Posts From August, 2010

NGAUS Conference Builds Families, Friendships

National Guard Officer and spouse have some down time to unwind early in the evening at the barbeque mixer at Austin's Schultz Beer Garden during the 132nd National Guard Association of the United States General Conference.
National Guard Officer and spouse have some down time to unwind early in the evening at the barbeque mixer at Austin's Schultz Beer Garden during the 132nd National Guard Association of the United States General Conference.


The National Guard Association of the United States supports Guardsmen across the country with advocacy efforts and standard of living improvements. This week's general conference for the association, held in Austin, Texas, brought together not just the service members, but also their spouses. While the association members enjoyed mixers, banquets, exhibits and professional meetings, their loved ones enjoyed shopping excursions and bonding events.

With events scheduled specifically for spouses, the conference enabled these dedicated family members to network with one another, develop a strong support system, and build lasting friendships.

The spouse shopping excursions to San Antonio, San Marcos, Austin and Fredericksburg offered participants the opportunity to see the colorful cultures of Texas, rich with Hispanic culture.

"I love it," said Gina Welch, the wife of Army Maj. Wyatt Welch and mother of three, from Bowling Green, Virginia. "I always look forward to attending these events. It is somewhat of a getaway." 

Nearly 200 spouses traveled to San Antonio for a day of sightseeing, shopping, and Texas history. The city's beautiful Riverwalk and the famous Alamo provided much-needed decompression and morale boosts to the busy participants looking to share an adventure. 

Pat Wilkinson chose the San Antonio excursion "to learn something about the history of the Alamo."

In addition to the bonding excursions, the spouses enjoyed the special opportunity to build a strong support system as members of NGAUS. Spouses are able to learn from one another's experiences and struggles by knowing that there are many other people on whom they can rely. 

Further, the conference affords family members education possibilities that foster support and trust for their service member and the service member's duty. For NGAUS and its representatives, becoming knowledgeable of the intricacies of the military lifestyle comes first in supporting a community of troops.

"We know it's not just the military member that serves," said Texas State Senator Leticia Van De Putte. "It's the entire family."

The senator encouraged her audience to support their spouses' call for duty, sharing an anecdote about how her great-grandmother showed love and support for her grandfather and great-uncle.

"My great-grandmother said that if her two sons return from World War II safely that she would go on her knees from her house to the church on Thanksgiving. She was from Mexico, it's very traditional to do these promesas, these promises." 

Military associations like NGAUS ensure the families and the livelihoods of servicemembers remain a priority throughout the nation. Building strong bonds of community and friendship, the conference continues to guide and enrich the lives and careers of Guardsmen from the newest lieutenants to the most experienced of generals. 

"Every [conference] get's better and better," said Jean Dobaschi, from Hawaii. "NGAUS has played a very critical role in my life and in my husband's life. We've been able to make friends across the country; friends that will be lifetime friends forever."

Industries support National Guard, bring new technologies for troops

A group of Backpack Journalists take some photos Aug. 22 on an expedition to the Texas Army National Guard airfield during the 132nd National Guard Association of the United States General Conference in Austin, Texas.
A group of Backpack Journalists take some photos Aug. 22 on an expedition to the Texas Army National Guard airfield during the 132nd National Guard Association of the United States General Conference in Austin, Texas.


 Story by  Spc. Suzanne Carter

 A mariachi band struck up a song as Texas Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Jose S. Mayorga snipped the red ribbon  stretched across the entrance in two. The doors to the exhibit hall swung open Aug. 21, marking the official opening of  the 132nd National Guard Association of the United States General Conference exhibit hall at the Austin Convention Center in Austin, Texas.

 Army and Air National Guard officers and their spouses from across the U.S. and its territories flooded the exhibit hall  floor for three days, interacting with more than 400 vendors. The exhibitors showed their support for the Guard by  demonstrating a variety of products and services, while conference attendees told vendors directly what they needed.

 Mark Saturno, Simulation Systems Division business development director for Cubic Defense Applications in Orlando,  Fla., said that the NGAUS convention is not the place to make sales, but a place to show support and appreciation for  the National Guard and its mission.

 "We have been dealing with the Guard for about a dozen years with our products," Saturno said. "The Guard has been  very supportive of our company and our products, so we want to come out and show our support for the Guard."

