Posts in Category: Blog

TXMF sign Sexual Assault Awareness

Story by: Capt. Martha Nigrelle and Michelle McBride

Photos by: TSgt Phillip Fountain

Sign Sexual Assault Awareness(AUSTIN, Texas) April 4, 2014 – Maj. Gen. John Nichols, the Texas Adjutant General and Command Sgt. Maj. Richard Milford, Senior Enlisted Advisor Texas Army National Guard, signed a proclamation declaring April Sexual Assault Awareness Month within the Texas Military Forces during a ceremony at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas, April 4, 2014.

The ceremony focused on spreading awareness in order to increase prevention of sexual assaults.    

“One is too many,” said Amy Allen, the guest speaker for the event  and community organizer for Safe Place, a nonprofit organization that works with victims of sexual and domestic violence. “Sexual violence is preventable. It takes everyone to get involved.”

Nichols encouraged service members to take action against sexual assault.

“Sexual assault is worse than bad,” Nichols said. “It has no place in our community, on our Texas Military Forces team.”

Nichols advised service members not to be naïve in thinking that sexual predators aren’t in their midst. He encouraged service members to watch out for themselves as well as their battle buddies and wingmen, and to stop behavior that could lead to sexual assault immediately.

To better support its members, the Texas Military Forces created the Sexual Assault Prevention and Report Program which focuses on education in order to spread awareness.

Lt. Col. James Castleman, Sexual Assault Response Coordinator, 136th Airlift Wing, Texas Air National Guard, said that the program provides resources to victims of sexual assault including access to follow on care for both counseling and medical support and assisting commanders in working with victims to ensure they are treated fairly and not discriminated against.

The program is scheduled to host several events this month aimed at spreading awareness amongst the force. Among those is a Sexual Assault Prevention 5K hosted by the 136th at the Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth, April 18, 2014 at 1100.

Another event, Denim Day, is aimed at debunking many of the myths surrounding sexual assaults. It is scheduled for April 23, 2014 on Camp Mabry.

“Today’s ceremony is very important,” Castleman said, “because it shows that the Adjutant General is committing to reducing the number of sexual assaults in the Texas Military Forces as well as increasing awareness of the issues faced by Texas Military Forces members.”

Free tax services at Camp Mabry!

Commentary by: Michelle McBride

Every year the deadline to file taxes seems to sneak up on us, and this year is no exception. If April 15th is approaching too fast for you, then maybe the Texas Military Forces IRS-Certified volunteers can help.

Starting Feb. 8, 2014 through April 8, 2014, the Legal Assistance team at Camp Mabry will be helping Service members, veterans and dependents file their taxes free of charge.

The Soldiers in Legal Assistance are certified through an IRS training program and are able to provide customers with E-filing as well as direct deposit for returns. Most people who have worked with them have received their returns in about a two week period.

To be eligible for this service you must be one of the following:

-Military Identification Card holding member of the Texas Military Forces or Reserve
-A retiree or surviving dependent spouse

Along with these requirements you must also have a combined household income BELOW $60,000. However, eligibility exceptions will be given on a case-by-case basis. 
If you meet eligibility requirements or have any other questions contact Legal Assistance at 512-782-1169 or email them at

Military Women in Transition event coming to Camp Mabry

Commentary by: Michelle McBride

What will you do when you or your spouse decide to retire? How do you disconnect from what you have always known and handle the transition into a civilian workforce? Where do you start? These are the big questions many women in our Texas Military Forces are asking themselves daily. What some women may not know is that there are others with similar backgrounds willing to offer assistance in preparing for these big changes.

On Sunday, Feb. 16, 2014, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., the Texas Military Family Support Services will host a “Military Women in Transition” event at Camp Mabry in Austin, TX. According to Shandra Sponsler, deputy branch manager of Family Support Services, the event is meant to help women in all phases of the job search, or career enhancement process, learn valuable skills. The plan is to teach attendees vital skills through a series of activities such as mock interviews to help prepare for the real thing.

“Since Sept. 11, 2001, more than 33,000 Texas National Guardsmen have been called to active duty to serve their Country,” Sponsler said. “Upon their return, many need help transitioning from active duty to life as a civilian- particularly in recent years where a tough economy combined with limited job opportunities has made finding gainful employment especially difficult.”
The event schedule includes presentations, workshops, resource booths, roundtables with hiring managers, and a professional clothing closet for participants to ‘shop’ for FREE new or gently worn career-related outfits.

