Posts From September, 2014

Texas State Guard Saves Lives During Search for Human Remains 

Texas State Guard Saves Lives During Search for Human Remains

September 26, 2014

BY: DFW CBS

AUSTIN (CBSDFW.COM) – A special state search team, trained in rescue and recovery operations and ordered by Gov. Rick Perry to assist Brooks County with locating human remains of suspected illegal immigrants, is also saving lives during its mission.

According to the Texas State Guard, during their first search mission of private ranch land on September 19, they found two people showing signs of heat distress and dehydration. They told team members about a woman who was on the property; reportedly near death. The Texas State Guard members immediately began a secondary search for the woman. Once located, the woman, identified later as a Honduran national, was administered lifesaving aid and evacuated by a Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) helicopter for further care. All three, as well as two additional people located in the immediate area, were taken into custody by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

“This state-led effort is aimed at addressing yet another consequence of a border left unsecure by the federal government –fortunately this time it did not end in the loss of life,” Gov. Perry said. “But as long as the federal government refuses to secure our border and end policies that encourage people to risk their lives in an attempt to enter our country illegally, we will continue to see the death toll rise in places like Brooks County.”

Since 2011, at least 332 sets of human remains were recovered in Brooks County alone. While this effort is not part of Operation Strong Safety, the majority of the remains  recovered are suspected to be those of illegal immigrants who died attempting to avoid detection while entering the U.S., or are suspected victims of human smuggling or trafficking by Mexican cartels or their operatives.

“Whether these people are found alive or dead, this is a human tragedy Brooks County has no choice but to address,” Brooks County Sheriff Rey Rodriguez said. “In its very first mission, this state search team has already shown its value in helping our county deal with the issue, and I expect they will discover many more victims during subsequent searches, either deceased or clinging to life.”

“Our priority is meeting our mission, and that is finding victims who did not survive their trek through this hazardous landscape,” Brig. Gen. Patrick Hamilton, Commander-Domestic Operations Task Force, Texas Military Forces. “But any time our service members can use their training to save a life – that is a rewarding outcome.”

“Mexican cartels and transnational gangs continue to exploit private property for drug and human smuggling, and too often, victims are left dead or dying in the elements with little to no hope of survival,” said DPS Director Steven McCraw. “While DPS continues working to secure the border and combat criminal activity, we will also continue to support Brooks County and our state and federal partners on the border.”

When requested by the Brooks County Sheriff’s Office, these specially-trained teams of approximately 20 to 25 personnel will search for human remains in the area. The Texas State Guardsmen conducting the searches are trained in search and rescue/recovery operations, and will utilize a variety of resources, including all-terrain vehicles, cadaver dogs, grid searches and medical support personnel. Security support during these searches will be provided by DPS Troopers or U.S. Border Patrol agents, who will also provide specialized resources for these recovery missions. The Texas Rangers may also provide investigative support for these cases when requested.

During these missions, if the search teams encounter criminal actors or individuals who are suspected to be or admittedly in the country illegally, those individuals will be referred to the appropriate law enforcement officials.

The Governor’s Division of Criminal Justice has previously awarded Brooks County $151,150 in state grant funds to assist with the costs of autopsies and transporting remains to the medical examiner in Laredo. Grant funds have also helped purchase a four-wheel drive SUV for use in accessing remote areas where remains are located, in-car video cameras and computers. Brooks County is in the process of applying for a second grant to help with ongoing costs for remains recovery and autopsies.

Friday, September 26, 2014 11:39:00 AM Categories: Texas State Guard

High marks for CST 

Sgt. 1st Class Kerry Goering slits Sgt. Jared Brook's hazmat suit open so he can exit at the technical decontamination station during an evaluation by Army North while Steve Wisiniwski watches.
Sgt. 1st Class Kerry Goering slits Sgt. Jared Brooks' hazmat suit open so he can exit at the technical decontamination station during an evaluation by Army North while Steve Wisniewski watches. The evaluation certifies the 6th CST with both the National Guard Bureau and the state of Texas as proficient in incident response procedures and protocols. (Photograph by Staff Sgt. Jennifer D. Atkinson, 56th Infantry Brigade Combat Team)

 

Story by Staff Sgt. Jennifer Atkinson

SAN ANTONIO, Texas (Sept. 25, 2014) - With long shadows cast across the blank theater screen and orange plastic hazmat suits glowing in the glare of portable halogen lights, two Soldiers from the 6th Civil Support Team, Texas Army National Guard, moved slowly through the dark building, searching for the device prompting this “incident response.”

