Posts From October, 2019

Airman weathers storm with resiliency

Story by SSgt Briana Larson and TSgt Lynn M. Means, 136th Airlift Wing, TXANG

Staff Sgt. Williams poses for a photo. (US Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Mark Otte)
Staff Sgt. Williams poses for a photo. (US Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Mark Otte)

NAVAL AIR STATION JOINT RESERVE BASE FORT WORTH, Texas -- “Say something.”

“I don’t know what made me make that call,” said Staff Sgt. De’Jon P. Williams, a 136th Airlift Wing photojournalist. “At that moment I told myself to say something. And I did, and I started to get help.”

Williams’ story shows the hope each of us can hold on to when we hit rock bottom, as he has come a long way from that day as a Senior Airman.

“Things had started to crumble,” said Williams. “My car got repossessed, I had just started my first day of school when everyone was called to support the Hurricane Harvey response, and it was then I learned some information in my personal life that tore me apart.”

It wasn’t right away that it all connected, said Williams. He had a mission to do and tried to stay focused. But when it finally hit him, it hit hard.

“It bothered me at the time, but the puzzle pieces hadn’t come together in my head just yet,” said Williams. “I went to cover a medical group that came to help us out in Houston. I don’t know what happened, but my mind just snapped. I lost it – I didn’t know what was going on.”

Williams immediately recognized something was not right, and he needed help.

“I remember flying with the medical group wondering what was going on with myself,” said Williams. “I was in autopilot the whole time, just trying to do my job taking photos. I wasn’t there in the moment – just doing my job with no context in my mind.”

As soon as he returned, he asked his supervisor for help.

“I reached out to Sgt. Overton, and told her I wasn’t doing so well,” said Williams. “I asked to talk to the First Sgt., who then reached out to Ms. Lynn, who was really helpful.”

Kathryn Lynn, the 136th Airlift Wing director of psychological health, was able to connect Williams with the first step in his road to recovery.

“The good thing was that I was proactive when I noticed something wasn’t right with me,” said Williams. “I spent that evening in the hospital. Sgt. Singletary drove me there himself. I knew I wasn’t going to hurt myself, but I couldn’t define this feeling – there were no words for it.”

It was after his initial breaking point when he began to notice small things would trigger him, said Williams. The tiniest things became the biggest stressors because of where he was mentally, as though every other day there was something to mess with him.

“For a couple of months, I only had my motorcycle,” said Williams. “When I was on my bike and it just started raining, those were some of my lowest times. I had to ride through torrential downpours just to get home, hiding under the overpass and waiting for the rain to stop. Sometimes I would sit there and think, ‘Well, if you think you can’t get no lower.’ That bike and I have literally been to hell and back together.”

Then another major event brought his world crashing down.

Staff Sgt. Williams poses for a photo. (US Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Mark Otte)
Staff Sgt. Williams poses for a photo. (US Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Mark Otte)

“My grandmother had two strokes, and without thinking it through, I tried to get as close to home as I can be, which was Phoenix,” said Williams. “But I still had a lease in Texas and had to pay for that lease. I worked and slept at the Phoenix airport and got support from the United Services Organization there. Then I’d make my cot in the corner of the airport and sleep until my shift started the next morning and fly back to Fort Worth for drill. I lived that way for maybe two months.”

But Williams’ support had not ended with that first hospital visit. His mentors include Maj. Theresa Chrystal, the 136th Airlift Wing executive officer, Tech. Sgt. Lynn Means, the non-commissioned officer in charge of Public Affairs, and Tech. Sgt. Kristina Overton, his supervisor.

Williams said a lot of people were aware of his situation and reached out a lot to help him. Because of this, he was able to get counseling sessions every week and had help getting a car. And Maj. Chrystal was there every step of the way with phone calls and text messages.

“Really everyone at some point played a role,” said Williams. “Maj. Chrystal, Sgt. Means, Sgt. Overton – sending encouraging texts and calling, pulling me to the side to see how I’m doing and how they can help. Sometimes I felt singled out, but looking back on it I feel thankful. It was the small things, just knowing that somebody cares.”

The Wingmen who stepped in to help Williams can look back on those days and see how far he has come, attesting to the value of reaching out for help.

“Sgt. Williams is a real-world example of how stepping in and taking care of an Airman can truly change their life,” said Chrystal. “I can’t even explain the joy in my heart when I see the difference in this young man. It’s evident in everything about him that by investing in him and ensuring he had the resources he needed, his life was turned around for the better. It’s what makes me proud to be a leader – to be there to help Airmen make it through those times.”

The struggle doesn’t always end, but Williams found ways to cope, and is once again thriving in his role with the Texas Air National Guard.

