Posts From November, 2019

Texas Army National Guard Partners with Volt Athletics and The Peak to Enhance Strength & Conditioning Program

AUSTIN, TEXAS - The Texas Army National Guard (TXARNG) has entered into a partnership with Volt Athletics and The Peak to provide its 20,000 soldiers with individualized, state-of-the-art technology for physical fitness training.

“The Volt App, which utilizes artificial intelligence to customize workout routines to the needs of each individual, will allow troops to not only meet but also to exceed fitness goals. This is in the context of our major push to improve overall wellness within our organization, including: physical, mental, and spiritual health," says Chief Master Sergeant Michael E. Cornitius Jr., who is the Texas Military Department Command Senior Enlisted Leader at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas.

Volt collaborated with Texas Joint-force Headquarters and the Texas Military Department to design an exclusive, specialized training program to help Texas National Guardsmen prepare for the introduction of the Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT), and help the TXARNG achieve their goal of transforming their fitness culture to better avoid and recover from preventable injuries, and build cohesive teams.

Volt’s revolutionary AI technology delivers personalized 52-week training programs to soldiers wherever they are, via their mobile device. Volt then tracks and adapts each soldier’s individual training program in real-time based on their feedback, set by set. Each training session builds on the last, progressing the soldier so they can successfully pass the ACFT and stay combat-ready. And Volt’s HD video demonstrations of every exercise guide each soldier on the specific technique required to stay safe and effectively execute the training. Volt’s technology provides a fully scalable solution, empowering each soldier to take charge of their own training.

"The Texas Army National Guard is taking a proactive and unified approach towards strength and conditioning, and we're honored that our team at Volt gets to play a role," says Dan Giuliani, Co-Founder and CEO of Volt Athletics. “Because of this partnership, every soldier at the TXARNG can leverage Volt's AI training technology and will have access to world-class training to ensure they are prepared for the ACFT, and ready to perform at any time."

Volt is proud to partner with The Peak Inc., a Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business, who increases operator effectiveness in austere environments through operational training and human performance optimization services.

The partnership between The Texas Army National Guard and The Peak and Volt Athletics is effective immediately. Volt’s training system is currently available to all soldiers and officers.

National Guard competition showcases its elite

Story by Specialist Miguel Ruiz, 100th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, TXARNG

AUSTIN, Texas – The sun has yet to shine for another few hours, its hovering around 30 degrees Fahrenheit and Best Warrior competitors are running on merely four hours of rest as they crowd the starting line of a makeshift running trail at a National Guard training center in Bastrop County.

Despite little recovery time from the pains and injuries from the previous day’s events, roughly 40 Soldiers and Airmen from the Texas National Guard endure their next task, marching (or running) a 12-mile course while carrying a weighted pack in full military uniform. 

Soldiers with the 36th Infantry Division showed their strength and knowledge in the Best Warrior competition at Camp Swift, Bastrop, TX. The winning Soldier and NCO will go on to the active duty Best Warrior Competition. (U.S. Army National Guard Photo by Staff Sgt. Mark Scovell, 36th Infantry Division Public Affairs)
Soldiers with the 36th Infantry Division showed their strength and knowledge in the Best Warrior competition at Camp Swift, Bastrop, TX. The winning Soldier and NCO will go on to the active duty Best Warrior Competition. (U.S. Army National Guard Photo by Staff Sgt. Mark Scovell, 36th Infantry Division Public Affairs) 

The course is unlit with no indication of how far a competitor has traveled. Large and loose gravel exposes weak ankles and is unforgiving of thin boot soles. The winding, hilly trail is a grueling challenge for any experienced trail runner.

Nevertheless, the competitors persevered placing one foot in front of another, fighting mental and physical discomfort, in a race to the finish line against their peers in the Texas Military Department’s Best Warrior Competition.

TMD BWC competitors are hand selected from Texas’ 24,000 Guardsmen and are representatives of their respective units within the Texas Army National Guard and the Texas Air National Guard.

