Posts in Category: Texas State Guard

Cybersecurity Infrastructure Symposium

Cybersecurity Infrastructure Symposium

The protection of cyber infrastructure has become paramount to the security and well-being of nations. Cyber infrastructure encompasses the vast systems and networks that support our modern way of life, from power grids and water treatment facilities to communication networks and financial systems. These systems are integral to our daily routines, making it imperative to shield them from the ever-growing threats in the digital realm.

Cyber infrastructure faces an array of potential risks, each posing a unique challenge to its security. Three major areas should be a focus for the Texas National Guard and they are as Follows:  Cyber Espionage, Cyber Sabotage and Cyber Terrorism.

  1.   Cyber Espionage: Involves the theft of sensitive information from computer systems. This stolen data can be exploited to harm a country's economy, national security, and its citizens. The theft of classified information is a significant concern.
  2.   Cyber Sabotage: Deliberate acts of damaging or destroying computer systems can have a catastrophic impact on infrastructure. A successful cyber sabotage attack can disrupt essential services, causing widespread chaos.
  3.   Cyber Terrorism: Cyber terrorists employ cyberattacks to achieve political or ideological objectives. Their targets may include critical infrastructure, government services, and businesses, with the potential to disrupt entire regions.

Public awareness and education concerning the best practices concerning cybersecurity reduce the likelihood of successful cyberattacks.

To effectively address these challenges, consider the following:

  •    Training and Education: Ensure that personnel are proficient in cybersecurity best practices and are aware of potential threats and tactics employed by cyber adversaries.
  •    Incident Response: Develop and regularly test incident response plans to minimize downtime and data loss in the event of a cyberattack.
  •    Collaboration: Work closely with federal and state agencies, as well as private sector partners, to share threat intelligence and coordinate responses to cyber threats.
  •    Continuous Monitoring: Implement tools and practices for continuous monitoring of networks and systems to detect and respond to threats in real-time.
  •    Resilience: Focus on building resilience into critical infrastructure to withstand cyberattacks and recover quickly.
  •    Legal Frameworks: Ensure there are appropriate legal frameworks in place to address cyber threats and prosecute cybercriminals effectively.
  •    Public Awareness: Educate the public on cybersecurity risks and best practices to reduce the likelihood of successful cyberattacks.

Cyber awareness and cybersecurity are essential components of the Texas National Guard's mission to protect the state's digital safety and security. By addressing the risks of cyber espionage, cyber sabotage, and cyber terrorism, and by staying vigilant and proactive in their efforts, the Texas National Guard can help safeguarding Texas' digital infrastructure and resources.


Please join us…
Thursday, 10/19/2023 
Bldg. 8, Alamo Room
Camp Mabry 

Texas State Guard Chief of Staff Leads with Integrity

By Major Phoebe Sisk, Texas State Guard

The Art and Science of Becoming a Leader  

Austin - You'll need to be at the top of your class with straight A's if you're applying to USMA (better known as West Point), but even so, most who aspire to attend will fall into the 90% of applicants who are not accepted.  

Not so for Texas State Guard Chief of Staff Colonel Darren Fitz Gerald, who will tell you that he chose to attend West Point because it was the only college that did accept him out of the handful of highly competitive, nationally ranked institutions to which he applied. “I was wait-listed by Duke, Dartmouth, John Hopkins, and other service academies,” he said.   

As a world premier leader-development institution and the most prestigious military academy in the world, West Point is consistently ranked among the top colleges in the country, admitting 1000-1400 new “plebes” each year who fall in to join the total ranks of 4400 cadets for the Acceptance Day parade. According to Fitz Gerald, not all plebes who start will finish. “Of the 1310 in my class, only 929 actually graduated,” he said.   

As West Point seeks candidates with academic prowess, physical fitness, leadership potential, and a congressional or service-related nomination, Fitz Gerald, is presented as the ideal profile. Raised by hardworking parents, Fitz Gerald assimilated their good example of discipline and ethics to become a well-rounded, high school high achiever.   

Earning exemplary grades as an honor student, Fitz Gerald was also an accomplished athlete, playing soccer and serving as the varsity captain of the track team. Additionally, he demonstrated maturity and self-governance by mentoring and caring for his two younger siblings; holding an after-school job; writing for the school paper; and keeping the company of other high achievers.   

With just the right variables of nature and nurture in his Massachusetts upbringing, Fitz Gerald was a self-avowed “born conformist” who benefited from the influence of his parents' German and Irish heritage in developing their same sensibilities of grit and extreme order in the household.   

Raised in a home built in 1720, the house, and especially the kitchen, was immaculately maintained without exception. And sleeping in sub-freezing temperatures, with only a wood-burning stove for warmth, was never viewed as a hardship but rather as a practicality of daily life.   

Fitz Gerald describes the dedication of his parents in sharing the responsibilities of bringing in income for the family, with his father working as an x-ray department administrator during the day and his mother working as a hospital lab tech at night. “My parents just did what needed to be done,” he said. “It wasn’t until I was a parent myself that I realized the degree of their sacrifice to provide for us. We weren’t wealthy but I was raised in a home in which all my needs were provided for, and I never once wondered whether I was loved,” said FitzGerald.   

Fitz Gerald describes a surprisingly easy integration into life at West Point, based on his ability to respond instinctively to the training environment. The philosophical approach of no excuses and no wasted words or actions had become second nature due to his own parents’ unspoken code of ethics. “I realized in the first few weeks that I was good at being a cadet,” he said, “and at 18 months, I really understood and embraced the commitment I was making to the military.”  