“I have my moments even today,” said Williams. “There are still things that I deal with, but I allow myself space to deal with it, and wake up tomorrow with a fresh start. I work out a lot more, I set rules for myself, and I try not to carry burdens and issues.”

Williams has since excelled in a deployed mission, trained the deployed Public Affairs team, and even earned a promotion into the Non-Commissioned Officer corps.

“I am so proud to see how strong and resilient he is,” said Chrystal. “I cannot wait to watch both his life and career as he continues to soar. He is definitely a rescue story in the making!”

Williams looks back at his journey with confidence, thankful for the ones who stepped up, and hoping his story will encourage others to reach out.

“I want other Airmen to know it’s worth it - say something,” said Williams. “Bottling it in isn’t going to do anything but make it worse and you don’t want to find yourself in a position where you feel like you can’t make it out. Just sit with someone, talk to them and let it out for 5 or 10 minutes. It will help. Just say something.”

Texas National Guard veterans inducted into Hall of Honor

Story and Photos by Spc. Miguel Ruiz, 100th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, TXARNG

AUSTIN, Texas – The Texas Military Department inducted three retired veterans into the Hall of Honor, Oct. 27, 2019 at Camp Mabry.

Retired Maj. Gen. Joyce Stevens, retired Col. Timmy Hines and retired Chief Master Sgt. Kevin O’Gorman were recognized for their outstanding and exemplary service to the Texas Military Department during a formal ceremony. 

Mrs. Timmy L. Hines receives an award from Maj. Gen. Tracy Norris on behalf of retired Col. Timmy L. Hines at the Texas Military Department's Hall of Honor induction ceremony at Camp Mabry October 27, 2019. Hines, a Vietnam War veteran, served more than 33 years in the military. Hines also championed equality throughout his career, recruiting the Texas National Guard’s first female aviator and promoted the growth of female aviators at the 149th Aviation Brigade’s flight school. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Miguel Ruiz)
Mrs. Timmy L. Hines receives an award from Maj. Gen. Tracy Norris on behalf of retired Col. Timmy L. Hines at the Texas Military Department's Hall of Honor induction ceremony at Camp Mabry October 27, 2019. Hines, a Vietnam War veteran, served more than 33 years in the military. Hines also championed equality throughout his career, recruiting the Texas National Guard’s first female aviator and promoted the growth of female aviators at the 149th Aviation Brigade’s flight school. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Miguel Ruiz)

Several senior members of the Texas Military Department, including Maj. Gen. Tracy R. Norris, the Adjutant General of Texas, were in attendance.

“These individuals have records that are lengthy and remarkable,” said Norris during the ceremony. “They have spent their careers supporting their fellow service members and pushing the Texas Military Department forward into the future.”

Framed plaques, displaying a photo of each inductee along with a summary of his or her contributions to the Texas Military Department, were unveiled during the ceremony.

“I remember looking at the photos of the Hall of Honor inductees as a junior officer and, though I did not know them, I was inspired by the written accomplishments under each person’s photo,” said Stevens, former Texas Military Department assistant adjutant general. “I like to think that someday a junior leader will see my photo and be inspired to serve and lead our Soldiers well and faithfully.”

Stevens, who was the first female to reach the rank of brigadier general in the Texas Army National Guard in 2006, said that she recognized a responsibility for setting a competent and capable example of leadership to her Soldiers.

“With that promotion, came a knowledge that female Soldiers were looking up to me for inspiration,” said Stevens. “I would advise both female and male Soldiers who aspire to become senior leaders to learn the job you are in as well as the next job. Volunteer for hard work and boldly volunteer for leadership positions.”

The inductees' framed plaques and biographies are set to be permanently enshrined at the Texas Military Forces Museum at Camp Mabry for future generations to admire.

Three National Guard veterans are presented awards during a Texas Military Department Hall of Honor induction ceremony at Camp Mabry October 27, 2019. The TMD's Hall of Honor is an exclusive membership made up of former Texas military service members who positively influenced and brought great credit upon TMD during their tenure of service. Since the HOH was established in 1980, over 100 former service members have had their stories and contributions to TMD displayed permanently in the Texas Military Forces Museum at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Miguel Ruiz)
Three National Guard veterans are presented awards during a Texas Military Department Hall of Honor induction ceremony at Camp Mabry October 27, 2019. The TMD's Hall of Honor is an exclusive membership made up of former Texas military service members who positively influenced and brought great credit upon TMD during their tenure of service. Since the HOH was established in 1980, over 100 former service members have had their stories and contributions to TMD displayed permanently in the Texas Military Forces Museum at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Miguel Ruiz)


“To be remembered and recognized by leadership and my peers as someone that they feel made an impact in our force is a great honor,” said O’Gorman, the former state command chief master sergeant of the Texas Military Department.

The inductees will join over 100 Soldiers and Airmen who have been inducted into the Hall of Honor in the last 38 years.

