Posts in Category: Texas State Guard

Families serving together to help Texas

Story by Master Sgt. John Gately, Texas State Guard

Warrant Officer Hopper and his sons
Left: Pvt. Samuel Hopper, Center: Warrant Officer Hopper, Right: Cpl. Grant Hopper 

The military is no stranger to having many generations of family members serving, from great-grandparents to current service members.  The Texas State Guard is also part of this time-honored tradition.  However, due to the nature of the State Guard, it is more common to see families serving together at the same time than with other military organizations.

Although family members serving together is happening across the State Guard, today’s focus is the T6-Shop. Currently, the T6-shop has four families serving together to support a common goal for the Guard and for the State of Texas.

The Hopper family has three members currently serving in different roles within T6.  Warrant Officer Andy Hopper joined the State Guard on Oct 25, 2014, and is the father of two current troops, Cpl. Grant Hopper who serves on the Radio Operations, and Pvt. Samuel Hopper serves on the Software Testing team for the Readiness Management System (RMS).

When asked what it means to him to serve alongside his two sons, Warrant Officer Hopper stated, “Having the opportunity to serve with my boys in the greatest and most robust state military force in the country is a unique privilege and a pleasure. Throughout Texas history, the backbone of our state military has been families standing together for their rights and their homes. I am so proud to say that the Hoppers stand to serve Texas.”

Always looking for new members to serve in our ranks, one of our newest has hit the ground running with recruitment. Cpl. Tatiana Spence joined the State Guard a little over a month ago, and she has talked her brother, Orrin Spence, into joining the T6 shop as well.  Orrin just left the Texas Army National Guard as a Staff Sergeant after serving 12 years and is one of the Texas Military Department’s webmasters. He will be swearing-in next month. Once Orrin swears in, he will be joining Programming Operations alongside his sister.  She’s not stopping there; Cpl. Spence is now setting her focus on getting her husband to join our ranks.

Did you know that you could join the Texas State Guard at the age of 17? Warrant Officer John Turner did and is swearing in his son on his 17th

Warrant Officer Turner and his son
Left: Warrant Officer John Turner, Right: Luke Turner

birthday. This is not the only child that Warrant Officer Turner has serving in uniform. His second-oldest son was planning to join the State Guard until the United State Army made a better offer. When asked what it is like serving with his son, he replied, “It’s an honor to serve my state and help people when needs arise. It makes you feel good about what you do. As a father it makes me shine with gratitude that my children have that same desire to help others. I’m proud of my young men. It is even more special when we get to serve and build this legacy together.” Warrant Officer John Turner serves in Programming Operations.

Another example from the T6-Shop is Master Sgt. John Gately, who joined the State Guard on July 1, 2010. His son Warrant Officer Jacob Gately followed in his footsteps just a few years later, joining on January 26, 2013. Warrant Officer Gately currently serves in Programming Operations and Master Sgt. Gately is the NCOIC for T6 and the Product Manager of RMS.  
 
These four families have a combined service of well over 50 years in uniform. 
 

A Sense of History, a Passion for People: Anthony Woods Takes Charge of the Texas State Guard

By David Brown, 1LT, Texas State Guard

As a youth, Anthony Woods wanted to become a policeman.  After retiring from a distinguished career in law enforcement (for the Dallas Police Department and the Drug Enforcement Administration), Woods might have thought his life in public service was over. Not even close. Today, Brig. Gen. Woods is Acting Commanding General of the Texas State Guard, leader of the premier state guard force in the nation.  

“I never would have imagined it,” said Woods, whose first mentor in the military was a Major who was head of his high school Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program.  “I thought if I could make Major like him, that would be a big accomplishment.  All my (advancements) have been a surprise to me.  My promotions are the byproduct of my passion for the people.” 

Indeed, Woods’ reputation as a leader with a commitment to the welfare of soldiers precedes him. “He is passionate about caring for the people of the Texas State Guard,” says Sgt. Maj. John Jacobs.  “I was in a meeting with him today and Gen. Woods said that ‘we do not make the difference; we are the difference’; I had to write that one down. That says a lot about how he sees our soldiers.”  

Sgt. 1st Class Jeanette Jimmerson heartily agrees.  “I can honestly say he sees the value of every soldier. He wants to know what matters to you - it matters to him. He wants to know soldiers by their first names, he wants to know what they care about.”

A graduate of TCU with a Masters’ degree from the United States Army War College, Woods’ military career began in the early ’80s serving in the Texas Army National Guard, receiving a 2nd Lt. commission from the University of Texas at Arlington ROTC program.  He would be responsible for training thousands of troops in border operations at the U.S.-Mexico border.  Woods would go on to be deployed in Operation Enduring Freedom serving tours of duty in Afghanistan and other points abroad leading military intelligence operations. In 2005, Woods became the first African American Commander of the 1st Battalion, 112 Armor, leading his unit in the first American training exercise in the country of Romania after the fall of the Soviet Union.  

