Posts in Category: Texas State Guard

National Situation Update: Thursday, August 28, 2008

National Situation Update: Thursday, August 28, 2008
Homeland Security Threat Level: YELLOW (ELEVATED)
2008/08/28
FEMASignificant National Weather
Texas is planning for two contingencies: 1.) response to a CAT 3 hurricane or higher landfall strike and 2.) support of 40,000 to 50,000 evacuees from the State of Louisiana. The Governor has activated 5,000 members of the Texas Militia. 750 buses is en route to San Antonio and 300 ambulances have been requested. The State Operations Center (SOC) will transition to full activation on Saturday, August 30, at 9 a.m. EDT. The Governor is expected to request a pre-landfall declaration.

Texas State Guard receives training from SFA on GPS applications

Texas State Guard receives training from SFA on GPS applications
By TYESHA BOUDREAUX
2008/08/21

Charles Ashton, SFA geospatial trainer I, briefs Texas State Guard members on what they will be learning during a GPS training. The purpose of the training is to familiarize guard members with introductory GPS applications. The training will continue through Sunday.Photo by Tyesha Boudreaux/The Daily Sentinel
Charles Ashton, SFA geospatial trainer I, briefs Texas State Guard members on what they will be learning during a GPS training. The purpose of the training is to familiarize guard members with introductory GPS applications. The training will continue through Sunday.Photo by Tyesha Boudreaux/The Daily Sentinel

The Columbia Regional Geospatial Center at SFA is hosting two GPS applications trainings for the Texas State Guard.

The first training began Wednesday and will last until Sunday. The second training will begin Wednesday, Aug. 27, and will end Sunday, Aug. 31.

The purpose of the training is to familiarize 24 guard members with introductory GPS applications, according to Charles Ashton, SFA geospatial trainer I and graduate student.

Under the direction of Texas Gov. Rick Perry, the Texas State Guard is a voluntary force that is an emergency response asset to the state, Ashton said.

"We’re working with the Texas State Guard to have a unified and coordinated effort using GPS/GIS technologies during an emergency-response event," Ashton said. "And this is going to allow the guard to already have a familiarity and a working relationship with us so that in a time of an emergency we’re not all just discovering each other. We’ve already worked together, trained together and we have a process in place to help do area-damage assessment after an emergency event."

Areas that the training will cover include the usage of topographic maps and geospatial tools in emergency management.

On Friday, guard members will complete a field reconnaissance exercise in downtown Nacogdoches to see what kind of assets it has for an emergency response, Ashton said. An emergency operation center will also be put in place.

"That’s one of the first things you do," he said. "You get the EOC up, and you start coordination efforts of all the people involved."

On Saturday, the guard will complete a wide-area damage assessment at SFA that will simulate hurricane damage on campus, he said.

On the last day of each session, guard members will participate in a rescue, recovery and damage assessment field exercise on SFA property located at the corner of University Drive and Starr Avenue.

The Columbia Center completed the first GPS training, which was a trial run, with the Texas State Guard in December 2007, Ashton said. Since then, 150 guard members have been trained on GPS introduction applications. "Our commitment is to help the guard respond as much as possible to any emergency-response event," he said.

The "Third Branch" Contributes to newly established behavioral health services

The “Third Branch” Contributes to Newly Established Behavioral Health Services
Lt Col Greg Perry, 136th Airlift Wing, TXANG
2008/08/12

Maj Richard Chaumier (TXSG, TMB) led the Behavioral Health Services at the Besteiro Middle School in Brownsville, Texas during OLS 08Photo by Photo by CPT J. Michael Spraggins PAO TXSG TMF
Maj Richard Chaumier (TXSG, TMB) led the Behavioral Health Services at the Besteiro Middle School in Brownsville, Texas during OLS 08Photo by Photo by CPT J. Michael Spraggins PAO TXSG TMF

Being a member of the Texas Air Guard, we sometimes feel overshadowed by the shear numbers of the Texas Army National Guard. So, I can only imagine the struggle it is for the Texas State Guard to be heard and find ways to contribute to the mission and capabilities of the Texas Military Forces. The Texas State Guard (TXSG) is one of three branches of the military forces that report to the Texas Adjutant General; they bring unique challenges and amazing attributes to the Texas Military Forces. The most glaring attribute is the truest spirit of volunteerism—except for rare circumstances like Operation Lone Star and being activated for disaster response operations like Hurricane Dolly, the members of the TXSG are pure volunteers. They give of their time, and yes even of their pocketbook, just to train, prepare and serve the citizens of the State of Texas.

