Posts From October, 2014

Ghosts, ghouls and goblins, Oh my! JFHQ’s FRG hosts Halloween party 

The Joint Force Headquarters Family Readiness Group, part of the Texas Army National Guard, hosted its first unit-wide Spook-tacular Fall Festival at Camp Mabry, in Austin.
Texas Army National Guardsmen, family and friends dress up for the Joint Task Force Headquarters’ Spook-tacular Halloween party held at Camp Mabry, Oct. 26, 2014. Te event was organized by the unit’s Family Readiness Group to help promote family and unit fun. (U.S. Army National Guard courtesy photo/Released))

Commentary by: The Texas Military Forces’ UPAR Class

AUSTIN, Texas – On Oct. 26, 2014, the Joint Force Headquarters Family Readiness Group, part of the Texas Army National Guard, hosted its first unit-wide Spook-tacular Fall Festival at Camp Mabry, in Austin. 

"The intent of this event is that everyone has fun," said Joint Force Headquarters commander, Maj. David E. Tyler. “It’s for the families.”

The festival included trick-or-treating, water dunking, pie throwing and other fall festivities.

"This is the very first Halloween party they’ve had," Tyler said. "I told a few enlisted NCOs that this is what I wanted to do, they jumped on board, made some suggestions, had a lot of good ideas and here we are."

The unit’s family readiness group organizers were the ones who set up the event.  Maria Daniels, FRG leader and wife of Sgt. 1st Class Donny Daniels, expressed that this event would not have been possible without her 20 volunteers. 

"A lot of volunteer hours went into this event," Daniels said "I had a lot of good help. I couldn’t ask for better soldiers than here at Joint Force Headquarters."

The FRG exists to support unit troops and families in case of emergencies as well as to increase communication among soldiers. 

"The FRG is so important because we are able to have these events and involve our families," said Tyler. "So many people think we just set up tents and shoot weapons, but that’s not all. I like to have these events to eliminate a bit of stress, boost morale and let the soldiers have a good time with their families."

Rosa Soto, the unit’s FRG co-leader not only helps set up events, but gets personal satisfaction from them as well.

"I get a great, awesome feeling just by seeing everyone smiling and having a good time, enjoying their family and friends," Soto said.

Those contributing to this story include: Story by: 1st Lt. Ira LeRoy, , 1st Lt. Tyler Ahrems, 2nd Lt. Greg Nedell, Sgt. First Class Thomas Jones, Staff Sgt. Santiago Nuno and Sgt. Terry Maldonado.

Ghosts, ghouls and goblins, Oh my! JFHQ's FRG Hosts Halloween party “I get a great, awesome feeling just by seeing everyone smiling and having a good time, enjoying their family and friends,” Soto said. “A lot of volunteer hours went into this event,” Daniels said “I had a lot of good help. I couldn’t ask for better soldiers than here at Joint Force Headquarters.”

Friday, October 31, 2014 10:56:00 AM Categories: Blog

Memoirs from a Deployment 

Memoirs from a Deployment

8/19

It's always exciting when seasons start to change. That first cool breeze puts a nice spring in everyone's step. Normally, I'd be scouring all of my favorite stores, putting together a lovely fall wardrobe in the process.

Here in Afghanistan, I'm just happy to not have sweat dripping down my back when I walk to the bathroom. The days are getting shorter. Instead of the sun blazing up at four am, it's peaking above the horizon around 0530. And at night, it's almost chilly. I've made friends with some of the most unlikely people, learned to bond with those who I did not care for at first, and also to just let things be when there's no hope for common ground.

At the end of the day, we are still a team. Sometimes part of being a team player is just to keep your mouth shut and pick your battles. And most battles aren't even worth it in the long run.

Our new UK team has blended seamlessly with us, which is a blessing. Whether we are horsing around during slow times or landing several trauma patients at once, everyone has been ready to lend a hand or tell a good joke. Today there was a tiny lizard on the unit, crawling around while the doc inserted a central line into a patient. We all had a good laugh about it before someone caught it and let it outside. It makes for a good rest of the tour.

