Posts From November, 2015

Gunfighters give back to local community 

Gunfighters give back to local community

Story by Staff Sgt. Mindy Bloem

Post: November 25, 2015

Staff Sgt. Mindy Bloem Tech. Sgt. John Odum, 149th Operations Group, hams it up for the camera as he helps pack breakfast bags at a Meals on Wheels building located in San Antonio, Texas, Nov. 23, 2015. Odum is part of the 149th Fighter Wing at Joint Base San Antonio.
Staff Sgt. Mindy Bloem
Tech. Sgt. John Odum, 149th Operations Group, hams it up for the camera as he helps pack breakfast bags at a Meals on Wheels building located in San Antonio, Texas, Nov. 23, 2015. Odum is part of the 149th Fighter Wing at Joint Base San Antonio.

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO - LACKLAND, Texas – Texas Air National Guard members, assigned to the 149th Fighter Wing’s Operations Group, volunteered at a local Meals on Wheels organization, Nov. 23-24. 

Each weekday, Meals on Wheels of San Antonio prepares and delivers nearly 4,000 meals to homebound senior citizens of Bexar County, according to volunteer coordinator Kristin Rivera.

Rivera, who has been working there for the past three years, said the non-profit relies heavily on its volunteers who comprise about half of the workforce.

Master Sgt. Martha Vasquez-Medelez, volunteer and member of the 149th OG, called the organization this time last year to inquire about her family delivering Thanksgiving Day meals. This year she decided to recruit fellow members from her squadron to help with the high-volume food preparation that occurs each year during Thanksgiving week. 

“It’s been rewarding knowing that you’re helping seniors who can sometimes get forgotten, she said. “I also have a better appreciation for people who do food serving – now that’s work,” Medelez said after spending much of the morning serving food onto thousands of microwave-safe plates to be sealed and distributed later in the week. 

Fellow Meals on Wheels volunteer and 149th OG member Tech. Sgt. Tracy Potts agrees with his co-worker about it being a rewarding experience. Like Medelez, Potts is no stranger to volunteering. He and his family volunteer for various local churches and charity organizations. In addition to prepping and serving the food, he also volunteers to deliver the food to homebound residents on his days off. 

“There’s this one guy … we talk Spurs,” Potts said. “He loves Tim Duncan. He loves David Robinson. He’ll always be talking about how Robinson needs to suit up again, and I’m like, ‘I don’t know, man.’ He also loves the Cowboys, so we have that in common.”

Potts said he enjoys the delivery aspect because he’s able to strike up these types of conversations with seniors who don’t always get a lot of outside interaction. 

For the volunteer coordinator, going out on deliveries is something she enjoys as well. Because of the organization’s reliance on volunteers, Rivera said she sometimes has to balance her administration duties with going out into the field. 

“As soon as you get out there, you remember, this why I do this,” Rivera said about being called upon to deliver the meals when someone can’t make it. 

For Rivera, volunteers are one of her favorite parts of the job. “I love dealing with the volunteers,” she said. “I mean how many other jobs do you get where you get to deal with nice people all day?” she added. 

Both Medelez and Potts said they volunteer because they just enjoy making a difference in the places around them.

Potts recommends checking out the myriad of opportunities available on the Internet if unsure of where to get involved. “After that, you begin to network and hear about other opportunities from the people volunteering with you,” he said.

Volunteering, for Medelez, is mostly a matter of follow-through. “Once you get that thought, just do it,” she said. “Rather than letting it linger then leave your brain, actually make it happen.”

