Posts From March, 2016

Texas Guardsmen host high school chemistry field trip

Texas Guardsmen host high school chemistry field trip

Story By: Master Sgt. Daniel Griego

Posted on: March 31 2016

Master Sgt. Daniel Griego Students from the Hill Country Christian School of Austin visit the Texas National Guard's 6th Civil Support Team at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas, March 24, 2016. The field trip showed the students practical applications of chemistry in the real world and allowed them the opportunity to try on specialized hazardous materials suits. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by 1st Sgt. Daniel Griego)
Master Sgt. Daniel Griego
Students from the Hill Country Christian School of Austin visit the Texas National Guard's 6th Civil Support Team at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas, March 24, 2016. The field trip showed the students practical applications of chemistry in the real world and allowed them the opportunity to try on specialized hazardous materials suits. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by 1st Sgt. Daniel Griego)

High school students from the Hill Country Christian School of Austin took part in a special field trip recently when the Texas National Guard’s 6th Civil Support Team welcomed them to Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas, for a tour and demonstration of their mission. The trip, held March 24, provided the 47 students an opportunity to experience real-world applications of chemistry through the equipment and techniques used by the 22-person team.

“It honestly blows my mind,” said Holly Wedgeworth, a senior at Hill Country
Christian School of Austin. “They know so much about it and to be able to apply it, especially in very real world situations and very important situations, it’s crazy. It just makes you realize how great these people are.”

The 6th Civil Support Team is a specialized Guard outfit designed for quick responses to chemical and hazardous incidents. Twenty-two full-time service members comprise the team ready to identify, contain, and monitor substances at locations throughout Texas.

“We’re definitely not your traditional Guard unit or Army unit,” said Capt. Brandon Wells, a survey team leader with the 6th CST. “While we do maintain basic Soldier skills as a requirement, our mission set is completely different. 90% of the gear that we use is not standard Army equipment. We go to hours and hours of training taught by PhD-level scientists to learn the ins and outs of what it is we’re required to do for our job.”

During the tour, they allowed the students to try on protective gear, handle sampling equipment, and explore their mobile labs.

“I think they will think more about not just the academic piece,” said Sarah Jo Smith, the class chemistry teacher, “but really think about how these reactions and these principles they are learning actually apply in their day to day lives, not just something from a textbook.”

By providing this tour to high school students, the Texas Guardsmen are able to show a practical side to military service not often known by civilians.

“When I was in high school, I didn’t know that the military offered these kinds of specialty units and jobs,” said Wells. “When you see the real-world application and how you can take that knowledge that you’ve learned, it just drives those learning points home and that’s why we do it.”

The field trip further bridges the gap between National Guardsmen and the communities they support, especially in reinforcing the importance of education.

“I’m very grateful that we got to do this,” said sophomore Amber Carroll. “It makes it more meaningful. I want to do something with chemistry or forensics, so that kind of helps me see how it applies. Actually getting to come out here and see it makes you realize how important and significant it is.”

This is the second year for the school to visit Camp Mabry, with more than double last year’s turnout.

“I think it’s something that we’re going to look to sustain in future years and probably look to expand it,” said Wells.

First enlisted wing IGI member leaves mark on Gunfighter history

First enlisted wing IGI member leaves mark on Gunfighter history

Story By: Staff Sgt. Mindy Bloem

Posted on: March 31, 2016

Staff Sgt. Mindy Bloem Senior Master Sgt. Carl Boeshore, 149th Fighter Wing Inspector General for Inspections superintendent, Texas Air National Guard, finishes some paperwork in his office, March 11, 2016, at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas. Boeshore came to the unit in 2013 as the first enlisted person assigned to the IGI when the program was still in its early stages. He plans to retire from the military April 9, 2016, after 29 years of service.
Staff Sgt. Mindy Bloem
Senior Master Sgt. Carl Boeshore, 149th Fighter Wing Inspector General for Inspections superintendent, Texas Air National Guard, finishes some paperwork in his office, March 11, 2016, at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas. Boeshore came to the unit in 2013 as the first enlisted person assigned to the IGI when the program was still in its early stages. He plans to retire from the military April 9, 2016, after 29 years of service.