Circling an out-of-place orange safety cone, Sgt. Jared Brooks radioed details back to the command post, confirming the target, while Staff Sgt. Jorge Hernandez stood at a safe distance. Both steadily ignored the shrill beeping of monitors nearby to concentrate on the cone.

Turning the cone over, Brooks uncovered a nest of wires, batteries and containers, taped together in a dangerous tangle - the source of the toxins causing alarm.

Nearby, evaluators from Army North watched every move, from the approach of the building, to the use of various monitoring devices, to the search to the contact with the command post. At each step, Brooks or Hernandez answered questions about proper procedures, such as marking the door to indicate the team had moved through it, or how to notate each cleared area.

For Brooks and Hernandez, this was more than training, this was an evaluation of all the hard work and training in the past year- not just theirs individually, but the Austin-based CST as a whole.

“Right now, we're watching to make sure they're doing it right,” said Anthony Elmore, an ARNORTH evaluator. With tightly-controlled doses of reactive chemicals to set off the detection equipment, the realism is increased, he said. The evaluation is to certify to the National Guard Bureau that the CST is proficient in standardized incident response procedures.

“The gases make it harder, gives them a time-constraint. These guys have to make real-time decisions, just like they would in real life. There's not a lot of time to sit and think about it” he said, as his fellow evaluator hooked up a detector to a clear bag containing reactive gas. “It's not going to hurt anyone, but it makes it a lot more real.”

Neutralizing the threat might seem like the biggest hurdle to clearing a site, but for Brooks, just finding the object can be daunting.  

“It's not always easy to find,” said Brooks. “There's a lot of room out there to hide in,” he said, gesturing to the theater and surroundings.

After finding and clearing the hazard, Brooks and Hernandez head outside to the technical decontamination area, manned by Sgt. 1st Class Kelly Goering, another CST member suited up in a tan plastic suit, a bright blue oxygen tank on her back. The technical decontamination area is for the responders, said Goering, rather than larger numbers who might have been affected.  

“We're trying to get the Soldiers out of the affected suits without contaminating them, or spreading any more contamination, as we do it,” she said.

In the entrance to the decontamination tent, Hernandez slipped his boots off, scrubbing down with water while standing in a large rubber catch basin. Coming out of the tent, Goering swabbed his suit, testing it for remaining residue. The suit was slit open and folded down on itself open so Hernandez could exit without contamination from the outside of the suit.  

Still wearing an oxygen tank and face mask, his clothing soaked with sweat from the heat inside his suit, Hernandez waited to one side while Brooks followed the same procedure, then both headed off to the medics to get a post mission checkup. Evaluators nearby watched each step closely, making sure Goering cleared each Soldier to proceed to the next step.

Since the bright orange suits are “level A” suits, rated for vapors, Goering's suit was a “level B” suit, rated for splashing hazards.  

“Ideally, the vapor would have dissipated between the buildings and here, so that's not really a threat to me,” she said. “But if it hasn't and it gets in the water, the level B suit protects me.”  

The CST isn't just about detecting threats, said Col. Lee D Schnell, commander of the 136th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade. 

“Their capabilities are as sophisticated as any out there, especially the mobile lab. It's as good as anything you'll find at a university or college.”

Although there were no civilian partner agencies on site for the evaluation,  the CST is closely integrated with the first responder community. 

“This team gives smaller communities a resource they might not have access to normally,” said Schnell.  “Larger cities have fire departments with the equipment, but little towns don't, so we can help them if they need it.”

The year-round training shows in the high level of skill throughout the CST, said Schnell.  

“If I had one thing to tell someone about the CST,” he said. “It's that they're professionals. Just absolute professionals.”

Thursday, September 25, 2014 9:36:00 AM Categories: Texas Army National Guard

Memoirs from a Deployment 

Memoirs from a Deployment

5/14

Infidelity is starting to be an issue back home in the States. Unfortunately, some of our friends are beginning to question their loved ones as phone calls and emails go unanswered.

A lot of our friends are experiencing heartache- from the medic who's on his first tour and already having trouble dealing with trauma and death, to a UK nurse who has only seen her new husband a handful of times since their wedding last summer. 

