Posts in Category: Blog

To be called A Veteran

Commentary by: Capt. Martha Nigrelle

U.S. Army Soldiers conduct a patrol in Vietnam during the height of the Vietnam War. (Photo Courtesy of Department of Defense)
U.S. Army Soldiers conduct a patrol in Vietnam during the height of the Vietnam War. (Photo Courtesy of Department of Defense)

I have a friend named Cal. He is quick to smile, and quite dashing, even at 80. He’s one of those people that even after just one conversation you think, what an amazing person – I am so glad I met him! He just retired from his third career. He loves his God, he loves his wife and he loves his country – and all of this is evident in all that he does.

The funny thing about a lot of older veterans is that despite their fierce pride in the military and the men and women they served with, you might never know they are veterans. A very humble group of people – not quick to toot their own horn.

Cal’s first retirement was from the Army as a Chief Warrant Officer 3, after serving multiple tours in Vietnam. 

One night, after eating dinner, my husband and I got to share our own deployment stories with him and his wife. As it turned out, a lot of the things we remembered about our own deployments were pretty much the same, whether fighting in Vietnam or Iraq. Cal’s only response was “Sometimes, it’s good to talk to Army folk.”

And he is right. It is good to talk to Army folk. It’s good to talk to people who have gone through something that no one really gets unless they have done it themselves – it’s what truly makes us brothers and sisters in arms. 

My Uncle Terry is also a Vietnam veteran, he was a platoon leader and after only a few months in country, he was shot. Apparently, he almost died leading from the front and protecting his men. The doctors said that there was no logical explanation for him surviving- a real miracle.  The Marines awarded him the Silver Star. But all Uncle Terry ever told me was that being a Platoon Leader was the best job he ever had.

Then there is our friend Jack and his buddy Ed. I ate dinner with Jack and Ed the day Jack’s son, my husband’s best friend, was posthumously presented with the Distinguished Service Cross for tackling a suicide bomber and saving the lives of all of his Soldiers. 

I had the greatest time talking to Ed. He kept asking me questions about my time in the Army, and it never occurred to me to ask him much about himself. I found out later, Ed Freeman was a Medal of Honor recipient made famous in the movie “We Were Soldiers.” 

Ed and Jack flew together in Vietnam. On the same day that Ed disobeyed a direct order and flew into the battle of Ia Drang Valley, saving the lives of many Soldiers, Jack was on a mission elsewhere in the country.  

Not a word about this from either of them – both so humble.

People like Cal, Uncle Terry, Jack and Ed are who I think of when I think of Veterans. These are some of the best men I have ever known. They served their God, their family and their country with love in their hearts and no complaints. And when they think back on their military service – they remember fondly the phenomenal men and women they served alongside.

I’m not sure I will ever deserve to be lumped into the same category as them when my military career winds down, but I hope that our next generation of veterans will be able to look at me and say I lived up to this standard. If they do, then maybe I will have earned the title veteran. 

World War II-Close Assault Re-enactments Kick off Saturday

Close Assault 1944AUSTIN, Texas (November 3, 2015) – Close Assault 1944 will kick off on Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015 and conclude Sunday, Nov. 8, 2015 at Camp Mabry, in Austin, to honor the service and sacrifice of America’s veterans and focus on the history of the 36th Infantry Division, Texas Army National Guard, during World War II. Show times are at 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. both days.

The free program, now in its ninth year, features members of the Texas Military Department’s Living History Detachment exhibiting the uniform and equipment worn by the American GI in the European Theater of the Second World War, and those of his German opponent. In addition, the two-day event will provide guests the opportunity to witness firing demonstrations of the most famous U.S. and German small arms of World War II, as well as see everything from tents and radio equipment to GI baseball gloves and mess kits and operational vehicles such as an M4 Sherman Tank, M3 Halftrack and Jeeps. At the end of each hour and 15 minute program, the re-enactors will recreate a combined arms assault on a German held village, using small arms and automatic weapons as well as a Sherman tank, halftrack and jeeps.