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO - LACKLAND, Texas -- In 2012, the Inspector General for Inspections office was a new program in the Air Force and didn't officially come into play at the 149th Fighter Wing until the following year.

When Senior Master Sgt. Carl Boeshore arrived at the 149th, after his old unit, the 217th Training Squadron closed shop, he became the first enlisted member assigned to the newly developed IGI section.

Boeshore is no stranger to the inspection process. He was once written up for having too many additional duties, 28 in total at the time, but said that experience has benefited him in his current IGI position.

"In the write up, the inspector granted that I was doing my additional duties well, but that having 28 was too many," said Boeshore, referring to an inspection he had received early in his career. "But now, as an inspector, having that depth of knowledge from all of those additional duties has really helped me get familiar with a lot of various programs."

Lt. Col. Edward Stamper arrived at the wing shortly after Boeshore's arrival, when the IGI was still in its infancy at the wing. 

"The Air Force enacted the IGI around 2012, and the wing inspection program started in March of that same year, but the first person actually assigned to the inspection program was Sergeant Boeshore in 2013," Stamper said.

According to Stamper, when the IG was halved to become two separate sections -- one being the IG Quality of Life, designated for complaints resolution; the other being the IGI, designated for inspections -- Stamper joined the team as the head of this newly conceptualized department, mainly overseeing the IGI section.

Lt. Col. Christopher Miller, already assigned to what was then the IG, now became head of the more precisely formed IGQ section. 

With all of these changes and no clear-cut direction from higher headquarters, the IGI staff decided to create a lot of its own guidance to get their tasks accomplished.

"The MAJCOMS, AETC and the Air Force Inspection Agency - they were not giving guidance other than what had been printed," said Stamper, recalling the early days of setting up the IGI. "Their intent was to get creative solutions, pick the best ones and make those a best practice. Because of that, we were kind of on our own."

One of the first tasks Stamper assigned to Boeshore was no small undertaking.

"I wanted him to go through every inspection report that he could find that had been done elsewhere and create a checklist," Stamper said. It was a tough job for a [Drill Status Guardsman]. It must have taken him about four months, but he did it."

From that assignment came the Major Graded Area inspection checklist, a local wing product still used to date.

"It may seem minor, but this document represents hundreds of hours of research," Stamper said, pointing to various categories and subcategories under the four main ones on the checklist that Boeshore created. "One of our biggest challenges was there was no playbook for the inspection system. We now have something that we use in every single inspection."

Stamper referred to Boeshore as an "administrative wonder" and Boeshore, too, sees it as one of his strengths.

"One thing I've realized about myself is that I'm a good administrator," he said. "The biggest challenge is finding the most efficient way to do things. It's a lot of refinement of the process, a lot of trial and error."

The end result was a product the IGI staff could use in a comprehensive fashion when performing inspections.

"The checklist allows us to go in and capture the data needed to give to wing leadership to say this is what that unit looks like, this is their health -- the good, the bad, the things we need to change and the things we need to leave alone," Boeshore said.

According to Boeshore, the members of the IGI team are "solution managers" of sorts.

"We don't tell you how to solve your problem," Boeshore said. "That's not our realm. If we hear of something that may be a benefit to you, we'll pass that on to you, but our job is to help you identify the problem so you can find a solution and track work within it."

Stamper said one of the biggest hurdles the IGI has been trying to overcome is getting people out of the old inspection mindset. 

"A lot of people still haven't gotten a grasp on how you apply this effectiveness concept to the compliance concept we've had for so long," said Stamper. "It's no longer about being perfect. It's about being in control of your imperfections. The difference in the new system is continuous self-inspection, not trying to look perfect for one inspection."

Boeshore said part of the education process is eliminating people's misconceptions that the IGI is a villain out looking for a problem.

"I didn't want to be that evil IG guy," he said, before illustrating his point with a typical scenario. "You know, 'here he comes. Where are the coffee and doughnuts? Get them ready.' I've been in those shoes. I didn't want to be that guy."