We have 57 days left. The end is in sight!

Part 11 of a 13 part miniseries following the personal memoirs of a deployed soldier

Wednesday, October 29, 2014 11:51:00 AM Categories: Blog

Guard skeet shooters support Texas Boys Scouts 

In this image released by Joint Task Force 136 (Maneuver Enhancement Brigade), Col. Lee Schnell (left) and Brig. Gen. Patrick Hamilton (right) participate in the 2014 Sporting Clays Classic at the Texas Disposal Systems Exotic Game Ranch in Buda, Texas, Oct. 16, 2014. The annual event hosts teams of military veterans competing in clay shooting and raises money for the Boy Scouts of America. (Photo by Master Sgt. Daniel Griego)
In this image released by Joint Task Force 136 (Maneuver Enhancement Brigade), Col. Lee Schnell (left) and Brig. Gen. Patrick Hamilton (right) participate in the 2014 Sporting Clays Classic at the Texas Disposal Systems Exotic Game Ranch in Buda, Texas, Oct. 16, 2014. The annual event hosts teams of military veterans competing in clay shooting and raises money for the Boy Scouts of America. (Photo by Master Sgt. Daniel Griego)

 

Story by Master Sgt. Daniel Griego

AUSTIN, Texas - On Thursday, Oct. 16, the Boy Scouts of America, the Texas Army National Guard, and corporate sponsors all teamed up at the Texas Disposal Systems Exotic Game Ranch to support disadvantaged scouts throughout central Texas. The Sporting Clays Classic, held annually in Austin, Texas, is a fundraising effort wherein businesses sponsor "hero teams" to participate in a skeet shooting competition, with proceeds benefiting the Capitol Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America.

"We look for ways to make it possible for every boy to be in scouts," said Doug Cooper, the Development Director for the Austin Area Boy Scouts, "and this is one of the ways we do it. We've been doing it for 22 years; it's the oldest Sporting Clays tournament in Austin, and I think it's the best."

This year's event featured more than 200 shooters competing in five-person teams sponsored by local businesses such as Pinpoint Strategies and Sabre Commercial. Teams were made up of National Guardsmen from Joint Task Force 136 (Maneuver Enhancement Brigade) out of Round Rock, Texas, as well as other veterans and wounded warriors from throughout Texas. 

"[The sponsors] are very passionate about giving back and giving back to people who are important in giving to our country," said Ryan Leahy, the co-chair of the Boy Scouts Clay Shoot. "One of those ways is to sponsor a heroes team, which could include the National Guard or other veterans. That's what they do and that's what this is about. It allows the sponsor to give to a great cause while helping some of our national heroes."

Sponsors have the option of supporting an entire team or an individual service member. The day's activities included clay shoots, flurry shoots, Gnat shooting, social dinner, and an auction at the end of the night. 

"A company gets to do a good turn to both the Boy Scouts and the military," said Cooper. "And of course the Soldiers get to come out here and shoot and we're really happy to have them out here."

This is the second year for JTF-136 (MEB) to participate in the Sporting Clays Classic, having first competed last year after their deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

"Last year, the 136th MEB returned home from Afghanistan," said Lt. Col. John Crawson, the chief of staff for JTF-136 (MEB). "A couple of months after we returned back, I got a note from Col. (Ret.) Te Starr that there was a Boy Scout shooting clay event going on down at Texas Disposal Systems Exotic Ranch. Corporate Sponsorship had sponsored five hero teams. So we fielded five teams and brought them down and had a great time."

Crawson, who coordinated Guard participation again this year, has strong ties to the Boy Scouts of America and involving the National Guard in community events like this.

"I've been around scouting programs since I was a little boy and now I've got two sons in scouting. It's a great thing; it's a great way for us as Guardsmen to give back into our community. Proceeds that are raised in this event today go back into the capital area council specifically to sponsor some of our disadvantaged children that live inside our council."