Wednesday, November 25, 2015 7:54:00 AM Categories: Texas Air National Guard

Honing spiritual fitness, Texas ANG chaplain grows chaplain's program in Fort Worth 

Honing spiritual fitness, Texas ANG chaplain grows chaplain's program in Fort Worth

Posted: November 25, 2015

Courtesy Photo Chaplain Brig. Gen. Steve Chisolm, Air National Guard Assistant to the U.S. Air Force Chief of Chaplains, preaches to Texas Air National Guardsmen and their families during a chapel service held at the 136th Airlift Wing headquarters, Nov. 15, 2015, Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth, Texas. Chisolm began his career as an Air Force chaplain at the 136th Airlift Wing where he helped build one of the largest chapel programs in the Air National Guard. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Seth Holderby/Released)
Courtesy Photo
Chaplain Brig. Gen. Steve Chisolm, Air National Guard Assistant to the U.S. Air Force Chief of Chaplains, preaches to Texas Air National Guardsmen and their families during a chapel service held at the 136th Airlift Wing headquarters, Nov. 15, 2015, Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth, Texas. Chisolm began his career as an Air Force chaplain at the 136th Airlift Wing where he helped build one of the largest chapel programs in the Air National Guard. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Seth Holderby/Released)

NAVAL AIR STATION JOINT RESERVE BASE FORT WORTH, Texas – Chaplain Brig. Gen. Steve Chisolm, Air National Guard assistant to the U.S. Air Force Chief of Chaplains, led a packed room of Texas Guardsmen from the 136th Airlift Wing, during a service, Nov. 15, 2015, at Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth.

For Chisolm, this visit was a chance to spend time with a program he helped build and the airmen he served.

“Then-Lieutenant Colonel Chisolm was my mentor. He influenced me even before I became a chaplain,” said Chaplain Capt. Nathan Tucker, 136th Maintenance Squadron, 136th Airlift Wing, remembering how Chisolm inspired him to become a chaplain. “He has never lost touch with me since the first time we met.”

During his service in the wing, Chisolm mentored chaplains like Tucker and devoted his efforts to building a support network where airmen could maintain their spiritual fitness.

“I think with almost 15 years of continual deployments, constant war has worn on all of us, from all the different components, physically, emotionally, but certainly spiritually,” said Chisolm. “You think about comprehensive airmen fitness and about those four components, the spiritual aspect is just as important, more important in my opinion.”

It was this vision that inspired the program so many service members in the wing know today.

“We have an excellent chaplain program,” said Staff Sgt. Patricia Johnson, noncommissioned officer in charge of chaplain operations and chaplain’s assistant to the wing chaplain. “It’s growing. When I came to this wing about six years ago, we had single digits numbers.”

The growth in the program Chisholm helped start was obvious, as more than 100 airmen packed the chapel for service. 

“He laid the foundation to build the program,” said Tucker. “He built it through three things – trust with the leadership, being a man of integrity and understanding pastoral care.”

The chaplains’ program offers service members a time to set aside during drill to focus on their spiritual fitness. Because of the trust Chisholm built with wing leadership, wing chaplains have been able to work closely with unit commanders to ensure guardsmen have the option to attend chapel services with minimal effects on unit training.

“Seeing how it evolved to this, it is really refreshing to my soul,” said Johnson. “I know it’s making a difference in the members’ lives.” 

Military chaplains are charged with the responsibility to provide spiritual care and the opportunity for service members, their families and other authorized personnel to practice their faith through religious observances, providing pastoral care and advising leadership on spiritual, ethical, moral, morale, core values and religious accommodation issues.

“My job as a chaplain is to provide for the free exercise of religion, as provided by the founding document,” said Tucker. 

Placing spiritual fitness and pastoral care first, Chisolm honed a program that appears to do just that.

“Our members feel like we really do care about them, not just their personal growth or professional growth, but their spiritual growth as well,” said Johnson. “It helps them and their productivity. It helps enhance the mission.” 

Chisolm continues mentoring others in his job at the Pentagon, serving as the liaison between the director of the Air National Guard and Headquarters United States Air Force Chief of Chaplains to ensure that the Air National Guard is providing airmen needs, as well as, making sure the Air force understands the needs of the Air National Guard. 

Once in a while, Chisolm is able to make a guest appearance at units within Texas to provide spiritual guidance.

“Thank you for letting me do something that I haven’t gotten to do in years,” said Chisolm. “Preach here in this room.”

Coming back to the wing, Chisolm was able to see his vision for the unit’s chaplaincy program fulfilled.