The annual competition showcases TMD’s most capable Soldiers and Airmen and promotes a lethal, capable and well-rounded fighting force that serves both Texas and the United States for stateside emergency responses or overseas deployments in addition to their year-round training initiatives.

“It’s challenging and rewarding. You can’t fully anticipate what to expect to run into, whether it’s board (interview with senior leaders) questions, mystery events, or running into brush and trees during the night land-navigation course,” said Staff Sgt. Josh Pittman, a combat engineer with the 840th Mobility Augmentation Company and a competitor in 2018’s TMD BWC. “You have to be ready for anything and everything.”

Best warrior competitions take place nationwide on state, regional and national levels and are sponsored by various National Guard or active Army organizations. No one competition is identical to another but what is for certain is that each competition lasts for several days, throughout the night, and will push competitors to the brink of their physical and mental limitations by way of enduring continuous and stressful tasks, exams and challenges.

“Every competition had at least an interview board, ruck march, ACFT (Army Combat Fitness Test), day and nighttime land-navigation courses, various warrior-task challenges and various live-shooting events,” said Spc. Hunter Olson, the overall national winner of the National Guard Best Warrior Competition, first runner up in the All-Army national-level BWC, and an infantryman with the 1-175th Infantry Regiment, Maryland National Guard.

“The competition is difficult for the average Soldier, mostly due to the cumulative fatigue the competition can inflict,” said Olson. “There were days where competitors traveled over 18 miles with weighted rucksacks.”

Traveling long distances while carrying 40 pounds or more of gear may be only one piece of a competitor’s pain puzzle.

In 2018’s TMD BWC, competitors competed in a nighttime land navigation course where they were tasked with locating markers, spread hundreds of meters apart in Central Texas woodlands, using only a compass, a map, and moonlight. They were not afforded the luxury of using flashlights or lamps.

Competitors traveled by foot up and over thick vegetation and through creek beds with only victory in mind as it continued to rain and temperatures hovered near freezing. The last competitor to complete this portion of the competition crossed the finish line around midnight, leaving roughly four hours of downtime before the ensuing 12-mile ruck march (run).

“The night land navigation portion of BWC was challenging. Starting late at night after going through multiple events all day was mentally and physically demanding,” said Sgt. Zachary Schindler, a 2018 TMD BWC competitor and a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System Gunner with the 4-133rd Field Artillery Regiment. “The weather and conditions of that course immediately put everyone at a disadvantage.”

By this point in the competition cuts, bruises and full-body fatigue began to set in because only hours before the nighttime navigation course, competitors had just completed a grueling obstacle course and an intensified version of the Army Physical Fitness Test which included a four-mile run. All of these events are held back to back.

Perhaps a more invisible deterrent to BWC victory, other than physical exhaustion or injury, is the mental strain and uncertainty that many competitors face as these competitions near their end.

It is not uncommon to hear from competitors that they feel nervous before a particular event or are skeptical of their ability to perform. However the competitors’ resiliency in the heat of battle usually reigns supreme, as was the case for Sgt. Noe Ochoa, a 2018 TMD BWC competitor and a cyber analyst in the TXARNG.

“The obstacle course was my toughest event because of my fear of heights so I prepared myself mentally by taking every opportunity to climb high structures and get used to the feeling,” said Ochoa. “It paid off. I was able to scale the confidence climb in a personal-record best!”

BWC competitors like Ochoa are representative of the resiliency and readiness that all Texas Guardsmen possess.

Despite the individual-based nature of each event, competitors found ways to come together to lift the morale of one another which helped individual performance and created lasting friendships by the end of the BWC, said 2018 TMD BWC competitor Sgt. Schindler.

“The competition is designed to test you as a warrior. And you will be pushed to your limits under conditions you may not be accustomed to,” said Schindler. “All the competitors were great and pushed others along at every event. No one was ever truly alone.”

Faced with intense competition, difficult tasks, and harsh conditions, BWC competitors perform at a high level and all Guardsmen should consider competing says the 2018 overall winner of the National Guard BWC.