Nowhere was this spirit of volunteerism more evident than the officer in charge of Behavioral Health Services at the Besteiro Middle School in Brownsville, Texas, this past week. Maj Richard Chaumier (TXSG) led the Behavioral Health Services that included Capt Allen Rush (TXSG), Capt Jeri Gates (TXARNG) and SSgt JoAnn Alonzo (TXARNG). Maj Chaumier boasted that he and his staff were rarely seen without “a smile on their faces”.

Some might question this abundance of good cheer while working long days in an improvised treatment facility away from home...it just might make you question the state of mind of the Behavioral Health staff. However, when you visit with them, you quickly learn that their smiles serve two purposes. First, it’s the sincere expression of satisfaction from helping people--both the citizens of south Texas and their fellow members of the Texas Military Forces. Capt Rush put it plain enough about Operation Lone Star when he said, “We love doin’ this!” Second, smiles are a small but effective form of preventative care—worker stress levels are lower if people are smiling or even cracking jokes. The same holds true for those receiving care: every smiling face from the first greeting at the edge of the parking lot to the last person in the check-out process made a difference in what could be a very daunting experience for children and adults alike. Maj Chaumier believed it was part of their mission to “roam the hallways wearing out shoe leather” just to play with kids or check up on the caregivers.

Behavioral Health staff did more than smile and play with the children. Maj Chaumier was quick to point out that Lone Star was not the place to begin treatment for those in the local populace suffering from life’s stresses or signs of depression. However, being co-located with the Chaplain staff and the local community resources functions was ideal for referring citizens to resources they might have otherwise never considered.

When asked to provide an example of the value Behavioral Health brought to Lone Star, Capt Gates told us about a sole-provider mother with children referred to Behavioral Health by the medical screening staff. This mother was the eldest of her siblings whose father had died a few years back. This mother lacked what we all need—a support system. Capt Gates explained that the mother expressed relief just from her short visit—it gave her a rare opportunity to talk about her loss without the concern of burdening her younger siblings or children. Capt Gates was successful in referring this patient to local mental health resources and, hopefully, the positive experience at Lone Star will make her more likely to avail herself of those resources. Capt Gates explained that it is common for many of us to need reassurance that our reactions to stress and loss are “normal”.

Maj Chaumier said it was by chance that SSgt Alonzo brought her invaluable experience to his section. SSgt Alonzo was assigned to Behavioral Health as a translator, but she also brought years of experience from her civilian employment working in Child Protective Services. Maj Chaumier bragged about SSgt Alonzo’s interactions with both children and adults.

Colonel Marco Coppola (TXARNG) was happy to have Behavioral Health as an established section in his “Lone Star Treatment Facility” and equally pleased on how seamlessly the TXSG and TXARNG members blended together. He told Maj Chaumier in his morning staff meeting that the TXSG was welcome back next year and the only thing he wanted to change was to ensure the TXSG was billeted at the same location as his TXARNG members.

When Storm blow in, Texas military forces head out

When storms blow in, Texas military forces head out
Iuliana Petre - Killeen Daily Herald
2008/08/08

Photo of Texas Flag waving
Aviators of the Texas Army National Guard’s 449th Aviation Support Battalion proudly display the Lone Star flag from the rotor blade of their UH-60L Black Hawk helicopter staged at the Weslaco Texas Municipal Airport during Hurricane Dolly.Photo by Photo by 1SG Lek Mateo, US Army

When back-to-back storms – Dolly and Edouard – recently threatened the coast of Texas and other parts of the state, Texas military forces were alerted to support first responders.

Although military forces – the Texas Army National Guard, Texas Air National Guard and Texas State Guard – are never the first to provide emergency services, soldiers and supplies are moved to points of distribution to ensure that organizations like fire departments, emergency medical services, police, county sheriffs, deputies and judges, are available to support their communities.