Fitz Gerald’s natural fit in the West Point environment led to career experiences beyond his four years of schooling, including obtaining a master’s degree in leadership and counseling in 2002-2003 and joining the staff, originally as a TAC officer. Later, FitzGerald would become a Professor of Military Science and Commandant of Cadets for Wentworth Military Academy & College.   

To date, mentoring young persons and assisting in their professional and personal development remains the most significant accomplishment of his career. “I am most fulfilled in helping people reach their potential,” says Fitz Gerald.   

Piotr Drwal, currently training to be a pilot in the Army, benefitted from the mentoring of Fitz Gerald as a cadet under his tutelage at Wentworth Military Academy and College in Lexington, Missouri, where Fitz Gerald served as Dean of Students and Commandant of Cadets through 2017.  

According to Drwal, Fitz Gerald used every opportunity to ensure his growth as a cadet, treating him as family and taking time to give detailed input to ensure success. “We believed as cadets that he did not make mistakes- he appeared to be everywhere, ready to give feedback on what ‘right’ looks like and to hypothesize scenarios to share lessons learned,” he said.   

This input early on, according to Drwal, has enormously impacted the military leader that he is today. “COL Fitz Gerald is someone that I wanted to emulate within my military career- I knew it would be hard, but I like to aim high. He set a notable example and is an inspirational person who has positively affected thousands of people,” said Drwal.   

Leading with Intent 

As someone who has mastered the art of instruction, Fitz Gerald appreciates West Point as the optimal training environment due to students being a captive audience- with zero distractions- who will have no choice but to embrace the challenges before them.   

“Cadets are given progressive increases in responsibility with room to fail,” said Fitz Gerald.  “Additionally, participation is mandatory- cadets can’t escape, they can’t hide, they can’t opt out... they must face the task at hand head-on and grow from it. Inevitably, in every situation, they will learn to succeed because there is no other's the immersive environment at a military school that sets it apart from other environments.”  

In his twenty-year career in the active-duty military, Fitz Gerald learned one of his most difficult leadership lessons during deployment to Afghanistan. After two company commanders were killed in action, Fitz Gerald came to understand well the criticality of having trained and ready personnel. “It’s important that you have other leaders who are mentally prepared and equipped to step in as immediately as necessary,” he said.  

Also born of extreme circumstances during his tour of Afghanistan was the honing of his instincts to know and trust subordinate officers. “One of the most significant decisions I had to make while deployed was to go against the intent of a senior commander in order to support a junior commander’s decision to put the safety of his team above a recovery mission,” said Fitz Gerald. “I was well familiar with his extensive background in special operations and understood why he was making the call- it was the right choice,” he said.   

Whether in war or garrison, Fitz Gerald maintains that integrity is the most important leadership trait in that it informs all other principles of leadership- and because, without it, trust is not possible within an organization.   

By all indications, Fitz Gerald has excelled in winning the trust of other senior leaders on the Texas State Guard staff, including those tried and tested combat veterans who do not necessarily give it freely.   

Texas State Guard Sergeant Major and retired Army veteran Juli Blenis has worked with COL Fitz Gerald since 2017 and acknowledges his willingness to execute tough decisions. “He is one of those leaders who has the integrity to do the right thing, even if it means he stands alone,” she said. “He’s an intelligent man and has demonstrated, over and over again through his actions, that integrity equals honor.”    

Texas State Guard T-1 Master Sgt. Gerald Steward has worked with the Chief of Staff for the past 3 years and speaks plainly when it comes to his opinion of COL FitzGerald. “He’s the best leader I’ve worked for in 21 ½ years of federal service and two combat tours, hands down,” he said. “He’s very smart, fair, impartial, and a good listener- and even when he doesn’t agree with you, which he will readily do, he explains his reasons so that you leave the conversation feeling respected,” said Steward. “I also appreciate that he is a critical thinker, and he challenges us, as his staff, to read and be critical thinkers as well.”  

Other staff members agree that Fitz Gerald is the best choice for the position he holds.   

According to Lieutenant Colonel Daniel McCarroll, Deputy T-3 for Operations, “COL FitzGerald is level-headed with a calming presence, and is unquestionably the right face for the TXSG because of his military bearing and experience.”    

McCarroll considers one of Fitz Gerald’s most valuable traits to be his readiness to engage in dynamic discussions about leadership, which includes sharing relevant experiences from Fitz Gerald’s days as an elite soccer coach. “Coaching and leadership go hand in hand in that the best leaders make coaching a part of their job,” said   
McCarroll. “It’s amazing what you can learn about leadership from a good coach.”  

Moreover, McCarroll appreciates Fitz Gerald’s forward-thinking posture in terms of growth for the organization. “He’s a steward of the profession of leadership. We’ve had great conversations in acknowledging that leaders grow leaders within an organization... to the extent of asking ourselves ‘How do we do that?’ We’ve recognized that our goal as TXSG HQ is to make ourselves obsolete by empowering and developing true leaders within the ranks,” said McCarroll.  

Leadership: Not a Choice   

Industry experts affirm that while we may choose to adopt certain styles or strategies as leaders, the dynamic of our continual influence over others is a fixed variable, according to behavioral psychology, and is represented as much by what we choose to do and say as what we choose not to.   