“Each of these individuals has left a lasting impact on the Texas Military Department. Thank you for the job well done,” said Norris. “We all look forward to their continued service as a motivation for us to strive to be the best we can be, not only for ourselves, but for those that are following in our footsteps.”

Texas Guard Special Forces Soldiers awarded Medals by the Czech Republic

Story and Photos by Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Pena, Texas Military Department

A Czech Republic soldier prepares to present awards during a during a ceremony in Prostejov, Oct. 25, 2019, marking a successful six-month tour to Western Afghanistan. During the ceremony, Special Forces Soldiers from the Czech Republic and Texas Army National Guard received awards, distinctions and badges of honor as an appreciation for their successful service abroad and excellent representation of their homeland. The Texas Military Department and the Czech Republic have participated in the U.S. Department of State’s Partnership Program cooperation since 1993 with the Nebraska National Guard, in support of the U.S. European Command Theater Security Cooperation Strategy. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Pena)
A Czech Republic soldier prepares to present awards during a during a ceremony in Prostejov, Oct. 25, 2019, marking a successful six-month tour to Western Afghanistan. During the ceremony, Special Forces Soldiers from the Czech Republic and Texas Army National Guard received awards, distinctions and badges of honor as an appreciation for their successful service abroad and excellent representation of their homeland. The Texas Military Department and the Czech Republic have participated in the U.S. Department of State’s Partnership Program cooperation since 1993 with the Nebraska National Guard, in support of the U.S. European Command Theater Security Cooperation Strategy. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Pena)

Prostejov, Czech Republic -- Special Forces Soldiers assigned to the Texas Army National Guard were awarded the Medal of the Minister of Defense of Czech Republic, at a ceremony in Prostejov, Oct. 25, 2019, for their efforts supporting their Czech Allies during a recent combat deployment to Afghanistan as part of Operation Resolute Support.

Resolute Support is a NATO-led mission to train, advise and assist the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces. The Resolute Support mission is currently comprised of 17,000 personnel from 39 NATO Allies and partners.

"The ceremony was a dedication to the end of a successful mission that was conducted in Afghanistan,” said the deputy commander of the Czech Republic’s Special Operations Forces. “It is important for everyone to understand how special it is for us to have our U.S. brothers here with us. My Czech operators that served side-by-side with the [Texas] operators felt the cooperation was extraordinary and wanted to express gratitude."

During their deployment, the Texas Guardsmen, assigned to the Army's 19th Special Forces Group (Airborne), partnered directly with Czech SOF for six months in Afghanistan’s Western region where they worked hand-in-hand for one shared goal - protecting their homelands.

A Texas Guardsman assigned to the Army's 19th Special Forces Group (Airborne), presents a U.S. Army Combat Infantryman Badge to a Czech Republic Special Forces soldier during a during a ceremony in Prostejov, Oct. 25, 2019.
A Texas Guardsman assigned to the Army's 19th Special Forces Group (Airborne), presents a U.S. Army Combat Infantryman Badge to a Czech Republic Special Forces soldier during a during a ceremony in Prostejov, Oct. 25, 2019.  Army photo by SSG Elizabeth Pena.

"It is not common for Czech to give foreign service members this [Medal of the Minister of Defense of Czech Republic] decoration," said the Czech deputy commander. "They are here not because of me, or my boss, or my boss' boss. They are here because of the brotherhood that was born in the battlefield of Afghanistan. It is because of operators here in this unit that were deployed, had someone next to them from the United States that they could rely on."

This combined effort stems from a 24-year relationship between the Texas Military Department, Nebraska National Guard and the Czech Republic as part of the U.S. State Department’s State Partnership Program, based on military-to-military engagements with all components from the Czech Republic and Texas.

"It was great for us to take that partnership that had been developed over the years and put it together in a mutual deployment," said the detachment commander of the Texas-based 19th SFG (A) Special Forces team. "The Czechs went on approximately 30 missions with us, so that is a lot of time spent on a daily-basis planning, rehearsing and executing and it just validated that our special operations brotherhood is more than just our regiment, it expands across our NATO partners."

Those who have participated in the State Partnership Program have seen the direct correlation between investing in the relationship with their Czech counterparts during peacetime and the effectiveness created between NATO Allies in combat.

"There's a plaque I have with pictures of the teams working together across all of those missions," said the American detachment commander. "This directly demonstrates the strength of the state partnership from each program, even in places as distant as Afghanistan, the U.S. Army, the Texas Army National Guard and the Czech Republic can work hand in hand for mutual goals and benefits."