“We always think it’s about everybody else,” said Col. Bill Meehan, the Texas military forces spokesperson.

A total of 950 soldiers were alerted to support Hurricane Dolly, and 675 were alerted to support Tropical Storm Edouard.

The first dispatch call for military forces comes from the governor’s Department of Emergency Management office in Austin, an organization that alerts military forces and determines troop and support allocations.

With no more than two or three days to prepare and pre-position assets, military forces remain on alert, ready to perform medical services, conduct search-and-rescue missions, transport and distribute supplies that will reach local residents and provide communications systems to help responders communicate with one another.

Spearheading operations is a command and control unit, the Standing Joint Inter-Agency Task Force, which is trained to work with civilian responders. It is headquartered in Austin.

For the recent storms, the majority of forces came out of Houston, San Antonio and the lower Rio Grande Valley, Meehan said. The forces included: from Houston, the 72nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, which provided the majority of soldiers for both Hurricane Dolly and Tropical Storm Edouard; three air wings, the 136th Airlift Wing from Fort Worth, the 147th Reconnaissance Wing from Houston and the 149th Fighter Wing from San Antonio; and soldiers from various other Texas State Guard units across the state.

Receiving an alert notification shortly after a natural disturbance’s first sighting and before it develops into a storm, units begin planning and preparing almost immediately so as to ensure that troops and supplies are in place when a storm hits.

Active-duty units are not called in for support unless a natural disaster grows increasingly difficult to manage at the state military forces level.

Setting a New Standard

Setting a New Standard
Cadet Micah Barnes, Operation Lone Star, 100th MPAD
2008/08/01

Lt. Gen. Charles Rodriguez, the Adjutant General of Texas presented Texas State Guard (TXSG) Colonel Frank Stead, Medical Brigade, with the Texas State Distinguished Service Medal in Brownsville, Texas, for his outstanding performance during the last year’s Operation Lone Star 07 (OLS). Photo by CPT . Michael Spraggins PAO TXSG
Lt. Gen. Charles Rodriguez, the Adjutant General of Texas presented Texas State Guard (TXSG) Colonel Frank Stead, Medical Brigade, with the Texas State Distinguished Service Medal in Brownsville, Texas, for his outstanding performance during the last year’s Operation Lone Star 07 (OLS).
Photo by CPT . Michael Spraggins PAO TXSG

HARLINGEN, Texas (August 1, 2008) - Texas State Guard (TXSG) Colonel Frank Stead, Medical Brigade, received the Texas State Distinguished Service Medal in Brownsville, Texas, for his outstanding performance during the last year’s Operation Lone Star 07 (OLS).

OLS is a joint mission which is held annually between the Texas Military Forces (Texas Army National Guard along with Air National Guard and Texas State Guard) and the Department of State Health Services (DSHS) to provide basic health care and dental services to the underserved population living along Texas’ southern border from the lower the Rio Grand Valley to Laredo.

The award was presented by Lt. Gen. Charles Rodriguez, the Adjutant General of Texas during a luncheon held for important guests and visitors to OLS’s main operating facility, Besteiro Middle School.

Stead has shown the ability to not only execute, but to improve upon the task given to him from his superiors. “In addition to exceptional service to the Texas State Guard (TXSG), Frank had truly been the heart and soul of Operation Lone Star for a long time.” said Colonel Joel E. Henness, this year’s commander of Joint Task Force OLS.

The call to service had appealed to Stead ever since he was a graduate student at Ohio State University and was exempted from the Vietnam draft. This exemption increased his yearning to serve and protect this country, which inevitably led him to join the Texas State Guard. “I always wanted to serve since that time and I felt that this was my chance to do so after my retirement in Fredricksburg,” said Stead.

In February of 2003 Stead received his commission in the Texas State Guard, within the year he was the Logistics officer for Operation Lone Star. “Being the manager of the 11th largest public utility company in America the task was something I could handle.” In the following years, he continued to excel and by 2007 he was named operations commander.

During his tenure as commander, Stead took the opportunity to visit the people out in their own communities. The understanding resulting from these visits led to great innovation and improvement in the service provided by the Texas Joint Military Forces during the medical disaster training exercise.