“While winning is a good goal, the high-level training that BWCs offer should be a big motivator to competitors,” said Olsen. “If you are goal-oriented and motivated, take the chance to better yourself!”

Guard cyber teams key asset in cyber defense

Story by Sgt. 1st Class Jon Soucy, National Guard Bureau

ARLINGTON, Va. - National Guard members continue to be an integral element in cyber defense, the Guard's top general said during a recent roundtable discussion at the Pentagon on the cyber mission set.

"When I first joined the National Guard cyber was not part of our vocabulary," said Air Force Gen. Joseph Lengyel, chief of the National Guard Bureau. "Now, it's one of our daily battlegrounds."

Pennsylvania Army National Guard cyber team members monitor computer networks during elections in the state Nov. 5, 2019. Cyber teams from throughout the National Guard have remained a key part of cyber defense, said Guard officials, and have responded to ransomware attacks in Texas and Louisiana and worked in direct support of U.S. Cyber Command. (Photo Credit: Staff Sgt. Zane Craig)
Pennsylvania Army National Guard cyber team members monitor computer networks during elections in the state Nov. 5, 2019. Cyber teams from throughout the National Guard have remained a key part of cyber defense, said Guard officials, and have responded to ransomware attacks in Texas and Louisiana and worked in direct support of U.S. Cyber Command. (Photo Credit: Staff Sgt. Zane Craig)


More than 3,900 troops make up the Guard's cyber element, said Lengyel, adding that includes traditional part-time units as well as full-time units that work directly for U.S. Cyber Command.

"The Air National Guard always provides two [cyber protection teams], and on the Army side, the Army [National Guard] always provides one, that are continuously mobilized and doing duty for U.S. Cyber Command and the cyber mission force," said Lengyel.

Guard cyber teams have also responded in support of local and state authorities, including earlier this year in Texas and Louisiana.

"In May, one county -- Jackson County -- got hit with ransomware," said Army Maj. Gen. Tracy Norris, the adjutant general of the Texas National Guard. "It disrupted county services. People weren't able to transfer property, the police doing a background check weren't able to pull up that information."

County officials realized that a response to the attack was beyond the scope of their information technology staff and looked to the Guard for assistance, said Norris.

"We had people out there within 12 hours to do an assessment on what had happened and to get that county back online," said Norris. "We helped them get to a recovery point where their IT professionals could come in and get the county back to where it could deliver services."

That, it turned out, was just a dress rehearsal. A month later 22 Texas counties were hit with ransomware attacks, and again the Texas Guard was called out.

"Immediately the [Texas] Department of Emergency Management called over to us and we got people on the phone to assess and figure out where to go to start [responding to the attack]," said Norris.

From there, a team of 50 or so Soldiers and Airmen responded to get the networks back online, said Norris, adding it took about two weeks to get everything back to normal.

Jackson County, the county hit in the May attack, was also one of the 22 counties hit in June, but the attackers were quickly stopped.

"They did not get past [the network] firewall," said Norris, adding that was in large part because of measures Guard members had put in place after the earlier attack.

Similar attacks occurred in Louisiana in July. Those attacks affected five parishes -- the Louisiana equivalent to a county -- and 54 schools.

"It was two weeks prior to school [starting for the year]," said Kenneth Donnelly, executive director of the Louisiana Cyber Security Commission. "Mainly it affected the parish school board systems for [grades] K through 12."

Louisiana National Guard cyber teams were called in.

"The governor declared a state of emergency, which allowed us to expand our [response] capability," said Donnelly. "We were able to use those [Guard] assets and were able to build the capability and capacity in Louisiana to get on the ground quickly and recover the parishes' school systems before school started."

The response also mitigated attacks in other parts of Louisiana.

"We were able to prevent seven other parishes from being severely impacted by the ransomware attack," said Donnelly.

That was, in part, because of assistance from the Louisiana Guard.

"This is the new norm," he said. "We currently have ongoing two additional cyberattacks that took place recently and we have the same resources on the ground right now."