Czech Republic Air Force Maj. Gen. Jiri Verner, Deputy Chief of the General Staff of Czech Armed Forces Command, presents the Medal of the Minister of Defense of Czech Republic to Texas Guardsmen assigned to the Army's 19th Special Forces Group (Airborne), during a ceremony in Prostejov, Oct. 25, 2019, hosted by their State Partner, Czech Republic. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Pena)
Czech Republic Air Force Maj. Gen. Jiri Verner, Deputy Chief of the General Staff of Czech Armed Forces Command, presents the Medal of the Minister of Defense of Czech Republic to Texas Guardsmen assigned to the Army's 19th Special Forces Group (Airborne), during a ceremony in Prostejov, Oct. 25, 2019, hosted by their State Partner, Czech Republic. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Pena)

This deployment was just one of many examples of how the Texas and Czech Republic’s partner-unit preparation, through U.S. support and engagement, is a strengthened capability and improves interoperability every day, whether it is training at home station or combat missions abroad.

"I am so proud of these Texas Guardsmen," said Texas Army National Guard Maj. Gen. Tracy Norris, the Adjutant General of Texas. "Their efforts to work in close collaboration with our Czech partners and go the extra mile exemplify the type of Soldier we all strive to be. Our long campaign in Afghanistan has required our troops to be highly adaptable professionals at all times. The 19th SFG (A) continues to stay true to our mission and values in this war fight, bringing honor to themselves and those of us back home."

 

This article was initially posted to DVIDS on October 28, 2019.

From the Top October 2019

Effective Homeland Response

MAJOR GENERAL DAWN FERRELL, DEPUTY ADJUTANT GENERAL - AIR

     According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Texas leads all states in federal disaster declarations by a significant margin. It is therefore critical that our forces remain trained and ready at all times to respond any emergency or non-emergency situation for which we are asked to provide support. We do this through numerous mechanisms, including our Mission Ready Packages (MRPs), Civil Support Teams (CSTs), and Counter-Drug Task Force which recently celebrated its 30th Anniversary. The scalable nature of our responses is vital to our mission success, and we are often held up as a model to other states for how to best prepare for, and respond to, disasters and dangerous situations here at home. 

     TMD brings unique assets to the field in support of homeland response, and these are exemplified in our MRPs. In the event of a hurricane or other large-scale event, we can rapidly shift and mobilize personnel in numbers that no other agency can duplicate. When required to react to no notice Search and Rescue (SAR) missions, the SAR companies bring specialized skill sets that are not available elsewhere, saving lives. Our conduct during these missions has led Texans and Americans to feel safe and secure as soon as they see one of our people on the scene, ready to offer assistance.

     Homeland response efforts provide us with a crucial opportunity to enact our value of “communicate and partner”. Our teams work with a myriad of local, state, and federal agencies, and our ability to effectively combine efforts is mission critical. Our military expertise and training is central to both large and small response efforts; however our ability to effectively communicate with those we mobilize in support of is critical the effective use of those skill sets. During the Deer Park Fires of this past spring, our CST Soldiers and Airmen not only supported first responders operationally, but also worked closely with civilian agencies such as the school district, providing guidance on when it would be safe for students to return. 

     Our homeland focused interagency partnerships are not limited to Texas-specific groups and events. Last month, the TMD Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear (CBRN) Response Enterprise (CRE) elements participated in the Joint Task Force-Civil Support (JTF-CS) CBRN Summit at Fort Hood. This was a Title 10, 2 Star Command summit which involved interagency coordination between DOD (T32 and T10), FBI, DOE, DTRA, and private industry. Participants met to discuss the response efforts related to National Planning Scenario #1 – a 10 kiloton nuclear detonation in the homeland.

     Our force continues to prove that we can sustain our warfighter missions abroad while simultaneously being the premier homeland response force. Thank you for all you do to maintain the trust and respect of our state and nation. 

DUTY, HONOR, TEXAS

Maj. Gen. Dawn M. Ferrell is the Deputy Adjutant General-Air for the Texas Military Department and also serves as Commander for the Texas Air National Guard. She is the principle advisor to the Adjutant General for all Texas Air National Guard issues. She is responsible for formulating, developing, and coordinating all programs, policies, and plans for three Wings and more than 3,200 Air National Guard personnel throughout the state of Texas.
Maj. Gen. Dawn M. Ferrell is the Deputy Adjutant General-Air for the Texas Military Department and also serves as Commander for the Texas Air National Guard. She is the principle advisor to the Adjutant General for all Texas Air National Guard issues. She is responsible for formulating, developing, and coordinating all programs, policies, and plans for three Wings and more than 3,200 Air National Guard personnel throughout the state of Texas. 

 

10 Tips to Avoid Cyberthreats

1. YOU ARE A TARGET
Realize that you are an attractive target to hackers. Don’t ever say “It won’t happen to me.”

2. EIGHT CHARACTERS IS NOT ENOUGH
Practice good password management. Use a strong mix of characters, and don’t use the same password for multiple sites. Don’t share your password with others, don’t write it down and definitely don’t write it on a post-it note attached to your monitor.

