childers, Texan Star, PFC John Rizo (L) and PFC Ronny Bannister(R) look on.

Lieutentant Colonel Pedro Barreda, G3 Operations, were on site in the operations center to evaluate the event and provide feedback. Chief Warrant Officer 2, Janet Schmelzer, also a Tarleton professor, served as liaison between the member agencies and TXSG. Tarleton student and TXSG member, Private First Class (PFC) James Ford, from 4th Regiment, served as part of the exercise.

New 19th Regiment TXSG member, Private First Class (PFC) Zaw Muang, participating in his first exercise stated, “I have never been a victim of a natural disaster and stayed in a shelter. The exercise gave me a different perspective and related me back to Katrina in being more sympathetic to the needs of the victims.”

One new addition in the scenario involved ATMOS Energy in creating a mock gas leak while the troops were conducting WADA. As explained by Jimmy Little, an ATMOS employee and observer, “When you have a natural disaster, like a tornado, you are going to have gas meters blown away and exposed broken lines and this is to teach them to recognize the hazards and block the area off till the gas company comes around.”

“The gas leak exercise is to identify and create a safe zone which is upwind from the leak to where you do not smell it,” added Renea Price, another ATMOS employee. “Once you smell it, you are not supposed to stand in front of it and make a phone call or use your radio and stay in the safe zone and block the perimeter.”

4th Regiment member and role player, Sergeant Cherie Southard, stated, “As a role player in the WADA mission for the 19th Regiment I was a victim of a gas leak. It was definitely a great learning experience and valuable training event for the role players as it was for the troops of the 19th Regiment as the role players were able to evaluate the soldiers’ actions. I feel certain we will use what they learned in the event if we are put in a similar situation,” she said. “The motto of the Texas State Guard, Texans helping Texas, is similar to Regimental joint training, Regiments helping Regiments.”

“We cannot thank enough TSU President, Dr. F. Dominic Dottavio. Also, TSU Emergency Control Center, Chief Alvin Allcon and the university police department in supporting this event the past 4 years,” said Major Sadler. Thanks also goes to Risk Management Director Kent Styron, Jamie Trusner, and the IT Services Network and Communications department.”