Posts in Category: Texas State Guard

The Search for Excellence: Texas State Guard Soldiers Train for Highly Specialized Search and Rescue Missions

By Jeremy Stark, Pfc., 1st Brigade, Texas State Guard 

STEPHENVILLE, Texas – Over the past five months, 34 service members of the Texas State Guard have been participating in Search and Rescue (SAR) training to become the newest additions to the SAR mission-ready roster. During the May 2022 training weekend, candidates of the 22-01 SAR and Del Rio classes participated in Wilderness First Aid (WFA) training as a final hurdle before becoming SARTECH II certified by the highly respected National Association for Search and Rescue. 

Going through the SAR training program is no simple task, and the final Texas State Guard WFA training weekend was no exception. To ensure candidates are well-rounded and well-equipped to handle some of the most challenging medical conditions service members come across, instructors Capt. Richard Bruner and Sgt. Jennifer Lee of Dallas, both members of Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Brigade of the Texas State Guard, demonstrated the improvised use of first aid equipment, instructed soldiers in wildlife identification (snakes, spiders, etc.), and led courses on how to deal with potential allergies and anaphylaxis (shock) in the field, in addition to standard first aid topics. The training was mentally and physically demanding. 

Candidates were evaluated on their knowledge of first aid skills which are used in caring for an ill or injured person in a remote environment where care by a physician in a controlled setting or transportation is not readily available (being an hour or more away from advanced care is a common real-world scenario for many SAR missions). Soldiers also had to demonstrate proficiency in various other topics including scene safety, proper use of personal protective equipment, triage/patient assessment, and prioritizing treatment as well as team dynamics. 

“It is extremely important for team leaders to be able to guide their team members in specific jobs to best provide care for, triage and package, then potentially transport individuals who are lost and found in a wilderness setting,” said 1st Brigade Staff Sgt. Christopher Parrish, of McKinney, one of the SAR instructors. “All these things must happen simultaneously, fluidly, and efficiently to ensure the safety and well-being of everyone involved and conclude a successful mission.” 

During WFA training, soldiers gained knowledge and skills necessary to provide first aid and medical care in an austere environment where they may not have access to the same resources often taken for granted in an urban environment.  

Although troops have completed the SAR course and are now set to become SARTECH II certified, soldiers know this is just a ‘next step’; since mission readiness is a watchword in the Texas State Guard, training is an ongoing process for every Guard member. Just as their instructors become experts in the field by participating in SAR missions over many years and in many different environments and situations, the new skills these candidates have learned will serve as a platform on which to build as they continue their journey as citizen-soldiers, fellow Texans serving Texas. 

Intensive and professional emergency training is a primary aspect of the commitment the men and women of the Texas State Guard sign up for when they swear in, no matter what area or mission they may be assigned to. For more than 80 years, soldiers wearing the uniform of the Texas State Guard have responded to weather disasters including tornadoes and hurricanes, civil disturbances, and Search and Rescue operations (including the aftermath of the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster), and much more. 

“My goal in the State Guard is to be the best version of me that I can be by pushing myself in areas that not only would make me stand out but would provide me with the tools necessary to be most effective,” said Pfc. Chad Scott of the 6th Brigade, one of the SAR graduates. “One way to achieve that is by training in the specialized areas that will maximize my potential, such as SAR.” Many service members find training opportunities such as the SAR course to be a uniquely rewarding part of their service in the Guard, being also applicable to personal and professional life as they prepare to answer the call to support civil authorities during emergencies statewide. 

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. While many persons with previous federal military service are members of the Texas State Guard, prior military experience is not required. However, a willingness to serve others, to continually train and meet the high standards of the Texas State Guard is essential. A full range of benefits, opportunities, and recruitment contacts can be found online at under the “State Guard” tab. 


Texas State Guard Troops get a lesson in Teaching

By David D. Brown, 1LT, Texas State Guard

AUSTIN, Texas - For service members in the Texas State Guard, an eagerness to serve fellow Texans during times of emergency is a prerequisite. Yet that alone does not make a professional force. To be “Equal to the Task”, as its motto says, members of the Texas State Guard are constantly engaged in professional military education.  

But who trains the trainers?  

That’s the job of BIC: the Texas State Guard’s Basic Instructors Course.  The course is an intense and demanding five days of learning how to effectively teach fellow soldiers.  The objective of the program is to make sure instructors in the Texas State Guard are helping maintain a high state of mission readiness.  It is one of many specialized professional education programs provided to soldiers in the nation’s premier state guard force.  

“I’ve attended several training events before and this was the most stressed I’ve ever been, but the course was so rewarding,” said Sgt. Jason Zachman of Lubbock, a student in the March 2022 BIC class at Camp Mabry in Austin.  Zachman, a volunteer firefighter in the business of building and selling fire trucks and ambulances, is a Texas Emergency Tracking Network (TETN) instructor in the Texas State Guard’s 1st Brigade (North Texas).  