In a world where we can be so connected despite being worlds apart, I feel like social media actually makes things harder. When someone doesn't respond to a message right away, we wonder what they are really up to. When we see pictures posted on Facebook, we obsess about what that picture means. Who is that other person and what are they doing together? It doesn't matter how innocent the situation may be. When you have nothing but time to ponder these things, you can overcome your mind with all sorts of unpleasantries and destructive fantasies.

It's important to take care of each other here. Essentially, we are family, even if we don't always like each other, even if we would not have acknowledged each other back in our home units. 

My friend from home has appointed herself as the "unit's hugger" and hugs everyone who comes by. I'm not quite as affectionate, but I do like to make cards for people. Just give me a blank piece of paper and a Sharpie and I can make anyone's day better!

Part 6 of a 13 part miniseries following the personal memoirs of a deployed soldier

Wednesday, September 24, 2014 12:37:00 PM Categories: Blog

TXNG Soldiers help save life on border 

A soldier from the 36th Infantry Division, Texas Army National Guard observes a section of the Rio Grande River at sunset.
A soldier from the 36th Infantry Division, Texas Army National Guard observes a section of the Rio Grande River at sunset. He is serving at the Texas-Mexico border in support of Operation Strong Safety. (U.S. Army photo by Maj. Randall Stillinger)

 

 Story By Maj. Randall Stillinger

 WESLACO, Texas – The quick response of three Texas Army National Guard soldiers on Sept. 11, 2014, helped save  the life of a local Texan.
 
The soldiers, who were manning an observation post as part of Operation Strong Safety, administered emergency first aid to an injured man after he accidentally cut himself while clearing brush along the river.
 
At one point during their shift, a pickup truck came speeding toward the soldiers’ observation post. 
“At first we thought they might be runners,” one soldier remarked. 
 
The driver then jumped out of the vehicle and started yelling, “He’s cut! He’s cut!” 
 
The soldiers, who asked not to be identified for the security of themselves and their families, thought this might be a training scenario. 
 
“I thought someone was testing us,” said one of the soldiers, “but then the driver opened the passenger door and we saw the blood. We knew it was real.” 
 
The shift leader for the observation post immediately jumped into action, grabbing a tourniquet from his first aid kit. He placed the tourniquet just below the arm pit, but it didn’t completely stop the bleeding. A second tourniquet was required lower down on the arm to completely stop the bleeding. 
 
The driver was also showing the initial signs of trauma shock, which prompted assistance from a second soldier.
 
As this was happening, a radio call went to the Texas Department of Public Safety for medical assistance. A medic from the Texas Army National Guard also arrived on
scene to provide additional help. 
 
While the others were providing care, one of the original three soldiers noticed a Mission Police Department vehicle nearby and ran to flag him down. An ambulance arrived not too long after that and the man was transferred to the nearest emergency room. 
 
Although none of the three soldiers were Combat Medics, each of them had received specialized training as Combat Life Savers and had trained specifically for similar scenarios. The three soldiers included an infantryman, a heavy vehicle repairer and a heavy vehicle operator. 
 
The shift leader, who had previously deployed to Afghanistan in 2012, said he didn’t think he would be doing something like this for a U.S. citizen. 
“I’m just glad we were there,” he said. “If not, he probably would have bled out due to the amount of blood he had lost.”
 
The shift supervisor said that he was proud of these soldiers “because they didn’t panic.” 
 
“They took care of the situation without senior leadership being there,” he said. “It feels good to know that I have soldiers like this on point.” 
 
When asked if he considered himself a hero, one soldier said, “I was just doing my job, sir.”
 
The injured man is doing well and is expected to make a full recovery. 

 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014 10:10:00 AM Categories: Texas Army National Guard