This is a free event which includes refreshments and youth activities for kids 6 and up. If you would like to attend please register at For more information, please contact Shandra Sponsler at or 512-782-5771.

This event is open to all branches of service.

Diversity in the Texas National Guard Reflects MLK’s Vision


Story by: Spc. Michael Giles, 100th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

Diveristy, MLKIt is not everyday that a man or woman gets the opportunity to voice their opinion to the masses. Even less likely is the occurrence that not only is the message heard, but repeated time and time again to the point that the original speaker becomes a household name and the message legendary. Such are the words spoken by Dr. Martin Luther King on that fateful day in 1963 on the steps of the Lincoln memorial in the nation’s capital in Washington, D.C.

King came from humble beginnings in Alabama, but even as a young man, he seemed destined for greatness.  Born January 1929 in Atlanta, Georgia, King began breaking boundaries as a teenager. His scores on college entrance exams were so exceptional that he skipped high school graduation and entered Morehouse College at the age of 15. With a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology, King entered seminary in 1948 and went on to become the third generation Baptist minister following his father and grandfather.  

King was well known as a passionate and charismatic public speaker throughout his life and ultimately became recognized as one of the nation’s most significant civil rights leaders.  King is known by most for his involvement in the bus boycott that led to the 1956 Supreme Court declaration that bus segregation was unconstitutional and for the march on the Washington Mall where he delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech. His leadership was instrumental in helping the United States achieve its current level of racial equality, which is reflected in the diversity of the Texas Army National Guard.

Recognition and celebration of King’s contributions include the Nobel Peace Prize, which he received in 1964, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal, which were awarded posthumously to him in 1977 and 2004. There are an estimated 700 streets in 39 states that are named after him, and the third Monday in January every year has been declared a national holiday in his honor.

Cpl. Cornelius T. Rivers, a counterintelligence agent with the Headquarters Command 71st Theater Information Operations Group, appreciates the racial diversity he sees among the high-ranking Soldiers he works with.

 “I don’t think that would have been possible had it not been for Martin Luther King,” said Rivers. 

“His speech was not just for African Americans,” he said, referring to King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. “It was equal opportunity for everyone.”

Sgt. Maj. Wilson L. Early, 36th Infantry Division’s former command sergeant majorsaid that he has seen the military become more mindful of diversity since he enlisted in 1979.

“We come from all walks of life, with many experiences,” he said. “Bringing this all together and making it work takes leaders with the mindset of mission first and the understanding that any one of us can become the leaders of tomorrow.”

Early said that the Army needs to continue making opportunities for all to succeed.  “We have had diversity at the highest levels in the Texas Army National Guard and our Army,” he said. “When Soldiers see Senior Leaders that look like them and come from the same background as them, we all do better as an Army.”

Early said that living in and creating an Army that reflects Dr. King’s dream is an ongoing process.

“The dream continues,” he said. “As we continue to make strides in this direction the dream continues to move. We have some great leaders making good decisions for the future of our Army.  Trust in them.”

Before there were wind talkers, Texas had the Choctaw code talkers

Commentary by: Capt. Martha C. Nigrelle

Choctaw Code TalkerThroughout our Texas Military Forces (TXMF) history, Native American Soldiers have made numerous unique and significant contributions to our force. 

During World War I, members of the Choctaw tribe fought with the 36th Infantry Division, many serving as “code talkers.” According to the TXMF Museum, the German Army was often successful in tapping the American Army’s phone lines during the war, enabling the Germans to know the locations of both troops and supplies.

The tides changed for the German Army when the 36th Infantry Division introduced their Choctaw code talkers.  The TXMF Museum’s records show a Ms. Mozelle Dawson of Coalinga, Calif., memoirs of her father, Albert Billy, a Choctaw warrior, and Soldier of the Texas Army National Guard,

“According to Mozelle Dawson of Coalinga, California, her father, Albert Billy, suggested to his commanding officer that the Choctaw language be used to confuse the enemy. She said Billy had the idea that Indians be used on the phone lines talking in their native dialect. This would confuse anyone tapping into the lines. As it turned out, the Germans were more than just a little confused, and after the Choctaw Code Talkers were put on the phones, the Germans immediately began losing.

“Ms. Dawson said her father told her that during the night, some Germans were captured, and a General of the German Army said that he would like to ask just one question: ‘What nationality was on the phones that night?’ The only reply that this German officer received was that it was only Americans that had been on the phones.”

Billy served in the 142nd Infantry, a regiment of the 36th Infantry Division.

