Posts in Category: Texas State Guard

Supporting Guardsmen and Families from Deployment to Retirement

Story by Andrew R. Smith, Texas Military Department Public Affairs

Soldiers and Airmen attached to guard and reserve elements constantly have to balance military service, a fulltime job, education and family life.  At times this combination of tasks may seem overwhelming.  Fortunately, services exist to assist these hard working service members and their families.  While most of these people know about benefits such as tax free shopping at the Post Exchange and the education benefits of the GI Bill, there exists an entire support system that offers services far beyond those.Citizen soldier for life logo.

The Family Support Services center offers everything from entertainment functions to education classes and benefits workshops so families will be well versed in what benefits they have and how to best use them. 

“Family Support Services offers cradle to grave assistance for guardsmen and civilian employees,” said Shandra Sponsler, Deputy Branch Manager of Family Support Servicer on Camp Mabry. “We offer pretty much everything but pay and MOS training for Soldiers. Even as Soldiers reach retirement age we have programs like resume writing and interviewing classes and the ‘Citizen-Soldier for Life’ program to guide them as they move past the military.”

Citizen-Soldier for Life is an Army National Guard program that offer career readiness support and financial training to National Guard members, their families, veterans and retirees.  They offer events to help those veterans find jobs in the civilian work force as well as professional networking.

The Soldier Support Service Center, located at Camp Mabry, in Austin, also offers services for retired persons, such as issuing new I.D. cards and copies of military records for retirees and dependents. 

Family Support Services also works with many local partners like Hero’s Night Out, Combat Combined Arms, Operation Homefront USA and the YMCA to put on local events to educate service members and families and provide services. Many of these events are aimed at entertaining and providing a sense of community for the children of deployed service members.

“Some of our most useful and most popular services are Tricare healthcare for service members and families, behavioral health counselors and assistance with Veterans Administration benefits,” said Staff Sgt. Jean-Pierre Sanders, noncommissioned officer in charge of Yellow Ribbon programs at the Family Support Services Center.

The Yellow Ribbon program is another major benefit available to veterans that assists with the cost of education at select universities and trade schools.

“One service I would suggest people take advantage of is our Yellow Ribbon events.  At these events we have information about all of our available resources.  Beyond the obvious ones, there some unseen benefits,” said Sanders. “I often see family members of deployed service members meet with other families, share stories and advice and network with one another.  The support they offer each other us something unique and valuable.”

Even organizations like the Army Air Force Exchange (AAFES) who run the Post Exchange (PX) is opened to all active and retired service members as well as 100 percent disabled veterans and families of all eligible groups. PX restraints are open to all. A portion of all AAFES profits go back to troops through donations to Morale and Welfare Recreation Programs.

Many of the support services such as the counseling are available over the phone 24-hours a day year round. Offices are located all over Texas in Austin, Dallas, Houston, Weslaco, Tyler and El Paso.

More information about these services can be found at https://tmd.texas.gov/tmd-family-support-services

Operation Lone Star Brings Medical Care to the Valley

Story and Photos by Staff Sgt. Eric Walden, Texas State Guard Public Affairs

BROWNSVILLE, Texas - This year marked the 20th anniversary of the Texas State Guard’s involvement in Operation Lone Star.  Operation Lone Star is a collaborative medical services project that unites state and county health and human service agencies, the Texas Military Department, local service groups and volunteers in the largest public health humanitarian effort in the country. OLS is a real-time, large-scale emergency preparedness exercise that provides medical service and disaster recovery training to state agencies and personnel while addressing the medical needs of thousands of underserved Texas residents.

Brig. Del Marco Coppola, DO, discusses a patient's case with members of the multi-agency staff, including a doctor from Mexico, nursing students and a provider form the U.S. Public Health Service during operation Lone Star 2019 at the Brownsville MPOD, Brownsville, Texas.
Brig. Del Marco Coppola, DO, discusses a patient's case with members of the multi-agency staff, including a doctor from Mexico, nursing students and a provider form the U.S. Public Health Service during operation Lone Star 2019 at the Brownsville MPOD, Brownsville, Texas.

Each summer since 1998, OLS provides medical care at no cost to residents of the Rio Grande Valley. For many residents, it is the only medical care they receive all year. For elements of the Texas State Guard and its Texas Medical Brigade/Medical Component Command, it is a vital training mission that offers hands-on experience in mass medical care in partnership with local public health authorities. For local residents, it is the gift of health–or of life itself.

The medical services OLS provides include immunizations, blood pressure checks, diabetes screenings, hearing and vision exams, physicals for students, medical evaluations and dental services.

Each year approximately 200 military staff members, more than 200 state and county employees and countless volunteers give their time and talents to make OLS a reality. Annually, OLS provides some 60,000 medical services to more than 12,000 Texas residents.

For the Texas Medical Brigade, OLS is its primary Annual Training event where these highly trained, licensed and certified health care professionals dedicate more than a week of their time. During the intensive training exercise, they set up Medical Points of Distribution and prepare for state and local emergencies, while providing an enormous humanitarian service to the people of Texas. 

The TMB/MCC is one of the four components of the Texas State Guard. It was established in March 2003 as the Texas State Guard Medical Reserve Corps, a component of the Texas Military Department under the Adjutant General of Texas and at the direction of the Governor of Texas. It was reorganized as the TMB/MCC in May 2007 and has an authorized end strength of 350 medical and support personnel statewide. The TMB/MCC remains a Medical Reserve Corps unit designated by the U.S. Surgeon General.