3. LOCK IT UP
Never leave your devices unattended. If you need to leave your computer, phone or tablet for any length of time—no matter how short—lock it up so no one can use it while you’re gone. If you keep sensitive information on a flash drive or external hard drive, make sure to lock it up as well.

4. PRACTICE SAFE CLICKING
Always be careful when clicking on attachments or links in email. If it’s unexpected or suspicious for any reason, don’t click on it. Double check the URL of the website the link takes you to: bad actors will often take advantage of spelling mistakes to direct you to a harmful domain.

5. BEWARE OF BROWSING
Sensitive browsing, such as banking or shopping, should only be done on a device that belongs to you, on a network that you trust. Whether it’s a friend’s phone, a public computer or a cafe’s free WiFi—your data could be copied or stolen.

6. BACK UP DATA
Back up your data regularly, and make sure your anti-virus software is always up to date.

7. PHYSICAL CYBER SAFETY
Be conscientious of what you plug in to your computer. Malware can be spread through infected flash drives, external hard drives and even smartphones.

8. SHARE LESS SENSITIVE INFORMATION
Watch what you’re sharing on social networks. Criminals can befriend you and easily gain access to a shocking amount of information—where you go to school, where you work, when you’re on vacation—that could help them gain access to more valuable data.

9. STAY ON TOP OF  YOUR ACCOUNTS.
Be sure to monitor your accounts for any suspicious activity. If you see something unfamiliar, it could be a sign that you’ve been compromised.

10. USE TWO-FACTOR OR MULTI-FACTOR AUTHENTICATION
Two-factor or multi-factor authentication is a service that adds additional layers of security to the standard password method of online identification. Without two-factor authentication, you would normally enter a username and password. But, with two-factor, you would be prompted to enter one additional authentication method such as a Personal Identification Code, another password or even fingerprint. With multi-factor authentication, you would be prompted to enter more than two additional authentication methods;after entering your username and password.
 

This article first appeared in the October 2019 edition of The Dispatch on page 19.

Operation Lone Star Brings Medical Care to the Valley

Story and Photos by Staff Sgt. Eric Walden, Texas State Guard Public Affairs

BROWNSVILLE, Texas - This year marked the 20th anniversary of the Texas State Guard’s involvement in Operation Lone Star.  Operation Lone Star is a collaborative medical services project that unites state and county health and human service agencies, the Texas Military Department, local service groups and volunteers in the largest public health humanitarian effort in the country. OLS is a real-time, large-scale emergency preparedness exercise that provides medical service and disaster recovery training to state agencies and personnel while addressing the medical needs of thousands of underserved Texas residents.

Brig. Del Marco Coppola, DO, discusses a patient's case with members of the multi-agency staff, including a doctor from Mexico, nursing students and a provider form the U.S. Public Health Service during operation Lone Star 2019 at the Brownsville MPOD, Brownsville, Texas.
Brig. Del Marco Coppola, DO, discusses a patient's case with members of the multi-agency staff, including a doctor from Mexico, nursing students and a provider form the U.S. Public Health Service during operation Lone Star 2019 at the Brownsville MPOD, Brownsville, Texas.

Each summer since 1998, OLS provides medical care at no cost to residents of the Rio Grande Valley. For many residents, it is the only medical care they receive all year. For elements of the Texas State Guard and its Texas Medical Brigade/Medical Component Command, it is a vital training mission that offers hands-on experience in mass medical care in partnership with local public health authorities. For local residents, it is the gift of health–or of life itself.

The medical services OLS provides include immunizations, blood pressure checks, diabetes screenings, hearing and vision exams, physicals for students, medical evaluations and dental services.

Each year approximately 200 military staff members, more than 200 state and county employees and countless volunteers give their time and talents to make OLS a reality. Annually, OLS provides some 60,000 medical services to more than 12,000 Texas residents.

For the Texas Medical Brigade, OLS is its primary Annual Training event where these highly trained, licensed and certified health care professionals dedicate more than a week of their time. During the intensive training exercise, they set up Medical Points of Distribution and prepare for state and local emergencies, while providing an enormous humanitarian service to the people of Texas. 

The TMB/MCC is one of the four components of the Texas State Guard. It was established in March 2003 as the Texas State Guard Medical Reserve Corps, a component of the Texas Military Department under the Adjutant General of Texas and at the direction of the Governor of Texas. It was reorganized as the TMB/MCC in May 2007 and has an authorized end strength of 350 medical and support personnel statewide. The TMB/MCC remains a Medical Reserve Corps unit designated by the U.S. Surgeon General.

