Posts in Category: Texas State Guard

Lufkin man to walk from Lufkin to Conroe to raise awareness for disease that claimed life of great-nephew

LARISSA GRAHAM/The Lufkin Daily News
2011/03/27

Photo of Capt. Allen Rush walking next to the road
Capt. Allen Rush of Lufkin will walk 105 miles from Lufkin to Conroe to raise awareness for the disease that claimed the life of his great-nephew Jack Wolf.Photo by LARISSA GRAHAM/The Lufkin Daily News

LUFKIN, Texas - Starting Friday, a Lufkin man will walk from Lufkin to Conroe to raise awareness for the disease that claimed the life of his great-nephew.

Capt. Allen Rush of the Texas Medical Brigade branch of the Tyler Medical Response Group will walk the 105 miles to raise awareness and funds for the Jack Wolf Foundation, named after Rush’s great-nephew, Jack Wolf IV. Wolf passed away five weeks after his birth from osteogenesis imperfecta, or brittle bone disease. Over the last five years, the Jack Wolf Foundation has raised about $40,000 for the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Memorial Hermann The Woodlands Hospital and the Empty Arms Ministry in Lufkin through an annual golf tournament at The Links of Westfork in Conroe.

Rush plans to walk the “Jack Jog” in 20-mile increments each day. He’ll be dressed in full gear, including a 20-pound pack that includes three liters of water, an MRE (meal, ready to eat), and other supplies that he might need along the way.

“The Army taught me to be over prepared,” Rush said with a grin. “Even though I’ll be following the road, I’ll have my compass in my pack.”

Rush, a Type I diabetic, will also have a supply of bananas and oranges, to keep his blood sugar under control, and an MP3 player with plenty of upbeat music to keep him going mile after mile.

“I have some classic rock from the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, some Celtic bagpipe music, a little hip-hop, and some music from the Texas Aggie Band,” Rush said.

In addition to raising money for the Jack Wolf Foundation, Rush hopes his walk will bring attention to the Texas State Guard and encourage his fellow guard members to get fit.

“I’ve gotten healthier training for this,” Rush said. “And all I’ve been doing is walking.”

Rush called the Jack Jog a personal triumph, both for his health and his diabetes.

“It’s very rewarding to be able to do something for people who can’t do for themselves,” Rush said. “There are a lot of things we can do on a day-to-day basis to help our fellow citizens.”

More information on the Jack Wolf Foundation and the Jack Jog can be found on the foundation’s website at jack-wolf.org

Reprinted with permission, The Lufkin Daily News

Changing of Command builds on TXSG Success

Changing Of Command Builds On TXSG Success
MAJ Michael Quinn Sullivan, PAO, TXSG
2011/02/27

Photo of Commanding General Ray Peters (Center) promoted Manuel Rodriguez, left, to Brigadier General and Deputy Commanding General, Army. Rodriguez takes over from retiring BG Victor Ortiz (right).
Commanding General Ray Peters (center) promoted Manuel Rodriguez, left, to Brigadier General and Deputy Commanding General, Army. Rodriguez takes over from retiring BG Victor Ortiz (right).

AUSTIN - A new commander of the Texas State Guard’s army component took charge today as the state’s defense support soldiers expressed gratitude to retiring Brig. Gen. Victor Ortiz.

Serving as Deputy Commander (Army) of the Texas State Guard since 2006, Ortiz said he was proud of the achievements of the men and women he has served alongside.

“They have truly exemplified the spirit of Texas,” said Ortiz. “It has been an absolute honor serving with them. This is what our country is all about.”

More than 2,000 men and women actively service in the Texas State Guard, with two-thirds of them in the Army component. The other sections of the Texas State Guard are the Air Division, Maritime Regiment and Medical Brigade. The TXSG, commanded by Maj. Gen. Ray Peters, is part of the Texas Military Forces, which includes the Army National Guard and Air National Guard.

After retiring from the United States Army National Guard, Ortiz entered the Texas State Guard in August of 2005 as commander of the 1st Civil Affairs Regiment. His entry was a baptism by hurricane; Katrina hit on Sept. 8, 2005, resulting in the largest activation of the TXSG in modern history.

