Posts From September, 2011

Guard helps local community reclaim neighborhoods


Story by Sgt. Lamine Zarrad 

HARLINGEN, Texas -- Members of the Texas Military Forces participate in the Operation Crackdown, a joint effort of the Harlingen community and the military to reclaim neighborhoods from the influences of violence and illegal drugs.

A flotilla of construction machinery, illuminated by the strobe lights of several police cruisers, resembled a Mardi Gras parade rather than a military convoy. However, the adults and children of the Harlingen communities, greet the soldiers and airmen of the motorcade like wartime heroes.

The service members and their equipment are part of Operation Crackdown, the Texas Military Force's effort to reclaim neighborhoods from the influences of violence and illegal drugs.

Operation Crackdown, employs seized drug funds to rent machinery and equipment for the demolition of houses utilized in drug-affiliated activities, said Army Staff Sgt. Michael Leslie, the NCOIC of the operation. 

"The National Guard is a community organization," said Army Col. Randal E. Davis, the commander of the Texas Military Forces Joint Counterdrug Task Force. "We live in this community. We are here to help." 

"It's a joint operation," said Air Force Capt. Samantha A. Martinez, the OIC of Operation Crackdown. 

During Operation Crackdown missions, the Army and Air Force personnel operate jointly with the local authorities and federal agencies in demolishing houses with nexus to illicit activities.

"This project is fantastic," said Tom Whitten, Harlingen's police chief.

Successful community policing relies on continuous cooperation between various local, state and federal agencies, said Whitten. 

“The joint effort will especially benefit the children in the communities, as some of the decrepit houses are in near proximity to schools,” said Carlos Yerena, Harlingen city manager. 

"We are very happy that we came together to help clean up the city," said Lt. Miryam Anderson, an officer with the Harlingen police department. "A lot of entities came together and joined forces to demolish houses that had been somehow linked to the drug and crime activity."

The fifth graders of the James Bowie Elementary, situated directly across the street from a house riddled with gang-affiliated graffiti, indicated plenty of enthusiasm about the project.

The children are expecting newly planted trees in place of the decrepit building, said Kiara Trevino, a fifth grader at James Bowie Elementary who formerly resided next-door to the targeted structure.

Prior to demolishing the house, service members with the Drug Demand Reduction program provided anti-drug education to children attending JBE. 

Law enforcement agencies consistently reported reduced crime rates in the communities participating in Operation Crackdown, said Martinez. 

Counterdrug leadership anticipates maintaining the current annual tempo of approximately four to five, two week long missions every year in addition to expanding the area of the operation to north Texas. 

Since inception in 1993, Operation Crackdown has demolished nearly 1200 dilapidated houses in over 40 Texas communities, said Davis.

“We are working side by side with our law enforcement partners and local communities,” Davis said, “to interdict the flow of drugs, remove safe havens for their use, and reduce demand within the State to make our communities safer."

Texas National Guard marks decade of post-9/11 service

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst speaks at an event Sept. 10 at Camp Mabry, Austin, Texas, which commemorate a decade of Texas National Guard service in the global war on terrorism.
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst speaks at an event Sept. 10 at Camp Mabry, Austin, Texas, which commemorate a decade of Texas National Guard service in the global war on terrorism. Representatives from the Texas National Guard hosted a ceremony marking the opening of a new exhibit called "9-11 and Beyond: The Texas National Guard in the War on Terror" at the Texas Military Forces Museum at Camp Mabry. The exhibit highlights the extraordinary contributions of the 23,000 Texas Army and Air National Guard service members who have deployed in support of the global war on terror since Sept. 11, 2001.

 Texas National Guard marks decade of post-9/11 service 

 Story by Luke Elliot 
 AUSTIN, Texas - Texas National Guard soldiers and airmen, dignitaries and community members gathered at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas, Sept. 10 to commemorate a decade of Texas military support to the global war on terrorism with  the opening of a new historical exhibit.
 Texas Adjutant Gen. Maj. Gen. John F. Nichols hosted the ceremony, which celebrating a new exhibit called "9-11 and  Beyond: The Texas National Guard in the War on Terror" at the Texas Military Forces Museum at Camp Mabry.
 "The Texas National Guard has deployed more soldiers than any other national guard to this war," said Nichols, who noted  that the Texas National Guard has mobilized more than 29,000 soldiers and airmen since 2001, with about 23,000 of them  deploying overseas to Iraq and Afghanistan. "The Texas military forces have sacrificed greatly."
 The exhibit includes displays on the Texas National Guard's support to Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi  Freedom, major Texas National Guard deployments, and many interactive displays and presentations.
 "We're very proud of our troops, especially for all the sacrifices that the members of the guard and their families make on  behalf of our nation," said Texas State Sen. Jose Rodriguez, District 29, El Paso, Texas. "I believe that Texas has  always honored and supported its veterans. We're a proud state. We like to brag about our state, and we like to brag about  our troops."
 "I think it's extremely significant on the tenth anniversary to open up an exhibit like this at Camp Mabry because it is  important, as Gen. Nichols said, to make sure people remember this day, remember the people who gave their lives," said  Rodriguez.
Brig. Gen. William Smith, who returned from Iraq a few days before the ceremony, said he was surprised about the emotions the event brought him.
"It just makes me respect our soldiers and the abilities that they have and the things they are doing," said Smith. "It's always a good thing to see other people acknowledge what those soldiers are doing."
Smith, who served as the assistant division commander for maneuver, 36th Infantry Division, also deployed with the 49th Armor Division shortly after Sept. 11, 2001.
This deployment was the first large-scale mobilization of the National Guard since World War II. 
"It was a huge challenge," said Smith. "It's been an almost continuous cycle since. If you go back in time, you'll find that since Sept. 11, we have had somewhere between 3,000 and 5,000 Texas National Guardsmen deployed every year. That's a tribute to the sustainability of our system and more importantly to our soldiers."
Smith added that the Texas National Guard has changed significantly since 2001.
"We have had a couple of major events in the military that have changed the course of how we do business," said Smith. "For instance, if you find a regulation that was written before 1989, before the fall of the wall…it is probably not valid. If you find something that was written before 2001, it probably is suspect at least because everything has changed for us since 2001."
"This is not our fathers' National Guard," he added. "It's a marketable different organizations that we're in."
A common theme at the event was the display of gratitude toward soldiers and airmen for all they have accomplished during the past decade.
"What you do is inspirational. I appreciate you," said Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst. "God bless every one of you all in our Texas Army and Air National Guard. Thank you all the men and women that serve abroad, and may we never forget the 3,000 innocent men and women who lost their lives on 9/11."