Zachman was one of six graduates of the March class. Others included Lt. Col. Mark Carey of Georgetown, Cpl. George Dollaway of Round Rock, Sgt. First Class Jared Dugger of Austin, Staff Sgt. Roy Patterson, of Lubbock, and Staff Sgt. Shawn Villareal of San Antonio.  

“The Basic Instructor Course standardizes all lesson plans to create consistency across the Texas State Guard training courses and programs,” says Chief Warrant Officer John Harrison Watts, the Officer-in-Charge of BIC training. “If a student were to sign up for this course outside of the Texas State Guard, it would cost upwards of $500 to take it.” 

 According to Watts, selected Texas State Guard classes taught by BIC-certified instructors can be used as advanced standing credits at Texas institutions of higher education, including Kilgore College and Tarleton State University.  College credit and tuition assistance are among the many important benefits of Guard membership.  Such benefits speak to the value the Texas State Guard places in ongoing education.  

“We’d be in the classroom learning instructional methods all day, get back to our hotel at 10:30 at night, then spend four or more hours doing our homework and preparing a 30-minute lecture with PowerPoints for presentations the next day. We might get 45 minutes of sleep…” Zachman said.  

Student presentations were critiqued and graded by instructors and fellow students, followed by more classes aimed at fine-tuning teaching skills - and then the cycle of lesson planning and presentations would start all over again. Each student completes four presentations, culminating in a 30-minute presentation on a relevant Texas State Guard topic, such as “Recruitment for Non-Recruiters” or “Proper Uniform Protocol”. Students prepare prototype lesson plans from scratch, which are a graded part of course completion requirements. 

Training is a centerpiece of the Texas State Guard, whose members have responded to hurricanes, floods, search and rescue operations, a pandemic, and countless other emergencies statewide for more than 80 years.  As one of three branches of the Texas Military Department (along with the Texas Army National Guard and the Texas Air National Guard), state-of-the-art training is imperative so that troops can answer the call to serve civilian officials during emergencies, often at short notice.  

“Out here in west Texas, you might have to drive several hours to Dallas or Austin to get the training you need,” and BIC certification makes it possible for more coursework to be offered locally, Zachman said.  “As a student, I’ve always just been handed a syllabus. BIC gives you a new appreciation for the demands of lesson planning and the art of teaching. It was a challenge to get out of my comfort zone.” 

The Texas State Guard BIC program is similar to teacher training offered by Texas law enforcement and emergency management agencies.  It is a complement to a battery of coursework from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other specialized training required of Texas State Guard instructors.    

Many soldiers in the Texas State Guard consider professional training opportunities one of the important benefits of service.  A full description of the benefits of Texas State Guard membership, as well as contacts for recruitment, can be found online at 


Like Father, Like Son: Texas State Guardsman Rises through the Ranks to Become Top Enlisted Leader

By David Brown, 1st Lieutenant,  Texas State Guard

DALLAS - As a child, Harlan Thompson watched his father win respect and recognition wearing the uniform of the U.S. Army, and he vowed to follow in his footsteps.  He told himself someday he would reach the rank of his distinguished dad.  But after surgery left him unable to follow his dream and enlist in federal service, Thompson refused to give up. 

“I just wanted to get as far as my dad did,” Thompson said. Now, Thompson, a native of Oklahoma City and a resident of Dallas, is set to become the highest-ranking enlisted soldier in the Texas State Guard.  

As a young teen, Thompson first donned a military uniform as a member of the Civil Air Patrol.  In high school, he joined the JROTC (the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps) and followed up with membership in the ROTC while in college.  But a teenage medical condition prevented him from making a commitment to federal service. That would not be the end of Thompson’s effort to follow in the footsteps of his father.  

Almost 20 years ago, while teaching in Dallas, a colleague encouraged him to learn more about opportunities in the Texas State Guard, which was then rapidly professionalizing into what is now considered to be the premier state guard force in the country.  Although many Texas State Guard soldiers have previous experience in the U.S. Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines, or Coast Guard, prior federal service is not a requirement to join.  A prospective Texas State Guard soldier must, however, make a similar commitment to service, constantly training to extremely high military standards and prepared to be deployed statewide to help civil officials deal with emergencies.   

During storms, periods of civil unrest, in search and rescue operations and border security missions, many have seen Texas State Guard soldiers helping to save lives and preserve property wearing familiar military camouflage–largely indistinguishable from that federal forces, save for the Texas flag patch on the right shoulder, a shield “T” patch on the left, and the words “Texas State Guard” on the chest, opposite their name tape.  

“Like most people that join the State Guard, I joined to give back to the State of Texas.  I love this state and I want to do what I can to help out.  And the camaraderie...with all the federal veterans that I get to hang out with, it’s great.  It gives me something that I felt I missed.” 

It also gave Thompson the opportunity to fulfill a childhood dream.   

Thompson signed up as a private (E-1, in military parlance). In his 19 years in the Guard, Thompson has been deployed across the state in a variety of capacities, serving his fellow Texans during major storms including Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Alex and Dolly.  Proving himself in the field and through his commitment to leadership and continued military education, Thompson has risen through the ranks to Command Sergeant Major (E-9).   