He continued pressing the need for community interaction this year by sending out a mobile team to serve those trapped by flooding from the recent landing of Hurricane Dolly.

This emergency preparedness that OLS encompasses is familiar to him as the head of Emergency Management at the Hill Country Memorial Hospital in Fredericksburg, Texas. When you tie this together with his part-time work as an Emergency Medical Technician and volunteer fireman for Fredricksburg, we are very grateful to have had him as a leader of Operation Lone Star.

Dolly meets Big Blue

Dolly meets Big Blue
Texas Military Forces by CPT J. Michel Spraggins, Texas State Guard, Texas Military Forces Public Affairs
2008/07/31

Big Blue sets up H- E-B parking lot in Weslaco Texas in response to hurricane Dolly.Photo by Photo by CPT.J. Michael Spraggins Texas State Guard, Texas Military Forces PAO
Big Blue sets up H- E-B parking lot in Weslaco Texas in response to hurricane Dolly.Photo by Photo by CPT.J. Michael Spraggins Texas State Guard, Texas Military Forces PAO

WESLACO, Texas (July 21, 2008) - The Weatherman on TV first talked about the tropical depression, then the tropical storm and finally about the full blown hurricane named Dolly off the coast of Mexico, rushing towards Texas.

Big Blue was standing by ready to meet Dolly if she made landfall anywhere in south Texas.

Big Blue is a highly sophisticated state of the art, mobile, self-powered, go-anywhere, set-up anywhere, totally-self contained, command center used to providing instant communications among the State Operations Center, shelter sites and first responders in times of state emergencies.

Blue is manned by Texas State Guardsmen, Chief Master Sergeant James Short of the 436th Air Support Group of the Texas State Guard; the NCOIC of the unit manning Blue stated that “the guardsmen had been training for just such an event.”

Texas State Guardsmen man the communications equipment in Big Blue, to support the Texas Military Forces helping with recovery in the Rio Grand Valley area.Photo by Photo by CPT.J. Michael Spraggins Texas State Guard, Texas Military Forces PAO
Texas State Guardsmen man the communications equipment in Big Blue, to support the Texas Military Forces helping with recovery in the Rio Grand Valley area.Photo by Photo by CPT.J. Michael Spraggins Texas State Guard, Texas Military Forces PAO

The Texas State Guard has been doing intense training to be ready to provide Defense Support to Civilian Authorities (DSCA) in providing communications support, evacuation shelter management, Points of Distribution (POD), medical and chaplain assistance for when Mother Nature unleashes her wrath, in this case in the form of hurricane Dolly.

Airmen of the 436th Air Support Group, 4th Air Wing of the Texas State Guard part of the Texas Military Forces, raise the antenna.Photo by Photo by CPT.J. Michael Spraggins Texas State Guard, Texas Military Forces PAO
Airmen of the 436th Air Support Group, 4th Air Wing of the Texas State Guard part of the Texas Military Forces, raise the antenna.Photo by Photo by CPT.J. Michael Spraggins Texas State Guard, Texas Military Forces PAO

The Texas State Guard is the oldest of the three branches of the Texas Military Forces, with the other two being the Army and Air Guard and can trace its history to serving Texas to before the Alamo. The State Guard is made up of 6 Army Regiments, 2 Air Wings, Medical Brigade and Maritime Regiment. The State Guard can only be deployed outside of Texas only under the direct authority of the Governor.

Operation Dolly is the Texas Military Forces DSCA in form of manning evacuation shelters and PODs and Big Blue was there when Dolly arrived in Brownsville, Harlingen and the surrounding counties. The Chief said “reliable communications is absolutely critical in times of emergencies and Blue and its team met the challenge”

Texas Military Forces help residents of the Rio Grande Valley recover after hurricane Dolly

Texas military forces help residents of the Rio Grande Valley recover after hurricane Dolly
Texas Military Forces by First Sgt. Lek Mateo, Standing Joint Interagency Task Force
2008/07/28