The event raises $75 thousand to $100 thousand each year in service of more than 24,000 scouts across 15 counties. Proceeds target underprivileged Boy Scouts in hard-to-serve areas, allowing them to engage events they might otherwise miss.

"Next summer," said Cooper, "there's going to be boys climbing mountains in new Mexico or going to a Boy Scout camp down in lost pines near Bastrop. And they're going to be there because of this event."

Tuesday, October 28, 2014 9:22:00 AM Categories: Texas Army National Guard

Guard service goes beyond disasters 

In this image, Round Rock youths enjoy the military tactical vehicles during the city's annual Touch a Truck event, held Oct. 25, 2014, at Old Settlers Park.
In this image, Round Rock youths enjoy the military tactical vehicles during the city's annual Touch a Truck event, held Oct. 25, 2014, at Old Settlers Park. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Jennifer Atkinson)

 

 Story by Staff Sgt. Jennifer Atkinson

 ROUND ROCK, Texas - During a hurricane or other natural disaster, National Guard vehicles are familiar sights in local  communities, giving aid to Texans in a time of need. It's not often those same trucks and equipment are standing still  long enough for community members to climb in, take a good look around and chat with Guardsmen from the Round  Rock-based Joint Task Force 136 (Maneuver Enhancement Brigade).

 At the Touch A Truck event, sponsored by the City of Round Rock and staged at Old Settlers Park, children of all ages  got a chance to get in an armored cargo truck and Humvee. With an eagle's eye view of the people on the ground, kids  and adults got a taste of what driving one of these vehicles might be like. 

 “These sure have changed from my day,” said Robert Gomez, laughing. “I barely recognize these as Army trucks! I'm  really glad I got a chance to bring my family out here to see something like what I used to drive.” Gomez, a Houston  native visiting family for the weekend, recalls lines of trucks moving supplies after Hurricane Ike. 

 “The kids remember that too,” he said. “They remember seeing the trucks lined up in our neighborhood, before we got  power back. We got a lot of ice from you guys then, off the back of trucks like these.”

 Honking the truck horn was an especially popular activity, as was climbing the rear steel ladder to reach the bed of the  track.

 On the same day, members of the brigade's 436th Chemical Detachment, also located at the Armed Forces Reserve  Center in Round Rock, supported the city's “Halloween at the Y" event, allowing visitors to explore a decontamination  trailer and chemical protection gear, such as gloves, suits, and a gas mask.

 "This weekend, the 136th MEB supported the citizens of Round Rock at two different events," said Capt. Stephen  Houck, commander of the headquarters company. "This allows us a great opportunity to give back to a community that  gives us so much."

 Although this is the first year for the National Guard to support Halloween at the Y, the unit has a long history of  providing vehicles and personnel to the Touch a Truck event, fostering a long-term working relationship with the city.  Next to the trailer at the Round Rock Dell Diamond parking lot, where "Halloween at the Y" took place, kids climbed in  and out of a green Humvee.

“This is a great thing to do,” said Spc. Joshua Doucet, a member of the 436th Chemical Company. “Even though we've never had to use the equipment in a real situation, it's important to be out here so people can see us and can see we're always working to make sure we're ready to help.”

Talking to families and children about the mobile showers in the trailer, and the varied pieces of gear on the tables, Doucet was all smiles.

"I love this,” he said. “We get out and meet people from the community and show them we're ready to do our jobs, that we're here for them if they need us.”

Tuesday, October 28, 2014 9:19:00 AM Categories: Texas Army National Guard

Memoirs from a Deployment 

Memoirs from a Deployment

8/10

My aunt passed away today. 
I found out via email from my mother. It wasn't necessarily unexpected, as she had been sick with lupus for many years, but it did catch me off guard. In the military, you can only go home on emergency leave for certain situations. When my husband got sick during my Iraq deployment, I got to go home. Anyone in your immediate family warrants emergency leave - an aunt does not. I wish I could go be with my family, particularly my cousin, whom I'm very close to, but it's not an option. Even the guys here who are expecting babies back home don't usually get to go home for the birth.

