Posts From August, 2011

’SaberCats’ Get New Commander

’SaberCats’ Get New Commander
MAJ Michael Quinn Sullivan, PAO, TXSG

Photo of MAJ Alfred Sustaita, Jr., recieving the colors from COL Frank Woodall
MAJ Alfred Sustaita, Jr., receives the colors from COL Frank Woodall in the 1st Bn, 2 Regt, change of command ceremony in San Marcos. Sustaita takes over the SaberCats from CPT Robert Purcell.Photo by MAJ Michael Quinn Sullivan, PAO, TXSG

1st Battalion, 2nd Regiment Changes Command
SAN MARCOS, Texas - A new commander of the Texas State Guard’s 1st Battalion, 2nd Civil Affairs Regiment took charge today in a Change of Command ceremony held at the armory in San Marcos.

The battalion includes more than 50 TXSG soldiers working in and around Hays County, though some - like new commander Maj. Alfred Sustaita Jr. - travel across the state to drill with what is known as the “SaberCats” battalion.

The outgoing commander is Capt. Robert Purcell. He has spent more than 36 years serving the state and nation. He first entered the United States Army in 1968 and retired in 1988, assigned to duties in the infantry, logistics and military intelligence. He and his family settled in San Marcos in 1992. He was soon invited to join the TXSG and assumed command of what was then known as Company A, 4th Battalion, 1st Regiment.

“The men and women with whom I’ve served in the Texas State Guard have been remarkable soldiers,” said Purcell. “Every single one has demonstrated time and again a passion for serving their fellow Texans.”

Purcell has held numerous positions in the TXSG, and was involved in the realignment of units following deployment for Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Along with his many awards from his time on active duty with the US Army, he has also been awarded the Senior Military Emergency Management Specialist badge, the Texas Outstanding Service medal and three Texas Medals of Merit for his service in the Texas State Guard.

Maj. Sustaita enlisted in the TXSG in 1989, rising to the rank of Staff Sergeant. In December 1993, he was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant. He was a member of the Corps of Cadets at Texas A&M University, graduating in 2000 with a bachelor’s degree in Bioenvironmental Science.

Among Maj. Sustaita’s awards and decorations is the Texas Medal for Merit, the Adjutant General’s Individual Award, the Commanding General’s Individual Award, the Humanitarian Service Award, the Texas Faithful Service Medal, the Texas State Guard Service Medal, the TXSG General’s Staff badge, and the Basic Military Emergency Management Specialist badge.

Out of uniform, he serves as Program Director and Professor of Occupational Health and Safety Technology at San Jacinto College. Sustaita lives in Alvin with his wife and son.

The change of command ceremony is an important part of military tradition that symbolizes the change of the Commanding Officer of a military unit in a formal ceremony that can be traced back to Roman times. This ceremony emphasizes the continuity of leadership and unit identity despite changes in individual authority. This transfer of authority is physically represented by the passing of the Unit Colors, the tangible symbol of the unit, from the outgoing commander to the new commander.

Sustaita said he is honored to carry on the tradition of excellence started by Purcell.

“The success we have in the future working on behalf of Texans will be connected directly to the hard work and dedication of Capt. Purcell,” said Sustaita. “My job as battalion commander will be to ensure they remain prepared to successfully fulfill the missions we’re presented.”

UT football team supports Texas Guardsmen

Texas Military Forces, soldiers and their families from The Texas National Guard spent a special afternoon with the University of Texas football players and coaches at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas, Aug. 14, 2011.
In this image released by the Texas Military Forces, soldiers and their families from The Texas National Guard spent a special afternoon with the University of Texas football players and coaches at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas, Aug. 14, 2011. This unique afternoon allowed military members and their families to get close and personal with their favorite Longhorn. The football players gained a greater understanding of the sacrifice members of Texas Military Forces endure to serve their state and country. UT Coach Mack Brown is a strong supporter of Texas Military Forces and stressed his sincere gratitude to all in attendance. The opportunity to bring together two great organizations to share synergies and give thanks made for a memorable event.