The TMB/MCC serves as a regional medical response team to assist in Texas public health emergencies, including biological terrorism, epidemics and disasters. The mission is to provide licensed medical personnel and technical support expertise in response to large-scale disasters, supplementing public health authorities of the Texas Department of State Health Services. The TMB/MCC also provides medical care to military personnel of the Texas Military Department and first aid support to select community events.

Many of these medical military staff return year after year to provide services to communities that always welcome assistance with basic healthcare services. Since there are multiple locations in the Rio Grande Valley where MPODs are located, such as Brownsville, Mission, Laredo and other Rio Grande Valley locations, military healthcare providers may be assigned to new locations each year. Despite this movement, OLS has forged relationships between many physicians and clientele, relationships deep enough for clients to track down physicians they have seen before in order to see them at their new locations. 

CPT Adrian Cano, a Texas State Guard physician, gives a nine-year old boy a much-needed basic health care examination during Operation Lone Star at the Mission MPOD, Mission, Texas.
CPT Adrian Cano, a Texas State Guard physician, gives a nine-year-old boy a much-needed basic health care examination during Operation Lone Star at the Mission MPOD, Mission, Texas.

Brig. Gen. Marco Coppola, DO, the Chief Medical Officer for OLS 2019 relayed a story where he saw the same client for three years in a row. The man, who was initially diagnosed as obese and suffering from high blood pressure, sought out Dr. Coppola each year to update his medications and receive an update on his progress. In the third year, the man had lost so much weight he was no longer obese, and his blood pressure had returned to normal. This relationship between the client and his OLS healthcare provider has turned the man's life around.

Col. Jonathan MacClements, MD, Surgeon General of the Texas State Guard, had one of the most unusual cases. Last year at OLS, a man presented a disfiguring skin disorder. Dr. MacClements was able to diagnose the skin disease as leprosy and worked to ensure follow-up care of the man during the year. This resulted in the man returning to see him again this year and evaluate his progress in alleviating the debilitating disease. 

Col. Robert McBroom, MD, an infectious disease specialist out of Wichita Falls, Texas, recalls a young student client who initially came in for a sports physical, which is a common need for students participating in sports in their local schools. Her experience at OLS led her to return for the last three years not only for continued care under Dr. McBroom, but also as a volunteer herself, providing translation services to clients and forging new relationships between clients and their OLS healthcare experience. 

Texas State Guard providers create much more than a single healthcare experience; they create relationships where clients return year after year to follow up on their healthcare needs. These relationships exemplify a trust between the Texas State Guard medical providers not only with the local community, but also with individual clients. 

“This speaks volumes for the importance of OLS and why the efforts of the Texas Medical Brigade are instrumental for the health and well-being of the citizens of Texas,” Brig. Gen. Coppola said.

Dr. Voss and a young patient

This article originally appeared in the October 2019 edition of The Dispatch, on page 14.

Heart as big as Texas

Story by: Sgt. 1st Class John Gately

CPT Mills with her puppyFor 20 years the Texas State Guard has been part of Operation Lone Star.  Over those years, these men and women have helped countless numbers of people and brought medical services to many that could not afford it.

This year started no different than any other year, but by the end of the day, a new family would be created.

This mission took a turn when a sweet, friendly but mischievous puppy found its way into the hearts of many at the Brownsville Medical Point of Distribution.

This little puppy was eager to meet every Soldier and patient as she wandered the MPOD. Of course, no one could pass up spending a little time with her.

After a long day of wandering around the MPOD, receiving lots of love and food, the puppy was seen laying down in a shady doorway. Several students watched the puppy and started to think the worst on that very hot day. They summoned a veterinarian from the Public Health Service that was attached to Remote Area Medical, one of the many providers of Operation Lone Star, to check on the puppy to make sure she was well.  After examining the puppy, the vet stated the puppy was just worn out and tired from her activities. However, she was in need of care, as she was covered in fleas and ticks and needed a myriad of other things that puppies require.

Several students worried about the puppy’s future as the Brownsville Animal Control was called.  In no time, one of the JROTC students, the RAM vet, and troops from the Texas State Guard came together and a plan was hatched with Brownsville Animal Control.  Animal Control would take the puppy to be spayed and receive all the needed immunizations and care, then JROTC Cadet Emily Cortez and her mother, Ann Erblich, would pick up the puppy and care for it until her new owner, Capt. Diann Mills could take her home.

The Texas State Guard mission is to always help Texans in their time of need, this time, it was a four-legged Texan that needed our help and Texas State Guard was “Equal to the task”!

Safety on the Flight Line

Story by Staff Sgt. Gregory Illich, Texas State Guard

Posted July 26, 2019

Pvt. Mary Jane Moore, 8th Regiment, Army Component, Texas State Guard, stands at a flight line to guide visitors, who are looking at the collection of commemorative aircraft, safely away from the active ramps and taxiways where aircraft are moved and refueled at the Commemorative Air Force Wings Over Houston Airshow at Ellington Airport, Houston, Texas, October 19, 2018. (Texas State Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Gregory Illich)
Pvt. Mary Jane Moore, 8th Regiment, Army Component, Texas State Guard, stands at a flight line to guide visitors, who are looking at the collection of commemorative aircraft, safely away from the active ramps and taxiways where aircraft are moved and refueled at the Commemorative Air Force Wings Over Houston Airshow at Ellington Airport, Houston, Texas, October 19, 2018. (Texas State Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Gregory Illich)

HOUSTON –The Texas State Guard provided logistical and medical support for the 19th consecutive year to the annual Commemorative Air Force Wings over Houston Airshow at Ellington Airport, Houston, from October 17-21, 2018.  With the anticipated number of visitors to exceed 50,000, air show organizers have come to depend upon the Texas State Guard support at one of the largest airshows in the country.
   