It holds, therefore, that leadership is not a choice or an act that begins or ends. It follows us to the dinner table and, if you are COL Darren Fitz Gerald, to the sidelines of the soccer field.   

And if you are COL Darren Fitz Gerald’s parents because your leadership followed you to the dinner table, your son’s his very first lessons of leadership were learned there, setting the stage for a later seamless and successful transition into first the United States Military Academy, or West Point, and then into the US Army and TXSG.   

“I had no idea what I was getting into initially,” said Fitz Gerald, “but I believe my parents' example of hard work and ethical behavior set the foundation for what has become a rewarding military career."  

The Texas State Guard is one of three branches of the Texas Military Department, along with the Texas Army National Guard and the Texas Air National Guard. Other benefits of service in the Texas State Guard include state tuition assistance, a daily stipend for state active duty, and much more.  A full list of benefits can be found online at under the State Guard tab.

Humble Volunteer Stitches Up Sweet Gifts for Sweet Kids (Hold the Sugar)

National Volunteer Month

By David Brown, 1LT, Texas State Guard

HUMBLE, Texas - Though her husband often has to be away for his work in the Texas State Guard, one might well find Celia Levesque at home in Humble at her sewing machine, busy making dolls to give to kids with diabetes. Not just any dolls, mind you, but dolls with special needs like their soon-to-be “parents”.

“(Diabetes is) such a devastating disease, and it requires every minute of every day–there’s no vacations or time off–and so you’re either checking your blood sugar, you’re eating something, you’re changing something out,” Levesque says. She knows first hand, as a person with Type 1 diabetes, herself. Years ago, while volunteering to help a group of young children at the American Diabetes Association’s ‘Camp Rainbow’ in Houston, Levesque recalls bringing in a ‘Jerry the Bear’ doll, designed to appear as if he has Type 1 diabetes.

“It had a little computer on his tummy and everything (to ‘check blood sugar’ levels), and you could feed Jerry, give him insulin and give him a pump and everything… and those kids fought over him the whole time, ‘Oh, I want to feed Jerry and give Jerry insulin’ and that sort of thing. So at the end of the camp, one girl was in tears when she had to leave camp because she didn’t want to leave Jerry behind.”

It inspired Levesque (who also works as a nurse practitioner at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston treating kids with diabetes who have cancer) to begin making dolls to give to the children. “The next year,” Levesque says, “I purchased some basic unclothed dolls with faces and hair, and I made clothes for them. I hadn’t sewn since college, so I got an inexpensive sewing machine and made that first batch. Then the next year, I found they’d stopped making the basic dolls with faces and hair so I decided to make my own dolls from scratch. I bought an embroidering machine to stitch out the faces, and I put the hair on them and made up the clothes. Then I learned how to make doll backpacks, so inside the backpacks kids would get a plastic vial with sparkle glitter on it (to represent insulin), and I’d buy syringes with no needles, and would embroider little insulin pumps and glucose monitors, and would put on velcro to attach the backpacks to the dolls. I knew (the camp kids) all needed their own dolls.”

As comforting and cute as the dolls are, there’s an educational component, as well.

“For food, at first I used pieces of foam, but then I found erasers shaped like food. And for the meter (which measures blood sugar), I found a little recording speaker device that looks a bit like a meter, decorated it, and loaded sounds on them so that when you press the button, the child hears whether to feed their dolly, check their blood sugar and that sort of thing. So the kids get to learn that sugars go up, sugars go down–no judgment about ‘good’ or ‘bad– and when it comes to food they have healthy choices and a little junk food, too. The idea is to add a little education there and they get to take the dolls home with them. They also get a coloring page to put the name of their doll on.”

Since she first began giving away dolls to kids at the Rainbow Camp seven years ago, Levesque says she has no idea how many dolls she’s made and given out - “several hundred, I guess.” Last year Levesque made and distributed 50 dolls; for this year’s Camp Rainbow, she’s already made 30, with more on the way so that she has a variety of ‘boy’ and ‘girl’ dolls with different skin tones, hair colors, and, now, bunnies and bears, too.

If these dolls sound a bit like those expensive ‘Care Bears’ or ‘Build-A-Bears’, you’re on to something, only Levesque doesn’t charge a penny for her handmade dolls. This, despite the fact that the embroidering machines alone were purchased at an enormous personal cost, to say nothing of the rest of the fabric materials needed, the time spent planning, designing, and stitching the tiny bodies and costumes, preparing the miniature recorder/speaker devices and the programming software, and the countless hours of sewing involved. All of it done with love.

The West Texas native reckons each doll takes about 18 hours to make from start to finish, though typically Levesque will try to do multiple dolls in batches, cutting out fabric for several at once, stitching up multiple arms and legs in one sitting, little steps that make assembling the dolls more efficient.

But Levesque says she sometimes does one-off dolls for kids who’ve been newly diagnosed, or for diabetes educators when asked. Again, free of charge. “Now if someone wants to donate some material, I won’t say no,” she adds with a smile.

Levesque’s spirit of public service seems to run in the family. Her husband, Col. Arthur Levesque, is in the Texas State Guard Training Center of the Texas State Guard and also serves with the local unit of the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) near Houston. “We often talk about the support we get from our spouses to work with the Texas State Guard,” Col. Levesque says. “I would like to think that I have encouraged and supported her desire to make a positive impact on little children with diabetes.”

