Posts From November, 2014

Lessons Learned From a Fried Turkey

How to fry a turkey Commentary by: Lt. Col. Jamey Creek, Base Operations Manager TCGC and Buffalo Gap Firefighter

Photo by: courtesy of All Hands Fire Equipment

You will likely be utilizing propane, a burner and extremely hot oil to cook your turkey. The safe operation and application of these essentials are vital to success of your Thanksgiving Meal.

Last year was my first attempt at frying a turkey. I simply searched the internet, watched numerous videos and read several articles on frying a turkey. Most all are similar in nature, with only slight variables in temperature, time and seasoning.  A good link to review is:

However, good old fashion first-hand experience is hard to beat. The following are personal lessons learned along with my experience as a volunteer firefighter.  

  • Make certain safety items are in close proximity. A fire extinguisher is an incredibly handy tool when needed. Even more important is to have a phone and the number for your local Emergency Service Provider. Most likely, the simple 9-1-1 will do the trick. Do not wait if an event occurs. Time is critical on fires. The faster responders get there, the greater the likelihood of success will be.
  • Make sure you are familiar with the operation of your propane burner. There are several variables; most notable is that some burners are equipped with timers that require your frequent attendance. Otherwise, it will automatically shut off after a few minutes. 
  • Firmly seat the hose from your burner to the propane tank. A faulty connection can be disastrous. Simply turn on the propane valve and listen for a “hissing” noise to confirm or deny your connection. If you hear or smell anything, immediately close the valve and re-check your connection. 
  • Proper oil depth is imperative. Too little oil prevents proper cooking and too much oil can lead to a fire and or injuries. The best method is to place your turkey into your pot and cover with water. You must then remove the turkey and mark the depth. This will later become the fill mark for your oil. The pot must subsequently be dried along with the turkey. 
  • Under no circumstance should you make an adjustment to the fryer pot without first turning off the burner. This is the most abused step, which leads to the most injuries when frying. By turning off the burner, there are no flames to ignite a potential oil spill. If oil is spilled, be sure to wipe it up prior to relighting the burner. 
  • Flip-flops, short shorts and short sleeves are not your friend when contact is made with 325-375 degree oil. Dress for success when frying. Leather shoes, long pants, long sleeves and gloves are imperative for your protection. 
  • The turkey MUST BE fully thawed and as dry as possible before placing into the hot oil. A significant emotional event will instantly occur if a frozen turkey is dropped into 375 degree oil. Your local emergency service providers will most certainly be needed if this is done.
  • Location is important. Your frying location should be on a hard, level and non- combustible surface. It must also be out of the wind, but in a well-vented area. 

A simple review of these lessons learned, combined with quality research time will undoubtedly set the stage for your safe and enjoyable holiday meal.   

Happy Thanksgiving!

Vietnam War refugee, career guardsman honors Texas, America

Story by: 2nd Lt. Phil Fountain

Photo of Air Force Lt. Col. Don Nguyen Wedding

Air Force Lt. Col. Don Nguyen, assistant director of operations for the 273rd Information Operations Squadron (IOS), Texas Air National Guard, with his parents, Phuoc and Mai Nguyen, during his retirement ceremony in San Antonio, Nov. 23, 2014. Nguyen retired after 27 years of military service, including time with the Texas Army and Air National Guards. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Eric L. Wilson / Released)

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO – LACKLAND, Texas – A career guardsmen was surrounded by friends and family as he capped off a 27-year military career by paying tribute to Texas and the United States, his adopted home, during a retirement ceremony here, Nov. 23, 2014.

Air Force Lt. Col. Don Nguyen, assistant director of operations for the 273rd Information Operations Squadron (IOS), Texas Air National Guard, retired from military service after lifting himself up from unlikely circumstances – a child refugee of the Vietnam War.

In the late 1970s, Nguyen’s family took to the high seas to escape Vietnam’s Communist regime, which took control of that nation in 1975.

“Our family and other families barely survived the five days lost at sea as ‘boat people refugees,’” Nguyen said. “We experienced starvation, dehydration, turbulent weather, life and death situations, and (were) without fuel – drifting until rescued by Malaysia’s international humanitarian effort.”

