Posts From August, 2022

Defense Information School honors Texas State Guard Brigade Commander in Hall of Fame induction

By LT Jonathan Hernandez, Texas State Guard, 1st Brigade

Fort Meade, MARYLAND (August 10, 2022) The Defense Information School (DINFOS) inducted Texas State Guard Brig. Gen. Robert Hastings into the DINFOS Hall of Fame Wednesday, August 10, 2022, at a ceremony at Ford Meade, MD. 

The DINFOS Hall of Fame recognizes alum who have a lifetime of service and accomplishment in the military, private sector, and other government and public service roles.

 “As I focus on the moments that stand out to me over the last 40 years, the things that I recall the most are the people who I had the honor and privilege to serve alongside,” said Hastings. “We must never forget that at any point, regardless of our stature, we have the power to influence the trajectory of other people’s lives.”

DINFOS trains U.S. military, Department of Defense civilian, international military, and interagency students in public affairs, journalism, photography, video production, broadcast equipment maintenance, graphic design, and digital media.

“Leadership is not a rank or title; it is a privilege,” Hastings said. “Always put people first, and you’ll find that instead of working with a group of high-performing individuals, you’ll get to work as part of a high-performing team.”


While in the Army, Hastings served as a Public Affairs Officer, a DINFOS instructor, and the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs in the George W. Bush administration. In the Texas State Guard, Hastings commands the 1st Brigade, which is responsible for 113 counties in North Texas and the panhandle. He has led troops through disaster response, homeland security, and defense support to civil authorities. In his civilian career, Hastings is the executive vice president of Bell Textron Inc. and leads all aspects of the company’s global marketing and communications programs.


American Idol Finalist With Texas State Guard Ties in the National Spotlight

By Phoebe Sisk, Cpt., 1st Brigade, Texas State Guard 

If you ask Fritz Hager III what landed him on the 20th season of American Idol, which premiered this past February, he will tell you that yes, it was talent and yes, it was hard work- but even more so it was having to prove, as one of six siblings competing for shared resources, that his commitment to his music was to be taken seriously. 

And as the second son born into a military family and namesake to his West Point graduate father, Hager possessed the pluck and determination, early on, to do just that. 

Having been brought up in the church and exposed to live bands ever since toddlerhood, Hager knew his musical interests at a young age. He was relentless in convincing his parents, Texas State Guard 1st Brigade Lead Chaplain Fritz Hager and wife Sarina, that his fascination was more than a passing fancy. “It took me two years, but I finally persuaded them to get me a guitar in sixth grade. I’ll never forget coming home after only one lesson- I learned four chords- and writing my first song. It was not very good...” 

Clearly, Hager has mastered the learning curve since then, earning comments from viewers that he is “the total package- a true artist.” Not only can he sing, he writes stunningly beautiful original songs, such as “All My Friends” which aired as a rehearsal tape, due to the fact that Hager had contracted covid in May and was unable to perform the round live. Fans were blown away, and even American Idol producers posted on Twitter, “Maybe the best original song on Idol...ever!?” 

Hager believes that his heartfelt approach to his craft has been a niche advantage with fans. 

“Talent can only get you so far, so in addition to working hard, I set about to be as authentic as possible, knowing that American Idol is a reality TV show. I’m not a powerhouse singer, I am a songwriter and storyteller and I tried to pour my heart out at every performance,” said Hager. 

For Hager, reaching the audience in the way that he desired meant really risking and putting himself out there. 

“I think that my superpower is my ability to help others feel deeply. I have always been a feeler, which hurt me in high school- it’s hard to be vulnerable and to have to bottle stuff up. Being a man and being vulnerable is not easy in our culture, especially in my case coming from a military family in the South. It’s easy to shut that part of yourself off,” he said. 

But instead of hiding this aspect of himself from fans, Hager made a courageous and intentional choice to be transparent with his audiences. “Music is a creative outlet to vent our thoughts and feelings- it is something that can be a great tool as it heals all of us,” he said. 

Clearly, viewers feel the catharsis of his songs, voting Hager as one of the top 5 contestants for this season of American Idol, which began casting calls in August of 2021. 

