Posts in Category: Texas State Guard

Soldier, Architect, Expert Engineer: Texas State Guardsman and Purple Heart recipient earns prestigious engineering award

By David Brown, WO1, Texas State Guard

LUBBOCK, Texas – Texas State Guard First Lieutenant Christopher Beck, a Purple Heart recipient, has been awarded the Engineer Specialty Qualification designation from the State Guard Association of the United States. The designation is awarded to the most experienced engineers upon completion of the SGAUS Engineer Specialty Qualification Identification program. 

The program was created by the SGAUS Engineering Academy in 2015 to help state guard forces quickly identify and deploy highly-trained engineers during state emergencies. 

“By earning the prestigious Engineer Specialty Qualification designation, Lt. Beck is leading the way among TXSG engineers,” says Lt. Col. Cecil Bell, Chief Engineer for the TXSG Command Group and General Staff.  

The demanding training program includes coursework developed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s National Incident Management Structure and FEMA Independent Course Studies. Beck, a Midland native, undertook two years of intensive training to earn the honor.

“The most challenging aspect was time; it takes an immense amount of time to get through all requirements and training,” says Beck, a Texas Tech graduate with a Master’s Degree in Architecture.

In addition to SGAUS membership, successful applicants must earn the SGAUS Basic Military Emergency Management Specialist badge, pass a physical fitness requirement, and demonstrate qualifying knowledge and experience in the field of engineering or construction, with a professional degree or extensive work experience in engineering, construction management, architecture, surveying, technology or a related field.  

Beck is a Project Captain and Associate Architect at WCA Design Studios in Lubbock.  
He describes himself as a lifelong learner. “In the profession of architecture, you expand your knowledge daily, and I take that to all aspects of my life.”  

Public service has been a central part of Beck’s life. Beck served for a combined total of over 11 years in the U.S. Army and Texas Army National Guard, including service in the 56th Brigade Combat Team. Beck joined the ranks of the TXSG in December 2017. His twin brother, Pvt. 1st Class Robert Beck, also serves in the TXSG. 

While prior federal service is not a requirement for TXSG service, Beck cites a desire to assist fellow Texans and the opportunity of serving with his brother as two major factors in his decision to join the TXSG. 

The skill badge on Lt. Beck’s uniform speaks to his own personal accomplishment and highlights the emphasis the TXSG places on the continued professional training of its soldiers. 

“I’m sure others will be inspired by his success,” Bell adds, “and I heartily encourage qualified members of our Engineer Corps to explore the challenges and opportunities offered by the SGAUS Engineering Academy.”

Beck currently serves in the 2nd Battalion, 1st Brigade, TXSG as an Engineer Primary Skills Officer. Beck, his wife, Kerry, and their two children live in Lubbock. 

The Texas State Guard is actively looking for Texans interested in serving their fellow Texans, and it especially encourages applications from those with backgrounds in engineering, construction, law and law enforcement, information technology, medicine, communications, and other professions. More information about joining the TXSG can be found online at

The mission of the Texas Military Department (TMD) is to provide the Governor and the President with ready and trained forces in support of the citizens of Texas and State and Federal civil/military authorities at home and abroad.

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, the Texas Army National Guard (TXARNG), the Texas Air National Guard (TXANG) and the Texas State Guard (TXSG). 


Texas State Guard 1st Brigade marks Women's History Month

By Cpt. Phoebe Sisk, 1st Brigade, Texas State Guard

DALLAS, Texas -- Ten Texas State Guard females of varying ages, experience, rank, and duties came together on March 15, 2021, at the Texas Army National Guard Armory, in honor of Women’s History Month. The meeting was led by TXSG Brig. Gen. Robert Hastings, the 1st Brigade’s Commanding General, and focused on various topics to include, retention, recruiting, and employment, specifically for women in the Guard. 

Such considerations are every day, but the recent celebration of International Women’s Day, a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women offered the perfect catalyst to meet, celebrate, and brainstorm, bringing the best ideas to the table.

“Today, women comprise approximately 15 percent of our brigade,” said Hastings.  “We have three female company commanders and one first sergeant.  That is not what it could be, what it should be, or more importantly what we want it to be.”

Hastings explained his goal is to double the statistics by this time next year.

During the opening remarks, Hastings expressed one of his goals as a leader is to empower women in uniform and promote an equal force for the future. 

“My perspective is anchored in my experiences – those of a middle-aged white male,” Hastings explained.  “I can’t change that, but I can learn from your perspectives.” 

Through the open dialogue approach, servicemen and women were able to discuss tough topics such as sexual harassment, with mutual respect and understanding. 