 Story by Spc. Eric Love 

 CAMP MABRY, Texas – Following a long drill weekend, members of The Texas Military Forces didn't mind staying  around a bit longer as their families joined them to share a special afternoon with the University of Texas football team.  More than 30 players and five coaches took time away from their pre-season training at the UT 40-acre campus to show  their appreciation and support for local guardsmen.
 After their Aug. 14 afternoon workout, the team arrived at Camp Mabry, Texas and loyal Longhorn fans braved the  sweltering heat to get one-on-one time with their favorite players. 
 UT Head Coach Mack Brown emphasized the importance of making time in their regimented schedule to reach out to the  surrounding community. On this occasion, they met with members of the TXMF, signing autographs and taking photos  with their fans.
 "Thank you for giving your lives; your families for giving their time and allowing us to have a free country and play a game  like football," said Brown. "[Saying thank you] is really important to us."
 Brown then started the team off with a customary "roll call" where each positional player contributed their own special  chant to kick-start the activities. The crowd was overwhelmed by the enthusiasm of the team and responded with a loud  "Hook 'Em Horns." 
 The players took time to mingle and say thank you to the service members, signing t-shirts, hats, footballs and posters.  Fans, young and old, expressed great appreciation and excitement at having a chance to see the players relaxed in an  informal gathering.
 "This was so cool," said Spc. Richard Castillo of 100th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment. "It was great to meet the  coaching staff and players and I was surprised by how curious they were about what life is like in my uniform."
 Army Col. Patrick Hamilton, the joint chief of staff for the state adjutant general, discussed the vital role the UT football  players have in lifting a soldier's morale by giving a brief overview of activities members of The Texas Military Forces  engage as they are deployed oversees in places like Iraq and Afghanistan.
"After being out on a three day mission, soldiers look forward to waking up at 4:00am to turn on Armed Forces Network and watch a UT football game, allowing them to decompress," said Hamilton.
Hamilton then opened up the floor for questions from the players about military life. The topics ranged from the weight of the combat vests to discussing the similarities between football players and soldiers on leadership challenges, morale, teamwork, dedication and hard work. 
The answers, geared toward quality of life issues, provided the players valuable insight on the sacrifices the TXMF members encounter on a daily basis when deployed.
"We are truly grateful for all you do and defending our freedom, thank you for allowing us to play the game of football," said Brown.
Hamilton concluded the session by addressing how grateful the Texas Military Forces are for the Austin community.
"We are a community-based organization and being able to connect with the [Austin] community and an organization like the University of Texas is important," said Hamilton. "We are extremely grateful for Coach Brown and his team for coming out to Camp Mabry and giving up their precious time during this busy training camp, it really means the world to the soldiers within The Texas Military Forces."

Operation Lone Star Treats Thousands in South Texas

Operation Lone Star Treats Thousands in South Texas
COL Robert Morecook, Texas State Guard Public Affairs
CAMP MABRY, AUSTIN, Texas – Operation Lone Star (OLS) provided approximately 53,000 medical services to almost 10,000 patients during a two-week period as part of a public health exercise and humanitarian mission in South Texas.

The Texas Military Forces, led by the Texas State Guard, supported the Texas Department of State Health Services during this 13th annual mission. Col. Don Prince, the military commander for OLS stated, “Operation Lone Star is an exceptional opportunity for Texas Military Forces and public health officials to strengthen community relations and further develop interagency cooperation while training for real world disasters.”

Seven medical sites offered free services to thousands of underserved residents along the southern border of Texas, with assistance from the U.S. Public Health Service and county and local health departments. The mission was successfully completed on Friday, Aug. 5.

Lines started forming early each day for the clinics in Brownsville, San Juan, Mission, Rio Grande City, Laredo, Hebbronville and Rio Bravo. The clinics ran from July 25 to Aug. 5, with specific dates varying by site.

Each OLS site was a complete well health clinic as well as a medical treatment facility. Patients’ heights, weights and medical histories were taken. Blood pressures were checked. Blood samples were screened for diabetes, and immunizations were given. There were stops for nutrition education and for vision and glaucoma screening before a patient would see a doctor, nurse practitioner, or physician’s assistant, if needed.

Texas residents benefitted from the free medical services, making the event extremely popular and successful among the persons attending. For long-term medical care, many patients were sent home with written prescription in hand, usually for a low cost generic medication at a local pharmacy.

