Posts in Category: Blog

Minuteman Brigade welcomes new commander

Col. Scott Mac Leod will assume command of the Texas National Guard’s Joint Task Force 136 (Maneuver Enhancement Brigade)Commentary by TXMF Staff

ROUND ROCK, Texas (June 17, 2015) – On Saturday, June 20, 2015, Col. Scott Mac Leod will assume command of the Texas National Guard’s Joint Task Force 136 (Maneuver Enhancement Brigade) from Col. Lee Schnell at a ceremony beginning at 2:30 p.m. at the Round Rock Armed Forces Reserve Center in Round Rock, Texas.

Mac Leod, of Austin, received his commission in 1992 from the Texas State Military Academy.       He is a career Infantry Officer, and has served in numerous key assignments, including as the Commander of Company A, 1st Battalion of the 141st Infantry Regiment, the Tiger Team Deputy Brigade S1, 36th Combat Aviation Brigade, commander for the 1st Battalion of the 141st Infantry Regiment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, deputy commander of the 136th Regional Training Institute for the Texas Army National Guard, and most recently, the Chief of Staff for Domestic Operations. Awards include the Bronze Star Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal with three oak leaf clusters, the Army Commendation Medal with four oak leaf clusters, the Iraqi Campaign Medal - 2nd award, and many others.

Mac Leod graduated from Sam Houston State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice in 1994. In 2003, he graduated from the National Graduate School with a Master of Science in Quality Systems Management.  He received his master’s degree in Strategic Studies from the U.S. Army War College in June 2012, and is also a graduate of the War College's Advanced Strategic Arts Program.

Schnell, also of Austin, has served as brigade commander since October 2011 and retires after almost 40 years of distinguished service. During his tenure as commander of the Minuteman Brigade, Schnell was instrumental in the second-phase development and validation of the unit’s Homeland Response Force mission, part of the Department of Defense’s consequence management enterprise. Most recently, the brigade completed an emergency response Special Focus Exercise in April throughout central Texas, working alongside civil authorities and first responders.

As the new Joint Task Force commander, Mac Leod will be responsible for continuing the ready-state of the HRF mission for FEMA Region VI, while also ensuring the unit’s traditional wartime mission requirements are met. Additionally, he will work to execute the vision of an organization that facilitates the Texas Military Forces mission, partnering affirmatively with our agency partners and the surrounding community.

Joint Task Force 136 (Maneuver Enhancement Brigade) is headquartered in Round Rock, Texas, and boasts units throughout the Lone Star State, from Laredo to Dallas and El Paso to Fulton.

TAG Talks: MAJ Sergio Tristan

Maj. Sergio L. Tristan Speaks about social media engagement throughout the Texas Military Forces. 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.

TAG Talks: LTC David Burger

LT. Col. David Burger, Director International Affairs, Texas Military Forces, talks about the Leadership Development Program in his TAG Talk at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas, April 2, 2015

Memorial Day Reflections: COL Charles Quist

Commentary by retired Col . Terry QuistCommentary by retired Col . Terry Quist

Remembering Dad – A son’s memoirs of his father, a World War II and Texas Air National Guard veteran

My Dad passed away peacefully on the evening of April 20, 2015.

Dad was 93 years old and almost within three months of reaching his 94th birthday.  He was born in 1921 in Austin, Texas, to the son of a Swedish immigrant and his Scottish-Irish wife.  Dad fibbed about his age to join the Texas National Guard at the age of 15 in 1937 and was mobilized for World War II.  In 1942, he went to pilot training and flew a wide range of aircraft in the Europe, Asia-Pacific and Africa theaters of operations.  His adoring younger sister, Mary, gained a college degree from the University of Texas in two and a half years and followed him into flight training, serving as one of 1200 Women Air force Service Pilots flying military aircraft during World War II.

After the War, Dad continued in the Texas National Guard.  He and his sister Mary operated an airport and flight school for a few years in south Austin near the present site of St. Edwards University.  Aunt Mary married one of her students, Dad and his other partner eventually closed the business, and Dad became a full-time officer in the new Texas Air National Guard.  He met my mother, while she was working as a secretary at Camp Mabry, in Austin and married her. He moved his new family to San Antonio; this family included my older half-brother, Rick Dillard, whom he raised as his own son.  I was born to Mother and Dad in 1955.