Having been commissioned into the Army in 1969, Ortiz served in Vietnam as a fire direction officer and executive officer. He entered the Texas Army National Guard in 1979, holding numerous leadership positions, including Commander of the Joint Task Force Safe Boarder (Military Observer Mission Ecuador and Peru and Commander 49th Armored Division Artillery.

Ortiz described the Texas State Guard as “a great way to serve your community.”

Brig. Gen. Ortiz works as a volunteer with the Employer Support for the Guard and Reserve. He and his wife Martha have two grown sons, two grandchildren.

Replacing Ortiz as the Deputy Commander (Army) is Manuel Rodriguez, recently confirmed as a brigadier general by the Texas Senate. Retired from the United States Army, Rodriguez – like Ortiz – was introduced to the Texas State Guard by a friend.

“I couldn’t believe what I saw,” said Rodriguez of his first visit to a training weekend. “The men and women serving in the state guard ask for nothing, but give a whole lot to Texas, and want to do the right thing. I had to be a part of that.”

He joined in March 2006, serving first as commander of the 2nd Civil Affairs Regiment, and later as the headquarters personnel officer.

Rodriguez was commissioned in 1983 upon graduation from the University of Southern Mississippi, and found himself posted first at Fort Hood. During his career, the Army had him in Germany, Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan, among other assignments. Primarily an intelligence officer, he retired from active duty in 2005. He and his wife own a ranch outside Copperas Cove. He has a college-age son, two grown daughters and a granddaughter.

Rodriguez said he was honored to take command from Ortiz.

“He has led with his heart, putting the soldiers first in everything he has done,” said Rodriguez. “I look forward to building on his successful work.”

Gen. Peters, presiding over Sunday’s ceremony at Camp Mabry, said both Ortiz and Rodriguez represent the kind of strong, hands-on leadership the state guard has been cultivating.

“As we continue to grow and mature organizationally, Gen. Rodriguez’s emphasis on training will enhance the esprit de corps that Gen. Ortiz has embodied.”

Ceremony brings sister cities together

Ceremony brings sister cities together
Staff Sgt. Daniel Griego, 100th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
2011/02/25

Brig. Gen. Charles A. Miller, chief of staff for the Texas State Guard, Col. Donald Prince, commander of the 5th Air Wing Texas State Guard, applaud during the International Bridge Ceremony. Prince helped organize the George Washington Birthday Celebration, a traditional event in Laredo. Texas Military Forces often support community events such as this one.Photo by 100th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, Army National Guard Pfc. Paco Pineda
Brig. Gen. Charles A. Miller, chief of staff for the Texas State Guard, Col. Donald Prince, commander of the 5th Air Wing Texas State Guard, applaud during the International Bridge Ceremony. Prince helped organize the George Washington Birthday Celebration, a traditional event in Laredo. Texas Military Forces often support community events such as this one.Photo by 100th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, Army National Guard Pfc. Paco Pineda

LAREDO, Texas - A miniature George and Martha Washington meet with a Mexican cowboy and his wife on the Texas-Mexican border. The annual International Bridge Ceremony commences with the exchange of the “abrazo,” or hug, between four children; one couple portraying the first American president and his wife, and the other representing the people of Mexico.

For more than thirty years, the International Good Neighbor Council, in conjunction with the Washington Birthday Celebration Association of Laredo, Inc., has hosted the ceremony on the Lincoln-Juarez International Bridge in Laredo, Texas. This ceremony serves as the culmination to a month long event that celebrates the birthday of the first U.S. president. In this annual tradition, dignitaries from the sister cities of Laredo and Nuevo Laredo, the states of Tamaulipas and Texas, and both countries, come together to exchange the Abrazo.

"Both countries have a similar cultural history,” said Carlos Garza, military liaison for the WBCA. "The only thing that has divided the United States and Mexico is a river."

Laredo was once a Mexican city, but after the Texas Annexation in 1845, it officially became a part of Texas and the U.S. Feeling like they belonged in Mexico, many families eventually returned across the river to found the city of Nuevo Laredo.

“They are related in business," said Garza. "They are related in family.”

The Bridge Ceremony is a century-old tradition, yet the abrazo has only been incorporated in the last 70 years. Ever since, the IGNC has invited Texas Military Forces and government officials to participate in this unique occasion.

