Posts From January, 2017

2nd Regiment Texas State Guard Has New Commander

Story by: Sgt. Stefan Wray, 2nd Regiment, Texas State Guard

Posted On: 1/28/2017

Col. John W. Muirhead assumed command of the 2nd Regiment, Texas State Guard, at a change of command ceremony held at Camp Mabry, Austin, Texas, Oct. 15, 2016. His wife, Sgt. Yvonne Muirhead and Brig. Gen. Howard N. Palmer, Jr., Commander, Army Component Command, Texas State Guard, congratulate Muirhead on his accomplishment. (Texas State Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Barry Branham).

AUSTIN, Texas – Col. John W. Muirhead assumed command of the 2nd Regiment, Texas State Guard, at a change of command ceremony at Camp Mabry, Austin, Oct. 15, 2016. Prior to the change of the command, Muirhead was promoted to the rank of colonel in the Texas State Guard.

He will lead the regiment, which is headquartered in Gatesville, with battalions in Austin, Gatesville and Killeen.

“The 2nd Regiment has an outstanding history and outstanding soldiers,” said Muirhead. “It is an honor to be a part of it and to command is the greatest responsibility for an officer. I believe in leading from the front will not ask anyone to do what I have not already done. I will capitalize on our greatest asset – the soldier. We need to make sure that we are developing leaders at every level.”

Muirhead began his military career when he was commissioned into the U.S. Air Force after completing a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and the Air Force ROTC program at the University of Texas at Austin, in 1990. During his federal service, he served in the Strategic Air Command Missile Combat Crew Flight Command, as a jump-duty Special Operations Forces Intelligence Officer, the Chief of Research and Analysis for the Joint Psychological Operations Support Element and the Chief of Influence Operations on the Air Staff at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.

Brig. Gen. Howard N. Palmer, Jr., Commander, Army Component Command, passes the 2nd Regiment guidon to Col. John W. Muirhead at the change of command ceremony at Camp Mabry, Austin, Texas, Oct. 15, 2016. The guidon is the flag of the unit and symbolizes the authority to command the unit. (Texas State Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Barry Branham).

His other assignments have included commander, operations squadron, Defense Language Institute English Language Center and deputy commander for the 37th Mission Support Group, the largest support group in the United States, at Joint Base San Antonio- Lackland.

His ground combat tours include the U. S. Army 6th Psychological Operations in Kosovo during Operation Allied Force; the Allied Rapid Reaction Force in Macedonia during Operations Noble Anvil and Joint Guardian and the 18th Airborne Corps Chief of Current Operations for Information Operations in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Many of his assignments included duty as a behavioral scientist, psychological operations tools and technologies research, psychological profiling, strategic intelligence planning and counter-terrorism.

Retiring in 2011, Muirhead joined the Texas State Guard in December 2014. He previously served as the Executive Officer for the 1st Regiment and the Operations Officer for the Army Component Command.

"Col. John Muirhead is the best qualified with the experience, education and vision to lead the 2nd Regiment to even greater achievements," said Brig. Gen. Howard N. Palmer, Jr.,

Commander, Army Component Command, Texas State Guard. “He knows how the Texas State Guard fits into the Texas Military Forces and Texas Military Department. He understands that we are here to serve our fellow Texans as a mission ready force.”

Muirhead and his wife, Sgt. Yvonne Muirhead, reside in San Antonio. In his civilian role he is a lieutenant with the Bexar County Constable Office, Precinct 4.

Candlelight Vigil for lost pilots of 1-149th Attack Reconnaissance Battalion

Story by: Sgt. Michael Fitzpatrick

Photo By Sgt. Michael Fitzpatrick | Hundreds gather on Jan. 14, at Ellington Field in Houston Texas, for a Candlelight Vigil in memory of CW3 Dustin Lee Mortenson and CW2 Lucas Lowe, pilots with the 1-149Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, who died when thier AH-64 Apache helicopter crashed Dec. 28, 2016 in Galveston Bay. 

