Posts From December, 2014

Airmen open hearts, homes to future military working dogs

Story by: 2nd Lt. Phil Fountain

YYork, a military working dog in training with the Department of Defense’s Military Working Dog Breeding Program, is pictured playing with toy in water. YYork is currently being fostered by Col. Susan M. Dickens, commander of the 149th Mission Support Group, Texas Air National Guard, a subordinate unit of the 149th Fighter Wing, at JBSA-Lackland. (Photo courtesy of Col. Susan Dickens / Released)

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO – LACKLAND, Texas – Two members of the 149th Fighter Wing, Texas Air National Guard have opened their hearts and homes to future military working dogs. The dogs are from the Department of Defense’s (DoD) Military Working Dog (MWD) Breeding Program, which is operated by the U.S. Air Force’s 341st Training Squadron. The wing and the squadron are both based here.

Col. Susan M. Dickens, commander of the 149th Mission Support Group, and Tech. Sgt. Brandon M. Harrist, an aircraft electrical and environmental systems craftsman assigned to the 149th Maintenance Squadron, are each fostering military working dogs in training.

The puppies were born earlier this year at the program’s JBSA-Lackland facility, they said, and Dickens and Harrist took them home over the summer.

Dickens is caring for YYork, a Belgian Malinois, while Harrist is caring for DDexter, a Dutch Shepard.

“[YYork] is part of the YY4 litter,” Dickens said. “All the puppies in a particular litter have the double first letter in their names.”

The double first letter in the dog’s name indicates they are part of the DoD MWD program.

“Lackland is the largest military working dog training facility in the U.S., and possibly the world,” said Tracy Cann, a foster consultant with the DoD MWD Breeding Program. “This has been the place to train MWDs since the military started using dogs in wartime and in peace.”

Cann manages the recruiting and screening of potential fosters, and also evaluates the health and wellness of the puppies in the program’s care.

There are multiple MWD programs within the DoD, she said, but that all their dogs are processed through the Lackland facility. Cann said there are four programs to train the dogs: a trainer’s course, a specialized search dog course, a combat tracker dog course and a mine detection dog course.

This is not Harrist’s first rodeo when it comes to fostering a MWD in training.

Harrist and his wife, Lora, who is the primary trainer, have previously fostered three Belgian Malinois, he said.

There are some challenges to training working dogs.

“They are very intelligent and have a lot of energy,” Harrist said. “Trying to keep the balance of training them to be a working dog and becoming a pet can be challenging. But we have great people on the breeding program staff and other fosters that are always there to help out.”

Dickens agreed that there are a number of challenges.

“The biggest challenge is the logistics of taking him places with you,” Dickens said. “He is very active, mentally and physically, so you have to ensure he is getting enough activity or he will get into mischief.”

But with the challenges come some unique opportunities.

Harrist said he has escorted his dogs to interact with senior Air Force leaders and has been able to participate in numerous civic demonstrations.

The fosters are expected “to socialize the pups at a young age, so they learn to trust people and aren’t afraid of being in different environments,” Harrist said. They also work with getting the dogs to interact positively to various rewards.

Fosters like Dickens and Harrist are important to the training process and the dog’s success.

“Working dogs are very high energy and intelligent and growing up in a kennel could make them shy and introverted when we need them to be just the opposite,” Cann said. “Foster homes raise the puppies in their homes and socialize them in all kinds of environments, which would not be possible if they were raised in kennels.”

This initial training is important to get the dogs ready for their next level of training and careers.

Dickens said she regulates YYork’s diet to ensure he remains fit for his future training.

“We use the philosophy that he is an athlete and must train and eat right to be the best he can be,” Dickens said. “So no ‘people’ food and no ‘eating’ the toys. Needless to say, we are constantly picking up toy parts once they start getting torn up.”

After the dog’s comprehensive training is complete, Cann said they work on explosive and drug detection patrols, as well as tracking suspects, among other missions. Fosters are a critical component of the getting the dogs to where they need to be.

Beyond the basic training requirements, fosters are also expected to ensure the dog’s receive comprehensive medical care.

“When the puppies are little, you have to take them to the Holland MWD Hospital for their vaccinations,” Dickens said, “which are every few weeks until they are four months old.”