Sgt. Eliberto R. Cavazos, the Texas State Guard and also a resident of Raymondville, Texas help distribute water and snacks to hurricane Dolly victims and volunteers at the local high school that was used as a point of distribution site Jul. 25.Photo by Texas Military Forces by First Sgt. Lek Mateo, Standing Joint Interagency Task Force
Sgt. Eliberto R. Cavazos, the Texas State Guard and also a resident of Raymondville, Texas help distribute water and snacks to hurricane Dolly victims and volunteers at the local high school that was used as a point of distribution site Jul. 25.Photo by Texas Military Forces by First Sgt. Lek Mateo, Standing Joint Interagency Task Force

RAYMONDVILLE, Texas (Jul. 25, 2008) — Residents of Rio Grande Valley are still feeling the effects of Hurricane Dolly after the second Atlantic hurricane of the 2008 season tore through south Texas Jul. 23 with damaging wind and torrential rain.

Remnants of the Category 2 hurricane could still be felt as severe flooding in several coastal cities displaced several hundred families whose homes were destroyed or made inaccessible.

Several thousand people were without electricity at the height of the storm due to downed power lines but utility companies from all over the state are working tirelessly to restore service.

Over 736 members of the Texas Military Forces comprising of the Texas Air National Guard, Army National Guard and Texas State Guard joined forces with local, state and federal emergency responders in a massive relief operation to help the traumatized and devastated communities recover.

The military effort under the command of the Standing Joint Interagency Task Force assisted the state’s Texas Task Force 1 with search and rescue. They also established and manned fourteen shelter sites that were distribution points for free packaged food, bottled water and ice available to anyone that needed assistance.

Task force commander, Col. John Nichols of the Texas Air National Guard’s 149th Fighter Wing in San Antonio, acknowledged that this is definitely a joint organization and that he is proud to lead all three components of the Texas Military Forces that are involved with this mission.

“This is truly Texans helping Texans and we are ready for this kind of contingency operation,” said Nichols.

Congressman Solomon P. Ortiz, who represents the district impacted by the storm, visited one of the point-of-distribution sites to see the relief effort first hand.

The Congressman stated that it was great to see the community come together to overcome this crisis and knows that everyone will rebound. This cooperative spirit he added represents the best of the Rio Grande Valley.

He also commended the countless volunteers, especially the servicemen and woman who came to assist the people of south Texas.

“I want to thank all the military members who were activated and removed from their jobs and their family to come and help,” said Solomon. “This shows their dedication and their loyalty to the state and the community and we appreciate that.”

Sgt. 1st Class Eliberto Cavazos of the Texas State Guard and a resident of Raymondville, Texas rode the storm out at the local high school with several members of his unit.

The retired city employee said that it was great to be able to work together as a team with his counterparts in the Army and Air National Guard and together show the community in which he lives in that the Texas military forces can do the job at hand.

“We’ve received a lot of thanks for coming here and helping from the people in my neighborhood and that they are truly very grateful. That makes me very proud to be able to serve in uniform,” Cavazos stated.

Sharon Stanton, who has been out of power for three days since Dolly struck, waited patiently for hours in her car until she reached the front of the line where several Guardsman and civilian volunteers quickly loaded her car with precious water and ice.

The resident of La Feria, Texas said that she knew that relief was on the way when she started seeing convoys of large green National Guard Humvees and trucks arriving in her town hours after Dolly struck.

“The National Guard pretty much has got it together and they know what they’re doing and that assures me that things are going to get better,” Stanton exclaimed.

Texas State Guard Fields 200 personnel for Hurricane Dolly

Texas State Guard fields 200 personnel for Hurricane Dolly
COL Robert Miller
2008/07/26

TXSG personnel engaged in forklift operations supporting recovery from the effects of Hurricane Dolly in Welasco, Texas.Photo by CPT Michael Spaggins, JMTF Public Affairs Officer
TXSG personnel engaged in forklift operations supporting recovery from the effects of Hurricane Dolly in Welasco, Texas.Photo by CPT Michael Spaggins, JMTF Public Affairs Officer

The Texas State Guard has deployed approximately 200 personnel to the Texas valley in support of Hurricane Dolly. Elements of the 1st, 2nd, 4th, 8th, and 19th Regiments, Texas Maritime Regiment, and the Air Division are manning shelters in several cities to support the local emergency management organizations.