There is a picture on the wall of his office at Camp Mabry that says a great deal about the person he is.  It is a portrait of one of the legendary Buffalo Soldiers–the Black troops known for their ferocity and skills as warriors who helped shape the West and much of American history.  

It was during his time serving at the US border that he first encountered the story of the Buffalo Soldiers.  “I’m a Black man, grew up in good government housing…”, Woods says, but he’d never heard of the Buffalo Soldiers before. 

“I was embarrassed. I got a lesson in Black history. I promised myself I would learn more.”  

The Buffalo Soldiers (how they got their name is a point of dispute among historians) were Black soldiers from a variety of Army units including the 9th Cavalry, 10th Cavalry, 24th Infantry, and 25th Infantry based in a variety of locations.  Fort Huachuca in Arizona claims to be the “home” of the Buffalo Soldiers because it is the only base to have hosted all members of the group.  

“I visited the Fort Huachuca Museum.  I got into it,” Woods says with some degree of understatement.  These days, he owns a replica vintage Union uniform which he uses in his travels to different schools and speaking engagements, sharing the stories of the Buffalo Soldiers, who fought with valor during the Spanish-American War, in the Philippines, and in both World Wars before being absorbed by other Army units after World War II.  When not fighting wars, the Buffalo Soldiers defended westward travelers and settlers and helped shape the contours of what the US would become.  

“It means a lot to me. It is my heritage. The Negro soldier, the Buffalo Soldier, the Black soldier: they have all had a huge impact on our country’s history, from the period of westward expansion all the way up to World War II and beyond.  If you think about it, in all the major conflicts, our position didn’t change until the military included the Black soldiers.” 

Today, it is clear Woods is focused on positive change for the State Guard, building off the accomplishments of his predecessor as Commanding General, Maj. Gen. Robert Bodisch, who retired on October 31, 2021. 

“Being a force multiplier for Texas and the Texas Military Department is a huge responsibility.  We don’t have the numbers (of personnel) but we have people with heart. And we’re not just equal to the task, we exceed it. The level of professionalism in the Texas State Guard is huge.”

Woods has a three-phase plan in mind for the Texas State Guard.  Phase 1, he says, will focus on retention.  “There are three reasons I believe people join the Texas State Guard: to serve, to grow, and for recognition–the promotions and awards,” Woods says.  To that end, Woods plans to double down on valuable training opportunities and make sure that awards and promotions are prompt, timely, and prolific.  

Phase 2, Woods says, is promotion.  While the Texas State Guard has been called ‘Texas’ best-kept secret’, Woods wants to raise the profile of the State Guard so that more potential recruits know about the opportunities to serve their fellow Texans. “We’re not going to be shy about banners,” Woods adds, saying that we can expect to see more Texas State Guard signage at Camp Mabry and beyond.  

Phase 3?  “Get ‘em in here!”, Woods says with a laugh. But he’s quite serious; recruitment is a key goal.  “Our recruiters are doing a great job,” Woods adds. “We need to make joining the Texas State Guard as easy as it can possibly be, promising exciting training opportunities and creating a sense of belonging and inclusion. As we go forward, we need to see more women in leadership positions.  We want the ranks of the Texas State Guard to look like the communities we serve.  I don’t want to exclude anybody.”  

Woods’ objectives reflect his own experience in discovering the Texas State Guard.  As a member of the Texas Army National Guard, Woods says initially, he knew little about the structure of the Texas State Guard but witnessed firsthand the professionalism of its soldiers.  

“I saw the commitment made by Texas State Guard servicemembers and I was impressed by their sacrifices. These were people who had nothing to gain from being in the State Guard.”  Noting the selflessness of the troops, Woods says he expects Texas State Guard leaders to care deeply about soldiers and their families.   

And, Woods notes, as the Texas State Guard takes active roles in Operation Lone Star and other missions, the reputation of the entire corps grows as well.  “Respect for the Texas State Guard has risen tenfold.  Our soldiers are showcasing the professionalism of the Guard and all the mission-ready packages.”  The Texas State Guard provides mission-ready forces to assist state and local authorities in times of state emergencies, conducts homeland security and community service activities, and augments the Texas Army National Guard and Texas Air National Guard as required.  The Texas State Guard, Texas Army National Guard, and Texas Air National Guard are all part of the Texas Military Department led by the Texas Adjutant General, the state’s senior military official appointed by the governor.

Woods, who lives in Dallas with his wife, has raised seven children and runs the private investigation service Checkmate Surveillance, LLC. It appears clear his love of family, deep appreciation of history, business acumen, and real-world military experience will serve him–and the people of Texas - extraordinarily well as he takes the reins of Acting Commanding General, Texas State Guard.  

