Posts From February, 2018

Texas National Guard Soldiers earn Expert Infantryman Badge

Photo of two soldiers outside planning while using the front of a vehicle as a writing surface.
Photo By Staff Sgt. Timothy Moore | A U.S. Army Soldier assigned to Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa receives his Expert Infantryman Badge during the badge ceremony at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, Feb. 2, 2018. After two weeks of training and five days of testing, 50 Soldiers completed the process to earn the coveted special skills badge that requires Soldiers to perform an Army Physical Fitness Test, day and night land navigation, a 12-mile forced march, and 30 individual tasks covering weapons, medical, and security patrol skills. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Timothy Moore)

CAMP LEMONNIER, DJIBOUTI
02.06.2018
Story by Staff Sgt. Timothy Moore 
Combined Joint Task
Force - Horn of Africa

After five days of testing, 50 U.S. Army Soldiers assigned to Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) completed the process to earn the Expert Infantryman Badge (EIB) at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, Feb. 2, 2018.

Established in 1944, the EIB is an award designed to build and maintain esprit de corps within U.S. infantry units as well as recognize infantrymen and Special Forces Soldiers who have demonstrated the discipline and mastery of skills critical to being an infantry Soldier.

Beginning with 184 candidates, the 50 successful EIB earners made this iteration’s pass rate roughly two percent better than the Army’s overall 2017 EIB pass rate of 25 percent as reported on the website of the U.S. Army Maneuver Center of Excellence (MCOE) in Fort Benning, Georgia. 

“It’s the badge that shows you are an expert in your field,” said U.S. Army Command Sgt. Maj. Clinton Petty, Task Force Bayonet senior enlisted leader and EIB board president. “That means a lot for us in the infantry because that’s where you start – with the individual task … to build those teams, squads, and platoons.”

The badge can be awarded to Soldiers who hold an infantry or a Special Forces military occupational specialty (MOS), with the exception of Special Forces medical sergeant, and who meet all the physical and administrative requirements and can complete the qualification process.

However for these Soldiers, obtaining the EIB had a few more obstacles that needed to be navigated even before the process began.

“Being forward deployed, there are a lot of challenges that we face, most notably a supply shortage,” said U.S. Army 1st Sgt. Jonathan Hendrix, 3rd Battalion, 144th Infantry Regiment assigned to Task Force Bayonet, CJTF-HOA and EIB noncommissioned officer in charge of lanes. “We were able to work with a lot of different partner units.” 

Hendrix worked with the Expeditionary Military Facility to get supplies needed to train and conduct the EIB process. He also worked with the leaders of Battle Company, 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division to see how many EIB holders they had assigned to CJTF-HOA to act as cadre during the process. According to Hendrix, the most notable partnership he had was working with U.S. Navy Seabees to build the training grounds used to hold the majority of the EIB process.

“There were several different Seabee units we worked with directly to help us with a lot of the infrastructure - the tables, the platforms, camouflage nets, moving containers around,” Hendrix said. “Without them, we really couldn’t have pulled this thing off. It was absolutely incredible how willing they were each and every time we asked for more. They were always on top of it, ready to help us out at any opportunity.”

Once the training area was completed, a team from the MCOE - who the Battle Company leaders had been in contact with even before Task Force Bayonet arrived at Camp Lemonnier - came out to validate the EIB course and cadres to not only ensure the integrity of the badge is upheld but also grant the Soldiers opportunity to pursue it in a deployed location.

“It was important for us to do that here,” Petty said. “As Guardsmen, we don’t get that opportunity very often at home, so getting the opportunity to do it here was very important to our Soldiers and the force itself, because it makes an infantryman better.”

To earn the EIB, eligible Soldiers must complete four phases. The first phase requires EIB candidates to pass the Army Physical Fitness Test with a score of 80 percent in each event. Candidates are not allowed to retest this portion.

The second phase consists of land navigation exercises, in which candidates must locate three out of four points in both day and night scenarios. If candidates receive a “GO” for this phase, they are allowed to move onto phase three.

The third phase consists of individual testing stations. It requires candidates to pass 30 weapons, medical, and patrol tasks to specific standards. The tasks are chosen from a possible 45 tasks, with several tasks being required to be included in each EIB qualification. Candidates who receive more than two “NO-GOs,” or a double NO-GO on the same station, during this phase are eliminated from the EIB process.

