Posts From July, 2020

Operation Guardian Support Soldiers Volunteer in the Laredo Community

Story and photos by Staff Sgt. De'Jon Williams, Texas Air National Guard

LAREDO, Texas – Along the south Texas border Guard Members put in many hours of their off time to serve the communities they now call home.

Although many of the soldiers and airmen assigned to the border mission are far from their homes, they have still found a way to give back the new communities they now call, home.

Texas National Guard members come together to volunteer their time in their new local community in Laredo, Texas.

“I actually feel like I’m more a part of the community around me,” said Master Sgt. Brian Franck. “I’m constantly trying to recruit people to volunteer and give back to the community down here in Laredo.”

Franck started the mission August 2019 and quickly got to work, looking for opportunities to help the community.

September, he began volunteering at the Laredo Animal Protective Society (LAPS).

“I was informed about a volunteer opportunity at LAPS,” said Franck. “I talked to some other Soldiers I work with and we started walking dogs and volunteering. I then informed the Laredo Company and my platoon about this opportunity.”

Franck went on to say the Company sent out an email about two volunteer opportunities, he then pushed the email to his fellow soldiers and they then began volunteering at many other companies throughout the Laredo area.

November 2019 was the second volunteer opportunity he had, but first with the local Habitat for Humanity (H4H).

“I was told on Veteran’s Day they were going to start building a house for a Texas veteran,” said Franck. “So, I showed up, found out I was the only one representing the National Guard down here to help start building on the veteran’s home. From that day habitat started to coordinate with me on their build days and needing volunteers.”

Franck and his team helped H4H build two homes since he began volunteering.

“After this point, the company sort of appointed me as the volunteer point of contact,” Franck said. “I was informing them of events and being there if a Soldier said they would be there to introduce them to the organization staff.”

Franck has worked hard to recruit 36 other soldiers in his company to help in the Laredo community. Together they have logged more than 1,600 hours of volunteering.

“I got started through Master Sgt. Franck,” said Staff Sgt. Richard Frost. “I heard about the volunteer programs that we can get involved with here in Laredo. He was the man people said to go to. I’ve been working with LAPS and Habitat for Humanity whenever I can.”

Frost, who is a squad leader with Team Laredo went on to talk about how much he enjoys volunteering at LAPS and helping with the animals.

“I take Tyson out to North Park because they have a dog park there,” said Frost. “He’s a brindle Pit Bull with tiger like stripes. I picked him because pits have a bad rap and he’s done great with me in public.”

Even a pandemic has not stopped these soldiers from continuing to do their part. Despite COVID-19, soldiers in Laredo still do their part to help the community.

“COVID-19 has made it, first where we could not volunteer,” said Franck. “Then for habitat only five volunteers at a time, but for the past months if we are staying away from the general population and working on projects, a small group of us can be there to volunteer. COVID-19 has put a damper on volunteering, but it has not stopped our soldiers from being able to give back to the community of Laredo.”

Team Laredo Soldiers continue to work with these organizations despite the recent pandemic. COVID-19 has not lessened the spirit of Franck who continues to put in time with these organizations.

“Honestly, I wish people would go back to the way it used to be,” Franck said. “Where we were not so focused on ourselves, per se, but more focused on helping each other. When people come down on these missions, they can experience what’s going on in the communities and be a part of the communities because while you’re down here, this is your home.”

Franck went on to say that he’s thankful for the opportunity to work with these organizations, without them and their volunteer programs this would not be possible.

Damon Williams: Electrical/Computer Engineer on a Normal Day, Military Leader in a Crisis

By: WO1 David D. Brown, TXSG

AUSTIN, Texas - It is said that not all heroes wear capes, but some might say Damon Williams frequently trades in his employee’s badge for one, at least temporarily. The Texas State Guard (TXSG) deployed the Texas Tech grad to Houston during Hurricane Harvey in late summer 2017, and more recently deployed Williams yet again in support of COVID-19.

