Posts From August, 2016

Texas Guardsmen graduate Chilean Mountain School 

Texas Guardsmen graduate Chilean Mountain School

Story by: Sgt. Elizabeth Peña

Texas Military Department

Texas Guardsmen attend the Chilean Mountain School course August 15-26, 2016 in Portillo, Chile with Chilean army soldiers. The 10-day course consisted of basic competencies on movement, maneuvering, and life-saving techniques in spring and winter mountain terrain. Through these military exchanges, soldiers are given the opportunity to experience new types of operations. (Courtesy Photo)
Texas Guardsmen attend the Chilean Mountain School course August 15-26, 2016 in Portillo, Chile with Chilean army soldiers. The 10-day course consisted of basic competencies on movement, maneuvering, and life-saving techniques in spring and winter mountain terrain. Through these military exchanges, soldiers are given the opportunity to experience new types of operations. (Courtesy Photo)

RIO BLANCO, Chile – Twenty-one Texas Guardsmen successfully completed the “Escuela de Montaña” Chilean Mountain School short course August 15-26, 2016 in Rio Blanco. 

“The course was designed as a two-week synopsis of their four-month long mountain warfare course, which is similar to our Ranger school,” said Texas Army National Guard 1st. Lt. Michael A. Affeldt, scout platoon leader of the 1st Battalion (Airborne) 143rd Infantry Regiment, and officer in charge of the Texas military exchange for the course. “So it’s a pretty prestigious course to go through in Chile.” 

The 21 Guardsmen had to score at least a 290 on the Army Physical Fitness Texas, speak Spanish and have previous experience in cold weather and mountain terrain. The course consists of basic competencies on movement, maneuvering and life-saving techniques in spring and winter mountain terrain.

“The course starts off in Rio Blanco, which is at the base of the mountains. It was 30 degrees at night and 65 degrees during the day,” said Texas Army National Guard Cpl. Nicholas C. Graff, fire team leader with the 143rd Infantry Regiment. 

The first phase focused on summer climbing techniques such as rock climbing, repelling, ascending and water crossings.

“We practiced pack animal training so we used mules,” said Graff. “They use mules to carry gear where they can’t get vehicles. All the stuff that we did in the summer phase, led into a culminating event for the winter section.”

The second phase consisted of winter operations such as, cross-country ski, downhill skiing, medevac and foreign weapons familiarization.

“We also dug snow shelters that we slept in a couple nights. Digging ice caves was a lot of fun,” said Graff.

Texas’ coldest winters couldn’t hold up to the Chilean seven-degree mountain climate, but Affeldt said his Soldiers kept perseverance throughout the course.

“Downhill skiing was a struggle in itself, then they threw in cross-country skiing, which is a little bit more difficult. So the first day everyone was kind of looking like Bambi, but by the end of the week we were able to climb up mountain and do a company exercise,” said Affeldt.

Through these military exchanges, soldiers are given the opportunity to experience new types of operations. 

“The ability to sit down with another army and to be able to hang out with people of a different culture, and see the world through their eyes was incredible,” said Affeldt.

Texas National Guard and Chile have been working together since 2009 though the National States’ partnership program. The program is managed by the National Guard Bureau, and is designed to link a state’s National Guard with a partner nation’s military forces and government agencies in a cooperative, mutually beneficial relationship.

“The way it benefits the Texas Military Department is the ability for us to take soldiers from across the division and entire state and send them to an environment to train in that we don’t have the ability to train in,” said Affeldt. “Now we have Soldiers coming back that understand how to do operations in cold weather climates, mountainous terrain and how to deal with adversity in different environments.”

Although the training environment between Chile and Texas may differ slightly, military-to-military battle rhythms are quite similar.

“The army values were a major part of the training,” said Affeldt. “It took large amounts of personal courage for some to overcome uncomfortable and new situations, but when it comes down to it, duty and honor wouldn't let us fail.”

Last year, the Texas Military Department conducted 14 military exchanges with Chilean partners that included engineering, medical and disaster response as well as the best warrior competition. 

“It’s crazy that the soldier mentality transfers that far,” said Graff. “They like to train, they like to go hard everyone seemed to get along really well. The best thing we did was build relationships down there and learning how to interact with them and who they are as people. I made some good friends.”

The Texas Military Department is scheduled to host their Chilean partners this November to conduct search and rescue training at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas.

Friday, August 26, 2016 3:56:00 PM Categories: Texas Army National Guard

Texas Gunfighters join in Hawaii ANG’s Sentry Aloha 

Texas Gunfighters join in Hawaii ANG’s Sentry Aloha

Story by: Staff Sgt. Mindy Bloem


Posted: August 26, 2016

Brig. Gen. Gregory Woodrow, commander of the 154th Wing, assists Master Sgt. Jacqueline Crow, Operations Intelligence Analyst, with operating the parachute release as Tech. Sgt. Kevin Yamaguchi, crew chief, both of the 149th Fighter Wing, Texas Air National Guard, headquartered at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, observes at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, Aug. 22, 2016. All members completed water survival training as a requirement prior to taking a flight with the 149th F-16 Fighting Falcons as part of the Sentry Aloha 2016, a large-scale fighter exercise hosted by the Hawaii Air National Guard. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Rebekkah Jandron)
Brig. Gen. Gregory Woodrow, commander of the 154th Wing, assists Master Sgt. Jacqueline Crow, Operations Intelligence Analyst, with operating the parachute release as Tech. Sgt. Kevin Yamaguchi, crew chief, both of the 149th Fighter Wing, Texas Air National Guard, headquartered at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, observes at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, Aug. 22, 2016. All members completed water survival training as a requirement prior to taking a flight with the 149th F-16 Fighting Falcons as part of the Sentry Aloha 2016, a large-scale fighter exercise hosted by the Hawaii Air National Guard. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Rebekkah Jandron)

JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii – Pilots, maintainers and various support personnel from the Texas Air National Guard’s 149th Fighter Wing traveled to Hawaii to participate in Sentry Aloha, Aug. 17-26, 2016. 