Dad rose through the ranks, earning increasing levels of responsibility, until he became the Commander of the 149th “Lone Star Gunfighter” Tactical Fighter Group of the Texas Air National Guard (now the 149th Fighter Wing). He served as Commander for over eleven years from 1965 until his retirement in 1976.  During his command, his unit achieved a stellar record that included the distinction of being the first Air Force unit to earn an “Outstanding” rating four years in a row.  At the end of his career, he had documented flying 68 different military aircraft during his 6000 flight hours, which might have been an Air Force record in his final years for a living veteran pilot (a general called him several months ago saying Dad was the only pilot he could find who flew more aircraft).

Everyone always said Dad could have been a general officer, but that was not the most important thing for him, and he wasn’t groomed in the fashion of most post-War “modern major generals.”  He never went to civilian college, I know that he was uncomfortable undertaking the “book learning” of correspondence Air War College, and my Mother did not want to move the family to Austin. 

Having said this, during his eleven years of command he built the 149th to such a level of excellence and renown that it became a cradle for generals, growing and attracting future leaders of the Air Force.  Dad personally recruited a young lieutenant, Daniel James, the son of Tuskegee Airman Gen. Chappie James, into the 149th; retired Lt. Gen. Daniel James later became Gov. Bush’s Adjutant General and President Bush’s Director of the Air National Guard.  Maj. Gen. Hank Morrow became commander of First Air Force, responsible for homeland defense and support to civil authorities in disasters.  The current Vice Chief National Guard Bureau, and former U.S. Military Attaché to Egypt, Lt. Gen. Joseph Lengyel, is a former commander of what is now the 149th Fighter Wing.  The current Adjutant General of the Texas National Guard, Maj. Gen. John Nichols, commanded the 149th Fighter Wing, 2002-2009.

Dad spent a quiet retirement in the home to which he had moved the family in 1961 in a new development on old Maverick Sunshine Ranch territory in the Jefferson High School district. He tried real estate for a while, but his heart wasn’t in it, and his mortgage was paid, so he mostly played golf and enjoyed relaxing at his home.  He went to numerous unit reunions over the years.  Over the later years, the old colleagues became fewer and fewer, as well as the regular golf buddies.  He lost my mother due to her ill health and a precipitating fall and rib fracture in 1995.  He was driving himself around avidly until about six years ago.  As his health became frailer he insisted on continuing to live in his home with the support of my brother Rick, who lived close enough to manage his affairs, and a succession of loving and devoted caregivers.

My mother, Rick and I were all talkers.  You couldn’t shut us up.  Dad was quiet.  He almost never expressed extreme emotion, and the worst curse I remember him making when he was really frustrated was “Aww, nuts!”  It was harder to get to know Dad because he wouldn’t talk about himself, but he was always there for us, supporting us unstintingly in everything we wanted to do without judging us or attempting to micromanage or steer our lives.  If my mother complained, he just did what she wanted to keep the family peace.  On occasion we did get glimpses into his thought and his emotion and his personal history when he would unexpectedly pop out a war story, or a tale about his learning golf as a caddy in Austin, or (in his later years) a humorous exchange with one of his doctors.

Dad was not “literary,” but he read news and journals voraciously.  For some reason, perhaps due to his service in the Arctic during World War II, he became attached to the work of a Canadian poet named Robert Service, a sort of Jack London character who wrote grim and romantic ballads about the harsh life of the Far North.  On his last day, I began reading poems by Robert Service to Dad, and I believe by his expression and movement to the sound that he was listening.  Monday evening, I read one last poem and said, “That’s your last poem for the night, Dad!  I’m going to go eat, and I will be back in the morning.”  As I was going to my car, the caregiver called me back.  He had ceased breathing.