Two grades higher than that of his dad at retirement.   

On June 25th, Thompson will be promoted to Command Senior Enlisted Advisor, the most senior enlisted soldier in the State Guard, taking a key role on the decision-making team led by Brigadier General Anthony Woods, Commanding General of the Texas State Guard.  It is believed Thompson will then become the first enlisted soldier without prior federal service to rise to this most senior level in the history of the Texas State Guard. Though the event will happen almost a week after the rest of us celebrate Fathers’ Day, it will nonetheless hold special significance for Thompson, and his enduring bond with his dad.   

Thompson’s father passed away in 2002.  

“My dad was not exactly the most emotional person, but I think he would have said, ‘I’m proud of you’. Those four little words were the most important words to me,” Thompson said.  Though Thompson’s dad retired as an E-7 (Sgt. 1st Class), the family posthumously discovered papers indicating others thought Thompson’s father to be “Sergeant-Major-of-the-Army material”.   

“I feel I’m getting to do something (my father) wasn’t able to do in retirement…”  

“Now my mom…she was the emotional one,” Thompson adds. His mother passed away in 2017.  “She would have been excited. I know what she would have said: ‘that’s my baby right there!’” 

Command Sgt. Maj. Thompson has most recently served as a drill instructor and senior enlisted official in the Direct Commission Officer Orientation Course, responsible for training incoming Texas State Guard officers. “At this level, now,” Thompson says, “it’s really all about doing what I can to give back to the State Guard by training my replacements…” 

Not that he has any plans to ‘be replaced’ anytime soon.  In addition to his service in the State Guard, Thompson is a Patrol Sgt. with the Collin College Police Department. Thompson says he considers spotting, training, and mentoring talent as an imperative for anyone in a leadership role.   

The Texas State Guard is looking for others with a passion for leadership, learning, and public service. The Texas State Guard is one of three branches of the Texas Military Department, including the Texas National Guard and the Texas Air National Guard. More information about recruitment, benefits, and opportunities to serve can be found online at   

Families serving together to help Texas

Story by Master Sgt. John Gately, Texas State Guard

Warrant Officer Hopper and his sons
Left: Pvt. Samuel Hopper, Center: Warrant Officer Hopper, Right: Cpl. Grant Hopper 

The military is no stranger to having many generations of family members serving, from great-grandparents to current service members.  The Texas State Guard is also part of this time-honored tradition.  However, due to the nature of the State Guard, it is more common to see families serving together at the same time than with other military organizations.

Although family members serving together is happening across the State Guard, today’s focus is the T6-Shop. Currently, the T6-shop has four families serving together to support a common goal for the Guard and for the State of Texas.

The Hopper family has three members currently serving in different roles within T6.  Warrant Officer Andy Hopper joined the State Guard on Oct 25, 2014, and is the father of two current troops, Cpl. Grant Hopper who serves on the Radio Operations, and Pvt. Samuel Hopper serves on the Software Testing team for the Readiness Management System (RMS).

When asked what it means to him to serve alongside his two sons, Warrant Officer Hopper stated, “Having the opportunity to serve with my boys in the greatest and most robust state military force in the country is a unique privilege and a pleasure. Throughout Texas history, the backbone of our state military has been families standing together for their rights and their homes. I am so proud to say that the Hoppers stand to serve Texas.”

Always looking for new members to serve in our ranks, one of our newest has hit the ground running with recruitment. Cpl. Tatiana Spence joined the State Guard a little over a month ago, and she has talked her brother, Orrin Spence, into joining the T6 shop as well.  Orrin just left the Texas Army National Guard as a Staff Sergeant after serving 12 years and is one of the Texas Military Department’s webmasters. He will be swearing-in next month. Once Orrin swears in, he will be joining Programming Operations alongside his sister.  She’s not stopping there; Cpl. Spence is now setting her focus on getting her husband to join our ranks.

Did you know that you could join the Texas State Guard at the age of 17? Warrant Officer John Turner did and is swearing in his son on his 17th

Warrant Officer Turner and his son
Left: Warrant Officer John Turner, Right: Luke Turner

birthday. This is not the only child that Warrant Officer Turner has serving in uniform. His second-oldest son was planning to join the State Guard until the United State Army made a better offer. When asked what it is like serving with his son, he replied, “It’s an honor to serve my state and help people when needs arise. It makes you feel good about what you do. As a father it makes me shine with gratitude that my children have that same desire to help others. I’m proud of my young men. It is even more special when we get to serve and build this legacy together.” Warrant Officer John Turner serves in Programming Operations.

Another example from the T6-Shop is Master Sgt. John Gately, who joined the State Guard on July 1, 2010. His son Warrant Officer Jacob Gately followed in his footsteps just a few years later, joining on January 26, 2013. Warrant Officer Gately currently serves in Programming Operations and Master Sgt. Gately is the NCOIC for T6 and the Product Manager of RMS.  
These four families have a combined service of well over 50 years in uniform. 