Finally, the fourth phase requires candidates to complete a 12-mile forced march. Candidates must complete the march while carrying 35 pounds in three hours or less, and then immediately complete the tasks associated with “Objective Bull” in 20 minutes or less. For Objective Bull, candidates must evaluate a casualty; apply a tourniquet to control bleeding, and transport the casualty. If a candidate fails to meet the time requirements or perform the procedures in the proper sequence, they are not allowed to retest and are eliminated from the EIB process.

Out of the 50 recipients of the EIB, four members were “true blue.” This distinction means they passed the entire process without having to retest on any part.

“Pinning the badges on these Soldiers is one of the best times of my career, and I’ve been in a long time,” Petty said. “Getting to see those young privates, specialists, and even the sergeants who have been working so hard to get here - this is some of them second or third time trying to get their EIB - that made me feel especially proud for them.”

 

Texas ANG member, Rockport police officer looks back on lessons learned from Harvey

Photo By Tech. Sgt. Mindy Bloem | Staff Sgt. Nathan Ward (far right) poses for a group photo with his fellow 149th Fighter Wing members during a regularly scheduled drill weekend at his shop, headquartered at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas. when Ward is not working as a Guardsman during his drill weekends, he serves full time as police officer in Rockport, Texas. (courtesy photo)
Photo By Tech. Sgt. Mindy Bloem | Staff Sgt. Nathan Ward (far right) poses for a group photo with his fellow 149th Fighter Wing members during a regularly scheduled drill weekend at his shop, headquartered at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas. when Ward is not working as a Guardsman during his drill weekends, he serves full time as police officer in Rockport, Texas. (courtesy photo)

San Antonio, TX, United States

02.08.2018

Story by Tech. Sgt. Mindy Bloem

149th Fighter Wing (Texas Air National Guard)

It’s been several months since Hurricane Harvey devastated Texans residing in the Rockport region. A local police officer there, Nathan Ward, is now reflecting on the days leading up to the hurricane and how his training in the National Guard made a noticeable impact on his first responder duties. 

“My wife will tell you I always stock up on food and water and am ready to go,” said Ward. That’s just the military part of me, I guess.”

Ward, now a staff sergeant assigned to the Air National Guard’s 149th Fighter Wing, located in San Antonio, said that mentality traces back to his 2003 enlistment in the Army National Guard.

“I had gone into the hurricane initially with the mindset of ‘hey, as long as we come out of this, we’ll be alright,’” Ward said. “I’d gone on hurricane missions with the Army Guard several years ago so I knew what this was going to look like.”

Ward tried to pass the benefits of those experiences to his co-workers.

“I said, ‘hey, heads up, just in case this happens, this is what you need to be prepared for,’ and everyone is just brushing me off,” he said. “A lot of them were making fun of me as I was bringing in food and water into the police station before it hit. They were like, ‘you’re taking this way too seriously and you’re packing too much.’ I was like ‘OK, whatever, at least I’ll be prepared.’”

When Ward thinks back on it now, he can’t help feeling vindicated.

“That first night about midnight – a lot of them realized they were hungry and wanted to eat, but no one had brought food and there was very little water,” he said with a laugh and with the benefit of hind sight. “They started realizing pretty quickly that my theory wasn’t so far-fetched. I mean relief came in – water came about a day and a half later, so they were OK.”

After the storm first struck and the eye was passing over their building, Ward and his fellow officers stepped out in pitch blackness in groups of four within a two-block radius to assess the damage. He described familiar smells he compared from deployments he’d rather forget and mist and smoke-filled air akin to what happens after a building is demolished.

“There is this junk that’s in the air – this dust and smoke and all kinds of stuff like that,” Ward said. “Stuff you don’t want to breathe. The air was filled with that. It was like it was hovering. It wasn’t even blowing around. It was just there.”

As the eye wall passed over them and the hurricane resumed, Ward and his team retreated back inside to ride out the second half. All through the night, calls poured into the station of people who had misjudged the situation, tried to leave in their vehicles and had gotten stuck.