“This chapel is successful because Chaplain Chisolm wanted to have the best program in the National Guard,” said Tucker. “And he succeeded.”

U.S. Air National Guard Seth Holderby and U.S. Army National Guard Staff Sgt. William Gasch, Sgt. Jason Robertson, Sgt. Angela Melton, Sgt. Hector Valladares contributed to this article.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015 7:51:00 AM Categories: Texas Air National Guard

Texas Guardsmen stand battle ready after Warfighter (Part 3 of 3) 

Texas Guardsmen stand battle ready after Warfighter (Part 3 of 3)

By Sgt. Elizabeth Pena

Brigade General John E. Novales II, Deputy Commanding General of the 101st  Airborne (Air Assault) Division, Fort Campbell, Kentucky, visits Texas Army National Guards' 136th MEB during the Warfighter exercise on November 10, 2015. (Photo by U.S. Army National Guard Sgt. Elizabeth Pena/Released)
Brigade General John E. Novales II, Deputy Commanding General of the 101st  Airborne (Air Assault) Division, Fort Campbell, Kentucky, visits Texas Army National Guards' 136th MEB during the Warfighter exercise on November 10, 2015. (Photo by U.S. Army National Guard Sgt. Elizabeth Pena/Released)

Texas Guardsmen from the 136th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, based out of Round Rock, Texas, exercised their combat readiness skills during a three-week Warfighter at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, just in time to get home for Thanksgiving.

The 136th MEB went to Fort Campbell November 5-22 in support of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) for the real-time scenario spanning three fictional countries in the Middle East. The purpose of Warfighter is to test a unit’s battle skills and ensure it is fit for overseas combat.

“This is our available year, so generally that is when you are going to see a brigade assigned to a warfighter exercise,” said Col. Scott Mac Leod, commander of the 136th MEB. “It’s part of the [Army Force Generation] cycle, which means, theoretically, that if an overseas contingency requirement occurred, it’s possible that the 136th MEB could be assigned to deploy in support of that assignment.”

During the exercise, each participating brigade or division is assigned an observer team to help guide them in the right direction.

“We pretty much just coach. We don’t control anything,” said Lt. Col. Randy Spell, chief observer coach/trainer for the Mission Command Training Program. “If y’all have a process that needs some improvement or you have some gaps within that process, we help you through them with a doctrinal example for a way that we have seen successful.”

Warfighter is a great opportunity for soldiers to exercise their duty roles while training to respond quickly to incidents and short-term objectives within a full-scale scenario.

“There were priorities of work for our unit in support of the division,” said Mac Leod. “Protection of critical assets, security and clearance of all of the routes within division area, providing security forces to the base defense clusters, as well as the employment of tactical combat force to find fix and destroy level three threats that might appear in the rear area.”

These real-life scenarios gave the brigade’s combat veterans a chance to mentor their less-experienced team members on the best plans and procedures, should a real-world contingency occur.

“I’ve been on six deployments and I can tell you that most of the things we are doing here, just from the tactical side, are things that I think about, worry about, address, fix and react to on the battlefield,” said Maj. George Hurd, chief of operations for the 136th MEB. “Having the whole brigade be exposed to these systems, whenever we go forward and the next time we deploy, is one less roadblock we have to worry about.”

Throughout the three weeks, the 136th MEB demonstrated the greatest proficiency in staff communication and ensuring everyone knew the status of the conflict at any given moment through the live battle tracker.

“Our common operational picture put us in a position to follow the [division] commander’s intent. So basically the tools that the staff developed from the beginning to the mid point put them in a position to help me know if, when and what to decide so they supported my decision cycle. By increasing the rate at which they were able to do that, it enabled us to work more rapidly to solve the problems we were encountering.”

For some of these soldiers, this is as close to a deployment as they have experienced.

“The thing that I really got out of it was getting to see how the 136th MEB interacts with other units around it,” said Spc. Shane Wilson, an intelligence analyst with the 136th MEB. “The MEB has a unique role, which the Army is trying to test and trying to figure where it belongs. [It] was pretty interesting to see how the staff functions and how complex it really is.”