Sentry Aloha is a large-scale, combat exercise that employs several different fighter and support aircraft from varying Air Force units, maneuvering together in a simulated wartime environment. 

Various aircraft – C-130s, KC-135s, C-17s, F-16s, F-15s, F-22s – lined the ramps along Hickam’s runway ramps in order to perform strategic joint combat operations.

“Part of the purpose of Sentry Aloha is to integrate with the other Guard platforms as well as some active duty units that are here to better understand how each other operates, so if called upon for some type of contingency, we have a backbone to fall on – that we’ve operated together, and we can all be force multipliers for each other,” said Lt. Col. Kristian Thiele, a 149th Fighter Wing F-16 instructor pilot. 

Performing these coordinated scenarios with other type of aircraft was a chance for the 149th FW pilots to broaden their scope of training.

“Back home, we typically fight F-16s against F-16s, so to get to work on the same team with other aircraft, both F-15s and F-22s, teaches everyone how the different systems work and how we can all work together, enhancing our strength,” said Lt. Col. Louis Davenport, another 149th FW F-16 pilot. 

Davenport is a traditional Guardsman who typically comes to the unit to fly the F-16 aircraft once a month during Unit Training Assembly weekends, or “drill” as it’s known among Guard members.  

“This really provides me an opportunity to get to know everyone and figure out what’s going on in the unit and to just get a greater opportunity for continuity of learning,” Davenport said. “I mean, I’m here flying at least one mission a day, so it really compounds our capabilities, at least for me, instead of being like, ‘well, that was great and now I’m going to do my other job.’ Now I’ve got two weeks of intense training.“

Since the primary mission of the 149th FW is to train and create combat capable F-16 pilots, this exercise also added unique value to the pilots’ distinctive skill set.

“We are definitely fighting some pretty difficult scenarios, learning a lot of good lessons based on those scenarios,” said Thiele. “We don’t necessarily get the opportunity to do a lot of this high-level integration with very robust threats so we are getting a lot out of it, and I think a kind of ‘re-blueing’ as we would call it in our community – getting to see a lot of these newer combat tactics and be involved in it.”

The fighter pilots weren’t the only ones involved in the exercise. Several supporting agencies from the wing traveled by military airlift to offer their assistance for this year’s training as well, which featured more than 40 aircraft from eight other states. 

Capt. Christopher Myers, a logistics readiness officer with the 149th FW’s Logistics Readiness Squadron, understands the kind of effort it takes to pull off an event of this scale. Myers, who was in charge of requesting airlift and arranging many of the logistical details that go into deploying nearly 80 personnel, began the planning several months in advance. 

“There’s a lot that goes into planning these things out – a lot more than people realize,” Myers said in regards to figuring out details like cargo, bus transportation, securing forklift operators, and all the other minutiae a trip like this entails. He likened it to putting out fires, where once you put one out, another one pops up. 

“It basically comes down to thinking through the entire process,” Myers said. “That’s the hardest part is trying to think through the whole process – all the variables and everything that can go wrong.”

The host of support is not lost on the fighter pilots training in this exercise. They know a lot of people are behind them to make a mission like Sentry Aloha happen. 

“Everyone has been able to launch their full complement of aircraft so we can conduct the mission because of the great support from not only the Sentry Aloha staff providing for us here but obviously also just the internal unit – the folks we bring along to make the mission happen,” Thiele said. 

And for Thiele, that team effort is much of what makes the Guard shine during these types of training events. 

“This is Guard-centric exercise, typically, but what I really think it shows is how important the Guard is to not only the overall structure of the Air Force but also the military in general and what we bring to the fight,” he said. “You’ve got F-22s here at Hickam that are on the leading edge of what’s going on here in PACAF (Pacific Air Forces) and PACOM (U.S. Pacific Command) and they’re a Guard unit. Same with the (F-15) Eagles that are down here, so getting to bring in some stateside guys, getting them a little taste into what’s going on right now in PACAF and PACOM, then seeing that from an entire Guard perspective how we can do stuff – I think it’s good for the Guard and good for everyone else to see how involved we are around the world.“

Friday, August 26, 2016 3:53:00 PM Categories: Texas Army National Guard

Exportable Combat Training Capability 16-5 

Exportable Combat Training Capability 16-5

Story by: Sgt. Michael Vanpool and Sgt. 1st Class Thomas Wheeler

Posted: Aug. 26, 2016
 

Soldiers with Company A, 2nd Battalion, 42nd Infantry Regiment, 56th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, look out from their attack positions behind a hill during a dismounted platoon attack lane at Fort Hood, Aug. 14. The brigade’s annual training, the Exportable Combat Training Capability program, allowed platoons to complete lanes and then to recap their performance during an instrumented after action review. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Michael Vanpool)
Soldiers with Company A, 2nd Battalion, 42nd Infantry Regiment, 56th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, look out from their attack positions behind a hill during a dismounted platoon attack lane at Fort Hood, Aug. 14. The brigade’s annual training, the Exportable Combat Training Capability program, allowed platoons to complete lanes and then to recap their performance during an instrumented after action review. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Michael Vanpool)

FORT HOOD, Texas - Nearly 2,600 soldiers from the Texas Army National Guard’s 56th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 36th Infantry Division, descended on Fort Hood for the Exportable Combat Training Capability program 16-5, Aug. 6-26.

The xCTC program is an Army National Guard brigade held training exercise designed to certify combat proficiency at the platoon level with support from First Army.

“The purpose of an xCTC is to train a National Guard BCT’s platoons to proficiency,” said Col. Jim Isenhower, commander, 189th Combined Arms Training Brigade, First Army (Division West).

The 56th includes infantry, scout, and artillery units. In addition medical, engineer, signal,and several support platoons comprise the brigade.

“Each of their platoons have very different missions and our job is to help them train to proficiency during their ready-year 3,” he added.