Additionally, all parties within the breeding program maintain close contact with program officials.

“We have monthly training sessions,” Harrist said, “so the heads of the breeding program can see how the pups are progressing and give us feedback, as well as pointers for keeping them on the right tract.”

Dickens said the monthly training sessions are “very helpful and gives you insight on what to expect as they get older.”

“This has been tremendously helpful as a first-time owner,” she said.

The toughest part of the program is saying goodbye, they both said. These dogs will soon head back to the 341st Training Squadron to begin their next level of training.

“The most challenging part for us, really, is their report day,” Harrist said. “You get attached to them as if they are your pet, and it’s hard to say goodbye to them. But then you just keep reminding yourself that these dogs are going to go out and save lives.”

YYork is Dickens’ first foster, and she has been preparing to say goodbye.

“It will be very difficult to not have him with our family anymore,” Dickens said. “But he is definitely ready for the next step. Since he goes to work with me almost every day, I will probably miss him the most and it will take some adjusting to not having my ‘little shadow’ following me everywhere.”

Harrist said the program coordinators attempt to keep him up-to-date with the dog’s training, when possible.

“Sometimes they even send us pictures or video of our dogs in action,” Harrist said. “On occasion, we are lucky enough to see our pups after turn in.”

After returning to the program, the dogs will undergo further training to be readied for transition to an active military unit.

They come back to our trainers and start their pre-training at the age of seven months,” Cann said. “After two weeks of acclimation in their new environment, they are tested in various areas. If they pass testing at that time, they stay in pre-training with our trainers until they are 12 months old.”

“At 12 months, the puppies are tested once more – this is the same test that all MWD's must pass,” she said. “Once tested and accepted, the dogs move onto their respective training schools to receive advanced training for 90-120 days. If the dogs make it through this training, they are tested once again (for certification). When the dogs are certified they are then assigned to a base [or] post and start their operational careers.”

Once in the field, the dogs work for about 10 years.

“They generally work until they are eight to 12 years old,” Cann said. “They are usually adopted by their (military) handler, or to the public, if it is appropriate for the individual dog when they retire.”

But it all starts with those willing to open their hearts and homes to this important program.

“Outside fosters are vital to our program,” Cann said. “Without them, we would not succeed.”

Read more: airmen open hearts homes future military working dogs

36th Infantry Division families board Snowball Express

Photo of Major General Lester Simpson and child
Maj. Gen. Lester Simpson, 36th Infantry Division commander, chats with Jason Thomas in the overhead baggage compartment during a charter flight from Fort Hood. Jason is the son of Staff Sgt. Ryan J. Thomas, who died while serving in the U.S. Air Force. The flight is part of the Snowball Express, a non-profit organization that brings the families of fallen members of the military to the Dallas/Fort Worth area each December. Each of the nine American Airlines charter aircraft were decorated for the mission and the standard in-flight rules were somewhat relaxed for the kids. (36th Infantry Division photo by Maj. Randy Stillinger/Released)

FORT WORTH, Texas – Family members of service members boarded a special flight Thursday with an important mission: provide hope and new happy memories to the children of military fallen heroes who have died on active duty since Sept. 11, 2001.

Several family members of 36th Infantry Division Soldiers were among the special “VIPs” that participated in this year’s Snowball Express, which brought over 1,600 to Fort Worth for this annual event.

Maj. Gen. Lester Simpson, commander of the 36th ID, boarded one of nine American Airlines charter planes at the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport. In San Antonio, the charter plane, which was decorated in Christmas lights and garland, picked up the family of Sgt. Christopher Loza, who died in 2009 while serving with the 1-124th Cavalry Regiment in Iraq.

Upon arrival in San Antonio, Simpson greeted Amelia Gonzalez, the mother of Sgt. Loza, and Iliana Loza, his daughter, in the airport terminal. They then boarded the flight as it continued on to Fort Hood/Killeen before the last leg back to the D/FW airport. 

Simpson, of Rowlett, said, “It’s important to show the kids that they are still part of our military family and ensure they know we haven’t forgotten about them.” 

“It’s an honor to board this flight and be a small part of the Snowball Express, an organization that gives special attention to our Gold Star families while honoring our fallen military heroes,” Simpson said.