“That’s why we tell people take the evacuation seriously,” Ward said. “You never know how bad it’s going to be.”

The next morning and many weeks thereafter, Ward worked extended and exhausting shifts responding to calls and assisting in the long game that is hurricane recovery.

It was during these numerous calls for help that Ward realized just how important all his core military training was in helping him respond to various situations.

“Something that’s echoed here for me is how all the military training has paid off, specifically with Air Force – the core training that’s due annually, like SABC [self-aid buddy care], CPR, PT [physical training], family care plan – everything has played into our situation here,” he said.

Ward elaborated on how physical conditioning especially helped him during intense shifts.

“Just the resiliency, staying in shape – it’s a big deal,” he said. “I can tell you when you’re doing 12 on and 12 off, and especially when you’re doing 14-hour shifts or during initial recovery efforts where we had no days off for several weeks, and all the other stresses that are involved – PT is a big deal.

Ward also praised SABC and CPR training as being “hugely helpful” during the response, and was even pleasantly surprised to see his flightline driver’s training play a part.

“We have an airport here, and there’s no airport police, so the city police actually have to cover the airport,” Ward said. “Other officers can be afraid to drive out on the airfield because they don’t know what they’re doing, so having flightline driver’s training has actually paid off in my job here. I can use that and help the airport respond in whatever they need out here including – and I hope it doesn’t happen – aircraft accidents or hazardous spills.

While some in the Air Force may dislike the idea of computer-based training, Ward’s most recent experience with Harvey has given him fresh insight on the matter.

“Anything that you can think of that we view as CBTs for the Air Force has paid off in this job, including cyber awareness because we all have computers, and we have to deal with everyone’s personal information,” he said. “The state of Texas is pushing a lot of that down now for law enforcement but the Air Force in a lot of ways is ahead of the power curve on that.”

Besides all his military core training, Ward said knowing his Guard family not only had his back but was looking out for his family members made a lasting impression on him.

“Family readiness was a huge deal getting my wife out here and getting her help,” he said. “The Guard has absolutely helped us and stepped in to help her.”

Ms. Shanita Lanier, the 149th Airman and Family Readiness Center coordinator, explained how getting her members the family support is a team effort.

“The key element that is helpful for us is having our key volunteers appointed that the commanders trust to pass on information to and working with the first sergeants – that’s how information comes back to us so we know how to further support and meet the intent of the program for our families,” she said.

Lanier, along with Master Sgt. Eryn Ulmer, Ward’s first sergeant, collected donations from local area stores and other good Samaritans so they could replace items from Ward’s house that were ruined during the storm.

“Each family is important,” Lanier said. “Even if we don’t have a face or a name, if they are connected to you, we can navigate and see what’s out there to get them what they need.”

Ward took comfort in the concern he received from his fellow Gunfighters – a nickname for 149th FW members.

“On the basic level, I appreciate that accountability because it’s an extra set of eyes looking out for you, asking, hey, are you ok? And if you don’t respond, they’re willing to send someone to go look for you,” he said. “That’s really awesome – that they’re willing to fill the gap that much. It’s extra support you wouldn’t get anywhere else.”

Following his experience in Rockport, Ward has developed a newfound respect for the mission.

“At the drop of a hat you might have a natural disaster and have to leave the shop,” he said. “We might have to go help people, so it’s very important to keep up with your deadlines and timelines and mission mandates so we can be ready to go.”

For Ward, his military training complemented his responsibilities not only to his local community but also to the state. These days, he is quick to remind people of this point during his weekends on duty here at the wing.

“What I’ve been telling people is you don’t understand how much everything you do played into what happened here as far as relief - the Houston mission, this mission, all over Texas – you know it’s a big deal,” he said. “It’s very fulfilling to see all that training and all that work paying off.”