With support from nearly 300 Observer/Coach, Trainers (O/CTs) of the 189th Combined Arms Training Brigade based out of Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, the Guardsman tackled multiple training lanes ranging from vehicle recovery and platoon defensive operations to mass casualty and route clearance procedures.

Each lane conducted multiple iterations following a crawl- walk-run strategy and was followed by an interactive after action review that ensured each participating platoon identified their deficiencies and applied those lessons learned to future repetitions.

“It’s been the best training I’ve seen in years,” said Col. David Webb, commander of the 56th IBCT for the past two years. “It’s shown me where our weaknesses are and what we need to work on in training-year 17.”

The multi-faceted brigade is spread across several hundred miles of the north, central, east and west regions of Texas. Annual training allows the brigade to work as one cohesive unit.

“The reality of the training far exceeded anything we could do on a drill weekend and with the OPFOR, and xCTC effects, there’s no hiding, your readiness is right there in black and white. Because of it we are phenomenally better then when we started on day one,” Webb added.

Capt. Joanna Van Engel, commander for Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 949th Brigade Support Battalion, 56th IBCT, agreed with Webb about the training value and importance and stressed its role in increasing her unit’s readiness.

“It increased our readiness because when my Soldiers get realistic, real-world training they learn how to react as a team and that cohesiveness translates to a combat environment,” Van Engel said. “It also gives us the validation that we need that our troops can perform in a combat situation and it gives them confidence in themselves and each other.”

Van Engel and Webb both went on to attribute much of their unit’s success during the exercise to the 189th CATB OC/T support.

“I really appreciate what the OC/Ts did to create realistic training,” Van Engel said. “They gave us some very valuable guidance and were able to observe my troops from aspects that I can’t always get to. They really served as my eyes and ears.”

Following each lane iteration, the platoons gathered with the OC/Ts to have an interactive after action review. Notes were augmented with two and three- dimensional troop movements, as well as video recordings.

“Their method was to come out here, support us, and make us better and they helped us to be successful,” Webb added.

The Guardsmen and women were not graded, but given a benchmark. They were then trained and coached to improvement and proficiency.

“We are indebted to them for all of their help and mentorship and honest evaluation. The 189 just basically never said no. They facilitated anything that I asked them to. It’s been the best OC/T experience I’ve had, and I’ve had several.”

Since its  first rotation held in 2005, the xCTC program has been designed to provide tough, realistic training for participating brigades as well as methods for achieving company level and battalion battle staff  proficiency for ARNG units during pre- mobilization training.

The exercise also satisfies requirements for possible participation in future Combat Training Center rotations at the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, Louisiana, or the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California.

Friday, August 26, 2016 3:34:00 PM Categories: Texas Army National Guard

Lone Star Gunfighter soars at Pentagon 

Lone Star Gunfighter soars at Pentagon

Story By: 2nd Lt. Phil Fountain

Posted on: August 23, 2016

Photo By 94th Airlift Wing | Air Force Gen. (then Maj.) Joseph L. Lengyel (second from left), the 28th Chief of the National Guard Bureau, stands alongside fellow F-16 Fighting Falcon pilots assigned to the 149th Fighter Wing, Texas Air National Guard, during an overseas deployment, circa 1996. Lengyel was a member of the wing from 1991-2004. Pictured left to right: Bryan Bailey (unknown rank), Lengyel, Mike Littrell (unknown rank), and Ray Segui (unknown rank). (Photo courtesy of Gen. Joseph L. Lengyel via www.Facebook.com/GeneralLengyel)
Photo By 94th Airlift Wing | Air Force Gen. (then Maj.) Joseph L. Lengyel (second from left), the 28th Chief of the National Guard Bureau, stands alongside fellow F-16 Fighting Falcon pilots assigned to the 149th Fighter Wing, Texas Air National Guard, during an overseas deployment, circa 1996. Lengyel was a member of the wing from 1991-2004. Pictured left to right: Bryan Bailey (unknown rank), Lengyel, Mike Littrell (unknown rank), and Ray Segui (unknown rank). (Photo courtesy of Gen. Joseph L. Lengyel via www.Facebook.com/GeneralLengyel)

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas – A former member of the 149th Fighter Wing, Texas Air National Guard was promoted to the rank of general and became the 28th Chief of the National Guard Bureau at the Department of Defense, in Washington, Aug. 3, 2016.

Air Force Gen. Joseph L. Lengyel of Bulverde, Texas, succeeds Army Gen. Frank J. Grass, as the Pentagon’s senior National Guard leader and member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Grass, a Missouri National Guardsman, is scheduled to retire later this month after four decades of military service.

Lengyel’s appointment follows his service as the first three-star, NGB vice chief.

“Gen. Lengyel is the right man for this critical position, and the depth and breadth of his experience make him exceptionally well-qualified,” said U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, the senior senator from Texas, during Lengyel’s Senate confirmation hearing, on June 22, 2016, in Washington.

“His 34 years of distinguished military service include an array of operational, staff, and command assignments,” Cornyn said, “as well as service in Operations Desert Storm, Provide Comfort, Southern Watch, and Enduring Freedom.”

In his new role, Lengyel will serve as a key military advisor to the president, secretary of defense and the National Security Council, as well as serve as the Pentagon’s official channel of communication to the state’s governors and adjutants general on all matters pertaining to the National Guard.

He is now responsible for ensuring that nearly 470,000 Army and Air National Guard personnel are accessible, capable and ready to protect the homeland and to provide combat resources to the Army and Air Force.

“I couldn’t be more pleased with what I see with the integration of the active force with the reserve components,” Lengyel said. “We have no other choice but to leverage the business model of the reserve components as we go forward.”

While he’s at the peak of National Guard leadership, the general’s military roots run deep through the state of Texas.

Lengyel earned his commission through the Air Force Reserve Officers' Training Corps program at the University of North Texas, in Denton, and earned his pilot’s wings at Laughlin Air Force Base, near Del Rio.