Following the ordeal, Nguyen’s family was initially sheltered in Malaysia, he said, and was then sponsored to come to the United States.

“I truly understand the genuine meaning of receiving freedom and the opportunity that our magnificent nation has provided to me, my family and many others,” Nguyen said. “I want to remind other Americans that you should do your very best with the freedom, opportunity, and always remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice to preserve our freedom.”

“I was just 10 years old when we immigrated to America, in November 1979,” Nguyen said. “I grew up in Houston, Texas, and quickly learned the English language, and how to become a Texan and an American.”

Army Col. Suzanne D. Adkinson, commander of the Texas Military Forces Joint Counterdrug Task Force, presided over the ceremony. In addition to his traditional, part-time role with the 273rd IOS, Nguyen was assigned to the Joint Counterdrug Task Force, at a location in El Paso.

“’Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore,’” Adkinson said, quoting the poem placed on the base of the Statue of Liberty. “’Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift up my lamp beside the golden door!’”

“You guys wanted to breath free,” she said, “and here you are.”

In 1987, Nguyen enlisted in the U.S. Army, and later served as a signal officer in the Texas Army National Guard before transferring to the Texas Air National Guard in 2002, when he became a U.S. Air Force cyber-communications officer.

“During my service with the U.S. Army,” Nguyen said, “I was naturalized and received my U.S. citizenship.”

Throughout his life and military career, Nguyen has sought ways to give back. This included making the most of his military service and volunteering with youth programs in his community.

He also volunteered and deployed in support of numerous state and federal missions. 

During the ceremony, Nguyen was presented with the Meritorious Service Medal, and the accompanying state award, the Texas Outstanding Service Medal. 

Nguyen’s service includes participation in state preparedness and response efforts related to Hurricanes Rita, Dean, Gustav, Dolly and Ike, which impacted Texas during the late 2000s, according to the medal citation. He led support teams for planning and engineering with the 254th Combat Communications Group, based in Grand Prairie, in north Texas, and deployed “six emergency command and control communications and supply distribution points” during the state’s response to the hurricanes.

He also supported the state’s Operation Lone Star (OLS) on three occasions, by “providing communications infrastructure support.” OLS is an interagency, state mission, led by the Texas Department of State Health Services, and has provided annual humanitarian medical and dental services in the Rio Grande Valley since 1999.

Additionally, Nguyen answered his nation’s call and deployed numerous times in support of federal combat operations abroad, including the Gulf War, in 1991, and twice for Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF).

During his OIF deployments, Nguyen served as an operations flight commander leading more than 100 people, according to the medal citation. He provided “expeditionary combat communications and air traffic control landing systems support to U.S. Central Command while subject to over 100 indirect fire attacks.”

Nguyen tied his success to leaving his home of birth and immigrating to America.

“It wouldn’t have happened if I never left Vietnam – I thank my parents,” Nguyen said. “I do whatever I can to serve the state of Texas and the United States of America.”

Adkinson expressed appreciation for Nguyen’s service to the Texas Army and Air National Guards.

“What a true patriot,” Adkinson said. “It’s absolutely amazing to me.”


The 273rd IOS is a geographically separated unit of the 149th Fighter Wing, Texas Air National Guard, which is headquartered at Joint Base San Antonio – Lackland, Texas.

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Holiday Survival A-B-Cs

A is for Appreciation. B is for Budget, Budget, Budget. C is for Call for Support. Commentary by: Tracy Ward, TXMF Behavioral Health Counselor

A is for Appreciation.  Appreciation is the opposite of depression.  It is difficult to be depressed and grateful at the same time.  Sincerely being grateful for what you have decreases depressing thoughts and opens the possibility for a positive mood and a smile on your face.  Take time during the holiday season to be aware of all the blessings you have around you.  Many times we take these blessings for granted or just enter in to a type of forgetfulness because the blessings have always been there.  Soldiers I have worked with in the past have shared with me how serving overseas made them realize how many blessings we take for granted in this country.  As they list things like clean water, shoes, a roof over our heads, peaceful nights and abundance of food, I realize I’ve taken those things for granted too and had stopped seeing them as blessings. During the 2014 holiday season make an intention to WAKE UP and see the blessings around you.  Train your eyes to look for hidden blessings that you may have forgotten.  Look for the good around you.  Take inventory of the good in people, in situations, in places and remind yourself that there is good in the world.  A helpful nighttime ritual is to state at least 10 blessings each night before you go to sleep.  Try to add one or two new items to your list each evening.  Making this a habit will help your sleep, decrease depressing thoughts and remind yourself how blessed you truly are. 