The movement of conversation was fast and the key substance of real issues was discussed: Was sexual harassment an issue, and if so, did the women in the room feel comfortable and empowered to address it? Did they know how to report inappropriate behavior and seek assistance if necessary?

From the discussions, it was determined that sexual harassment was not an issue in the brigade, across the board, including those new to the TXSG and those with extensive experience.  “It’s just a non-event throughout all of the time that I’ve served,” offered TXSG 1st Sgt. Mary Wilson, who added that she makes it a point to keep her ears open to all happenings up and down the chain of command as the most senior enlisted female of the unit. 

Recruiting was a big first topic, with key insights offered by TXSG Staff Sgt. Angela Scarborough, a recruiter assigned to the 1st Brigade, who was recently recognized as TXSG Recruiter of the Year.

“Women want to speak to other women”, explained Scarborough.   Scarborough and others in the room recognized that recruiting and retaining women is important in order to reflect the nation’s population and ensure strong military leadership. 

The team discussed innovative ways to increase awareness of how women can serve, as well as educate local citizens on the Texas State Guard as a whole. 

Reaching the market of those who have never served is key, letting potential candidates know that age is not a prohibitor, that skills of being an informal community leader, and most of all, possessing a servant’s heart, are some of the best indicators of success in the TXSG.

Texas State Guard’s 2nd Lt. Kylie Green, who entered the TXSG to offer skills as a licensed RN, reflected on her moment of realizing that she could balance service with parenting and other life duties. “Understanding that we don’t deploy outside of Texas and that the training is part-time was important because it meant that I could be a mom and still be part of the TXSG.”

“It was wonderful to get to know General Hastings and meet some of the other ladies in the Texas State Guard,” said Pvt. Jerah Hutchins, a recent enlistee.  “They are all so selfless and accomplished!”

March is a time to celebrate the contributions and honor the sacrifices and accomplishments of women who not only shape our military but our nation as well. 

Through the use of the female-focused meeting, and by providing the opportunity to network with peers and participate in group discussions, the Texas State Guardsmen are able and empowered to stand ready to serve--they are “Texans Serving Texas.”

For more information about the Texas State Guard, please go to

Guardsmen deliver water to communities throughout Texas following record-breaking winter storm



By WO 1 Gregory Illich Texas State Guard and Robert Seyller

COLLEGE STATION, Texas – As a winter weather storm moved into Texas on February 13, 2021, Governor Greg Abbot activated the Texas National Guard in response to increasing precipitation and projections of record low temperatures throughout the state.

As snow and sleet continued to fall, water and power infrastructure were lost by more than 12 million Texans. In response, The Texas Department of Emergency Management in Coordination with the Texas Military Department began distributing bottled drinking water to those in need.

As Texas Guardsmen in San Antonio unloaded pallets of water from a C-17 Globemaster, Maj. Gen. Tracy R. Norris, the adjutant general of Texas, took a moment to highlight the importance of the mission.

"This is water, this is critical to life, you can only go two or three days without water so this is a life-sustaining mission you are taking on," said Norris.

Guardsmen from the Texas Army, Air, and State guard were joined by service members from multiple state National Guards including South Carolina and Illinois along with active duty Air Force members to fly pallet after pallet into distribution hubs in San Antonio and College Station, Texas.Loading water

The Texas Air National Guard’s 136th Airlift Wing out of Fort Worth, Texas is among the units bringing water to airports across the state. The 136 AW’s C-130 Hercules transport planes deliver thousands of pounds of water that are stacked into Texas Army National Guard helicopters and Medium Tactical vehicles for transport to county and city distribution centers.

Col. Keith Williams, wing commander, 136th Air Wing Texas Air National Guard, explained that the unit's personnel have been working to support water distribution efforts while still supporting overseas operations and homeland defense missions.

"It takes a monumental effort. A large portion of the 136 AW is deployed overseas. We overcome the challenges and provide services to the Texas Department of Emergency Management,” said Williams. "The 136 AW has a large team of guardsmen who are receiving and preparing water for air shipment, loading aircraft, and performing maintenance along with aircrews and operations support personnel, coming together as one big team to make the mission happen.  We are proud to support our fellow Texans in their time of need."

Williams explained that service members who were assisting were not immune from the impacts of the storm explaining that the responding guardsmen had families they had to leave behind to help entire communities return to normal. Norris also shared that without that sacrifice the organization could not succeed, thanking each guardsman for their service.

"You have a family at home, probably without power, without water and here you are helping your neighbors and Texas recover,” said Norris. “Our number one asset in the Guard is our people and every time Texans need help you guys show up. You’re truly heroes.