The Brig. Gen. John C.L. Scribner Texas Military Forces Museum will be open to the public throughout the weekend as well as on Veterans Day with docents standing by to teach every visitor what it was like to fight or serve during the Texas Revolution, Civil War, World War I, World War II, Korea and the Cold War, as well as the story of today’s soldiers and airmen fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.  

This free event will take place rain or shine and bleachers will be available for seating. Camp Mabry is open to the public and adults only need to show a valid photo ID to enter post.

For detailed driving directions or more information please visit the museum’s web site at or call 512-782-5770.  The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and admission is free.

36th Division and the Choctow Code Talkers

Native Americans who were a part of the 36th DivisionPhoto and Commentary by 1st Lt. Alicia Lacy

The normal individual would never link Native Americans to World War I. And for Texas Military Department members, most don’t know the history of Native Americans who were a part of the 36th Division. During a brief program at Camp Mabry Oct. 21, Robert Bass, program director for the Great Promise for American Indians, and Sandy Duncan, a volunteer for the organization, told the history of Native Americans in the U.S. and their military contributions through storytelling and traditional Native American songs.
The TMD members learned of the Choctaw Indian Code Talkers of World War I. A group of 19 code talkers helped devise a system of communication to transmit messages, which the Germans were never able to decipher. Their contributions during World War I helped establish a standard for code talkers and they forever left their imprint on U.S. and Texas military history.

An Astonishing Victory: The legacy of the Texas Military Forces

Army National Guard gathered in the prolific shadow of the 567-foot San Jacinto MonumentCommentary by LT Zachary West 100th MPAD

LA PORTE, Texas – On a hot, humid morning in late September, the commanding officers of the Texas Army National Guard gathered in the prolific shadow of the 567-foot San Jacinto Monument.  One of the tour guides fished a Kentucky rifle out of his truck and began reviewing the specifications of the venerable nineteenth-century weapon. The temperature seemed to rise several degrees every minute, and with the heat came swarms of hungry mosquitos.

Thus began the annual Texas Army National Guard Commanding General’s Staff Ride. Since the first staff ride in 1906, at the Chattanooga battlefield in Tennessee, these events have served as a powerful and enduring tool to further the professional development of U.S. Army officers. Texas, with its particularly colorful and often violent history, offers plenty of sites to accommodate Army staff rides.

This year’s location holds a special place in the heart of every Texan:  San Jacinto, where Gen. Sam Houston and the last of his embattled Texan rebels mounted a daring and strategically devastating assault against an overextended Mexican invasion force. After just 18 minutes of combat, 11 Texans and some 650 Mexicans had fallen.

Despite this astonishing victory, the true triumph came shortly after:  Gen. Santa Anna, the totalitarian leader of Mexico, fell into Texan hands twenty-four hours later. Chased out of his camp by the Texans’ attack at San Jacinto, Santa Anna donned the clothes of a junior enlisted soldier and went on the run. He was soon picked up by a Texan patrol, but his identity remained a secret until he arrived at a hasty camp for Mexican prisoners.

“He had spent so long inculcating extreme drill and protocol into the ranks of his army,” the tour guide told the commanders, “that his men didn’t think twice about saluting him and calling out his name in front of their captors.” The Texans brought Santa Anna to Sam Houston, who gave the Mexican leader an ultimatum:  Sign a treaty granting full independence to Texas, or hang by the neck from the nearest live oak. After three weeks of negotiation, the disgraced Santa Anna signed an agreement, and the Republic of Texas was born.

One hundred seventy-nine years later, no one would call the Texas Army National Guard an underdog. From the mounted charges of the Mexican-American War to the brutal Comanche ambushes atop the Llano Estacado, from the perilous landing in the Gulf of Salerno to the nighttime raids in Korengal Valley, Texas military and irregular forces have earned a reputation as fearsome, cunning warfighters. Yet, every victory traces back to that warm April morning in 1836, when an exhausted, badly-outnumbered group of rebels managed to defeat one of the greatest armies in North America.