During the weekend, the families were treated to a number of different events, including a visit to the Perot Museum of Nature and Science, a trip to the Sheriff’s Posse Ranch in Weatherford, the annual talent show featuring the kids themselves, a show by magician David Hira, and a performance by actor Gary Sinise and the Lt. Dan Band in a hangar at the Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base. Sinise, who is involved in several military causes, regularly supports the Snowball Express and its Gold Star families.

The highlight for many is the traditional Walk of Gratitude, which gives local residents the opportunity to come out, line the streets of Fort Worth, and show their appreciation for the sacrifices of the fallen and their families as the procession goes by. Red, white and blue balloons were then released into the sky by the families with messages to their loved ones. 

Melanie Mason brought three of her four daughters back to Fort Worth for the weekend of fun and remembrance. She is the wife of Staff Sgt. Luke Mason, who died when the helicopter he was on went down in Southern Iraq in September, 2008. 

Staff Sgt. Mason was deployed with 2nd Battalion, 149th Aviation Regiment, the division’s General Support Aviation Battalion, which is headquartered in Grand Prairie. The family has participated in the Snowball Express each year since the accident that took his life.

Mason, of Springtown, said that her family benefits from Snowball Express as they see that they are not alone in their loss. 

“The girls have made some very close friends over the past few years,” Mason said.

As the Snowball Express travels around the Dallas/Fort Worth area during the weekend, they are escorted by local police and the ever-present Patriot Guard Riders. Citizens line the streets with signs and cheer in a show of support. American flags fly from overpasses and veterans stand at attention to salute the convoy of buses as they pass. 

“I really like when we go places and see people standing along the road waving,” Mason said. “I like knowing they are there for us, and that they are there to honor our heroes.”

Mason’s daughter, Sarah, age 10, said that her favorite experience of the weekend was seeing all the animals at the Fort Worth Zoo. 

American Airlines is the lead sponsor of the Snowball Express as it donates the charter airplanes and airline tickets that bring all the families together. Other sponsors include Neiman Marcus, the Airpower Foundation, Dallas Fan Fares and Armed Forces Insurance, among many others. 

For more information on the Snowball Express, go to .

Read more: 36th infantry division families board snowball express


Texas State Guard Kicks off Young Heroes of the Guard Toy Drive

Story by: Capt. Esperanza Meza, PAO – 19th Regt.
Posted: 20-DEC-2014

A few days before Christmas, members of the Texas State Guard deliver donated toys to various children's hospitals in their local areas to bring broad smiles to kids and teens. With a goal to raise 10,000 toys this year the TXSG Chaplains group, with the guidance of TXSG Chaplain (Col.) Douglas Sewell, kicked off the Young Heroes of the Guard Christmas Toy Drive. The intent is to far-surpass last year's donations of 6,644 toys and leave a year's worth of toys behind at every hospital they visit.

In 2009, two Chaplains were initiated a challenge by a TXSG officer creating the Young Heroes of the Guard after a news report aired. The officer saw a report of children suffering in hospitals; families hurting emotionally and struggling financially, with all of them feeling forgotten during the holidays. That first year they focused their attention mainly on collecting toys for Cook Children's Medical Center in Fort Worth. There is perhaps little which is more painful to a child than to be in the hospital during the holidays rather than at home. In the following years, the vision was expanded to include five hospitals statewide; the goal, to include 15-18 more hospitals this year.

Many touching stories have arisen over the years since this effort began. One story, noted by Chaplain (Capt.) David Fish, 4th Regiment, Fort Worth, came from Cpl. Vic Segura, who visited a cancer floor. The report stated, "One kid in particular made all of us in our group break down. We found out later that she loved art. A gift given to her took her to another place, a better place than a hospital and her current condition. Things given to her helped her create art… creating happiness. Immediately she cried when she got her gift. Anyone with a heart would have cried too upon seeing that. Art she created was shown… amazing. Without that gift somebody gave to our cause, we were told that she would have never been able to have it because her family cannot afford items like that."