As well as helping the citizens of South Texas, many of whom are medically uninsured and thus do not have access to regular medical care, the clinics gave Texas Military Forces and other public health organizations the chance to collaborate in running temporary medical care facilities.

When disasters happen in Texas, frequently hurricanes, large treatment clinics may be required. Exercises such as Operation Lone Star allow public health agencies to hone their skills in advance of disasters.

By preparing in advance for disasters, exercises such as Operation Lone Star are designed to protect the health of Texas and its citizens.

The Texas State Guard is one of three branches of the Texas Military Forces (TXMF), operating under the command of the Adjutant General of Texas and the Governor as Commander-in-Chief of all state military forces. The TXMF includes the Texas Army National Guard and the Texas Air National Guard.

The mission of the Texas State Guard (TXSG) is to provide mission-ready military forces to assist state and local authorities in times of state emergencies; to conduct homeland security and community service activities under the umbrella of Defense Support to Civil Authorities; and to augment the Texas Army National Guard and Texas Air National Guard as required.

Headquartered at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas, the TXSG functions as an organized state militia under the authority of Title 32 of the U.S. Code and Chapter 431 of the Texas Government Code.

Texas Guard taps well of experience

Service members and former general officers attend the inaugural conference of the Council of Retired Executives in the Texas Military Forces Museum at Camp Mabry, Texas, Aug. 6.
Service members and former general officers attend the inaugural conference of the Council of Retired Executives in the Texas Military Forces Museum at Camp Mabry, Texas, Aug. 6. The adjutant general of Texas proposed the idea of the senior mentor team built of retired military leaders who will lend their experience and guidance for the benefit of the Texas National Guard. A long-term relationship with former general officers ensures that their years of knowledge will not be lost and will remain available to Texas Military Forces.

 Texas Guard taps well of experience

 Story by Spc. Praxedis Pineda

 AUSTIN, Texas -- Senior and former leaders of the Texas Military Forces gathered at Camp Mabry, Texas for the  inaugural Council of Retired Executives, Aug. 6, 2011.

 Maj. Gen. John Nichols, the adjutant general of Texas, initiated the council in order to make use of their knowledge and  influence for the benefit of the Texas Military Forces. It also serves as a mentorship program that builds a lasting brain  trust within the state.

 “We want to capitalize on their experience,” said Nichols. “With over 30 years of experience, they have seen trends come  and go, but they have also seen what works.”

 Government and corporations alike often invite retired senior leaders to meetings and conferences to gain their input.

 Through the councilmen’s feedback, the Texas Military Forces will gain the guidance to face issues that current leaders  have not yet encountered. This new resource will target issues including recruiting, budgeting, and family relations. 

 “We are moving toward a time when resources are going to be stressed,” said Maj. Gen. Mike Taylor, retired. “We have  been there before”

 With a weakened economy and a downgraded military force, this is the right time to conserve resources and elicit the aid  of experienced veterans. With this new council, Nichols can more efficiently engage the challenges that lay ahead.

“I don’t know of any other TAG that has done this,”  said Col. Suzanne Atkinson. “It is a great benefit to be able to bring all of these men in the same room”

With unique experiences and backgrounds, each member contributes something different. Many of these former general offices continue their service as civilians in other departments of the military.

“We have Gen. Owens (working for the National Guard Bureau) giving us the latest and greatest information,” said Atkinson
Many others maintained their leadership role in their communities as politicians, business owners, and heads of organizations.

“We have people here from all over the state,” said Taylor. “A lot of us are embedded in the community.

The councilmen all had equal input on the future of the Guard they once led. All members had the opportunity to voice their expert opinions.

“[Nichols] opened up the floor for discussion,” said Taylor. “No limits when he asked for feedback.”

The goals of this first meeting did not specifically include problem solving sessions or resolution of pending issues. Instead, the adjutant general and his stall briefed the council on current missions and discussed the new capabilities of the Texas Military Forces.

“It gave us a chance to showcase what we’re doing now,” said Atkinson. 

Nichols concluded the conference with one question: “If you had the opportunity to do it again, what would you change?” 

One by one, the councilmen gave their answer, leaving Nichols with invaluable notes. Nichols had tapped a well of experience.