Boeshore knows that to change the culture of thinking from compliance to effectiveness begins with the "mentoring moments" he gets on the job.

"We come in, sit people down and ask them how their program is going or what kinds of problems are they having and how they're working to fix them," he said. "Having a deficiency is not the worst thing anymore. The best thing you can do is admit you have a problem so you can find a solution."

Stamper gave an example early in the inspection process of a unit that had a major wing-wide program that the Wing Inspection Team rated as "marginally effective."
Nearly 10 months later, that same program was rated as "best seen to date" and "best in AETC" during the MAJCOM Unit Effectiveness Inspection CAPSTONE. Stamper said that unit's program is still the only one of its kind recognized to this day as having UEI strength by the Air Education and Training Command and represents how the new inspection program highlights non-compliance to enable corrective actions.

Since leaving his former IG position to become the deputy Mission Support Group commander, Stamper said he has and will remain heavily involved in the transition process with Lt. Col. Jeff Towns, now on board as Stamper's replacement.

1st Lt. Jonathan Sweat, coordinator for the Wing Inspection Program, arrived in the IG office the same time as Stamper, and is still in the office full-time with Towns, which Stamper said is helping with the "continuity and flow" during this transition period.

Boeshore is also set to leave the IGI soon when he retires in April. He said with the military constantly reducing in size, having to do things efficiently is essential. With that in mind, he wants people to remember that the IGI exists for the units' benefit. "We want to change the culture of inspections," he said. "We're not the bad guys. We're here to help."

Guardsmen reunite children with parents during annual kite festival

Story by: Specialist Stefan Wray, 2nd Regiment PAO

Posted: March 30, 2016

Thousands gathered in Austin’s Zilker Park, March 6, 2016, for the 88th Zilker Kite Festival. The Texas State Guard supported festival organizers and local park rangers with search and rescue teams and logistics.
Thousands gathered in Austin’s Zilker Park, March 6, 2016, for the 88th Zilker Kite Festival. The Texas State Guard supported festival organizers and local park rangers with search and rescue teams and logistics.

AUSTIN, Texas – It couldn’t have been a more perfect day for flying kites, as thousands gathered in Austin’s Zilker Park on Sunday, March 6, for the 88th Zilker Kite Festival. 

For the 9th year, 28 guardsmen from the Texas State Guard's 2nd Regiment spent the day helping to reunite children and parents who had become separated in the crowd and providing logistical support to event organizers.

Weather conditions were optimal and the wind was constant throughout the day enabling hundreds of kites of all designs, colors, shapes and sizes were continuously in flight from mid morning to late afternoon.

Partnered with the Austin Park Rangers, guardsmen worked to reunite lost children with their parents.

“We had a lot of good people out in the field that knew what they were doing,” said Austin Park Ranger Brian Leuzinger. “I think we just had a really great command team that were sharing information, making sure that everyone knew who and what we were looking for.”

Working alongside park rangers, guardsmen were able to exercise their ground search and rescue skills, one the regiment’s primary missions. 

“The Kite Festival is really amazing. You get to see all the teamwork,” said Private 1st Class  Francis Ortiz, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Regiment.  “All the training I had paid off to do search and rescue, locating any missing children or missing parents.”

Some guardsmen even worked as linguists.

“Private 1st Class Dianna Salinas did an excellent job today.  In one situation, an unaccompanied child was brought back to our TOC. While she was here PFC Salinas sat down on the ground with the child. The child spoke only Spanish,” said Texas State Guards Staff Sgt Curtiz Rust. “Salinas was able to translate and get us the information we needed to reach out and locate the parents.” 

The Exchange Club of Austin originally founded the kite festival in 1929. It moved to Zilker Park in 1936 when the park opened and has been there ever since. 

“We so appreciate y’all and we so need y’all to be here. It means so much to us,” said Dorothy Twidwell, a member of the Exchange Club and the key festival organizer, referring to the 2nd Regiment’s role in assisting with the festival. “The crowd has grown so large that what we need from the State Guard is management of the crowd, help getting people on and off the buses, and help us patrolling the field.” 