My little stepsister is also expecting her first child. I wish I could be more of a part of that, as well.

While this deployment is not as hard as others, we are not getting mortared every other day like some places, we are cut off from our families and certain conveniences. We learn to rely on each other for support and companionship during hard times and to enjoy the simplest of pleasures. For example, although I can't physically be there with my family, I can email and call occasionally, and I'll be able to send flowers.

We have 71 more days here. The countdown is in full effect. I'm ready to go back to my real life, sleep in my nice bed, and wear cute shoes again, but I also dread how lonely it might feel. As difficult as it has been to get used to living in close proximity with so many people, it will also be difficult to return to my empty apartment. At least I have a dog.

Part 10 of a 13 part miniseries following the personal memoirs of a deployed soldier

Wednesday, October 22, 2014 1:50:00 PM Categories: Blog

SALITRE participants bring smiles to Chilean children 

Senior Master Sgt. Arellano gives a Chilean girl a gift ans a smile during a visit to the Children's ward at the Leonado Guzman Hospital
Senior Master Sgt. Mike Arellano from the 149th Fighter Wing, Texas Air National Guard, gives a Chilean girl a gift and a smile during a visit the children’s ward at the Leonardo Guzman Regional Hospital, Antofagasta, Chile, Oct. 11. Salitre is a Chilean-led exercise where the U.S., Chile, Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay, focus on increasing interoperability between allied nations. (Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Elizabeth Gilbert/released) 

 

 Story by Senior Master Sgt. Elizabeth Gilbert
 Texas Air National Guard Public Affairs
 

 10/16/2014 - ANTOFAGASTA, Chile -- More than 30 military members from five countries visited the Leonardo Guzman  Regional Hospital children's ward in Chile, Oct. 11, as part of a community outreach event for SALITRE 2014.
 
 The U.S., Chile, Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay are participating in this year's exercise, which is being hosted by Chile at  Cerro Moreno Air Force Base, Oct. 6-17. The military members brought gifts and spent time visiting with the hospitalized  children.
 
 "We did a good thing here. Hospitalized children can always use a little sunshine and a friendly smile to help their healing  process," said Col. (Dr.) Richard Vatt, flight medicine, 136th Medical Group, Texas Air National Guard, a traditional  guardsman, who is in Chile augmenting for the 149th Fighter Wing flight doctor during SALITRE 2014., "Parents all over  the world love their children, it's not any different here in Chile."
 
 The hospital visit is considered to be a social responsibility by the Chilean air force, who hosted the visit. It is a way to  establish community relations between the local residents and the military.
 
 "This visit [to Leonardo Guzman Regional Hospital] is to show our local community that SALITRE 2014 is not all about  combat missions, but a humanitarian mission as well," said Vilma Vega Berrios, internal communications, Chilean air  force. "It is our way of connecting with our communities."
 
Among the military members visiting the hospital was Maj. Andrew Davenport, F-16 pilot, 149th Fighter Wing, Texas Air National Guard, a traditional guardsman and a full time internal-medicine doctor in private practice, who speaks fluent Spanish. He comfortably communicated with the children, understanding their complaints and responding with a kind smile and words of encouragement.
 
The military members from each country went from room-to-room handing out gifts such as toys, balls, patches and hats, as each child eagerly waited to accept them. The parents were grateful for the early Christmas presents and they too had big smiles.
 
"The concern the parents have for the care of their child--it's universal," Vatt said. "It's an experience I will not forget."

Friday, October 17, 2014 9:25:00 AM Categories: Texas Army National Guard

Soldier saves roommate after accident 

Pfc. Wil Ledford is credited with saving the life of his roommate after an accident in their apartment.
Pfc. Wil Ledford is credited with saving the life of his roommate after an accident in their apartment. Ledford, of Grapevine, Texas, is a newly trained Combat Medic in the 36th Infantry Division of the Texas Army National Guard. (Army National Guard photo by Capt. Mike Perry)

 

 Story by Maj. Randall Stillinger

 

GRAPEVINE, Texas – A Texas Army National Guard soldier saved his roommate’s life after the accidental discharge of a weapon in July.
 