According to Garza, Laredo has a long military history, which influences the local youth. The United South High School Marine Corps JROTC participated in this year’s Bridge Ceremony as the link between the two nations. Their sabers were raised over the representatives of each country as they walked onto a ceremonial red carpet in the middle of the international bridge. The Martin High School Army JROTC held the 50 U.S. state flags and the local Texas Army National Guard’s Color Guard presented the nation’s flag during the National Anthem.

Honored military guests included Maj. Gen. Jose S. Mayorga, former Texas Adjutant General; Brig. Gen. Charles A. Miller, Texas State Guard chief of staff; and Col. Donald Prince, commander of the 5th Air Wing Texas State Guard.

“Patriotism for the American flag is a top priority,” said Garza.

Along with the abrazo, dignitaries trade small American and Mexican flags to symbolize the countries’ support and good will toward each other. Honored guest, Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives Joseph R. Straus, exchanged flags with Monica Gonzales Garcia, representative of the state of Tamaulipas. Other government officials followed these delegates, to include the revered first U.S. President George Washington.

Francis Averill Jr. portrayed the first president of the United States and an actor playing Father Miguel Hidalgo, the father of Mexican Independence, served as his counterpart. Both historical figures exchanged the Abrazo and traded their respective nation’s flags. This symbolic gesture ends the International Bridge Ceremony each year.

The deep Hispanic heritage embedded in the people of Laredo, helps build a unique relationship with Nuevo Laredo and its country.

“We are blessed to have a culture that is a mix of both American and Mexican,” explained Garza, “and it’s a great honor and privilege to be a part of these festivities.”

Texas Guard at 70!

Texas Guard At 70!
MAJ Michael Quinn Sullivan, TXSG 
2011/02/09

Photo of Banner with Color Guard that says "Texas State Guard at 70"
Image of the 2nd Battalion Color Guard, Texas Defense Guard in Houston, Texas, 1942

AUSTIN - While its history can be traced to Stephen F. Austin’s colonial militia, the modern Texas State Guard is celebrating its 70th anniversary this week. Today’s guard features more than 2,000 men and women serving the state – peak participation since World War II.

“Whatever the task, the Texas State Guard has been, and will continue to be, equal to it,” said Commanding General Ray Peters, who leads the Guard under the direction of the Texas Adjutant General and the Governor. “This is Texans serving Texans in practical and pragmatic ways.”

On Feb. 10, 1941, Texas Gov. Lee O’Daniel signed the Defense Act creating the Texas Defense Guard. The U.S. Congress had previously authorized the states to establish defensive units to serve at the discretion of the governor in support capacities. When the federal authority for the “Defense Guard” expired in 1947, the Texas Legislature re-authorized the entity under the banner of the “Texas State Guard Reserve Corps.”

Today’s state guard is one of three components of the Texas Military Forces, alongside the Army National Guard and Air National Guard. But unlike the National Guard entities, the State Guard generally serves only within the borders of the Texas and answers only to the governor. When activated, guardsmen provide critical services in times of natural and man-made disasters. In recent years the Texas State Guard has played critical roles in a wide-range of situations, from the search-and-recovery of the Columbia to shelter management in last summer’s Hurricane Alex.

“The flexibility of having 2,000 professional, civic-minded and uniformed Texans serving in the State Guard means we can mobilize anywhere in the state within hours of activation by the governor,” said Peters. “We serve to support the needs of local authorities, and provide for the relief and comfort of our neighbors at the worst of times. Whether it’s search and rescue operations with the Texas Parks and Wildlife, providing logistical support to the National Guard, or offering emergency medical care during a disaster, our men and women are trained to do it all.”

With only a half-dozen full-time staff, the Texas State Guard is composed of volunteer citizen-soldiers from all walks of life.

“For 70 years the men and women of the Texas State Guard have been honored to serve the people of Texas,” said Peters.

Two Honored for Spirit, Professionalism in Service

Two Honored for Spirit, Professionalism in Service
MAJ Michael Quinn Sullivan, TXSG 
2011/01/22

Photo of NCO of the Year Award being presented
Major General Raymond Peters (right), Commanding General, Texas State Guard, and Brigadier General Robert Bodisch, commander of the Texas State Guard Maritime Regiment (left) presents the NCO of the Year Award Petty Officer 2nd Class Joseph Lofy of Katy(center).Photo by SGM Steve Gamboa

AUSTIN - Going above and beyond what is expected of a Texan has long been the Hallmark of the men and women serving in the Texas State Guard. But this year’s junior enlisted member and non-commissioned officer of the year exceed the state guard’s high standard for exceptional service.