For Texas State Guard Member Pvt. Mary Boscarino the water distribution was her first mission since enlisting last year but she knew why she had to help the people of Texas.

Loading water“College Station is my home and I feel so honored to be here, helping my fellow Texans in a time of crisis. My passion is helping others, giving back to the community. What greater way for me to start than to help right at home."

That sense of service was in full display among the assembled Texas Guard members and volunteers, each working to support the mission by leveraging their unique military training to increase the speed and amount of water being delivered to communities. That training provided the state with a key method of distribution as members of the 36th Combat Aviation Brigade flew UH-60 Blackhawk and CH-47 Chinook helicopters from the airports to the distribution centers.

“We have completed seven round trips, flying water out from the College Station hub to local municipalities including Leon County and Brenham,” said Capt. Sean Thomas, a Black Hawk pilot with the 36th CAB. “It is always a pleasure to work with the Air National Guard, Texas State Guard, Texas Department of Emergency Management and other civil authorities to bring relief as we have done in previous natural disasters."

Guardsmen will continue to transport water and additional resources to impacted communities until the state's infrastructure is repaired and the people until our Texas neighbors have fully recovered from back-to-back winter storms.


TXSG Colonel retires after 45 years of service

By 1LT Johnathan Winston, Texas State Guard

AUSTIN, Texas –  Colonel John Adams has retired after 16 years of service to the Texas State Guard and 45 total years of uniformed service.  His retirement ceremony took place on October 24, 2020 at Camp Mabry. 

Adams most recently served as the Texas State Guard’s senior personnel officer from 2016 to 2020, and he is recognized as one of the most important figures in the Guard’s ongoing transformation and professionalization.

Maj. Gen. Robert Bodisch, Commanding General of the Texas State Guard, praised Adams’ service to Texas and the United States during his speech at the ceremony.  

Bodisch used the words “leadership, integrity, and dedication” to describe Adams, a man whom he said fits the definition of being a “real hero” after a lengthy and storied career.

Adams’ uniformed service began in 1966, when he enlisted in the U.S. Army. Adams served on a 19 month combat tour in Vietnam.   During his tour, he received a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart, among other awards.

Adams then returned to Texas, completed studies at Sam Houston State University, and resumed his Army service as a Second Lieutenant in 1973.  He went on to serve as an active duty helicopter pilot, followed by multiple senior level staff and leadership positions in the Army Reserve.  

In October 2000, Adams volunteered for service as the military assistant to the political advisor for the commander of Allied forces in Kosovo.

His dedication and thoroughness were evident throughout the assignment- culminating in successful negotiations to win the release of six Serbian hostages.

Adams brought his pedigree for excellence into the Texas State Guard, which he joined in 2004 after leaving the Army Reserve.  

Whether he was planning and coordinating deployments for hurricanes, or streamlining awards and promotions, Adams was known to members of the TXSG community as the consummate professional- and as an individual who inspired confidence and respect.

“You have served your state and your country well and we owe you a huge debt of gratitude,” Bodisch said in his closing remarks.  “You might retire, but you will always be part of the family.”

More information about joining the TXSG can be found at

Unexpected Detour: Shelter-Deployed Texas State Guardsmen Step in After Accident

By WO1 David Brown

Members of the Texas State Guard (TXSG) are prepared to deploy on short notice when civilian officials request assistance.  Sometimes, the call to assist fellow Texans doesn’t come with a formal request, as a group of Texas State Guard soldiers from the 3rd Brigade discovered, en route to help Hurricane Laura evacuees. 
Members of the Texas State Guard (TXSG) are prepared to deploy on short notice when civilian officials request assistance.  Sometimes, the call to assist fellow Texans doesn’t come with a formal request, as a group of Texas State Guard soldiers from the 3rd Brigade discovered, en route to help Hurricane Laura evacuees.

Mesquite, TX - Members of the Texas State Guard (TXSG) are prepared to deploy on short notice when civilian officials request assistance.  Sometimes, the call to assist fellow Texans doesn’t come with a formal request, as a group of Texas State Guard soldiers from the 3rd Brigade discovered, en route to help Hurricane Laura evacuees. 

Before sunrise on the wet morning of September 2nd, five Guardsmen from the 3rd Brigade were traveling to an assignment at a hurricane shelter hub in Mesquite, east of Dallas.  As their van slipped through the light morning traffic of I-635 east of Dallas, CPT Lawrence Norotsky saw something ahead. Traffic was suddenly slowing and cars were veering across lanes to avoid a large obstacle. Norotsky directed the van’s driver, SFC Steven Lozano to pull over to a safe location.  