If, for any reason, you struggle finding good in yourself or others or struggle remembering your blessings, you may want to contact the Chaplain at 1-866-822-7685 select 7# or write 

B is for Budget, Budget, Budget.  Nothing can put a damper on the holidays faster that a stack of unpaid bills.  Spending outside of your means causes tremendous stress.  One way to reduce the amount of debt for this season is to create a holiday spending budget.  Know what you want to buy, for whom, and how much you want to spend. Even deciding on how much you can spend on extra holiday food and travel expenses will save you a lot of grief in January.  After you create your spending list (this is important to discuss with your significant other and get agreement) stick to the list.  A good rule of thumb is always go into a store with a list, an amount you want to spend and a time limit.  The stores want you to have: no plan, no budget, no list and a lot of extra time to look around.  The more time you browse the store or browse on-line the higher the odds of you overspending.  Buy what you need then get out of the store.  

If you need help creating a holiday budget (or any type of financial budget), contact the Soldiers For Life Transition Assistance Program (SFL-TAP) at Camp Mabry.  The financial counselors will be waiting for your call and can be reached at 512-782-5353.  Financial services are free to all TXARNG service members. 

C is for Call for Support.  The holidays can be a time of stress and loneliness.  If you find yourself stressed out, lonely, short tempered or all three, call for support.  Texas has excellent counselors that are located throughout the state to support you and your family.  These counselors are available for confidential sessions by phone, on-line or face-to-face.  They also offer a 24/7 counseling line at 512-782-5069 to support you when you have questions, concerns or just want to talk.  

Counseling services are available to all TXARNG Service Members and Family Members at no charge and are confidential.  

So to review:  A is to Appreciate all the blessings.  B is to budget your resources and C is to call for support when you need it.

And finally....Tis the Season. Remember to treat others the way you want to be treated.  The Golden Rule is always “in season.”  Have a blessed and safe holiday season.

National Hotlines:

Military Suicide Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255, Text 838255

Sexual Assault: 1-800-656-4673

Substance Abuse: 1-800-662-4357

Domestic Violence: 1-800-799-7233

Child Abuse: 1-800-252-5400

Vets4Warriors: 1-855-838-8255

Army Sexual Harassment Hotline: 1-800-267-9964

Bryan native named Texas Military Forces’ Senior Enlisted Advisor

Command Sgt. Maj. Mark A. Weedon, a Bryan native, assumed responsibility as the Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Texas Military Forces from Command Sgt. Maj. Bradley Brandt, in a ceremony held at Camp Mabry in Austin, Saturday, Nov. 15, 2014.
Maj. Gen. John F. Nichols, the Adjutant General - Texas, passes the non commissioned officer's sword to incoming Texas Military Forces' Senior Enlisted Advisor Command Sgt. Maj. Mark A. Weedon at a change of responsibility ceremony held at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas, Nov. 15, 2014. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Kenneth Walker/ Released

Commentary by: Capt. Martha Nigrelle

AUSTIN, Texas (Nov. 18, 2014) – Command Sgt. Maj. Mark A. Weedon, a Bryan native, assumed responsibility as the Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Texas Military Forces from Command Sgt. Maj. Bradley Brandt, in a ceremony held at Camp Mabry in Austin, Saturday, Nov. 15, 2014. 

During the ceremony Weedon took time to thank his family for their many years of love, support and sacrifice.  He also commented on his early days in the Texas National Guard and when he decided to make a long term commitment to the force.