The 136th MEB was distinguished as the only National Guard outfit participating in the Warfighter, joining the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) and one of its subordinate brigades, the 101st Sustainment Brigade.

“There is no question that y’all have come a long way,” said Spell. “We are very proud of you; we feel like we are integrated as a part of your staff. National Guard, active duty, it doesn’t matter. We all respond to one fight."

When the 136th MEB isn’t training for their overseas mission of area support operations, they are back home in Texas where they are custodian of the FEMA Region VI Homeland Response Force mission. There, they train alongside first responders and civil authorities to combat the threat of Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and High-Yield Explosive incidents throughout Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arkansas, and Louisiana.

“There is a lot of what we do here that can be run over to our Defense Support of Civil Authorities,” said Hurd. “One is having to make swift timely decisions. I’m looking forward to taking these products home. I’ve got a lot of good examples of ways to better synergize our efforts.”

These vigilant guardsmen can return home with confidence knowing they are fit for the fight.

“I’m immensely proud of our soldiers, said Mac Leod. “Everyone here is just a little bit sleep deprived, a little bit worn out but they’ve got a lot to be proud of. We came here, we wanted to do well tactically and technically but we also wanted to represent Texas, and I think we achieved that objective.”

Wednesday, November 25, 2015 7:48:00 AM Categories: Texas Army National Guard

Texas Soldier realizes dream 

Texas Guardsman realizes dream

Story by: Sgt. 1st Class Malcolm McClendon

Post: November 19, 2015

Angeline SanchezAUSTIN, Texas - Growing up in a family full of service members, Angeline Sanchez knew to take charge and lead fellow recruits through the 2nd Regiment’s, Texas State Guard, Regional Basic Orientation Training, gaining her the title of honor graduate of Class 001-015 at the class’s graduation ceremony held in Austin, Texas, Sept. 18, 2015.

Sanchez began her journey in the military long before she ever joined. Growing up around her U.S. Army father, stepfather, mother and U.S. Marine Corps grandfather had a profound impact on her life.

“My stepfather was a drill sergeant and when he’d come home wearing that big round brown hat, I knew that was something I wanted to do,” Sanchez said. “I loved the structure and the uniform, so my goal ever since was to join the military and serve.”

Even before she was old enough to join, she began researching jobs and the minimum placement scores needed for each. Then when her older brother joined the U.S. Army she knew she had found her calling.

“My brother joined as a medic and when he was home he’d show me his gear, which I thought was really cool,” Sanchez said. “When he came back from deployment he showed me pictures and told me stories about how he helped people and fellow soldiers in Iraq as a combat medic; and I knew then that’s what I wanted to do.”

When she turned 18, Sanchez took the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test, was sworn into the U.S. Army and shipped out on Valentine’s Day, 2012.

“I remember the six-hour ride to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, feeling excited and saying to myself, ‘I made it, I made it.’” Sanchez said. “When we finally arrived at the base my heart was pumping. Then the drill sergeant got on the bus and began ordering us to get our stuff and get off! It was exciting.”

Sanchez, along with other new arrivals, was placed in the reception platoon while they waited for the next training cycle to begin. There, she did not take any time off and was placed in leadership roles, such as barracks lead and marching the platoon.

“We were marching to breakfast chow one morning and it was my goal that day to lose my voice calling cadence,” Sanchez said. “I was in the back of the formation when the drill sergeant stopped everyone and called me to the front of the platoon and said, ‘this soldier has a voice ten times bigger than her body.’ From that point on, I was known as Mighty Mouse.”

Her time at Fort Sill would be short lived however. A childhood illness, that was all but gone, resurfaced and brought to the drill sergeants’ attention. 

“One night they called me down to report to the drill sergeant that was on duty,” Sanchez said. “He looked right at me and said, ‘Private Sanchez, you can’t stay here, because of your asthma,’ right then I broke down crying.”

Sanchez said she was devastated and returned to Texas with no plan, since the only thing she had ever wanted to do was now not an option.