Approximately 25,000 festival goers attended the free event this year, said Les Stobart, ABC Home and Commercial Services’ Marketing Director. The festival is actively being transferred from the Exchange Club to ABC.

 “One of the first questions that we ask every year is ‘Is the Guard going to be back?  Can we count on the Guard again?’’ said Sobard. “We couldn’t do it without y’all, so we deeply appreciate the role that the Guard plays in everything.”

The 2nd Regiment began preparations in advance of the actual festival.  A logistical team was at Zilker Park the day before to make preparations. The 2nd Regiment converged at 0500 on the morning of the festival near Zilker Park. Once on site, the Tactical Operations Center was set up adjacent to the command centers for Emergency Services and the Park Rangers.

Radios and GPS tracking devices were distributed to teams who were dispatched to positions throughout the park as well as other points in Austin where festival attendees would leave their cars and board buses to get to the park.
   
“It definitely exceeded my expectations,” said Texas State Guard Private 1st Class Miranda Leal.. “I didn’t think it was going to be this involved and with this many people.  It’s really fun. I would do it again next year.”

The regiment helped reunite 11 lost children with parents or guardians during the event. 

 

Texas State Guard supports civil authorities in recent floods

Texas State Guard supports civil authorities in recent floods

Story By: Capt. Maria Mengrone, Public Affairs Officer, 176th Engineer Brigade

Posted on: March 24, 2016

Sgt. 1st Class Chris Skinner, 2nd Battalion, 8th Regiment, Texas Sate Guard walks alongside a flood victim, at a safe shelter in Beaumont, Texas established by the American Red Cross, March 18, 2016. “We treat them like family,” said Skinner. “The people here are important to us and we must not forget that they need our help.” The TXSG mobilized, in support of civil authorities, to assist evacuated flood victims in the southeastern region of the state, 14-21 March 2016. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Capt. Maria Mengrone/Released)
Sgt. 1st Class Chris Skinner, 2nd Battalion, 8th Regiment, Texas Sate Guard walks alongside a flood victim, at a safe shelter in Beaumont, Texas established by the American Red Cross, March 18, 2016. “We treat them like family,” said Skinner. “The people here are important to us and we must not forget that they need our help.” The TXSG mobilized, in support of civil authorities, to assist evacuated flood victims in the southeastern region of the state, 14-21 March 2016. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Capt. Maria Mengrone/Released)

BEAUMONT, Texas – The Texas State Guard, in support of civil authorities, assisted in establishing safe shelters for evacuated flood victims in the southeastern region of the state, March 14-21, 2016.

“We have a total of 18 Soldiers from the State Guard here to supplement the Red Cross in any way they need us. They run the shelter, and we support their efforts,” said Sgt. Christopher T. Riehle, recruiter, 3rd Battalion, 8th Regiment. “We train closely with the Red Cross and other agencies to make sure we are prepared for something like this.”

The Texas State Guard trains annually to remain proficient in the duties they perform while called upon during disaster relief missions. Some of the emergency response training includes shelter management, search and rescue, emergency communications, mass care and medical support.

“We assist with setting up the shelter, but it could be anything from moving tables to providing security or just talking to the clients that are here,” said Staff Sgt. Nick B. Martinez, 2nd Battalion, 8th Regiment. “Just being able to help is a great reward.”

Guardsmen ran 24-hour operations at the shelter to ensure anyone in need was equipped with immediate support.

“At our peak we had about 170 clients that needed our help,” said Shelter Manager Marie Killingsworth, American Red Cross Volunteer. “The Soldiers have been here since the beginning. I love that they are so flexible, and can move at the drop of a dime.”

The Texas State Guard assisted with supporting three other safety shelters, two of which were evacuated due to flood concerns and consolidated in Beaumont.

“This is now the forth shelter we have been a part of and we are fully trained to do what it takes to help,” said Riehle. “The best part is when the clients thank us for being here because they know they’re gonna get the help that they need.”