The officers at the staff ride who stood and listened to the history of this battle are the collective embodiment of its legacy. They may have arrived in helicopters and taken digital photos with smart phones, but the reason they wear the uniform hasn’t changed in almost two centuries. Staff rides like this remind them that they might one day be in Sam Houston’s shoes, with the odds never worse and the stakes never higher.  If, or perhaps when, that day comes, they must echo the raw determination and deadly cunning of our Texan ancestors, who, beneath the San Jacinto sky, won the right to call themselves free in a storm of fire and blood.

TAG Talks: LTC Michelle Bryant

Lt. Col. Michelle Bryant speaks about Texas Army National Guard women soldiers, primary caregivers and services. TAG Talks are a series of unique presentations put together by students in The Adjutant General's Executive Leadership Development Program offering the perspective of future Senior leaders of the Texas Military Forces.

Houston Local Promoted to Brigadier General

 Col. Richard Noriega, Assistant Division Commander for Support of the 36th Infantry Division, Texas Army National Guard, was promoted to the rank of brigadier general during a ceremonyCommentary and photo by MAJ Randy Stillinger

HOUSTON (Sept. 30, 2015) – Col. Richard Noriega, Assistant Division Commander for Support of the 36th Infantry Division, Texas Army National Guard, was promoted to the rank of brigadier general during a ceremony on Sept. 26, 2015 in Houston.

Deputy Adjutant General and Commander of the Texas Army National Guard, Maj. Gen. William “Len” Smith, promoted Noriega to the one-star rank in the shadow of the San Jacinto Monument with many friends, family members and colleagues present.

After enlisting as a private in the Army Reserves, Noriega received his Army Commission in 1984 through the University of Houston ROTC.

Over the course of his military career, he has deployed to Afghanistan and along the Texas-Mexico border during Operation Jump Start. He has also commanded units at the platoon, company, battalion and brigade levels, most recently serving as the commander of the 71st Theater Information Operations Group. He is now responsible for all support activity within the 36th Infantry Division.

On the civilian side, Noriega is the President and Chief Executive Officer of AVANCE, Inc., a non-profit organization that offers early childhood education, parenting and comprehensive family services to families. Noriega also served five terms representing District 145 in the Texas State House of Representatives from 1999 to 2009.

During the ceremony, Noriega thanked the friends, family and his colleagues that were in attendance, and also recognized his 3rd grade teacher, who was also present for the promotion.  

Noriega, who was born and raised in Houston, said, “with this rank comes a responsibility to talk to young Soldiers and ensure they know that if they work really hard, they can have opportunity and achieve their dreams.”

“He’s achieved a lot of things that we knew he’d be able to do, and he has strived to provide the best opportunity for those coming up behind him,” said Maj. Gen. Les Simpson, commanding general of the 36th Infantry Division. “I appreciate your hard work in all you do, and look forward to serving with you over the years.”

The event was family-focused with his mother, Tommie placing the new shoulder boards upon his uniform and his sons presenting him with traditional gifts: Ricky Noriega gave him with the signature general officer belt with brass buckle and Alex Noriega unfurled a red flag with a white star, symbolizing the new rank.

I want to dedicate this day to the rock of our family, my mother, who celebrated her 84th birthday this week,” Noriega said. “My mother was the drill sergeant in the house, and she embraced it.  Mom, this day is for you.” 

Texas Army National Guard G6 Deputy Chief of Staff Retires

 retirement ceremony honoring Col. Brian HammernessCommentary and photo by: Michelle McBride
Texas Military Forces Public Affairs

CAMP MABRY, Texas  – The Texas Military Forces held a retirement ceremony honoring Col. Brian Hammerness, G6 deputy chief of staff for the Texas Army National Guard, at Camp Mabry, in Austin, Sept. 3, 2015.

“I wanted to celebrate my retirement in a place where a lot of memories were made,” said Hammerness, “and what better place than here.”

Hammerness received his commission through the Core of Cadets program at Texas A&M University as an armor officer in May of 1984.

Among various command positions Hammerness held, his service includes Chief of Future Operations, 49th Armor Division, Bosnia Herzegovina; Executive Officer 56th Brigade Combat Team, Iraq and Red Team Leader ISAF Joint Command, Afghanistan.  His last assignment was as the deputy chief of staff, G6 for Joint Forces Headquarters – Texas.