Interagency training exercise benefits from Citizen Soldier presence 

Story by: Sgt. Suzanna Carter

Posted: September 21, 2014

Sgt. Suzanne Carter Air Force Capt. Laura Lokey, an optometrist with 149th Medical Group, 149th Fighter Wing, checks Miguel Gomez's eyes on day four of Operation Lone Star at Manzano Middle School in Brownsville, Texas, Aug. 7, 2014. This was the first year that full vision services were available at the Brownsville medical point of distribution during this annual, five-day, medical and emergency preparedness exercise. More than 600 patients received eye exams and prescription glasses through Remote Area Medical, the Knoxville, Tenn.-based organization that provides the equipment for the exams and fills glasses prescriptions on-site, and Texas Military Forces during Operation Lone Star 2013. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Suzanne Carter/Released)
Sgt. Suzanne Carter
Air Force Capt. Laura Lokey, an optometrist with 149th Medical Group, 149th Fighter Wing, checks Miguel Gomez's eyes on day four of Operation Lone Star at Manzano Middle School in Brownsville, Texas, Aug. 7, 2014. This was the first year that full vision services were available at the Brownsville medical point of distribution during this annual, five-day, medical and emergency preparedness exercise. More than 600 patients received eye exams and prescription glasses through Remote Area Medical, the Knoxville, Tenn.-based organization that provides the equipment for the exams and fills glasses prescriptions on-site, and Texas Military Forces during Operation Lone Star 2013. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Suzanne Carter/Released)

BROWNSVILLE, Texas – Texas Military Forces, in partnership with state and local authorities, gained valuable training experience from the 16th iteration of Operation Lone Star in the Rio Grande Valley and Laredo, Texas, Aug. 4-8, 2014.

Texas State Guard, a component of the Texas Military Forces, in particular, put into practice the second step of its shelter, recover and return emergency response plan during this annual, medical and emergency preparedness exercise that covered five sites throughout South Texas.

"[Civil authorities] would have us come in, work with them, and we would run the operation of the shelter, managing the clients within it, meeting their needs, keeping them safe in a disaster situation," said Capt. Vicky Nunn, 39th Composite Regiment, 1st Battalion, Texas State Guard. "[Meeting client needs] is what you'll see here. It's recovery training."

The interagency collaboration necessary to activate Operation Lone Star, one of the largest medical and emergency preparedness missions in the country, benefits from the inherent value in utilizing the Texas Military Forces to serve the citizens of Texas.

"It's a good value for the State of Texas because as Citizen Soldiers, we're able to be activated, come down, provide the care, and then go back to our civilian jobs after that," said Army Capt. Adam Wood, a field surgeon with Texas Medical Command, Texas Army National Guard. "So the amount of resources and time and money it takes to use us in that tactical situation is significantly less than it would be to use the active duty side in that same tactical setup."

Brig. Gen. Sean A. Ryan, commander of the 71st Troop Command, Texas Army National Guard, also emphasized the role of the Texas State Guard in the planning and implementation of this collaborative training exercise.

"We have more relied on our Texas State Guard to the point where we're pretty much ready to turn it over to [them] to do all the planning, the preparation, the training" for Operation Lone Star, Ryan said. "I think it has really helped us to exercise … the Texas State Guard to really do their mission. They are a huge part of what we do during a natural disaster."

Texas Army, Air and State Guard involvement in Operation Lone Star also fosters vital relationships with state and local agencies that they would work with in an emergency situation.

"This is just another incident in a different county with different relationships with other authorities," Nunn said. "Because we may be deployed here at some point if they need us, I think it is very important to build those contacts."

Service members often form relationships with patients who return to Operation Lone Star every year for the critical health services that are provided.

"Some of our Soldiers look forward to coming back here year after year to see individuals who might be returning and to see the updates in those families and how their children have grown and how their lives have changed," said Army Maj. Jerri Gates, senior behavior health officer with Texas Medical Command, Texas Army National Guard. 

Spc. Marcus Fernandez, 39th Composite Regiment, 1st Battalion, Texas State Guard, said that interacting with patients was all part of the training experience that prepares him and other service members for future emergency response situations.

"We see, throughout the week, so many different things that if we have to open a shelter, anybody that comes to the door, we should be able to handle it because we have this experience," he said. 

Area residents who visited Operation Lone Star expressed appreciation for the services that were available through the collaborative training exercise.

"Seeing the men and women in uniform is an awesome blessing, because everyone is walking around with a smile, very happy," said Zulema Silva, a Brownsville resident. "It's just a happy feeling to see y'all here, helping us and providing us with services that we otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford. Again I appreciate everything that you all do for us in the community."

