Posts in Category: Texas State Guard

Texas Guard mobilizes to respond to COVID-19

Story by Charles E. Spirtos, Texas Military Department Public Affairs

AUSTIN, Texas – The Texas National Guard is mobilized throughout the state to help expand health care capacity during the COVID-19 threat.

Gov. Greg Abbott activated the Texas National Guard March 17 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The activation included three joint task force brigades, the 56th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 72nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, and 176th Engineer Brigade, which will lead 10 general support units positioned across Texas. 

Texas Army National Guard troops set up a field hospital in response to COVID-19 April 1, 2020, at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas, Texas. Service members across Texas worked to set up Geographically Separated Units (GSU) to support local communities. (Texas Air National Guard Photo by A1C Charissa A. Menken)
Texas Army National Guard troops set up a field hospital in response to COVID-19 April 1, 2020, at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas, Texas. Service members across Texas worked to set up Geographically Separated Units (GSU) to support local communities. (Texas Air National Guard Photo by A1C Charissa A. Menken)

Abbott held a news conference with Maj. Gen. Tracy R. Norris, the adjutant general of Texas, at the Texas State Capitol and said the Guard would provide medical, logistics, transportation and communication support for health care.

The Guard's primary role is expanding health care capacity in Texas. This includes increasing access to supplies and equipment, as well as staffing capacity and the number of available hospital beds.

Members of the 6th Civil Support Team headquartered at Camp Mabry in Austin examined donated personal protective equipment like N95 respirator masks and latex gloves to make sure the material was undamaged and effective.

Maj. Sean M. Thurmer, deputy commander of the 6th Civil Support Team, said the trust the state put in the team was earned during years of working alongside the Texas Department of Emergency Management.

"The 6th Civil Support Team has responded to many incidents in Texas and has developed relationships with response partners with whom they work," said Thurmer.

Effective equipment will be distributed to medical facilities and hospitals treating patients with COVID-19. By maintaining the adequate supply of this equipment, the Texas Military Department is ensuring medical providers can continue serving the public while also protecting themselves.

The Guard's 176th Engineer Brigade is also finding and equipping non-medical sites where patients can be treated if hospitals run out of room.

"While hospitals will remain the primary location to treat and care for those in need, we are ensuring that Texas is prepared for any possible scenario in which current hospital capacity is exhausted. This joint initiative with the Texas Military Department and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will expand the care capacity in communities across Texas," said Abbott.

The first of these sites will be the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas, which can accept up to 250 patients with room to expand if needed.

Norris said members of the Guard are also working with local agencies to establish drive-through COVID-19 test sites throughout the state, equipped and staffed by local medical staff and logistics experts in the Guard.

"We are Citizen-Soldiers and Airmen, we truly are your neighbors and are deeply invested in keeping our friends and fellow Texans safe," said Norris. "This is our home, too, and together we will get through this difficult time."

Texas State Guard’s "Young Heroes” Holiday Program Hits 100K Toys

Story By: WO1 David Brown, TXSG HQ Ass’t PAO

Texas State Guard members met with the CEO and VIPs of fiveBelow at the fiveBelow Gateway Station, Burleson, Texas, December 21, 2019. fiveBelow is a sponsor for the Texas State Guard - Young Heroes of the Guard Toy Drive.
Texas State Guard members met with the CEO and VIPs of fiveBelow at the fiveBelow Gateway Station, Burleson, Texas, December 21, 2019. fiveBelow is a sponsor for the Texas State Guard - Young Heroes of the Guard Toy Drive.

AUSTIN, Texas -- This past Christmas, one of the most popular and best-known outreach programs of the Texas State Guard reached a new benchmark.  During the 2019 season, the Texas State Guard (TXSG) Toy Drive collected over 100,000 toys, which brought a smile to the faces of hospitalized and homeless children across the Lone Star State.
Sgt. First Class John Gately, the Young Heroes of the Guard Toy Drive Coordinator for the last 6 years, reports that the final tally by Christmas Day was 104,604 toys, with a retail value of over $500,000.  Since its inception in 2009, Young Heroes of the Guard has collected and distributed more than 349,000 toys.
This is an all-time record for the 11-year-old project, founded by TXSG Chaplains. The initial success of the Toy Drive in North Texas captured the attention – and the imagination – of officials at TXSG Headquarters, who, for Christmas 2014, expanded the program statewide.  Last Christmas, children’s’ hospitals and shelters from Galveston to El Paso received toys collected through this program.

Making this effort even more remarkable is the enormous amount of logistical support work put in by individual citizen-Soldiers of the TXSG.  In addition to their routine Guard duties and their obligations to their own jobs and families, some organizers, such as Lt. Steven Coder of Godley, Texas, put in six to eight hours a day from mid-October up to Christmas Eve. Lt. Coder’s work included organizing the many moving pieces that make such a project successful.

“When you give that child a toy and you watch her face light up”, Coder says, “you’ll understand why we do it.  This toy drive brings such joy—not just to the kids, but to everyone involved, and it lasts long after the holidays.” 