Corporal James Smith of Arlington said he was just looking for a way to “give something back to my adopted state” when he joined the Texas State Guard in 2009. He said he was motivated to “do something to feel like I have earned the right to call myself a Texan.”

As the Junior Enlisted Service Member of 2010, CPL Smith says he believes the award reflects on the collaborative work of his fellow enlisted men and officers in the 4th Regiment.

Since joining the TXSG, CPL Smith has served in the 4th Regiment’s 2nd Battalion as a squad leader, developing materials to aid in the training of non prior-service guardsmen. He serves as his unit’s personnel NCO and public affairs officer.

During Hurricane Alex, CPL Smith deployed to south Texas where he oversaw the first operational utilization of the battalion’s Special Needs Evacuation Tracking System (SNETS). Outside the Texas Guard, CPL Smith is a professional engineer with degrees from Oklahoma State University and Emory-Riddle Aeronautical University.

Major Wendell Sadler, CPL Smith’s commanding officer said “CPL Smith has proven to be an apt leader within the unit and has expanded his role into the areas of personnel and public affairs. His attitude and initiative exemplifies the values of the TXSG.”

The NCO of the year is similarly motivating.

The Texas Maritime Regiment’s 1st Battalion has been served ably by Petty Officer 2nd Class Joseph Lofy of Katy.

Drawing from his prior service in the United States Navy and civilian work in emergency management, PO2 Lofy serves in the dual role of communications and intelligence NCO. He has pursued qualifications on the IC4U, ISIS and TICP communications systems, while also receiving his general HAM operating license.

“I joined the TXSG because I did not feel like I was finished serving my country and state," said PO2 Lofy. "The state guard was the outlet I felt I needed to explore, as it was a marriage of the two pastimes I enjoy: the military and emergency management."

His enjoyment is evident in by the degree to which he involves himself in his duties and responsibilities. In July, he received the Commanding General’s Individual Award for his support of the joint TMAR / Texas Parks and Wildlife training exercise. Commander Wayne Hogard of the Maritime Regiment says PO2 Lofy is a model guardsman.

“PO2 Lofy’s professionalism and volunteering sprit, along with his ’can-do’ attitude, exemplifies the embodiment of the TXSG soldier.”

That spirit was evident in 2010. While returning home from TXSG annual training, PO2 Lofy witnessed a motorcycle accident. He stopped and rendered lifesaving aid – an action for which commendation is pending.

The graduate of Fort Hayes State University is currently enrolled in a master’s degree program in emergency and disaster management. PO2 Lofy said he is excited about the opportunities presented in the TXSG to "continue to volunteer and learn all I can."

PO2 Lofy said that from the recognition he feels an even deeper obligation to "model for our junior personnel" the qualities to be a senior NCO.

When asked why he felt the compelled to be in the TXSG, Junior Enlisted Member of the Year CPL Smith spoke for many native born sons of the Lone Star State.

“There is something special about Texas,” he said. “I don’t care where you go in the world, when you tell people that you are from Texas there is a certain recognition that you are from someplace special.”

It’s the dedicated service of PO2 Lofy, CPL Smith and the more than 2,000 men and women of the State Guard, who make the Lone Star State special.

TXSG Deputy Commanding General Retires

TXSG Deputy Commanding General Retires
MAJ Michael Quinn Sullivan, TXSG 
2010/11/01

Photo of Major General Raymond Peters presenting the Commander's Award for Public Service to retiring Brigadier General Robert Cheeseman.
Major General Raymond Peters (right), Commanding General, Texas State Guard, presents the Commander’s Award for Public Service to retiring Brigadier General Robert Cheeseman. The award was among many presented to Cheeseman during a retirement ceremony at Camp Mabry on October 30,2010.Photo by SGM Steve Gamboa

AUSTIN, Texas -- With more than 40 years of uniformed service to his nation and state, Brigadier General Robert Cheeseman’s distinguished career was recognized this weekend in a retirement ceremony at Camp Mabry.

