Posts From July, 2008

Dolly meets Big Blue 

Dolly meets Big Blue
Texas Military Forces by CPT J. Michel Spraggins, Texas State Guard, Texas Military Forces Public Affairs
2008/07/31

Big Blue sets up H- E-B parking lot in Weslaco Texas in response to hurricane Dolly.Photo by Photo by CPT.J. Michael Spraggins Texas State Guard, Texas Military Forces PAO
Big Blue sets up H- E-B parking lot in Weslaco Texas in response to hurricane Dolly.Photo by Photo by CPT.J. Michael Spraggins Texas State Guard, Texas Military Forces PAO

WESLACO, Texas (July 21, 2008) - The Weatherman on TV first talked about the tropical depression, then the tropical storm and finally about the full blown hurricane named Dolly off the coast of Mexico, rushing towards Texas.

Big Blue was standing by ready to meet Dolly if she made landfall anywhere in south Texas.

Big Blue is a highly sophisticated state of the art, mobile, self-powered, go-anywhere, set-up anywhere, totally-self contained, command center used to providing instant communications among the State Operations Center, shelter sites and first responders in times of state emergencies.

Blue is manned by Texas State Guardsmen, Chief Master Sergeant James Short of the 436th Air Support Group of the Texas State Guard; the NCOIC of the unit manning Blue stated that “the guardsmen had been training for just such an event.”

Texas State Guardsmen man the communications equipment in Big Blue, to support the Texas Military Forces helping with recovery in the Rio Grand Valley area.Photo by Photo by CPT.J. Michael Spraggins Texas State Guard, Texas Military Forces PAO
Texas State Guardsmen man the communications equipment in Big Blue, to support the Texas Military Forces helping with recovery in the Rio Grand Valley area.Photo by Photo by CPT.J. Michael Spraggins Texas State Guard, Texas Military Forces PAO

The Texas State Guard has been doing intense training to be ready to provide Defense Support to Civilian Authorities (DSCA) in providing communications support, evacuation shelter management, Points of Distribution (POD), medical and chaplain assistance for when Mother Nature unleashes her wrath, in this case in the form of hurricane Dolly.

Airmen of the 436th Air Support Group, 4th Air Wing of the Texas State Guard part of the Texas Military Forces, raise the antenna.Photo by Photo by CPT.J. Michael Spraggins Texas State Guard, Texas Military Forces PAO
Airmen of the 436th Air Support Group, 4th Air Wing of the Texas State Guard part of the Texas Military Forces, raise the antenna.Photo by Photo by CPT.J. Michael Spraggins Texas State Guard, Texas Military Forces PAO

The Texas State Guard is the oldest of the three branches of the Texas Military Forces, with the other two being the Army and Air Guard and can trace its history to serving Texas to before the Alamo. The State Guard is made up of 6 Army Regiments, 2 Air Wings, Medical Brigade and Maritime Regiment. The State Guard can only be deployed outside of Texas only under the direct authority of the Governor.

Operation Dolly is the Texas Military Forces DSCA in form of manning evacuation shelters and PODs and Big Blue was there when Dolly arrived in Brownsville, Harlingen and the surrounding counties. The Chief said “reliable communications is absolutely critical in times of emergencies and Blue and its team met the challenge”

Thursday, July 31, 2008 1:49:00 PM Categories: Texas State Guard

Texas Military Forces help residents of the Rio Grande Valley recover after hurricane Dolly 

Texas military forces help residents of the Rio Grande Valley recover after hurricane Dolly
Texas Military Forces by First Sgt. Lek Mateo, Standing Joint Interagency Task Force
2008/07/28

Sgt. Eliberto R. Cavazos, the Texas State Guard and also a resident of Raymondville, Texas help distribute water and snacks to hurricane Dolly victims and volunteers at the local high school that was used as a point of distribution site Jul. 25.Photo by Texas Military Forces by First Sgt. Lek Mateo, Standing Joint Interagency Task Force
Sgt. Eliberto R. Cavazos, the Texas State Guard and also a resident of Raymondville, Texas help distribute water and snacks to hurricane Dolly victims and volunteers at the local high school that was used as a point of distribution site Jul. 25.Photo by Texas Military Forces by First Sgt. Lek Mateo, Standing Joint Interagency Task Force

RAYMONDVILLE, Texas (Jul. 25, 2008) — Residents of Rio Grande Valley are still feeling the effects of Hurricane Dolly after the second Atlantic hurricane of the 2008 season tore through south Texas Jul. 23 with damaging wind and torrential rain.