A Sense of History, a Passion for People: Anthony Woods Takes Charge of the Texas State Guard

By David Brown, 1LT, Texas State Guard

As a youth, Anthony Woods wanted to become a policeman.  After retiring from a distinguished career in law enforcement (for the Dallas Police Department and the Drug Enforcement Administration), Woods might have thought his life in public service was over. Not even close. Today, Brig. Gen. Woods is Acting Commanding General of the Texas State Guard, leader of the premier state guard force in the nation.  

“I never would have imagined it,” said Woods, whose first mentor in the military was a Major who was head of his high school Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program.  “I thought if I could make Major like him, that would be a big accomplishment.  All my (advancements) have been a surprise to me.  My promotions are the byproduct of my passion for the people.” 

Indeed, Woods’ reputation as a leader with a commitment to the welfare of soldiers precedes him. “He is passionate about caring for the people of the Texas State Guard,” says Sgt. Maj. John Jacobs.  “I was in a meeting with him today and Gen. Woods said that ‘we do not make the difference; we are the difference’; I had to write that one down. That says a lot about how he sees our soldiers.”  

Sgt. 1st Class Jeanette Jimmerson heartily agrees.  “I can honestly say he sees the value of every soldier. He wants to know what matters to you - it matters to him. He wants to know soldiers by their first names, he wants to know what they care about.”

A graduate of TCU with a Masters’ degree from the United States Army War College, Woods’ military career began in the early ’80s serving in the Texas Army National Guard, receiving a 2nd Lt. commission from the University of Texas at Arlington ROTC program.  He would be responsible for training thousands of troops in border operations at the U.S.-Mexico border.  Woods would go on to be deployed in Operation Enduring Freedom serving tours of duty in Afghanistan and other points abroad leading military intelligence operations. In 2005, Woods became the first African American Commander of the 1st Battalion, 112 Armor, leading his unit in the first American training exercise in the country of Romania after the fall of the Soviet Union.  

There is a picture on the wall of his office at Camp Mabry that says a great deal about the person he is.  It is a portrait of one of the legendary Buffalo Soldiers–the Black troops known for their ferocity and skills as warriors who helped shape the West and much of American history.  

It was during his time serving at the US border that he first encountered the story of the Buffalo Soldiers.  “I’m a Black man, grew up in good government housing…”, Woods says, but he’d never heard of the Buffalo Soldiers before. 

“I was embarrassed. I got a lesson in Black history. I promised myself I would learn more.”  

The Buffalo Soldiers (how they got their name is a point of dispute among historians) were Black soldiers from a variety of Army units including the 9th Cavalry, 10th Cavalry, 24th Infantry, and 25th Infantry based in a variety of locations.  Fort Huachuca in Arizona claims to be the “home” of the Buffalo Soldiers because it is the only base to have hosted all members of the group.  

“I visited the Fort Huachuca Museum.  I got into it,” Woods says with some degree of understatement.  These days, he owns a replica vintage Union uniform which he uses in his travels to different schools and speaking engagements, sharing the stories of the Buffalo Soldiers, who fought with valor during the Spanish-American War, in the Philippines, and in both World Wars before being absorbed by other Army units after World War II.  When not fighting wars, the Buffalo Soldiers defended westward travelers and settlers and helped shape the contours of what the US would become.  

“It means a lot to me. It is my heritage. The Negro soldier, the Buffalo Soldier, the Black soldier: they have all had a huge impact on our country’s history, from the period of westward expansion all the way up to World War II and beyond.  If you think about it, in all the major conflicts, our position didn’t change until the military included the Black soldiers.” 

Today, it is clear Woods is focused on positive change for the State Guard, building off the accomplishments of his predecessor as Commanding General, Maj. Gen. Robert Bodisch, who retired on October 31, 2021. 

“Being a force multiplier for Texas and the Texas Military Department is a huge responsibility.  We don’t have the numbers (of personnel) but we have people with heart. And we’re not just equal to the task, we exceed it. The level of professionalism in the Texas State Guard is huge.”

Woods has a three-phase plan in mind for the Texas State Guard.  Phase 1, he says, will focus on retention.  “There are three reasons I believe people join the Texas State Guard: to serve, to grow, and for recognition–the promotions and awards,” Woods says.  To that end, Woods plans to double down on valuable training opportunities and make sure that awards and promotions are prompt, timely, and prolific.  

Phase 2, Woods says, is promotion.  While the Texas State Guard has been called ‘Texas’ best-kept secret’, Woods wants to raise the profile of the State Guard so that more potential recruits know about the opportunities to serve their fellow Texans. “We’re not going to be shy about banners,” Woods adds, saying that we can expect to see more Texas State Guard signage at Camp Mabry and beyond.  