It was March 15, and the COVID-19 pandemic had reached the United States. While many began planning for modified work shifts or remote work to continue business, Sgt. 1st Class Williams was planning a different sort of work schedule. The TXSG notified Williams that he would be deployed to help prepare communities across the state for the pandemic’s spread.

"I got the message of my deployment and immediately reached out to my supervisor to have my projects covered or completed while away,” said Williams. “I also had to prepare my family for my absence as I was told that the COVID pandemic had grown to the point that we needed to prepare to provide medical support to civilians.”

Williams is the Operations non-commissioned officer for the 6th Brigade and oversees approximately 300 Soldiers who are providing medical support at local hospitals and testing locations, food distribution in support of local and state food banks, wellness checks for elderly home care patients, as well as warehouse support distributing medical supplies. This deployment, working in the Texas State Guard Emergency Operations Center and State Operations Center, would be for the long haul. Since then, Williams and his team have had minimal contact with their families for safety and health reasons. It’s a sacrifice, but it reflects the spirit of community service for which the TXSG has earned a reputation, selflessly assisting civilian authorities during emergencies and times of disaster.

“Throughout my tenure in the Texas State Guard, and as commanding general, I continue to be grateful for the men and women who make personal and career sacrifices to answer the call to duty on behalf of their fellow Texans,” said Maj. Gen. Robert J. Bodisch, Sr., Commander of the Texas State Guard. “Sgt. 1st Class Williams exemplifies such sacrifices and while doing so embodies the best of the Texas State Guard.”

A mission fully focused on the communities served by the Texas State Guard, it is the small things that keep these Soldiers going day in and day out.

“The thanks we get from doctors and nurses when we arrive with boxes of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment), seeing people’s minds at ease after going to one of our testing centers…those are the moments we live for,” Williams said. “Although we can no longer accept hugs, a smile, a solid fist or elbow bump carries us through the 12-hour days.”

While deployed, Williams received the wonderful news that he and his wife are expecting a second child. Williams says he's especially grateful for the support he’s received from his employer by permitting him to attend training and to participate in deployments, which gives him a sense of security.

“My employer has been unwavering. There is no way I could be able to serve without my team members and co-workers. They have been amazing,” said Williams. “I have a lot of lunches to buy to thank them when I get back.”

With the state still in a partial reopening and the rise in case numbers and hospitalizations, it’s unclear when Williams will be back at work – or back home. At times, he admits, it has been hard to keep fear of the unknown at bay.

“Yes, we are scared. Scared for our brothers and sisters serving next to us, for those in the hospitals who are helping the sick, and for all the families being affected by this. But you can't let fear stop you. You have to push forward through that fear to help those that can't help themselves,” he said.

As Guardsmen and women continue their work on the front lines to help fellow Texans, one sees Williams’ commitment echoed in the actions of all who wear the uniform: “We are all prepared to serve as long as we’re needed.”

Texas National Guard Soldier gives back to her community

Story by Staff Sgt. De'jon Williams, Texas Air National Guard

WESLACO, Texas – The National Guard is a volunteer force of Citizen-Soldiers and -Airmen who give their one weekend a month and two weeks a year to service.

One Texas National Guard Soldier serving with Operation Guardian Support (OGS) along the south Texas border, gives back to her community as a Citizen-Soldier and volunteer.

Spc. Maritssa Quintanilla, a combat medic specialist (68W), continues to give back to her local community with her volunteer efforts.

"I feel like I'm capable of helping others," said Quintanilla. "Why not? I have all my limbs; I have everything; some people need a little more help than others."

U.S. Army Spc. Maritssa Quintanilla hands markers to a student at Pharr-San Juan- Alamo Early College High School in San Juan, Texas Jan. 31, 2020.
U.S. Army Spc. Maritssa Quintanilla hands markers to a student at Pharr-San Juan- Alamo Early College High School in San Juan, Texas Jan. 31, 2020.