After serving nearly ten years in the Regular Air Force, Lengyel transitioned to the Texas Air National Guard, where he flew with the 182nd Fighter Squadron at San Antonio’s Kelly Field. The 182nd is a subordinate unit of the 149th Fighter Wing, headquartered at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, and the members of the unit are known as the Lone Star Gunfighters.

“I’m proud to serve alongside Gen. Lengyel,” said Maj. Gen. John F. Nichols, the 51st Adjutant General of Texas, who served with Lengyel at the 149th Fighter Wing when both were colonels. “He’s been a wingman for me, in the air and in life. He has the character to do what’s right and takes care of his people.”

Lengyel served in numerous roles at the 149th Fighter Wing, culminating as vice wing commander, before he was selected to serve as an expeditionary operations group commander at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan.

“He continues to make us proud,” Nichols said. “We stand behind him as he takes on this greater responsibility. Gen. Lengyel’s expertise, experience and dedicated service are a great asset to Texas and the United States.”

“As vice chief, and now chief, his charge is to look many years into the future and help guide and shape a National Guard force that meets our nation’s needs,” Nichols said. “I trust him to do what’s right for America. In addition to making the right decisions, I know he will continue to inspire those who follow him, just as he did here (in Texas).”

Throughout his time in the Lone Star State, Lengyel has touched the lives of those with whom he served.

“He genuinely cares about others,” said retired Lt. Col. Greg Whiting, a former Gunfighter and current chief of air operations for Headquarters, Texas Air National Guard, in Austin. “It’s who he is and it has always shaped everything he has done.”

Even as his military career has taken him away from the 149th Fighter Wing, Lengyel has remained connected with the Gunfighter community, taking time to interact with Gunfighters when their missions overlap.

Whiting said he first met Lengyel in 1990, at Diyarbakir Air Base, Turkey, prior to the start of the Gulf War. Later, they served together for several years at the 149th Fighter Wing.

“He’s always been approachable,” Whiting said. “Even as he moved up the leadership chain, his situational awareness was always there. He knew what was going on around him because he cared about the people around him - and still does.”

Whiting said he next served with Lengyel during the mid-‘90s, when they were both assigned to the 149th Fighter Wing. At the time, there was paradigm shift underway in the Air National Guard, leading to more professional operations.

“We started mirroring and employing active duty tactics,” Whiting said. “He was, without a doubt, the most foundational guy that brought the Gunfighters, and the 149th Fighter Wing, up to where we’re not just a sub for the active duty, but we’re on par with the active duty.”

Whiting said power and position have not changed Lengyel from the man he has known for 25 years.

“My first impression of him hasn’t changed as long as I’ve known him,” Whiting said. “He lived the Air Force Core Values (Integrity First – Service Before Self – Excellence in All We Do) long before they became officially embraced by the Air Force.”

Based on these innate values, Whiting said, Lengyel built trust with his fellow Gunfighters.

“He didn’t just do it, he excelled at it,” Whiting said. “Integrity is what builds trust, and trust is what you have to have in the fighter world. You have to be able to trust your wingman, those in your flight, and that’s what he did.”

Whiting attributes Lengyel’s success to leading by example and setting the standard for others to follow.

“If he says he’s going to do something, he’s going to do it, and if you say you’re going do something, he expects you to do it,” Whiting said. “It’s a great thing, especially when a leader holds people accountable. It was a professional thing; that’s what makes everyone function at a higher level than they’re used to.”

Whiting also discussed the new chief’s proficiency as an F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot, including how Lengyel remained a top performer as a traditional, citizen-airman of the National Guard while also working full-time as a commercial airline pilot.

“He could be on airline trips for a month or more, and come back and lead an 8-ship strike package to the tanker, fight his way into the target against red air, and somehow know that six miles behind him, ‘No. 8’ was out of position,” Whiting said. “Everybody wanted to be paired with him, because they trusted him, and well, the guy is one of the most gifted fighter pilots I’ve ever flown with.”

During his first remarks as chief, Lengyel discussed the challenges of balancing a military and civilian career.

“One of the most important partnerships that I want to mention is with our employers,” Lengyel said. “Our business model doesn’t work without them. I have been on extended military leave (from a commercial airline)."

Lengyel said the airline he flies for has more than 200 pilots currently on military leave, allowing them to serve in uniform.

“There are hundreds more that have to manipulate the schedules,” Lengyel said. The airline “has to work around to make their model work so that we’re not late and there’s pilots and aviators there” to serve their customers.

Lengyel thanked the work of civilian employers, like his, who work with their National Guard employees to ensure the employees never have to choose one profession over the other.

Praise for Lengyel’s character was also shared up the military chains of command.

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said, at the change of responsibility ceremony, “I know that the men and women of our National Guard, and the families that stand by them, will be well served by General Joe Lengyel who is not only an accomplished pilot and experienced commander, but is also a military son, husband, brother and a father.”

The general’s father, retired Lt. Col. Lauren R. Lengyel, was an RF-4 Phantom II reconnaissance pilot who was shot down over Vietnam and served six years as a prisoner of war. He returned to service and retired from the Air Force in 1990.

Lengyel’s wife, Sally, is an Air Force veteran, and their son, Capt. Michael J. Lengyel is following in his father’s footsteps as an F-16 pilot. Additionally, the new NGB leader’s brother, Maj. Gen. Gregory J. Lengyel, also an Air Force pilot, is the deputy commanding general of the Joint Special Operations Command, headquartered at Fort Bragg, N.C.

Lengyel is a “proven strategic thinker and citizen warrior,” Carter said. “Gen. Lengyel will lead this force with certainty, clarity, and the full confidence and trust of myself and the president.”

Lengyel, a reserve officer on active duty who retains membership in the Texas Air National Guard, has also been praised by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, the state’s commander-in-chief.

“Having defended our nation both at home and abroad, Gen. Lengyel brings a wealth of experience to the Joint Chiefs of Staff,” Abbott said. “Gen. Lengyel’s outstanding service at both the state and national levels has prepared him for this important role on our nation’s most critical body of military leaders.”