Elements of the 4th Air Wing and the 19th Regiment are supporting communications regiments in San Antonio at the Joint Inter Agency Task Force (JIATF) and at various locations in the Texas valley.

As the shelter mission draws down some of the Texas State Guard will switch to Point of Distribution (POD) missions, assisting local residents with food, ice and cleaning supplies to help recover from the effects of Hurricane Dolly.

Texas National Guard begins clean-up operations in south Texas

Texas National Guard begins clean-up operations in south Texas
Chief Master Sgt. Gonda Moncada And First Sgt. Lek Mateo
2008/07/24

Sgt. Marc Jones (left) of the Texas Army National Guard’s Standing Joint Interagency Task Force (SJIATF) and Staff Sgt. Gonzalo Roman of Texas Air National Guard 149th Fighter Wing at San Antonio Emergency Operation Center as Hurricane Dolly moves westward towards south Texas Aug. 23. The Category 2 hurricane that is the first of the 2008 Atlantic Hurricane season severely damaged the coastal cities Brownsville and South Padre Island with strong winds and heavy flooding. (Texas Military Forces by First Sgt. Lek Mateo, 100th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)
Sgt. Marc Jones (left) of the Texas Army National Guard’s Standing Joint Interagency Task Force (SJIATF) and Staff Sgt. Gonzalo Roman of Texas Air National Guard 149th Fighter Wing at San Antonio Emergency Operation Center as Hurricane Dolly moves westward towards south Texas Aug. 23. The Category 2 hurricane that is the first of the 2008 Atlantic Hurricane season severely damaged the coastal cities Brownsville and South Padre Island with strong winds and heavy flooding. (Texas Military Forces by First Sgt. Lek Mateo, 100th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)

CAMP MABRY, Texas – Dolly may only be a Category I hurricane, but Texas Gov. Rick Perry and the state’s Division of Emergency Management did not take any chances that Dolly would be as harmless as her name might imply.

The governor declared several South Texas counties disaster areas and activated the Texas National Guard to ensure that in the words of Lt. Gen. Charles Rodriguez, the Adjutant General of Texas: “The stuff gets to the people who need it, and people get where they need to be.”

Currently, 600 Guardsmen are activated in support of civil authorities, but that number may increase to 1,200 if necessary. These Guardsmen along with members of the Texas State Guard joined state and local emergency first responders as the first Atlantic hurricane of the 2008 season barreled down on the coast of Texas and Mexico yesterday.

Hurricane Dolly slammed into South Padre Island, Texas at about 1:00 p.m. CST. The Category 1 hurricane brought heavy rain and strong winds of 100 miles-per-hour with gusts estimated to be over 120 miles-per-hour as she swept into the Rio Grande Valley dumping more than 12 inches of rain in some areas.

Today, Guard members are spread out across southern Texas from Austin to Brownsville. The teams are focused initially on establishing mass care strike teams. Texas Guardsmen will go into the affected areas and look for citizens who might need safe passage or re-supply those who are sheltering in place.

Eventually, these same teams will establish stationary points of distribution and co-locate with FEMA at familiar landmarks.

Local incident commanders will dictate what type of support the Texas Guardsmen will provide, but typically personnel will support Red Cross with shelter management, perform search and rescue missions with Texas Task Force One, and provide communications support with “Big Blue,” a full communications package on wheels. Other satellite equipment has also been deployed.

Search and rescue teams are standing by in Kingsville, Texas with about 225 personnel and 75 high profile vehicles from a ground transportation company. Personnel and equipment will move into the affected areas as soon as it safe.

Aviation assets available include three UH60 Blackhawks, in Austin and two in San Antonio, as well as one OH-58. Under an Emergency Management Assistant Compact, the Louisiana Army National Guard also has flown in two Blackhawks to assist where necessary.

State officials took the lessons learned from Hurricane Dean when about 4,700 Guardsmen and State Guard members were mobilized in August 2007 for the Category 5 hurricane, which missed the United States and devastated the coast of northern Mexico.

For Dolly, Guard leaders prestaged personnel, equipment, aircraft and high-water tactical vehicles in Austin, Houston and San Antonio, so that they can quickly be deployed to the impacted areas.