Wanting to give back and helping others started after hearing some shocking information from her younger sister, who was being bullied. She felt the need to speak up and do her part to help her sister and other young people.

She volunteered with local schools through the Helping Everyone Achieve Respect (H.E.A.R.) program speaking with local high schools about bullying.

She said it started with her sister telling her that she was getting bullied; this was information she did not like hearing. She went on to say that she went out to local high schools, conducted surveys and PowerPoints as to why it is not OK to bully.

Quintanilla went on to say that after putting in that effort, her sister felt a lot better. She did it for her and was she proud it made a change.

Her call to action did not stop there; she also volunteered with the Pharr Fire Department.

"I felt like I had too much downtime," Quintanilla said. "I was like, 'OK, I can do something.' I've always liked to be busy. I'm on the go and always have something to do. For example, firefighting was a great way to keep my fitness up and help people out in a way and have connections. It was just fun overall and it made me feel good."

Quintanilla has completed more than 150 hours with the fire department, 130 hours with H.E.A.R. She was able to earn her Certified Nurse Aide License after volunteering 40 hours at a local nursing home. Quintanilla has also volunteered her time with the U.S. Border Patrol at a community service event at the local Boys and Girls Club, helping get school supplies to less fortunate children. Overall, she has accumulated more than 500 hours of volunteer time in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas.

U.S. Army Spc. Maritssa Quintanilla (left), a combat medic specialist poses for a photo with fellow volunteers.
U.S. Army Spc. Maritssa Quintanilla (left), a combat medic specialist poses for a photo with fellow volunteers.

"She's a great Soldier," said Sgt. 1st Class Gary Murrell, "She has a great work ethic, always striving to make herself better. She's one of the few that I've always seen constantly giving up her time to make herself and everyone else better."

Murrell, who is Quintanilla's platoon sergeant, went on to describe her volunteer efforts as constant. Saying she has come to him multiple times about what she can do to make her community better and what she can do to make herself better.

Moving forward, Quintanilla plans to go back to school to finish her bachelor's degree and join the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC).

"I decided to go to school, do ROTC and become an officer," said Quintanilla. "I'm going into the ROTC program and sign my contract this August after I get off mission. I'm looking at it as a good way to become a lieutenant and motivate my troops to become volunteers."

Many OGS Soldiers along the south Texas border have gone above and beyond answering the call to service to continue to volunteer and give back to their communities, Quintanilla is no exception.

"I thank God every day for giving me another chance to be here," She said. "There is a quote 'you make a living by what you get, and you make a life by what you give,' I live by this every day volunteering as a way to give my gratitude for having a chance to be here."

Texas Guard launches innovation unit

Story by Robert Seyller, Texas Military Department Public Affairs

After over a year of preparation, the Texas Guard is officially launching the Texas Military Department Joint Innovation Unit: TMDx.

Gen. Joseph L. Lengyel, chief of the National Guard Bureau, along with Maj. Gen. Tracy R. Norris, the adjutant general of Texas, visit Texas National Guard service members serving at the Tarrant Area Food Bank in Fort Worth, Texas, April 29, 2020.
Gen. Joseph L. Lengyel, chief of the National Guard Bureau, along with Maj. Gen. Tracy R. Norris, the adjutant general of Texas, visit Texas National Guard service members serving at the Tarrant Area Food Bank in Fort Worth, Texas, April 29, 2020.

The original plan called for a live event at the Capital Factory in Austin, home to the TMDx flagship innovation hub. However, recent concerns over COVID-19 forced the program to do exactly what it was designed for – partner, innovate and come up with a solution. That partnership came in the form of a livestreamed event, hosted by Capital Factory and simulcast across multiple social media platforms, July 15.