Remnants of the Category 2 hurricane could still be felt as severe flooding in several coastal cities displaced several hundred families whose homes were destroyed or made inaccessible.

Several thousand people were without electricity at the height of the storm due to downed power lines but utility companies from all over the state are working tirelessly to restore service.

Over 736 members of the Texas Military Forces comprising of the Texas Air National Guard, Army National Guard and Texas State Guard joined forces with local, state and federal emergency responders in a massive relief operation to help the traumatized and devastated communities recover.

The military effort under the command of the Standing Joint Interagency Task Force assisted the state’s Texas Task Force 1 with search and rescue. They also established and manned fourteen shelter sites that were distribution points for free packaged food, bottled water and ice available to anyone that needed assistance.

Task force commander, Col. John Nichols of the Texas Air National Guard’s 149th Fighter Wing in San Antonio, acknowledged that this is definitely a joint organization and that he is proud to lead all three components of the Texas Military Forces that are involved with this mission.

“This is truly Texans helping Texans and we are ready for this kind of contingency operation,” said Nichols.

Congressman Solomon P. Ortiz, who represents the district impacted by the storm, visited one of the point-of-distribution sites to see the relief effort first hand.

The Congressman stated that it was great to see the community come together to overcome this crisis and knows that everyone will rebound. This cooperative spirit he added represents the best of the Rio Grande Valley.

He also commended the countless volunteers, especially the servicemen and woman who came to assist the people of south Texas.

“I want to thank all the military members who were activated and removed from their jobs and their family to come and help,” said Solomon. “This shows their dedication and their loyalty to the state and the community and we appreciate that.”

Sgt. 1st Class Eliberto Cavazos of the Texas State Guard and a resident of Raymondville, Texas rode the storm out at the local high school with several members of his unit.

The retired city employee said that it was great to be able to work together as a team with his counterparts in the Army and Air National Guard and together show the community in which he lives in that the Texas military forces can do the job at hand.

“We’ve received a lot of thanks for coming here and helping from the people in my neighborhood and that they are truly very grateful. That makes me very proud to be able to serve in uniform,” Cavazos stated.

Sharon Stanton, who has been out of power for three days since Dolly struck, waited patiently for hours in her car until she reached the front of the line where several Guardsman and civilian volunteers quickly loaded her car with precious water and ice.

The resident of La Feria, Texas said that she knew that relief was on the way when she started seeing convoys of large green National Guard Humvees and trucks arriving in her town hours after Dolly struck.

“The National Guard pretty much has got it together and they know what they’re doing and that assures me that things are going to get better,” Stanton exclaimed.

Monday, July 28, 2008 1:52:00 PM Categories: Texas State Guard

Texas State Guard Fields 200 personnel for Hurricane Dolly 

Texas State Guard fields 200 personnel for Hurricane Dolly
COL Robert Miller
2008/07/26

TXSG personnel engaged in forklift operations supporting recovery from the effects of Hurricane Dolly in Welasco, Texas.Photo by CPT Michael Spaggins, JMTF Public Affairs Officer
TXSG personnel engaged in forklift operations supporting recovery from the effects of Hurricane Dolly in Welasco, Texas.Photo by CPT Michael Spaggins, JMTF Public Affairs Officer

The Texas State Guard has deployed approximately 200 personnel to the Texas valley in support of Hurricane Dolly. Elements of the 1st, 2nd, 4th, 8th, and 19th Regiments, Texas Maritime Regiment, and the Air Division are manning shelters in several cities to support the local emergency management organizations.

Elements of the 4th Air Wing and the 19th Regiment are supporting communications regiments in San Antonio at the Joint Inter Agency Task Force (JIATF) and at various locations in the Texas valley.

As the shelter mission draws down some of the Texas State Guard will switch to Point of Distribution (POD) missions, assisting local residents with food, ice and cleaning supplies to help recover from the effects of Hurricane Dolly.

Saturday, July 26, 2008 1:53:00 PM Categories: Texas State Guard

Texas National Guard begins clean-up operations in south Texas 

Texas National Guard begins clean-up operations in south Texas
Chief Master Sgt. Gonda Moncada And First Sgt. Lek Mateo
2008/07/24