“I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to wear the uniform and serve the citizens of Texas,” Cheeseman said in his remarks to family, colleagues and fellow guardsmen. “It’s been my honor to work among you and serve with you.”

Cheeseman has served in the Texas State Guard since 1996, the same year he retired from the United States Air Force. He had enlisted in the Air Force in 1966. As a staff sergeant, he was selected to attend Texas State University as a part of the Airman Education and Commissioning Program. He was commissioned in April 1972.

He is a graduate of the USAF Air War College, Air Command and Staff College, and Squadron Officers School. Cheeseman served in the Air Force as a Special Investigations and Counterintelligence Officer. His last assignment, with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, was as Deputy Director and Senior Special Agent, Contingency and Wartime Plans, at Headquarters in Washington, DC.

“We thank you for your service to Texas,” said Major General Raymond Peters, commanding general of the Texas State Guard in his remarks at the ceremony.

As a member of the Texas State Guard, Brigadier General Cheeseman's assignments have included Air Liaison Officer, Vice Commander and Commander of the 4th Air Wing, Inspector General, and Deputy Commanding General for Air.

Cheeseman and his wife, Lorraine, have two children and two grandchildren.

The Mission of the Texas State Guard is to provide highly trained soldiers for Defense Support to Civil Authorities by providing ready military forces during State Emergences to assist State and local authorities in homeland security, community service and with medical services.

The Texas State Guard is one of three branches of the Texas Military Forces, reporting to The Texas Adjutant General, Major General Jose S. Mayorga, The Commander-in-Chief of the Texas Military Forces is the Governor of Texas, Rick Perry. The other two branches are the Texas Army National Guard and the Texas Air National Guard.

8th Regiment Provides 'Wings Over Houston' Support

8th Regiment Provides ‘Wings Over Houston’ Support
CPT Joseph Conte, PAO, 8th Civil Affairs Regt., TXSG 
2010/10/27

Photo of PFC Adam Dudley in front of a crowd.
PFC Adam Dudley (Foreground), 1st Bn., 8th Regt., provides flight line crowd control in front of a Commemorative Air Force (CAF) Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress “THUNDER BIRD”.

HOUSTON, Texas -- Over 100 Soldiers of the 8th Civil Affairs Regiment, Texas State Guard, helped make the 26th Annual Wings Over Houston Air Show a success on Saturday Oct. 23 and Sunday, Oct. 24 at Ellington Field in Houston.

The Wings Over Houston Air Show draws approximately 50,000 visitors annually. It is organized as a celebration of patriotism and an educational event providing community entertainment, aviation awareness and military recruiting opportunities.

The 8th Civil Affairs Regiment soldiers provided over 3,000 man-hours to its mission of gate access control, flight line crowd control, and crowd control during air show performances. This was the 24th time the 8th Regiment has participated in the Wings Over Houston Air Show.

Members of the Texas State Guard’s Medical Brigade, Houston Group, provided medical support to Wings Over Houston during air show operations.

The Highlights of the 26th Annual Wings Over Houston Air Show featured the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds Flight Demonstration Team, U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet Tactical Demo Team, USAF Viper West Demo Team F-16 Fighting Falcon, USAF A/OA-10 Thunderbolt II, USAF C-17 Globemaster III Demo, C-47 and C-17 Transport Heritage Flight, Air Force Heritage Flight, U.S. Coast Guard HH-65C Dauphine Helicopter Demo, Commemorative Air Force “Tora! Tora! Tora!” WWII Airpower Demo, Navy Legacy Flight and many others.

The show’s security coordinator, Chris Hendon, said he was very impressed with the 8th Regiment’s handling of the visitors during the air show performances. The 8th Regiment’s assistance will be requested at next year’s show, Hendon noted.

The Mission of the Texas State Guard is to provide highly trained soldiers for Defense Support to Civil Authorities (DSCA) by providing ready military forces during State Emergences to assist State and local authorities in homeland security, community service and with medical services.

The Texas State Guard (TXSG) is one of three branches of the Texas Military Forces (TXMF), reporting to The Texas Adjutant General, Major General Jose S. Mayorga, located at Texas Military Forces HQ, Camp Mabry (Austin), Texas. The Commander-in-Chief of the Texas Military Forces is the Governor of Texas, Rick Perry. The other two branches are the Texas Army National Guard (TXARNG) and the Texas Air National Guard (TXANG).