Texas State Guard Engineers Lead the Way

Texas State Guard Engineer Group conducts an inspection of the Texas National Guard Armory in La Porte, Texas, June 7, 2013.  The Engineer Group was tasked by the Texas Military Department to conduct installation status reports of 36 armories.  (Texas State Guard photo by Sfc. Malcolm Cowdin)
Texas State Guard Engineer Group conducts an inspection of the Texas National Guard Armory in La Porte, Texas, June 7, 2013.  The Engineer Group was tasked by the Texas Military Department to conduct installation status reports of 36 armories.  (Texas State Guard photo by Sfc. Malcolm Cowdin)

Story by: Chief Warrant Officer Three Janet Schmelzer

Texas State Guard Public Affairs

 

AUSTIN, Texas –The Texas State Guard Engineer Group is a little-known asset utilized by the Texas Military Department and municipalities throughout the state. Over the past five years, these 44 members have built a reputation as the “go-to” resource when engineering and technical service support are needed to assess infrastructure and critical facilities, including military installations, water plants, wastewater treatment, power plants and environmental impact.

The engineers in this unit are highly qualified professionals who hold professional licenses in architecture, civil, mechanical, electrical and environmental engineering and are project and construction management experts in their civilian careers.  Many are members of the Society of Military Engineers and the Texas Society of Professional Engineers, and hold state licenses or certifications in water and wastewater treatment.

“The members of this Engineering Group, like all members of the Texas State Guard, are volunteers who give back to their communities and to the state through their service in the Guard,” said Col. Patrick Fink, commander of the Engineering Group, Texas State Guard. “The engineers and technical support members are bringing their civilian skills, knowledge and expertise to their tasks and missions. Many of our members have previously served in state and federal military forces as well as the Army Corps of Engineers.”

These engineers and technical support personnel therefore became a perfect choice to assist the Construction and Facilities Management Office of the Texas Military Department with annual installation status assessments. In the past five years, Texas State Guard engineering teams have conducted installation status reports at 36Texas Army and Air National armories and facilities in Houston, Austin, San Antonio and the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex.

These reports included specific and detailed information on the conditions of facilities which the Texas Military Department utilizes to prioritize funding for future construction and renovation projects. Additionally, this group helps the military department annually to receive tens of millions of additional dollars to renovate facilities from state and federal agencies.

“During their service, our unit members have contributed thousands of hours of professional skills and labor to the Texas State Guard and the Texas Military Department,” said Col. Robert Hudnall, Executive Officer, Engineer Group. “They have saved the state almost $700,000 in consulting and labor costs.”

While providing support to other Texas Army National Guard Engineering units when this unit was also tasked to perform special demolition projects at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas, these guardsmen led the demolition of Building 32, the Texas State Guard Headquarters. As well as the preservation of the building’s historic architectural support and roof beams during the renovation phase, they also conducted the exterior demolition, remediation, compaction and backfill of the 15-foot sign in front of Building 34 and are assisting with the layout and construction of a new Camp Mabry soccer field.

For the Engineer Group, mission readiness during a disaster, such as flooding, hurricanes, and tornadoes, is to provide augmentation, in a surge capacity, for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.  Last year, Hurricane Harvey demonstrated just how critical the engineer group was to disaster response. With flooding and high winds damaging hundreds of water and sewage systems, forcing residents to boil drinking water and swamping sewer systems, the primary tasks for the unit were to assess water and wastewater facilities to determine what should be done to get services back online and helping residents to begin to recover from the disaster. As a supporting agency, the Texas State Guard engineers worked in coordination with the commission and the federal Environmental Protection Agency, traveling to the devastated areas to conduct visual assessments of water and wastewater facilities.

The guardsmen also provided professional advice on the restoration of water and waste water systems to municipalities and Councils of Government. In this way, local governments could begin planning timelines for the restoration of drinking water to residents. These assessments would also assist Texas in securing emergency assistance to recover the damaged or inoperable systems.

In Rockport, Texas, the engineers assessed the condition of a water tower that had sustained a broken a cross support arm from high winds during the hurricane. Without the cross support, the tower would, at some point, begin to spin and collapse. The engineers concluded that the condition of the tower was a serious risk to residents and the local municipality took the tower out of service.

“We want to be there when Texans need our engineering expertise following a disaster,” said Lt. Col. Thomas Loftis, Operations Officer, Engineer Group, Texas State Guard. “We can help them and their communities to regain some normalcy with essential water and wastewater service. We want to make sure that each resident can turn on a faucet at home and drink a glass of good, clean water. That is why we serve in the Engineer Group of the Texas State Guard.”