“I didn’t have a backup plan; my plan was to do twenty plus in the Army,” Sanchez continued. “I fell in and out of jobs; I was too distracted, I didn’t have the drive for anything.”

Then one day while picking up her partner at Camp Mabry in Austin, Sanchez spotted, what she thought, was a soldier out of uniform crossing the street. She looked over at her partner and asked why he was wearing a Texas flag on his sleeve.

“She told me that he was in the Texas State Guard,” Sanchez said. “I immediately began researching what that meant. We went to lunch and I couldn’t put my phone down. I had multiple screens open, reading what they were about.”

She began calling numbers on the website to get more information on joining until she got a hold of Staff Sgt. John Gately, the noncommissioned officer-in-charge (NCOIC) of the communications section for the Texas State Guard.

“I talked to her on the phone and explained that the State Guard is designed to help the citizens of Texas in times of need, whether it be a man-made or natural disaster,” Gately said. “I also told her that we are an all volunteer force that specializes in shelter operations, search and rescue, medical assistance and the manning of points-of-distribution when called on by the governor during those emergencies.”

Since the TXSG mission is in Texas and requires no overseas deployment, Sanchez discovered that her asthma would not be a problem and that she could once more have the opportunity to put on the uniform and serve. She signed up shortly after and began drilling with her unit while waiting for the next RBOT class to begin.

“RBOT is a basic introduction to the Texas State Guard,” Staff Sgt. Curtis Rust said, lead instructor for 2nd Regiment’s RBOT. “We go over first aid, land navigation, military customs and courtesies, drill and ceremony and communications skills. We want to take the overall knowledge of what the Texas State Guard is and does, and take that to build upon.”

At RBOT, Sanchez quickly reverted back to her time at Fort Sill and took charge.

“My time at the reception platoon taught me to step up when they needed someone to volunteer,” Sanchez said. “I made it to formations before time, got up a little early and got my squad up and ready for the day and, of course, called cadence every chance I got.”

Sanchez’ performance was again noticed by instructors.

“She was very motivated, took ownership and had a drive-forward attitude,” Staff Sgt. Jason Rogers said, an instructor with the 2nd Regiment’s RBOT. “She was engaged with everyone else’s efforts in the training, cheering them on and pushing them to make it through.”

By training’s end the instructors came together and overwhelmingly voted Sanchez as the honor graduate for the class. And in a ceremony full of friends and family she was asked to stand and be applauded.

“It was amazing, my mother came in from out of town to see me,” Sanchez said. “She was there with me when I was going through my depression for not being able to complete Army Basic Training. I had never graduated from anything before, so when she came to see me here, she had tears in her eyes and then to find out I was honor graduate… it topped it all and made her proud.”

Sanchez now drills with the 1st Battalion, 1st Regiment in San Antonio and looks forward to her career in the TXSG.

“I feel so much better now, this is the happiest I’ve ever felt in my life,” Sanchez said. “When I first went to basic at Fort Sill, I had that awesome feeling you get when you put on your uniform and take charge. And now, in the State Guard, I have it again.” 

Thursday, November 19, 2015 7:56:00 AM Categories: Texas Army National Guard

Texas Military Department Announces New Air Guard Commander 

Maj. Gen. John F. Nichols, the Adjutant General of TexasAUSTIN, Texas (November 18, 2015) – Maj. Gen. John F. Nichols, the Adjutant General of Texas, is pleased to announce Brig. Gen. David McMinn has been named the Commander of the Texas Air National Guard (TXANG), following the retirement of Maj. Gen. Kenneth W. Wisian.

McMinn received his commission upon graduation from Clemson University in 1985, completed Undergraduate Pilot Training and was assigned to Pope AFB, North Carolina as a C-130E pilot in 1986. While there, McMinn specialized in Low Altitude Parachute Extraction System Tactical Air Delivery and Adverse Weather Aerial Delivery System formation flying.