As one of approximately 100,000 contestants to audition virtually during COVID, Hager felt that his initial entrée via Zoom, versus performing in a stadium in front of a live audience, was an advantage in that it made participation easy and accessible. “It’s one of the reasons I decided to try out,” he said. 

But before Hager got comfortable with the large crowds, he first had to brave perhaps the toughest audience of all - his family. 

“It’s hard to logically justify as a music career is so risky,” said Hager. “But my parents and I have learned to bridge that gap and now the conversation is how can we optimize this situation, how can we make this payout for the long run?” 

Hager clearly appreciates the loyalty and strength gleaned from the military roots of his family. “I come from a very supportive family- and they ensured my success in staying balanced as they were truly my only inner circle throughout...” he said. 

According to Hager, his father’s left-brain leaning logic helped him to appreciate the benefit of planning for his right-brain creative career. Additionally, it helped to discuss with him the intensity, stress, and downright trauma of seeing friends cut during Hollywood Week. “He understood that what I experienced was not unlike the military in that few others will ever be able to relate to such a singular and extreme encounter,” said Hager. 

“What Fritz III went through was much like going off to basic training, or even combat, where he was enduring an emotional, transformative experience, with the added pressure-cooker of 5 million people watching,” said the performer’s father, Chaplain Fritz Hager. “(Fritz III) handled it with grit and an incredible focus on the next thing. I was just as proud of how he approached the challenge as what he accomplished!” 

The future looks bright for the younger Hager- and will hopefully include both playing shows and recording, and possibly reuniting with American Idol fellow contestant and friend Leah. Meanwhile, he continues to savor the richness of the memories. “I am filled with joy and fully realize that every minute was a gift from the audience to me,” he said. 

Hager says, above all, he has learned the importance of being a decent person- of being professional, kind, and easy to work with- and hopes to be an example to his younger siblings Henry, Joe, Lucy, and Sam. “My oldest brother Jack is at West Point and has shown us the value of his work ethic. I hope to be a different kind of example of following your passion,” he said. 

Whether Hager (the performer) will join Hagar (his father, the Chaplain) in military service to his home state remains an open question.  If so, he certainly wouldn’t be alone in serving alongside a parent.  While many veterans of federal forces are members of the Texas State Guard, prior service is not required – only a heart of selfless service. Currently, there are opportunities for Texans with a wide range of experiences to serve, from chaplains, lawyers, and law enforcement professionals to engineers, construction workers, health care workers, teachers - and people with exceptional creative talents and skills.   

The Texas State Guard is one of three branches of the Texas Military Department, which also includes the Texas Army National Guard and the Texas Air National Guard.  The Governor is the Commander-in-Chief.  More information about the State Guard and recruitment contacts can be found online at in the State Guard tab.  

The Longest Mission: The Texas State Guard on the Front Lines Against a Deadly Adversary

By David Brown, 1st Lt., Texas State Guard 

It is the longest mission deployment in the 80-plus-year history of the Texas State Guard. And despite its critical, life-saving role, it may be one of the least well-known or understood.   

Margaret Vaughan of Bronson, Texas, a Lt. Col. in the Texas State Guard, remembers the moment it started. It was March 17th, 2020. Covid-19 cases across the US had jumped past the 4,000 mark.  Vaughan, a cattle rancher by trade, had been preparing for this moment for years: a long-duration deployment of Texas State Guard Forces not quite like any other before.  On that day, the request came in for Vaughan to prepare for the coordination of statewide military assets in the fight against Covid-19.  This would be a multi-front battle against a deadly and largely unknown viral adversary.  

“We had to determine the base of operation, the mode of operation, what our tactics would be…,” Vaughan says.  As Texas State Guard Engineer Units deployed to sites across the state to evaluate possible hospital overflow locations to treat the sick, Vaughan went into action coordinating with the Texas Department of Emergency Management, the Department of State Health Services, Texas Task Force One, specialists within the Texas Military Department (which includes the Texas State Guard, the Texas Army National Guard, and the Texas Air National Guard) and other state agencies to structure a central hub: a pandemic-focused State Operations Center (SOC). 

