Posts From July, 2010

Texas Support the Valley with Humanitarian Mission 

Texans Support the Valley With Humanitarian Mission
Staff Sgt. Daniel Griego, 100th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
2010/07/29
Photo of Operation Lone Star in action"Operation Lone Star is a humanitarian effort here in the valley," said State Guard Lt. Col. Jann Melton-Kissel, a registered nurse with the Texas State Guard's Medical Brigade. "It's a partnership between the Department of State Health Services, the Texas Military Forces and the community to provide needed health services."

These services, which include immunizations, physicals, diabetes screenings and check-ups, come to Texas' Rio Grande Valley residents each year courtesy of the collaborative efforts of state civil and military assets. Together, these disparate agencies provide low-income families with necessary and sometimes life-saving medical care through the annual Operation Lone Star (OLS).

"It's been a real privilege to work with our colleagues in the Texas Military Forces," said Dr. Brian R. Smith, lead for the Department of State Health Services (DSHS) and regional medical director for Health Service Region 11.

Smith began OLS in 1999 as a joint venture expanding on his efforts with free clinics in the valley.

"I started off in South Texas doing free clinics," he said, "and this is a larger scale extension of what I started off doing about 20 years ago, which was providing free medical care in the [valley]. So the first places we started [OLS] were the same places that we were doing our the free clinics."

To augment the medical specialties of the DSHS, several other civilian agencies also contributed personnel, including the Texas Medical Assistance Team (TexMAT-1), the Department of Family Protective Services, the Human Health Services Committee and even local nursing students from Valley Grande Community College.

"It's a great opportunity to get people of all different types of disciplines in the medical field to get together and work," said Charles Neely, an EMT paramedic with TexMAT-1.

The military side of OLS, the Texas Military Forces, includes the Texas State Guard, Army National Guard, and Air Guard. These uniformed personnel function as both duty and medical support, performing roles ranging from security and administration to nurses and doctors. In recent years, the State Guard has taken the lead in executing OLS, providing the greatest number of personnel and assuming command responsibilities of the operation.

"We're working together as a team," said State Guard 1st Lt. Steven Trevino, a registered nurse with the Texas Medical Brigade. "We're just Texans helping Texans."

As a regularly scheduled exercise, OLS finds many of the same residents returning time and again for annual shots and physicals for school sports.

"I would just like to thank the Lone Star for coming in and doing the medical check-up for free," said Brenda Garcia, a Palmview resident and mother of a 2-year-old.

"This'll be my seventh year here," said Melton-Kissel. "I've seen the same people come back year after year."

OLS provides a unique opportunity for local residents to see their community support agencies face to face and meet the people behind the uniforms.

"I feel like I'm actually making a difference," said Trevino.

Texas State Guard Capt. James R. Owens, a registered nurse with the DFW Medical Group, says that the most rewarding aspect of working in OLS is "being able to serve the valley and the people of the valley, and also help our state out."

"We've got compassionate doctors who do a really good job with the health care," said Smith. "Then we're able to expand it with the pharmacy, the immunizations and provide a range of services."

To combat the occasional language barrier found in southern towns, OLS staffs each location with sufficient bi-lingual personnel to ensure the most accurate and complete medical coverage.

"As translators, we make sure we get the right words [patients] are looking for," said State Guard Sgt. Erasmo Chapa, translator and security service member for the Palmview High School location. "This is my first year and I'm glad to help out my community."

From the inter-agency cooperation to building strong bonds in the community, OLS stands apart as a joint mission that excels at bringing people together.

"It has been a real blessing," said Smith, "to be able to work with communities this closely."

Thursday, July 29, 2010 10:26:00 AM Categories: Texas State Guard

Texas Train for Disaster with Humanitarian Mission 

Texans Train for Disaster With Humanitarian Mission
Staff Sgt. Daniel Griego, 100th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
2010/07/28
Photo of people around a desk during trainingWESLACO, Texas - "What we do and what we're training for is a mass casualty," said Texas State Guard Capt. James R. Owens, a registered nurse with the DFW Medical Group. "It's about taking care of the population."