In addition to her work with the diabetes camp, Celia Levesque also does volunteer work through her church (Second Baptist Church in Kingwood), helping to feed the hungry during the holidays, and distributing toys to underprivileged children at Christmas.

April is National Volunteer Month. "In the Texas State Guard, service members selflessly volunteer their time and expertise to help their fellow Texans during emergencies and disasters,” says Maj. Gen. Anthony Woods, Commanding General of the Texas State Guard, “but we often find that the families of service members give to their communities in other ways that are just as important. Though they may not be wearing the uniform, their volunteerism is vital, and inspiring to us all.”

For Celia Levesque, volunteering is a calling, clearly inspired by faith. “I’ve been so blessed to have a good job, to live in a country where I have health care… I’m doing what God wants me do to–and I just feel that I should give back.

The Texas State Guard salutes those who are serving their communities in a variety of different ways. Since World War Two, tens of thousands of men and women have chosen to serve their fellow Texans by joining the ranks of the Texas State Guard. Information about opportunities in the nation’s premier State Guard force can be found online at

A Commitment to Help Feed the Hungry

National Volunteer Month

By David Brown, 1LT, Texas State Guard 

DALLAS - Experts estimate there are some 26,000 people experiencing homelessness in Texas, with the greatest concentration in the Dallas area.  For about three years now, Lisa Dennis Thompson has been doing her part to make sure that many of those dealing with homelessness don’t also have to go hungry.   

Thompson is part of a church-based organization, Help Feed Your Brother, led by Terry Hines which provides meals for those without a home, and meets those in need where they are–wherever they are.  After initially setting up the distribution of food in various parts of Dallas near shelters, Thompson and her colleagues now pre-prepare meals and take them into parts of the city where people are living outdoors.  

“This work has humbled me,” Thompson says, who attributes much of her interest in public service to her faith. “I’ve always known of homeless people, of course, but this work has brought me closer to them. They are down-to-earth people, just down on their luck for whatever reason. Their attitude is always gratitude and thankfulness.”  

Thompson’s volunteer work comes in addition to her full-time administrative career. “To me, it’s a sacrifice,” Thompson says, “...but I’ve found that the more we give, the more we get back.”  

Community service is a family affair for Thompson, whose husband, Harlan, is Senior Enlisted Advisor in the Texas State Guard. Command Sgt. Maj. Thompson is also a Master Peace Officer and a police sergeant with the Collin County College District.  

“I’m so proud of the hard work Lisa has been doing on behalf of the homeless,” says Command Sgt. Maj. Thompson. “I also appreciate that she’s teaching the importance of serving those less fortunate than ourselves to the next two generations of our family.”  The Thompsons have three adult children, Gary, Ashley, and Jessica, and 14 grandchildren.  

Advocates say more volunteers are needed for the important work of feeding those experiencing homelessness. Lisa Thompson says she hopes more people will be moved to make a commitment to feeding the hungry in our communities. “I’d say ‘do it once–and make up your mind to commit to (doing this work),” she says. “I find it very rewarding.” 

During April, National Volunteerism Month, the men and women of the Texas State Guard salute those who give of their time and efforts both in- and out-of-uniform to help make Texas a better place. Opportunities to serve in the nation’s preeminent State Guard force can be found online at 

Texas State Guard Sergeant Shares Love of Outdoors with Veterans as Therapy for Life’s Stresses

National Volunteer Month

By Gregory Illich, Warrant Officer 1, Texas State Guard 

CENTERVILLE, Texas - Many of us only wish that our day-to-day work and service would be more than a job or task and so we look forward to our days off and busy our weekends with our hobbies. For Sgt. Eric Munoz of the 2nd Brigade, Texas State Guard, his work is not laborious or burdensome: it is the sharing of his love of the outdoors with his fellow veterans, in true camaraderie.  

Munoz is the Founder and President of Texas Outdoor Heroes, a 501(c)(3) non-profit which helps veterans in need to experience the outdoors, fishing, camping, cookouts, hunting, and hiking at no cost, to enrich their lives as they deal with stress and various challenges. Through his organization’s network of contacts, Munoz also helps veterans connect with counseling services and other resources they may need. Each year he hosts “A Salute to Veterans” event with barbecue and entertainment to show those that have served that they are appreciated. Also, he reaches out to the veterans in his local community each month to foster a strong community and friendships.   

Munoz lives in the rural town of Centerville, Texas, and enjoys working on his cousin’s ranch. A self-taught welder by trade, he owns and manages a small business that manufactures farm and commercial metal buildings. An outdoorsman, he enjoys camping, hunting, and fishing.  

A veteran with the U.S. Army and the Texas Army National Guard in the 141st Infantry Regiment (Mechanized), Munoz served as an infantry soldier trained especially on crew-served heavy anti-armor weapons such as the TOW anti-tank missile and was the designated tank driver for his squad.  

After leaving federal service, Munoz says he looked back fondly on his time in uniform. He missed the camaraderie, but also realized there were many fellow veterans who needed help, the assistance of various kinds, but most importantly, someone to talk to who had a shared experience. Having looked up other veteran’s groups and associations, he discovered there was a need that fits well with his passion: the outdoors. He wanted to share his love of outdoor experiences with his brother and sister veterans, especially those who felt isolated, misunderstood, or suffered from PTSD. He believes that facilitating these activities with groups of veterans who have shared experiences is an excellent form of therapy. 