For more information on the Choctaw code talkers, visit the TXMF Museum website:

The Month of the Military Family - Strong Families, Strong Servicemembers

Commentary by: Staff Sgt. Jennifer Atkinson

Military families monthThere is no doubting the fact that military life can be hard on families, especially children.  Field problems, long hours, and deployments can take a heavy toll on both the service member and their family.

To help lessen the effects of stress on families, the Texas Army National Guard’s Child & Youth Program offers programs to help develop teambuilding, communication and life skills, and to encourage children to pursue higher education.

“Everything we do is fun,” said Brandon J. Savoy, the program’s child and youth coordinator.

Yellow Ribbon events are available - they are family-oriented workshops provided before, during and after deployments.

From fishing camps in March, to Camp Young Heroes in June, the Child & Youth Program offers opportunities throughout the year.

“These things help build family resiliency,” said Savoy.  “Knowing what’s going on and what’s going to happen helps the kids.”

For more information, contact the TXARNG Child & Youth Program on Facebook at or Brandon J. Savoy directly at or 512-782-1245.


November is Warrior Care Month

Texas Medical Command makes transition easier for Wounded Warriors

By Capt. Martha C. Nigrelle

Warrior care monthThe Medical Evaluation Board, or MEB, is known for being a long and arduous process.  For traditional guardsmen, this process if often even longer and more difficult, but for wounded warriors in the Texas Military Forces (TXMF), in the last year the MEB process became much easier.

According to Army Sgt. Gabriel Martinez, the Noncommissioned Officer in Charge (NCOIC) of behavioral health and assistant NCOIC of case management for Medical Command, in just one year, Medical Command, or Med Command, increased the number of packets submitted to the Medical Board by 200%.

After assuming command of Med Command in 2012, Army Col. John P. Drobnica, a licensed physician assistant, and Col. Robert Ferry, the Texas State Army Surgeon, spent their 2012 annual training period evaluating the Med Command system for submitting MEB packets.  Their goal was to figure out a way to make the transition process easier for Texas Army National Guard wounded warriors.  Ferry is the former Deputy Commander for Med Command, as well as, a licensed pediatric-endocrinologist. They are both traditional guardsmen who live and work in their communities as medical professionals.

“I really appreciate Col. Drobnica because he listened to us,” said Martinez.

Martinez went on to discuss how both Drobnica and Ferry took time to ask the Soldiers in Med Command what issues they saw and how they thought things could be improved.  “[Drobnica and Ferry] went down into the weeds and said ‘how can we change the weeds?’”

“The biggest challenge, once [the service member] is injured, is getting them through the process,” said Lt. Col. Brian Weber, the Division Surgeon for 36th Infantry Division, Texas Army National Guard, also a licensed Physician Assistant. 

Compounding an already long MEB process, before the packet is submitted, numerous doctor appointments and paperwork have to be completed. Additionally, according to Weber, this can become a confusing process.

“It’s all of the little steps – that is the biggest challenge,” said Weber.

Changes in Med Command’s process started with a trip to Florida, and continued with improvement in training, as well as the effective utilization of the medical readiness NCOIC.

“[Drobnica] took us to Pinella’s Park, Fla., where the National Guard MEB convenes to meet the providers who conduct the [initial review of the] MEB. We went three times. This helped us, in case management, leaps and bounds,” said Martinez.

Martinez went on to discuss the next step implemented – a mock MEB. Each month during Med Command drill, a panel of National Guard providers, with an array of medical background and expertise, review the packets assembled by case management as if it were the MEB.

“It’s where our full time support meets our M-Day support,” said Martinez, adding that the process has helped case management improve the quality of each MEB packet before it is submitted to Pinella’s Park.

Additional training was the next step taken to improve this process. Ferry oversaw the creation of the Texas Military Forces (TXMF) Provider Battle Book and User’s Guide. The book is tailored to the guardsman medical officer with little experience on TXMF systems and the MEB.

In addition to the battle book, training for the readiness NCO was added. Martinez said that this training has been instrumental in making the MEB process faster and smoother for the service member or wounded warrior. “Increasing the knowledge pool means there are more people that can help facilitate the process.”

The last change was fully integrating the medical readiness NCO with the MEB process. The medical readiness NCO is a full-time position at the battalion and/or brigade level and is focused to work one-on-one with the wounded warrior on their medical readiness to ensure that the MEB packet is initiated and completed as quickly and as accurately as possible.

Martinez credited Drobnica and Ferry for their leadership in implementing and enforcing all of these much needed changes.

For both Drobnica and Ferry, it is all about the mission – improving that transition process.