For the joint members of the Texas Military Forces, the Department of State Health Services and local civil agencies, preparedness means more than a ready standing force. With the persistent threat of hurricanes, flooding and seasonal pandemics, preparedness requires a fully trained, joint force capable of engaging a large-scale incident anywhere in the state.

This year, these state assets used the annual humanitarian event Operation Lone Star to conduct a complete exercise simulating a mass casualty incident. Providing the Rio Grande Valley with immunizations, physicals and various other medical services, the mission sought to stress and challenge the capabilities of state military and civilian departments, as well as reinforce their cooperation and inter-agency communication.

"At one level, we provide free care," said Dr. Brian R. Smith, lead for the public health agency sponsoring OLS and the regional medical director for Health Service Region 11. "At the same time, it provides a preparedness exercise for those of us in public health and the Texas Military forces to work together and to practice together in a major event."

Among the state agencies supporting the operation is the Texas Medical Assistance Team (TexMAT-1), populated by paramedics and medical practitioners from through the state.

"It's an opportunity under a training scenario to see a lot of people at one time," said Charles A. Neely, an EMT paramedic with TexMAT-1. "It just improves our capabilities in the long run."

The two-week operation, running from July 26 through August 6, featured sites in Brownsville, Palmview, Raymondville and San Juan during the first week and will include Laredo, Rio Grande City and Zapata during the second week. Many OLS locations rotate from year to year, but tend to stay centralized in local high schools or elementary schools.

Further bridging the spirit of cooperation, even service members from the Czech Republic and Chilean armies supported OLS this year.

"We need to practice for any kind of mass casualty occasion, too," said Capt. Petra Matulkova, an epidemiologist with the Czech Army. "We need to know these things, being military doctors."

With so many organizations working together, key leaders placed a premium on clear and effective communication throughout the operation.

"A lot of the training that we're doing is being able to communicate," said Owens. "At any level, at any issue, we will have to be able to communicate."

This finely tuned coordination allowed OLS to process 12,645 area residents in 2009, a number that event organizers expect will only grow in 2010 and future years.

Spanning six counties in Texas, Operation Lone Star functions as an ideal execution of a real-time public health crisis, uniting disparate agencies for a common and worthy goal.

"We set it up just as if we may have a thousand people or one person that needs the services," said Owens. "It may be small at one area or larger at another, but in the grand scheme of things, it provides a very good and very applicable training exercise for our units."

Wednesday, July 28, 2010 10:28:00 AM Categories: Texas State Guard

Texas State Guard - Texans helping Texans 

Texas State Guard – Texans helping Texans
1LT Joy Schoffler, HQ, TXSG
2010/07/07
Lower Rio Grande Valley (1 July 2010) - With the skills they learned during annual training still fresh in their minds, an estimated 755 Soldiers of the Texas State Guard mobilized from all areas of the state Monday to prepare for hurricane Alex duty.

The mission started Monday morning and for many of these Soldiers that meant driving as far as 12 hours to open shelters and assist the Red Cross. Excited and ready to begin their mission. The 3rd Battalion, 4th Regiment even conducted shelter drills while waiting in the assembly area.

“It has been a wonderful experience working with the Texas State Guard. They were ready to meet the needs of evacuees, offer comfort, ease fears and present a source of information for those in need,” said Director of the Red Cross TX, Charles Blake Jr.

Once the 17 shelters were opened and the estimated 850 evacuated guests began arriving, Soldiers set out performing their missions of in-processing, serving meals and providing care for their guests. In addition to completing their assigned 13-14 hour shifts many Soldiers went above and beyond.

Pvt. Coffee became a sports director setting up games and a play area for children so parents could have a much needed moment of quite time while they knew that their children were safe and secure. As one of only two spanish speakers, Pfc. Arrieta became the on-site translator serving double duty checking in evacuees and making sure communication needs of evacuees were meet.