Such stories and experiences as these have provided abundant motivation as TXSG units across the state this year started early collecting toys by encouraging businesses, schools, churches and organizations to join the effort. Operation Matthew 25, a grassroots organization promoting humanitarian needs, initiated a partnership challenging its members to raise 1000 toys by sending their gifts through

To raise more toys, led by Chaplain Sewell and Staff Sgt. John Gately, the 1st Annual Texas State Guard - Veterans Day Celebration & Toy Drive was held in Frisco, Texas. The message, "Do your duty, take care of your people and get those 10,000 toys," was exclaimed by keynote speaker, Maj. Gen. Jake Betty, Commanding General of the TXSG. Representative Dan Flynn, Texas House Representative, District 2, and Colonel in the Army Component Command of the TXSG, also attended.

Gately, TXSG Headquarters J-6, has been instrumental in coordinating with donation providers and in creating the current TXSG toy drive website, Starting at 19th Regiment in 2010 and then transferring to HQ in Austin, Gately directed his toy drive efforts benefiting Dell Children's Medical Center. "I remember Loxy Passmore, a Child Life assistant. As she was telling me that some toys would be in the hospital's play rooms and given as gifts to young patients, she was looking over the mounds of stuffed bears. She was clearly looking for - or hoping to see - something in particular," said Gately. "We have one little boy here, right now who just loves panda bears. I hope there's a panda in there somewhere,” he recalls her stating. “Moments later, a stuffed panda emerged from the pile. Passmore's eyes lit up. ‘This will mean so much.. All of this,’" stated Gately.

With a personal goal to raise 3,000 toys, Gately fanned out to local businesses setting up donation boxes, partnering with a golf event in Denton and getting a donation from the TXSG non-profit organization for teddy bears. "When I was six years old, I broke my leg. When I got out of the hospital, my parents got me a stuffed teddy bear," said Gately. "I remember how happy it made me. Now I want to help bring the same joy to other children."

Several TXSG soldiers are leading the drive to collect 1000 or more toys on their own like Sgt. James Williams, 2nd Regiment, in Austin, who has collected over 600 toys. Also, Staff Sgt. Rhueben Towne, who serves dual roles with the 447th Air Support Group at Ellington Field JRB in Houston and with 5th Air Wing TXSG as an A6 NCOIC has also raised 730 toys. Additionally, Towne has won the participation of a professional basketball team - the Houston Rockets - with a portion of their ticket proceeds pledged to go towards Children's Memorial Hermann Hospital. Towne is also coordinating with other TXSG components like the Galveston Medical Response Group, for Shriners. "Giving a toy to a child who is not expecting it, during their time in the hospital," said Towne, "is seeing a little joyfulness. It's worth their time (along with his wife) in purchasing and collecting toys."

Holiday Safety Tips

Planning a trip for the holidays? Here are a few tips to help with your planning!

Commentary by TXMF Staff

Planning a trip for the holidays? Here are a few tips to help with your planning!

Road Travel Tips

  1. Taking a roadtrip? Have your vehicle inspected before you leave, especially if driving in harsh weather conditions.
  2. Be adaptable if traveling by car. With construction, traffic and road closures be prepared for a change in route.
  3. Equip your car with a winter safety kit. Here's info on how to build one:
  4. Have a second driver and plan frequent rest stops. Fight fatigue and improve alertness by stopping to stretch your legs.

Air Travel Tips

  1. Stay healthy this season. Keep in mind the spread of germs. Get the flu vaccine and wash hands frequently
  2. Traveling by air? Plan ahead and leave extra time for long lines and traffic.
  3. Soaring the skies? Save time and money by packing light as possible. Airlines are getting stricter with baggage allowances

Home Safety Tips

  1. Avoid fire hazards. Inspect holiday decorations, lights, and extension cords for damage before use.
  2. Don’t overload outlets with too many decorations or devices.
  3. If you have a fresh Christmas tree, keep your tree stand full of water to avoid fire hazards.
  4. Keep space heaters at least 3 feet away from anything that can burn!
  5. Traveling? Have a neighbor watch your house or call your local PD to do a drive by. Use timers in and outside your house.

For more tips and tricks follow our twitter page @TXMilitaryForce and feel free to share your own #TXMFHolidayTips. Have a safe and happy holiday season!