“I started the veteran’s support non-profit in honor of my son's best friend, Sgt. Wade Wilson, a U.S. Marine who was killed in action while serving in Afghanistan in 2011,” Munoz explains. “He was a remarkable young man who loved hanging out with his friends. Always had a trick or two up his sleeve. The hardest thing for me was getting the news and having to tell my son about his friend. We live in a small town where everyone knows everyone. The war that was going on in Iraq & Afghanistan became very real.” 
After mustering the entire community to turn out in Wilson’s honor when he was laid to rest, Munoz knew he wanted to do more - make a more lasting tribute. Munoz was the driving force in renaming a portion of I-45 in the Centerville area for Wilson.  

Munoz said, “I told the local and state representatives, ‘I will do everything I can to make this happen, but I will let you handle the political side of things while I get the community support and funding.’” Persevering through a lengthy process, Munoz achieved his goal on May 26, 2017, when legislation was added to the Texas Transportation Code renaming a 17-mile stretch of I-45 the ‘Sergeant Wade Daniel Wilson Memorial Highway’.  

“The highway not only honors Wade’s sacrifice but expresses our support for all those who have served and all families that have lost loved ones in the military,” Munoz says. “After renaming the highway, I still wanted to do more, so I joined the Texas State Guard, to serve again with my fellow brothers and sisters in uniform, helping Texans in time of need.” 

The Texas State Guard is one of three branches of the Texas Military Department, which also includes the Texas Army National Guard and the Texas Air National Guard. For more than 80 years, thousands of men and women, including many veterans of federal service, have volunteered to serve their state in the Guard, answering the call of civilian authorities during countless disasters and emergencies statewide.  

Since 2011, Munoz’s organization has hosted an annual cookout event honoring veterans, providing food and entertainment at no cost to all veterans who attend. Also, Munoz continues to host camping, hunting, and fishing trips each year, benefiting hundreds of veterans over the years.  

Munoz’s passion is shared by his family. His three sisters, Lupita De La Rosa, Cecilia Morales, and Lorena Garcia all help with the non-profit's mission by preparing meals for the veterans as needed, on occasion serving as many as 450 at a time. His wife, Gloria, assists in the bookkeeping and day-to-day operation of the non-profit.  

“This year is my 12th year helping veterans,” Munoz explains. “It is my way to give back and show appreciation for my fellow veterans and let them know they are not forgotten, and they are not alone. I am there for them.” 

During April, National Volunteer Month, the Texas State Guard is turning a spotlight on Texans who give of their time and efforts to make their communities a better place. In the Texas State Guard, there are many, like Munoz, who go above-and-beyond the call of duty to serve their fellow Texans. More information on opportunities to serve in the Texas State Guard can be found online at  

The Citizen-Soldier Behind the Mask

National Volunteer Month

By David Brown, 1st Lieutenant, Texas State Guard 

HOUSTON – A year before Pearl Harbor, the ‘super soldier’ made his first appearance: clad in a uniform of red, white, and blue on the cover of a comic book, delivering an uppercut to Adolf Hitler.  These days, you might find Captain America at a Houston area hospital, kneeling by the side of a sick child’s bed.   

“Are you really Captain America?” the child often asks. Rising with a crisp military salute, the masked soldier replies, “Captain Steve Rogers, at your service, Sir!”  And for a few moments, the pain seems to melt away from the child’s face, replaced with a smile.   

Yes, he’s a soldier–in real life, a Warrant Officer in the Texas State Guard. His ‘secret identity’ is Greg Illich of Houston, and his ‘superpower’ is volunteering.   

In his role as Captain America, cheering up sick kids at hospitals and visiting schools across the Houston area with an anti-bullying message, Illich is utterly convincing as the leader of ‘The Avengers’ in his theatrical-grade costume and aircraft-aluminum shield. 

But his other uniform is the real deal: the green camo of a Texas State Guard soldier assigned to the 2nd Brigade. And it is lifesaving work, requiring constant professional and military training in order to be ready to serve fellow Texans whenever called upon by civil authorities.   

Since World War II, thousands of Texas men and women have volunteered to give back to their home state through service in the Texas State Guard, one of three branches of the Texas Military Department (which also includes the Texas Army National Guard and the Texas Air National Guard).  The Texas State Guard has earned a reputation as the premier State Guard force in the nation, saving lives, providing shelter, leading search and rescue missions, and serving with distinction through disasters like Hurricane Harvey and countless other emergencies across Lone Star State.  

Service in the Texas State Guard requires no small amount of personal sacrifice, including time away from home and family. Illich has been married for 34 years to Maria, a school teacher. They have one daughter, Katherine, who is an artist in Denver. “Make no mistake, we know that the families of service members sacrifice, too, so that their loved ones can serve,” says Maj. Gen. Anthony Woods, Commanding General of the Texas State Guard. “We all have deep respect and gratitude for that sacrifice.”  

“Six years ago, my wife told me about a student at her school who had been diagnosed with bone cancer,” Illich recalls. “She said ‘Let’s go visit…but I want you to dress up.’ I said, ‘What?’ She said, ‘Yup, you’ve got the t-shirt and shield (which Illich used to wear on the front porch at Halloween)’. My first response was ‘negative’. I’m not that guy to puff my chest out and try to be something I’m not.” 

“It’s not about you, it’s about the kids,” Maria replied.  