Securing the flight line is one of the important assignments of the Texas State Guard.  Guard members from the 8th Regiment, Army Component, were on duty to maintain a safe distance from the active ramps and taxiways to prevent visitors from accidentally wandering into areas where aircraft are moving for takeoff, landing, or refueling. 

"We are like a guardrail for airshow visitors.  We stand along the taxiways to safeguard visitors who do not realize that they are approaching an off-limits area or a danger zone.  We want everyone to enjoy the show but from a safe distance," stated Pvt. Mary Jane Moore, 8th Regiment, Army Component, Texas State Guard.

Guard members also staffed gated entry points to the airport.  They checked to ensure items carried onto airport property adhered to airport rules.  They also provided airshow information and directions to visitors.
 
The guard members from the 5th Air Wing, Air Component, assisted airport ramp personnel who moved aircraft as ramps were opened and closed to public access.  They also established communications using the Texas Interoperable Communications Package, which is used as a means of communication when other types of communication equipment are not available, normal communication channels are damaged during an emergency or disaster, such as a hurricane or flooding, or when electronic data is sent from remote locations. 
 
The 2nd Battalion, Texas Medical Brigade, staffed a medic tent with civilian counterparts to provide first aid to visitors. 
 
Guard members support to the Wings over Houston Airshow is one example of how the Texas State Guard uses community service activities to exercise skills that are used to support state and local authorities in times of emergencies or disasters.  Guard members practiced command and control, logistics, communications and other skills which apply to shelter management operations and traffic flow during the distribution of food and water.
  
"Anytime that the Texas State Guard can support our local communities, whether disaster support or community activity support, means that the Texas State Guard is serving our fellow Texans.  We are Texans Serving Texas!" stated Maj. Austin Green, Executive Officer, 8th Regiment.
 

SERVICE ON THE HOMEFRONT - THE BIRTH OF THE TEXAS STATE GUARD AND WORLD WAR II

Story by Chief Warrant Officer 3 Janet Schmelzer, Texas State Guard

Texas Defense Guard (Texas State Guard files, Camp Mabry Museum, Austin, Texas)When World War II erupted in Europe in 1939, the National Guard was called into active service on September 16, 1940.  Once the National Guard was federalized, states felt unprotected and argued that they needed military units to serve within each state’s boundaries and protect their property and residents.
   
Congress responded by amending the National Defense Act of 1916.  The 1940 “State Guard Amendment” authorized states to create and maintain defense forces for protection and enforce territorial police power. The mission of state guards was to provide an adequately trained force for deployment within the boundaries and jurisdictions of their respective states as directed by the state executive or legislature, maintain laws, suppress disorders, protect the life and property of individuals within the state, vital industries, installations, and communication facilities, meet domestic emergencies including natural and war disasters, prevent and suppress activities of enemy agents, cooperate with federal military authorities in extreme emergencies and perform other duties as were assigned to the National Guard when not in federal service.

The types and numbers of each state guard was left to the decision of the states. The War Department would supervise and direct training, issuing weapons, jeeps, trucks, ambulances and other supplies as needed. State guards were to be demobilized or disbanded as National Guard units returned to home from the war.  The War Department also placed the supervision of state guard forces under the National Guard Bureau, ensuring rules and regulations that applied to the National Guard, including courts martial and punishments applied to state defense forces. 
 
Brig. Gen. L. F. Guerre, Director, Security and Intelligence Division, Eighth Service Command, Army Service Forces, stated that the Texas State Guard “was conceived as a wartime necessity and which serves a patriotic purpose to back the war effort with patriotic service on the home front.”

Following the passage of the “State Guard Amendment,” Texas Governor O’Daniel authorized the Adjutant General of Texas Brig. Gen. John Watt Page to formulate plans to organize the state defense force, including provisional appointment of commissioned officers and informal enlistment of personnel. By the end of 1940, Texas had 173 companies consisting of 500 officers and 6,000 enlisted men. Anticipating the passage of the Texas Defense Guard Act, O’Daniel named Page as the commander of the state defense force. The 47th Texas Legislature and O’Daniel quickly passed the requisite enabling law, the “Texas Defense Guard Act 1941,” which created and organized the Texas Defense Guard on February 10, 1941.  This act authorized the governor to organize and maintain a state guard when deemed necessary to defend the state and to prescribe rules and regulations governing enlistment, organization, administration, uniforms, equipment, maintenance, training and discipline. The act also permitted the ability to secure arms, equipment or other government property for its protection. The emergency appropriation for the state guard was $65,000.

The guard was composed of officers and able-bodied males who were citizens of the United States. To keep from interfering with Army recruiting efforts, state guard enlistment focused on older citizens, World War I veterans, non-prior service civilians, businessmen, defense workers, merchants, farmers and young men not eligible for federal service. They enlisted for three years without pay, except when on state active duty, and all had to meet U. S. Army physical training standards. Anyone dishonorably discharged from a federal service or civilian organization was barred from enlistment.