The TMB/MCC serves as a regional medical response team to assist in Texas public health emergencies, including biological terrorism, epidemics and disasters. The mission is to provide licensed medical personnel and technical support expertise in response to large-scale disasters, supplementing public health authorities of the Texas Department of State Health Services. The TMB/MCC also provides medical care to military personnel of the Texas Military Department and first aid support to select community events.

Many of these medical military staff return year after year to provide services to communities that always welcome assistance with basic healthcare services. Since there are multiple locations in the Rio Grande Valley where MPODs are located, such as Brownsville, Mission, Laredo and other Rio Grande Valley locations, military healthcare providers may be assigned to new locations each year. Despite this movement, OLS has forged relationships between many physicians and clientele, relationships deep enough for clients to track down physicians they have seen before in order to see them at their new locations. 

CPT Adrian Cano, a Texas State Guard physician, gives a nine-year old boy a much-needed basic health care examination during Operation Lone Star at the Mission MPOD, Mission, Texas.
CPT Adrian Cano, a Texas State Guard physician, gives a nine-year-old boy a much-needed basic health care examination during Operation Lone Star at the Mission MPOD, Mission, Texas.

Brig. Gen. Marco Coppola, DO, the Chief Medical Officer for OLS 2019 relayed a story where he saw the same client for three years in a row. The man, who was initially diagnosed as obese and suffering from high blood pressure, sought out Dr. Coppola each year to update his medications and receive an update on his progress. In the third year, the man had lost so much weight he was no longer obese, and his blood pressure had returned to normal. This relationship between the client and his OLS healthcare provider has turned the man's life around.

Col. Jonathan MacClements, MD, Surgeon General of the Texas State Guard, had one of the most unusual cases. Last year at OLS, a man presented a disfiguring skin disorder. Dr. MacClements was able to diagnose the skin disease as leprosy and worked to ensure follow-up care of the man during the year. This resulted in the man returning to see him again this year and evaluate his progress in alleviating the debilitating disease. 

Col. Robert McBroom, MD, an infectious disease specialist out of Wichita Falls, Texas, recalls a young student client who initially came in for a sports physical, which is a common need for students participating in sports in their local schools. Her experience at OLS led her to return for the last three years not only for continued care under Dr. McBroom, but also as a volunteer herself, providing translation services to clients and forging new relationships between clients and their OLS healthcare experience. 

Texas State Guard providers create much more than a single healthcare experience; they create relationships where clients return year after year to follow up on their healthcare needs. These relationships exemplify a trust between the Texas State Guard medical providers not only with the local community, but also with individual clients. 

“This speaks volumes for the importance of OLS and why the efforts of the Texas Medical Brigade are instrumental for the health and well-being of the citizens of Texas,” Brig. Gen. Coppola said.

Dr. Voss and a young patient

This article originally appeared in the October 2019 edition of The Dispatch, on page 14.

Saving a Life In a Moment's Notice

Story by Brandon Jones, Texas Military Department Public Affairs

It was just another hot summer night for Texas Army National Guardsman Spc. Matt Oldham as he worked his civilian job, the overnight shift as a security guard at the Dallas Holocaust Museum, when an out-of-control car careened into a nearby building and burst into flames as he watched. Oldham knew he had to help. He ran to the burning car.

It wasn't too long ago, though, that Oldham walked the halls of Wylie High School in Wylie, Texas, figuring out what to do next with his life. Oldham says life can be pretty tough in a small town. Between classes, social pressures and uncertainty about college, he found a passion that stuck with him for a lifetime and helped him navigate the crash that night, as he put his military training to use. Oldham's desire to serve his country has always been his number one priority. 

Oldham says that spirit of service comes from three generations of men in his family. Oldham's great grandfather, James Oldham, served in the U.S. Navy as a Seabee during World War II. His grandfather, Sgt. Bob Oldham, served multiple tours in Vietnam, receiving a Bronze Star for combat valor and a Purple Heart for wounds suffered in combat. Oldham's father, Sgt. Mark Oldham, spent time in Germany during the Cold War, in South Korea and at Dyess Air Force Base in Abilene, Texas. 

Spc. Matt Oldham and fiance Emma Sonck pose during a red carpet event hosted by Collin College. (Courtesy Photo: Army.com)
Spc. Matt Oldham and fiance Emma Sonck pose during a red carpet event hosted by Collin College. (Courtesy Photo: Army.com)

"The stories my family told me about serving were a life guide for me,” Oldham said. "I can't imagine a future without it."

It was just 20 days after his high school graduation in 2015 when Oldham joined that family tradition. He's now a SAW gunner in the 144th Infantry Regiment out of Seagoville, Texas, and his family couldn't be any prouder.

"When you realize the magnitude of the organization you have joined, it makes you want to grasp on to every piece of knowledge and apply it to your life," Oldham said.