Texas State Guard Trains in oil spill response - hundreds more to be trained by end of year

Texas State Guard Trains In Oil Spill Response - Hundreds More To Be Trained By End Of Year
Maj. Michael Sullivan, TXSG Public Affairs
2010/09/17
AUSTIN, Texas – With the effects of the Deep Horizon disaster still lingering, 30 members of the Texas State Guard recently received specialized instructor training in oil spill response strategies from the Texas Engineering Extension Service. By the end of 2010, a significant portion of the TXSG will be trained in oil spill response.

The course, funded by the Texas Division of Emergency Management, provided participants with the fundamental knowledge and skills needed to effectively manage an oil spill response operation.

With 691 drilling platforms on the Texas coast and 9 million acres leased offshore for exploration, the risk for a major spill is real, said Brigadier General Robert Bodisch, commander of the Texas State Guard Maritime Regiment.

“The Texas Maritime Regiment (TMAR) of the Texas State Guard is honored to participate in oil spill response training with the Texas Engineering Extension Service,” said Bodisch. “Following the recent BP incident in the Gulf of Mexico, it is important that we are properly trained and prepared to assist when called upon. This training exercise advanced our skills and knowledge for such an occasion.”

The hands-on training was conducted at Lake Bastrop in Texas, which is operated by the Lower Colorado River Authority. The classroom portion of the course was held at Camp Swift, a Bastrop training site for the Texas Army National Guard.

State Guard officers and enlisted men learned response strategies and techniques. They also participated in a simulated spill situation, assuming leadership and operational roles. Specific course topics included containment, clean-up and recovery of oil, sorbents, boom deployment, skimmer operations, and oil sampling and documentation techniques, as well as shoreline protection, clean-up and restoration.

The Texas Engineering Extension Service, operating under the authority of the Texas A&M University System, has delivered oil spill prevention and incident management training for the U.S. Coast Guard and the petrochemical industry since 1975. They are experts in oil spill control and response recently developed the curriculum and delivered instructor training for workers, contractors and volunteers involved in the Gulf cleanup operation following the BP Deepwater Horizon incident in April.

Texas State Guard Appoints two new leaders Olson, Hasting bring extensive military, professional experience to assignments

Maj. Michael Sullivan, TXSG Public Affairs
2010/08/17
AUSTIN, TEXAS - The Commander of the Texas State Guard (TXSG) has announced the assignment of two senior officers to the TXSG Headquarters Staff. Col. Robert Hastings is assigned as Chief of Public Affairs and Col. Kimberly Olson is assigned as Director of Command, Control & Communications Systems (J-6).

“We’re pleased to have military professionals of Col. Hastings’ and Col. Olson’s caliber and experience join our ranks,” said Maj. Gen. Raymond Peters, TXSG commanding general. “Their leadership experience, professional qualifications and extensive military backgrounds make them valuable additions to the command.”

As Director of the J-6 section, Col. Olson and her team are responsible for providing joint emergency communications and information technology supporting the TXSG, as well as working with Texas Military Forces’ J-6 in providing communications in support of the “Defense Support to Civil Authorities” mission.

Col. Olson is a retired U.S. Air Force officer with 25 years of service and was part of the first generation of female military pilots. A command pilot, with nearly 4,000 hours of flying time, she was one of the first females to command an air refueling squadron. She served in the Pentagon on the Joint Staff, Office of the Secretary of Defense, and the Air Staff. Col. Olson was deployed into several combat zones. In her professional life, Olson is the executive director of Grace After Fire, a Texas based non-profit organization dedicated to providing outreach to all women veterans and their families, offering confidential peer support and increased access to appropriate trauma, mental health, addiction and community services. She also serves as a trustee on the Weatherford Independent School District Board, recently recognized as the Texas Outstanding Board of the Year, 2009.

As the TXSG’s senior public affairs officer, Col. Hastings will serve as a member of the Commander’s special staff overseeing all aspects of the command’s public affairs program, including command information, public information, media relations and electronic media, as well as providing public affairs support to recruiting activities.