January 14, hundreds of servicemen and women, friends and family and the soldiers of the 1-149 Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, gathered in a hanger at Ellington Field in Houston to mourn the loss of CW3 Dustin Lee Mortenson and CW2 Lucas Lowe, who died when their AH-64 helicopter crashed into Galveston Bay on Dec. 28, 2016.
Mortenson was a maintenance test pilot, and Lowe was an AH-64D pilot who graduated from Flight School weeks before the crash.
Though Mortenson and Lucas were unknown to many of those involved in the rescue and recovery efforts following the crash, they came to the vigil. Whether because of dedication, esprit de corps, or perhaps in solidarity for the loss of good people, they came. The Coast Guard, state and local police, strangers, friends and relatives; they all came to share grief, but also to celebrate the lives, service and sacrifices of Mortenson and Lucas – husbands, fathers and veterans.

389th Engineer Company Soldiers build new MEDEVAC facility

Courtesy Story by: Sgt. Courtney Champagne

Photo By Jet Fabara | Flight medics talk with their leadership following an awards ceremony held for the 389th Engineer Company, 368th Engineer Battalion, 176th Engineer Brigade, for the construction of a new MEDVAC facility in Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan. The facility will house members of Charlie Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Aviation Regiment (General Support Aviation Battalion) from Ft. Riley, Kan. (“Boomer Dust-off”). (DOD photo by Jet Fabara)

BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan – The MEDEVAC facility at Bagram Air Field in northern Afghanistan has seen better days. Its shattered windows, leaning walls, and peeling paint serve as evidence of the building’s lengthy history. 

The old hangar was constructed in the 1950s for the Afghan people by the U.S. Government in an effort to impede the spread of communism in Asia. 

During the Invasion of the Soviet Union in Afghanistan in 1979, it was inhabited by Russian forces until they withdrew in 1989, after which the Taliban maintained domination of the location that the old hangar was built on. 

In 2002, Bagram Air Field became home to American forces as part of the US-led invasion of Afghanistan, and the hangar became the workspace for hundreds of medical evacuation (MEDEVAC) crews, providing them with administrative offices as well as break, maintenance, and storage spaces which are critical for successful MEDEVAC operations. 

The primary mission of Charlie Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Aviation Regiment (General Support Aviation Battalion) from Ft. Riley, Kansas (“Boomer Dust-off”) is to save lives by providing MEDEVAC from the frontlines of conflicts in Afghanistan to the medical facility at Bagram Air Field. 

The GSAB mission is vital to the overall success of operations in Afghanistan; ensuring Soldiers and Afghan Nationals are provided with swift medical attention after sustaining battlefield injuries.

In the spring of 2016, the 389th Engineer Company a U.S. Army Reserve unit from Middletown, Iowa teamed up with C. Co., 2-1 GSAB to coordinate the build-out of a new MEDEVAC facility. The aging hanger required replacement to address safety concerns and provide a new facility that met standard operating requirements. 

The Base Support Group Commander, Col. G. Shawn Wells Jr. ordered the hangar’s evacuation due to overall structural instability however it became an urgent necessity to figure out where MEDEVAC crews would now conduct operations. 

A large area maintenance (LAM) tent was placed nearby as a short-term solution. Although the LAM tent provided a covered space for the crew to operate in, it lacked space for administrative offices and break areas, as well as maintenance and equipment storage. It hardly met the crew’s needs as a sensible area of operation. 

The 389th Engineer Company rose to the occasion and immediately began the early design plans to create a work space worthy of Boomer Dust-off as well as future MEDEVAC crews and their missions.

The MEDEVAC crews must be prepared to respond to emergencies at any time, spending long hours in their work spaces on standby. Special considerations were taken into account when weighing the design options of the new structure within the LAM tent. 

The final design was a collective effort amongst Boomer Dust-off personnel, Joint Engineering (JENG) at Bagram Air Field, the Forward Engineer Support Team (FEST-A), the 368th Engineer Battalion’s Construction Management Section, and the 389th Engineer Company. 

A crew of 14 Soldiers were selected to complete the build-out based on their carpentry expertise. Their skills were immediately evident based on their productivity. Only three days into the job, they were an entire day ahead of schedule. 

“This is one project that is going to have a lasting impact here,” said Spc. Kevin R. Suzie, carpentry and masonry specialist with the 389th Engineer Company. 