“This is Texas, so our approach is to lean into the problem and stage the necessary personnel, equipment and resources so they can move into the affected area as quickly and efficiently as possible,” Perry said.

Perry commended the Texas military forces, state and local emergency disaster teams who quickly mobilized and responded to the crisis.

“As we always do in the toughest time, we are seeing Texans, being Texans, helping their neighbors, putting others’ needs above their own and heading toward the trouble and not away.”

Guard helping Texans hit by Hurricane Dolly

Guard helping Texans hit by Hurricane Dolly
Chief Master Sgt. Gonda Moncada
2008/07/24

Members of the Texas Army and Air National Guard and Texas State Guard unload supplies to prepare for rescue and relief efforts in response to Hurricane Dolly next to the Emergency Operations Center at Brooks City-Base in San Antonio, Texas July 23. Photo by Air Force Tech. Sgt. Elisabeth A. Matulewicz
Members of the Texas Army and Air National Guard and Texas State Guard unload supplies to prepare for rescue and relief efforts in response to Hurricane Dolly next to the Emergency Operations Center at Brooks City-Base in San Antonio, Texas July 23. Photo by Air Force Tech. Sgt. Elisabeth A. Matulewicz

CAMP MABRY, Texas (Army News Service, July 24, 2008) - Hurricane Dolly hit the Texas coast Wednesday with devastating winds and torrential rain, prompting Gov. Rick Perry to declare several southern counties disaster areas and call out the National Guard.

Currently 700 Texas military forces are activated in support of civil authorities, but that number may increase to 1,200 if necessary, officials said.

Lt. Gen Charles Rodriguez, Texas adjutant general, said the troops will ensure “stuff gets to the people who need it, and get people where they need to be.”

Military personnel are spread out across Texas from Austin to Brownsville and places in between. The teams are focused initially on establishing mass care strike teams, officials said. They explained that the teams will go out into areas hit by the hurricane and look for folks who might need safe passage or re-supply those who are sheltering in place. Eventually these same teams will establish stationary points of distribution, officials said, and typically co-locate with FEMA.

Local incident commanders will dictate as to what type of support Texas military forces will provide, but typically personnel support Red Cross with shelter management, perform search and rescue missions with Texas Task Force One, and provide communications support with “Big Blue,” a full communications package on wheels. Other satellite equipment has also been deployed.

Three shelters in Brownsville, Texas, have been staffed and are now operational at Hana High School, Porter High School and Pace High School. Shelters have also been established in the Texas communities of San Benito, La Joya, Raymondville, Edcouch, Harlingen, and Edinburgh.

Search and rescue teams are standing by in Kingsville with about 225 personnel and 75 high-profile vehicles and a ground transportation company. Personnel and equipment will move into the affected areas as soon as it is safe for people and equipment, officials said.

Aviation is standing by with three UH-60 Black Hawks in Austin and two in San Antonio as well as one OH-58. Under the Emergency Management Assistant Compact agreements signed between governors, the Louisiana Army National Guard has flown in a couple of Black Hawks to assist where necessary.

If and when the Texas Army National Guard helicopters are called to conduct search and rescue missions, they will not only have the Guard aviators and crew aboard, but Texas Task Force 1 members as well.

Marking its 10th anniversary last year, Texas Task Force 1 was established after the Oklahoma City bombing of the Murrah Federal Building, which officials said demonstrated a need for search and rescue team that is “wheels up” or at the point of departure within four hours.

Depending on who calls them into action, the team may be either a state or federal asset and its sponsoring agency is Texas A & M University.

D.J. Walker and Craig Smith, emergency medical technicians for the Austin fire department, and Dennis Lavasseur, an EMT from the Houston fire department, are on “Dolly detail.” They are swift-water rescue-qualified and will support the Texas Army National Guard crews during search and rescue missions .

Each team member’s ID card contains information on their expertise, said Craig, and after logging in, “the system will respond with information: `there are vacancies for you, can you respond?’”

“We are usually called up for a month at a time,” he said. For employers, “it is a win-win situation because the day-to-day employer gains back a fully qualified and trained employee,” after all is said and done.

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