That did it. After the first visit, the nurses asked ‘Cap’ to come back. Over time, the costumes got better. Much better. And the visits to kids at children’s hospitals, burn centers, and schools began mounting deep into the triple digits.  

“One of the reasons I am Captain America is because I was bullied as a kid. I was a big comic book fan as a kid, but Captain America really spoke to me. He’s a defender,” says Illich. “When I visit the schools, anti-bullying is a big part of my message. At hospitals, it’s an opportunity for me to ask the kids, ‘What’s your superpower?’” He encourages them to think of how they can use their talents to better society. For some kids, it’s an opportunity to see themselves in a whole new light–not as little or frail, but as a hero, a winner.  

“I once walked off from visiting a kid and heard a mom say to her son, ‘Yeah, he’s real, honey…’”, Illich laughs. 

Stories are a passion for Illich, who has B.A. and Masters’ degrees in history. For 13 years, he put his nuanced understanding of history to work as a fraud investigator (“a historian-as-detective”, Illich says) working alongside the FBI, the Secret Service, and local law enforcement fighting financial crimes. His history studies came in useful as a schoolteacher for a brief period, too. But what began as a hobby became full-time work for Illich in 2006, who is today an independent instructor in the martial art of taiji (also commonly written as ‘tai chi’), an ancient Chinese practice used in defense training, meditation, and health.   

Somehow, Illich finds room in his schedule to serve his community in other ways, too - assisting at Young Eagles fly-in events to share the love of aviation with young people (Illich is also a pilot), as a lector and usher at his church, and honoring fallen service members and first responders as part of the Patriot Guard Riders motorcycle honor guard carrying the U.S. flag at more than 450 funerals since 2006.  

That guy in the Avengers films? That Chris Evans. He’s an actor.  

The hero is a soldier with a supersized heart for public service. 

And that’s for real.  

There are many ways to serve your community and your state, and during National Volunteer Month, the Texas State Guard salutes all who serve in ways big and small.  If you have a passion for public service and would like to learn about opportunities to serve in the uniform of the Texas State Guard, visit us online at 

Supporting Those Who Serve, Supporting Those Who Sacrifice

National Volunteer Month

By Phoebe Sisk, Major, 1st Brigade, Texas State Guard 

MINERAL WELLS, Texas -- The men and women who serve the state of Texas are known by many names- heroes to some- and to four-year-old Scarlett Dove of Mineral Wells- Mom and Dad.  

Scarlett’s father is Lt. William Dove, a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps and a former U.S. Army soldier who has served in the Texas State Guard since 2016. Lt. Dove is currently a volunteer on a year-plus deployment in support of the Operation Lone Star border security mission. Scarlett’s mother is his wife Stacy, a devoted civilian spouse credited with the significant volunteer effort of standing up the first Family Readiness Group (FRG) in the 80-plus-year history of the Texas State Guard. The FRG is an organization that provides critical support, communication, and a sense of belonging to the families of service members. 

“Since I began serving in this role, I’ve taken my kids to every event possible,” says Stacy. “In addition to allowing them to witness the value of their dad’s service, I wanted them to understand how much positive can come from helping others... I tell them to do it for the cause not for the applause.” 

After 20 years of marriage, Stacy is now her own breed of veteran in terms of supporting a deployed spouse. As the current head of the 1st Brigade’s FRG, her unfailing commitment to the Texas State Guard since her husband joined stems from a strong calling to ensure other families do not experience the same lack of support and resources she experienced as a young military spouse overseas.  

“After my first contact with the Army’s FRG in Germany,” Stacy says, “I never heard from them again, so I was left to figure out everything on my own... this made me very sympathetic to the needs of families of service members going forward.” 

With four children, including the youngest who has recently been diagnosed with a learning disorder and, of late, has required extra attention, love, and support, Stacy also single-handedly runs the family farm, which includes the daily care and feeding of cows, donkeys, chickens, guinea fowls, ducks, and a goat. 

“My areas of priority- family, farm, and the FRG- have melded together to form one seamless world, so often it feels that my daily tasks are accomplished simultaneously instead of separately,” says Stacy. “There’s not a time when I am not reaching out to someone in the name of the FRG because I know we are all having, at times, the same hard day.” 

Stacy feels that the 1st Brigade’s FRG has come a long way since its launch, at one point providing services to the entire Texas State Guard during a period of responding to the simultaneous missions of Hurricane Laura, COVID-19, and assisting with civil unrest throughout the state.  

“We’ve built the FRG program from the ground up, researching the best of all military branches and adopting what fits our own hybrid organization,” says Stacy. “Still, we need to be better about connecting, just picking up the phone and making a call.” 

Standardizing the platform of service offered within the FRG is also a goal, which Stacy claims has been facilitated through her team of four dedicated members who maintain excellence throughout the organization with little oversight: Stefanie Lassiter, David Montes, Anna Thomas, and Gina Jacobson.  

According to Jacobson, serving on the 1st Brigade’s FRG has been a wonderful way to get to know the high-quality individuals with whom her husband serves. “I didn’t understand the caliber of persons that made up the Texas State Guard until I got involved,” she said. “I’ve been impressed.” 

Stacy contends that she will continue reaching for the highest goal of ensuring all families feel connected and supported, and meanwhile, feels good about the work that has been done.  