The launch, hosted by Sean Duffy, VP of partnerships at Capital Factory, featured appearances by Gen. Joseph Lengyel, chief of the National Guard Bureau; Maj. Gen. Tracy R. Norris, the adjutant general of Texas; and Maj. Alex Goldberg, TMDx managing director.

TMDx will utilize the Texas Guard’s position as the largest state military force in the country to leverage partnerships in industry and academia throughout the Texas innovation corridor to develop a new framework for military problem-solving.

Pilot Training Next, a technology-focused pilot preparation course founded in Austin, along with partnerships in construction, software programs and 3D printing technology, was just one of the TMDx noted successes highlighted during the event.

Lengyel focused on the 3D printing program during his remarks as he noted that Texas had won the National Guard Bureau’s national innovation competition. The program will allow F-16 maintainers to print replacement parts for the F-16 fighter aircraft, shortening logistical delays for parts and reducing costs.

“No one innovates like the National Guard and especially not like Texans,” said Lengyel. “This same technology was also able to print personal protective equipment and ventilator parts that we can use during our COVID-19 response.”

Speed and the ability to respond quickly to growing threats is imperative.

“It all comes down to needing to move faster,” said Goldberg. “Our adversaries are moving faster – faster in space, faster in hypersonic and faster in fielding commercial technology.”

The growing presence of near-peer threats are considered to be outpacing the U.S. in innovation.

“The status quo is comfortable, but what works today to ensure our national security will not be good enough for the challenges on the horizon,” said Norris. “The military moves slower than we would like and are moving away from a ‘no because’ mindset to a mindset of, ‘How do we get to yes?’”

The program’s launch in Austin will be a first step, according to Goldberg, who shared plans for expansion to San Antonio, Houston, Dallas, Ft. Worth and El Paso.

A Crockett Signs Up to Serve Texas… Again.

Story by SSG Eric Walden, Texas State Guard

Every now and then when you meet someone, their name rings a bell, and before you know it you are asking “Oh are you related to….?” If you were to ask such a question of one of the newest recruits in the Texas State Guard (TXSG), a Private named Stephen Crockett, you'd be right in your hunch. Not long after Crockett was sworn into the 2nd Battalion, 6th Brigade of the TXSG at Camp Mabry in May, he was asked - and he confirmed - that he comes from a long line of Texas Crocketts, including a certain famous distant cousin who gave his all at The Alamo. 

Stephen descends from another "David" Crockett, too: "Davy's" grandfather, David, was massacred along with his wife in an attack by the Chickamauga Cherokee in 1777 at their cabin by near Crockett Creek in what is now called Rogersville, TN. The Cherokee also kidnapped a deaf and mute son named James and shot another son Joseph in the arm during the attack. The elder David Crockett was also the father of John Crockett: the father of the hero of the Alamo, and William Crockett from whom Stephen descends. 

The two brothers William and John ended up marrying sisters with the maiden name Hawkins (making Stephen a double cousin to Davy) who also happened to be cousins to Brigadier General John Sevier’s wife making them related by marriage to Sevier. The then-Col. John Sevier, who later became the first governor of Tennessee, fought with William and John Crockett as part of the “Overmountain men” at the Battle of King’s Mountain in October 1780, winning a major victory of the American Revolutionary war against British loyalists. It is also worth noting that William and John Crockett never forgot their kidnapped brother and found him 17 years later and bought him back from some Cherokee traders. Patriotism and loyalty seem to run deep in the DNA of the Crockett family, a trait that will serve Stephen well in the TXSG.

Being a distant relative of the Alamo hero was a point of teasing for a young Stephen Crockett growing up, listening to the ballad of Davy Crockett sung by his peers far too often (even though he had never seen the TV show). However, that relationship to Davy and its significance never really took hold in Stephen’s mind until he was much older. It was when he moved to Austin and visited the Capitol and saw the ‘Heroes of the Alamo’ monument featuring Davy Crockett on the Capitol grounds that he said it became a bit surreal. "I still have trouble sometimes wrapping my head around the level of importance or significance that is attributed to him, and realizing that it’s based on that statue in a lot of ways, positioning him as THE hero of the Texas Revolution,” Stephen Crockett says. "Even now, it’s humbling to think about that."