The Texas Military Department activated more than 150 service members from the Texas Army National Guard and the Texas State Guard during severe flooding in Orange, Newton and Jasper counties. They provided swift water rescue support to emergency first responders, rescuing and evacuating 410 people from the floods, and supported shelter operations, providing basic necessities to hundreds of people in need.

The long, proud history of the Texas State Guard: Balloon Bombs in WWII

Photo Courtesy of The Texas Guardsman, June 1943 issue
Photo Courtesy of The Texas Guardsman, June 1943 issue

Story by: Chief Warrant Officer 4 Thomas W. Dodd

In November of 1944, Japanese forces launched a series of incendiary balloon bombs targeted for the west coast of the U.S.  Of the 9,300 balloons launched from Japan, only about 300 reached the U. S. – with two of them finding their way to Texas. 

One of these bombs was sighted by schoolboys in Desdemona (Eastland County), who made quick work of the balloon with their pocket knives.  Fortunately for them, the balloon had lost its payload before making landfall.  The next day Army personnel from Abilene confiscated all the pieces the boys had collected.

 The other device found its way to Comyn in Comanche County, which was located by members of Company  D  of the Texas State Guard.

 “The balloon was about 30-feet high when extended and carried five metal canisters,” said Wade Cowan, a member of the squad that located it. “Four were incendiaries and one was a fragmentary, or anti-personnel bomb.”

 Cowan remembered that people who knew about the bombs at Desdemona and Comyn were very excited, thinking that the Japanese were about to invade the country.  When they realized that people could not survive at the altitudes where the balloons drifted, they relaxed a little.

 “Government censorship of the press kept panic down,” said Cowan. “Still it was a time to be watchful and alert.”

 Cowan and his squad members secured the area until Army ordnance personnel arrived on the scene.

World War II brought on many challenges for the U. S. and its allies.  The Texas State Guard played a part in providing the state and the citizens of Texas security when called on.
 

To learn more about World War II and the history that the Texas Military played in it, visit Campy Mabry in Austin, Texas and explore the Texas Military Forces Museum.

 

Sense of Service in Texans' Blood, Deeper than Water Texas National Guard Supports Health Department Supply Mission

Sense of Service in Texans' Blood, Deeper than Water

Texas National Guard Supports Health Department Supply Mission

Story by: Tech. Sgt. Shawn McCowan, 147th Reconnaissance Wing Public Affairs

Soldiers moving suppliesHundreds of Texans left their normal daily routine in mid-March to collectively help those affected by recent flooding in Orange, Texas. Orange County Emergency Management staff were joined by members of organizations like the local Red Cross, law enforcement, fire and rescue, various units from the Texas Military Department, and many others.

While this team was dedicated to rescue and support residents, some situations required them to provide a helping hand to each other.

Flooding forced the evacuation of the Orange County Health Department. But once workers were safe from the rising waters, someone had to return to retrieve vital medical supplies they would need to help injured evacuees.

Sabrina Davis, a Registered Nurse with the county health department, volunteered to return to get as many supplies as possible, but she couldn't get there alone. Members of the 551st Multi-Role Bridge Co., 386th Engineer Battalion, 176th Engineer Brigade stepped up to get her safely through the high waters.

Davis was escorted by SPC Gabriel Torres, a member of 551 MRBC, who helped carry and load alcohol pads, syringes, bandages, gloves, and many other daily-use medical items. She recognized the importance of what could have seemed like a basic chauffeur trip.

"I am very thankful these Texas Guard members are here to help. We really need these supplies at our local shelters and other support locations. The health department couldn't help anyone without the things we retrieved. This is a terrible situation Orange is experiencing, but it is great to see us coming together together like this," said Davis.

Even the seemingly simple supply run reinforced the definition of the Texas Guard mission, "Texans helping Texans."

My VIRIN - 160317-Z-UZ218-

DSC_3343 - 551st Into the Deluge - A vehicle operator with the 551st Multi-Role Bridge Co., 386th Engineer Battalion, 176th Engineer Brigade prepares to drive into the flooded city of Orange, Texas, March 17, 2016. The 551 MRBC stepped up to retrieve medic

al supplies left behind during evacuations due to the high waters.