“The soldiers really care. I didn’t have to ask a soldier to do anything. If they saw a guest in need they went out of their way to ensure their needs were met,” said Lt. Col. Peters, Shelter Manager in Alton and added: “These soldiers really went above and beyond.

While there have been countless stories of personal sacrifice and self-less service, the one that stands out is that the Texas State Guard was ready when they were called.

“The soldiers in the Texas State Guard acted in a professional military manner during hurricane Alex. Members of the community and their commanders are very proud of them,” said Incident Commander Brigadier General Ortiz.

The Texas State Guard’s mission is to provide mission-ready Soldiers and Airmen to assist state and local authorities in times of state emergencies; homeland security and community service organized under the umbrella of Defense Support to Civil Authorities.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010 10:30:00 AM Categories: Texas State Guard

Authorities brace for threat of renewed flooding as Hurricane Alex moves inland, Texas State Guard wraps up hurricane shelter duties 

Authorities brace for threat of renewed flooding as Hurricane Alex moves inland, Texas State Guard wraps up hurricane shelter duties
CPT Morgan Montalvo, HQ, TXSG
2010/07/01
Map showing possible flood locationsLOWER RIO GRAND VALLEY - As floodwaters receded and power was restored, a small number of South Texas residents displaced by Hurricane Alex left the safety of shelters to find their homes damaged by rain, wind and debris. Of an estimated 850 evacuees who sought refuge inland, those unfortunate few resigned themselves to another night as guests of emergency management and social service agencies.

The prospect of residual rainfall from a weakening now-Tropical Storm Alex, or the possible release of water from Mexican reservoirs, had authorities bracing for other evacuees to return.

“Right now it’s a handful, but it’s hard to track,” said Jim Todd, an American Red Cross disaster supervisor.

Meanwhile,” Mr. Todd says, “the Red Cross is taking over responsibility for shelters from the Texas State Guard, which was mobilized earlier this week to assist with hurricane response.”

State Guard and Red Cross personnel were working to consolidate shelters and evacuees while preparing for more, should weekend rainfall again leave parts of South Texas underwater.

Emergency service agencies had one eye on the skies and the other on the release gates of several Mexican border reservoirs that retain water for agricultural use.

The National Hurricane Center said an additional six inches of rain could fall on the South Texas-Northeast Mexico region through the weekend, prompting flash-flooding; other meteorological models place the heaviest post-Alex rainfall between Houston and Corpus Christi.

More than 750 members of the Texas State Guard were called to duty beginning June 28 to staff shelters in support of state and local authorities as a strengthening Tropical Storm Alex meandered toward South Texas and northeast Mexico.

Alex was upgraded to hurricane status Wednesday.

State Guard personnel remain on duty at most of the 17 shelters ordered to open by state and local governments between Raymondville and Brownsville 2 July.

Many evacuees traveled nearly 100 miles to seek safety, while others “came from blocks away,” said COL Ray Peters, commander of the Denton-based 3rd Bn, 4th Regt. COL Peters’ unit staffed a shelter in Alton, about 80 miles from the coast.

“They came from an economically depressed neighborhood,” Peters said of the 104 people who fled to his shelter at Alton Memorial Middle School. Unlike their neighbors to the southeast, “They weren’t worried about the hurricane; they were worried about the rain.”

COL Peters said that an estimated 6-8 inches of rain fell on the Alton area beginning Wednesday. His unit spent Friday preparing their shelter for handoff to the Red Cross. Alton Memorial Middle School was the northeastern-most facility managed by the State Guard.

Most State Guard units were expected to be released from shelter duty before week’s end, unless renewed flooding leads to their extended deployment.

Hurricane Alex made landfall Wednesday along a lightly populated portion of the Mexican state of Tamaulipas, about 110 miles south of Brownsville. The Category 2 storm generated peak winds of 110 mph and spawned at least two tornadoes but, apart from dumping from 6-12 inches of rain over parts of South Texas, spared the U.S. side of the border from serious damage.

Thursday, July 1, 2010 11:11:00 AM Categories: Texas State Guard