Throughout his career Hammerness has been awarded the Bronze Star, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, Joint Service Commendation Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Joint Service Achievement Medal, Army Achievement Medal, Army Reserve Components Achievement Medal, National Defense Medal, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, War on Terrorism Service Medal, Armed Forces Reserve Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Army Overseas Service Ribbon, NATO Medal and the Combat Action Badge, the Lone Star Distinguished Service Medal, Texas Outstanding Service Medal, Texas Medal of Merit, Adjutant General’s Individual Award, Federal Service Medal, Faithful Service Award, Humanitarian Service Ribbon and the Combat Service Ribbon.

His military education consists of the Armor Officers Basic and Advanced Courses, the Combined Arms Services and Staff School, Command and General Staff College and the U.S. Army War College.  Hammerness also holds a Masters of Business Administration from the University of Dallas and a Masters of Strategic Studies from the U.S. Army War College.

Hammerness now looks forward to spending time with his wife, Rena, and three daughters: Amanda, Paige and Emma.

“I will miss you all,” said Hammerness, “but I am confident that I am leaving you in good hands.”

TAG Talks: LTC Ross Davis

On this edition of TAG Talks, LTC Ross Davis speaks about the Adult Learning Theory and the differences between Pedagogy Learning and Andragogy Learning. TAG Talks are a series of unique presentations put together by students in The Adjutant General's Executive Leadership Development Program offering the perspective of future Senior leaders of the Texas Military Forces.



Leadership Philosophy and Expectations of LeadersCommentary by Robert T. Hastings

Next month I will pass the Regimental colors to a new leader for the organization I have had the honor and privilege of commanding for the past three years.  As I reflect upon my personal learning during this time and focus on my next duty assignment, I re-read the command philosophy letter I published when I first joined the unit.   I still think it’s a pretty good framework for leaders of both military and non-military units alike.   I don’t take credit for all of this as original work; I borrowed liberally from other leaders I have known and worked for over the past 30 years.

Subject:  Leadership Philosophy and Expectations of Leaders

Command is a privilege and it is an honor for me to join you as commander of the 19th Regiment.  The most important and sacred responsibility entrusted to an officer or noncommissioned officer is the privilege of leading others in execution of an important mission.  We must never forget that others depend upon us, they look to us for guidance and to set the example, and when we ask them to go in harm’s way they and their families expect us to lead them back home safely.

This memorandum outlines my leadership philosophy and expectations of you, the leaders of this Regiment.

I define my leadership philosophy simply as People First: Mission Always.

I developed this philosophy as I advanced through several levels of responsibility within the Army, from platoon to regiment and across a wide range of missions.  This philosophy recognizes that the most valuable and important resource a leader has to accomplish the mission are people.  I believe that well-trained, highly-motivated and performance-oriented people provided with clear guidance and direction can accomplish any mission and will exceed our expectations every time. People first.

But the reason any organization exists is to accomplish a mission.  If we fail to accomplish our mission then nothing else matters; nothing.  I believe a leader’s principle focus must always be on successful execution of the mission. Mission always.

Obviously people and mission are inextricably linked; you cannot succeed in one without the other.  People First: Mission Always has provided me a sense of balance with two equal priorities that are mutually supportive.  We must excel at both to excel as an organization.

We are not a combat organization, but I do believe deeply in the Warrior Ethos and that it is equally applicable to the culture we must build within this Regiment to be successful.

The Warrior Ethos is:
•I will always place the mission first.
•I will never accept defeat.
•I will never quit.
•I will never leave a fallen comrade.

 I expect each of you to learn it, live it and teach it.

These are my expectations of you as leaders in this Regiment:
1.Communicate: Good communication is the hallmark of a great leader.  Whether it comes easy for you or not, it is your responsibility to ensure each and every member of your team knows what is expected of them at all times.  Our mission will take us into the unknown, and you and your teams will be asked at times to operate in ambiguous and chaotic conditions.  I expect leaders to use the troop leading procedures to create and communicate well-developed plans and orders, and to provide clear guidance and direction.   