Because of that "new norm," cyberattacks are often treated no differently than a hurricane or other large-scale disaster and the Guard is brought in to assist, said Lengyel.

"When they first developed cyber, people thought there really is no domestic mission for a governor to use a cyber force in state capacity," he said. "Now, we're seeing how wrong that could be."

But unlike a natural disaster, Guard cyber teams can be brought in ahead of time to mitigate possible attacks and were key to doing just that during recent elections.

"In 2018 the Guard was on duty in 27 states either monitoring the state.gov networks or on standby in case something happened," said Lengyel.

Plans are already underway for similar support during the 2020 elections.

As part of that, Guard teams would begin by assessing the network for any vulnerabilities, said Army Maj. Gen. Bret D. Daugherty, the adjutant general of the Washington National Guard, which has a large cyber element.

After that, said Daugherty, any vulnerabilities would be addressed.

"This is all side by side with Department of State IT people who do the keyboard entry," he said.

Finally, if needed, a team would then monitor the network.

"We [would] have that team on hand leading up to and during the election to monitor the network for any bad actors who may be trying to hack in, doing whatever we can to keep that from happening," said Daugherty.

If any hacking activity were to occur, it would then be turned over to law enforcement officials, said Lengyel.

"Once we find a crime scene in the cyber domain, we turn it over to law enforcement or call in the FBI," he said.

The Guard's ability to operate in the cyber domain is just another skill set Guard members bring to the fight, whether overseas or at home, Lengyel said.
"It's the role of the men and women of the National Guard to be able to offer these kinds of services to our governors to respond to a domestic event," he said. "Whether it's a hurricane, a fire or a cyber event, it's just another military skill set we can transfer into use."

147th Attack Wing participates in weapon evaluation exercise

Story by Tech. Sgt Daniel Martinez, 147th Attack Wing

ELLINGTON FIELD JOINT RESERVE BASE, Texas – The 147th Attack Wing participated in a Weapon System Evaluation Program exercise conducted by the 86th Fighter Weapons Squadron from Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, Nov. 3.

Inspectors evaluated tactics, weapon effectiveness and airframe readiness. Members of the 147th Attack Wing armed MQ-9 Reapers with live ammunition for the first time at Ellington Field JRB, and completed launch and recoveries (LRE) by Mobile Dual Control Ground Control Station (GCS) and Ground Data Terminal (GDT).

Ellington Field, Joint Reserve Base, Texas - 147th Attack Wing Members participate in a Weapon System Evaluation Program exercise conducted by the 86th Fighter Weapons Squadron from Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, Nov. 3, 2019, at Ellington Field, Joint Reserve Base, Texas. (US Air Force National Guard Photo by Senior Master Sgt. Sean Cowher
Ellington Field, Joint Reserve Base, Texas - 147th Attack Wing Members participate in a Weapon System Evaluation Program exercise conducted by the 86th Fighter Weapons Squadron from Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, Nov. 3, 2019, at Ellington Field, Joint Reserve Base, Texas. (US Air Force National Guard Photo by Senior Master Sgt. Sean Cowher)

"It's an exciting time to be Reaper Keeper! We are flying from our ramp, exercising all specialties, and helping validate the effectiveness of munitions for the U. S. Air Force," said Lt. Col. Derek Weaver, the 147th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron commander. "Morale is at an all-time high and I am proud of the men and women that have worked hard every day to make this happen."

MQ-9 Reapers were flown out of Ellington Field JRB to an isolated training site in Florida and were evaluated during live-drop operations.

"Texans can be proud of what their Air National Guard has accomplished. Right down the road from where Houston CAPCOM launched our mission to the moon, we launched our first out-of-state weapons exercise with our aircraft beyond visual range," said Lt. Col. Christopher, an MQ-9 pilot assigned to the 111th Attack Squadron. "This is the first step in a new era of the way the Texas Air National Guard serves the state and country as a whole as our aircraft flies off into the sunrise of a cool Houston morning."

The MQ-9 Reaper is the 12th airframe to be flown out of Ellington Field JRB, Texas.