Scattered across the left three lanes of the highway was an SUV, parts of the bodywork mashed, one door ripped from its frame, bits of glass and plastic all around.  Not far behind it was a badly damaged four-door sedan, steam rising from its mangled front end, leaking fluids of some sort.  The car’s airbags had inflated around its driver.  The driver had managed to get out of his vehicle; his lower lip was bleeding, and he was complaining of chest pains.  

The young woman driving the SUV had managed to get out of her vehicle as well, but neither driver was safe. “On our arrival”, Norotsky says, “the witnesses and vehicle occupants were moving in and out of dangerous traffic. 

The Guard members’ training kicked in.  Texans who take the oath of the Texas State Guard, one of the three branches of the Texas Military Department, not only commit themselves to ongoing emergency and disaster management education, but often bring in years of real-world experience and specialized skills.  

Norotsky, who in civilian life is the Assistant Fire Chief of the Ingleside Volunteer Fire Department, unofficially assumed the role of Incident Commander.  Making a 360-degree assessment of the situation, he directed Lozano, PV2 Ruben Garza of Harlingen, and PFC Michael Ward of San Angelo to begin directing traffic away from the accident scene.  Norotsky approached the occupants of the apparent crash to perform triage, directing CPL Matthew Kotara to do a detailed examination of the 76-year-old driver of the sedan. 

Kotara, a trained Emergency Medical Technician, says he needed to ensure the driver of the sedan did not have life threatening injuries.  “The biggest concern for me, because the airbags deployed, and because of his age, was to make sure that he did not have a flail chest, collapsed lungs, any type of puncture wounds or signs of a concussion,” said the TXSG Medical Unit veteran.  “He was bruised and disoriented, but (there were) no signs of life-threatening problems or injuries.”  Kotara remained with the driver to comfort him and to ready a report for first responders who would eventually arrive at the scene.  

Norotsky had determined that there were no fuel leaks or apparent fire hazards, but the weather conditions and the traffic on the multi-lane highway still posed considerable risks to life. Lozano, Garza and Ward directed occupants of the vehicles involved and witnesses downstream from the wrecked cars to the median, creating an effective safety buffer and getting pedestrians out of the way of traffic. “Our uniforms gave us the perceived authority to take charge and bring order to the chaos,” Norotsky said, crediting the TXSG’s required Incident Command Training and the Guard’s military structure for effectively reducing further dangers and removing any sense of panic. 

Members of the Texas State Guard (TXSG) are prepared to deploy on short notice when civilian officials request assistance.  Sometimes, the call to assist fellow Texans doesn’t come with a formal request, as a group of Texas State Guard soldiers from the 3rd Brigade discovered, en route to help Hurricane Laura evacuees. Soon, an off-duty police officer pulled up on-scene and provided the TXSG team with flares.  Norotsky turned over Incident Command to the first arriving Fire Engine Company Officer, providing a full report. Thankfully, no one was seriously injured in the incident. 

Lozano, whose civilian job is with the Border Patrol, credits the diverse backgrounds of all involved as having made the unassigned mission-within-a-mission a success. “I truly believe all Guardsmen...bring with us a wealth of knowledge and experience from our lives outside the Guard.” This advantage is one reason TXSG recruiters are always on the lookout for Texans with a variety of skills and career specialties ranging from law enforcement to information technology, science, engineering, education, medicine, construction and more.

Although the TXSG may be best known for their decades of providing relief during major emergencies like Hurricane Harvey - and, more recently, Hurricane Laura, - troops never ‘let their guard down’. While routine traffic accidents seldom get much media attention, the incident along I-635 serves as an important reminder that the Guard’s mission as “Texans serving Texas” never sleeps. 

Several Texans in potential danger received quick, expert assistance on that rainy morning of September 2nd, 2020. Just another day of service for the members of the 3rd Brigade, Texas State Guard.  

Daughter of Tuskegee Airman makes Texas State Guard history

By WO1 David Brown, Texas State Guard

SAN ANTONIO - During World War II, Sgt. Percy Howard Payne was assigned to the support team of the 332nd Fighter Wing of the U.S. Army Air Corps, better known as the Tuskegee Airmen— America’s first black aviators. A generation later, the Payne family would again make military history, as Col. Paula Payne became the first black woman to serve in the rank of colonel in the Texas State Guard.