"We help people transition forward. Life moves forward, not backward,” said Ferry.

For questions regarding the MEB process in the Texas Army National Guard, call the unit Medical Readiness NCO or Case Management at 512-782-4206/5892.

Depression and Domestic Violence Prevention and Awareness

By: Capt. Martha Nigrelle

Depression awareness and Domest violence prevenetionOctober is National Depression Awareness and National Domestic Violence Prevention Awareness Month. 

“It is important to help others find professional care who may have undiagnosed or uncontrolled depression and are showing obvious signs,” said Army Capt. Hunter Smith, Resilience, Risk, Reduction, and Suicide Prevention Officer in Charge. “These people are hurting and need help.  We would assist someone with an obvious physical injury in need of medical care, so why not one who is suffering emotionally?”

The Texas Military Forces (TXMF) has a number of resources available to assist any member of our TXMF family who may be suffering from depression or the victim of domestic violence.  Licensed therapists and counselors are available 24-hours a day to respond to calls, and to provide long-term and short-term counseling to those in need.

“Our counseling line is for people who need to talk or are having a crisis,” said Jo Ann Brandon, TXMF Director of Psychological Health.

It is also important to help your friends.  Knowing how to recognize and report the symptoms of depression and domestic violence could result in saving a life.  If you see any of the following symptoms in one of your battle buddies or wingmen, report it to get that service member help.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, common signs of depression include:

  • Loss of interest
  • Trouble sleeping or eating and excessive sleeping or overeating – that does not go away or continues to get worse
  • Persistent sad, anxious or “empty” feelings
  • Thoughts of suicide or suicide attempts
  • Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness

If you, or someone you know, are experiencing depression or thoughts of suicide, call the 24-hour TXMF Counseling line at 512-782-5069 (if voicemail picks up, your call will be returned within the hour), the national Suicide Prevention hotline at 1-800-273-TALK, or the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 to speak with an experienced counselor.

According to East Texas Crisis Center, common signs of domestic violence include the following behaviors being inflicted on a person:

  • Destructive Criticism/Verbal Abuse
  • Intimidation and Manipulation
  • Abusing Authority
  • Disrespect
  • Abusing Trust
  • Breaking Promises
  • Emotional Withholding
  • Minimizing, Denying & Blaming
  • Economic Control
  • Self-Destructive Behavior
  • Isolation
  • Harassment
  • Destruction
  • Threats
  • Sexual and Physical Violence

If you, or someone you know is the victim of domestic violence, call 512-782-5069 to speak with a TXMF counselor. If it is a medical emergency, call 911.

Austin area Youth graduate from TXMF STARBASE Summer Program

by 1st Lt. Martha Nigrelle

CAMP MABRY, Texas – 20 children graduated from the Texas Military Forces (TXMF) STARBASE program here in Austin, Texas, June 28, 2013. The weeklong program for the youth of Camp Mabry employees gave the fifth and sixth graders hands-on learning enrichment in science, technology, engineering, and math.

STARBASE is a program that helps students, between 6 and 18 years of age, improve their math and science skills “through experiential learning, simulations, and experiments in aviation and space-related fields.” 

Students said one of the favorite activities during the week was an egg experiment.  Children had to design a parachute for their egg.  After dropping their egg from a designated location, the eggs were inspected and placed into categories, such as “survivor,” “major surgery” and “dead.” According to the children, only one egg was pronounced dead and only one needed major surgery. 

Another class favorite was said to be “the robot.”  After reporting that the class had programmed the robot to crush the Lincoln Memorial, one student stated, “don’t worry, it was just a model of the Lincoln Memorial, not the real thing!”

Col. Pat Hamilton, The Adjutant General’s Chief of Staff, spoke to the students during the graduation.

“You are the future,” Hamilton said. “You are going to invent things we can’t even imagine.  That’s why it is important to get interested in science and math. Thank you for coming out.  We are really proud of you for everything you have done.”

As each student was presented with a Certificate of Achievement and a STARBASE medal by Maj. Gen. John F. Nichols, The Adjutant General of Texas, it was evident that many of the students felt the same way.

Texas Governor's "Disaster Center" Website

"In Texas, we hope for the best, but prepare for the worst, and Texans can be assured that no state is more prepared than ours to handle the full spectrum of threats, including man-made and natural disasters. Our emergency response team in Texas is second to none, an effort that speaks to the dedication and abilities of our emergency planners, the courage of those who willingly head into danger while everyone else flees, and the essential generosity of our citizens." (Courtesy of the Office of the Governor)