Texas Counterdrug supports Red Ribbon events throughout the state

Story by Master Sgt. Michael Leslie, Texas Joint Counterdrug Taskforce

AUSTIN, Texas – Red Ribbon week has grown since its inception in 1988 educating the public about the hazards of drug abuse. This year, the Texas National Guard Joint Counterdrug Task Force stepped up their support to law enforcement agencies and community anti-drug coalitions to bring this message to communities around the state. 

Members of the Texas National Guard Joint Counterdrug Task Force support El Paso Drug Enforcement Administration during Take Back Day to receive unused prescriptions. (Courtesy Photo, Texas Joint Counterdrug Taskforce)
Members of the Texas National Guard Joint Counterdrug Task Force support El Paso Drug Enforcement Administration during Take Back Day to receive unused prescriptions. (Courtesy Photo, Texas Joint Counterdrug Taskforce)

Drug free starts with me.

“Red Ribbon is about educating the community on drug awareness and the negative impact drugs have on individuals and society,” said Counterdrug civil operations noncommissioned officer in charge, Master Sgt. Celsa Reyes.

The Counterdrug task force started with teaching Girls Scouts in Liberty Hill, Texas with a rock wall, dunk tank and a helicopter, showcasing the various capabilities of the program.

“It was a challenging experience since it was the first time collaborating with Girl Scouts but a great opportunity to involve us and a great success,” said Reyes.

Over the next few weeks, task force members sponsored a Red Ribbon 5k Run, stood side-by-side with Drug Enforcement Administration agents for prescription drug Take Back Day, and went to 39 schools in 12 cities giving briefings and handing out red wrist bands as a reminder to stay drug free.

“Getting the message to youth across the nation on the danger of using drugs is a very important announcement that can save many lives,” said Master Sgt. Almera Rose, an assistant team leader for the Counterdrug program. “To reach out as many audience as possible, the message must be said repetitively in different ways. One way of doing that is through red ribbon week.”

The Texas National Guard Joint Counterdrug Task Force flew Drug Enforcement Administration special agents in an Army National Guard Luh-72 Lakota helicopter to five Austin-area schools to talk about drug abuse prevention and awareness. (US Army National Guard Photo by Master Sgt. Johnie Smith)
The Texas National Guard Joint Counterdrug Task Force flew Drug Enforcement Administration special agents in an Army National Guard Luh-72 Lakota helicopter to five Austin-area schools to talk about drug abuse prevention and awareness. (US Army National Guard Photo by Master Sgt. Johnie Smith)

A new initiative with the DEA was to fly an Army National Guard LUH-72 Lakota helicopter to various Austin-area schools and giving a short message from a DEA agent about what students needed to watch for as they grow up and are possibly subjected to illicit drugs.

“We hope our Texas communities understand the commitment and passion we, National Guard members, have towards drug prevention and education programs,” said Reyes. “Through the use of our helicopter, this event becomes memorable to our children and assists them in staying drug free.”

Each student body then raised their right hand and repeated a pledge to do well in school and stay drug free.

Even the school mascot in Dripping Springs, Texas made an appearance from the helicopter where children erupted in cheer as Timmy the Tiger stepped out with arms wide.

The Texas National Guard Joint Counterdrug Task Force flew Drug Enforcement Administration special agents in an Army National Guard Luh-72 Lakota helicopter to five Austin-area schools to talk about drug abuse prevention and awareness. (Courtesy Photo, Texas Joint Counterdrug Task Force)
The Texas National Guard Joint Counterdrug Task Force flew Drug Enforcement Administration special agents in an Army National Guard Luh-72 Lakota helicopter to five Austin-area schools to talk about drug abuse prevention and awareness. (Courtesy Photo, Texas Joint Counterdrug Task Force)

“It shows that the community cares,” said Senior Master Sgt. Kira Harris, the Counterdrug comptroller noncommissioned officer in charge and Dripping Springs native. “When we stepped off the helicopter, the kids screamed for Timmy the Tiger like he was a rock star.”