As part of the Tuskegee Airmen, Percy Payne worked in procurement and used his talents as a musician and entertainer to support troop morale as part of Operation Happiness. Serving at a time when the U.S. military was racially segregated, Percy Payne found himself denied leadership roles, as black Soldiers were denied entry into the officers corps. Frustrated with a system that denied advancement based on race, Percy Payne left the military when the war ended. Photo of Sgt. Percy Howard Payne

Undeterred by her father’s treatment, Paula Payne enlisted in the Virgin Islands Air National Guard after finishing her undergraduate and graduate education. According to Paula Payne, the decision was not well received by her father. 

“He told me ‘I just hope they treat you better than they treated me,’” said Paula Payne.

Describing herself as “a rolling stone”, Paula Payne described her career in the Guard as highlighted by travel and full of support from her superiors. Her first move was to Andrews Air Force Base after transferring to the District of Columbia National Guard. Upon arrival, she met a commander with a link to her family’s past military service. 

Lt. Gen. Russell C. Davis was the commander of Paula Payne’s new unit, the 113th Fighter Wing, and also a native of Tuskegee, Alabama. According to Paula Payne, Davis took quick interest in her career development and coordinated for her to obtain a full time position with the Air National Guard. 

“When I arrived to the 113th, Lt. Gen. Russel asked ‘Why do you want to do weekend drills? We need some people for active duty at the Air National Guard Support Center and the National Guard Bureau!’” said Davis. 

Paula PayneDavis’ recommendation helped Paula Payne become the first enlisted airman to serve in the Chief of Chaplain’s Office at the Air National Support Center. The move also put Paula Payne on the path to joining the ministry. Payne went on the earn a masters degree in divinity from Wesley Theological Seminary, and direct commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant.

“I started all over again from the bottom of the officer’s ranks, separated from active duty, and transferred over to the Air Force Reserves as a chaplain candidate.” 

Paula Payne served in a variety of pastoral duties rotating between the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve following her commission,  until the terror attacks on September 11, 2001 called her back to full-time service as the Air National Guard’s first black female chaplain.  

Paula Payne’s first combat deployment led her to Balad, Iraq as part of the 332nd Expeditionary Medical Group, a component of the 332nd Fighter Wing, her father’s former unit. Though prejudice kept Percy Payne from rising through the ranks, his daughter Paula was named the senior chaplain at Joint Base Balad. 

During her time in Iraq, Paula Payne described the attacks as non-stop, recalling one night when a mortar struck near her quarters.  

“You could hear the faint eeeee... boom, and it was close to my hooch, the housing location of the medical group. The rocket was launched in the middle of the night. I felt the thing hit the ground, PA-PUM. Then I heard ‘Nobody move, shelter in place!” said Payne.

An hour and a half went by as the Explosive Ordnance Team attempted to defuse the mortar. Paula Payne sheltered in place, praying.  Paula Payne sheltered in place, praying.

“I knew I was going to die if I stepped out that hooch and made one move.” said Payne. “Then came the sound of an explosion, the next thing I heard was someone shout for the chaplain.” 

Immediately, it was back to work for Paula Payne as she ran to the site where a young airman died attempting to save his fellow service members. 

“If it were not for him, it could have been me or anybody else. He was my hero,” said Payne.

Following her six months in Iraq, Paula Payne deployed to multiple assignments across Europe and the United States before retiring as a lieutenant colonel in 2014. Thinking of what life might hold next, she remembered the stories of her grandfather, who had grown up in Texas as the son of a Methodist preacher. It inspired her to pack her bags again, and this time, she and her twin sister Patricia Payne, an Army veteran, decided to relocate to Texas. According to Payne she sensed something waiting for her there.

Four years later, Payne took the oath of office becoming the first black female colonel to serve in the Texas State Guard. Payne had worked towards attaining that rank in both Air National Guard and Air Force reserve, but she was never selected.

“I had finally come to terms that the promotion was not God’s plan.” said Paula Payne. “Then the Governor signed the promotion order. When I die, my obituary will read, “Chaplain, Colonel, Paula M. Payne. Texas did that for me.” 

Paula M. Payne

The Texas State Guard: Woman Beyond the Uniform

Story by WO1 Kevin Farley, Texas State Guard

Captain Cyla Barron, of the Texas State Guard (TXSG) has been selected as a finalist in the Ms. Veteran America competition on October 11, 2020. As one of 25 finalists, she will be competing with contestants from the Army (8), Navy (7), Air Force (7), and Marines (2). Barron is the only contestant representing the TXSG. The competition, originally scheduled to be held in Florida, will be held virtually due to COVID-19. 

According to the Ms. Veteran America website: “The Ms. Veteran America competition highlights more than the strength, courage and sacrifice of our nation’s military women, but also reminds us that these women are Mothers, Daughters, Sisters and Wives.” 