Sunday, September 21, 2014 10:12:00 AM Categories: Texas Army National Guard

Interagency medical exercise garners praise, international audience 

Story by: Sgt Suzanna Carter

Posted: September 19, 2014

Sgt. Suzanne Carter Representatives of Chilean military and a Chilean national emergency response agency examine samples of sugar contents in popular beverages at a health awareness booth during Operation Lone Star in Laredo, Texas, Aug. 6, 2014. The officials visited Operation Lone Star to see how multiple agencies collaborate to plan and implement this annual medical and emergency preparedness exercise. The Operation Lone Star partnership between Texas Military Forces, Texas Department of State Health Services and other state and local agencies has provided much needed health care services to more than 100,000 Laredo and Rio Grande Valley residents since 1999. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Suzanne Carter)
Sgt. Suzanne Carter
Representatives of Chilean military and a Chilean national emergency response agency examine samples of sugar contents in popular beverages at a health awareness booth during Operation Lone Star in Laredo, Texas, Aug. 6, 2014. The officials visited Operation Lone Star to see how multiple agencies collaborate to plan and implement this annual medical and emergency preparedness exercise. The Operation Lone Star partnership between Texas Military Forces, Texas Department of State Health Services and other state and local agencies has provided much needed health care services to more than 100,000 Laredo and Rio Grande Valley residents since 1999. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Suzanne Carter)

LAREDO, Texas –Texas Military Forces with international, state, and local officials, celebrated the successful collaboration among multiple agencies to plan and implement Operation Lone Star 2014 during a ceremony at the medical point of distribution (MPOD) in Laredo, Texas, Aug. 6, 2014.

Brig. Gen. Sean A. Ryan, Texas Army National Guard deputy commander, senior members of the Chilean military and a Chilean emergency response organization, and other officials toured the medical and emergency preparedness exercise site following the ceremony to see the cooperation among the various organizations represented.

"We're directly working with the Department of State Health Services … the state judges that you see, the superintendents, the leadership of a lot of the emergency services that we would be interacting with in the communities," in the event of an emergency or disaster, Ryan said. "[These partnerships have] just gotten better every year."

Chilean military and emergency response representatives visited the Laredo MPOD to gain a greater understanding of interagency collaboration for disaster response as part of a standing partnership between the Texas Military Forces and Chile.

"Operation Lone Star is what we consider a remote type of emergency disaster response scenario," said Air Force Lt. Col. Daniel Rodriguez, the bilateral affairs officer who coordinated the Chilean representatives' visit through the U.S. Embassy in Santiago, Chile. "With all the earthquakes and recent wildfires they've had in Chile, a lot of their areas are considered to be remote. So they're just kind of taking some lessons learned and doing some subject-matter exchanges with the personnel at Operation Lone Star who have been doing this for years."

While Operation Lone Star is a valuable training exercise for medical and emergency preparedness, it also provides much needed medical services to underserved residents in Laredo and the Rio Grande Valley. These services include vision, hearing, and diabetes screenings, immunizations and physical health assessments. Five MPODs in Laredo and the Rio Grande Valley offered these and additional.

Friday, September 19, 2014 10:16:00 AM Categories: Texas Army National Guard

TXARNG supports multinational training event 

 TXNG supports multinational exercise

Sgt. Marlene Duncan, 100th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, Texas Army National Guard, right, role plays as a civilian media reporter during Operation Saber Junction held at Hohenfels in Nuremburg, Germany, Sept. 10, 2014. The 100th MPAD supported 17 countries, including the U.S., with realistic civilian media coverage; giving leadership a better understanding of how to work with civilian media in an operational environment. (U.S. Army National Guard photo courtesy of the 100th MPAD)

 TXARNG supports multinational exercise 

  By Army Sgt. Josiah Pugh

 NUREMBURG, Germany (Sept. 12, 2014) - In our first overseas duty training since 2005, we had the opportunity to  stretch our concept about what it means to be military journalists and get a feel for how  civilian media operates on  the battlefield.  We are the Texas Army National Guard’s 100th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment based in Austin,  Texas.
 
 We flew to Nuremberg, Germany and made our way to U.S. Army Garrison Hohenfels, August 23-Sept. 12, 2014.  For three weeks we participated in Saber Junction, a multi-week exercise combining  nearly 6,000 troops from 17  countries to train in a joint and combined environment. 
 
 Many times, various countries will join together to support military operations and peace-keeping missions. For  example, at the height of Operation Enduring Freedom more than 20 nation’s militaries  worked together to support  operations. This type of training helps prepare for international contingency operations.
 