DSC_3357 - Reality Washes Over - Sabrina Davis, a Registered Nurse with the Orange County Health Department, takes a photo of her flooded building while aboard a vehicle operated by the 551st Multi-Role Bridge Co., 386th Engineer Battalion, 176th Engineer Brigade in Orange, Texas, March 17, 2016. The 551 MRBC stepped up to retrieve medical supplies left behind during evacuations due to the high waters.

DSC_3359 - Dry Doc - Sabrina Davis, a Registered Nurse with the Orange County Health Department, prepares to return to her flooded building while aboard a vehicle operated by the 551st Multi-Role Bridge Co., 386th Engineer Battalion, 176th Engineer Brigade in Orange, Texas, March 17, 2016, with the help of SPC Gabriel Torres, a member of 551 MRBC. The 551 MRBC stepped up to retrieve medical supplies left behind during evacuations due to the high waters.

DSC_3362 - Texas State and County Services Stick Together - Sabrina Davis, a Registered Nurse with the Orange County Health Department, and SPC Gabriel Torres, a member of the 551st Multi-Role Bridge Co., 386th Engineer Battalion, 176th Engineer Brigade, gather important medical supplies in Orange, Texas, March 17, 2016. The 551 MRBC stepped up to retrieve medical supplies left behind during evacuations due to the high waters.

DSC_3371 - That Sinking Feeling - Sabrina Davis, a Registered Nurse with the Orange County Health Department, inspects the flooded area and homes around her building after gathering vital medical supplies with the help of the 551st Multi-Role Bridge Co., 386th Engineer Battalion, 176th Engineer Brigade in Orange, Texas, March 17, 2016. The 551 MRBC stepped up to assist retrieve medical supplies left behind during evacuations due to the high waters.

DSC_3372 - That Sinking Feeling - Sabrina Davis, a Registered Nurse with the Orange County Health Department, inspects the flooded area and homes around her building after gathering vital medical supplies with the help of the 551st Multi-Role Bridge Co., 386th Engineer Battalion, 176th Engineer Brigade in Orange, Texas, March 17, 2016. The 551 MRBC stepped up to assist Davis retrieve medical supplies left behind during evacuations due to the high waters.

Texas State Guard 8th Regiment Mobilizes During South Texas Flooding

Texas State Guard 8th Regiment Mobilizes During South Texas Flooding

Story by:  Warrant Officer Malana Nall, Public Affairs Officer, 8th Regiment, Texas State Guard

Posted: March 19, 2016

Shelter operations
Pvt. Eric Crosley and Pfc. Jesse Martinez, 8th Regiment, Texas State Guard, prepare additional cots for shelter guests at the mass care shelter at Lamar University, Beau-mont, Texas, March 17, 2016.  The 8th Regiment, Army Component, Texas State Guard, managed three shelters and provided food and a safe place to sleep to flood evacuees during the recent flooding.   (Photo by Staff Sgt. Mikel Stephens, 2nd Battalion, 8th Regiment, Texas State Guard/Released)

BEAUMONT, Texas - Soldiers from the 8th Regiment, Texas State Guard, mobilized to support the American Red Cross in opening three mass care shelter locations during the recent flooding in southeast Texas, March 16-20, 2016.

Texas State Guardsmen worked alongside partner emergency first responders and members of the Red Cross to provide flood evacuees with cots, blankets, food, water and shelter until it was safe for them to return to their homes.

"The assistance of the Texas State Guard is indescribable," said Angella Tomas-Bendy, American Red Cross Shelter Operations Manager. "Everyone worked diligently and tirelessly to make sure the Red Cross shelter operated smoothly. From the bottom of my heart, thank you to the Texas State Guard for your duty to the southeast Texas community!”

The regiment supported shelter operations for 200 evacuees at the Montagne Center, Lamar University in Beaumont and the Antioch Baptist Church in Beaumont, as well as, the Newton First Baptist Church in Newton.