Red Ribbon Week is in honor of DEA Special Agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena after his capture, torture and murder at the hands of a Mexican drug cartel in 1985. Task force members were a part of an event in which Mika Camarena, Enrique’s wife, spoke in Dallas, Texas, honoring her husband.

“Carrying on the legacy of “Kiki” Camarena is a constant reminder of how lucrative and dangerous the illegal drug business can be,” said Rose, “and if you get in their way, you will get hurt somehow.”

Before he joined the DEA, Camarena wanted to be part of the solution to take back communities and protect children from the criminals that would harm them for illicit profit.

“Red Ribbon events remind us that people like DEA special agent Enrique Camarena have laid their lives in the fight against drugs,” said Reyes.

Soldier

TMD Veterans Highlight - Maj.Gen. (Ret.) Kenneth Wisian

Maj.Gen. (Ret.) Kenneth WisianVeterans Day is November 11, however, we are honoring veterans all month long here at the Texas Military Department.

Every week in November, we will feature a local veteran who proudly served in the Texas Army, Air, or State Guard to thank them for being Texans serving Texas. This week, we are excited to honor Texas Air National Guard retired Maj. Gen. Kenneth Wisian in our TMD Veteran Spotlight.

Maj.Gen. (Ret.) Kenneth Wisian

  • Highest Rank: Major General (O-8)
  • Branch: Texas Air National Guard
  • Years of Service: 33 years
  • Awards/Combat Medals: Bronze Star, Air Medal, Aerial Achievement Medal

Maj.Gen.Wisian’s life in words

Maj. Gen. Wisian has deep roots in Austin. A graduate of Austin High School and the University of Texas at Austin, Gen. Wisian’s military career has taken him places he’ll remember for a lifetime. Wisian joined the Air Force in 1982, and his training began at Mather Air Force Base in Sacramento, California. Gen. Wisian trained on B-52 bombers while learning the importance of Air Command Missions. In 1989 Gen. Wisian was selected to attend Test Pilot School. USAF TPS is one of the toughest, most elite schools in the Air Force.

Wisian says when you’re in the school or have the graduate patch, you are authorized to fly any aircraft in the military you can get your hands on. A self-proclaimed “Uniformed nerd,” he left active duty in 1993 to pursue his Doctorate degree in Geophysics from Southern Methodist University and has published dozens of research in geophysics, space exploration and military/ international affairs.

One year later, Dr. Wisian transferred to the Texas Air National Guard. Wisian began flying C-130 s with the Texas Air National Guard. During this time he flew operations in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Iraq and Kosovo. He was also deployed to Afghanistan twice. Wisian says after retirement he was able to focus full-time on his role as a Research Scientist.

He is currently the Executive Director of the Disaster Research Program Center for Space Research at UT Austin. The Air Force core values of Integrity First, Service before Self and Excellence in all We Do will always be a part of his life.

 

 

 

Supporting Guardsmen and Families from Deployment to Retirement

Story by Andrew R. Smith, Texas Military Department Public Affairs

Soldiers and Airmen attached to guard and reserve elements constantly have to balance military service, a fulltime job, education and family life.  At times this combination of tasks may seem overwhelming.  Fortunately, services exist to assist these hard working service members and their families.  While most of these people know about benefits such as tax free shopping at the Post Exchange and the education benefits of the GI Bill, there exists an entire support system that offers services far beyond those.Citizen soldier for life logo.

The Family Support Services center offers everything from entertainment functions to education classes and benefits workshops so families will be well versed in what benefits they have and how to best use them. 

“Family Support Services offers cradle to grave assistance for guardsmen and civilian employees,” said Shandra Sponsler, Deputy Branch Manager of Family Support Servicer on Camp Mabry. “We offer pretty much everything but pay and MOS training for Soldiers. Even as Soldiers reach retirement age we have programs like resume writing and interviewing classes and the ‘Citizen-Soldier for Life’ program to guide them as they move past the military.”