The Texas State Guard is looking for professionals from a variety of fields to serve their fellow Texans. Prior military service is not required, but a commitment to public service and a willingness to meet the high standards of the Texas State Guard is essential.  You can learn more about the opportunities to serve in the Texas State Guard online at tmd.texas.gov/state-guard. 

Texas State Guardsmen promote happiness, healing for holidays

By Warrant Officer David Brown, Texas State Guard

Texas State Guard service members all across the state of Texas collected toys to bring joy to children in need. 

AUSTIN, Texas – A doll. An electronic keyboard. A monster truck. A surprise under the tree. 

It would appear Santa’s helpers are at it again. Rumor has it some of those helpers have been spotted wearing camouflage with Texas flags on their right shoulders.  

But it’s no rumor.

For the past 12 years, members of the Texas State Guard have taken to collecting toys to support children during the holidays. The annual “Young Heroes of the Guard” Toy Drive started as an initiative of the 1st Brigade Chaplain Corps but has grown to be a force-wide community service event.

For the past several years, the drive has been coordinated by Master Sgt. John Gately of Round Rock. He has enhanced partnerships with businesses across the state, growing annual donations from about 6,000 toys to more than 100,000.

“I got lassoed in by a sneaky chaplain,” Gately said with a laugh. “He patted me on my right knee – I’ll never forget it – and said, ‘I want you to run the toy drive. If you don’t do it, no one else will. Think of the children.’”  

There was no pressure, of course. But Gately quickly took up the challenge. He has kept the effort focused on young Texans in hospitals and from families facing financial challenges, which has been at the heart of the campaign from the outset.

Among other things, Gately manages lists and organizes drop-offs of donated toys to medical facilities, Title I elementary schools, churches, orphanages, and other locations across the state focused on child advocacy.

But he’s not alone in the effort.

“Our mission is to make sure no child goes without a toy, whether it’s a natural disaster or during the holiday season,” said Capt. Sean Payton, a Texas State Guard chaplain who helped coordinate a delivery event in Copperas Cove, in central Texas.

“This is perfect, it gives back to the children, and teaches the children to give to other children in need.”

The two have set their sights high for next year’s drive and set an ambitious goal of distributing 200,000 items. There is growing interest from businesses statewide with a renewed effort to involve Texas-based sponsors.

The toy drive is truly a volunteer effort and is affiliated with the State Guard Association of Texas, a non-profit organization that supports the toy drive and other Texas State Guard initiatives. Those interested in getting involved can visit the toy drive’s website at: www.txsgtoydrive.com.

“We collect toys throughout the year,” Payton said. “It’s a great opportunity for other businesses, doctor’s offices, other schools, and other entities to get involved.”

This year’s sponsors included: Five Below; i7 Media; 1000 Bulbs; The Laird Team real estate; Supplemental Warehouse; Texoma Strength (sports gym); Melly Vent’z (photography); and the Iron Saber Motorcycle Club.

Gately also credits the program’s success to the dedication and commitment of State Guard personnel who volunteer their off-duty time and talents to support Texas children.

They pointed out the efforts of Sgt. First Class James (Damon) Williams of Buda and Warrant Officer 1 Gregory Illich of Houston, members of the 6th and 2nd brigades, respectively.

While everyone involved with the toy drive talks about the immense joy of seeing the smiles on the faces of young Texans, the drive has a special significance for Illich. When he was six years old, Hurricane Camille destroyed his family’s home in Mississippi.

“We lost everything; no clothes, nothing (remained),” Illich said. “My toys were everything for me, they were gone.”

But through the devastation, there was a spark of inspiration.

“The Mississippi State Guard was staffing the shelter,” Illich said. “Before then, I’d only seen soldiers on TV in news reports from Vietnam. When those people in uniforms at the shelter gave toys to me and my brothers and sister…well, it meant more than I can possibly say.”

Years later, as an adult attending a “Wings Over Houston” event, Illich saw Guardsmen on duty wearing the Texas flag patch and said the memories came rushing back.

“That’s when I knew. I knew I could be ‘that Guardsman,’” Illich said, “and be there for those kids. Because I am that kid.”

But for Illich, like all who work with the “Young Heroes of the Guard” Toy Drive, at the end of the day, this is a mission of healing and hope.

“I wish others could have my experience seeing those children,” Illich said. “The folks at Memorial Hermann Children’s Hospital (in Houston) told us when we visit and bring toys, it visibly improves a kid's health. They do better and heal faster. The kids who know we’re coming – that’s all they talk about for weeks!”

But the impact may last a lifetime.

“Who knows?” Illich said. “One of those kids getting a toy may remember that uniform and become a future member of the Texas State Guard!”

The mission of the Texas State Guard is to provide mission-ready forces to assist state and local authorities in times of state emergencies; to conduct homeland security and community service activities under the umbrella of Defense Support to Civil Authorities, and to augment the Texas Army National Guard and Texas Air National Guard as required.