Under the act, the governor requisitioned arms and equipment from the War Department and made state armories available to the state guard. Other funds, armories, equipment, material and transportation were supplemented by county courts, cities, communities and civic and patriotic organizations. 

The state guard served only within the boundaries of Texas and could not be called or ordered into federal military service. The governor, however, had the authority to order the guard to assist military or police forces of another state in pursuit of insurrectionists, saboteurs, enemies or enemy forces into another state and to permit other states the right of pursuit into Texas by mutual agreement between the states.

The organization of the state guard quickly took shape.  The state guard uniforms and ranks were identical to the U. S. Army, and State Guardsmen wore the Texas Defense Guard patch on their left arms.  

The plan for the state guard was to establish battalions across the state. If a town or county wanted a unit, local organizations, such as the city council and veterans’ groups, submitted an application describing the strategic importance of locating a unit there and submitted an incident command structure. Denver City and Yoakum County pointed out the importance to protect vital war industries and installations, oil well fields, pipeline stations, a Texas-New Mexico power plant and tank batteries for oil storage in their area. By 1942 50 battalions were established.

With enlistments skyrocketing to 17,497 in the first year, the Texas Defense Guard increased training to 150 hours in 1942.  The Eighth Army Service Command provided training materials and films, while Army instructors held schools for officers and non-commissioned officers at Camp Mabry and Camp Bullis. Training covered military conduct, discipline, camp sanitation, personal hygiene, first aid and the use of chemical masks against chemical attack and toxic gasses. Guardsmen learned the basics of march and bivouacs, dismounted drill, interior and special guard duty, sentinel on post, extended order (whistle, hand signals, arm signals) and orderly deployment. They practiced how to care for equipment, pitch a tent, build and dig field fortifications, trenches and foxholes, create camouflage, read a map, guard vital installations, conduct night operations, form the squad edge and squad diagonal tactical formations and identify German, Japanese and Italian aircraft.  

Weapons training for Guardsmen included an eight-hour course on the use of the Springfield .30-6 caliber M1903 five-round magazine-fed, bolt action repeating rifle and seven hours of M1928A1 Thompson .45 cartridge submachine gun, the famous “Tommy Gun,” which had a reputation for accuracy and high-volume fire.

Needing the Springfield rifles for the war in the Pacific, the War Department took back the rifles and distributed shotguns as replacements. In 1943 the shotgun became the principal State Guard weapon authorized for brush fighting, patrolling from cars or trucks during night, fog and rain operations and street fighting. Hand-grenade training included fake hairbrush grenades and potato mashers. At one point, the State Guard considered training with explosive devices made by a Boston fireworks factory but decided to use fake grenades instead for safety and economy.

Page stated that the importance of the Texas Defense Guard as a second line of American defense was “not be to underestimated. Our guard officers will be taught how to meet the same problems which beset the low countries of Europe preceding the Nazi invasion. Holland and France were taken unawares but we here in Texas will be prepared for any eventuality.”

The Texas Defense Guard, only months after being created and with many units still being organized, faced its first big test as a defense force during the Houston Gulf Coast Hurricane on September 22-23, 1941. Over 500 guardsmen rescued victims, transported people to safe locations, patrolled streets armed with rifles, prevented looting, directed traffic in flooded locations, provided first aid and assisted local authorities. The Texas Defense Guard was the sole agency to maintain radio communication with the public and local agencies throughout the storm.  Located at Palacios, Texas, 1st Lt. J. C. Johnson of Houston, Radio Division, Texas Defense Guard, was the only source of communication along the Texas coast throughout the night. Broadcasting on his portable radio, he reported on weather conditions every 15 minutes as the storm approached and stayed in contact with Houston and Austin. 

“If the Texas Defense Guard had not mobilized at 7 pm and contributed their services, we never would have been able to handle the situation alone,” stated the Houston police chief.

Once the storm had passed, the Texas Defense Guard Aviation Branch conducted an aerial survey of storm damage and flooding. On September 24, Texas State Guard Aviation Branch pilot, Capt. N. E. Meador, piloted the first airplane to leave any Houston airport. Meador, along with two additional Aviation Branch pilots, provided the first aerial photographs and damage reports from the hurricane strike area. This information was vital to how and where local emergency authorities responded.  
 
In 1943 the 48th Texas Legislature and Texas Governor Coke Stevenson amended the Texas Defense Guard Act. The Texas Defense Guard was renamed the Texas State Guard. The official shoulder patch was the “T-Patch,” still worn today by the State Guard. The Texas Adjutant General during the Stevenson administration, Brig. Gen. A. B. Knickerbocker, was named the commander of the Texas State Guard. At this point, the Texas State Guard had 48 battalions, a rifle company, headquarters, service and medical detachments.

The Texas State Guard continued to provide support to civilian authorities until the end of World War II. Guardsmen responded to hurricanes, civil disorder and riots such as the Beaumont Riot in 1943, tornadoes, such as the one that struck Crowell in 1942 and remained ready to protect Texans from harm. 

From the beginning of the Texas Defense Guard, Guardsmen volunteered as true citizen-Soldiers and served their fellow citizens in times of emergency. They were not seeking pay or glory but a sense of patriotism and service.
 