The purpose of the competition is to highlight the women beyond the uniform and was created to benefit The Final Salute, Inc., an organization established to help support homeless women veterans and their families.Captain Barron

Originally from Seattle, Washington, Barron has lived in Texas for approximately 12 years. Serving in the TXSG for almost seven years, Barron also served in the U.S. Marine Corps as a structural mechanic trained plane captain. 

“Initially, I did not want to be a part of [the competition] because I thought it was a pageant and that doesn’t fit who I am. However, once I found out that it was more of a competition with a good balance between pageantry and Veteran causes, I was on board,” said Barron. 

However, Barron had never heard of the event until a visit to the Veterans Affairs (VA) earlier in the year. 

“After an appointment at the VA, I was in line grabbing something to eat when I met a Vietnam Veteran. I was paying for my food and told him that breakfast was on me, thanking him for his service,” Barron said. 

Approximately six months later, the Vietnam Veteran, named Jim, located Barron via Facebook and informed her about Ms. Veteran America. 

Jim went on to tell Barron, “I never forgot what you did for me and it meant so much. You should run for Ms. Veteran America because you have a heart for veterans.” 

Still not very interested in the competition, Barron looked it up on the internet out of obligation. Then when she discovered that the Ms. Veteran America competition was focused on what she was already doing by supporting veteran causes, Barron had a change of heart. 

“My goal is to bring visibility to the causes that I believe are under-represented such as the struggles women face serving and outside of the uniform,” Barron said. “Additionally, I’m hoping to bring visibility to the Texas State Guard and other veteran causes that I am passionate about.” 

Barron serves as a volunteer for the Women Marines Association as President and founder of the Heart of Texas Austin Chapter, the OV-10 Bronco Association, PTSD Foundation of America, Patriot’s Hall, VFW Dripping Springs. She has also served as a Big Sister in the Big Sisters/Big Brothers of America, Drive a Senior and other volunteer organizations. 

The final competition will consist of interviews, questioning, gown presentation and talent. The questions will be focused on Women in Military History.

When asked how she is preparing for the competition, Barron stated, “I have been practicing my talent and studying a lot!” 

As a Texas State Guard woman who provides mission-ready military forces to assist state and local authorities in times of state emergencies, there is no doubt that Barron will be prepared for the final competition. 



Texas Medical Provider Mission highlights partnership between National Guard and Active Duty

Story by Mr. Robert Seyller, Texas Military Department Public Affairs

AUSTIN, Texas – More than 1200 service members are partnering together from the Texas National Guard and the Active and Reserve components of the U.S. Army, U.S. Navy and U.S. Air Force to support Texas hospitals during the COVID-19 pandemic.

With a request to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Gov. Greg Abbot has secured a partnership between the Texas National Guard and U.S. Army North that will provide local hospitals with medical professionals from the U.S. Armed Forces. 

Maj. Gen. Tracy Norris, the Adjutant General of Texas (left), converses with U.S. Army North Commanding General, Lt. Gen. Laura Richardson (right), during a visit to the Texas State Operations Center in Austin, Texas, July 16, 2020. While there, military and civilian leaders strengthened their partnership and discussed the joint military COVID-19 operation in support of federal efforts and the state. U.S. Northern Command, through U.S. Army North, remains committed to providing flexible Department of Defense support to states in need as well as the Federal Emergency Management Agency in support of the whole-of-nation COVID-19 response. (U.S. Army photo by Col. Martin O'Donnell / U.S Army North Public Affairs)
Maj. Gen. Tracy Norris, the Adjutant General of Texas (left), converses with U.S. Army North Commanding General, Lt. Gen. Laura Richardson (right), during a visit to the Texas State Operations Center in Austin, Texas, July 16, 2020. While there, military and civilian leaders strengthened their partnership and discussed the joint military COVID-19 operation in support of federal efforts and the state. U.S. Northern Command, through U.S. Army North, remains committed to providing flexible Department of Defense support to states in need as well as the Federal Emergency Management Agency in support of the whole-of-nation COVID-19 response. (U.S. Army photo by Col. Martin O'Donnell / U.S Army North Public Affairs)

Maj. Gen. Tracy R. Norris, the adjutant general of Texas, welcomed the additional healthcare providers that will be joining a Texas Military Department response that began in March 2020.

“By partnering with the Active duty and Reserve components, we will be able to provide this much needed support and relief to the Texas civilian healthcare workers who have been working tirelessly to care for the people of our great state,” said Norris.

According to Norris, the Texas National Guard already shares a strong working relationship with U.S. Army North. The San Antonio based U.S. Army North also provides defense support of civil authorities in times of need.