Col. Hastings joins the TXSG from the Maryland Defense Force where he served for five years as the Director of Public Affairs. He is a retired U.S. Army officer with more than 20 years active duty service as a Master Army Aviator and Public Affairs Officer. His assignments include command of an Apache-equipped Air Cavalry Troop and a Blackhawk-equipped Air Assault Company, as well as Public Affairs duties in Germany, Eastern Europe, Iraq and Bosnia. Hastings also served as acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs during the Bush Administration. As the senior public affairs official and principle spokesman for the U.S. Department of Defense, he served as staff advisor and assistant to the Secretary of Defense and Administration officials for strategic communication, public information, internal information, and community relations, leading a worldwide public affairs community of some 3,800 military and civilian personnel. In his professional life, Hastings is an aerospace executive who lives and works in Fort Worth, Texas.

Texas Support the Valley with Humanitarian Mission

Texans Support the Valley With Humanitarian Mission
Staff Sgt. Daniel Griego, 100th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
2010/07/29
Photo of Operation Lone Star in action"Operation Lone Star is a humanitarian effort here in the valley," said State Guard Lt. Col. Jann Melton-Kissel, a registered nurse with the Texas State Guard's Medical Brigade. "It's a partnership between the Department of State Health Services, the Texas Military Forces and the community to provide needed health services."

These services, which include immunizations, physicals, diabetes screenings and check-ups, come to Texas' Rio Grande Valley residents each year courtesy of the collaborative efforts of state civil and military assets. Together, these disparate agencies provide low-income families with necessary and sometimes life-saving medical care through the annual Operation Lone Star (OLS).

"It's been a real privilege to work with our colleagues in the Texas Military Forces," said Dr. Brian R. Smith, lead for the Department of State Health Services (DSHS) and regional medical director for Health Service Region 11.

Smith began OLS in 1999 as a joint venture expanding on his efforts with free clinics in the valley.

"I started off in South Texas doing free clinics," he said, "and this is a larger scale extension of what I started off doing about 20 years ago, which was providing free medical care in the [valley]. So the first places we started [OLS] were the same places that we were doing our the free clinics."

To augment the medical specialties of the DSHS, several other civilian agencies also contributed personnel, including the Texas Medical Assistance Team (TexMAT-1), the Department of Family Protective Services, the Human Health Services Committee and even local nursing students from Valley Grande Community College.

"It's a great opportunity to get people of all different types of disciplines in the medical field to get together and work," said Charles Neely, an EMT paramedic with TexMAT-1.

The military side of OLS, the Texas Military Forces, includes the Texas State Guard, Army National Guard, and Air Guard. These uniformed personnel function as both duty and medical support, performing roles ranging from security and administration to nurses and doctors. In recent years, the State Guard has taken the lead in executing OLS, providing the greatest number of personnel and assuming command responsibilities of the operation.

"We're working together as a team," said State Guard 1st Lt. Steven Trevino, a registered nurse with the Texas Medical Brigade. "We're just Texans helping Texans."

As a regularly scheduled exercise, OLS finds many of the same residents returning time and again for annual shots and physicals for school sports.

"I would just like to thank the Lone Star for coming in and doing the medical check-up for free," said Brenda Garcia, a Palmview resident and mother of a 2-year-old.

"This'll be my seventh year here," said Melton-Kissel. "I've seen the same people come back year after year."

OLS provides a unique opportunity for local residents to see their community support agencies face to face and meet the people behind the uniforms.

"I feel like I'm actually making a difference," said Trevino.

Texas State Guard Capt. James R. Owens, a registered nurse with the DFW Medical Group, says that the most rewarding aspect of working in OLS is "being able to serve the valley and the people of the valley, and also help our state out."

"We've got compassionate doctors who do a really good job with the health care," said Smith. "Then we're able to expand it with the pharmacy, the immunizations and provide a range of services."

To combat the occasional language barrier found in southern towns, OLS staffs each location with sufficient bi-lingual personnel to ensure the most accurate and complete medical coverage.

"As translators, we make sure we get the right words [patients] are looking for," said State Guard Sgt. Erasmo Chapa, translator and security service member for the Palmview High School location. "This is my first year and I'm glad to help out my community."

From the inter-agency cooperation to building strong bonds in the community, OLS stands apart as a joint mission that excels at bringing people together.

"It has been a real blessing," said Smith, "to be able to work with communities this closely."