Texas State Guard makes hospital holiday happier

Story by: Capt. Esperanza Meza, 19th Regiment PAO

Guardsmen from the19th Regiment, Texas State Guard (TXSG), provide toys to children during the holidays at Medical City Children's Hospital in Dallas, Dec. 13, 2014. The toy donation was a part of the TXSG’s Young Heroes of the Guard toy drive. Thanks to generous donations from Texas guardsmen and members of the community, over 3,500 toys were delivered to three different hospitals in Dallas during the holidays: Children’s Medical Center of Dallas, Medical City Children’s Hospital, and Our Children’s House of Baylor. (Texas State Guard photo by Capt. Esperanza Meza/Released)
Guardsmen from the19th Regiment, Texas State Guard (TXSG), provide toys to children during the holidays at Medical City Children's Hospital in Dallas, Dec. 13, 2014. The toy donation was a part of the TXSG’s Young Heroes of the Guard toy drive. Thanks to generous donations from Texas guardsmen and members of the community, over 3,500 toys were delivered to three different hospitals in Dallas during the holidays: Children’s Medical Center of Dallas, Medical City Children’s Hospital, and Our Children’s House of Baylor. (Texas State Guard photo by Capt. Esperanza Meza/Released)

DALLAS - Santa’s helpers paid an early visit to three Dallas-area children’s hospitals Dec. 13, 2014, bringing a special delivery from the Texas State Guard, 19th Regiment of Dallas, as part of the TXSG’s Young Heroes of the Guard toy drive.
“We have the opportunity to serve Texans during disasters, but this gives us a great opportunity to serve little Texans when they need us most,” said TXSG Chaplain Lt. Col. Douglas Sewell. 

Texas State Guard volunteers rolled in a variety of toys, art projects and games to patients at Children’s Medical Center of Dallas, Medical City Children’s Hospital and Our Children’s House of Baylor. With the generous donation of more than 3,500 toys from local businesses and communities across North Texas, children were able to pick and choose their favorite toys with the help of their family.

A number of guardsmen said it was very humbling and rewarding. 

“You think you are worse off, but when you see what the kids and families are going through each day, financially and emotionally, it’s humbling and brings joy in doing what you are doing,” said Capt. Joe Jones, 19th Regiment, logistics officer.

Two fathers said they were thankful to the TXSG since they didn’t have time to buy toys for their other children. Others observed a mom in the hallway, overwhelmed with tears in her eyes, as she watched the activity from the hallway into the children’s toy room, as her child couldn’t join the other kids due to his illness. She said it meant so much to her that people cared enough to give, collect and bring the array of toys, also sharing that her child had a big smile when a volunteer brought him a toy.   

 “I have four kids and one of mine was in the hospital so I stayed in the hospital many days,” said Spc. John Turner, TXSG. “Coming back, I know what the parents are thinking. There are so many things to worry about and getting toys for their children at home and their child in the hospital, that’s one less thing to worry about.” 

The TXSG Young Heroes of the Guard program was initiated by a couple of chaplains in 2009 and has grown tremendously, surpassing last year’s record of about 6,600 toys to more than 20,000 this year, helping provide toys to hospitalized children in 14 hospitals throughout the state.  
“You don’t know what to say as you don’t know how it feels as a parent being there,” said Cpl. Leonard Deonarine, TXSG. 

To summarize his feelings, Deonarine quoted something he heard once, “I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I served and I saw that service is joy.”

The TXSG delivered not just toys, but joy and smiles that day to the children and families that needed it most thanks to the churches, organizations, businesses, private citizens and families and friends of the Guard. 

Texas' 136th Regional Training Institute receives national recognition

Story by: Capt. Martha Nigrelle

Photo of troops
The 136th Regional Training Institute (RTI), Texas Army National Guard gathers for a regimental photo at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas, Dec. 13, 2014. The 136th RTI was accredited by the U.S. Army Training Command in November 2014 as an Institution of Excellence, the highest accreditation an RTI can receive. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Daniel Griego/Released)

AUSTIN, Texas – The Texas Army National Guard’s 136th Regiment Regional Training Institute, headquartered at Camp Mabry in Austin, received national recognition as an Institution of Excellence, the highest accreditation a training institute can receive, from the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, November 2014.