Stephen was born and raised in Texas and attended college at USC in Los Angeles where he earned his degree in civil engineering. Eventually making his way to Austin, Stephen began volunteering once a week as a driver for the “Meals on Wheels” program there. Stephen also had a strong interest in SCUBA diving and attained his Rescue Divers’ certification from the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI). He discovered the TXSG through a co-worker who was a guard member, who told him about the TXSG and its dive teams.

“I enjoy giving back, and I also love adventure and pushing my limits, and diving with the TXSG seems to fit right in with both of those things,” Crockett says. At 33 years of age, Stephen is not yet married so he has quite a bit of free time on his hands and wanted to find “interesting and fulfilling ways to spend the time that isn't wasteful.” Stephen also serves as a volunteer teaching English for the Refugee Services of Texas.

Stephen is not the only Crockett to continue the tradition of military service to his state and country. Stephen’s grandfather, Charles Richard Crockett (or Richard Charles as the family called him) joined the United States Air Force after graduating from the University of Arkansas, serving as a JAG Officer. He went on to practice law for over 50 years. Stephen also has two uncles who served in the armed services. James Crockett served in the United States Army and his brother Robert served in the United States Marine Corps. His 3rd great-grandfather, William Sevier Crockett, was a Private in Co. A, 5th Regiment, East Tennessee Infantry of the Union Army in the Civil War. His 6th great-grandfather, William Crockett, was an Ensign in the American Revolutionary War. Answering the call to duty appears to be a family tradition.

David “Davy” Crockett was a pioneer in the early days of our union. He joined the Tennessee militia and was active in fighting in the Creek War, but also showed his leadership by providing for the soldiers, and by hunting wild game for them to eat. He progressed into public service by becoming a commissioner in Lawrence Co., Tennessee, and was soon appointed Justice of the Peace by the state legislature in 1817. In March of 1818 he was appointed Lieutenant Colonel of the 57th Regiment of the Tennessee Militia and in 1821 ran and won a seat in the Tennessee General Assembly. After an unsuccessful run for the United States House of Representatives, Crockett won the seat in 1826 and was re-elected in 1828. In 1830 he was the only member of the Tennessee delegation to oppose Andrew Jackson’s Indian Removal Act, which cost him the next election. However, he ran again and served in Congress until 1835. 

On November 1st, 1835, Davy and three other men left for Texas to explore and find a homestead. On the day he left, witnesses remember him wearing his hunting suit and the famed coonskin cap. Crockett arrived in Texas in January of 1836 and swore his oath as a volunteer to Texas on January 14. He arrived at the Alamo on February 8th and by the 25th of February he had already entered the armed conflict with General Santa Anna’s Army. Bolstered by an early 90-minute victory against the Mexican Army, Crockett was sent by Lt. Colonel William Travis, along with two others, to find Fannin’s Texian reinforcements and led them back through Mexican lines to the Alamo on March 4th. On March 6th, just before dawn, the Battle of the Alamo began and within 90 minutes it was over; and all the defenders were dead. 

In the years since, Davy Crockett has become a larger than life figure, his name known around the world. His legacy has become part of Texas and American folklore. The name Crockett invokes the spirit of the citizen-soldier - a spirit that is alive today in the TXSG, a branch of the Texas Military Department with its roots stretching all the way back to Stephen Austin's first call-to-arms to defend Texas.  184 years later, the TXSG welcomes another Crockett, ready to serve Texas and his fellow Texans. 

A Fight on the Home Front: The TXSG Joins the COVID-19 Battle

By WO1 David Brown, Texas State Guard

History will record that in the spring of 2020, a silent, invisible killer attacked on the home front.  