2.Build trust & teamwork: Trust is earned not given, through deeds not words.  It extends laterally and vertically, both ways.  Trust is inherent in the strength of our collective character and is an essential element of leadership and successful mission execution.  I must trust you, you must trust your troops, and they must trust one another and the entire leadership team.  Trust is the glue that bonds individuals into a team and once lost is never regained.  Military operations are a team sport, or more accurately, a ‘team of teams’ sport.  I am not impressed by high-performing individuals; we need high-performing teams.

3.Provide clarity through intent: “Commander’s intent” might be the most important leadership tactic ever developed.  Long practiced in the Army, it is now taught at premier leadership schools and universities to include the Harvard Business School.  Commander’s intent enables action and initiative.  When your subordinates know how you define success, it allows them to think on their feet, to achieve mission success in light of changing situations, and to focus on achieving an end-state which everyone understands.

4.Take prudent risks: Our mission is high risk.  I expect leaders to accept prudent risk when necessary; make every effort to assess, mitigate and minimize risks; and ensure that risk decisions are made at the appropriate levels.  As a leader I expect you to practice risk assessment continually so that you can be confidently aggressive in your mission execution without gambling with the safety of our troopers.  Safety must always remain at the forefront of our minds.

5.Lead in difficult situations: This is where you earn your stripes.  As a leader you must be a role model for others.  You are viewed as the example and must maintain standards and provide examples of effective behaviors.  When leaders model the organization’s values, they provide tangible evidence of desired behaviors and reinforce verbal guidance by demonstrating commitment and action.  I expect you to be timely and decisive in your decisions especially when the going gets tough.  If you don’t lead your team someone else will.

6.Perform under stress: Regardless of how difficult or stressful the situation may become, you must perform.  Your subordinates and peers will watch your every move to see if you can handle the stress.  Self-confident leaders breed self-confident troops.  It is important that they are confident that when you take them into danger you will perform well and will lead them back to safety.  They will not follow you if they do not have confidence in you.

7.Grow future leaders: I believe leaders don’t occur naturally, at least not in the quantity we need.  Leaders are grown and developed.  A large part of how I evaluate you as a leader is the way you develop your subordinates.  Every member of this Regiment is a leader in training for the next level of responsibility.  It is our job as leaders to bring the next generation along and develop those that will replace us.  We do this through training, coaching and mentoring, and by providing challenging opportunities to grow and develop.

8.Exhibit unimpeachable integrity and character: Integrity is non-negotiable – I will not tolerate breaches.  Effective leaders are truthful in both word and deed.  I expect leaders to be morally and ethically upright and to be positive role-models at all times.

9.Adapt, innovate, and take the initiative: As a leader, I expect you to be a self-starter, to act when there are no clear orders, and to adapt when the situation changes or the plan falls apart – because it will!

10.Drive standards, discipline, and fitness: Discipline is not merely the obedience of orders; it is adherence to standards, the pursuit of excellence, and development of a collective will in a team that enables mission success.  I expect leaders to embrace the high standards of our organization for yourselves and your teams, and to develop a culture of discipline that builds cohesion and self-confidence among the troops.  Finally, I expect leaders to be physically and emotionally fit to lead.  Go to the Army website and read about the five Dimensions of Strength.

In summary, let me say how honored and proud I am to be serving with you.  This Regiment has a solid reputation, directly attributable to the hard work of each of you.  Together we’ll make it better.  The leaders and citizens of Texas depend on us.  Our missions demand confident leaders, trained and ready troopers, and an aggressive, determined spirit.  You have proven time and again that you can exceed every expectation.

I look forward to serving with you and meeting the challenges ahead.

TAG Talks: Curtis De Keyrel

On this edition of TAG Talks Curtis De Keyrel speaks about how the Air Guard and Active Air Force use their assets. TAG Talks are a series of unique presentations put together by students in The Adjutant General's Executive Leadership Development Program offering the perspective of future Senior leaders of the Texas Military Forces.