Phase 3?  “Get ‘em in here!”, Woods says with a laugh. But he’s quite serious; recruitment is a key goal.  “Our recruiters are doing a great job,” Woods adds. “We need to make joining the Texas State Guard as easy as it can possibly be, promising exciting training opportunities and creating a sense of belonging and inclusion. As we go forward, we need to see more women in leadership positions.  We want the ranks of the Texas State Guard to look like the communities we serve.  I don’t want to exclude anybody.”  

Woods’ objectives reflect his own experience in discovering the Texas State Guard.  As a member of the Texas Army National Guard, Woods says initially, he knew little about the structure of the Texas State Guard but witnessed firsthand the professionalism of its soldiers.  

“I saw the commitment made by Texas State Guard servicemembers and I was impressed by their sacrifices. These were people who had nothing to gain from being in the State Guard.”  Noting the selflessness of the troops, Woods says he expects Texas State Guard leaders to care deeply about soldiers and their families.   

And, Woods notes, as the Texas State Guard takes active roles in Operation Lone Star and other missions, the reputation of the entire corps grows as well.  “Respect for the Texas State Guard has risen tenfold.  Our soldiers are showcasing the professionalism of the Guard and all the mission-ready packages.”  The Texas State Guard provides mission-ready forces to assist state and local authorities in times of state emergencies, conducts homeland security and community service activities, and augments the Texas Army National Guard and Texas Air National Guard as required.  The Texas State Guard, Texas Army National Guard, and Texas Air National Guard are all part of the Texas Military Department led by the Texas Adjutant General, the state’s senior military official appointed by the governor.

Woods, who lives in Dallas with his wife, has raised seven children and runs the private investigation service Checkmate Surveillance, LLC. It appears clear his love of family, deep appreciation of history, business acumen, and real-world military experience will serve him–and the people of Texas - extraordinarily well as he takes the reins of Acting Commanding General, Texas State Guard.  

The Texas State Guard is looking for professionals from a variety of fields to serve their fellow Texans. Prior military service is not required, but a commitment to public service and a willingness to meet the high standards of the Texas State Guard is essential.  You can learn more about the opportunities to serve in the Texas State Guard online at 

Texas State Guardsmen promote happiness, healing for holidays

By Warrant Officer David Brown, Texas State Guard

Texas State Guard service members all across the state of Texas collected toys to bring joy to children in need. 

AUSTIN, Texas – A doll. An electronic keyboard. A monster truck. A surprise under the tree. 

It would appear Santa’s helpers are at it again. Rumor has it some of those helpers have been spotted wearing camouflage with Texas flags on their right shoulders.  

But it’s no rumor.

For the past 12 years, members of the Texas State Guard have taken to collecting toys to support children during the holidays. The annual “Young Heroes of the Guard” Toy Drive started as an initiative of the 1st Brigade Chaplain Corps but has grown to be a force-wide community service event.

For the past several years, the drive has been coordinated by Master Sgt. John Gately of Round Rock. He has enhanced partnerships with businesses across the state, growing annual donations from about 6,000 toys to more than 100,000.

“I got lassoed in by a sneaky chaplain,” Gately said with a laugh. “He patted me on my right knee – I’ll never forget it – and said, ‘I want you to run the toy drive. If you don’t do it, no one else will. Think of the children.’”  

There was no pressure, of course. But Gately quickly took up the challenge. He has kept the effort focused on young Texans in hospitals and from families facing financial challenges, which has been at the heart of the campaign from the outset.

Among other things, Gately manages lists and organizes drop-offs of donated toys to medical facilities, Title I elementary schools, churches, orphanages, and other locations across the state focused on child advocacy.

But he’s not alone in the effort.

“Our mission is to make sure no child goes without a toy, whether it’s a natural disaster or during the holiday season,” said Capt. Sean Payton, a Texas State Guard chaplain who helped coordinate a delivery event in Copperas Cove, in central Texas.

“This is perfect, it gives back to the children, and teaches the children to give to other children in need.”

The two have set their sights high for next year’s drive and set an ambitious goal of distributing 200,000 items. There is growing interest from businesses statewide with a renewed effort to involve Texas-based sponsors.

The toy drive is truly a volunteer effort and is affiliated with the State Guard Association of Texas, a non-profit organization that supports the toy drive and other Texas State Guard initiatives. Those interested in getting involved can visit the toy drive’s website at:

“We collect toys throughout the year,” Payton said. “It’s a great opportunity for other businesses, doctor’s offices, other schools, and other entities to get involved.”

This year’s sponsors included: Five Below; i7 Media; 1000 Bulbs; The Laird Team real estate; Supplemental Warehouse; Texoma Strength (sports gym); Melly Vent’z (photography); and the Iron Saber Motorcycle Club.

Gately also credits the program’s success to the dedication and commitment of State Guard personnel who volunteer their off-duty time and talents to support Texas children.

They pointed out the efforts of Sgt. First Class James (Damon) Williams of Buda and Warrant Officer 1 Gregory Illich of Houston, members of the 6th and 2nd brigades, respectively.

While everyone involved with the toy drive talks about the immense joy of seeing the smiles on the faces of young Texans, the drive has a special significance for Illich. When he was six years old, Hurricane Camille destroyed his family’s home in Mississippi.