Even before the Governor officially activated Texas Military forces on March 17, members of the Texas State Guard (TXSG) were taking steps to get ready for what most could see coming: a statewide deployment to help combat COVID-19.   

Conceived as a state defense force, one could say the TXSG was built for a battle like this.  But not even veterans of past disasters could expect what fighting the coronavirus would entail.  

“Unpredictability and dealing with the unknowns - that’s the biggest thing,” CPT Cyla Barron explained. Barron has served in the U.S. Marine Corps, the National Guard, and in several different posts in the TXSG, including Battle Captain in the TXSG Emergency Operations Center (TEOC), during Hurricane Harvey.  Now Barron is back in the TEOC, the operational hub for the State Guard, monitoring oversized screens with the latest numbers of coronavirus cases, tracking potential hot-spots  and helping to coordinate the deployment of TXSG troops with liaison officers from the Texas Army National Guard, Texas Air National Guard and Texas Department of Emergency Management. 

“Harvey was fairly predictable.  We could see it coming and stay one step ahead.  Now (with COVID-19) we have to monitor and respond to a constantly changing deadly threat and at the same time protect ourselves from getting ill.” 

On another screen in the TEOC, Barron, Asst. Battle Captain WO1 Jon Gimble and Battle NCO SGT Travis Ross tracked the progress of a team of TXSG engineers, evaluating potential medical overflow facilities in northeast Texas.  The TXSG team was part of a Joint Engineer Task Force which included specialists from the National Guard and the State Construction Management and Facilities office.

“The TXSG brings added value in a situation like this,” said LTC Cecil Bell, the recently appointed Chief of Engineers for the TXSG.  In addition to serving in the TXSG, Bell is a Texas State Representative, and a licensed expert in water infrastructure construction. “If you’re an engineer in the State Guard, you have an advanced degree, you’re a working professional, you have licensed state certification; what we drill on is what we do in our day jobs.”   

As a practical demonstration of that added value, potential medical overflow facilities were evaluated using a checklist designed by a TXSG engineer, Bell said. “That’s part of the uniqueness of our role in this fight against COVID-19: we have a skill set that includes many years of real-world facility operations and maintenance know-how.”  His observation echoes the ideal of the highly trained citizen-solider at the core of the TXSG.  

Though proficient in and tested on FEMA best practices, PFC Patrick Mejia, a Guardsman based in San Antonio, could hardly have anticipated what the fight against COVID-19 would throw at him: a constant parade of oversized 18-wheelers bringing in and hauling out personal protection equipment (PPE) to the Texas Department of Emergency Management warehouse in the ‘Alamo City’.  

By day, Mejia works as a recruiter for the Texas ChalleNGe Academy, a tuition-free education program for teens disengaged with traditional school, sponsored by the National Guard. Since his deployment on April 3rd, Mejia has put his work and home life on hold to serve his fellow Texans in 7-day-a-week shifts, from 0400 to 1600.  His job involves warehouse logistics for items such as face masks, gloves, gowns, hand sanitizer, disinfectant, blankets, and other critical goods in short supply statewide.  

As soon as Mejia could get a new load of pallets numbered and labelled, notice would come in from the State Operations Center (SOC) in Austin to prepare for a pick-up.  Working alongside members of the Army National Guard and the Texas A&M Forest Service, Mejia and fellow Guardsman PVT Ricardo Espinoza would help load up shipments for delivery to hospitals, armories and local institutions in Lubbock, Dallas, El Paso, and all points in between.  

“Working in the warehouse, sometimes you feel like you’re in a bubble. It hurts because you know there are people who need this equipment, these are your neighbors and the numbers are growing,” Mejia said.  “And there’s the fatigue, the lack of sleep...then you see on the (TV) news a delivery being made to a hospital...and it’s like “hey! That’s my writing on the side of that pallet!”  