"I fell in love with the guard when I recognized the true sacrifice and the true patriot that guardsmen and women are," said Weedon.

Weedon’s previous leadership positions include fire team leader, squad leader, platoon sergeant, operations sergeant, first sergeant, sergeant major and command sergeant major.

"I am very humbled and proud at the same time, to serve you in this position," said Weedon speaking to the men and women of the Texas Military Forces.

As the Senior Enlisted Advisor for the Texas Military Forces, Weedon will advise the Adjutant General – Texas on all enlisted matters affecting training, effective utilization, health of the force and enlisted professional development.

"It is the spirit of men and women who follow and the men and women who that gains the victory," said Weedon. "I believe that we have the right team in place to do just that and I look forward to our ride together."

Weedon graduated from Bryan High School in 1986 and joined the U.S. Army in January of 1988. He and his wife Shelli have four children and three grandchildren.

Texas Command Sergeant Major leaves joint legacy

Command Sergeant Major Brandt leaves joint legacy
Outgoing Texas Military Forces' Senior Enlisted Leader, Command Sgt. Maj. Bradley C. Brandt at his change of responsibility ceremony held at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas, Nov. 15, 2014. Brandt will retire with over 30 years serving in the Texas National Guard. (U.S. Army photo by Master Sgt. Kenneth Walker)


 Story by: Sgt. 1st Class Malcolm McClendon

 AUSTIN, Texas - With a ceremonial passing of the Non Commissioned Officer’s Sword, the Texas Military Forces’ Senior Enlisted Leader handed over responsibility to the incoming command sergeant major in a ceremony held at Camp Mabry  in Austin, Texas.

 Command Sgt. Maj. Bradley Brandt began his military career in June of 1975 as a U.S. Army UH-1 Huey helicopter  mechanic with the 2nd Armored Division at Fort Hood, Texas. After completing his active duty tour in 1978, Brandt took a  break before transitioning into his career with the Texas National Guard.

 “I came into the Guard on the ‘Trial One’ program back in 1983 and I never would have thought I’d be here this long,”  Brandt said. “ But look at me now, over 20 years as a Soldier and I’ve loved every minute of it.”

 During his career, Brandt worked in six different military occupational fields including two in army aviation, motor vehicle  mechanic, water purification, logistics and sergeant major of these, the one he has been doing the longest is also his  favorite.

 “I’ve been a command sergeant major for 15 years,” Brandt said. “I love to get out and visit with the Soldiers and see what  their concerns are.”

 Brandt says the number one request he gets from Soldiers is to find out what’s happening at the higher level.

 “They want to know what’s happening in the organization,” Brandt said. “Things like deployments and what the future  holds for the Texas National Guard are the most common things Soldiers ask me about.”

 During his three-year role as senior enlisted leader for the Texas Military Forces, Brandt worked to better unite the Texas  Air Guard and the Texas Army Guard. His efforts led to the first ever Joint-Best Warrior Competition in all of the National  Guard. Brandt enlisted the help of other senior enlisted leaders to open up the traditionally Army only competition to  Airmen.

 “I had been to several joint events where everything was Army centric, so I told myself that I wanted to change that  mentality,” Brandt said. “The way to do it was to integrate them more with our programs and so I asked for help, and  thankfully they saw how much this meant to me and therefore we all worked together and made it happen.”

Brandt remembers the Airmen’s reaction the first year they participated in the Joint Best Warrior competition.

“Every single Airmen that participated came up me to show their gratitude,” Brandt said. “They said, ‘thank you sergeant major for letting us compete and be a part of this,’ and that’s good stuff. So they are here now competing with Soldiers every year, and they’re in it for the long haul as long as someone keeps it going after me.”

As Brandt ends his time as senior enlisted leader for the Texas Military Forces, he hopes that his efforts to bring the Texas Army and Air Guard components closer will continue and grow as a model for other states.



From the Top: Organization of the Texas Military

Col. Gregory P. Chaney Chief of Staff, Office of the Adjutant General Commentary by: Col. Gregory P. Chaney
Chief of Staff, Office of the Adjutant General

CAMP MABRY, Texas – As we celebrate another year of American independence, we also reflect on the sacrifice of the early citizen-soldiers, who put down their plowshares and marched and fought alongside George Washington, and others, to begin the process of securing our founder’s ideals and promise of greater freedom for all.

