Story by: Capt. Esperanza Meza
Posted: July 2, 2015
CANTON, Texas - Annual Training commenced for the Dallas-based 19th Civil Affairs Regiment, Texas State Guard, as troops deployed to various locations in Van Zandt and Upshur counties to test and strengthen their emergency response capabilities, June 4-7, 2015.
The training scenario for the exercise involved a Category 4 hurricane making landfall along the Texas Gulf Coast spawning severe weather with widespread flooding and tornadoes. The exercise tested the regiment’s leadership and staff at every level, strengthening their overall capability during an emergency. The scenario challenged troops to exercise their response capabilities in communications, mass care, shelter management, evacuee tracking, and search and rescue.
Local churches and high schools across Van Zandt County were transformed into mass care shelters with emergency tracking network stations and medical treatment stations for special needs patients.
“We were very happy to be here with the Texas State Guard and being part of the community that helps our residents,” said Reverend Wade Harman of The United Methodist Church, Canton, Texas. "It is important to see our Texas State Guard at work."
"I am impressed by the professionalism and high operating tempo of the 19th Regiment,” stated Brig. Gen. Howard Palmer, Army Component Commander, Texas State Guard. “I am grateful by the level of community response and participation. This cooperative training benefits everyone."
Pvt. Jason Harber, a new enlistee who swore into the Guard at annual training commented that "the 19th Regiment is professional, well-organized, friendly, and helpful in getting me up to speed. This was a good decision to join.”
The exercise also included Ground Search and Recovery in Ben Wheeler, Texas, which tested soldiers' abilities in land navigation, communication, first aid, and search methods. Assisting the regiment, six Texas Skies District Boy Scouts from Van Zandt County played the part of a lost campers in the path of a tornado. Three six-man search teams from the regiment searched the area to locate victims, apply first aid as required and evacuate them. Champion Emergency Support supported the exercise with paramedics and an ambulance and Flight for Life, based in Palestine, Texas, simulated patient recovery with an emergency medical helicopter.
"Annual Training provided unique challenges for command and control. Our unit force packages were stretched to make numerous decisions within a framework of rapidly changing locations and conditions. They accomplished the mission,” said Lt. Col. Wendell Sadler, 19th Regiment operations officer.
"This is an outstanding training opportunity to work with local authorities," stated Maj. Gen. Gerald "Jake" Betty, Commanding General, Texas State Guard. "As normal, our soldiers are doing an outstanding job. I am honored and humbled to visit with the dedicated soldiers of the Texas State Guard."
Following completion of the hurricane scenario, troops conducted a confidence exercise at Alert Academy, led by Col. Richard Tanner, commanding officer, Alert Academy and academy training instructors, in Big Sandy, Texas. The exercise started with an arduous land navigation exercise with a dismounted cross country movement followed by advanced ground search and rescue training. Troops were physically and mentally focused as they approached obstacles, including a rappelling tower, rock climbing wall, and a one-rope river crossing exercise.
Pvt. Brooke Jones, another recent enlistee, stated that she "thoroughly enjoyed the experiences with the rappelling tower and the water crossing activity. Both exercises allowed me to push myself, build my confidence, instill a sense of trust and foster camaraderie with my teammates, who also provided plenty of encouragement along the way. I enjoyed the rappelling so much I opted to descend inverted, along with Pfc. Michael Roppolo. I am confident that my experiences with both exercises will make me a more effective soldier so that I may be able to better serve my fellow Texans."
During the closing ceremony at the Van Zandt County Veterans Memorial, the 19th Regiment thanked Van Zandt county officials and residents for supporting the regiment's annual training, at Canton, Texas, June 7, 2015. Attending the ceremony were Van Zandt County Judge Don Kirkpatrick, Van Zandt County Sheriff’s Department, Van Zandt County Fire Marshal and Emergency Management Coordinator Chuck Allen, the Van Zandt Precinct Watch, Red Cross, Circle Ten Council Boy Scouts and Cub Scout Pack 378, local church pastors, municipal fire and police, and representatives from the Wills Point, Texas, and Martin Mills, Texas, independent school districts.
The Texas State Guard provides support to local authorities during a disaster or emergency such as hurricanes, wildfires, and flooding. The Texas State Guard also conducts the state's largest annual humanitarian medical mission, Operation Lone Star, in the Rio Grande Valley, Texas.