More recently, the program has developed a partnership with the retail store “fiveBelow working together to bring hope and joy to Texas communities. For the third year in a row, members of the TXSG took up positions outside “fiveBelow ” stores across Texas, asking shoppers to make a toy donation on their way out.  Other members of the TXSG, including their families and supporters in the community, set up collection boxes outside businesses and churches.  Hess Corporation, the energy company with offices in Houston, donated 3,000 of its famous toy trucks to the effort.

In early December, the toys were gathered at local armories, sorted into age groups, and distributed to hospitals and shelters across Texas.

When asked, will it be possible to match the spectacular success of the 2019 TXSG Toy Drive next December? 

Coder sighs and cracks a knowing smile.  “We’re already getting to work on that!”

Texas State Guard Deploys for Imelda

Story by Staff Sgt. Gregory Illich

Photo: P.O.D.Tropical Storm Imelda made landfall at Freeport, Texas, and dumped 43 inches of rain on the Texas Southeast Gulf Coast over five days from September 17-21, 2019.   Many people on the Gulf Coast, still recovering from Hurricane Harvey just two years before, found themselves again in the crosshairs of the massive storm.
Imelda hit the Texas bayous and low-lying areas of Jefferson and Orange Counties the hardest.  Emergency responders and local emergency management organizations acted quickly to initiate rescue efforts and set up emergency shelters.  Although the danger of Imelda slowly subsided, the impact of the storm continued to be a threat as floodwaters persisted.

As residents began to cope with the loss of property, electricity, drinking water, and necessities, county emergency officials requested further help from the state.  Within twenty-four hours of the requests, the Texas State Guard activated 182 members and moved into the “strike zone” to deliver supplies to those in need. 

“The Texas State Guard received the request on September 20  and guard members were on scene the following day working alongside the Texas Army National Guard which delivered water and needed equipment and the Texas Forestry Service which also supplied equipment and forklift operators to replenish loading points,” stated 1st Sgt. Terry Lene, Texas State Guard Military District Coordinator for Jefferson County.

Working alongside the Texas State Forest Service and local volunteers, the Texas State Guard established six distribution points in Jefferson and Orange counties supporting the cities of Hamshire, Fannett, Nome, Bevil Oaks, Vidor, and Mauriceville. Other Texas State Guard units were staged at an emergency operation center established in Woodville in order to support boat rescues and provide medical support.
This truly was an example of Texans serving Texans in every way.  Seeing emergency responders, volunteers, local organizations, and the Texas Military Department working together in a partnership meant that our mission would get done efficiently and effectively.  The residents who came through our distribution points were grateful for the help and were an inspiration for their resiliency,” remarked Col. John Diggs, Tactical Emergency Operations Center, Texas State Guard.

At each distribution point, Texas State Guard members safely directed vehicles and some pedestrians into the distribution lanes where hundreds of packs of bottled water and bagged ice were stacked and ready.  As vehicles drove up the designated lanes, lining up much like an assembly line, guard members were able to load three vehicles simultaneously with water and ice while the drivers waited inside their vehicles.  Local partner agencies such as area food banks and the American Red Cross also provided food and cleaning supplies.  Other donated supplies including baby supplies were distributed as needed.
Guard members assisted more than 10,000 families at the six distribution points.  They distributed 22,728 cases of bottled water and 7,632 bags of ice to 9,729 vehicles.
Robert Viator, Orange County Precinct 4 Commissioner, expressed his appreciation for the support of the Texas State Guard.  “The Texas State Guard helped our citizens through this disaster.  I don’t think we could make it without the assistance of these men and women who serve our country and serve us and our community.”

The First Big Test


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

The Texas Defense Guard, created by the Texas Legislature in 1941 and renamed the Texas State Guard in 1943, was the state military unit responsible for protecting Texas, its people and property during World War II.  With the National Guard federalized, the Texas Defense Guard was on the front line to respond to attacks by foreign enemies, domestic civil disturbances and natural and man-made disasters.  Within a few months of its official existence, the Texas Defense Guard would face its first big test as a defense force.

In the Caribbean Sea near Cuba, a tropical disturbance started brewing on Sept. 15, 1941.  As the storm moved into the Gulf of Mexico, weather conditions were conducive to a tropical depression forming.  By Sept. 21, the storm had grown into a hurricane bearing down on the Texas Gulf Coast, headed for Port O’Connor or Matagorda.  On Sept. 23, the storm made an unexpected turn, placing Freeport, Houston and surrounding areas in its path.

Preparing for the hurricane, local authorities along the Texas Gulf Coast began requesting the support of the Texas Defense Guard.  On Sept. 23, the Guard activated 700 members, the first being from the 2nd, 7th, 22nd and 48th Marine battalions and the 2nd Squadron, Aviation Branch.  Battalion and squadron commanders ordered their men to bring their personal sidearms while the Guard would provide Enfield rifles with fixed bayonets and shotguns.  The Texas Adjutant General, Brig. Gen. John Watt Page, instructed all commanders that “their mission is to aid and support in every way possible civil authorities.”

