Posts From April, 2013

Texas Military Forces Celebrate American Heroes 

Story by: Sgt Suzanne Carter

Post: April 21, 2013

 

Sgt. Suzanne Carter U.S. Soldiers with the Living History Detachment, 36th Infantry Division call for support fire during a World War II reenactment at the Texas Military Forces Open House at Camp Mabry, Texas, April 20, 2013. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Suzanne Carter/Released)
Sgt. Suzanne Carter
U.S. Soldiers with the Living History Detachment, 36th Infantry Division call for support fire during a World War II reenactment at the Texas Military Forces Open House at Camp Mabry, Texas, April 20, 2013. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Suzanne Carter/Released)

CAMP MABRY, Texas - The sun shone bright across the parade field as the Texas Military Forces welcomed current and former service members, their families, and the community to attend the annual Open House featuring the American Heroes Air Show, here, April 20-21, 2013.

The two-day military expo featured a variety of events intended to pay tribute to veterans, engage service members with the community and foster a spirit of patriotism.

"This was so encouraging today," said Estelle Coffey, an Austin-native attending the open house with her husband, Army Col. William Coffey, retired. "It kind of brings you back to patriotism, you know. You look out there and with all of what's going on like in Boston, we need patriotism. We need people to remember who we are."

"This Camp Mabry is the bright spot of Austin," William said, remembering when he enlisted on the post in 1940. "It's a spot that is always in order and provides a place for people to gather … to keep the spirit of the military."

A main attraction that drew the biggest crowd on Saturday was a reenactment of the Battle of Montelimar, a battle that found the 36th Infantry Division chasing the German Army during its retreat up the Rhone River in August 1944.

"It was a good reenactment of history," said Devin Zapata, 13, of Austin who attended the event with his dad, Sgt. 1st Class Jose Zapata. "It actually taught me a lot about our weapons ... It's a good way to show people how the soldiers lived their life instead of just how we live our life in the city."

Other reenactments included living history camps set up to recreate life for soldiers in the Texas Revolution and Civil War periods, including Buffalo Soldiers of Company A 9th Cavalry from Camp Mabry. Reenactors demonstrated weapons used during the Civil War and invited spectators to take part in history by holding and firing black powder reenactment loads from the antique weaponry.

The Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall, a 3/5-scale reproduction of the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, drew visitors who wished to pay respect to fallen heroes and who wanted to search for familiar names. Jess Lofgreen of Austin, a 25-year veteran who participated in 295 combat missions in Vietnam, searched for his roommate's name.

"It's nice to come and look on those people who you knew personally or you knew of that made the ultimate sacrifice during the Vietnam conflict," Lofgreen said. "It's just comforting, yet difficult, to go back to that time period."

Service members from 16 countries, to include Haiti, Nigeria, Mexico and China, took the oath of citizenship in front of the memorial during a naturalization ceremony, which took place Saturday morning.

Another favorite attraction of the weekend was a military helicopter demonstration during which a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter pursued a speeding vehicle across the parade field. The chopper simulated disabling the vehicle from the air before Soldiers rappelled from the aircraft and captured the fugitives inside. 

"Definitely the helicopters were my favorite," said James Burden of Austin, who brought his daughter and her friend to show service members they care. "Everything, the support of the troops and all the activities that they do for the families, it's just a lot of fun."

A parachute team and K-9 search and rescue team also demonstrated their skills and expertise at the parade field on Saturday.

The open house featured static helicopter displays and interactive booths from civilian first responders and law enforcement agencies throughout the Austin-area, as well as, information booths for service member support organizations, face-painting and food vendors.

"I think it's pretty cool," Lindsey Mabry of Austin said about her experience at the open house. "It's awesome to see all the troops out here. The support is amazing… It's just good to see that people care about what they're doing for you."