Our heritage is directly tied to these early Americans. They laid the foundation of the modern National Guard. Our organization grew from the militias of the early colonies, their experiences during and after the Revolutionary War, and the desire of states to prevent an overreaching federal government.

The Militia Act of 1792 codified the traditional view of the militia, and the organization and control states had over their military forces. Later, the Militia Act of 1903, also known as the Dick Act (after U.S. Sen. Charles Dick of Ohio), restructured state militaries and allowed for greater opportunities for the federalization of state troops, with the consent of state governors. The Act provided federal funds to the National Guard to pay for equipment and training, including annual summer encampments.

The National Defense Act of 1916 established the National Guard of the United States, and gave the president expanded authority to federalize state National Guard forces. While federal responsibilities and funding have increased, one thing remained the same: state National Guards are organized by each state’s statute and are controlled by the governor, unless they are called into federal service with the National Guard of the United States or as a part of the U.S. Army or Air Force.

Each state’s militia is organized through the Army National Guard and Air National Guard, and many also have a separate state defense force.

In Texas, our military structure is organized by state law, currently within the Texas Government Code (Title 4. Executive Branch, Chapter 437. Texas Military). This statute organizes the Texas Military into the Texas Military Forces and the Texas Military Department.

The Adjutant General (TAG) of Texas serves the dual-role of commanding general of the Texas Military Forces and is the governing officer, policy maker, and head of the Texas Military Department. The Adjutant General is a state employee who is appointed by the governor of Texas – the state military’s commander-in-chief – and must be confirmed by the Texas Senate.

To assist TAG, the governor also appoints two deputy adjutants general (DAGs), one for Army matters and another for Air. Additionally, the governor appoints the commander of the Texas State Guard. These are all state officials, but the DAGs may also serve in dual-roles and assume federal responsibilities. For example, both DAGs also currently serve as the commander of their respective National Guard components.

The Texas Military Forces currently include the Texas Army and Air National Guard, which have federal duty when called upon by the president, as well as a state defense force, the volunteer Texas State Guard, which serves the state and cannot be called into federal service.

The administrative arm that supports the state’s resources and military forces is the Texas Military Department. This state agency is managed by an executive director who serves at the pleasure of TAG, and is a critical component of the Texas Military. Its dedicated civilians support our soldiers and airmen to help ensure they have many of the necessary tools to achieve mission success.

While we are a complex, state-federal organization, our unifying motto is “Texans Defending Texas” – that is the call and charge for all of our members and employees. While times may change, we continue to stand ready. We are proud of our legacy and heritage.

Much like our Guard predecessors who fought during the American struggle for independence, today’s citizen-soldiers and airmen live and work in our communities. But we remain prepared to defend our state and nation, when called: from the ravages of wildfires and hurricanes to the threat of foreign enemies abroad.

Col. Gregory P. Chaney of Merkel, Texas is an Army National Guard Engineer and became the Adjutant General’s Chief of Staff in August of 2013. His military career includes deployments to Bosnia-Herzegovina (SFOR 7) and Iraq (OIF III). Col. Chaney holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Abilene Christian University, and holds a Master of Strategic Studies from the U.S. Army War College.

Memoirs from a Deployment

The last month in Afghanistan stretched on, with the end so close in sight.


I am home!

The last month in Afghanistan stretched on, with the end so close in sight. During this time back in America, the government shut down due to a lack of agreement in our nation's dire financial state. I still received a paycheck, but many of my friends who are government employees did not. 

I have horrible compassion fatigue. I am not the same eager, bright faced nurse who arrived six months ago. I still do my job, but I'm on auto pilot. Now that I'm home, I need to not see patients for a while. I'm taking leave, and told my supervisor that I'd like to work in the post anesthesia care unit for a while. All you do there is help patients recover after surgery. That's about my speed right now.

