Posts in Category: Blog

Texas Military Department Announces New Air Guard Commander

Maj. Gen. John F. Nichols, the Adjutant General of TexasAUSTIN, Texas (November 18, 2015) – Maj. Gen. John F. Nichols, the Adjutant General of Texas, is pleased to announce Brig. Gen. David McMinn has been named the Commander of the Texas Air National Guard (TXANG), following the retirement of Maj. Gen. Kenneth W. Wisian.

McMinn received his commission upon graduation from Clemson University in 1985, completed Undergraduate Pilot Training and was assigned to Pope AFB, North Carolina as a C-130E pilot in 1986. While there, McMinn specialized in Low Altitude Parachute Extraction System Tactical Air Delivery and Adverse Weather Aerial Delivery System formation flying.

After serving during Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm, McMinn transferred to the TXANG and joined the 136th Airlift Wing as an instructor pilot and later served as the 321st Expeditionary Operations Group Commander during operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom. He has also served as the Operations Group, Vice Wing, and Wing Commander in the 136th Airlift Wing. As a traditional Guardsman, McMinn has gained over 5,000 flying hours both in his role as a command pilot in the T-37, T-38, C-130E and C-130H2 aircraft and as a captain for a major commercial airline. He most recently served as the Chief of Staff for the TXANG.

As Commander of the TXANG, McMinn commands more than 3,000 service members and oversees TXANG operations, training, readiness and resource allocation for both state and federal missions.

The appointment follows the recent announcement regarding the retirement of Maj. Gen. Kenneth W. Wisian, Deputy Adjutant General-Air and Commander of the TXANG. Wisian is retiring with more than 32 years of service to the state and nation, including tours of duty in the Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan. He now serves as director of the Coastal Protection division of the office of the Texas General Land Office.

Details regarding a change of command and/or retirement ceremonies for the above individuals are forthcoming.

Texas Military Department Announces Deputy Adjutant General-Air Appointee

Maj. Gen. John F. Nichols, the Adjutant General of TexasAUSTIN, Texas (November 18, 2015) Maj. Gen. John F. Nichols, the Adjutant General of Texas, is pleased to announce Col. Dawn Ferrell, of Wichita Falls, has been named the Deputy Adjutant General-Air for the Texas Military Department, effective immediately, following the retirement of Maj. Gen. Kenneth W. Wisian.

Gov. Greg Abbott made the appointment Friday, Nov. 13, 2015. Ferrell earned a bachelor's degree and master's degree from Midwestern State University and a doctorate degree from the University of North Texas. She joined the Texas Air National Guard (TXANG) in 1983, commissioning through the Air National Guard's Academy of Military Science in 1994.

Since 2009, Ferrell has served as the Commander for the Mission Support Group of the 136th Airlift Wing for the TXANG based at the Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base. In 2013, she deployed to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) Headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan, serving in a joint North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) billet as Director of Plans and Logistics Operations, where she was responsible for strategic level oversight for logistics planning, sustainment and redeployment of United States and NATO forces for the ISAF mission.

As the Deputy Adjutant General, Ferrell is the state’s senior Air Guard official appointed by the governor and serves as the principal advisor to the Adjutant General on all matters concerning the TXANG. 

The appointment follows the recent announcement regarding the retirement of Maj. Gen. Kenneth W. Wisian, Deputy Adjutant General-Air and Commander of the TXANG. Wisian is retiring with more than 32 years of service to the state and nation, including tours of duty in the Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan. He now serves as director of the Coastal Protection division of the office of the Texas General Land Office.

Details regarding a change of responsibility and/or retirement ceremonies for the above individuals are forthcoming.

 

Air Day held in San Antonio

149th Fighter Wing, at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, Oct. 15, 2015Commentary and photo by Michelle McBride
Texas Military Department Public Affairs Office

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas – Members of the Texas Air National Guard welcomed distinguished visitors and community leaders to the 149th Fighter Wing, at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, Oct. 15, 2015.

The event was part of the Texas ANG’s annual “Air Day” to showcase and educate their civilian leaders on the organization’s state and federal capabilities.

“We are an integral part of all of the operations the U.S. military does all over the world,” said Maj. Gen. Kenneth W. Wisian, Deputy Adjutant General for Air and Commander of the Texas Air National Guard. “Texans are flying combat missions day in and day out.” 

During the event, the attendees were able to interact with Texas ANG’s leadership as well as Citizen-Airmen assigned to their three air wings, which are located in Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio.

The mission of the Fort Worth-based 136th Airlift Wing is to provide tactical air support, via the C-130 Hercules aircraft, at home and abroad. The unit currently has personnel and aircraft deployed overseas.

The 147th Reconnaissance Wing, based in Houston, operates the MQ-1 Predator remotely piloted aircraft to provide critical support for overseas contingency operations.

Additionally, the 149th Fighter Wing’s primary federal mission is to train combat-ready pilots – active duty, Guard and Reserve – to employ the F-16 Fighting Falcon. Attendees had the opportunity to view the F-16 up-close and view them take off for a training mission.

When activated by the Governor of Texas, the Air Wings have the ability to assist state and local officials respond to disaster relief and humanitarian aid missions with medical and other logistical support.

Another mission of the Texas Air National Guard includes protecting cyberspace. Texas Airmen from the 273rd Information Operations Squadron, based in San Antonio, were on-hand to highlight their unique partnership with the U.S. Air Force and the National Security Agency to protect the nation’s digital infrastructure.

The Texas Air National Guard leaders also pointed out the unique value they bring to the nation’s defense.

“Why do we need the National Guard? Because of our combat force and our tremendous value to the tax payer,” Wisian said. “We do everything the (Air Force) Reserve does, but also accomplish state missions.”

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 www.texasmilitaryforcesmuseum.org 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.”