There are 54 RTI units in the country, one for each state and territory. Their mission is to provide an alternate location for training to any service member in the U.S. Army, active, guard or reserve. Each RTI has a variety of courses that they specialize in, and each course must be certified by the Army Training and Doctrine Command before it can be taught. RTI instructors go through the same training all Army instructors go through prior to teaching any of the same courses at the Army’s traditional locations.

The benefit to this, said Sgt. 1st Class Eric Ueckert, 136th RTI, Texas Army National Guard, is that it is making the Army more fiscally responsible. For example, traditionally all infantry courses are taught in Fort Benning, Georgia. However, Texas’ RTI offers Infantry courses to soldiers wishing to transition to the Infantry occupation and the advanced leader course, a leadership course for junior non-commissioned officers. 

Army Training Command began accrediting RTIs in 2011. Per Training Command Regulation 350-18, RTIs across the country are evaluated every three years by numerous proponents. For each course offered, the traditional schoolhouse for that course must visit the RTI and evaluate the program, usually more than once. Training command also conducts a separate evaluation.

“During the last year of accreditation, we had more than 20 visits from different proponents,” said Ueckert.

Regulation 350-18 states the purpose of the accreditation process is to “assure the command that training institutions meet accepted standards and higher HQ guidance.”

In order to prepare for the accreditation process, and to continually improve themselves as a training institute, the RTI held annual self assessments, said Ueckert. Each year members of the unit reviewed the past year and looked for ways to improve and move forward. 

“I commend the 136th Regiment RTI for the dedication and hard work that contributed to this coveted distinction,” said Gen. David Perkins, commanding general Training and Doctrine Command, U.S. Army. “Your efforts to maintain strong doctrine, organization, training, material, leadership and education, personnel and facilities functions will ensure our leaders and soldiers possess the qualities and skills necessary to dominate across the spectrum of conflict.” 

The 136th RTI offers numerous courses to soldiers across the force including military occupational specialty producing courses, NCO professional development courses and officer commissioning courses. 

As the RTI looks to continue developing its programs and maintain its accreditation as an institute of excellence, they plan on making some minor changes.

“Our biggest challenge here is the geographic disbursement of training locations,” said Ueckert. 

Texas’ RTI currently works at several different locations in central Texas. The plan over the next two years is for the RTI to relocate to North Fort Hood providing more space and more accessibility to various training facilities said Ueckert.

“Moving will maximize efficiency,” said Ueckert. 

The mission of RTI is about training soldiers to a high standard in the most efficient and fiscally responsible way.

“This is excellent training that we offer to not only our Texas Guardsmen, but also our active duty and reserve counterparts,” said Maj. Gen. William Smith, the deputy adjutant general-Army and commander of the Texas Army National Guard. “This reduces travel, lodging, and training expenses while increasing our capabilities in central Texas. We are proud to be nationally designated as an Institution of Excellence.”

The 136th RTI offers the following accredited courses: 25U-Signal Support Systems Specialist 10-level advanced individual training; 68W-Army Combat Medic advanced individual training; 11B-Infantry transition course and advanced leader course; 19D-Cavalry Scout advanced individual training, transition course and advanced leader course; 13B, F, and R-cannon crew member, Fire Support Specialist and Field Artillery Firefinder Radar Operator advanced individual training, advanced leader course and senior leader course; Master Fitness Program; Officer Candidate School and Warrant Officer Candidate School.

Read more: texas 136th regional training institute receives national recognition

State Public Affairs Media Competition Wrap-up

1st place: Staff Sgt. Mindy Bloem, 147th Reconnaissance Wing 2nd place: Mr. John Thibodeau and 1st Lt. Alicia Lacy, TXMF State Public Affairs Office

Commentary by: Michelle McBride

Photo by: Master Sgt. Kenneth Walker

On Dec. 7, 2014, the Texas Military Forces State Public Affairs Office held a media competition highlighting Public Affairs work done by guardsmen throughout Texas.