The Texas Military Department is commanded by the Adjutant General of Texas, the state's senior military official appointed by the governor, and is comprised of the Office of State Administration (formerly the Office of the Executive Director), the Texas Army National Guard (TXARNG), the Texas Air National Guard (TXANG) and the Texas State Guard (TXSG).

 

 

 

Ho, Ho, Hope: Texas State Guardsman trades camo for Santa suit

By Capt. Phoebe Sisk, Texas State Guard

DALLAS (Dec. 21, 2021) – ‘Tis the season for spreading holiday hope and joy. Each year, members of the Texas State Guard (TXSG) find ways to go above and beyond the call of duty.

One such Guardsman is Cpl. Derek Martinez of Mesquite, near Dallas.

In addition to serving as the main coordinator in the 1st Brigade, 3rd Battalion for the annual TXSG Toy Drive, Martinez spends personal time supporting youth in need of extra cheer in his annual role as Santa. Specifically, he hosts visits with children undergoing difficult life circumstances, many who are so young and innocent - they delight in the magic of Old St. Nick.

"The greatest gift I am spreading is forgetfulness," Martinez said. "I know it seems odd, but for the 20 minutes these children are visiting with Santa, they are forgetting that mom is mobilized to the border, or that dad is working graves (night shifts) as a police officer. They forget that there is a Child Protective Services court hearing coming up or they forget that dad is working in healthcare on the COVID front lines.”

Since 2020, Martinez has brought additional comfort and joy to the hearts of young Texans in need, including children in foster care or adoption proceedings, and active military, law enforcement, and fire/EMT families.

The act of giving is almost second nature to Martinez, a three-year veteran of the TXSG. In addition to his military duties, Martinez works as a regional manager for Imaging IoT and security at Konica Minolta Business Solutions in north Texas. These positions have given him a greater understanding of working with people as individuals.

Local foster agencies have coordinated visits directly with “Santa” Martinez. 

"Who knew that Santa knows exactly how to interact with children in foster situations and has such a jolly sense of humor for all ages," said Jade McCoy Alsina of Dallas Foster Closet. "Everyone loved him and we are already looking forward to next year!"

Martinez’s gift for having sensitive interactions with foster children may well come from being a foster parent himself. 

“Santa came by our home and surprised our children with a visit. I have to admit, I cried,” said parent Lindsay Harrell after a recent visit by the ‘Jolly Old Man’. “Santa came in with his big jolly smile, naughty and nice book (my kiddos were on the nice list!), sang, read a book, and talked to each child one on one. It was wonderful to see their faces glow with surprise and joyful hearts. I hope to make it a yearly tradition as it was definitely an unforgettable moment that my family and I will cherish.”

Due to the realities of the current pandemic, Martinez has found innovative ways to connect with young Texans. He’s has taken to social media, where parents and guardians can set up virtual visits with Santa.

“Children are dealing with a lot but for 20 minutes they get to sing, they get to smile, and they get to laugh so hard their ribs hurt; that's the joy I'm trying to spread," said Martinez.
Martinez’s selflessness and generosity of spirit exemplify the best traditions of the Texas State Guard, whose motto is “Texans Serving Texas.”

The mission of the Texas State Guard is to provide mission-ready forces to assist state and local authorities in times of state emergencies; to conduct homeland security and community service activities under the umbrella of Defense Support to Civil Authorities, and to augment the Texas Army National Guard and Texas Air National Guard as required.

The Texas Military Department is commanded by the Adjutant General of Texas, the state's senior military official appointed by the governor, and is comprised of the Office of State Administration (formerly the Office of the Executive Director), the Texas Army National Guard (TXARNG), the Texas Air National Guard (TXANG) and the Texas State Guard (TXSG).

 

Texas State Guard Hosts Dallas City Councilman

By John Duesing, PV2, Texas State Guard, 1st Brigade

DALLAS (October 23, 2021) - The Texas State Guard 1st Brigade hosted Dallas City Councilman Omar Narvaez at its headquarters in Dallas on October 23.  Commanding Officer of the 1BDE, Brigadier General Robert Hastings greeted Mr. Narvaez before moving into the Drill Hall. Councilman Narvaez delivered remarks about the Texas State Guard’s involvement in disaster relief and presented a certificate of special recognition signed by Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson.

“We couldn’t have accomplished the emergency water distribution following Winter Storm Uri without the Texas State Guard,” said Narvaez. “Your willingness to serve others out of the goodness of your heart in times of needs represents the best of Texas.”

The certificate recognized the work of the Texas State Guard over the past year, including COVID-19 response, Hurricane Laura evacuations, and Winter Storm Uri relief. Activities the Texas State Guard undertook during these crises included civil support and emergency management missions, surveying decommissioned medical facilities to expand COVID-19 treatment capacity, and establishing water points-of-distribution.