The new chief has remained humble and forward-looking throughout his transition.

“Although we are proud of our heritage and our past, I am more excited about our future,” Lengyel said after his nomination was announced. “The development of our most important assets, our people, will be our foremost task.”

Lengyel said his focus will be in three areas: supporting the Army and Air Force in any current or future warfight, defending the homeland, and building partnerships.

He also praised the soldiers and airmen of the National Guard in his first letter to the force, the day after he was sworn in.

“You serve with valor in combat,” Lengyel wrote. “Here at home, no matter the cause – natural disaster, crime, terrorism – you bring safety and resiliency to our communities. All the while, you partner with our allies around the world; with our federal, state, and territorial government partners; and with our fellow citizens throughout the country.”

“I look forward to working hard every day to tell your story,” Lengyel wrote.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016 7:40:00 AM Categories: Texas Air National Guard

Texas Guardsmen meet with active duty components to prepare for Associated Pilot Program 

Texas Guardsmen meet with active duty components to prepare for Associated Pilot Program

Story by: Sgt. Elizabeth Peña

Posted: Aug. 22, 2016

Key leaders from the Texas Military Department and active-duty gathered at the round table, August 12, 2016, at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas, for the Associated Unit Pilot Leadership forum. This was the first event hosted by Texas since the AUP program was implemented. The meeting gave active duty leaders an idea of what the National Guard does and the different pay statuses that guardsmen can be in. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by: Sgt. Elizabeth Pena/Released)
Key leaders from the Texas Military Department and active-duty gathered at the round table, August 12, 2016, at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas, for the Associated Unit Pilot Leadership forum. This was the first event hosted by Texas since the AUP program was implemented. The meeting gave active duty leaders an idea of what the National Guard does and the different pay statuses that guardsmen can be in. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by: Sgt. Elizabeth Pena/Released)

AUSTIN, Texas – Key leaders from the Texas Military Department and active-duty gathered at the round table, August 12, 2016, at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas, for the Associated Unit Pilot Leadership forum.

The multi-year pilot program was designed to increase the readiness and responsiveness of the U.S. Army, Army National Guard and Army Reserves.

“So for today, and the last 15 years, we’ve been a National Guard that gets mobilized and we work closely with the active duty,” said Maj. Gen. John F. Nichols, the adjutant general of Texas, “but when we aren’t mobilized, we are really two separate partners. This program is trying to bring us more together more of the time.” 

This was the first event hosted by Texas since the AUP program was implemented. The meeting gave active duty leaders an idea of what the National Guard does and the different pay statuses that guardsmen can be in.

“Texas has a lot of involvement in the new program with the Army,” said Lt. Col. Stephen J. Koulouch, commander of the 62nd Engineer Battalion, based out of Fort Hood. “So this is a chance for the leadership of the Texas National Guard to kind of bring everyone involved to see each other’s faces.”

Under the new program, select reserve components will be joined with an active duty unit, based on job specialty. 

“We have the training schedule for the next fiscal year so we are actually sitting down and going through and seeing where we can integrate with some technical expertise,” said active-duty Command Sgt. Maj. Robert Miles, of the 62nd Eng. Batt., at Fort Hood, Texas. 

AUP will help minimize pre-mobilization time, creating a more efficient systematic and approach to future deployments.

“The purpose of the program is to increase readiness in the entire Army,” said Koulouch. “By design our guardsmen have a longer leave time required between mobilizing and actually deploying, and that’s okay, but the intent of this program is to kind of reduce that time that’s required and increase the readiness of some of these Guard units that are getting ready deploy.”

Soldiers can gain knowledge and experience from each other to create a stronger force across the board.

“As a commander of an active battalion,” said Koulouch. “We do many things well and we have many things we want to improve upon. As an engineer, I understand that the majority of the engineer forces in the Army are actually in the Guard and the Reserve, just by nature of the soldiers and their experiences.”

Recently, soldiers from the Texas Army National Guard's 1st Battalion (Airborne), 143rd Infantry Regiment in Austin, Texas, participated in a patch-over ceremony with the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, an active duty unit stationed in Vicenza, Italy.

The patch-over-ceremony symbolizes the 143rd guard unit, becoming a part of the 173rd active unit. Texas guardsmen will wear the patch of the 173rd until 2019.

“We will always carry the historic lineage and honors of the 143rd Infantry Regiment,” said Texas Army National Guard Lt. Col. Kurt J. Cyr, commander, 1st Battalion, 143rd Infantry Regiment (Airborne). “But we are looking forward to beginning a new chapter of history for both the 143rd and the 173rd, together.”

For Texas this was the first big step under the new program. Three more Texas Army National Guard units are scheduled to join active duty units this year. The AUP forum gave key leaders a chance get familiarized and begin to exchange ideas about future operations.

“I appreciate the leadership from the Texas National Guard pulling all leaders from the active side and the guard side; it’s very professional,” said Koulouch. “Over the next two years as my brigade has the association with this unit I’m looking forward to other opportunities for us to benefit.”

Monday, August 22, 2016 9:25:00 AM Categories: Texas Army National Guard

Texas Guardsmen support neighbors, battle buddies in need 

Texas Guardsmen support neighbors, battle buddies in need

Story by: Pvt. Kourtney Grimes

Posted: Aug. 22, 20016

Texas Army National Guard Cadet David Williams, 149th ARB, and a current resident of Baton Rouge in Houston collected supplies to bring to Louisiana Guardsmen who lost their homes to the recent flooding in Baton Rouge, August 21, 2016. Texas Guardsmen from the unit collected more than 20 bags of clothes, appliances, tools, diapers, baby formula and food for the victims of the natural disaster and transported them more than 250 miles for the effected guardsmen and their families. (Courtesy photo)
Texas Army National Guard Cadet David Williams, 149th Attack-Reconnaissance Battalion, and a current resident of Baton Rouge in Houston collected supplies to bring to Louisiana Guardsmen who lost their homes to the recent flooding in Baton Rouge, August 21, 2016. Texas Guardsmen from the unit collected more than 20 bags of clothes, appliances, tools, diapers, baby formula and food for the victims of the natural disaster and transported them more than 250 miles for the effected guardsmen and their families. (Courtesy photo)

HOUSTON -- Texas Guardsmen from the 1st Battalion, 149th Attack-Reconnaissance Battalion in Houston, Texas collected and delivered supplies to fellow guardsmen who were affected by recent flooding in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, August 21, 2016.