“We lost everything; no clothes, nothing (remained),” Illich said. “My toys were everything for me, they were gone.”

But through the devastation, there was a spark of inspiration.

“The Mississippi State Guard was staffing the shelter,” Illich said. “Before then, I’d only seen soldiers on TV in news reports from Vietnam. When those people in uniforms at the shelter gave toys to me and my brothers and sister…well, it meant more than I can possibly say.”

Years later, as an adult attending a “Wings Over Houston” event, Illich saw Guardsmen on duty wearing the Texas flag patch and said the memories came rushing back.

“That’s when I knew. I knew I could be ‘that Guardsman,’” Illich said, “and be there for those kids. Because I am that kid.”

But for Illich, like all who work with the “Young Heroes of the Guard” Toy Drive, at the end of the day, this is a mission of healing and hope.

“I wish others could have my experience seeing those children,” Illich said. “The folks at Memorial Hermann Children’s Hospital (in Houston) told us when we visit and bring toys, it visibly improves a kid's health. They do better and heal faster. The kids who know we’re coming – that’s all they talk about for weeks!”

But the impact may last a lifetime.

“Who knows?” Illich said. “One of those kids getting a toy may remember that uniform and become a future member of the Texas State Guard!”

The mission of the Texas State Guard is to provide mission-ready forces to assist state and local authorities in times of state emergencies; to conduct homeland security and community service activities under the umbrella of Defense Support to Civil Authorities, and to augment the Texas Army National Guard and Texas Air National Guard as required.

The Texas Military Department is commanded by the Adjutant General of Texas, the state's senior military official appointed by the governor, and is comprised of the Office of State Administration (formerly the Office of the Executive Director), the Texas Army National Guard (TXARNG), the Texas Air National Guard (TXANG) and the Texas State Guard (TXSG).




Ho, Ho, Hope: Texas State Guardsman trades camo for Santa suit

By Capt. Phoebe Sisk, Texas State Guard

DALLAS (Dec. 21, 2021) – ‘Tis the season for spreading holiday hope and joy. Each year, members of the Texas State Guard (TXSG) find ways to go above and beyond the call of duty.

One such Guardsman is Cpl. Derek Martinez of Mesquite, near Dallas.

In addition to serving as the main coordinator in the 1st Brigade, 3rd Battalion for the annual TXSG Toy Drive, Martinez spends personal time supporting youth in need of extra cheer in his annual role as Santa. Specifically, he hosts visits with children undergoing difficult life circumstances, many who are so young and innocent - they delight in the magic of Old St. Nick.

"The greatest gift I am spreading is forgetfulness," Martinez said. "I know it seems odd, but for the 20 minutes these children are visiting with Santa, they are forgetting that mom is mobilized to the border, or that dad is working graves (night shifts) as a police officer. They forget that there is a Child Protective Services court hearing coming up or they forget that dad is working in healthcare on the COVID front lines.”

Since 2020, Martinez has brought additional comfort and joy to the hearts of young Texans in need, including children in foster care or adoption proceedings, and active military, law enforcement, and fire/EMT families.

The act of giving is almost second nature to Martinez, a three-year veteran of the TXSG. In addition to his military duties, Martinez works as a regional manager for Imaging IoT and security at Konica Minolta Business Solutions in north Texas. These positions have given him a greater understanding of working with people as individuals.

Local foster agencies have coordinated visits directly with “Santa” Martinez. 

"Who knew that Santa knows exactly how to interact with children in foster situations and has such a jolly sense of humor for all ages," said Jade McCoy Alsina of Dallas Foster Closet. "Everyone loved him and we are already looking forward to next year!"

Martinez’s gift for having sensitive interactions with foster children may well come from being a foster parent himself. 

“Santa came by our home and surprised our children with a visit. I have to admit, I cried,” said parent Lindsay Harrell after a recent visit by the ‘Jolly Old Man’. “Santa came in with his big jolly smile, naughty and nice book (my kiddos were on the nice list!), sang, read a book, and talked to each child one on one. It was wonderful to see their faces glow with surprise and joyful hearts. I hope to make it a yearly tradition as it was definitely an unforgettable moment that my family and I will cherish.”

Due to the realities of the current pandemic, Martinez has found innovative ways to connect with young Texans. He’s has taken to social media, where parents and guardians can set up virtual visits with Santa.

“Children are dealing with a lot but for 20 minutes they get to sing, they get to smile, and they get to laugh so hard their ribs hurt; that's the joy I'm trying to spread," said Martinez.
Martinez’s selflessness and generosity of spirit exemplify the best traditions of the Texas State Guard, whose motto is “Texans Serving Texas.”

The mission of the Texas State Guard is to provide mission-ready forces to assist state and local authorities in times of state emergencies; to conduct homeland security and community service activities under the umbrella of Defense Support to Civil Authorities, and to augment the Texas Army National Guard and Texas Air National Guard as required.