“Building and maintaining our relationships with city leadership is a key part of our mission with the Texas State Guard,” said General Hastings. “This helps us to serve our local Texas communities better.”

Following the presentation of the certificate, the Texas State Guard presented awards and promotions as well as swore in new Texas State Guardsmen. The Texas State Guard 1st Brigade supports 113 counties in North Texas and the panhandle. 

The mission of the Texas State Guard is to provide mission-ready forces to assist state and local authorities in times of state emergencies; to conduct homeland security and community service activities under the umbrella of Defense Support to Civil Authorities, and to augment the Texas Army National Guard and Texas Air National Guard as required.

The Texas Military Department is commanded by the Adjutant General of Texas, the state's senior military official appointed by the governor, and is comprised of the Office of State Administration (formerly the Office of the Executive Director), the Texas Army National Guard (TXARNG), the Texas Air National Guard (TXANG) and the Texas State Guard (TXSG).

 

Search and Rescue Finds New Focus, Mission Readiness in Texas State Guard

By David Brown, WO1, Texas State Guard

Camp Swift, TX – “A child is missing...”

“My father is lost...”

“We think our grandparents may be trapped by the floodwaters…”

Such events can set off an intense sense of desperation.  Time is of the essence.  Every minute of delay may be a matter of life or death.  

Soon, the Texas State Guard will play a much bigger role in responding to such emergencies in coordination with state and local authorities. 

The Texas State Guard Search and Rescue program has launched a major new transition to standardize training, to create an official Mission Ready Package, and to make the State Guard’s search and rescue capability a go-to resource for officials statewide. 

“Our goal is to have hundreds of Texas State Guardsmen earn national-level certifications so we can partner with local jurisdictions across the state in search and rescue operations,” said Brig. Gen. Talentino Angelosante, Asst. Dep. Commanding General of the Texas State Guard. 

A longtime veteran of the U.S. Army with decades of experience in search and rescue is redesigning the program and overseeing new instruction and certification standards for State Guard search and rescue personnel.  

Capt. Terry Benjamin joined the Texas State Guard in 2015 with 18 years of prior federal service, and experience as a trained Cavalry Scout and Blackhawk pilot. 

“I’ve been doing search and rescue all my life, deployed hundreds and hundreds of times,” Benjamin said. 

In addition to using his tracking skills throughout the Middle East and South America, Benjamin performed search and rescue operations as an Army medical evacuation pilot. Benjamin also taught Urban and Wilderness tracking techniques with the U.S. Border Patrol, while working as a law enforcement officer in Southern California. Benjamin is currently director of Lone Star Search and Rescue, a North Texas K-9 search and rescue team, and serves as a SARTECH II Senior Evaluator for the National Association of Search and Rescue. Additionally, he is one of the founding members of the Texas Task Force 2 (TX-TF2) urban search and rescue unit, an elite team of search and rescue dog handlers. 

In the coming months, Benjamin anticipates assessing the existing search and rescue skills of all State Guard personnel, to support agency plans to certify qualifying service members under a new partnership between the Texas State Guard and the National Association of Search and Rescue. This new arrangement will make it possible for State Guardsmen to get intensified field and classroom training culminating in the association’s nationally accredited Search and Rescue Technician Level 1 certification. The new program, developed in collaboration with the National Association of Search and Rescue, includes training tailored to the State Guard service with participants able to obtain certification within 4 to 6 months. 

The Texas State Guard has a rich history in search and rescue operations, notably during major disasters such as Hurricane Harvey.  The State Guard was also among the first on the scene in the wake of the Columbia Space Shuttle tragedy and has a long record of assisting Texas Parks and Wildlife in performing search and rescue operations. 

Having search and rescue technicians in the Guard isn’t new, said Benjamin. This is the first time, however, that the Texas State Guard will have a standardized way to assess service members in this field, empowering the State Guard to stand up mission-ready packages in support of partner agencies statewide.

“We want to get as many service members qualified as we can so that we can be a force multiplier,” said Maj. H. Lee Burton, Dep. Commander of the Texas State Guard Special Teams Training Group. 

Burton said he anticipates developing close relationships with local fire departments, sheriffs, and other agencies statewide so that they know they can call on highly trained State Guard forces to support their search and rescue efforts.

“This will help local communities in a big way,” said Burton. “And help us enhance our role as ‘Texans Serving Texas.’”

“I think about how we helped during the floods in Wimberley (in 2015),” Benjamin said.  “We can build on that. The local sheriff calls, they don’t have the manpower, they don’t have a dog team, they need areas cleared. And the Texas State Guard is ready to go in.  Texas has flooding like that all the time.  With Mission Ready Packages (MRP) in place, we can do more for more communities.  We want to be in front of everybody’s mind.”