Dad was sadly predeceased by his younger sister and women’s aviation pioneer, Mary (Quist) Edwards.  My brother Rick is President of American Classic Music Tours and Festivals in San Antonio.  Besides Rick and me, Dad is survived by:  Rick’s wife, Jo Scurlock-Dillard, a former Reagan High School Choir Director and former President of the Texas Music Educators Association; my wife, Maria Meylikhova, a systems developer at Partners HealthCare in Boston; Rick’s son Kris, a personal counselor in Los Angeles; my son Mark, a University of Texas at Austin Plan two graduate and George Mason Law School graduate who has begun practicing law in Fairfax, Virginia; and my daughter Rachel, a University of Texas at Austin Plan two and Fine Arts graduating senior who will undertake graduate study in Art History next year at the University of Kansas.

I choose to believe that Dad’s spirit hovers over us and blesses our family and his Texas Air National Guard family. My Dad certainly lives on in the hundreds of lives he has touched through his many decades of love, devotion and service.

Col. Terry Quist retired from uniformed service in March 2015 after 30 years in the Massachusetts and Pennsylvania National Guards.  He is currently a civilian intelligence officer in the Joint Intelligence Directorate of the National Guard Bureau and lives in Arlington, Virginia, and Brookline, Massachusetts.


Brig. Gen. Howard N. Palmer, Jr.Commentary by CW2 Janet Schmelzer, 4th Regiment, PAO

AUSTIN, Texas – The Army Component Command of the Texas State Guard has a new commander and a new general, Brig. Gen. Howard N. Palmer, Jr.
 Maj. Gen. Jake Betty, Commander, Texas State Guard, promoted Palmer to the rank of brigadier general and formally handed over the Army Component to Palmer at a ceremony held at Camp Mabry in Austin, March 28, 2015.

Palmer will command almost 1,000 state guardsmen, assigned to six civil affairs regiments, located across the state.

"I couldn't be more honored, or more humbled, by the opportunity to lead one of the premier organizations of this type in the United States," said Palmer. "With my mentors' support and the support of the officers, NCOs, and enlisted members of the Army Component, we're going to continue moving forward as an organization with a culture and a strategy of continuous improvement."

Palmer was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Louisiana Army National Guard after completing the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program at Louisiana College in 1980 and ended his federal service as a lieutenant colonel in the Texas Army National Guard in 2008.  His active duty assignments include a deployment to Bosnia for Operation Joint Forge, in 2000, Operation Noble Eagle II, in 2003 and Operation Jump Start supporting border operations in Texas, from 2006-2008.  He is a graduate of the Field Artillery School Officer Basic Course, Field Artillery School Cannon Battery Officer Course, Field Artillery School Officer Advanced Course, Combined Arms and Services Staff School, Command and General Staff College-Graduate and Field Artillery Pre-Command Course.

Palmer also received The State of Texas Outstanding Service Medal for exemplary service in the military forces of Texas during the ceremony.  Palmer's highest awards for military service are the Legion of Merit, Meritorious Service Medal with one oak leaf cluster, Army Commendation Medal, Air Force Commendation Medal, and Army Achievement Medal with four oak leaf clusters, as well as various other state and federal ribbons.

Palmer joined the Texas State Guard at the rank of Colonel in 2008, most recently serving as the commander of the 4th Regiment.

Palmer holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and History from Louisiana College-Pineville, Pineville, Louisiana, and a Masters of Art in Educational Administration from Texas A&M University-Commerce in Commerce.  He is an Assistant Principal at Denton High School in Denton.  He is married to Dr. Mary "Beth" Palmer. They have a son, 1st Lt. Howard N. Palmer, III, US Air Force, and daughter-in-law Julia C. Palmer.

Memorial Day Reflections: Capt. Jose Rafael de la Garza

Captain Jose Rafael de la Garza Captain Jose Rafael de la Garza was born in 1838 to a prominent and wealthy San Antonio family with deep Texas roots. Jose was well educated at St. Joseph’s College in Bardstown, Kentucky. One of his teachers described him as a young man of "fine disposition… very mild and cheerful, always in good humor and someone who never utter an improper word."

After the secession of Texas in February, 1861, Jose was one of 90,000 Texans who joined the Confederate Army, in which he was appointed captain in Company K, 6th Texas Infantry. De la Garza was later a company commander in the 17th Texas Infantry. Jose was killed leading his company in a charge against Union forces at the Battle of Mansfield, Louisiana on May 8, 1864. He was 26 years old. A letter relaying the details of his death is below.