“We don’t want to go down a road with no return that puts our structure at risk,” said Nichols. “I consider it a huge success”

Texas Department of Health Services and Texas Military Forces Jointly Train for Disaster Response

Texas Department of Health Services and Texas Military Forces Jointly Train for Disaster Response
Spc. Luke Elliott, 100th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

Photo of PFC Kyle O'Boyle of the Texas State Guard taking the pulse of Christa Benavides
PFC Kyle O’Boyle of the Texas State Guard takes the pulse of Christa Benavides at Operation Lone Star 2011 in Laredo TX. Operation Lone Star is the nation’s largest humanitarian military exercise. It takes place each summer in the Rio Grande Valley and provides free medical care for two weeks for all who walk in. It’s also training for these soldiers and airmen for disaster response in Texas. It’s a joint project of the Texas Military Forces plus federal, state and local health agencies.Photo by COL Robert Morecook, JTF-OLS PAO, TXSG

LAREDO, Texas—Some describe it as a disaster response exercise, while others call it the nation’s largest humanitarian medical mission. The reality is that Operation Lone Star is both.

On Aug. 1, Operation Lone Star, a 13-year, annual tradition in Southern Texas, began its second week of providing health care services to people living near Laredo, Hebbronville, and Rio Bravo, Texas.

The Texas Department of State Health Services supported by the Texas State Guard, Texas Army and Air National Guard, U.S. Public Health Service, and country and local municipalities are collaborating for the exercise. Operation Lone Star is a real-world, emergency response exercise that allows first-response agencies and organizations to prepare for potential disasters while at the same time providing free medical care to those in need along the Texas border.

More than 400 military members, 300 federal, state and county employees and a myriad of volunteers united for the exercise, which started July 25 and ends Aug. 5. It provides a variety of medical services to include immunizations, sports physicals, blood pressure screenings, vision exams, pharmaceutical service, medical referrals, ministry services and preventative health education.

Operation Lone Star workers and volunteers provided more than 36,000 health services to about 5,950 people during the first week of the exercise, which was held in several Texas cities to include Brownsville, San Juan, Mission and Rio Grande City.

“We are providing free healthcare to the surrounding communities, those that are in underprivileged areas and those that do not have access on a day-to-day basis to affordable healthcare,” said Capt. Daniel Sem, a second-year, Operation Lone Star veteran. He is serving as the Texas Army National Guard officer in charge at the Laredo Operation Lone Star site. “I came away last year, and I trust I will come away this year, feeling like we did a job well done out here. We got a mission and a purpose and made an impact on the community.”

One of Capt. Sem’s Soldiers, Spc. LaRee Lennox, 162nd Area Support Medical Company, a Texas Army National Guard unit from San Antonio, Texas, said that since a lot of people here could not afford healthcare or insurance, this event helped provide much needed annual checkups and immunizations.

“I think it’s awesome that we’re helping,” said Lennox. “Everybody should have a chance to be healthy and get checked out, so I think it’s a good thing.”

While providing medical care is a major focus of the event, the other purpose is to prepare disaster response agencies and organizations in case an emergency situation, such as a hurricane landfall, emerges.

“The training that we get in running a non-disaster exercise like this prepares us for working together in disaster situations,” said Col. Robert Morecook, public affairs officer for the Medical Brigade of the Texas State Guard. “We get to know each other’s capabilities. We get to know each other’s personalities. We get to see where the strengths and the weaknesses are in our organization in a situation before a real disaster happens.”

This real-world training exercise is an important part of emergency preparedness for the Texas Military Forces and other agencies that may respond to hurricanes and other disasters.

“The training value from this is invaluable because when we have an emergency situation, a hurricane, a fire, a flood, whatever could happen, it’s better to learn it here in a controlled environment, a nonemergency environment, where we can come together and work out all the different hiccups and kinks in the system,” said Capt. Sem.

Operation Lone Star health care services will be available through Aug. 5 at the Laredo Civic Center at 2400 San Bernardo Ave. and at Hebbronville High School at 210 Longhorn Lane in Hebbronville, Texas. Services will also be provided Aug. 3-4 at the Rio Bravo City Hall at 1701 Centeno Ln. in Rio Bravo, Texas.