Lt. Gen. Laura J. Richardson, commanding general of U.S. Army North (Fifth Army) and the Joint Force Land Component Command, also pointed to the long-standing relationship between the Guard, Active Duty, and the joint force.

“This is a total force effort,” said Lt. Gen. Richardson. “Our joint service members are working determinedly to relieve stress on hospitals and to deliver care to communities in need.”

Maj. Gen. Norris, serving as the first female adjutant general of the state, and Lt. Gen. Richardson, serving as the first female commander of U.S. Army North, have both spent months working to reduce the impact of COVID-19 on the nation.

“We are committed to assisting those in need as part of the ongoing whole-of-nation response to the COVID-19 pandemic and in support of FEMA,” said Lt. Gen. Richardson. “At the same time, we remain fully capable of conducting our primary mission of defending the homeland.”

Leading the effort on the ground will be Texas Air National Guard Brig. Gen. Thomas Suelzer. Appointed as the dual-status commander, Suelzer will provide direction to both Texas National Guard and federal service members.  The nomination and approval of the dual-status commander streamlines the process, ensuring a smoother and more effective collaboration of state and federal resources.

According to Suezler the dual status commander allows the governor to continue leading the response with both state and federal military assets. Under this structure, orders and guidance can simultaneously be received by the President.

“It is an incredible experience to work with our service members in this historic event. My position will allow for collaboration between orders directed by Governor Abbott and those by the President'” said Suelzer.  “I am proud to see how effortlessly our forces have integrated with each other.”

Among the medical staff is Maj. Tanya Island, of the 147th Medical Group, Texas Air National Guard. Island is serving as the Joint Task Force Lone Star Surgeon where she works to position personnel and resources across the state.

Island represents what makes the Guard such a valuable tool for state response as she leverages both her civilian career as a nurse anesthetist and her military training to help her fellow Texans.

“This operation really opened my eyes as to how critical a role the National Guard has in this response,” said Island. “Since COVID-19 began we have coordinated over 320,000 tests and now we are standing up teams of medical professionals to backfill civilian hospitals.”

The 12 initial teams will consist of 100 medical staff, including doctors, nurses, medics and healthcare administrators from the National Guard, Active Duty forces and Military Reservists.

Current focus areas are Houston, San Antonio, Del Rio, Eagle Pass, the Rio Grande Valley, and the Texas Coastal Bend. Suezler explained the mix of metropolitan and rural response areas highlight very different ways the Texas health system is strained. Cities like Houston and San Antonio are dealing with large populations that increase the communicability of the virus, while rural areas including the Rio Grande Valley and the Texas Coastal Bend struggle to find medical providers in the sparsely populated region. 

In addition to the medical personnel mission in support of COVID-19, Guardsmen across Texas continue to staff mobile testing sites and provide decontamination of critical facilities.

“Our Guardsmen continue to serve their neighbors and local communities’ months after activation,” said Norris. “I want every Soldier, Airman, and their family members, to know how much their dedication means to the people of Texas.”


Damon Williams: Electrical/Computer Engineer on a Normal Day, Military Leader in a Crisis

By: WO1 David D. Brown, TXSG

AUSTIN, Texas - It is said that not all heroes wear capes, but some might say Damon Williams frequently trades in his employee’s badge for one, at least temporarily. The Texas State Guard (TXSG) deployed the Texas Tech grad to Houston during Hurricane Harvey in late summer 2017, and more recently deployed Williams yet again in support of COVID-19.

It was March 15, and the COVID-19 pandemic had reached the United States. While many began planning for modified work shifts or remote work to continue business, Sgt. 1st Class Williams was planning a different sort of work schedule. The TXSG notified Williams that he would be deployed to help prepare communities across the state for the pandemic’s spread.

"I got the message of my deployment and immediately reached out to my supervisor to have my projects covered or completed while away,” said Williams. “I also had to prepare my family for my absence as I was told that the COVID pandemic had grown to the point that we needed to prepare to provide medical support to civilians.”

Williams is the Operations non-commissioned officer for the 6th Brigade and oversees approximately 300 Soldiers who are providing medical support at local hospitals and testing locations, food distribution in support of local and state food banks, wellness checks for elderly home care patients, as well as warehouse support distributing medical supplies. This deployment, working in the Texas State Guard Emergency Operations Center and State Operations Center, would be for the long haul. Since then, Williams and his team have had minimal contact with their families for safety and health reasons. It’s a sacrifice, but it reflects the spirit of community service for which the TXSG has earned a reputation, selflessly assisting civilian authorities during emergencies and times of disaster.