Staff Sgt Gregory Illich and Sgt Miranda Leal are the Outstanding Enlisted Members of the Texas State Guard for 2018

Story by Chief Warrant Officer 3 Janet Schmelzer, Texas State Guard

Texas State Guard Staff Sgt. Gregory Illich, 8th Regiment, Army Component, was recognized as  the Texas State Guard Outstanding Non-Commissioned Officer of the Year 2018 and awarded the Texas Outstanding Service Medal by Texas State Guard Commander Maj. Gen. Robert Bodisch, and Command Sgt. Maj. Bryan Becknel during a ceremony held at the Texas State Guard holiday gala in San Marcos, Texas, December 8, 2018.  He was also recognized as the Texas State Guard Army Component Outstanding Non-Commissioned Officer of 2018 and received “Sgt. Maj. Hiram J. Williamson Award for Service Excellence.”  (Texas State Guard photo by Cpl. Shawn Dromgoole)
Texas State Guard Staff Sgt. Gregory Illich, 8th Regiment, Army Component, was recognized as  the Texas State Guard Outstanding Non-Commissioned Officer of the Year 2018 and awarded the Texas Outstanding Service Medal by Texas State Guard Commander Maj. Gen. Robert Bodisch, and Command Sgt. Maj. Bryan Becknel during a ceremony held at the Texas State Guard holiday gala in San Marcos, Texas, December 8, 2018.  He was also recognized as the Texas State Guard Army Component Outstanding Non-Commissioned Officer of 2018 and received “Sgt. Maj. Hiram J. Williamson Award for Service Excellence.”  (Texas State Guard photo by Cpl. Shawn Dromgoole)

AUSTIN, Texas—The Texas State Guard recognized Staff Sgt. Gregory Illich, 8th Regiment, and Sgt. Miranda Leal, 2nd Regiment, as the outstanding enlisted members of the Texas State Guard for 2018 during the Texas State Guard holiday gala in San Marcos, Texas, December 8, 2018.

Staff Sgt. Illich was recognized as the Texas State Guard Outstanding Non-Commissioned Officer of the Year for 2018 and received the Texas Outstanding Service Medal, which is awarded to a service member of the military forces of this state, another state, or the United States who has performed service in a superior and clearly outstanding manner. Illich was also recognized as the Texas State Guard Army Component’s Outstanding Non-commissioned Officer of 2018 and received the “Sgt. Maj. Hiram J. Williamson Award for Service Excellence.” 

“I am humbled and honored to be recognized as the Texas State Guard Outstanding Non-commissioned Officer for 2018 and as the Army Component’s Outstanding Non-commissioned Officer for 2018 and receive the Texas Outstanding Service Medal and the “Sgt. Maj. Hiram J. Williamson Award for Service Excellence. It is through the support and leadership of those around me that my achievements are possible.  It is a great honor to be recognized in this way. I am honored to serve Texas and I appreciate the opportunity given me by the Texas State Guard,” stated Staff Sgt. Illich.

Illich joined the Texas State Guard in 2012.  He serves as the 8th Regiment Public Affairs Officer, the non-commissioned officer in charge of the 8th Regiment Honor Guard, a trainer for Texas State Guard shelter management, WEBEOC, and the Emergency Tracking Network mission skills, a Texas State Guard lead evaluator and instructor for the Ground Search and Rescue training and certification program of the National Association for Search and Rescue, a member of the Texas State Guard Band and a band recruiter in the Houston area.  He previously served as the non-commissioned officer for communications and information technology, 1st Battalion, 8th Regiment and a Unit Public Affairs Representative, providing superior support to recruiting and social media.  During Hurricane Harvey in 2017 he was a member of the Texas Military Department Public Affairs pool and was deployed in the disaster zone to cover the story. 
 
Illich is an Honor Graduate of the Texas State Guard Advanced Non-Commissioned Course and has earned the Basic Military Emergency Management Specialist Badge from the State Guard Association of the United States. 

Illich volunteers as a member of the Patriot Guard Riders to honor veterans at funerals and as a member of “Cos-Play for Kids,” where costumed superheroes visit children in Houston area hospitals and serves as the as the master of ceremonies for a Houston and Galveston literacy program. He is a Tai Chi Teacher and Massage Therapist.

Sgt. Miranda Leal was recognized as the Texas State Guard Outstanding Junior Enlisted of the Year for 2018 and received Texas State Guard Jonathan Clutts Award for Selfless Service for 2018, an award named for Texas State Guard Petty Officer 2 Jonathan Clutts for his selfless service during Hurricane Harvey in 2017.  She was also recognized as the Texas State Guard Army Component’s Outstanding Junior Enlisted of Year 2018 and received the “Sgt. Maj. Hiram J. Williamson Award for Service Excellence.”  

“I am honored to be recognized as the Texas State Guard Outstanding Junior Enlisted of the Year and receive the Sgt. Maj. Hiram J. Williamson Award for the Outstanding Junior Enlisted of the Year in the Army Component. I am very honored to receive the first Jonathan Clutts award and hope to live up to his example of selfless service.  I would like to thank those who believed in me and shaped me into the soldier that I am today. It is a great privilege to serve with such a great group of men and women who share a passion for giving back to their community and serving the Great State of Texas," stated Leal.

Leal joined the Texas State Guard in 2015.  She serves as a squad leader and assistant Platoon Sergeant for G Company, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Regiment, an Emergency Tracking Network trainer, and a member of the Texas State Guard Band.  She is certified in American Red Cross First Aid and Shelter Management, WEBEOC, and the Emergency Tracking Network operations. 
 