Within only two weeks, Louisiana has received more than seven trillion gallons of rain, damaging more than 60,000 buildings and forcing thousands of families out of their homes.

As a result, mare than 3,000 Louisiana Guardsmen were activated to help with flood relief across the state. Many of the soldiers called to duty had been displaced from their own home as well.

Thankfully, their neighboring partners in Texas were there to help.

“The units that are being affected are the same units that helped my family during Hurricane Katrina,” said Texas Army National Guard Cadet David Williams, 149th Attack-Reconnaissance Battalion. "Not only are these my brothers in arms, but also these are the people that helped me out when I was growing up in Katrina.”

This scene isn’t new to Williams, a current resident of Baton Rouge. Aware of the devastation that comes with flooding like this, Williams was determined to help.

“I called just about every phone number that I could get ahold of in Texas,” said Williams.

Williams, along with a few other Texas guardsmen, decided to start a supply drive for the displaced service members of Baton Rouge.

“It’s important to me because these are our brothers in arms who are answering the call, doing their duty and while they’re doing that, they are under a terrible situation,” said Williams, “losing their own property as well.” 

Williams and his fellow battle buddies coordinated the unit’s efforts, collecting three vehicle loads of supplies, including over 20 bags of clothes, appliances, tools, diapers, baby formula and food. The supplies were then transported more than 250 miles into Baton Rouge by three of the Texas guardsmen.

The donations were then sorted out by the needs of the specific guard families in a local chapel that was temporarily transitioned into a collection site.
“Some of the soldiers have over nine feet of water in their homes. I know, from personal experience after Katrina, what it is like to go through that and it’s a lot. It’s not just water going through your house. It will sit there for ‘X’ amount of days and the mud and sewage backs up and you’re going to find wildlife in your houses. It’s devastating,” said Williams.

Louisiana Guardsmen have rescued more than 19,040 citizens and 2,660 pets to date. As the mission transitions from life rescues and disaster relief to support and recovery, the job is not close to being over.

“What we’re looking at now is that the waters have receded and there are heroes out there, the guardsmen, who, throughout this whole operation have been volunteering their time at shelters, handing out food, cooking on the side of the road while people are going inside of homes, taking out all of the rotted wood and ripping out carpet and stuff like that,” said a Louisiana Guardsmen Sgt. 1st. Class Denis Ricou.

While the Louisiana Guardsmen continues to help local citizens, their battle buddies in Texas are making sure they are taken care of as well.

“It’s just a case of neighbors helping neighbors, such as Texas,” said Ricou. “It’s brothers in arms. They wear the same uniform - they just have a different state attached to them in the National Guard. It’s just a great show of force and the one team, one fight mentality.”

If you would like to donate, please bring your donation to the reserve building at Ellington Field, 14268 Scholl St., Houston, Texas 77034 or contact the Texas Military Department at ng.tx.txarng.mbx.pao@mail.mil for directions on donating.

Monday, August 22, 2016 8:03:00 AM Categories: Texas Army National Guard

Accomplishing the mission at all levels 

Accomplishing the mission at all levels

Story By: Staff Sgt. Jennifer Atkinson

Posted On: Aug. 17, 2016

Photo By Staff Sgt. Jennifer Atkinson | Soldiers from the 836th Engineer Co. (Sappers) conduct training on fundamental Soldier skills during Troop Leading Procedure lanes at the 136th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade Exportable Combat Training Capability exercise at Ft. Hood, Texas, August 9-14. . TLP lanes reinforce proficiency in medical, communications, and weapons tasks, ensuring Minuteman Soldiers are combat ready. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Jennifer D. Atkinson/Released)
Photo By Staff Sgt. Jennifer Atkinson | Soldiers from the 836th Engineer Co. (Sappers) conduct training on fundamental Soldier skills during Troop Leading Procedure lanes at the 136th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade Exportable Combat Training Capability exercise at Ft. Hood, Texas, August 9-14. . TLP lanes reinforce proficiency in medical, communications, and weapons tasks, ensuring Minuteman Soldiers are combat ready. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Jennifer D. Atkinson/Released)

The success of the Army relies on strong leaders and skilled Soldiers to carry out their plans. For Soldiers of the 136th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, this year's annual training at Ft. Hood, Texas, offered the chance to improve proficiency in both.

“Col. [Scott] Mac Leod and I were talking about some of the needs we identified at the platoon sergeant and platoon leader level,” said Sgt. Maj. Michael Terzian, the brigade operations sergeant major, “and we wanted to give them the tools to better prepare for the operations we work on.” 

At the small unit levels, such as companies and platoons, leaders trained on troop leading procedures, a series of steps laid out to ensure no part of a planning a mission is neglected or forgotten, from receiving the mission to supervising and refining the training. Each step takes into account some aspect of the battle space that may affect the mission, including weather, movement, enemy, and support, and will affect even the smallest team of the organization.

“Right now, we're in the planning stage of the mission,” said Staff Sgt. Sampson Mejia, a squad leader for 3rd platoon, 836th Engineer Co. (Sappers). “We're gathering information, so we can push it out to the joes, and they can start preparing for the situation. We go through everything that's mission essential- light and weather data, our timeline, friendly and enemy units, and sustainment- our beans and bullets.”

TLPs are done at leadership levels, but the tasks are executed at the Soldier level and require precise knowledge of Soldier skills. To fulfill this requirement, Terzian scheduled warrior task training lanes for the enlisted members of the brigade.