“My pinnacle moment was in helping a spouse who experienced a very rough time get on her feet again- through helping her find an apartment, a job, and a way back to school,” says Dove. “It was also a great moment when we delivered a care package to every single deployed service member for the holidays.” 

“We are immensely grateful for the role that servicemember families play in supporting the work of the Texas State Guard,” says Maj. Gen. Anthony Woods, Commanding General of the Texas State Guard. “I want family members to know that their work, their sacrifice, is essential and deeply valued. We couldn’t do what we do without their support.” 

During April, National Volunteer Month, the Texas State Guard salutes the many men and women in and out of uniform who give back to their communities in countless ways great and small. Volunteerism makes the Lone Star State a stronger, healthier, and happier place to live. To learn more about the Texas State Guard, its history of public service, and opportunities to serve, go to  

Her Uniform’s a Lab Coat, Her Passion’s Public Service

National Volunteer Month

By David Brown, 1st Lieutenant, Texas State Guard

LEWISVILLE, Texas - It may be blazing hot outside.  It may be freezing cold.  No matter the weather, on the fourth Saturday of each month, you’ll likely see Cecilia Woods there in the early morning outside of Westside Baptist Church in Lewisville, helping lift a bag of groceries into someone’s car, guiding someone through the process of picking up food for their family or arranging food on tables for distribution. 

“We have grocery baskets, people can come and go through the line and pick up things from each section and then they just get in their cars,” Woods says. “We’re usually there from early in the morning until 12 noon… or our food runs out.” 

Although Woods’ distinguished 25-year career as a pharmacist may seem far removed from her work distributing free food, volunteerism is something she takes seriously, even if she seems reluctant to take any credit.  “I never like to be in the spotlight, but I always like to help serve,” Woods says. “It’s a great way to reach folks in the community and many of them are just downtrodden–they’ve fallen on hard times–so it's always an opportunity to share the word, pray with somebody and just help out.”  

“Some of the people will come up and say ‘Hey, I know you from somewhere…OH, YOU’RE THE PHARMACIST! Yes! You’re my pharmacist!” Woods adds. “It really fills my soul.”  

Minister John Baree, Servant Leader of the Community Outreach Ministry at Westside, explains that the church’s monthly food pantry is organized in conjunction with the Tarrant County Food Bank. “Cecilia Woods is one of our core people,” Baree says. “There’s a handful of people you can count on every month to volunteer. She’s one of those–someone we can always depend on and we just look forward to seeing her face there.” 

As Woods says, “If I’m not working, I’m there because so many people in our community need help.”   

When in her lab coat at the pharmacy, one might find Woods busy administering free shots during flu season or taking an active role in quarterly ‘wellness days’, checking customers’ cholesterol, glucose, and blood pressure.  “We’re able to give folks a kind of baseline of where their health is, and I think that’s especially important for people who really don’t have a family physician,” Woods says.   

April is National Volunteer Month, but for Woods, volunteerism is a year-round activity. “It’s really something that I’ve always done,” says Woods. “It’s so funny: when my husband and I got married, I was always the one who’d go ‘Oh, someone’s standing on the corner, let’s give them five dollars, and he’d be like “oh, my baby– we’ll give away all our stuff!”, she adds with a hearty laugh.   

In truth, neither Cecilia nor her husband, Anthony, who live in Frisco, is the kind to hold back when it comes to public service. Maj. Gen. Anthony Woods is the Commanding General of the Texas State Guard and an Army veteran who has lived a life of public service, and who clearly couldn’t be more proud of his wife’s many contributions to the community.   

“When coats and clothes and shoes are needed for our church’s Veterans Ministry, she’s a part of that, too. As a matter of fact, she’s so strongly involved that on several occasions I’ve seen her in the Army “marshmallow suit” (severe cold weather jacket) handing out coats and food,” says Maj. Gen. Woods. “She’s very humble in her approach to service. You know, I think she really undervalues her contribution.” 

Like military service, volunteerism has been a distinctive feature of American life since the country’s founding.  According to Susan Dreyfus, writing for the ‘Stanford Social Innovation Review’, volunteerism plays a uniquely prominent role in American life compared to other countries.  And yet, in recent years, volunteerism has been on the decline in the U.S., with 25.3% of Americans reporting that they have volunteered in the past 12 months, compared to an all-time high of 28.8% (between 2003 and 2005). 

But in a time of rapidly rising inflation and economic uncertainty, a changing climate, aging demographics, and increasing demands on public resources, the need for volunteerism is growing.   

“You know, Jesus said that the one that will be greatest amongst you will be a servant to all,” Minister Baree says. “Without those who have a heart for service like Mrs. Woods, we couldn’t help our community… no matter how much food we might have to distribute.”   

Maj. Gen. Woods says he’s seen other family members of Texas State Guard soldiers make similar contributions to their communities, seldom if ever calling attention to themselves or receiving the recognition they deserve.  “I see (servicemember) families’ commitment through my wife’s own service. For Cecilia, public service is truly a calling. If she doesn’t do it, she feels like she’s failing God. It’s like ‘I have to go–I cannot ‘not go’. Because of her service, her soul is satisfied.”   

And communities across Texas are better for that commitment to serve. 

From helping a local food pantry to giving blood, checking on an elderly neighbor, or supporting frontline health workers and first responder families, there are countless ways to volunteer.  For more than 80 years, during disasters and emergencies, tens of thousands of men and women have served their fellow Texans in the uniform of the Texas State Guard.  The nation’s premier State Guard force salutes all who serve in whatever capacity, and, as always, stands prepared and ready to answer the call - no matter the mission, no matter the hour. 