She has completed the Texas State Guard Professional Leadership Development Course and Federal Emergency Management Agency courses. 
 
Leal is a senior at Texas State University, San Marcos, Texas, majoring in Exercise and Sports Science and Pre-Rehabilitation Science.  She volunteers at Hays Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, San Marcos, Texas, and Guadalupe Regional Medical Center in Sequin, Texas.  

“These two Texas State Guard members represent the best of the enlisted in the guard. Staff Sgt. Illich has demonstrated the best qualities, skills, knowledge and service of a non-commissioned officer and exemplifies the meaning of volunteerism, selfless service, and giving back to his state and community. His superiors and subordinates recognize his unmatched depth of doctrinal knowledge and the ability to relay that knowledge to others.   Sgt. Miranda Leal exemplifies the highest attributes of a junior enlisted member.  She has assumed leadership positions and duties and performed at a level beyond what is required of her rank and is dedicated to encouraging her fellow members to exceed in their professional growth and development and to sharpen their skills and knowledge necessary to perform their duties,” stated Command Sgt. Maj. Barton Williams, Army Component, Texas State Guard.
 

Texas State Guard Gonzales Cup Challenges the Best of the Best of the Army Component

Texas State Guard Gonzales Cup Challenges the Best of the Best of the Army Component
Story by Chief Warrant Officer 3 Janet Schmelzer, Army Component, Texas State Guard

The 1st Regiment Army Component Texas State Guard team won the Gonzales Cup during the competition held in Stephenville, Texas, October 12-14, 2018.  Brig. Gen. Robert Hastings, Commander, Army Component, presented the Gonzales Cup to the team.  1st Regiment team members are Spc. Jorge Ramirez, Pvt. Alberto Sanchez, Pvt. Jason Perez, Pfc. Kevin Stepherson, Pvt. Ruben Garza, Pfc. Emilio Trevino, and Spc. Ruben Lopez. (Texas State Guard photo by Chief Warrant Officer 3 Janet Schmelzer)
The 1st Regiment Army Component Texas State Guard team won the Gonzales Cup during the competition held in Stephenville, Texas, October 12-14, 2018.  Brig. Gen. Robert Hastings, Commander, Army Component, presented the Gonzales Cup to the team.  1st Regiment team members are Spc. Jorge Ramirez, Pvt. Alberto Sanchez, Pvt. Jason Perez, Pfc. Kevin Stepherson, Pvt. Ruben Garza, Pfc. Emilio Trevino, and Spc. Ruben Lopez. (Texas State Guard photo by Chief Warrant Officer 3 Janet Schmelzer)

STEPHENVILLE, Texas - The Texas State Guard Army Component’s 1st Regiment won the Gonzales Cup and the 19th Regiment’s Pfc. Brandon McVean won the Top Individual Award following the three-day competition held Oct. 12-14, 2018.  Twenty-nine members representing the 1st, 4th, 8th, and 19th Regiments of the Texas State Guard accepted the challenge to become the Army Component's best of the best and take home the coveted Gonzales Cup.
 
"The Gonzales Cup competition is important as a meaningful and purposeful training for our members.  It builds comradery and teamwork, challenges perseverance in the most adverse conditions, tests skills that we need to be mission ready, and creates a spirit to achieve to be the best," commented Command Sgt. Maj. Barton Williams, senior enlisted advisor, Army Component, who organized this year's competition.

The first day's challenge was a written test which covered the Texas State Guard Army Component mission essential skills which included shelter management operations, emergency tracking network operations, military customs and history, and ground search and rescue.  

That evening in the midst of a torrential rainstorm, four teams went out on a search and rescue task to find missing persons who were lost following a simulated disaster at Hunewell Ranch in Erath County, Texas.  The darkness, bad weather, mud, and rain-soaked terrain added to the realism of what state guardsmen might face during search and rescue missions. 
 
Teams had to follow clues to find the missing persons within a time limit of three and a half hours.  Each team was scored on how proficient they were at finding the person, evaluating the condition of the person, providing first aid, fashioning a litter, and evacuating the person back to the starting point. 

Pfc. Laura Peck, 8th Regiment, was one of three female state guardsmen to participate in the competition.  “I never pictured myself doing things like slogging through mud and water on a six-kilometer hike with a 35-pound knapsack on my back,” said Peck who has been in the Texas State Guard 10 months.  “The search and rescue challenge was an awesome experience.”  

The second day opened with the Army Physical Fitness test of sit-ups, pushups, and a two-mile run.  This challenge supports the Texas State Guard Health and Fitness program which emphasizes exercise, strength and a healthy lifestyle.  

Teams then moved to the Leadership Challenge Course at Tarleton State University.   This challenge required each team to work together and make decisions on how to complete a series of rope course challenges.  

The afternoon mission was a land navigation challenge course back at Hunewell Ranch.   Teams had to locate 20 sites using maps, protractors, and compasses.

McVean found the Gonzales Cup challenge to be a “unique opportunity to demonstrate and sharpen my mission essential skills.  I liked the land navigation challenge as it strengthened my confidence to find a specific spot with maps, coordinates, protractor, and compass.  I am honored to have been a competitor and a member of a great 19th Regiment team.”

On the last day, the final challenge for each team was to create a team movement order for a simulated deployment to assist with the evacuation of 5,000 people from Lake Jackson as a category five hurricane approached the Texas coast.  Teams had to avoid crossing rivers, lakes, and contraflow evacuation routes, in addition to planning for rest stops and gas refueling.   