When the hurricane made landfall, bringing rising tides, heavy rain and destructive winds up to 95 mph, Houston officials knew they did not have a sufficient number of policemen, firemen or city employees to patrol the city and protect property and people. On Sept. 23, the mayor and police chief assigned guard members from the 48th Battalion to patrol downtown on foot, ride along in Houston Police Department squad cars or observe from Houston Electric Company buses.  Armed with rifles with bayonets and sidearms, they protected department stores from looters.  At the coliseum, which was a shelter for evacuees, they cleared streets where sightseers caused traffic congestion by driving around staring at evacuees arriving on trucks.  Keeping streets clear around the coliseum was especially urgent because National Guard convoys were bringing soldiers and airmen from airfields and armories threatened by the storm.   

One sergeant-in-charge commended his men for their selfless service during the storm.    “Not one of them flinched from their duty and were eager to step off the bus in water up to their knees to reach their stations of duty,” he said.

The 2nd Battalion patrolled downtown Houston, stood guard to protect people from stepping on downed high-tension wires and broken glass and helped fifty women and children seeking shelter at the Houston Light Guard Armory.  

The 22nd Battalion braved wind, rain and flooding to make dramatic rescues near the Houston municipal airport.  Two guard members drove fifty miles to rescue a woman trapped in her home.  Notified that a family was stranded in a car two blocks from the airport, five guard members went into action.  Combatting the 95 mph wind and tying themselves together, they pushed forward on foot.  As they made their way down the road, they saw a man trying to hold on to a tree branch to keep from drowning in a flooded ditch.  One guard member put the man on his shoulders and carried him back to the airport.  The rest continued on, having to crawl as the force of the wind made walking impossible.  They finally reached the family of nine men, women and children.  They could not take all of them at once.  The guard members made two trips during the rescue, carrying four children on their shoulders on the first rescue and on the second carrying two women and two elderly men while a younger man held on to the ropes of the guard members.  

In another rescue near the airport, guard members received a message that a family was in grave danger as flood waters rushed into their home six blocks away.  Guard members struggled down the road on foot in rain so heavy and wind so fierce that they could not see or breathe.  This rescue team first stopped to rescue a boy and his grandfather who had suffered a heart attack.  Putting the old man on his shoulders, one guard member with the boy holding on to his belt returned to the airport.  Once there, the guard member administered first aid while waiting for the ambulance to arrive.  The rest of the rescue team, wading through flooded prairies and roads in waist-high water, found the house and brought the family members to the airport.  In all, the 22nd Battalion at the airport rescued 100 people between Sept. 23 and 24.

The 43rd and 9th battalions in Port Arthur mobilized to stop traffic at the seawall, maintain order in hotel lobbies and protect local schools filled with hundreds of evacuees.  At the Gulfport Boiler and Welding Works guard members kept watch over the shipyards and assisted workers trying to save equipment and materials from flooding waters.  

Although escaping the impact of the storm, Corpus Christi had requested the 28th Battalion to protect downtown and north beach businesses from looters.  Guard members with Enfield rifles closed the Nueces Bay causeway and prevented traffic at the seawall and water gates.

Radio operators from the Texas Defense Guard maintained communications by radio throughout the storm.  At Palacios, 1st Lt. J. C. Johnson of Houston, who served in the radio division, worked throughout the night of Sept. 23 and early morning of Sept. 24 and was one of only a few radios that continuously broadcast along the Texas coast.

On the morning of Sept. 24, the final mission of the Texas Defense Guard was to survey the coast and report back the damage.  The 2nd Squadron, Aviation Branch, received the mission.  Capt. N. E. Meador piloted the first plane to leave any Houston airport for the previous thirty hours.  He flew over oil fields, several towns and airfields, such as Freeport and Ellington Field.  He reported that fields and structures along the coast sustained significant damage and flooding, the road to Freeport was impassable and the town of Kemah was under water.  The second pilot, Capt. W. H. Cocke, flew over Houston and the lowlands, Liberty, Galveston Bay and Galveston.  The third pilot, Capt. Bernie Groce, checked out Kemah because the Red Cross had sent a message that people needed rescuing, but he found no one there.   All pilots relayed reports of total devastation.

The Texas Defense Guard ended its mission on Sept. 24.   In their first disaster response, guard members proved they were ready as a state defense force.  They were proud, and their morale soared.  They had earned the respect of the civilian authorities, local law enforcement and the public.  “I cannot speak too highly of the work of everyone concerned.  If the Texas Defense Guard had not mobilized and contributed their service, we would not have been able to handle the situation alone,” remarked Houston Chief of Police Ray Ashworth.

Texas Defense Guard members were men of selfless service, bravery and dedication to serving fellow Texans during the 1941 hurricane. Those qualities remain in the character and soul of every guard member who serves today in the 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

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.


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.