Tracking skills are important, but land navigation, GPS, and technology skills are, too. Everyone in the Texas State Guard has a role to play and a strength to bring to search and rescue operations. 

“This isn’t some elitist program, we want everybody in,” said Benjamin. 

Some people may be proficient with boats, others drones, and drivers are needed as well. 

Although the goal of getting everyone to a Search and Rescue Technician Level II certification is a long-term objective, the ball is already rolling. So far, 16 Texas State Guardsmen have received their SARTECH II certification through this program.

“Our goal is to train everybody in the Texas State Guard in search and rescue,” said Benjamin. “So when ‘the emergency’ comes, we have people ready to serve in those MRPs.”

The Texas State Guard is looking for Texans with search and rescue experience, as well as people with backgrounds in engineering, law, medicine, construction, technology, and other fields willing to serve the people of the Lone Star State.  Prior military experience is not required to join the Texas State Guard, but those with prior federal service are especially encouraged to explore available opportunities.  More information can be found online at tmd.texas.gov/state-guard.

The mission of the Texas State Guard is to provide mission-ready forces to assist state and local authorities in times of state emergencies; to conduct homeland security and community service activities under the umbrella of Defense Support to Civil Authorities, and to augment the Texas Army National Guard and Texas Air National Guard as required.

The Texas Military Department is commanded by the Adjutant General of Texas, the state's senior military official appointed by the governor, and is comprised of the Office of State Administration (formerly the Office of the Executive Director), the Texas Army National Guard (TXARNG), the Texas Air National Guard (TXANG) and the Texas State Guard (TXSG).
 

Love in the Texas State Guard

By Johnathan Winston, 1LT, Texas State Guard

BIG SPRING, Texas - If you ask the typical soldier to explain what the Texas State Guard means to them, you might hear them talk about duty, honor, and the opportunity to serve their fellow Texans. If you ask Pfc. Robert Parks and Pvt. Abigail Parks, of Big Spring, Texas those questions you are likely to hear a similar story, or you may learn about a romance born out of service that led these two members of the Texas State Guard 3rd Brigade to become more than fellow service members. They also became husband and wife.

Robert was raised in the East Texas town of Livingston and joined the Texas State Guard in 2017.  

“I decided to enlist to help Texans in need, to make a difference in peoples’ lives, and to see where it took me,” Robert said.

For Abigail, of Chihuahua, Mexico, her State Guard story began in 2018 after she completed the civilian education needed to enlist. 

Neither knew it at the time but her enlistment would lead both Guardsmen on a course to the alter. Robert remembers their first meeting which took place after Abigail’s swearing-in ceremony. 

“She was asked to stand and introduce herself to the squad, and to tell us about herself and what she wanted to do in the Guard. I listened and could relate to everything she was saying as far as service, family, and children,” said Robert. “All of our kids are the same age, she has a son and two daughters, and I have a son and two daughters.”

From there, destiny took over as Robert gave Abigail some uniform insignia items, a custom between longer serving soldiers and newly sworn-in troops. He also shared one more item that turned out to be a symbol of their future lives together.  Months earlier Robert shared how he had acquired two pocket bibles with camouflage covers months earlier. 

“I kept one Bible in the left pocket of my blouse, and the extra one in my ruck. I have no idea why I grabbed the other one, but I did,” said Robert.

On the day Robert and Abigail met, he gave her his extra Bible. Their relationship blossomed from there, and the pair eventually married in 2019.  All of these years later, they both carry those same military Bibles in their left blouse pockets when in uniform.   

“We owe our lives together to the Texas State Guard,” Robert said when asked about how serving continues to impact lives for himself and Abigail.  “The Texas State Guard enabled us to do this.  We love serving in the Guard because this is what brought us together.” 

Both Guardsmen say their relationship has grown right alongside their service to Texas. The Parks emphasize a love of physical challenges and helping others whenever possible, and they look forward to developing as leaders together. 

 

 

Soldier, Architect, Expert Engineer: Texas State Guardsman and Purple Heart recipient earns prestigious engineering award

By David Brown, WO1, Texas State Guard

LUBBOCK, Texas – Texas State Guard First Lieutenant Christopher Beck, a Purple Heart recipient, has been awarded the Engineer Specialty Qualification designation from the State Guard Association of the United States. The designation is awarded to the most experienced engineers upon completion of the SGAUS Engineer Specialty Qualification Identification program. 

The program was created by the SGAUS Engineering Academy in 2015 to help state guard forces quickly identify and deploy highly-trained engineers during state emergencies. 

“By earning the prestigious Engineer Specialty Qualification designation, Lt. Beck is leading the way among TXSG engineers,” says Lt. Col. Cecil Bell, Chief Engineer for the TXSG Command Group and General Staff.  