The Gonzales Cup is named for the famous 1835 Battle of Gonzales, near Gonzales, Texas, where brave and courageous Texians refused to return a cannon to the Mexican Army and told them to “Come and Take It,” which is the motto of the competition.    
 

An Evacuation System with Accountability

Story by: Chief Warrant Officer 3 Janet Schmelzer
Texas State Guard Public Affairs

In an Emergency Tracking Network system exercise in Huntsville, Texas, Pfcs. James Little and Lee McWilliams, 2nd Battalion, 8th Regiment, Texas State Guard, scan an ETN band attached to the collar of a dog, February 24, 2018.  The system would track the dog's location to a designated pet shelter during an emergency or disaster so that the pet can be located by the pet owner.  (Texas State Guard Photo by Cpl. Christopher Feriante)
In an Emergency Tracking Network system exercise in Huntsville, Texas, Pfcs. James Little and Lee McWilliams, 2nd Battalion, 8th Regiment, Texas State Guard, scan an ETN band attached to the collar of a dog, February 24, 2018.  The system would track the dog's location to a designated pet shelter during an emergency or disaster so that the pet can be located by the pet owner.  (Texas State Guard Photo by Cpl. Christopher Feriante)

When a hurricane, flood, chemical spill, wildfire, or other catastrophe strikes Texas, people may have to evacuate the affected area, often with little or no time to prepare.  Their lives have been turned upside down: they do not know where they are going; they do not know when they will return, and sometimes families and loved ones get separated.  They need someone to show them the way out of the danger zone to safety and comfort.  

When support for evacuation operations is needed, the Texas State Guard is trained and ready. Guardsmen provide a very specialized skill set during an evacuation, operation of the Emergency Tracking Network (ETN).   ETN is an electronic system that tracks evacuees from an evacuation hub to designated shelters away from the disaster area.  

“One of the big lessons learned during the Katrina and Rita hurricanes was the need to track the location of thousands of people rapidly evacuating the strike zone,” said Col. Robert Hastings, Commander, Army Component, Texas State Guard.  “In some cases, families were separated and ended up in different shelters with no means to communicate or locate each other.  ETN was designed to prevent that from happening.”

The Texas State Guard is the principal state agency with the Emergency Tracking Network mission.  

"Without a system of accountability, we would not know who we evacuated or which designated mass evacuation transportation they got on.  With the ETN system, we have information which tracks the evacuee from an embarkation point to a shelter.  Because we are trained on ETN, the Texas State Guard is performing a vital service to Texans who are evacuated during an emergency or disaster," said Staff Sgt. Greg Illich, 8th Regiment, TXSG. 

At an evacuation hub, one of the first people that an evacuee will encounter is a member of the Texas State Guard.  As evacuees enter the hub, guardsmen can answer their questions about what happens at the hub and show them where to register for transportation to a shelter.  At the registration table, guardsmen begin the process of registering evacuees into the emergency tracking system.  They can explain to evacuees how the system works to ease any concerns that evacuees may have about what will happen when they are registered into the system.  Family members at the hub are registered at the same time.  This process allows them to travel together and stay together at the same shelter.   

"During an evacuation, we want to assist family members in this way.  Keeping families together is comforting to them and helps ease their anxiety during this time of uncertainty," stated 1st Lt. Kendra Neuendorff, 4th Regiment, Texas State Guard.  

As the registration process continues, guardsmen place a wristband on each evacuee.  Each wristband has a unique identification number which is recorded into the ETN system along with the evacuee's information.  Personal medical equipment, such as a walker or wheelchair, is also banded and registered into the system.  And family pets are banded on the collar or travel kennel and evacuated to a designated pet shelter.  In this way, families know that their pet will not be abandoned but sheltered and fed until they can be reunited.

"Sometimes pet owners are afraid to leave a pet behind and as a result are reluctant to evacuate.  If owners know that their pets are going to evacuated, banded into ETN, and sheltered, they feel relief that their pet has not been left behind," commented Pfc. Sonya Martinez, 39th Regiment, Texas State Gaurd. 

Guardsmen then direct the evacuees to designated mass evacuation transportation located at the hub.  As evacuees board a bus, plane or helicopter, guardsmen scan the wristbands again to begin tracking their movement.  The system records each individual who boards the transportation headed to a specific shelter.  And when evacuees arrive at the shelter, guardsmen, for accountability, again scan the wristbands to log their location.  ETN now has recorded the evacuee's travel from the evacuation hub to the shelter.  

“ETN is a very versatile system,” said Hastings.  “During Hurricane Harvey ETN was used to manage evacuations, determine population at the shelters, and keep track of pets and medical equipment, among other tasks.  Keeping track of our evacuating citizens and helping families stay connected is one of the most important missions we train for.” 

 

Texas State Guard Builds Partnerships

Story and photos by Sgt. Chris Feriante 
Texas State Guard Public Affairs

HUNTSVILLE, Texas – In preparation for the 2018 hurricane season, the 2nd Battalion, 8th Regiment, Texas State Guard, partnered with local and state emergency management agencies February 24, 2018 to practice and rehearse combined operation capabilities in Huntsville.

The Texas State Guard, in coordination with Walker County Emergency Management, Texas Division of Emergency Management and Sam Houston State University Emergency Management, participated in a joint evacuation exercise to strengthen skills using the Emergency Tracking Network system.  Operating the ETN is one of the Texas State Guard's mission-essential tasks.
    