The end result included crafted trimming, cut and placed balusters, and sections of spacious rooms. 

“Their attention to detail was remarkable”, said Lt. Col. Matthew J. Strub, Deputy Commander of Task Force Victory.

The completed project was executed in just under three weeks. It included creative design solutions to the customer’s specific conditions, including adequate space for storage of a UH-60 Blackhawk aircraft during maintenance and repair. 

“We got to test our skills. We got to make design changes and use creativity”, said Sgt. Kent A. Hortstman, carpentry and masonry specialist with the 389th Engineer Company.

The 1st Combat Aviation Brigade hosted a ribbon cutting ceremony on November 10, 2016 honoring both the critical service of the Soldiers of C Co., 2-1 GASB, and the key role of the 389th Engineer Company throughout the construction of the new facility. 

During the ceremony, 1st CAB Commander Col. John M. Cyrulik and Command Sgt. Maj. Roque R. Quichocho presented Soldiers of the 389th with impact awards for their indispensable contribution to current and future MEDEVAC missions. 

Afterwards, leaders conducted a field expedient ribbon cutting in the new facility, in true MEDEVAC style, using trauma shears to cut the ribbon. 

“No other force on the planet goes to the extent that we do to make sure no Soldier gets left behind. This collaboration provides the capability to save lives,” said Cyrulik. 

The highly-skilled and dedicated Soldiers of the 389th provided a site for hundreds of MEDEVAC crews to proudly call their own today, and for many years to come. 

“At the end of the day, nothing gets done without the nuclear fuel that is our Soldiers,” said Cyrulik.

The 389th is a U.S. Army Reserve unit on a nine-month deployment. The unit is assigned to the 368th Engineer Battalion, and the 176th Engineer Brigade, Task Force Chaos.

36th CAB Memorial Run for E-40

36th Combat Aviation Brigade, Col. Brian D. Allgood, 46, of Oklahoma; Col. Paul M. Kelly, 45, of Stafford, Virginia; Lt. Col. David C. Canegata III,

Courtesy Story by: Sgt. Michael Fitzpatrick

Posted On: Jan. 25, 2017

Members of the 36th Combat Aviation Brigade at the Armed Forces Reserve Center at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport in Austin Texas, gathered outside American Legion Post 79 for a memorial run around Austin’s Ladybird Lake to commemorate the loss of Capt. Sean E. Lyerly, 31, of Pflugerville, Texas, and nine other soldiers killed when the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter Lyerly flew was shot down in the Diyala province northeast of Baghdad on Jan. 20, 2007.

The following information is a report from the Multinational Corps Iraq news release published By American Forces Press Service and reprinted online January 26, 2007 on the website:

The military statement said two coalition aircraft were flying on a routine mission when one of the aircraft crashed in a rural area northeast of Baghdad. Reports indicate a distress call from the trail aircraft. About 20 seconds later, the lead aircraft crew saw the trail aircraft go down.

The lead aircraft immediately circled back to provide security and assistance to the crew and passengers, the statement said. After determining the area was clear, the lead helicopter landed and quickly surveyed the scene for any survivors of the downed aircraft.

The crew observed that the aircraft was on fire and determined there were no survivors, officials said. They remained on the ground and secured the site until additional security arrived.

An aerial coalition quick-reaction force arrived on the scene to provide additional security about three minutes after the Black Hawk was reported down. This air support arrived quickly, officials explained, because the crews were already conducting patrols in the area. The lead aircraft involved in the initial incident stayed on the scene for an additional seven minutes before leaving the secured site to fly to Forward Operating Base Balad.

The lead aircraft crew, made up of soldiers from Company C, 1st Battalion, 131st Aviation Regiment, "performed heroically in protecting and safeguarding their comrades" in the downed Black Hawk under extremely adverse conditions, the Multinational Corps Iraq statement said. 