 Our part in all this? To role-play civilian journalists working for newspapers and television stations in the fictitious countries Atropia and Ariana.  This type of training helps to mimic the fact that in a warzone,  media often plays a significant role in shaping the direction of a war by swaying the hearts and minds of citizens.
 
 Each day, we headed into “the Box,” where the multitude of international troops had converged to train side-by-side. Inside the Box our reporters ventured into a number of mock cities populated with role  players. They spoke with these locals to gather material for their stories with the help of German translators who worked alongside us. After we finished editing our stories, they were then inserted into the  exercise to help shape the direction of the war.
     
 Spc. Michael Giles, a print journalist with the MPAD, found the experience helped him grow professionally. 
 “It’s the best opportunity I’ve had so far in my military public affairs training to improve my skills at writing and taking photos,” he said. “It’s also given me a great opportunity to see how the Public Affairs  structure works and why it’s an important part of military operations.”
 
 Army Sgt. Suzanne Carter, another print journalist in the MPAD, found interacting with people was exceptionally fulfilling. 
 “They created this world that we got to be a part of and have an impact based on what we reported. The players each had their own character, and many of them fully embraced the scenario,” she said.  “The best part for me was figuring out their characters and who would support my side of the scenario. As I got to know the individuals in character, they would slowly reveal parts of their true selves. This is my favorite part of the job, both in real situations and in scenario-based trainings.”
    
Annual trainings normally last only two weeks, but because we supported this mission for three weeks, we took the opportunity to have the broadcast and print journalists switch jobs for a day. This gave us the opportunity to become proficient in both public affairs skill sets, which is important because flexibility is crucial to the MPAD’s mission success.
 
“Now that I know how much goes into creating a video story, I have even more respect for the broadcasters and I am extremely excited to be on the path towards doing what they do,” said Giles.
    
The accurate representation of media that we portrayed proved valuable to commanders of all levels and helped identify key weaknesses in their unit’s performance. Operational Environment Training Specialist with the U.S. Army – Joint Multinational Readiness Center, James Dorough-Lewis Jr., had good things to say about the products we provided for the exercise.
 
“It’s greatly contributing to presenting an immersive picture of the operating environment for the Rotational Training Unit,” said Dorough-Lewis.
It was a great experience for us and a great opportunity to help support our military counterparts and allies.
 
“We love having Reserve and National Guard elements come out to cover these exercises,” said Mark Van Treuren, Media Advisor Joint Multinational Readiness Center Public Affairs Office Operations Team. “We can’t do this without you.”
 
 
 
 
Friday, September 19, 2014 7:55:00 AM Categories: Blog

Texas' civil support team trains for proficiency validation 

members of the 6th Civil Support Team, based in Austin, Texas, participate in a response exercise with the McAllen and Pharr Fire Departments in McAllen, Texas, Sept. 4, 2014.
In this image released by Joint Task Force 136 (Maneuver Enhancement Brigade), members of the 6th Civil Support Team, based in Austin, Texas, participate in a response exercise with the McAllen and Pharr Fire Departments in McAllen, Texas, Sept. 4, 2014. Real-world, scenario-based training like this reinforces working relationships with civil authorities and ensures the members of the emergency response community are prepared when disaster strikes. (Photo by Lt. Col. William Phillips)

 

 Story by Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Griego
 
 PHARR, Texas - “The more we can train with the people we are going to work with,” said Air Guard Capt. Jason  Harrison,  “the better the response goes.”

 In the Army, “train as you fight” is a time-tested maxim. For the members of the Texas National Guard’s 6th Civil Support  Team, whose mission is chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear testing, identification, and monitoring, it means that  every scenario should be treated as a dangerous incident in need of immediate attention. They demonstrated this  mentality for two days in Pharr, Texas, when they teamed up with the Pharr and McAllen Fire Departments for  interagency collective training simulating hazardous contaminations of local sites.

 “The day's exercise incorporated multiple facets of CBRN/HAZMAT response,” said Harrison, who serves as a survey  team leader within the 6th CST, “including an exercise scenario involving malicious use of radioactive material, hazardous  chemicals, and life-threatening biological samples.”

 The training, which took place Sept. 3-4, found the team utilizing warehouse structures in Pharr to simulate an urban  environment where such incidents might take place. By incorporating their civilian counterparts from the local fire  departments into the training, the CST reinforced their role as supporters of civil authorities when disaster strikes.