This year’s award recipients are as follows:

Motivational Video:
1st place: Staff Sgt. Mindy Bloem, 147th Reconnaissance Wing

Broadcast Journalism:
1st place: Staff Sgt. Mindy Bloem, 147th Reconnaissance Wing 2nd place: Mr. John Thibodeau and 1st Lt. Alicia Lacy, TXMF State Public Affairs Office

1st Place: Capt. Martha Nigrelle, TXMF State Public Affairs Office 2nd Place: Master Sgt. Daniel Griego, 36th Infantry Division and JTF- 136th MEB 3rd Place: Sgt. 1st Class Malcolm McClendon, TXMF State Public Affairs Office

1st Place: Mr. Chris Porter, Recruiting and Retention Battalion

1st Place: Senior Airman Chasity Lollis, 147th Reconnaissance Wing 2nd Place (tied): Sgt. 1st Class Malcolm McClendon, TXMF State Public Affairs Office and Spc. Christina Clardy, 36th Infantry Division 3rd Place (tied): Chief Warrant Officer 2 Janet Schmelzer, 4th Regiment, Texas State Guard and Master Sgt. Charles Hatton, 136th Airlift Wing

Special Contribution to the Public Affairs field by a non-Public Affairs member:
Staff Sgt. John Gately, TXMF Website and TXSG Website Tech. Sgt. Eduardo Zamora, TXANG Website Private 1st Class Estefania Reyes, TXMF Website

Public Affairs Leader of the Year:
Master Sgt. Daniel Griego

Nigrelle, who was also the master of ceremonies for the event, said it is important to recognize the efforts of all Texas Public Affairs service members who are always in the background telling the Texas Military forces story. 

“Their hard work and achievements are instrumental in educating the public on everything our Texas guardsmen do for the state and nation,” said Nigrelle.

Congratulations to all of the winners, we look forward to next year’s entries. To view more photos of the award ceremony, please visit

A Texas Family Christmas

“This is a time to spend with your families,” said Brig. Gen. Patrick Hamilton, commander of Domestic Operations, Texas National Guard.

Commentary by: Michelle McBride

Photo by: Sgt. 1st Class Malcolm McClendon

AUSTIN- Members of the Texas Military Forces and their families gathered together to celebrate the holidays at the Adjutant General’s annual Christmas Party Dec. 5, 2014. 

This year, festivities included the annual tree lighting as well as a barbecue cook-off, where service members competed in teams for the best brisket.  

“This is a time to spend with your families,” said Brig. Gen. Patrick Hamilton, commander of Domestic Operations, Texas National Guard. “Use this time to recharge your batteries, to thank your families for their support, and return from the holidays ready to work.”

After the official lighting of the tree, the crowd and the 36th Infantry Division band sang Christmas carols as the drill hall was prepped for barbecue and Santa.  Once ready, service members and their families enjoyed a brisket lunch complete with festive desserts while Santa raffled out door prizes. 

“Let’s take a moment to remember that we still have soldiers and airmen in harm’s way today both from Texas and from our nation,” said Maj. Gen. John F. Nichols, Adjutant General, Texas National Guard, “As we celebrate this time of the year, let’s keep them and their families in our prayers.” 

For more pictures from the holiday party, please visit our Flickr page at

Texas Guardsmen Celebrate Thanksgiving on the Border

“We’re a family here at DPS and now our family is growing, because of Operation Strong Safety,” said Jose Rodriguez Commentary by: Staff Sgt. Tamara Dabney, Texas Air National Guard

Texas National Guard members serving away from home on the Texas-Mexico border enjoyed a home-cooked holiday meal last week thanks to their partners at the Texas Department of Public Safety.

Since July, nearly 1000 Texas National Guard members have been serving alongside DPS, in support of Operation Strong Safety in an effort to secure the Texas border. Their mission is meant to help safeguard the lives and property of Texas citizens, but it has also brought many DPS employees and Texas National Guardsmen closer together.   

“We’re a family here at DPS and now our family is growing, because of Operation Strong Safety,” said Jose Rodriguez, DPS Regional Commander. “This operation has allowed me to work side-by-side with Texas National Guard members. We are glad to see the Guardsmen here with smiling faces and full bellies!”

Through the unique military capabilities of the Texas National Guard, DPS has the advantage of nearly one thousand extra pairs of eyes watching the border.

During the luncheon, DPS Commander Jose Rodriguez expressed appreciation for the service of Texas National Guard members who observe and deter criminal activity along the Texas border everyday.

“The amount of criminal activity on the border has come down significantly”, said Rodriguez. “Our mission is to detect criminals on the front line…so having the National Guard here is a definite plus.”