“TLP is the process by which units prepare for training the following day,” said Terzian. “So we decided to run warrior training lanes concurrently, to give individual Soldiers something to work on, and make sure, as a platoon, all the Soldiers were involved.”

Warrior Task Training refers to skills taught in Basic Combat Training deemed critical to survival. Out of the 15 categories of WTT, “we picked four of them,” said Terzian, “and used the model of shoot, move and communicate, as well as taking care of your buddy.”

The four lanes selected for this training were performing a functions check on the M4 carbine, employ hand grenades, evaluate a casualty, and perform voice communications.

“I'm running the M4 task lane. Soldiers are clearing, disassembling, reassembling, and performing a functions check on the weapon,” said Sgt. James D. Patty, Headquarters and Headquarters Co., 136th Military Police Battalion. “Most of them are knocking it out in 30 seconds to a minute.”

Although Patty is a mechanic, he enjoyed sharpening his fundamental skills, as well as teaching other Soldiers. 

“For me, being out here to teach the M-4 is completely new,” he said. “I like doing new stuff, and our [military occupation specialty] isn't what we're teaching right now, so to come out here, relearn [a skill] and then teach it, it's very cool.”

This type of training is also a lot of bang for the buck, said Terzian, and continues the effort to promote good financial stewardship by the Texas Army National Guard.

“Surprisingly, this required very little money but was a big hit with the soldiers,” said Terzian, “so it goes to show that money is not the key ingredient to good training.”

The collaborative efforts of the troop leading procedures and the warrior task training units ensures Soldiers at all levels are prepared to execute their mission, whether stateside or abroad.

“Over the last 10 years, our units have done a lot of deploying, and we're good at it, but some of these skills are a little rusty.” he said. “This is a good opportunity to refresh those skills and build that foundation.”

Wednesday, August 17, 2016 8:21:00 AM Categories: Texas Army National Guard

Texan, Midwestern engineers deploy to Middle East 

Texan, Midwestern engineers deploy to Middle East

Story by: Adam Holguin

Posted on: Aug. 17, 2016

Photo By Adam Holguin | Soldiers assigned to the 389th Engineer Company and the 176th Engineer Brigade are led in prayer during the farewell brief at the Silas L. Copeland Airfield Control Group moments before boarding their flight to the Middle East July 29.
Photo By Adam Holguin | Soldiers assigned to the 389th Engineer Company and the 176th Engineer Brigade are led in prayer during the farewell brief at the Silas L. Copeland Airfield Control Group moments before boarding their flight to the Middle East July 29.

The 389th Engineer Company, a U.S. Army Reserve unit based out of Burlington, Iowa, and the 176th Engineer Brigade, a Texas Army National Guard Unit from Grand Prairie, departed the Silas L. Copeland Arrival/Departure Airfield Control Group en route to a mission in the U.S. Central Command Area of Operations July 29.

The vertical engineers of the 389th will complete missions throughout the area of operations, and the scope and size will dictate which assets are utilized, something unit officials have prepared for and are expecting.

“We will have teams as small as team level elements go out and complete missions in different locations,” said Capt. David Jacobs, commander, 389th Eng. Co. “We were really particular in picking our leadership down to the squad and team leader level to have someone strong that we could trust to be out there with the Soldiers and take care of stuff on their own.”

The units each completed an array of training at their respective home stations as well as a month of preparation at Fort Bliss, with the Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security.

“Training out at McGregor Range helped give us a lot of work on our tactical skills and convoy skills. It was good to be out here and get that experience before we get ready to deploy,” Jacobs said. “There are a lot more resources down here as far as ability … it was a lot easier here to get any kind of training that we wanted.”

For Spc. David Rasmussen, plumber, 389th Eng. Co., who is deploying for the first time, the training was integral in preparing for this mission by not only improve soldiering skills, but also building unit cohesion.

“I feel more confident after this training” Rasmussen said. “I feel closer to my unit now, especially my squad and platoon … we think and act together and it’s not even a hesitation anymore, we just go and do it.”

While the 476th Eng. Bde. departed on the same flight, their mission will be different. The Lone Star State engineers will provide the brigade-level element to all engineers in U.S. Central Command.

“The mission we have is to serve as the theater engineer brigade for central command,” said Col. Charles Schoening, brigade commander, 176th Eng. Bde. “We will be managing most of the down trace engineering capabilities within the area of operations.”

Identifying what resources are needed for a given mission and identifying which elements get dispatched to complete the mission is the primary focus of the 176th Eng. Bde.

“Managing materials, managing men, managing equipment, managing expertise,” said 1st Lt. Bobby Maphies, commander, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 176th Eng. Bde. “So that we send the right people to the right location for the right mission.”

The brigade also completed training and incorporated their duties into the fold.

“(What) really allowed us to hone our skills was our mission readiness exercise … we were provided the opportunity through different scenarios designed to run our staff through different basic injects and scenarios that we are going to see while we are in country,” Schoening said.

Having prepared in the desert climate on the training grounds of Fort Bliss for more than a month, the engineers of the 389th and the 176th are prepared for the environment and mission workload that awaits them in U.S. Central Command.

“Whatever missions are ahead of us, I feel like we will accomplish them no problem,” Rasmussen said. “We are good to go and we are ready to rock.”

“We are well prepared, well trained and we are really looking forward to getting started on this mission,” Schoening said.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016 8:08:00 AM Categories: Texas Army National Guard

Texas National Guard hosts Chilean Undersecretary  

Key leaders from the Texas Army National Guard, Air National Guard, and State Guard met with members of the Chilean Undersecretary at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas, August 8, 2016. Through the States Partnership Program, Texas has been partnered with Chile since 2009. The program is designed to link a State’s National Guard with a partner nation’s military forces government agencies in a cooperative, mutually beneficial relationship. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by: Sgt. Elizabeth Pena/Released)
Key leaders from the Texas Army National Guard, Air National Guard, and State Guard met with members of the Chilean Undersecretary at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas, August 8, 2016. Through the States Partnership Program, Texas has been partnered with Chile since 2009. The program is designed to link a State’s National Guard with a partner nation’s military forces government agencies in a cooperative, mutually beneficial relationship. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by: Sgt. Elizabeth Pena/Released) 

Texas National Guard hosts Chilean Undersecretary 

Story by: Sgt. Elizabeth Peña

Posted: Aug. 17, 2016

AUSTIN, Texas -- Key leaders from the Texas Army National Guard, Air National Guard, and State Guard met with Paulina Vodanovic, Chilean Undersecretary of the Armed Forces, and other leaders during a key leader engagement at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas, August 8, 2016. 