"It’s an honor to help out the people of Texas, especially in an area in which I train and live,” said Sgt. Christopher Riehle, 3rd Battalion, 8th Regiment. “It is just one way in which we in the Texas State Guard can give back to the community.”

The Texas State Guard regularly trains alongside emergency management partners and the Red Cross on conducting shelter operations in order to prepare for situations like this.

“Now, here in Beaumont, Texas, we have put that training into a real world flooding disaster,” said Col. E.A. “Buddy” Grantham, 8th Regiment commander. "I am extremely proud of the men and women under my command for the job they have done in working with the Red Cross and other local agencies to assist the members of the community who were displaced from their homes. My hope is that our assistance has made this terrible event a little less stressful on all of them.”

The Texas Military Department activated more than 150 service members from the Texas Army National Guard and the Texas State Guard during severe flooding in Orange, Newton and Jasper counties. They provided swift water rescue support to emergency first responders, rescuing and evacuating 410 people from the floods, and supported shelter operations, providing basic necessities to hundreds of people in need.

 

Texas Guard member and his daughter personally supported Flint relief mission

Texas Guard member and his daughter personally supported Flint relief mission

Story by:  Master Sgt. Daniel Griego

Posted: March 18, 2016

Maj. George Hurd, left, Staff Sgt. Erdoo Thompson, center, and 1st Lt. Matthew Verdugo, right, all of the 136th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, load bottled water in preparation for Hurd's convoy to Flint, Michigan, March 10, 2016, in Round Rock, Texas. (Photo by Master Sgt. Daniel Griego)
Maj. George Hurd, left, Staff Sgt. Erdoo Thompson, center, and 1st Lt. Matthew Verdugo, right, all of the 136th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, load bottled water in preparation for Hurd's convoy to Flint, Michigan, March 10, 2016, in Round Rock, Texas. (Photo by Master Sgt. Daniel Griego)

ROUND ROCK, Texas - As the Flint Water Crisis enters its third month, one Texas Army National Guard member decided to step up and directly help the people most affected. So he took a road trip to Michigan.

More than two months ago, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder declared a state of emergency for Flint, Michigan, in response to the ongoing water crisis that has exposed up to 12,000 children to contaminated drinking water. Since then, private donations have poured in to support the community suffering from long-term lead poisoning. For Maj. George Hurd, a Texas Army National Guard member and combat veteran, sitting idly was not an option.

"Part of it comes from my experience overseas in Egypt, Iraq and Afghanistan, where we gave out bottled water to children all across that region," said Hurd. "When I sat back and became more aware of what was going on in Flint and seeing the disaster that's going on up there, I just thought there wasn't enough attention. It affected me to the core and instead of just complaining about it, I decided to do something about it."

Hurd, who serves as the deputy operations officer for the 136th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade in Round Rock, Texas, organized a support effort wherein he and his daughter loaded up the family truck and drove more than 1,200 miles from their Mansfield home to Flint to deliver water and other supplies to the children in need.

"We're going to go door to door," said Hurd. "We're going to link up with local churches and the police department, and hit the areas that are most afflicted and haven't received as much water as they've hoped or have been asking for."

The trip for the father-daughter team started the morning of Saturday, March 12, and lasted until their return home March 16. In Flint, they delivered water, toiletry supplies, and other necessities directly to families affected by the crisis.

"We wanted to do that human interaction thing and actually just meet with people and give them some water and find out what else they need," Hurd said. "We're hoping to create some awareness. We're calling our mission the Flint Water Brigade, a spinoff from the old days when firemen and the community would come together with buckets of water to help put out fire."

Hurd's daughter Olivia, a high school sophomore, chose to spend her spring break on this trip with her father in support of the Flint Water Brigade.

"I'm so blessed to have this opportunity to help people," Olivia said. "I just want to make a difference one person at a time."

In total, the team delivered two truckloads of water, a truckload of baby wipes, and helped a local single mother purchase a vehicle.

"We're hoping it inspires other people to help out," said Hurd.