After serving during Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm, McMinn transferred to the TXANG and joined the 136th Airlift Wing as an instructor pilot and later served as the 321st Expeditionary Operations Group Commander during operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom. He has also served as the Operations Group, Vice Wing, and Wing Commander in the 136th Airlift Wing. As a traditional Guardsman, McMinn has gained over 5,000 flying hours both in his role as a command pilot in the T-37, T-38, C-130E and C-130H2 aircraft and as a captain for a major commercial airline. He most recently served as the Chief of Staff for the TXANG.

As Commander of the TXANG, McMinn commands more than 3,000 service members and oversees TXANG operations, training, readiness and resource allocation for both state and federal missions.

The appointment follows the recent announcement regarding the retirement of Maj. Gen. Kenneth W. Wisian, Deputy Adjutant General-Air and Commander of the TXANG. Wisian is retiring with more than 32 years of service to the state and nation, including tours of duty in the Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan. He now serves as director of the Coastal Protection division of the office of the Texas General Land Office.

Details regarding a change of command and/or retirement ceremonies for the above individuals are forthcoming.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015 1:05:00 PM Categories: Blog

Texas Military Department Announces Deputy Adjutant General-Air Appointee 

Maj. Gen. John F. Nichols, the Adjutant General of TexasAUSTIN, Texas (November 18, 2015) Maj. Gen. John F. Nichols, the Adjutant General of Texas, is pleased to announce Col. Dawn Ferrell, of Wichita Falls, has been named the Deputy Adjutant General-Air for the Texas Military Department, effective immediately, following the retirement of Maj. Gen. Kenneth W. Wisian.

Gov. Greg Abbott made the appointment Friday, Nov. 13, 2015. Ferrell earned a bachelor's degree and master's degree from Midwestern State University and a doctorate degree from the University of North Texas. She joined the Texas Air National Guard (TXANG) in 1983, commissioning through the Air National Guard's Academy of Military Science in 1994.

Since 2009, Ferrell has served as the Commander for the Mission Support Group of the 136th Airlift Wing for the TXANG based at the Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base. In 2013, she deployed to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) Headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan, serving in a joint North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) billet as Director of Plans and Logistics Operations, where she was responsible for strategic level oversight for logistics planning, sustainment and redeployment of United States and NATO forces for the ISAF mission.

As the Deputy Adjutant General, Ferrell is the state’s senior Air Guard official appointed by the governor and serves as the principal advisor to the Adjutant General on all matters concerning the TXANG. 

The appointment follows the recent announcement regarding the retirement of Maj. Gen. Kenneth W. Wisian, Deputy Adjutant General-Air and Commander of the TXANG. Wisian is retiring with more than 32 years of service to the state and nation, including tours of duty in the Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan. He now serves as director of the Coastal Protection division of the office of the Texas General Land Office.

Details regarding a change of responsibility and/or retirement ceremonies for the above individuals are forthcoming.

 

Wednesday, November 18, 2015 1:00:00 PM Categories: Blog

Air Day held in San Antonio 

149th Fighter Wing, at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, Oct. 15, 2015Commentary and photo by Michelle McBride
Texas Military Department Public Affairs Office

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas – Members of the Texas Air National Guard welcomed distinguished visitors and community leaders to the 149th Fighter Wing, at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, Oct. 15, 2015.

The event was part of the Texas ANG’s annual “Air Day” to showcase and educate their civilian leaders on the organization’s state and federal capabilities.

“We are an integral part of all of the operations the U.S. military does all over the world,” said Maj. Gen. Kenneth W. Wisian, Deputy Adjutant General for Air and Commander of the Texas Air National Guard. “Texans are flying combat missions day in and day out.” 

During the event, the attendees were able to interact with Texas ANG’s leadership as well as Citizen-Airmen assigned to their three air wings, which are located in Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio.

The mission of the Fort Worth-based 136th Airlift Wing is to provide tactical air support, via the C-130 Hercules aircraft, at home and abroad. The unit currently has personnel and aircraft deployed overseas.

The 147th Reconnaissance Wing, based in Houston, operates the MQ-1 Predator remotely piloted aircraft to provide critical support for overseas contingency operations.