The demanding training program includes coursework developed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s National Incident Management Structure and FEMA Independent Course Studies. Beck, a Midland native, undertook two years of intensive training to earn the honor.

“The most challenging aspect was time; it takes an immense amount of time to get through all requirements and training,” says Beck, a Texas Tech graduate with a Master’s Degree in Architecture.

In addition to SGAUS membership, successful applicants must earn the SGAUS Basic Military Emergency Management Specialist badge, pass a physical fitness requirement, and demonstrate qualifying knowledge and experience in the field of engineering or construction, with a professional degree or extensive work experience in engineering, construction management, architecture, surveying, technology or a related field.  

Beck is a Project Captain and Associate Architect at WCA Design Studios in Lubbock.  
He describes himself as a lifelong learner. “In the profession of architecture, you expand your knowledge daily, and I take that to all aspects of my life.”  

Public service has been a central part of Beck’s life. Beck served for a combined total of over 11 years in the U.S. Army and Texas Army National Guard, including service in the 56th Brigade Combat Team. Beck joined the ranks of the TXSG in December 2017. His twin brother, Pvt. 1st Class Robert Beck, also serves in the TXSG. 

While prior federal service is not a requirement for TXSG service, Beck cites a desire to assist fellow Texans and the opportunity of serving with his brother as two major factors in his decision to join the TXSG. 

The skill badge on Lt. Beck’s uniform speaks to his own personal accomplishment and highlights the emphasis the TXSG places on the continued professional training of its soldiers. 

“I’m sure others will be inspired by his success,” Bell adds, “and I heartily encourage qualified members of our Engineer Corps to explore the challenges and opportunities offered by the SGAUS Engineering Academy.”

Beck currently serves in the 2nd Battalion, 1st Brigade, TXSG as an Engineer Primary Skills Officer. Beck, his wife, Kerry, and their two children live in Lubbock. 

The Texas State Guard is actively looking for Texans interested in serving their fellow Texans, and it especially encourages applications from those with backgrounds in engineering, construction, law and law enforcement, information technology, medicine, communications, and other professions. More information about joining the TXSG can be found online at https://tmd.texas.gov/state-guard.

The mission of the Texas Military Department (TMD) is to provide the Governor and the President with ready and trained forces in support of the citizens of Texas and State and Federal civil/military authorities at home and abroad.

The Texas Military Department is commanded by the Adjutant General of Texas, the state's senior military official appointed by the governor, and is comprised of the Office of State Administration, the Texas Army National Guard (TXARNG), the Texas Air National Guard (TXANG) and the Texas State Guard (TXSG). 

 

Texas State Guard 1st Brigade marks Women's History Month

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

DALLAS, Texas -- Ten Texas State Guard females of varying ages, experience, rank, and duties came together on March 15, 2021, at the Texas Army National Guard Armory, in honor of Women’s History Month. The meeting was led by TXSG Brig. Gen. Robert Hastings, the 1st Brigade’s Commanding General, and focused on various topics to include, retention, recruiting, and employment, specifically for women in the Guard. 

Such considerations are every day, but the recent celebration of International Women’s Day, a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women offered the perfect catalyst to meet, celebrate, and brainstorm, bringing the best ideas to the table.

“Today, women comprise approximately 15 percent of our brigade,” said Hastings.  “We have three female company commanders and one first sergeant.  That is not what it could be, what it should be, or more importantly what we want it to be.”

Hastings explained his goal is to double the statistics by this time next year.

During the opening remarks, Hastings expressed one of his goals as a leader is to empower women in uniform and promote an equal force for the future. 

“My perspective is anchored in my experiences – those of a middle-aged white male,” Hastings explained.  “I can’t change that, but I can learn from your perspectives.” 

Through the open dialogue approach, servicemen and women were able to discuss tough topics such as sexual harassment, with mutual respect and understanding. 

The movement of conversation was fast and the key substance of real issues was discussed: Was sexual harassment an issue, and if so, did the women in the room feel comfortable and empowered to address it? Did they know how to report inappropriate behavior and seek assistance if necessary?

From the discussions, it was determined that sexual harassment was not an issue in the brigade, across the board, including those new to the TXSG and those with extensive experience.  “It’s just a non-event throughout all of the time that I’ve served,” offered TXSG 1st Sgt. Mary Wilson, who added that she makes it a point to keep her ears open to all happenings up and down the chain of command as the most senior enlisted female of the unit. 

Recruiting was a big first topic, with key insights offered by TXSG Staff Sgt. Angela Scarborough, a recruiter assigned to the 1st Brigade, who was recently recognized as TXSG Recruiter of the Year.

“Women want to speak to other women”, explained Scarborough.   Scarborough and others in the room recognized that recruiting and retaining women is important in order to reflect the nation’s population and ensure strong military leadership. 

The team discussed innovative ways to increase awareness of how women can serve, as well as educate local citizens on the Texas State Guard as a whole. 