Citizen-Soldier for Life is an Army National Guard program that offer career readiness support and financial training to National Guard members, their families, veterans and retirees.  They offer events to help those veterans find jobs in the civilian work force as well as professional networking.

The Soldier Support Service Center, located at Camp Mabry, in Austin, also offers services for retired persons, such as issuing new I.D. cards and copies of military records for retirees and dependents. 

Family Support Services also works with many local partners like Hero’s Night Out, Combat Combined Arms, Operation Homefront USA and the YMCA to put on local events to educate service members and families and provide services. Many of these events are aimed at entertaining and providing a sense of community for the children of deployed service members.

“Some of our most useful and most popular services are Tricare healthcare for service members and families, behavioral health counselors and assistance with Veterans Administration benefits,” said Staff Sgt. Jean-Pierre Sanders, noncommissioned officer in charge of Yellow Ribbon programs at the Family Support Services Center.

The Yellow Ribbon program is another major benefit available to veterans that assists with the cost of education at select universities and trade schools.

“One service I would suggest people take advantage of is our Yellow Ribbon events.  At these events we have information about all of our available resources.  Beyond the obvious ones, there some unseen benefits,” said Sanders. “I often see family members of deployed service members meet with other families, share stories and advice and network with one another.  The support they offer each other us something unique and valuable.”

Even organizations like the Army Air Force Exchange (AAFES) who run the Post Exchange (PX) is opened to all active and retired service members as well as 100 percent disabled veterans and families of all eligible groups. PX restraints are open to all. A portion of all AAFES profits go back to troops through donations to Morale and Welfare Recreation Programs.

Many of the support services such as the counseling are available over the phone 24-hours a day year round. Offices are located all over Texas in Austin, Dallas, Houston, Weslaco, Tyler and El Paso.

More information about these services can be found at https://tmd.texas.gov/tmd-family-support-services

New Year, New Goals: Total Force Wellness

Story by Charles E. Spirtos, Texas Military Department Public Affairs

Members of the Senior Enlisted Leader Conference learn new events to be included in the Army Combat Fitness Test during a training exercise held at Camp Mabry, Texas on October 25, 2019. (U.S. Army National Guard Photo by Staff Sgt. Mark Otte)
Members of the Senior Enlisted Leader Conference learn new events to be included in the Army Combat Fitness Test during a training exercise held at Camp Mabry, Texas on October 25, 2019. (U.S. Army National Guard Photo by Staff Sgt. Mark Otte)

With the start of the new fiscal year, agencies government-wide are re-evaluating goals and priorities in order to best answer the call of their missions. The Texas Military Department is no different, and moving into fiscal year 2020, TMD Senior Enlisted Leader Chief Master Sgt. Michael E. Cornitius has outlined his vision to improve total force wellness to increase resiliency for every Soldier, Airman and State Guardsman within the Texas Military Forces.

“Being healthy” isn’t just about eating right and getting exercise. Cornitius wants to ensure that the force is healthy mentally, spiritually and physically. All three of these building blocks are critical to maintaining a force that is lethal, resilient and ready to answer the call at any time. Maintaining this standard of total fitness is not an individual endeavor. Every Texas Guardsman is in the fight together as one force. 

“The Texas Guard operates like a family, and just as members of a family encourage each other to be the best version of themselves, each member needs to hold one another accountable,” said Cornitius.

Members of the Senior Enlisted Leaders Conference participate in a joint Army, Air Force, and State Guard physical training at Camp Mabry, TX on October 25, 2019. (U.S. Army National Guard Photo by Staff Sgt. Mark Otte)
Members of the Senior Enlisted Leaders Conference participate in a joint Army, Air Force, and State Guard physical training at Camp Mabry, TX on October 25, 2019. (U.S. Army National Guard Photo by Staff Sgt. Mark Otte)

As a military organization, TMD rightfully places a great deal of energy and effort in maintaining superior physical fitness. However, the importance of mental and emotional well-being is often overlooked. Emotional health is key to maintaining a resilient and lethal force, and ignoring this component of total force wellness can be just as detrimental as skipping PT. 