 “These types of joint exercises allow for both entities to practice real-life scenarios with civilian counterparts and Texas  Army National Guard units,” said Army Guard Maj. Chol Chong, the deputy commander for the 6th CST. “The end state of  this practice exercise allows for both entities to understand each other’s capabilities and to rapidly mitigate any risks to  the civilian population.”

The Guard’s partners within the McAllen Fire Department additionally used the exercise as a training opportunity for their hazardous materials technician class.

“They are conducting a HAZMAT course and brought all of the students over,” said Army Guard Lt. Col. William Phillips, commander of the 6th CST. “The HAZMAT Tech class observers stayed for five hours and received full access to all of our processes and procedures, and sent observers on entry.”

This entry refers to how the different units engage a hazardous zone, using established guidelines for order, timing, and communication.

“The Pharr and McAllen FDs performed the initial entry, as would usually happen on scene, and back-briefed the CST on what they located,” said Harrison. “Every real-world emergency that the CST has responded to during my four-plus years on the team has seen us paired with local responders. For example, we performed joint entries during the initial response to the West, Texas, disaster.”

This training exercise additionally served as a precursor to the 6th CST’s Training Proficiency Exercise scheduled for Sept. 25. That culminating event, validated by U.S. Army North, is a regular training requirement for certification to conduct the civil support team mission, and must be completed every 18 months.

“The system works,” said Harrison. “We are a customer service entity and enjoy doing what we were built for, civil support.”

The 6th CST conducts frequent training events like this throughout the state, regularly working alongside their civilian counterparts and developing strong interagency relationships. These preparations and relationships are key to their continued proficiency and instrumental to the success of their mission.

“It was a long day,” said Phillips, “but very valuable.”

Thursday, September 18, 2014 10:27:00 AM Categories: Texas Army National Guard

TXNG supports multinational exercise 

Sgt. Marlene Duncan, 100th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, Texas Army National Guard, right, role plays as a civilian media reporter during Operation Saber Junction held at Hohenfels in Nuremburg, Germany, Sept. 10, 2014.
Sgt. Marlene Duncan, 100th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, Texas Army National Guard, right, role plays as a civilian media reporter during Operation Saber Junction held at Hohenfels in Nuremburg, Germany, Sept. 10, 2014. The 100th MPAD supported 17 countries, including the U.S., with realistic civilian media coverage; giving leadership a better understanding of how to work with civilian media in an operational environment. (U.S. Army National Guard photo courtesy of the 100th MPAD)

 

 Story by Sgt. Adrian Shelton

  NUREMBURG, Germany (Sept. 12, 2014) - Public Affairs soldiers from 100th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, Texas  Army National Guard, in Austin, Texas, traveled to Nuremburg, Germany to capture the activities of thousands of troops in  a joint exercise called Saber Junction, August 23 – Sept. 12, 2014.

 Nearly 6,000 troops representing 17 countries participated in the multi-week international exercise at U.S. Army Garrison  Hohenfels in Nuremburg. Often times, militaries from around the world work together to support a larger operation, such as  seen during Operation Enduring Freedom. At the height of Operation Enduring Freedom, more than 20 different countries’  militaries joined forces to support operations and peace keeping missions. This type of multi-national training is designed to  prepare militaries for large-scale contingency operations.

 MPAD soldiers role-played as civilian media personnel to provide commanders from each country’s military; an understanding of how civilian journalism can shape the perception of war in public.

“It’s the best opportunity I’ve had so far in my military public affairs training to improve my skills at writing and taking photos,” said Spc. Michael Giles, print journalist with the MPAD. “It’s also given me a great opportunity to see how the public affairs structure works and why it’s an important part of military operations.”

    Each day the service members headed into “The Box,” where role players, located in numerous mock cities provided information on military operations to the MPAD with the help of German translators. 

    “They created this world that we got to be a part of and have an impact based on what we reported,” said Army Sgt. Suzanne Carter, another print journalist with the MPAD. “The best part for me was figuring out their characters and who would support my side of the scenario.”

    Annual training normally lasts only two weeks. But with an extra week, Army 1st Sgt. Merrion Lasonde directed her Soldiers to switch jobs for a day in order to become proficient in both skill sets. This meant the broadcast journalists would do the work required of print journalists and vice versa. 

    “In my mind, it was necessary,” Lasonde said. “They would find their groove and ultimately make the mission a success in their own individual way.”
    Exercise leadership thought the MPAD provided an accurate representation of the media in a war zone.