Reaching the market of those who have never served is key, letting potential candidates know that age is not a prohibitor, that skills of being an informal community leader, and most of all, possessing a servant’s heart, are some of the best indicators of success in the TXSG.

Texas State Guard’s 2nd Lt. Kylie Green, who entered the TXSG to offer skills as a licensed RN, reflected on her moment of realizing that she could balance service with parenting and other life duties. “Understanding that we don’t deploy outside of Texas and that the training is part-time was important because it meant that I could be a mom and still be part of the TXSG.”

“It was wonderful to get to know General Hastings and meet some of the other ladies in the Texas State Guard,” said Pvt. Jerah Hutchins, a recent enlistee.  “They are all so selfless and accomplished!”

March is a time to celebrate the contributions and honor the sacrifices and accomplishments of women who not only shape our military but our nation as well. 

Through the use of the female-focused meeting, and by providing the opportunity to network with peers and participate in group discussions, the Texas State Guardsmen are able and empowered to stand ready to serve--they are “Texans Serving Texas.”

For more information about the Texas State Guard, please go to www.join.txsg.state.tx.us.

Guardsmen deliver water to communities throughout Texas following record-breaking winter storm

Loading

 

By WO 1 Gregory Illich Texas State Guard and Robert Seyller

COLLEGE STATION, Texas – As a winter weather storm moved into Texas on February 13, 2021, Governor Greg Abbot activated the Texas National Guard in response to increasing precipitation and projections of record low temperatures throughout the state.

As snow and sleet continued to fall, water and power infrastructure were lost by more than 12 million Texans. In response, The Texas Department of Emergency Management in Coordination with the Texas Military Department began distributing bottled drinking water to those in need.

As Texas Guardsmen in San Antonio unloaded pallets of water from a C-17 Globemaster, Maj. Gen. Tracy R. Norris, the adjutant general of Texas, took a moment to highlight the importance of the mission.

"This is water, this is critical to life, you can only go two or three days without water so this is a life-sustaining mission you are taking on," said Norris.

Guardsmen from the Texas Army, Air, and State guard were joined by service members from multiple state National Guards including South Carolina and Illinois along with active duty Air Force members to fly pallet after pallet into distribution hubs in San Antonio and College Station, Texas.Loading water

The Texas Air National Guard’s 136th Airlift Wing out of Fort Worth, Texas is among the units bringing water to airports across the state. The 136 AW’s C-130 Hercules transport planes deliver thousands of pounds of water that are stacked into Texas Army National Guard helicopters and Medium Tactical vehicles for transport to county and city distribution centers.

Col. Keith Williams, wing commander, 136th Air Wing Texas Air National Guard, explained that the unit's personnel have been working to support water distribution efforts while still supporting overseas operations and homeland defense missions.

"It takes a monumental effort. A large portion of the 136 AW is deployed overseas. We overcome the challenges and provide services to the Texas Department of Emergency Management,” said Williams. "The 136 AW has a large team of guardsmen who are receiving and preparing water for air shipment, loading aircraft, and performing maintenance along with aircrews and operations support personnel, coming together as one big team to make the mission happen.  We are proud to support our fellow Texans in their time of need."

Williams explained that service members who were assisting were not immune from the impacts of the storm explaining that the responding guardsmen had families they had to leave behind to help entire communities return to normal. Norris also shared that without that sacrifice the organization could not succeed, thanking each guardsman for their service.

"You have a family at home, probably without power, without water and here you are helping your neighbors and Texas recover,” said Norris. “Our number one asset in the Guard is our people and every time Texans need help you guys show up. You’re truly heroes.

For Texas State Guard Member Pvt. Mary Boscarino the water distribution was her first mission since enlisting last year but she knew why she had to help the people of Texas.

Loading water“College Station is my home and I feel so honored to be here, helping my fellow Texans in a time of crisis. My passion is helping others, giving back to the community. What greater way for me to start than to help right at home."

That sense of service was in full display among the assembled Texas Guard members and volunteers, each working to support the mission by leveraging their unique military training to increase the speed and amount of water being delivered to communities. That training provided the state with a key method of distribution as members of the 36th Combat Aviation Brigade flew UH-60 Blackhawk and CH-47 Chinook helicopters from the airports to the distribution centers.

“We have completed seven round trips, flying water out from the College Station hub to local municipalities including Leon County and Brenham,” said Capt. Sean Thomas, a Black Hawk pilot with the 36th CAB. “It is always a pleasure to work with the Air National Guard, Texas State Guard, Texas Department of Emergency Management and other civil authorities to bring relief as we have done in previous natural disasters."

Guardsmen will continue to transport water and additional resources to impacted communities until the state's infrastructure is repaired and the people until our Texas neighbors have fully recovered from back-to-back winter storms.