Sgt. Marc Jones (left) of the Texas Army National Guard’s Standing Joint Interagency Task Force (SJIATF) and Staff Sgt. Gonzalo Roman of Texas Air National Guard 149th Fighter Wing at San Antonio Emergency Operation Center as Hurricane Dolly moves westward towards south Texas Aug. 23. The Category 2 hurricane that is the first of the 2008 Atlantic Hurricane season severely damaged the coastal cities Brownsville and South Padre Island with strong winds and heavy flooding. (Texas Military Forces by First Sgt. Lek Mateo, 100th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)
Sgt. Marc Jones (left) of the Texas Army National Guard’s Standing Joint Interagency Task Force (SJIATF) and Staff Sgt. Gonzalo Roman of Texas Air National Guard 149th Fighter Wing at San Antonio Emergency Operation Center as Hurricane Dolly moves westward towards south Texas Aug. 23. The Category 2 hurricane that is the first of the 2008 Atlantic Hurricane season severely damaged the coastal cities Brownsville and South Padre Island with strong winds and heavy flooding. (Texas Military Forces by First Sgt. Lek Mateo, 100th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)

CAMP MABRY, Texas – Dolly may only be a Category I hurricane, but Texas Gov. Rick Perry and the state’s Division of Emergency Management did not take any chances that Dolly would be as harmless as her name might imply.

The governor declared several South Texas counties disaster areas and activated the Texas National Guard to ensure that in the words of Lt. Gen. Charles Rodriguez, the Adjutant General of Texas: “The stuff gets to the people who need it, and people get where they need to be.”

Currently, 600 Guardsmen are activated in support of civil authorities, but that number may increase to 1,200 if necessary. These Guardsmen along with members of the Texas State Guard joined state and local emergency first responders as the first Atlantic hurricane of the 2008 season barreled down on the coast of Texas and Mexico yesterday.

Hurricane Dolly slammed into South Padre Island, Texas at about 1:00 p.m. CST. The Category 1 hurricane brought heavy rain and strong winds of 100 miles-per-hour with gusts estimated to be over 120 miles-per-hour as she swept into the Rio Grande Valley dumping more than 12 inches of rain in some areas.

Today, Guard members are spread out across southern Texas from Austin to Brownsville. The teams are focused initially on establishing mass care strike teams. Texas Guardsmen will go into the affected areas and look for citizens who might need safe passage or re-supply those who are sheltering in place.

Eventually, these same teams will establish stationary points of distribution and co-locate with FEMA at familiar landmarks.

Local incident commanders will dictate what type of support the Texas Guardsmen will provide, but typically personnel will support Red Cross with shelter management, perform search and rescue missions with Texas Task Force One, and provide communications support with “Big Blue,” a full communications package on wheels. Other satellite equipment has also been deployed.

Search and rescue teams are standing by in Kingsville, Texas with about 225 personnel and 75 high profile vehicles from a ground transportation company. Personnel and equipment will move into the affected areas as soon as it safe.

Aviation assets available include three UH60 Blackhawks, in Austin and two in San Antonio, as well as one OH-58. Under an Emergency Management Assistant Compact, the Louisiana Army National Guard also has flown in two Blackhawks to assist where necessary.

State officials took the lessons learned from Hurricane Dean when about 4,700 Guardsmen and State Guard members were mobilized in August 2007 for the Category 5 hurricane, which missed the United States and devastated the coast of northern Mexico.

For Dolly, Guard leaders prestaged personnel, equipment, aircraft and high-water tactical vehicles in Austin, Houston and San Antonio, so that they can quickly be deployed to the impacted areas.

“This is Texas, so our approach is to lean into the problem and stage the necessary personnel, equipment and resources so they can move into the affected area as quickly and efficiently as possible,” Perry said.

Perry commended the Texas military forces, state and local emergency disaster teams who quickly mobilized and responded to the crisis.

“As we always do in the toughest time, we are seeing Texans, being Texans, helping their neighbors, putting others’ needs above their own and heading toward the trouble and not away.”

Thursday, July 24, 2008 1:56:00 PM Categories: Texas State Guard

Guard helping Texans hit by Hurricane Dolly 

Guard helping Texans hit by Hurricane Dolly
Chief Master Sgt. Gonda Moncada
2008/07/24

Members of the Texas Army and Air National Guard and Texas State Guard unload supplies to prepare for rescue and relief efforts in response to Hurricane Dolly next to the Emergency Operations Center at Brooks City-Base in San Antonio, Texas July 23. Photo by Air Force Tech. Sgt. Elisabeth A. Matulewicz
Members of the Texas Army and Air National Guard and Texas State Guard unload supplies to prepare for rescue and relief efforts in response to Hurricane Dolly next to the Emergency Operations Center at Brooks City-Base in San Antonio, Texas July 23. Photo by Air Force Tech. Sgt. Elisabeth A. Matulewicz

CAMP MABRY, Texas (Army News Service, July 24, 2008) - Hurricane Dolly hit the Texas coast Wednesday with devastating winds and torrential rain, prompting Gov. Rick Perry to declare several southern counties disaster areas and call out the National Guard.