Oldham deployed to the Horn of Africa from 2017-2018 after joining the National Guard. He describes the deployment as an opportunity to be a well-rounded Soldier. During his deployment, Oldham says he and other Soldiers learned airbase defense, patrols and general theater security.

"It's hard to imagine what you would do in a situation like that," Oldham said. “You try to push past it mentally, even though it's training because a real-life situation can be hard."

But Oldham had no idea he would put the skills learned during his deployment to the Horn of Africa to the test this past July. Oldham was three hours into his shift as a security guard for the Dallas Holocaust Museum when a loud sound forced him out of his seat. The sounds of glass breaking and tires screeching echoed in his ears as he made his way to see what was happening. As he got closer, Oldham noticed a man had crashed his vehicle into a downtown office building across the street from the museum, and the man's vehicle was now on fire.

Two Dallas Police Officers were already trying to do everything they could to save the man from the burning car. The entire front end of the man's SUV crunched against broken glass and bricks from the building, and the impact had trapped the man between the building and the car, according to Oldham. 

"I had to act and participate in the rescue anyway I could," Oldham said. "If that were my family member, I would want someone to do the same."

Firefighters respond to a crash near the Dallas Holocaust Museum where Spc. Matt Oldham works as a security officer. (Courtesy Photo: Robert McMurrey, Twitter)
Firefighters respond to a crash near the Dallas Holocaust Museum where Spc. Matt Oldham works as a security officer. (Courtesy Photo: Robert McMurrey, Twitter)

Oldham reached for his tourniquet, something he learned to carry at a first aid course he took during Initial Entry Training at Fort Benning, Georgia. He also took a Combat Lifesaver course his battalion medics taught. As part of the CLS class, Soldiers learned to use tourniquets, Israeli bandages, litters, chest seals, nasopharyngeal airways and more. Oldham recalled all of his training as he examined the driver for injuries.

"I could see several broken bones mostly in his feet and arms," Oldham said. "There were injuries to his chest as well. We were aware that this was a hazardous situation, and we needed to act fast."

As flames from the car intensified, Oldham could feel the sweat drop from his face and heat radiate throughout his body. He says he didn't think for a second about how he and the officers were putting themselves in harm's way. Oldham applied a tourniquet to the man's right foot as he helped pull him from the car.

"He seemed to be conscious even though he didn't say much," Oldham said. "I wanted to make sure he knew we were going to do everything we could to try to save him."

Seconds turned into what seemed like minutes during the rescue. The man was taken to the hospital and treated for his injuries. Dallas Police arrested the man for driving under the influence after the crash. Oldham feels everyone involved is fortunate the situation turned out as well as it did. Oldham says he was at the right place at the right time.

While Oldham insists he was just doing his job, Oldham is receiving awards to honor his heroism. The Dallas Holocaust Museum awarded him with The Lifesaver Award, and he's also receiving an award from his unit.

"When people walk up to me now they're saying I don't know if I would have been able to do that," Oldham said. “Life is short. It could all be over in an instant. I'm grateful for everyone one involved that night."

As he walks by the office building where the crash happened, all Oldham sees now are repairs. He wonders if he could have done more that night.  

While some may consider Oldham a hero, he doesn’t see himself as one. Instead, he thinks of the generations of men in his family that served before him. 

"If I could hear the words ‘well done’ by any of them, that's all I need," Oldham said.

 

Spc. Matt Oldham assists a fellow member of the infantry in weapons training
during a deployment to Arta, Djibouti. (Courtesy Photo: Spc. Matt Oldham)

This article originally appeared in the October 2019 edition of The Dispatch on page 10.

The Nervous System of Texas Guard Operations

Story and Photos By: Caitlin Rourk, Texas Military Department Public Affairs

 
Sgt. Kory Colvin, left, and Maj. John Pearson, right, monitor real-time updates in the Texas Military Department Joint Operations Center, Camp Mabry, Austin, Texas. The JOC serves as a link between partner agencies and Texas' 24,000 Guardsmen and civilians.
Sgt. Kory Colvin, left, and Maj. John Pearson, right, monitor real-time updates in the Texas Military Department Joint Operations Center, Camp Mabry, Austin, Texas. The JOC serves as a link between partner agencies and Texas' 24,000 Guardsmen and civilians.

AUSTIN, Texas - Managing information flow for a part-time force, operating in an environment where incidents often occur with no advance warning, requires round the-clock monitoring and coordination. For the Texas Military Department, which has more than 24,000 service members and civilians in its ranks, dozens of agency partners and a dual federal and state mission, its Joint Operations Center plays that critical role.

The JOC is the hub of information flow during both steady state operations, where it oversees the daily battle rhythm of the nation’s largest state military organization, and major incidents to which the Texas Military Department responds, be it tropical or winter weather, floods, wildfires and other civil support and law enforcement operations.