Balancing life as a citizen-Soldier within the Guard is not an easy task. Between family commitments, military requirements and the challenges of civilian employment, it is very easy to get overwhelmed. Cornitius believes that tackling the cause of these emotions can allow for increased wellness in the force by going back to the root and really helping people understand that they have a purpose, whether it’s in the military, in society, in their family or wherever else. Cornitius adds that it is his mission to be the support network for those people who have expressed a desire to improve their emotional health. 

In tandem with emotional health, Cornitius wants to enter the new fiscal year with an increased understanding of spiritual health and the resources available to the men and women of the Texas Military Department. All components of TMD have chaplains on staff who are equipped to talk through any spiritual challenges one might face. While speaking to a chaplain might appear to be intimidating at first, Cornitius reminds Guardsmen that chaplains are just normal people.

Physical wellbeing has been and always will be a critical component of total force wellness. Across the Department of Defense, all branches of service are looking towards the future and developing innovative methods to keep the force agile, healthy and lethal. These changes are very palpable within the Army given the transition to the Army Combat Fitness Test. However, all branches are undergoing a renewed interest in physical health. The ACFT will be a superior metric to determine a Soldier’s comprehensive physical fitness by evaluating complex actions that have direct parallels to skills required to succeed in the force. Cornitius understands that while at first the ACFT may seem daunting, the test will actually provide benefits beyond athleticsm by increasing camaraderie within the force. 

A U.S. Air Force chaplain's cover rests on a table as a service member discusses faith-related concerns during a religious service. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jacob B. Wrightsman)
A U.S. Air Force chaplain's cover rests on a table as a service member discusses faith-related concerns during a religious service. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jacob B. Wrightsman) 

“You can encourage each other, whether it be on the deadlift, whether it be on the leg tuck, no matter what it is,” said Cornitius. “You're going to have at least four people there that can help each other, so that's what I like about it.”

TMD is determined to provide the resources to ensure all of its members excel physically. Part of this initiative is introducing the Volt App, which utilizes artificial intelligence to customize workout routines to the needs of each individual. This app will allow troops to not only meet, but also to exceed fitness goals. TMD is also constructing a consolidated gym at Camp Mabry to allow for improved physical training. Finally, TMD is ensuring that units across the state of Texas have access to equipment that will prepare them for both fitness tests and the battlefield.

Life as a citizen-Solider within the Texas Military Department can be challenging. TMD is the premier military force in the country, and the demands of military service can push individuals to the limits of their physical and emotional abilities. However, with this great challenge comes a great reward in better preparing TMD members to be equal to the task, whether at home during a natural disaster or on the battlefield. Cornitius is certain that a refreshed interest in total force wellness will improve mental, spiritual and physical health, which will in turn allow TMD to be the most agile and resilient force of its kind. The most important point to remember, according to Cornitius, is that no one is in the fight alone. 

“TMD is dedicated to being built around taking care of our people,” said Cornitius. “You are heard, and we are there.”

 

Self Management

By: BG Chaney, Deputy Adjutant General - Army

The Stoic philosopher Epictetus states that “we are responsible for some things, while there are others for which we cannot be held responsible.” This is to say that if you can find a way to differentiate between what is and what is not under your control, and then to act accordingly, you will be resilient to the psychological stress that can so often roadblock us on our path to achieving our goals. 

As a strategic leader, I frequently draw on this concept for strength and guidance when I begin to feel overwhelmed, or as though things are spinning too quickly out of my control.  Every day I work on improving my ability to differentiate between what is and what is not in my power to control. There are numerous external forces outside of our control, and so we must remember to hold onto our power of how we interact and react to them. Even if we cannot control something, we can choose what level of importance it can have to our lives. We always have the ability to stack and prioritize things by level of perceived significance. As leaders and individuals, we must constantly take stock of what is going on around us, create a hierarchy of priorities, and then take control of events as appropriate.  By learning to manage what you can, you will be more resilient to riding the wave of things that are out of your control.