The Texas Military Department is commanded by the Adjutant General of Texas, the state's senior military official appointed by the governor, and is comprised of the Office of State Administration (formerly the Office of the Executive Director), the Texas Army National Guard (TXARNG), the Texas Air National Guard (TXANG) and the Texas State Guard (TXSG).


Texas State Guard Hosts Dallas City Councilman

By John Duesing, PV2, Texas State Guard, 1st Brigade

DALLAS (October 23, 2021) - The Texas State Guard 1st Brigade hosted Dallas City Councilman Omar Narvaez at its headquarters in Dallas on October 23.  Commanding Officer of the 1BDE, Brigadier General Robert Hastings greeted Mr. Narvaez before moving into the Drill Hall. Councilman Narvaez delivered remarks about the Texas State Guard’s involvement in disaster relief and presented a certificate of special recognition signed by Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson.

“We couldn’t have accomplished the emergency water distribution following Winter Storm Uri without the Texas State Guard,” said Narvaez. “Your willingness to serve others out of the goodness of your heart in times of needs represents the best of Texas.”

The certificate recognized the work of the Texas State Guard over the past year, including COVID-19 response, Hurricane Laura evacuations, and Winter Storm Uri relief. Activities the Texas State Guard undertook during these crises included civil support and emergency management missions, surveying decommissioned medical facilities to expand COVID-19 treatment capacity, and establishing water points-of-distribution.

“Building and maintaining our relationships with city leadership is a key part of our mission with the Texas State Guard,” said General Hastings. “This helps us to serve our local Texas communities better.”

Following the presentation of the certificate, the Texas State Guard presented awards and promotions as well as swore in new Texas State Guardsmen. The Texas State Guard 1st Brigade supports 113 counties in North Texas and the panhandle. 

The mission of the Texas State Guard is to provide mission-ready forces to assist state and local authorities in times of state emergencies; to conduct homeland security and community service activities under the umbrella of Defense Support to Civil Authorities, and to augment the Texas Army National Guard and Texas Air National Guard as required.

The Texas Military Department is commanded by the Adjutant General of Texas, the state's senior military official appointed by the governor, and is comprised of the Office of State Administration (formerly the Office of the Executive Director), the Texas Army National Guard (TXARNG), the Texas Air National Guard (TXANG) and the Texas State Guard (TXSG).


Search and Rescue Finds New Focus, Mission Readiness in Texas State Guard

By David Brown, WO1, Texas State Guard

Camp Swift, TX – “A child is missing...”

“My father is lost...”

“We think our grandparents may be trapped by the floodwaters…”

Such events can set off an intense sense of desperation.  Time is of the essence.  Every minute of delay may be a matter of life or death.  

Soon, the Texas State Guard will play a much bigger role in responding to such emergencies in coordination with state and local authorities. 

The Texas State Guard Search and Rescue program has launched a major new transition to standardize training, to create an official Mission Ready Package, and to make the State Guard’s search and rescue capability a go-to resource for officials statewide. 

“Our goal is to have hundreds of Texas State Guardsmen earn national-level certifications so we can partner with local jurisdictions across the state in search and rescue operations,” said Brig. Gen. Talentino Angelosante, Asst. Dep. Commanding General of the Texas State Guard. 

A longtime veteran of the U.S. Army with decades of experience in search and rescue is redesigning the program and overseeing new instruction and certification standards for State Guard search and rescue personnel.  

Capt. Terry Benjamin joined the Texas State Guard in 2015 with 18 years of prior federal service, and experience as a trained Cavalry Scout and Blackhawk pilot. 

“I’ve been doing search and rescue all my life, deployed hundreds and hundreds of times,” Benjamin said. 

In addition to using his tracking skills throughout the Middle East and South America, Benjamin performed search and rescue operations as an Army medical evacuation pilot. Benjamin also taught Urban and Wilderness tracking techniques with the U.S. Border Patrol, while working as a law enforcement officer in Southern California. Benjamin is currently director of Lone Star Search and Rescue, a North Texas K-9 search and rescue team, and serves as a SARTECH II Senior Evaluator for the National Association of Search and Rescue. Additionally, he is one of the founding members of the Texas Task Force 2 (TX-TF2) urban search and rescue unit, an elite team of search and rescue dog handlers. 

In the coming months, Benjamin anticipates assessing the existing search and rescue skills of all State Guard personnel, to support agency plans to certify qualifying service members under a new partnership between the Texas State Guard and the National Association of Search and Rescue. This new arrangement will make it possible for State Guardsmen to get intensified field and classroom training culminating in the association’s nationally accredited Search and Rescue Technician Level 1 certification. The new program, developed in collaboration with the National Association of Search and Rescue, includes training tailored to the State Guard service with participants able to obtain certification within 4 to 6 months. 

The Texas State Guard has a rich history in search and rescue operations, notably during major disasters such as Hurricane Harvey.  The State Guard was also among the first on the scene in the wake of the Columbia Space Shuttle tragedy and has a long record of assisting Texas Parks and Wildlife in performing search and rescue operations. 