Sunday, April 21, 2013 2:26:00 PM Categories: Texas Army National Guard

2013 TXMF Open House featuring the American Heroes Air Show Flyer 

CAMP MABRY, Texas - The Texas Military Forces Open House featuring the American Heroes Air Show is a free event - open to the public - that allows visitors to learn more about the Texas Military Forces and our inter-agency partners. It’s scheduled to take place here, in Austin, on April 20-21, 2012. Click the title for the event flyer. You can also find out more at our website: www.txmf.us.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013 5:01:00 PM Categories: Blog

National Guard senior leaders 'Like' Facebook, Twitter 

Story by: Staff Sgt. Phil Fountain

Posted on: April 2, 2013

Maj. Gen. John F. Nichols, The adjutant general of Texas, visiting with senior leaders of the Texas Military Forces on Camp Mabry, in Austin, Texas, March 20, 2013.
Maj. Gen. John F. Nichols, The adjutant general of Texas, visiting with senior leaders of the Texas Military Forces on Camp Mabry, in Austin, Texas, March 20, 2013. Nichols is the state's senior military leader appointed by the governor of Texas and posted this image to his official Facebook page (Major General John F. Nichols). (National Guard photo illustration by Air Force Staff Sgt. Phil Fountain)

 CAMP MABRY, Texas – Senior National Guard leaders are making their voices heard on a new parade ground, in the  online auditorium of social media. State and federal military officials have taken to the Internet to send messages directly  to their troops and the public.

 The adjutant general of Texas, Air Force Maj. Gen. John F. Nichols, recently launched an official Facebook page, and has  been posting behind-the-scenes photographs and informal guidance on a range of issues. He is currently one of six adjutants general to have a registered Facebook page with the National Guard Bureau at the Pentagon, in Arlington, Va.

 “The idea is to reach out to our people in another, unique way,” Nichols said. “The vast majority of our service members  are younger than 30 [years of age] – and this is a way to reach them in a familiar forum. And many are traditional members  of the Guard and can sometimes be hard to regularly reach, by nature of their part-time service.”

 This can be a daunting task, particularly for a Guard organization with more than 25,000, actively serving citizen-soldiers  and airmen performing disparate missions across a geographically expansive state and in overseas operations.

 “In many ways, social media is a modern version of our traditional office bulletin boards,” he said. “The only difference is  the Internet has the ability to reach people almost anywhere in the world.”

 For example, the Texas Army National Guard’s 136th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, headquartered in Round Rock, Texas, is currently deployed to Afghanistan as part of Task Force Centurion, and they have been able to share photographs and videos of their soldiers and the positive things they are doing for the nation on their Facebook page.

At the national level, Army Gen. Frank J. Grass, the 27th Chief of the National Guard Bureau, is active on Facebook, as is his senior enlisted adviser, Chief Master Sgt. Denise Jelinski-Hall. Grass is also on Twitter as @ChiefNGB. The adjutant general of Pennsylvania, Army Maj. Gen. Wesley Craig, is also on Twitter as @TAGPNG, the only adjutant general with an NGB-registered account.

Grass and Jelinski-Hall tend to post photographs and comments from events they attend, and give updates on their current activities and projects.

It’s a way for the leaders to interact with service members and the public in a less formal setting.

Facebook and Twitter have been ranked the first and second most popular social networking sites, respectively, according to an eBizMBA analysis of global Internet traffic, dated March 18, 2013.

“It’s important to actively engage people where they are,” said Rick E. Breitenfeldt, the bureau’s public information branch chief, who advises leadership on developing their social media presence. “It’s the way people are communicating today.”

Beyond typical organization pages, he said it can be helpful for leaders to communicate directly with service members and their families.

“Sometimes, it’s important for the force to hear – in first-person – from the leadership,” Breitenfeldt said. “This way, they are able to share messages they think are important, but also behind-the-scenes items that you typically wouldn’t put on an organizational page.”

Their posts range in formality.

Grass has posted official press statements, as well as informal videos of his testimony before a congressional committee, discussing major issues like the current federal budget sequester.

Jelinski-Hall uploads casual, weekly “Mentorship Moment” videos, where she has shared advice on issues ranging from resiliency, core values and ethics to money management.