Latvian Chief of Defense thanks 147th Reconnaissance Wing Airmen

Latvian Chief of Defense thanks 147th Reconnaissance Wing Airmen

Story By: 1st Lt. Alicia M. Lacy 147th Reconnaissance Wing Public Affairs

Posted on: March 9, 2016

 Lt. Gen. Raimonds Graube, Latvian chief of defense, and Maj. Gen. John Nichols, adjutant general of Texas, speak to members of the 147th Reconnaissance Wing at Ellington Field Joint Reserve Base in Houston, March 4, 2016. Lt. Gen Graube is visiting Ellington Field to meet and talk with members of the 147th Reconnaissance Wing who deployed to Latvia in September of 2015. (Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Sean Cowher / Released)

Lt. Gen. Raimonds Graube, Latvian chief of defense, and Maj. Gen. John Nichols, adjutant general of Texas, speak to members of the 147th Reconnaissance Wing at Ellington Field Joint Reserve Base in Houston, March 4, 2016. Lt. Gen Graube is visiting Ellington Field to meet and talk with members of the 147th Reconnaissance Wing who deployed to Latvia in September of 2015. (Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Sean Cowher / Released)

About six months ago, the 147th Reconnaissance Wing made history with the Michigan National Guard and Latvia, flying the first MQ-1B Predator in the Baltic nation.

To reinforce the partnership the three forged over the past year and to thank the U.S. for their support in Latvia, Lt. Gen. Raimonds Graube, Latvian Chief of Defense, visited Texas March 2-5, 2016, making stops at the wing, the wing's state headquarters at Camp Mabry in Austin and at Fort Hood.

"It's good to see familiar faces in Texas," said Graube. "I'm glad to be here to say thank you."

From late August to late September 2016, dozens of Texas Air Guardsmen and Michigan Guardsmen forward deployed to Latvia to exercise remotely piloted aircraft capabilities in support of the European Reassurance Initiative. The ERI is an effort to bolster the security and capacity of NATO allies through a persistent, rotational presence of U.S. forces and by increasing the responsiveness of U.S. forces to contingencies in Central Europe.

"You are a real deterrence for us," Graube said to a group of airmen who deployed, "a show of force...what you did for us last year."

To make the noncombat deployment possible, several National Guard units played critical roles, from Latvia's State Partnership Program partners with the Michigan National Guard laying the groundwork to the 147th providing the unmanned platform and several other units supporting through airlift and personnel.

The 147th was able to jump on board with little notice to mobilize the MQ-1B package to Latvia, sending three Predators, maintenance airmen, communications airmen and pilots.

"(The Michigan National Guard) did a lot of ground work to get us to come," said Maj. Gen. John F. Nichols, adjutant general of Texas. "Y'all have proven that we can do it."

"This is one of the strengths of the Guard," said Maj. Gen. Gregory J. Vadnais, adjutant general - Michigan. "Michigan didn't have that capability and Texas did and it really did help us a lot. To make this happen really helped build a great working relationship with Texas."

Providing the unmanned capability added another dimension to Michigan and Latvia's 23-year partnership, Vadnais said.

With the flight of the Predator, Latvia became the first nation in Europe to develop nationwide RPA flight procedures with countrywide corridors that tie into special use airspace to de-conflict civilian and military flights, as well as allowing for nationwide use of surveillance capabilities to support a range of government needs, from search and rescue to firefighting and border control, said Col. James Andrew Roberts, Combat Readiness Training Center commander, Michigan National Guard.

The mission not only included an exchange with Latvian armed forces on RPA operations, but troops from Lithuania and Estonia also participated in the training mission to familiarize with air traffic management with MQ-1 operations, supporting one of the ERI's objectives.

In addition to thanking the Texas airmen for their support, Graube visited with family members and leaders at Fort Hood to thank the soldiers there who deployed to Latvia and the Baltic region as part of Operation Atlantic Resolve in 2014.

"Americans, boots on the ground are very important to us," Graube said. "We do feel safer because of you, because of our good friends in the United States, in Texas, and Michigan."