Additionally, the 149th Fighter Wing’s primary federal mission is to train combat-ready pilots – active duty, Guard and Reserve – to employ the F-16 Fighting Falcon. Attendees had the opportunity to view the F-16 up-close and view them take off for a training mission.

When activated by the Governor of Texas, the Air Wings have the ability to assist state and local officials respond to disaster relief and humanitarian aid missions with medical and other logistical support.

Another mission of the Texas Air National Guard includes protecting cyberspace. Texas Airmen from the 273rd Information Operations Squadron, based in San Antonio, were on-hand to highlight their unique partnership with the U.S. Air Force and the National Security Agency to protect the nation’s digital infrastructure.

The Texas Air National Guard leaders also pointed out the unique value they bring to the nation’s defense.

“Why do we need the National Guard? Because of our combat force and our tremendous value to the tax payer,” Wisian said. “We do everything the (Air Force) Reserve does, but also accomplish state missions.”

Friday, November 13, 2015 1:14:00 PM Categories: Blog

To be called A Veteran 

Commentary by: Capt. Martha Nigrelle

U.S. Army Soldiers conduct a patrol in Vietnam during the height of the Vietnam War. (Photo Courtesy of Department of Defense)
U.S. Army Soldiers conduct a patrol in Vietnam during the height of the Vietnam War. (Photo Courtesy of Department of Defense)

I have a friend named Cal. He is quick to smile, and quite dashing, even at 80. He’s one of those people that even after just one conversation you think, what an amazing person – I am so glad I met him! He just retired from his third career. He loves his God, he loves his wife and he loves his country – and all of this is evident in all that he does.

The funny thing about a lot of older veterans is that despite their fierce pride in the military and the men and women they served with, you might never know they are veterans. A very humble group of people – not quick to toot their own horn.

Cal’s first retirement was from the Army as a Chief Warrant Officer 3, after serving multiple tours in Vietnam. 

One night, after eating dinner, my husband and I got to share our own deployment stories with him and his wife. As it turned out, a lot of the things we remembered about our own deployments were pretty much the same, whether fighting in Vietnam or Iraq. Cal’s only response was “Sometimes, it’s good to talk to Army folk.”

And he is right. It is good to talk to Army folk. It’s good to talk to people who have gone through something that no one really gets unless they have done it themselves – it’s what truly makes us brothers and sisters in arms. 

My Uncle Terry is also a Vietnam veteran, he was a platoon leader and after only a few months in country, he was shot. Apparently, he almost died leading from the front and protecting his men. The doctors said that there was no logical explanation for him surviving- a real miracle.  The Marines awarded him the Silver Star. But all Uncle Terry ever told me was that being a Platoon Leader was the best job he ever had.

Then there is our friend Jack and his buddy Ed. I ate dinner with Jack and Ed the day Jack’s son, my husband’s best friend, was posthumously presented with the Distinguished Service Cross for tackling a suicide bomber and saving the lives of all of his Soldiers. 

I had the greatest time talking to Ed. He kept asking me questions about my time in the Army, and it never occurred to me to ask him much about himself. I found out later, Ed Freeman was a Medal of Honor recipient made famous in the movie “We Were Soldiers.” 

Ed and Jack flew together in Vietnam. On the same day that Ed disobeyed a direct order and flew into the battle of Ia Drang Valley, saving the lives of many Soldiers, Jack was on a mission elsewhere in the country.  

Not a word about this from either of them – both so humble.

People like Cal, Uncle Terry, Jack and Ed are who I think of when I think of Veterans. These are some of the best men I have ever known. They served their God, their family and their country with love in their hearts and no complaints. And when they think back on their military service – they remember fondly the phenomenal men and women they served alongside.

I’m not sure I will ever deserve to be lumped into the same category as them when my military career winds down, but I hope that our next generation of veterans will be able to look at me and say I lived up to this standard. If they do, then maybe I will have earned the title veteran. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015 1:18:00 PM Categories: Blog