The soldiers, who belonged to a number of active Army and Army National Guard units, are: Col. Brian D. Allgood, 46, of Oklahoma; Col. Paul M. Kelly, 45, of Stafford, Virginia; Lt. Col. David C. Canegata III, 50, of St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands; Capt. Michael V. Taylor, 40, of North Little Rock, Arkansas; Capt. Sean E. Lyerly, 31, of Pflugerville, Texas; CSM Marilyn L. Gabbard, 46, of Polk City, Iowa; CSM Roger W. Haller, 49, of Davidsonville, Maryland; First Sergeant William T. Warren, 48, of North Little Rock, Arkansas; SFC Floyd E. Lake Sr., 43, of St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands; SFC John G. Brown, 43, of Little Rock, Arkansas; Staff Sgt. Darryl D. Booker, 37, of Midlothian, Virginia; Cpl. Victor M. Langarica, 29, of Decatur, Georgia.

Texas Guardsman saves life of blind man seconds after he was struck by vehicle

Texas Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Aaron Dias, recruiting and retention officer for the Recruiting and Retention Battalion, Region II, Team VII, enjoys lunch with his six-year-old son Gavin, left, and 18-month-old Aeryn, right, at a local resturant Nov. 12, 2016, in Tyler, Texas. Dias is responsible for rendering aid and saving the life a blind pedestrian that was struck by a vehicle in East Texas. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Elizabeth Pena)

Story by: Sgt. Elizabeth Pena

Posted: Monday, January 9, 2017

TYLER, Texas – Disaster can strike at anytime. Citizen-soldiers of the Texas Army National Guard are taught to always be prepared.

Texas Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Aaron Dias, recruiting and retention officer for the Recruiting and Retention Battalion, Region II, Team VII in Tyler, was driving back from the Military Entrance Processing Station in Shreveport, Louisiana, to his armory in Tyler with his recruit when disaster struck.

“The sun was starting to set,” said Dias. “It was to that point where you run into the sun it kind of casts a glare on you.”
Hiwatha Hudson, a legally blind 55-year-old man had just stepped off to cross the street with his cane.

“My applicant in the passenger seat hollered at me ‘there’s someone on the road!’ said Dias. “Sure enough, as soon as we cast over the hill, I saw a silhouette of a man and I swerved to miss him.”

At that moment Dias was thankful he avoided the man, but as he was pulling over, he saw something horrid.

“Then I looked back in my rearview mirror, I saw someone hit him so I turned around, jumped in the suicide lane and jumped to assist him,” said Dias.

Without hesitation, Dias immediately called 911 and took the situation into his own hands. 

“I jumped out, got my applicant to start blocking traffic. When I came up to the man he was face down and the blood was running down pretty heavy,” said Dias. “So I rolled him over on his side to the recovery position to kind of balance his head so the blood 
would drain out and I held him there and checked his pulse until the EMT arrived.”

The recovery position, one of the many skills learned in the military, is designed to prevent suffocation through obstruction of the airway. 

“We are taught over and over, repetition so that way when it comes to a situation like this, you don’t think you just react. I don’t think if I had that training or that repetition of training I don’t know if I would have done anything successfully like I did,” said Dias. 

Service members in the Texas Army National Guard must go through combat life saving courses throughout their military career and are taught to always be ready to help.

Dias, father of two, has been a member of the guard for over ten years.

“Every other generation of my family has served,” said Dias. “It’s a duty, it’s an honor and opportunity to put on this uniform everyday.”

Hudson has since been transferred to the Ocean Behavior Hospital in East Texas. 

“I am so glad he was there to render aid because if he hadn’t, I would not have my son today,” said Jerleane Hudson, mother of Henry. “I’m praying that God will forever bless him.”

Although he has not made a full recovery, it is Dias’s fast response that saved his life.

“People will drive past people in wrecks all the time they won’t stop and ask if they’re OK. Heck it could've been you, or me and I would pray that someone would stop and do what they could, whether it was helpful or not, at least they were trying. You know, just help," said Dias.

Thousands of fatalities every year in casualties where the cause of the unconscious was not fatal, but the airway was blocked, causing the patient to suffocate. Dias accredits the military with giving him the knowledge and experience to respond to this situation.

“It’s a part of being in the military but it’s also a part of just being raised in a small town. You help anyone that needs help. That also goes hand in hand with being in the guard. We are citizen soldiers we are supposed to help out wherever we can,” said Dias.