“Throughout my tenure in the Texas State Guard, and as commanding general, I continue to be grateful for the men and women who make personal and career sacrifices to answer the call to duty on behalf of their fellow Texans,” said Maj. Gen. Robert J. Bodisch, Sr., Commander of the Texas State Guard. “Sgt. 1st Class Williams exemplifies such sacrifices and while doing so embodies the best of the Texas State Guard.”

A mission fully focused on the communities served by the Texas State Guard, it is the small things that keep these Soldiers going day in and day out.

“The thanks we get from doctors and nurses when we arrive with boxes of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment), seeing people’s minds at ease after going to one of our testing centers…those are the moments we live for,” Williams said. “Although we can no longer accept hugs, a smile, a solid fist or elbow bump carries us through the 12-hour days.”

While deployed, Williams received the wonderful news that he and his wife are expecting a second child. Williams says he's especially grateful for the support he’s received from his employer by permitting him to attend training and to participate in deployments, which gives him a sense of security.

“My employer has been unwavering. There is no way I could be able to serve without my team members and co-workers. They have been amazing,” said Williams. “I have a lot of lunches to buy to thank them when I get back.”

With the state still in a partial reopening and the rise in case numbers and hospitalizations, it’s unclear when Williams will be back at work – or back home. At times, he admits, it has been hard to keep fear of the unknown at bay.

“Yes, we are scared. Scared for our brothers and sisters serving next to us, for those in the hospitals who are helping the sick, and for all the families being affected by this. But you can't let fear stop you. You have to push forward through that fear to help those that can't help themselves,” he said.

As Guardsmen and women continue their work on the front lines to help fellow Texans, one sees Williams’ commitment echoed in the actions of all who wear the uniform: “We are all prepared to serve as long as we’re needed.”

Texas Guard launches innovation unit

Story by Robert Seyller, Texas Military Department Public Affairs

After over a year of preparation, the Texas Guard is officially launching the Texas Military Department Joint Innovation Unit: TMDx.

Gen. Joseph L. Lengyel, chief of the National Guard Bureau, along with Maj. Gen. Tracy R. Norris, the adjutant general of Texas, visit Texas National Guard service members serving at the Tarrant Area Food Bank in Fort Worth, Texas, April 29, 2020.
Gen. Joseph L. Lengyel, chief of the National Guard Bureau, along with Maj. Gen. Tracy R. Norris, the adjutant general of Texas, visit Texas National Guard service members serving at the Tarrant Area Food Bank in Fort Worth, Texas, April 29, 2020.

The original plan called for a live event at the Capital Factory in Austin, home to the TMDx flagship innovation hub. However, recent concerns over COVID-19 forced the program to do exactly what it was designed for – partner, innovate and come up with a solution. That partnership came in the form of a livestreamed event, hosted by Capital Factory and simulcast across multiple social media platforms, July 15.

The launch, hosted by Sean Duffy, VP of partnerships at Capital Factory, featured appearances by Gen. Joseph Lengyel, chief of the National Guard Bureau; Maj. Gen. Tracy R. Norris, the adjutant general of Texas; and Maj. Alex Goldberg, TMDx managing director.

TMDx will utilize the Texas Guard’s position as the largest state military force in the country to leverage partnerships in industry and academia throughout the Texas innovation corridor to develop a new framework for military problem-solving.

Pilot Training Next, a technology-focused pilot preparation course founded in Austin, along with partnerships in construction, software programs and 3D printing technology, was just one of the TMDx noted successes highlighted during the event.

Lengyel focused on the 3D printing program during his remarks as he noted that Texas had won the National Guard Bureau’s national innovation competition. The program will allow F-16 maintainers to print replacement parts for the F-16 fighter aircraft, shortening logistical delays for parts and reducing costs.

“No one innovates like the National Guard and especially not like Texans,” said Lengyel. “This same technology was also able to print personal protective equipment and ventilator parts that we can use during our COVID-19 response.”

Speed and the ability to respond quickly to growing threats is imperative.

“It all comes down to needing to move faster,” said Goldberg. “Our adversaries are moving faster – faster in space, faster in hypersonic and faster in fielding commercial technology.”

The growing presence of near-peer threats are considered to be outpacing the U.S. in innovation.

“The status quo is comfortable, but what works today to ensure our national security will not be good enough for the challenges on the horizon,” said Norris. “The military moves slower than we would like and are moving away from a ‘no because’ mindset to a mindset of, ‘How do we get to yes?’”

The program’s launch in Austin will be a first step, according to Goldberg, who shared plans for expansion to San Antonio, Houston, Dallas, Ft. Worth and El Paso.