    “It’s greatly contributing to presenting an immersive picture of the operating environment for the Rotational Training Unit,” said James Dorough-Lewis Jr., the Operational Environment Training Specialist with the U.S. Army at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center (JMRC).

    “We love having Reserve and National Guard elements come out to cover these exercises,” said Mark Van Treuren, media advisor, JMRC Public Affairs Office Operations Team. “We can’t do this without you.”
 
Army Sgt. Josiah Pugh contributed to story.
Thursday, September 18, 2014 10:20:00 AM Categories: Texas Army National Guard

Memoirs from a Deployment 

memoirs from a deployment

4/28

I had my first detainee patient today. 

The "fighting season" has officially begun and the intensive care unit has been slammed with roadside bomb and gunshot wound patients from both sides of the fight. The injuries are crazy; anything from extremity amputations to enucleated pupils to one guy's chest literally being opened up and attached to a wound vac. 

My patient suffered from a gunshot wound to the neck with an exit wound resulting in the loss of his left eye, and severe soft tissue damage from is left thigh down to his calf. He is young, probably in his twenties, although sometimes it is near impossible to tell. When the interpreter asked him his age, he didn't know it. The interpreter said that it was pretty common for people in this part of the world to not know their age. 

When a detainee comes through the hospital, a guard is assigned to watch over the nurse. We use mobile curtain partitions. I kept my partitions completely surrounding my patient's bed and monitors, so that he could not see the exit or other patients who are on the ward. I left a small opening in the partitions to walk in and out of my makeshift room, and positioned it so that the guard could have eyes on me at all times. At one point, some Afghan soldiers came in to visit their fallen comrades, and I completely shut off the partitions so that my patient could not see anyone.

I had heard horror stories of other detainee patients shouting, spitting at their nurses, and being downright hateful to everyone trying to help them. I also knew the rumors that everyone is addicted to heroin (this is the poppy capital of the world, after all, and heroin is probably the number one export for Afghanistan) so many patients who come to the hospital start going through withdrawals.  I heard of one guy yanking his urinary catheter out and then banging out all of his teeth on the metal bed frame.

My detainee patient, however, was neither rude nor going through opiate withdrawals. He mostly slept, waking up occasionally to ask for "ooba" (water) or saying "dard" (pain). After giving him something for his pain, his respirations and oxygen saturation began to dip down a little, a common side effect for this medication. I simply demonstrated taking deep breaths and then pointed at him, and he willingly complied. 

This was not the experience that I had prepared myself for this morning when my shift leader told me that I would have him. My patient is no different than anyone else I have cared for. In fact, I'm having a pretty decent day and can't complain about anything. I spoke to my senior leader, a Lieutenant Colonel who’s been an ICU nurse for years, about it.  This isn't his first rodeo. He basically broke it down for me like this; not every "bad guy" is on that side because they want to be. Some fall into the Taliban when they are children. Some become part of it because they have families to support. It's no secret that members of the Taliban have an easier life than others. These people are already uneducated far beyond my imagination. I mean, who doesn't know when their birthday is?

I'm not saying that the Taliban is ok by any means, but maybe I shouldn't be so quick to judge someone when I don't know their circumstances. What would I do if my situation was different? What would you do? 

But I did not have a patient who was spitting at me. My views might be a little bit different tonight if I did. 

I also got promoted to captain today. We did it right there in the ICU. Everyone broke away from their patients' beds so they could watch the promotion ceremony, which lasted about five minutes. The Lieutenant Colonel pinned my rank on. 

Later this afternoon, one of the British nurses called me over to her bed space. Her young Afghan patient, who had just lost both of his legs, was trying to tell me something in Pashtu. He pointed to my chest where my new rank was and then clasped his hands, gave me a thumbs up and smiled. He had seen the promotion ceremony, and although he didn't speak English, he understood what was going on and wanted to congratulate me. I'm not a super emotional person, but that resonated deep in my heart.

This deployment has already been worth it for me. I don't know how I'll feel after six months, but I'm thankful for the experiences I've had thus far. It's helped to break down some of my barriers and perceptions. It's been incredibly humbling, and this is still just the beginning.

Part 5 of a 13 part miniseries following the personal memoirs of a deployed soldier

Wednesday, September 17, 2014 1:06:00 PM Categories: Blog