Vodanavic is third in the Ministry of Defense. This was the first visit to Texas and only her second visit to the U.S.
“Our focus was operational,” said Rodriguez. “Her experience and background is administrative and legal so we wanted her to understand the relationship the Chilean forces and the ministry of defense have with Texas at the operational level.”

The Texas National Guard has partnered with Chile since 2009 through the National States’ Partnership Program. The program is managed by the National Guard Bureau, and is designed to link a state’s National Guard with a partner nation’s military forces and government agencies in a cooperative, mutually beneficial relationship. 

“They basically select states and try to marry them up with nations that have similar capabilities or interest in what they are trying to accomplish,” said Texas Army National Guard Capt. Edgar Guerrero, State Partnership Program Coordinator for Chile.

For Texas and Chile, it creates opportunities for high-level exchanges and cooperation in civic-military activities, Armed Forces initiatives, national territory protection, military support to civilian authority, disaster response in case of emergencies, and handling of a humanitarian catastrophe.

One example of the collaboration efforts is Operation Lone Star, a medical preparedness exercise supported by local, state and federal officials, provided Texas and Chile the opportunity to partner in a real-world exercise that delivers medical care to underprivileged citizens. 

“The Chileans come to see how we provide care to disconnected or disadvantaged personnel,” said Guerrero. “They have Easter Island in which they have an indigenous population on an island that’s completely disconnected from the mainland that they go annually to provide care that we’re involved with as well.”

Last year, Texas National Guard and Chile completed approximately 14 military exchanges that included engineering, medical, and disaster response as well as best warrior competitions. 

Through these exchanges, Soldiers at ground level, all the way up to general officers gain knowledge and experience from one another. 

“In addition, with her being the policy driver in her country for the military,” said Rodriguez, “she is very particular, and interested at that level because she wants to make sure the policies that are developed at the institutional and higher level are exactly what the services need.”

The U.S. has been successfully building relationships for over 20 years that includes 70 unique security partnerships involving 76 nations around the globe. 

“Our State Partnership Program is very advanced,” said Rodriguez. The engagement level that the Texas Army National Guard has with Chile is not only at the general officer level but we are operating at the Ministry of Defense level. That’s truly where the impact is made, the decisions are made, and that’s where policy and laws are changed. We are making a significant difference through our SPP relationship not only for Texas but also for the U.S. and Chile.”

Wednesday, August 17, 2016 8:06:00 AM Categories: Texas Army National Guard

Texas National Guard Patch Ceremony to initiate Army of One 

Texas National Guard Patch Ceremony to initiate Army of One

Story by: Michelle McBride

Posted On: August 14, 2016

Photo of Ceremony when the patch being placed onto the uniform.AUSTIN, Texas - After months of planning, the first step in the process was underway. Once the “change patch” order was given, the Associated Units Pilot Program accomplished its first task.

Soldiers from the Texas Army National Guard 143rd Infantry Regiment in Austin, Texas, will participated in a patch-over ceremony with the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, an active duty unit stationed in Vincenza, Italy, on August 14, 2016.

“We are honored that the Army has selected our unit to help generate reserve force combat power in support of Army total force policy,” said Texas Army National Guard Lt. Col. Kurt J. Cyr, commander, 1st Battalion, 143rd Infantry Regiment (Airborne).

In March, the U.S. Army announced the implementation of the Associated Units Pilot Program, which is meant to create relationships between specified units across the active Army, Army Reserve and the Army National guard. This will also allow them the opportunity to train together before deploying.

“This is going to be a great demonstration of how the total Army fights,” said Col. Gregory Anderson, commander, 173rd Airborne Brigade.

The Chief of Staff of the Army directed a change to the reserve component force to increase unit readiness, reduce response time and change pre-mobilization training strategy.

The battalion will participate in the Associated Units Pilot Program from 2016 through 2019 in association with the 173rd Airborne Brigade. This means the 143rd will become part of the 173rd’s formation and will wear their unit patch.

“Most ceremonies mark either recognition of achievement or a transition,” said Anderson. “This particular ceremony, for them to don the 173rd patch is symbolic of their relationship to us and our responsibility to them.”

After the ceremony, they will visibly be part of the same team, said Anderson. They will then begin working to train and build readiness together, both stateside and overseas.

“The pilot program will ensure that our communication and coordination of training and resourcing requirements to achieve combat readiness is maintained, and will assist in the building of trust and cohesion between

our two units, establishing a One Army ethos in our leaders, regardless of what component they come from,” said Cyr.

For reserve components, this relationship means adding additional training days to their yearly schedule which many see as beneficial for the

home states of the reserve components. For Texas, this means an increase in readiness throughout the state.

“This pilot allows us to have a formal relationship with regard to certain training and readiness authorities and responsibilities, but still remain under the command of our parent unit in Texas,” said Cyr.

Along with increased readiness, there are also many other benefits that come from training alongside the active component including the testing of new strategies, frequent rotations to combat training centers and an overall elevated level of experience and cohesiveness. This will allow components to deploy together and fight seamlessly in combat under an established command relationship.

“We will always carry the historic lineage and honors of the 143rd Infantry Regiment,” said Cyr, “but we are looking forward to the patch-over ceremony in August, and toward beginning a new chapter of history for both the 143rd and the 173rd, together.”

Sunday, August 14, 2016 9:21:00 AM Categories: Texas Army National Guard