About two weeks before we left Afghanistan, we moved into transit barracks. Instead of six girls in a room, there were eight. 

When our replacements arrived, we had never felt more happy and relieved. I vaguely knew the new girl who was replacing me. My friend and I put together a welcome pack for them, complete with hair sprays, dry shampoo, cosmetics, lotions, etc. you know, the things we worked so hard to get people to send us since we couldn't buy them here. We just wanted the new girls to be all set up. That is, after all, what soldiers do. We look out for each other.

The trip home took a week. We stopped in Kandahar, Kuwait, Germany, New Hampshire, and finally Ft Bliss, Texas to turn in our weapons and gear. For a week, no one slept more than a few hours at a time, as we were constantly on the go, getting off one C-130 to get on another C-17 and finally onto normal, commercial jets.

Coming home was wonderful and stressful and overwhelming. When we landed at a small airfield in New Hampshire, we were greeted off the plane by a hundred or so veterans and volunteers. They had pizzas, donuts and coffees spread out for us, and let us know how proud and happy they were that we were home. Seeing all of the veterans welcoming us home made me proud to be an American soldier. 

I am home now. For the first time since I left, I took a shower without flip flops on, in a bathroom that was right next to my room! I drove my Jeep, afraid in the heavy traffic, but I did it! I only ran over a few curbs! I look at everyone, from the jerk that just cut me off on the beltway to the McDonalds employee who takes my order with a scowl and I think they have no idea how good they have it.

I think back over the last ten years. I was a naive, young girl when we invaded Iraq. My tour was cut short when I came home to a dying husband. I spent ten years building up a solid, professional career as an Army nurse, while my personal life crumbled. I was a train wreck on the inside, despite my put together exterior. Coming to Afghanistan at the end of our conflict was like closing the chapter to a story. I can move on, and I want to. 

I never went outside the wire. I was a cozy little "fobbit," but still experienced the atrocities of war through our patients. 

As for my comrades, we all went our separate ways, like when you step on an ant mound and all of the ants run in different directions. I'm due for a move soon myself, though where I'm not sure. 

Finale to a 13 part miniseries following the personal memoirs of a deployed soldier

Memoirs from a Deployment

 personal memoirs of a deployed soldier


When the Internet and phones go down on Camp Leatherneck, there's a chance that it is because someone has died. They do that so that the family can be notified before people start posting stuff on Facebook. Today, we lost a U.S. Marine.

When a service member dies in combat, there is a special ceremony that takes place at the air field as the body gets loaded onto the plane to fly back to the States. I didn't want to go today as it is very emotional. But I had just transferred my patient out of the intensive care unit and had no excuse not to go.

There were probably a couple hundred of us, service members from not just the U.S but the U.K., Denmark, Estonia and Georgia. We were assembled into a mass formation and stood for what seemed like hours by the airfield. Then, file by file, we marched onto the airfield and stood behind a C-17 or a C-130; I'm horrible at naming air craft.

The sun had just set below the horizon. As we approached the aircraft, I could see that the back end was open, ready to receive cargo. It was empty, except for one large American flag that had a soft light behind it, illuminating it in the falling darkness. 

We were then ordered to present arms, and salute the silver coffin as it passed in front of us to be loaded on the plane. I recognized several of the Marines carrying the coffin; they work in the mortuary affairs department in the hospital and we always joke around when we see each other. It was very different, seeing them today, marching somberly and staring straight ahead as they carried our their fallen comrade.

As the body was being loaded, some rockets went off. I'm not sure if they were part of the ceremony or if we were actually firing at someone. And then we were told to order arms. The whole formation dropped their salutes. It didn't matter if you didn't speak English; you still knew what to do. And then we were dismissed.

I'm glad I attended the ceremony. I don't always do well with emotional things, but I'm glad that I got to help see this young man home.