"We are focused on this exercise as both a training opportunity for our guardsmen to use the ETN system and as an opportunity to build a strong relationship with the Walker County emergency management folks and the Huntsville community," said Lt. Col. Arthur Levesque, 2nd battalion commander.
    
The ETN provides a network to maintain accountability of evacuees throughout a disaster; from the time they board evacuation mass transit, to their arrival at a shelter and finally back to where they boarded the mass transit after a storm.  Each evacuee is given a yellow wrist band which has an identification number unique to each individual.  Family pets, as well as medical and mobility devices are also banded and can be tracked together.    
    
With students from Sam Houston State University acting as evacuees being transported to the Walker County Emergency Shelter, 40 guardsmen from the unit registered evacuees and tracked the role player’s movements from the simulated evacuation site at the university to the shelter.  To make the exercise as real as possible, both pets and medical and mobility equipment were required to be evacuated and tracked.  
    
"The objective of our training today is to give guardsmen hands-on experience using ETN so that we are ready to provide to our fellow Texans effective assistance during an emergency or disaster," said 1st Sgt. Charles Sumner.
    
Walker County Judge Danny Pierce stressed the importance of training with the Texas State Guard and emergency management agencies. 
    
“During Hurricanes Rita and Katrina, we sheltered 150,000 evacuees along the I-45 corridor within Walker County,” said Pierce.  “At that time we did not have a way to track the movement of evacuees.  So we lost people, and we couldn’t find them.  The Texas State Guard turned out in huge numbers for this ETN exercise which raised our comfort level knowing that we have these guys behind us in an emergency.”
    
The Walker County Office of Emergency Management coordinated the exercise which also included the Walker County Community Emergency Response Team, the Walker County Sheriff's Department, Huntsville Independent School District, the Walker County Animal Issues Group and the Southeast Texas Regional Advisory Council.
    
The Atlantic Hurricane season begins June 1st. 

Breaking the Language Barrier: Texas State Guard Utilizes Different Languages to Serve Fellow Texans

Story by Capt. Esperanza Meza
19th Regiment, Texas State Guard Public Affairs

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Sgt. Allen Barnfield, 19th Regiment, Texas State Guard, communicates using sign language with a shelter guest during Hurricane Harvey at Athens Elementary School, San Antonio, Texas, August 27, 2017. (Texas State Guard photo by Capt. Esperanza Meza)

Whether rescuing families and pets from flooded homes, lending a helping hand to parents and children who need a place to sleep in a shelter, or distributing basic necessities and medical care during a natural disaster or emergency, the Texas State Guard knows that communicating with people is vital to every mission. When every minute counts these guardsmen do not want language to become a barrier for getting their fellow Texans help.

Sgt. Allen Barnfield, 2nd Battalion, 19th Regiment, Army Component, decided to learn American Sign Language because he wanted to assist people who could not hear.  Last summer when Hurricane Harvey displaced tens-of thousands of residents, he used his sign language skills to communicate with eleven evacuees at shelters.

“Being able to interpret for the deaf evacuees made me realize how important it is to be able to communicate with them,” he said. “The fact that I could provide them with information through sign language made them feel much better about staying in the shelter.”

Barfield said that he was brought to tears when one of the children he had interpreted for drew him a picture to thank him for making their stay more bearable.

For another member of the Texas State Guard, it was his knowledge of Spanish that helped place a frightened young by at ease when carrying him to a rescue boat.

“If time is of the essence and English skills are limited, providing direction and guidance in their language gives them confidence that we will get their family to safety,” said Master Sgt. Robert Lewis, 3rd Battalion, Texas Maritime Regiment.

While the size and geographic diversity of the state makes it a melting pot, guardsman like Cpl. Zaw Maung of the 19th Regiment, who speaks Burmese, become a critical language asset during times of need. Maung used Burmese with shelter guests at the NRG Stadium in Houston during Hurricane Harvey.  He created signs and gave announcements in Burmese and worked as a translator at a help desk.  
    
“If I had not been in the Texas State Guard, I would not have been in the position to help this community,” said Maung.  Communicating in my native tongue made the Burmese guests feel a little better during a most distressful time because of the hurricane." 
    
During Operation Lone Star, the largest medical humanitarian operation in the country and mass casualty training exercise in the Rio Grande Valley, Capt. Margarita Elestwani, Texas Medical Brigade, assisted patients and physicians through her ability to communicate medical terms in Spanish, Tagalog (Filipino language) and French.  Another Texas Medical Brigade member at OLS, who also speaks Tagalog, Capt. Abram Braza, 2nd Battalion, used his ability to communicate in a Filipino dialect to reunite a lost elderly Filipino man with his family.  
    
Although those with multilingual skillsets help serve fellow Texans, there are times these language capabilities also help communicate with the members of the media and dignitary visitors, further enhancing the delivery of needed messaging. For Staff Sgt. Gregory Illich, 1st Battalion, 8th Regiment, his Spanish fluency enabled him to serve as an interpreter when a Chilean military delegation observed OLS.  
    
“One member of the Chilean delegation gave me a challenge coin for assisting them and I gave him my Texas flag patch from my uniform,” said Illich. “I was honored to be able to use my fluency in Spanish to assist the Rio Grande Valley community as well as act as interpreter for our Chilean guests.”