Over the years, the Texas State Guard has been involved in hundreds of deployments of highly-trained mission-ready military forces in support of civil authorities during weather events like hurricanes and tornadoes, conducting search and rescue missions on land and water, setting up shelters, medical triage units, and more.  But “this would be a novel mission for the Texas Military Department,” Vaughan says.  

Novel, certainly. But a mission the Texas State Guard was prepared for.  

Years earlier, Vaughan and her team conducted an incident exercise for a hypothetical statewide emergency, operating from a ballroom in a downtown Austin hotel.  Now that the statewide emergency was real, Vaughan set up shop in the same ballroom, managing a remote SOC for Covid response.  Up went tables and large screen monitors to track the spread of Covid and manage incoming requests for assistance statewide.  Specialists in logistics took up positions, dispatching resources like PPE (personal protective equipment) to needed hospitals, nursing homes, and other facilities. Troops and assets were tracked and deployed from the military desk in the SOC by highly-trained Texas State Guard specialists including Cpl. Christie Cole from Houston.   

Cole has been serving five-days-on/two-days-off in the SOC for 14 months in a variety of positions.  The SOC is her sixth deployment since joining the Texas State Guard in 2019. 

“The SOC has been my home away from home,” Cole says. An office assistant in Tomball and a part-time college student, Cole says the experience working in the SOC has been deeply rewarding on many levels.  

“I come from a military family.  I grew up seeing people in uniform, and I’ve always had the mind that you serve others before yourself,” Cole says.  But Cole isn’t unmindful of the benefits that come with her service: her training in the Texas State Guard is being applied as college credit as she works toward her AAS degree at Kilgore College.  

“You can benefit from serving your state and serving others,” Cole adds. “I don’t think enough people in Texas know about the benefits of being a member of the Texas State Guard.” 

Benefits of Guard membership include college credit, tuition assistance, a daily stipend when called to State Active Duty, job protections when called to duty, a free ‘Super Combo’ hunting and fishing license, and, perhaps more importantly, the pride and satisfaction that comes from serving fellow Texans while wearing the uniform of the most highly regarded State Guard force in the United States.  

During a recent visit to the SOC by the Acting Commanding General of the Texas State Guard, Brig. Gen. Anthony Woods presented Cole with the Commanding General’s Individual Award in commendation for her service.   

Also receiving the award during Woods’ visit was 1st Brigade Staff Sgt. Kevin Dos Santos of Forney, who has been serving in the SOC for more than 2 and a half years. During that time, Dos Santos has served in almost every role in the SOC, from taking in STAR requests (requests for assistance from state and local officials), to logistics, security, tracking assets, providing status updates from health care workers, and much more.  

“During the first year of Covid, I was responsible for working with hospitals across the state–finding out how many patients they had, what supplies and equipment were needed…” Dos Santos says. “Early on, the hospitals couldn’t have extra, but they had so many patients, I knew that if we couldn’t get the supplies to them, people might die.  The urgency of people waiting on that equipment was hugely challenging.” 

Receiving the Commanding General’s Individual Award took Dos Santos by surprise. “I was just doing my job, I didn’t expect anything that special. For someone like General Woods to show that he appreciates my work–it just meant the world to me.” 

Like many who serve in the Texas State Guard, Dos Santos is quick to credit his spouse, Edna, for supporting his service to Texas (“she gives me the freedom to serve and says ‘keep going’!”), and just as quick to acknowledge his colleagues.  “The greatest thing is the leadership here—the best of the best. We work a lot of long hours, and it’s ‘team always, mission first’. That’s one of the most precious lessons I’ve learned here: you’ve gotta take care of your team.”   

Dos Santos says he expects to stay on at SOC until the work is done. And now, with new Covid variants surfacing and surging, what was already the Texas State Guard’s longest mission on record is getting even longer.  Current orders in the SOC have been extended through August: two months past the planned mission end date.  The mission could be extended further. 

“I’ll be here ‘til the end,” Dos Santos says, a smile in his voice. 

The SOC’s range of operations underscores the ongoing need for service members with experience in law enforcement, logistics, health sciences, information technologies, and more.  Prior military service is not a requirement for membership in the Texas State Guard, but continuing training, compliance with military standards, and a spirit of public service are essential.   

More information about the Texas State Guard, including opportunities and recruitment contacts, can be found online at