Border Czar visits Texas National Guard

CAMERON COUNTY, Texas –Texas Border Czar, Mike Banks, toured Texas National Guard emplacements and fortified positions along the Rio Grande River near Brownsville, February 2023. Governor Greg Abbott appointed Banks to be his special advisor on border matters in January. 

“Human trafficking and drug smuggling are big problems at Texas’ southern border,” said Banks, who worked for over 20 years as a border patrol agent. “Operation Lone Star is essential for the safety and security of Texans.”

During his tour, Banks met with myriad of troops involved in several different facets of Operation Lone Star. 

“I wanted to come to speak with the Airmen and Soldiers on the frontlines to find out what resources and tools are working the best to stem illegal immigration,” said Banks. “We are going to expand our infrastructure and utilize advanced technology to continue to curb criminal activity at our border.”

Banks asked questions and also answered questions from Operation Lone Star Guardsmen. 

“He gave us great insight into how the mission will unfold moving forward and how it continues to evolve in a positive way. It was a big morale boost,” said TSgt Bryan LaCour, the Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge of Standards and Evaluations in Task Force South. “We have been hearing about the Border Czar--and now being able to put a face with the name, and having some questions answered helped troops to see the big picture of border security and stay laser-focused on the job.”

Operation Lone Star has led to more than 350,000 illegal immigrant apprehensions, over 24,000 criminal arrests, and more than 362 million deadly fentanyl doses seized. 

Cartels are trying to take advantage of border patrol agents by overwhelming them with mass illegal migration, creating a diversion so drug smugglers and criminal aliens can sneak into Texas according to Banks who said Texas National Guardsmen are doing all they can to fill in the gaps. 

“We are keeping Texans safe by apprehending illegal aliens and properly processing them, so we know who is trying to enter our country, we will not allow criminals to overrun our border,” said Banks. “I am extremely honored to be in this position and appreciate our guardsmen working to protect our border, this is truly Texans serving Texans.”

TMD Hosts Lawmakers

AUSTIN, TEXAS - The Texas Military Department held its annual Legislative Day, Feb. 3, 2023, offering state legislators a firsthand look at the state's military capabilities. 

The day kicked off with an address from Maj. Gen. Win Burkett, commanding general of the 36th Infantry Division, Texas Army National Guard. The guests were allowed to see training simulators and exhibits from the Texas Army National Guard, Texas State Guard, Texas Air National Guard, Counterdrug Task Force, and Special Operations Detachment-Africa, all headquartered in and around Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas. 

Johnathan Silva, chief of staff for Representative Richard Hayes was on hand for Legislator Day. “One of the biggest takeaways was how Guardsmen are utilized throughout the state,” Silva said. “They are some of our key personnel for Operation Lone Star and natural disasters.” 

The day’s events included briefings on the capabilities of the TMD and gave the legislators and their staff an opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the role the TMD plays in keeping Texas safe.  

Legislators witnessed an F-16 fighter jet take off and rode in a C-130 transport plane, both flown by Texas Air National Guardsmen. Once aboard the C-130, the congressmen and women could feel the equipment in action.  

“The flight was the most memorable part of the day.” said Silva. That’s not something that your average person gets to experience. Whether they are full-time or traditional, 1-weekend-a-month Guardsmen, they are expert trained personnel to fly these aircraft.”  

The event aimed to showcase the department's capabilities and give legislators a better understanding of the work the TMD does for the state of Texas. 

The Texas State Guard showcased their search and rescue equipment, highlighting their commitment to providing support during times of need to the state of Texas. The exhibit included a range of equipment, from communication systems to rescue boats and vehicles. 

Members of the Texas State Guard were on hand to demonstrate the equipment and share their experiences using it in real-world situations. They emphasized the importance of having the right tools and training to effectively respond to emergencies and provide aid to those in need. The display of their search and rescue equipment showcased the Texas State Guard's commitment to serving the state and its communities and highlighted the importance of preparedness in times of crisis. 

Capt. Keith Weaver, Alpha Company, 5th Battalion, 19th Special Forces Group was at the event to share the work that the Special Operations Detachment-Africa is doing as part of their duties in theater.  

“We’re here to talk about what our elements are doing. We are privileged that we get tasked around the world,” said Weaver. “Our company was in Syria, Iraq, and the Arabian Peninsula last year. Texas is one of a handful of states that has a Special Operations component. We are unique because we could be tasked anywhere around the world.”  

The Texas Military Department serves as the state's military branch, providing support to local communities during times of need, including natural disasters and emergencies. The department is also a crucial component of national security, providing support to military operations both domestically and abroad. 

Legislators also learned of one of the lesser publicized entities of the TMD, the Joint Counterdrug Task Force. Task Force officials shared what the JCDTF provides, a professional support to federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies and community-based organizations in the state of Texas. Chief Warrant Officer 2 Kevin Hagar, Drug Demand Reduction Outreach program manager, for Counterdrug was available to speak to elected officials.  

“We are fighting fentanyl on two different levels,” Hagar said. “Not only on the supply piece of the problem, but we also provide education for children to reduce drug demand.”   

Legislative Day was a testament to the department's commitment to serving the state of Texas, and to providing its elected officials with a comprehensive understanding of the military's capabilities and operations.