Farther east down I-10, SGT Eseil Hernandez and PFC Johnathan Williams of the TXSG 2nd Brigade were working in warehouse support operations alongside colleagues in the 1st Squadron, 112th Regiment of the Texas Army National Guard providing assistance to the greater Houston area. Facing time pressures to get critical medical supplies into the distribution chain, Guardsmen employed technology originally designed for shelter and evacuation missions. “I use the same equipment I trained with to scan people and their belongings (during evacuations) to keep track of essential medical supplies that can be quickly dispatched from our distribution point as needed,” Hernandez explained. 

“I don’t mind stepping away from my job to be of service to the community,” Williams added.  “It is about the oath I took when I enlisted.”

It’s about Texans helping Texans.  It’s about making a difference.

“At a time of unprecedented uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I could not be more proud of the men and women of the Texas State Guard,” said Robert J. Bodisch, Sr, Commanding General, TXSG.  “This is not a normal mission, but these are not normal times.  From our medical professionals, engineer teams, logistics and staging, operations and administrative personnel, and many others, the TXSG has proven once again we are always ready and able to answer the call to serve our fellow Texans.  We are also recruiting new members and those who need a purpose and a chance to belong to something greater than themselves.”

“It is exhausting, the long hours,” TEOC Battle Captain Barron concedes, “but it makes me so proud to be here, working alongside people who come from all walks of private life bringing their experiences to the table to help their Texas neighbors...there’s a true sense of camaraderie.” 

And one might add, even in these trying times, a sense of something more.  A sense of: Duty. Honor. Texas.

Soldiers of the Texas State Guard 2nd Brigade help the Chaplain in a time of need

Story by Chaplain Richard Brunk, 2nd Brigade, Texas State Guard

Soldiers of TXSG 2BDE help Chaplain
Soldiers of the Texas State Guard 2nd Brigade really stepped up for Chaplain Brunk.

In April I wrote: “Most everything about COVID-19 is awful. How can we have high morale during such a unique, ongoing and devastating crisis?”
Well, the following is a story about some of our 2BDE Soldiers lifting my family’s morale!

It started with a casual comment. I was speaking with Staff Sgt. Gregory Illich about ways to match up Soldiers with skills with Soldiers and their Families with needs. One Soldier said he could tutor Chemistry and Math for kids having to homeschool due to COVID-19. Another Soldier offered to help a Soldier with some damage at their home.

So, what was the casual comment? I mentioned that my wife and I had been busy picking up debris from a storm that ran through our community. While many of our neighbors lost 50- and 60-foot oak trees, we got away pretty easy. Our portable greenhouse had been flipped over and destroyed, so we had a lot of repotting to do, fortunately we saved most of the plants. We still had a big pile of branches as well as some tree limbs that needed pruned, along with some other cleanup work.

Illich said that he would come up Saturday morning to help and that he would bring his chainsaw. Saturday morning, he knocked on my door and told me that there might be a few more Soldiers coming to help. A few turned into ten, with chainsaws and loads of tools. Everyone was masked, gloved and following COVID-19 guidelines and safety rules.

In a few hours, I had a stack of firewood, dead and damaged trees and limbs cut away, and after a lot of hard work, a clear path to my fence for the first time since I moved in five years ago. Dangerous debris is now safely disposed of. We had no injuries, lots of hard work, great training on equipment and problem solving as entangled old fencing and posts were making the whole thing challenging.

My wife, Kathy and I are very thankful for the Soldiers of Second Brigade who volunteered their time: Pvt. Steven Kahla, Pvt. Tyler Frankum, Cpl. Michael Prior, Sgt. Danel Emert, Pvt. Sean Mai, Pvt. Eric Hoffman, 1st Lt. Matthew Bramanti, and Col. Edwin Grantham. Thanks also to Sgt. 1st Class Gordon, and Staff Sgt. Alberto Dominguez for their help in organizing volunteers.