Currently 700 Texas military forces are activated in support of civil authorities, but that number may increase to 1,200 if necessary, officials said.

Lt. Gen Charles Rodriguez, Texas adjutant general, said the troops will ensure “stuff gets to the people who need it, and get people where they need to be.”

Military personnel are spread out across Texas from Austin to Brownsville and places in between. The teams are focused initially on establishing mass care strike teams, officials said. They explained that the teams will go out into areas hit by the hurricane and look for folks who might need safe passage or re-supply those who are sheltering in place. Eventually these same teams will establish stationary points of distribution, officials said, and typically co-locate with FEMA.

Local incident commanders will dictate as to what type of support Texas military forces will provide, but typically personnel support Red Cross with shelter management, perform search and rescue missions with Texas Task Force One, and provide communications support with “Big Blue,” a full communications package on wheels. Other satellite equipment has also been deployed.

Three shelters in Brownsville, Texas, have been staffed and are now operational at Hana High School, Porter High School and Pace High School. Shelters have also been established in the Texas communities of San Benito, La Joya, Raymondville, Edcouch, Harlingen, and Edinburgh.

Search and rescue teams are standing by in Kingsville with about 225 personnel and 75 high-profile vehicles and a ground transportation company. Personnel and equipment will move into the affected areas as soon as it is safe for people and equipment, officials said.

Aviation is standing by with three UH-60 Black Hawks in Austin and two in San Antonio as well as one OH-58. Under the Emergency Management Assistant Compact agreements signed between governors, the Louisiana Army National Guard has flown in a couple of Black Hawks to assist where necessary.

If and when the Texas Army National Guard helicopters are called to conduct search and rescue missions, they will not only have the Guard aviators and crew aboard, but Texas Task Force 1 members as well.

Marking its 10th anniversary last year, Texas Task Force 1 was established after the Oklahoma City bombing of the Murrah Federal Building, which officials said demonstrated a need for search and rescue team that is “wheels up” or at the point of departure within four hours.

Depending on who calls them into action, the team may be either a state or federal asset and its sponsoring agency is Texas A & M University.

D.J. Walker and Craig Smith, emergency medical technicians for the Austin fire department, and Dennis Lavasseur, an EMT from the Houston fire department, are on “Dolly detail.” They are swift-water rescue-qualified and will support the Texas Army National Guard crews during search and rescue missions .

Each team member’s ID card contains information on their expertise, said Craig, and after logging in, “the system will respond with information: `there are vacancies for you, can you respond?’”

“We are usually called up for a month at a time,” he said. For employers, “it is a win-win situation because the day-to-day employer gains back a fully qualified and trained employee,” after all is said and done.

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Thursday, July 24, 2008 1:55:00 PM Categories: Texas State Guard

500 Sheltered from Dolly in San Benito 

500 sheltered from Dolly in San Benito
KRGV-TV, NEWSCHANNEL 5 - Welasco
2008/07/23
SAN BENITO - Some 500 South Texas residents fleeing Hurricane Dolly’s heavy rains and high winds are housed in this city’s hurricane shelter, with the number expected to climb throughout the morning.

“Once the winds and rain pick up as people awaken, we will see more people coming in,” said Emergency Management Coordinator Orlando Garcia. The National Weather Service is predicting continued heavy rains with accumulations ranging from six to 10 inches. At 5 a.m. maximum sustained winds were near 85 mph.

San Benito High School, at 450 South Oscar Williams Road, is the site for the shelter that is being staffed by the Texas State Guard, 1st Battalion, 1st Regiment. Personnel from the City Of San Benito, San Benito School District, both entities’ police and fire departments, and Pro-Medic EMS, along with the 12-member military contingent are serving as the shelter managing team. Capacity for the facility which includes the practice gymnasium and band hall, is about 900, Garcia said.

The Governor’s Division of Emergency Management sent the Texas State Guard to San Benito due to the high number of occupants seeking shelter from the hurricane.

“This is a state resource that was sent when they were notified of the high number of people housed in the shelter,” Garcia said.

The mayor opened the San Benito Emergency Operations Center at City Hall, 485 N. Sam Houston, on Tuesday at 6 p.m. The Operations Center is staffed by city employees monitoring the storm. Among those onsite were Mayor Joe H. Hernandez, Commissioner Jack Garcia, City Manager Victor G. Trevino, as well as 15 city workers and Emergency Medical Technician Lorne Dilelio. San Benito residents may contact local Emergency Management officials at 956-361-EVAC or 956-361-3822.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008 1:57:00 PM Categories: Texas State Guard