Part 12 of a 13 part miniseries following the personal memoirs of a deployed soldier

Texas Guard shares response mission with International visitors

In this image released by Joint Task Force 136 (Maneuver Enhancement Brigade), Brigade Commander Col. Lee Schnell briefs delegates of the Swedish Armed Forces International Centre during their visit to the Round Rock Armed Forces Reserve Center Oct. 28, 2014. The group of service members from Sweden, Finland, and Norway toured various military and civil agency sites throughout central Texas to learn more about the National Guard approach to disaster response.
In this image released by Joint Task Force 136 (Maneuver Enhancement Brigade), Brigade Commander Col. Lee Schnell briefs delegates of the Swedish Armed Forces International Centre during their visit to the Round Rock Armed Forces Reserve Center Oct. 28, 2014. The group of service members from Sweden, Finland, and Norway toured various military and civil agency sites throughout central Texas to learn more about the National Guard approach to disaster response.


Story by Master Sgt. Daniel Griego

 ROUND ROCK, Texas - "We are only part of the solution," said Swedish Armed Forces Lt. Col. Conny Hansen. "We  have to learn more about how to interact with other agencies: civilian agencies, non-governmental organizations,  governmental organizations."

 When natural and man-made disasters test the response plans of a region, interagency cooperation is instrumental in  the success of rescue efforts. Militaries around the world, in order to mitigate suffering and save lives, are adopting  comprehensive plans that integrate the armed forces with local civilian departments. Such is the case with the Swedish  Armed Forces and surrounding militaries, as they enhanced their approach to disaster relief by learning from their  counterparts within the Texas National Guard.

 "This year we decided to have a look at civil-military cooperation as a focus," said Hansen, who serves as the officer in  charge of peace operations for the Swedish Armed Forces International Centre (SWEDINT), "and come here to Texas to  look at Domestic Operations."

 From Oct. 24-30, delegates from Sweden, Norway, and Finland toured central Texas military and civilian sites to learn  about our methods of consequence management. Location stops included Camp Mabry, the headquarters for the  Texas Military Forces; the Round Rock Armed Forces Reserve Center, home station for Joint Task Force 136  (Maneuver Enhancement Brigade); the Texas Department of Public Safety offices in Austin; the Texas State Capitol;  and Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas. 

 "We have this fact-finding trip to get the picture about the United States or the Texas Military Forces' comprehensive approach," said Finland Army Maj. Anssi Yrjölä, a course director with SWEDINT, "and how they work together with the civilian sector and the military. This is one good example how to conduct comprehensive approach."

The visiting officers coordinate trips like this specifically for the benefit of their centre instructors at SWEDINT, who are tasked with integrating military assets with local civilian agencies in their home countries.

"We teach individual staff officers, mainly officers and senior NCOs, and prepare them for international missions," said Hansen. "Today's contemporary operating environment forces you to have a comprehensive approach. You have to interact with different agencies, like you are here with Domestic Operations."

How the National Guard works alongside civil authorities during emergencies was a defining theme of the trip. As the Guard outfit responsible for the FEMA Region VI Homeland Response Force mission, Joint Task Force 136 (Maneuver Enhancement Brigade) was a perfect fit for what the SWEDINT delegates were looking to discuss. 

"I think this is a very unique and very professional unit," said Swedish Navy Lt. Cmdr. Harry Jaantola, a NATO expert with the Peace Support Operations Department. "It's a very, very solid, built-up system; the cooperation they do with the civilian local authorities concerning regular meetings and presentations and stuff like that." 

For the members of JTF-136 (MEB), the visit was an opportunity to highlight common goals and improve everyone's capabilities.

"Visits like this enhance the global response community," said Col. Lee Schnell, the commander for JTF-36 (MEB). "When we can share our best practices and develop international relationships, everybody wins."

The discussions were augmented by JTF-136 (MEB) displaying a mock deployment of select elements within its 6th Civil Support Team and the 6th CBRNE Enhanced Response Force Package.

"Visiting with delegates of the Swedish International Centre was a great learning experience," said Spc. Karla Sosawong, an administrative Soldier with the 6th CERFP. "We had the opportunity to share with them what our role is during Domestic Operations and listen to their techniques; it was a great way to integrate efforts."

These efforts will ultimately help to standardize global response operations, fostering collaboration when disaster strikes.

"It's worth it, definitely," said Jaantola. "This has been a great, excellent visit in all ways."