We are blessed to have troops of all ranks, including Commanders and leaders, from the company level right up to the State, that care about each Soldier. You and your family are indeed the lifeblood of the TXSG and a huge resource for the State of Texas. Thank you!

Texas National Guard Airman on COVID-19 mission pursues her lifelong goals



Story by Tech. Sgt. Lynn M. Means 

A patient waits with bated breath. Her time has come – the test has started. She tilts her head back and braces herself, eyes closed as the medic slides a nose swab to the back of the nasal cavity. It keeps going in – relentlessly farther – seemingly all the way to the brain. Why does it need to go so far?! She tries hard not to reel back.

“People sneeze on us – sometimes they grab our hands, which is pretty fair, I guess.”

With piercing eyes and a kind voice, Airman 1st Class Jyoti KC helps her patients through this uncomfortable procedure. Each day on average, she tests more than 80 patients for the COVID-19 virus.

KC, a 136th Airlift Wing medic, says she is proud to be a part of the COVID response, taking care of other Texans.

“I love to help people,” said KC. “They appreciate us being outside here, and they can see how dedicated we are for them. You know, for Texas.”
KC’s compassion and drive to serve others has shown as a beacon to others on her team.

“Airman KC is one of our medics here at Charlie-2 down in El Paso,” said Lt. Col. Theresa Chrystal, the medical testing team C-2 officer in charge. “I’ve been working with her for about the past month, and she is just a bright, shining light! You see that she’s professional, and she’s one of those people you feel an immediate connection to and enjoy being around.”

KC’s mix of kindness and absolute professionalism was shocking to Chrystal, as this young Airman has only been in the Air Force a very short time. In fact, KC joined the COVID response effort only months after completing technical training.

“She comes to us as a professional and wants to be part of the mission,” said Chrystal. “She’s driven, she’s passionate, and she really cares about everything and everyone.”

Chrystal said KC has the best technique with her patients.

“Everyone is very blessed when they get Airman KC to swab them,” said Chrystal. “She is quick, and she’s got a great personality and makes them feel at ease. I’m very proud of her character and the fact that she’s doing a very good job, even as such a young Airman.”

Chrystal is excited for the career KC has ahead of her, saying she hopes to inspire KC to keep motivating that passion - the fire inside her.

“She wants to be an aerospace engineer,” said Chrystal. “And she’s going to be a rocket scientist one day! And I know she’ll make huge strides in the Air National Guard, and I’m very proud to work with her and know her.”

Originally from Nepal, KC moved to the United States in 2017, setting her eyes on new goals and a new career direction.

“Back in Nepal, I was doing architectual engineering,” KC said. “Then I moved here, and I had always wanted to do aerospace engineering.

As she described her passions, KC began to smile and her eyes focused off into space. She said the fascination started at a young age.

“When I was ten, I had a neighbor who was a pilot,” KC said. “I think that was the first click that, ‘I want to fly.’ Now I think about aircraft, being an astronaut, going into space and exploring space. It’s kind of fascinating.”

KC said she allowed that fascination to fan into a passion. And the more she learned about aircraft, she slowly developed an even stronger interest in spacecraft.

“I began reading,” said KC. “Learning about the backgrounds of different astronauts and how they started their journey to become an astronaut. The more I learned, the more I wanted to know about it. It’s not just a hobby – it’s more of a passion.”

KC said each night while she serves on the COVID response mission, she also takes evening classes online, with plans to enroll into a university after the pandemic. Her goal is to major in aerospace engineering and minor in mechanical engineering.

Meanwhile, she continues to serve in the Texas Air National Guard, enjoying the camaraderie and learning from everyone she encounters.

“The Air Force is a diversified organization,” KC said. “I have a different culture, my background is different, and I’m working with people who are from different backgrounds.

“And I like them! I like the way they think – they are pretty unique. Their perspectives are different, so you always learn from them. It always inspires me.”