Having search and rescue technicians in the Guard isn’t new, said Benjamin. This is the first time, however, that the Texas State Guard will have a standardized way to assess service members in this field, empowering the State Guard to stand up mission-ready packages in support of partner agencies statewide.

“We want to get as many service members qualified as we can so that we can be a force multiplier,” said Maj. H. Lee Burton, Dep. Commander of the Texas State Guard Special Teams Training Group. 

Burton said he anticipates developing close relationships with local fire departments, sheriffs, and other agencies statewide so that they know they can call on highly trained State Guard forces to support their search and rescue efforts.

“This will help local communities in a big way,” said Burton. “And help us enhance our role as ‘Texans Serving Texas.’”

“I think about how we helped during the floods in Wimberley (in 2015),” Benjamin said.  “We can build on that. The local sheriff calls, they don’t have the manpower, they don’t have a dog team, they need areas cleared. And the Texas State Guard is ready to go in.  Texas has flooding like that all the time.  With Mission Ready Packages (MRP) in place, we can do more for more communities.  We want to be in front of everybody’s mind.”

Tracking skills are important, but land navigation, GPS, and technology skills are, too. Everyone in the Texas State Guard has a role to play and a strength to bring to search and rescue operations. 

“This isn’t some elitist program, we want everybody in,” said Benjamin. 

Some people may be proficient with boats, others drones, and drivers are needed as well. 

Although the goal of getting everyone to a Search and Rescue Technician Level II certification is a long-term objective, the ball is already rolling. So far, 16 Texas State Guardsmen have received their SARTECH II certification through this program.

“Our goal is to train everybody in the Texas State Guard in search and rescue,” said Benjamin. “So when ‘the emergency’ comes, we have people ready to serve in those MRPs.”

The Texas State Guard is looking for Texans with search and rescue experience, as well as people with backgrounds in engineering, law, medicine, construction, technology, and other fields willing to serve the people of the Lone Star State.  Prior military experience is not required to join the Texas State Guard, but those with prior federal service are especially encouraged to explore available opportunities.  More information can be found online at

The mission of the Texas State Guard is to provide mission-ready forces to assist state and local authorities in times of state emergencies; to conduct homeland security and community service activities under the umbrella of Defense Support to Civil Authorities, and to augment the Texas Army National Guard and Texas Air National Guard as required.

The Texas Military Department is commanded by the Adjutant General of Texas, the state's senior military official appointed by the governor, and is comprised of the Office of State Administration (formerly the Office of the Executive Director), the Texas Army National Guard (TXARNG), the Texas Air National Guard (TXANG) and the Texas State Guard (TXSG).

Love in the Texas State Guard

By Johnathan Winston, 1LT, Texas State Guard

BIG SPRING, Texas - If you ask the typical soldier to explain what the Texas State Guard means to them, you might hear them talk about duty, honor, and the opportunity to serve their fellow Texans. If you ask Pfc. Robert Parks and Pvt. Abigail Parks, of Big Spring, Texas those questions you are likely to hear a similar story, or you may learn about a romance born out of service that led these two members of the Texas State Guard 3rd Brigade to become more than fellow service members. They also became husband and wife.

Robert was raised in the East Texas town of Livingston and joined the Texas State Guard in 2017.  

“I decided to enlist to help Texans in need, to make a difference in peoples’ lives, and to see where it took me,” Robert said.

For Abigail, of Chihuahua, Mexico, her State Guard story began in 2018 after she completed the civilian education needed to enlist. 

Neither knew it at the time but her enlistment would lead both Guardsmen on a course to the alter. Robert remembers their first meeting which took place after Abigail’s swearing-in ceremony. 

“She was asked to stand and introduce herself to the squad, and to tell us about herself and what she wanted to do in the Guard. I listened and could relate to everything she was saying as far as service, family, and children,” said Robert. “All of our kids are the same age, she has a son and two daughters, and I have a son and two daughters.”

From there, destiny took over as Robert gave Abigail some uniform insignia items, a custom between longer serving soldiers and newly sworn-in troops. He also shared one more item that turned out to be a symbol of their future lives together.  Months earlier Robert shared how he had acquired two pocket bibles with camouflage covers months earlier. 

“I kept one Bible in the left pocket of my blouse, and the extra one in my ruck. I have no idea why I grabbed the other one, but I did,” said Robert.

On the day Robert and Abigail met, he gave her his extra Bible. Their relationship blossomed from there, and the pair eventually married in 2019.  All of these years later, they both carry those same military Bibles in their left blouse pockets when in uniform.   

“We owe our lives together to the Texas State Guard,” Robert said when asked about how serving continues to impact lives for himself and Abigail.  “The Texas State Guard enabled us to do this.  We love serving in the Guard because this is what brought us together.” 

Both Guardsmen say their relationship has grown right alongside their service to Texas. The Parks emphasize a love of physical challenges and helping others whenever possible, and they look forward to developing as leaders together.