 With products ranging from combat training simulators to portable latrine devices and services from continuing  education programs to custom coin and tag manufacturing, the exhibit hall offered officers of all ranks the most up-to-  date technology, equipment and services available to their Guardsmen.

 "There's a lot of new technology," said Guam Air National Guard Capt. Josephine Blas. "As you know, technology  changes quickly, every day, so whatever they have that can help improve what we do for ourselves, for our troops, it's  always great to see what they have."

 By interacting with the vendors, attendees can discuss what improvements they want to see to best service their home  units.

 "It's an incredible opportunity for junior leaders to interact directly with folks in the industry," said Oregon Army National  Guard Capt. Jonathan R. Tipton. "We can explain to them what we need, what we like and what we'd like to see  happen." 

 Vendors in the exhibit hall said they use the feedback they receive to help guide the futures of their products and  services as they relate to the National Guard.

"We talk to everybody from soldiers all the way up to the adjutant general about what the needs are for the Guard, where the Guard is trying to go," said Arthur C. Wright, business development and marketing manager for the Washington-Harris Group, a health services and information technology group from Greenbelt, Md. "If we don't know where they're trying to go and what their needs are, we won't know what services we need to provide."

Exhibitors also said they enjoyed hearing from the family members in attendance as much as the officers.

"The Guard is certainly very family-oriented," said Cora Jackson-Chandler, the Management Support Technology vice president of Defense Department programs, a research, evaluation and planning company from Fairfax, Va. "Because we do some work in the areas of sustaining, training, life-cycle support and transition of soldiers, it's good to hear from the family members."

Jackson-Chandler went on to say that having this interaction with the servicemembers and their families helps give her the full perspective of everyone who needs her company's services.

After a year of planning, a week of set-up and three days of marketing and networking, Exhibit Promotions Plus Director of Business Development Kevin M. Horowitz praised the conference for making available so many resources to which military leaders might otherwise not have exposure.

"They don't know what products and services are out there and what's available and what's the most modern technology," Horowitz said. "They need to see it, feel it, touch it, use it."

Conference Addresses Issues, Builds Guardsmen Camaraderie

Attendees of the Texas Adjutant General Dinner at the Driskill Hotel during the National Guard Association of the United States Conference pass the time through laughter with new friends.
Attendees of the Texas Adjutant General Dinner at the Driskill Hotel during the National Guard Association of the United States Conference pass the time through laughter with new friends.


 Story by Officer Candidate Micah Barnes

 AUSTIN, Texas - Army and Air National Guard officers from all 54 states and territories descended upon Austin, Texas,  Aug. 21-23, for the 132nd National Guard Association of the United States conference. The attendees ranged from  single bar officers to a four-star general, with many bringing their families to share the experience.

 The conference, designed to bring together officers of all grades to discuss the issues currently facing the Army and Air  National Guards, provides a meeting point for NGAUS to ensure their voices are heard on Capitol Hill in Washington. 

 "NGAUS is one of the 10 recognized military associations that the Department of Defense can participate in," said Army  Maj. Jeffrey Larrabee, a National Guard Bureau Strategic planner. "They're advocates for the guardsmen, who lobby in  Washington for their specific interests."

 The discussions and resolutions of the conference move up to the National Guard Bureau for review, ensuring that the  coming year's agendas reflect the intentions of NGAUS members. 

"These could be anything such as better equipment, better health care and retirement benefits, " said Air Force Maj. Gen. Tod S. Bunting, NGAUS chairman and adjutant general of the Kansas National Guard. 

Keynote speakers included Texas Governor Rick Perry, Gen. Craig R. McKinley, Chief of the National Guard Bureau, and Senator Leticia Van de Putte, District 26 state senator for Texas.

"One thing I learned in my time in the Air Force is that the squeaky wheel gets the grease," said Perry. "I'm going to keep calling for the Guard for any job because I know that it's going to be done right."

In addition to the business meetings, the conference also featured events aimed at further strengthening the camaraderie of the Guard community. The events, which brought together spouses and children to bond over common interests, included the exhibit hall, youth programs, a rodeo, the spouse luncheon, and several dinners and mixers. 