Private 1st Class Wil Ledford, 19, of Grapevine, used skills and techniques that he had just been taught two months prior while attending the Combat Medic School at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio.
 
Ledford, a 2013 graduate of Southlake Carroll High School and a member of Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 3-124th Cavalry Regiment in Wylie, was in his apartment when he heard a gunshot. He went in the next room, saw his roommate looking down at his leg, and asked, “Did you shoot yourself?”
 
The matter of fact response was a somewhat casual, “Yeah.”
 
Ledford’s military training instantly kicked in as the hollow point round had penetrated the femoral artery in the left leg and blood came out very fast. He described it as a “garden hose shooting red Kool Aid all over the place.” 
 
He went for his medical aid bag and proceeded to emplace a tourniquet as high as possible on the leg. The first tourniquet did not stop the bleeding so Ledford put on a second tourniquet, which worked. 
 
When asked what he did next, Ledford replied, “I just threw him over my shoulder and carried him to his truck.” He was referring to one of several carrying techniques that are taught to Combat Medics at Advanced Individual Training.
 
He then drove his roommate to an emergency room, which was less than five minutes away.
 
It wasn’t until about 20 minutes later that he fully realized what had just happened. “Wow. He shot himself,” Ledford said.
 
After several surgeries that included skin grafts and the removal of arteries from his other leg, Ledford’s roommate was released from the hospital earlier this month and is expected to be able to walk again in about seven to eight months. 
 
Although he had thought about the possibility of a career in medicine, it wasn’t really a goal. After scoring well on military entrance tests, he was given a few options and thought that “combat medics sounded the best.”
 
Ledford thought that he might get a chance to use his medical training in his National Guard unit, but never thought that he’d have to use it in his own apartment.
 
Capt. Matthew Colia, Ledford’s Company Commander, said that his actions are truly extraordinary. 
 
“This situation was one that required decisive action and Private Ledford answered the call of duty,” Colia said.
 
Ledford, who’s civilian job is a mechanic at a local auto repair shop, said that his “military training and this experience has prompted him to apply for schooling to become a paramedic.” 
 
Private 1st Class Ledford is the son of John and Colleen Ledford of Weatherford, Texas.
Thursday, October 16, 2014 9:27:00 AM Categories: Texas Army National Guard

Memoirs from a Deployment 

Memoirs from a Deployment

6/23

I don't make a lot of phone calls back home. This is mostly because I don't really like talking on the phone. My roommates spend most of their downtime Skyping with their families. I feel like if I tried to do that, I would spend all my time glued to my computer and not living in the moment. But every now and then, I'll call my family.

The worst thing besides just getting someone's voicemail is for them to tell you that they are too busy to talk right now. Seriously? I'm in Afghanistan and I only call every few weeks! Part of that is my choice, but it's also circumstantial. A lot of times, the phone lines are down due to the loss or injury of a troop, or maintenance. 

So I was very sad last night when I couldn't get through to my mom and my sister had other things going on. It makes me feel more disconnected from my family and even happier that I don't have a boyfriend or husband back home. I know of some girls who have been blown off by their significant others and it must feel devastating. 

It also brings back memories of my own marriage. I remember how, years ago, when my late husband would try to call me while he was deployed. If I missed a phone call, he would inevitably leave me a nasty and hurtful voicemail. I'm not excusing his mean behavior, but it does give me insight on how he must have felt at the time. Sometimes I wish he was still alive so we could talk about these things.

Yet in my sadness I managed to go online and buy a fabulous pair of Cole Haan boots. There's no reason why I can't build up my fall wardrobe while I'm out here, plus I'm a strong believer in retail therapy ☺

Part 9 of a 13 part miniseries following the personal memoirs of a deployed soldier

Wednesday, October 15, 2014 1:18:00 PM Categories: Blog