Story by: Capt. Nadine Wiley De Moura
AUSTIN, Texas— Current and former task force members reunited with their law enforcement and community partners to commemorate the Texas National Guard Joint Counterdrug Task Force’s 30 years of support to law enforcement agencies, Aug. 7, 2019, at Camp Mabry.
The National Guard Counterdrug program, was established by congressional legislation in 1989, with a mission to leverage unique military capabilities, national resources, and community focus in the nation's response to drugs and associated security threats.
“The National Guard Counterdrug Program was one of the most brilliant acts our U.S. Congress established 30 years ago,” Col. Miguel Torres, Texas National Guard Joint Counterdrug Coordinator said. “This program allows the Citizen-Soldier to support law enforcement agencies down to our communities, making it a solid grass roots initiative.”
With miles of border and numerous bridges and border crossings, Texas is prime real estate for major drug trafficking organizations to operate, but not without a fight from the task force.
Shortly after President Reagan declared a “War on Drugs”, the Texas National Guard was one of the first states to conduct counter-narcotics support missions with law enforcement.
“Cartels and drugs do not discriminate and show no mercy,” said Torres. “The Counterdrug program adds a layer of support and hope to our communities, our great state of Texas and our national security.”
Counterdrug law enforcement partners in attendance included the Department of Homeland Security Investigations, three out of the four Texas High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area directors, two of the three Drug Enforcement Administration field division special agents in charge, the Texas Department Public Safety, the Texas Rangers and the Customs and Border Protection, Air and Marine Division.
The law enforcement partners were presented with a 30th Anniversary certificate of appreciation and a 30th anniversary commemorative Counterdrug coin.
As part of the ceremony, Chief Warrant Officer 4 Brandon Briggs was awarded as the Counterdrug Bil Enney Task Force Member of the Year and Staff Sgt. Tiffany Carrion was awarded as the Texas Criminal Analyst of the Year.
In addition, Arthur Doty, a DEA senior executive from Washington D.C., was the law enforcement guest speaker.
“Terrible people do terrible things, but in order to get them into the court room you have to synthesize this,” said Doty pointing to a photo of multiple stacks of case evidence in a presentation. “And don’t forget the electronic version. The only way we are going to do that is with the relationship with the Guard and law enforcement.
“You take the best and brightest in the National Guard and combine them with our law enforcement analysts and case agents and synthesize that into something a courtroom, an Assistant U.S. Attorney, and a jury will understand.”
Leaders from the Massachusetts, New Mexico and Mississippi Counterdrug programs also attended to commemorate the national program’s success.
“I love the fact this is the 30th anniversary and we are proud of that history,” said Doty. “The relationship between the Guard and our law enforcement has to grow. This is our community, our state, our country and we become all the stronger when we work together. On the behalf of all law enforcement personnel, we thank you for support to us as well.”
Maj. Gen. Dawn Ferrell, the Texas Military Department Deputy Adjutant General – Air, presided over the ceremony with several other TMD leadership in attendance.
“In my opinion, it is the worst epidemic problems that we have in our country when 70,000 U.S. citizens die from drug-related overdoses in a year,” said Maj. Gen. Patrick Hamilton, the 36th Infantry Division commander. “One thing about the Guard is that we are a community-based organization, at the grass roots---it’s how we were built.
“It shows we were organized from the very beginning and working with our partners in an intergovernmental agency relationship is how we get after the problem.”
Hamilton, previously presided over the Counterdrug program when he served as the Domestic Operations Task Force Commander.
“The thing to me, as a Division commander, a combat commander, who has troops who serve---the Counterdrug program is not what I think people feared; that it would be a distractor to the readiness of our force,” said Hamilton.
“It was exactly the opposite. The Soldiers who I have serving the program are physically fit because they have to be because they are on active duty, they are medically ready and because of the way Title 32 was written they have to be able to train with my formation to maintain their readiness and be available for deployment at any time. Counterdrug is a readiness enhancer for our force.”
The 30 years of the program’s history are marked by parks that are built in the place of demolished drug houses, record multi-billion dollar drug seizures, positively impacted at-risk youth, and has enhanced law enforcement agency’s capabilities.
Hamilton recalled attending Operation Crackdown, where Counterdrug engineers knocked down a home known for illicit drug activity.
“I’ve seen it first hand, a crack house getting knocked down in a neighborhood and hours later watching kids play soccer on an empty lot that was a crack house 24 hours before with people dealing and using drugs,” said Hamilton. “That is getting after what the problem is in communities. That folks, is why we have a Counterdrug program and why it needs to continue to be successful.”