The exhibit hall housed more than 400 vendors showcasing everything from military equipment to coffee mugs designed for different branches, installations, and services. Some booths featured interactive activities, including the National Guard Formula racecar, a simulated combat environment wherein players cooperatively engage a mission, and several fixed and rotary wing simulations. 

"These groups span really the spectrum of companies that do everything from sustainability for the Guard, to helping the families of the Guard," said Richard Goldberg, senior vice-president of Public Affairs for DRS Technologies. 

The children of the attending officers had a chance to experience practical exercises in public affairs through the backpack journalist program. Throughout the conference, the kids attended many events, such as the opening ceremony where the MacArthur High School drill team performed in front of the more than 1,000 audience members, a visit to the Texas Army National Guard Airfield in Austin, Texas, and a press conference with Bunting and Texas Army National Guard Commander Brig. Gen. Joyce Stephens.

"I think this whole thing was awesome," said Gian Carlo Morales, 12, from Dallas, Texas. "I got to use everything from the video camera to the microphone that records everything."

The officers and their families enjoyed the nightlife offered by Austin, the live-music capital of the world. Evening events ranged from mixers for the warrant and company grade officers to a true Texas rodeo. 

"Some people don't know that we have rodeos in New Jersey, but it is not quite the same as being at a Texas rodeo, and I'm pretty jazzed to the be there for it," said Goldberg. 

The final night concluded with a cocktail reception and states dinner at the Austin Convention Center.

"Texas has been a wonderful host of this event," said Goldberg. "It's more about the people, building a relationships, and knowing what the needs are."

Texas State Guard Appoints two new leaders Olson, Hasting bring extensive military, professional experience to assignments

Maj. Michael Sullivan, TXSG Public Affairs
AUSTIN, TEXAS - The Commander of the Texas State Guard (TXSG) has announced the assignment of two senior officers to the TXSG Headquarters Staff. Col. Robert Hastings is assigned as Chief of Public Affairs and Col. Kimberly Olson is assigned as Director of Command, Control & Communications Systems (J-6).

“We’re pleased to have military professionals of Col. Hastings’ and Col. Olson’s caliber and experience join our ranks,” said Maj. Gen. Raymond Peters, TXSG commanding general. “Their leadership experience, professional qualifications and extensive military backgrounds make them valuable additions to the command.”

As Director of the J-6 section, Col. Olson and her team are responsible for providing joint emergency communications and information technology supporting the TXSG, as well as working with Texas Military Forces’ J-6 in providing communications in support of the “Defense Support to Civil Authorities” mission.

Col. Olson is a retired U.S. Air Force officer with 25 years of service and was part of the first generation of female military pilots. A command pilot, with nearly 4,000 hours of flying time, she was one of the first females to command an air refueling squadron. She served in the Pentagon on the Joint Staff, Office of the Secretary of Defense, and the Air Staff. Col. Olson was deployed into several combat zones. In her professional life, Olson is the executive director of Grace After Fire, a Texas based non-profit organization dedicated to providing outreach to all women veterans and their families, offering confidential peer support and increased access to appropriate trauma, mental health, addiction and community services. She also serves as a trustee on the Weatherford Independent School District Board, recently recognized as the Texas Outstanding Board of the Year, 2009.

As the TXSG’s senior public affairs officer, Col. Hastings will serve as a member of the Commander’s special staff overseeing all aspects of the command’s public affairs program, including command information, public information, media relations and electronic media, as well as providing public affairs support to recruiting activities.

Col. Hastings joins the TXSG from the Maryland Defense Force where he served for five years as the Director of Public Affairs. He is a retired U.S. Army officer with more than 20 years active duty service as a Master Army Aviator and Public Affairs Officer. His assignments include command of an Apache-equipped Air Cavalry Troop and a Blackhawk-equipped Air Assault Company, as well as Public Affairs duties in Germany, Eastern Europe, Iraq and Bosnia. Hastings also served as acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs during the Bush Administration. As the senior public affairs official and principle spokesman for the U.S. Department of Defense, he served as staff advisor and assistant to the Secretary of Defense and Administration officials for strategic communication, public information, internal information, and community relations, leading a worldwide public affairs community of some 3,800 military and civilian personnel. In his professional life, Hastings is an aerospace executive who lives and works in Fort Worth, Texas.