“We are able to communicate with all the major commands and units. We should be able to very clearly tell anyone who walks in—most notably, the Texas Adjutant General—what is available,” Staff Sgt. Kimberly Eastburn, a JOC battle NCO, said. “If the TAG wants to send out a certain number of aviation assets, we know exactly where those are and what is possible since we get those fed to us. The JOC has all the information to handle anything the state needs.”

The JOC has four key charges. First, it ensures timely and accurate communications with TMD components, the National Guard Bureau and interagency partners. Second, the JOC maintains situational awareness, which aids leaders in decision-making, alerts leaders to take action and assists in appraising the effectiveness and efficiency of operations and activities. Third, the JOC provides mission command to TMD forces that are mobilized in support of Domestic Support of Civil Authorities. Finally, it maintains historical documentation.

Located at the Joint Force Headquarters building at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas, the JOC’s design maximizes accessibility of information and serves as a central collaborative gathering place for TMD personnel and interagency partners during incident responses. Large television screens stream cable news network feeds, screens project real-time numbers and information and Soldiers sit behind computer monitors and phones, acting as a switchboard to units in the field.

In July, TMD renamed the JOC for Sgt. Maj. Elwood H. Imken, a longtime figure in the agency who passed away in 2018. Imken was instrumental in creating TMD’s JOC, and TMD leaders recognized how fitting the dedication would be. Eastburn says she immediately saw the parallels between the JOC and Sgt. Maj. Imken, as both were—in their own unique ways—at the heart of the agency.

“The JOC is the hub of what’s happening in the Texas Military Department. Sgt. Maj. Imken was the hub of almost everything that was happening at Camp Mabry at one time or another in any capacity he served,” Eastburn said. 

Staff Sgt. Kimberly Eastburn, left, and Sgt. 1st Class Clinton Staha, right, discuss a potential unit mobilization in response to flooding at the Texas Military Department Joint Operations Center at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas.
Staff Sgt. Kimberly Eastburn, left, and Sgt. 1st Class Clinton Staha, right, discuss a potential unit mobilization in response to flooding at the Texas Military Department Joint Operations Center at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas.

Like most Texas Guardsmen, Hurricane Harvey was the biggest mission of which Eastburn has ever been a part. She says working in the JOC when the governor mobilized the full Texas National Guard gave her greater appreciation for what an unprecedented undertaking it was and how much coordination was involved to accomplish it.

“The coordination and ability to respond and make that happen when it did is because the JOC is so heavily involved. We have the information, from what the State Operations Center needs, to what the Department of Public Safety needs,” said Eastburn. “Our partners know us, and we are the intermediary when a State of Texas Assistance Request, or STAR, goes out. We push the STAR and call out for mission-ready packages, and we know exactly how much it will cost because of all the past experience and events of what’s happened here.”

Capt. Jacob Schreyer, a JOC battle captain, explains that the JOC maintains an especially close relationship with full-time staff at units. Once the JOC receives the STAR, which allows Texas municipalities to request resources from TMD and other agencies for disaster and civil support responses, Schreyer and his team immediately make contact with units well before they are activated. The JOC explains the mission and helps leaders marshal their rosters, something that can be challenging for M-Day leaders who simply cannot be fully engaged on day-to-day unit operations. 

Facing the constraints of a largely part-time force, Eastburn says the JOC’s role in supporting readiness and ensuring accurate and timely information flow cannot be understated.

“As far as readiness, we know what we’ve got. We know where the people are. Overall readiness, without the JOC, it would be really hard,” Eastburn said. “We are the communication hub for everything the TAG wants, everything NGB wants, all the way down to the units. Without that, we just have so many different ways the information would flow down and potentially be miscommunicated.”

Battle captains and NCOs man the JOC every day of the year. While the JOC has set core hours, someone on staff is always on-call. More substantial incidents can prompt leaders to initiate the Adaptive Battle Staff, a construct that scales a staff size when responding to a natural or manmade disaster. The ABS has full-time personnel and traditional Guardsmen who come in on State Active Duty orders and different levels that dictate the number of SAD personnel and types of shifts and hours, ranging from Level IV, normal conditions, to Level I, maximum readiness.

“We are postured and ready to turn to 24-hour coverage, with 12-hour shifts and daily shift change briefs, if the agency is in an event response that requires increased manning,” Schreyer said. “We can flip back at a moment’s notice.”

In the months ahead, the JOC will modify how it displays information to maximize impact. Schreyer adds that the JOC is also working toward even greater integration with all three TMD components, including implementing a new system that better synchronizes with the Texas Air National Guard and having liaison officers more regularly present at the JOC.

This article originally appeared in the October 2019 edition of The Dispatch on page 6.