On Twitter, the micro-blogging site that limits posts to 140 characters, Grass has been known to tweet similar messages that he puts onto Facebook, and to “retweet” messages from accounts he follows, such as the National Guard (@USNationalGuard), the Joint Chiefs of Staff’s account (@thejointstaff) and its chairman, Army Gen. Martin Dempsey (@Martin_Dempsey). Craig of Pennsylvania’s activity on Twitter is very similar.

Additionally, the National Guard’s senior ranking officer frequently uses the hashtag #NationalGuard in his messages, which allows Twitter users to quickly find all posts with that term included.

The use of unique hashtags can be helpful in aggregating information during a crisis or emergency management situation, said Breitenfeldt. It also helps you reach the group of people that would be most interested in hearing your message.

“Hurricane Sandy is a prime example,” Breitenfeldt said. “We operated on high-tempo for an 18-day, straight period of time.”

Breitenfeldt said they used not only #NationalGuard, but also other unique hashtags, including #Sandy, to get word out about the National Guard response to that hurricane last fall.

Beyond sharing information, the effective use of social media for leaders is about finding ways to make connections and share personal insights, Breitenfeldt said.

To date, one of the Texas adjutant general’s most popular posts was about leaders taking calculated risks.

“Don’t be afraid of failure – it means you’re trying,” Nichols posted, March 19, 2013. “If leaders are afraid to make mistakes, we won’t improve as an organization. Do the risk analysis; assess the variables; but be prepared to underwrite the mistakes of your people and take responsibility for them.”

Social media has the ability to spread a message exponentially.

Nearly 50 people “liked” Nichols’ post and it has been shared numerous times, which Facebook reports has been seen by nearly 850 people, more than three times the number of people that currently follow the general’s page.

Among those who “liked” and commented on the post, in his personal capacity, was Air Force Staff Sgt. David Porcelle, a noncommissioned officer assigned to the Texas Military Forces’ Joint Operations Center in Austin, Texas. He wrote, “Sir, a great philosophy… I make mistakes all the time; rarely the same ones twice,” and included an emoticon forming a smiling face.

Porcelle said he first discovered the senior Texas leader’s page when “someone I know ‘liked’ a comment made by Maj. Gen. Nichols, and that [activity] showed up in my timeline.”

He said he follows numerous senior leader and organizational pages, and thinks they are helpful with getting information to a broad cross-section of people, including those who’ve deployed, transferred to new units or retired.

“Social media’s another tool in the box to get instant feedback from every angle and echelon,” he said. “It’s a useful adjunct to more formal means and direct contact.”

This can be invaluable during those times of disaster, when messages need to get out quickly, in real time.

Breitenfeldt said there was a social media multiplier effect in relation to National Guard’s response to Hurricane Sandy, particularly though their follower’s sharing and commenting on the National Guard’s posts.

“We posted 35 stories on our website that received 17,000 hits,” Breitenfeldt said. “But on Facebook, we posted a fraction of the stories, and they were seen a half a million times. On YouTube [a social media video sharing site], our videos received 1.5 million views and were shown on major networks.”

This type of capability can be powerful, particularly in a state the size of Texas, which can face a myriad of disasters, potentially at the same time, including: hurricanes; tornadoes; wildfires; and even blizzards.

In addition to Nichols, other senior Texas Guard officers on Facebook include: Maj. Gen. Joyce L. Stevens, assistant adjutant general – Army and commander of the Texas Army National Guard, Maj. Gen. Manuel Rodriguez, commander of the state-based, volunteer Texas State Guard, and Brig. Gen. William L. Smith, commander of domestic operations.

“With our armories and air wings spread across the state, and units and personnel mobilized around the globe, social media can be a powerful tool to quickly send a message,” Nichols said. “Additionally, I enjoy hearing directly from our soldiers and airmen – getting their feedback.”

While the senior Texas general is still new to the online community, he said he wants to use the platform to talk about more than just himself and his activities.

“I look forward to helping get the word out about the great things we’re doing, [as] a military organization with our inter-agency partners, for the state and nation,” Nichols said.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013 2:28:00 PM Categories: Texas Air National Guard Texas Army National Guard