-Compiled by the Texas Military Forces Museum


Headquarters Waul’s Brigade
Walker’s Division, in the Field
Apl. 19, 1864


Friend Bart,

Having a few leisure moments, I thought I could not better employ them than by writing you. Our command having been halted at this place to give the men an opportunity to wash and clean up generally as they have been marching and fighting for the past month without rest.

I have some painful news to communicate to you. It is that Joe Garza fell while gallantly fighting at the head of his company at the battle of Mansfield on the evening of the 8th inst. He was shot above the knee with a shell and died soon after. This I was told by a number of his company who had assisted at his burial. Joe spent the greater part of the day with me the day before the fight and was in fine health and spirits…

I have had a pretty rough and hard time since I reached this command, as it was falling back from Marksville where we were going and the Yanks pursuing. As I had to relieve the then quartermaster of this brigade and everything being in confusion, I had a pretty rough time. I did not get into the battle of the 8th, but did in the 9th. It was a hard fight, but we whipped the Yanks badly. I think it was the most complete victory of the war. We had but about 8 or 9,000 in the first day’s fight and in the second about 12,000. The enemy had not less than 30,000 in the first, and were reinforced on the second day by a fresh corps. They were completely routed, losing about 300 wagons and trains, wagons loaded with stores, between 80 and 100 ambulances, 16 pieces of artillery with everything complete. All of these fell into our hands and were saved. They also destroyed quartermaster stores without number. Small arms it would be hard to estimate numbers, as all of our gun supplies and Enfield rifles that were left on the battlefield and there were wagon loads hauled off. As far as I was able to see and could learn from the parties sent out to bury the dead, theirs was at about 5 to 1 of our dead. And hundreds were reported laying in the woods, the men not taking the trouble to bury when there were none of our men killed.

In prisoners we got between 4 and 5,000. Our loss in officers has been terribly severe. We have to mourn the loss of Major General Tom Green, Brigadier General Mouton, some 9 or 10 colonels in the same proportion. After the two days fights we were ordered on the march. Where we are going is “Quien Sabe” but am inclined to think Arkansas is the point, unless [Union general Frederick] Steele happens to fall back too rapidly that there would be no chance for us to catch him…


H.B. Adams

Memorial Day Reflections

Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall visits Camp Mabry in AustinCommentary by Capt. Martha Nigrelle

Photo By Michelle McBride

The Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall visits Camp Mabry in Austin, every year during the annual Texas Military Forces Open House and American Heroes Air Show. It’s one way the event pays tribute to those that went before us.

This year a Vietnam veteran came to see the wall, with a long list of names. He knelt before each name and spent a few moments with each of his brothers who never came home. He said that whenever the wall comes to Texas, there he is, visiting his friends.

Each year during the same event, a wall honoring those lost in the Global War on Terror is set up as well. And each year that I attend the event, I too, go to the wall and seek out my friends.

To some people, the name Staff Sgt. Travis Atkins is a name on a list, just one of many service members who lost their lives in a war. To others, the name symbolizes the price we pay for the freedom we enjoy. To an even smaller group of people, the name represents a life lived.

When I see the wall with my friends’ names on them I remember the lives I was so blessed to share.

 I think of how Travis convinced my husband to ask me out on our first date, how he welcomed me into their group of friends and I think of the wedding photos that will always have a hole where the best man should have stood.

Then I think of Capt. Joshua Lawrence. I think of basmati rice and jelly donuts. I think of the time he accused me of “being allergic to man,” after I informed him that I did not appreciate the smell of Brut cologne that the guys had sprayed all over the office. I think of how every time stupid seemed to happen, which when you are working 20 hour days, seven days a week, does seem to happen often, I could just look at him and roll my eyes. I think of his combat toothpicks – a reshaped paperclip - and his oath to change the brigade headquarters company’s call sign to Honey Badger, after taking command. I think of carrying his body to a Blackhawk, just weeks before he was scheduled to take that command. And I think of the empty desk that sat next to me for what seemed an eternity.

For many of us who have worn the uniform, things like the Vietnam Memorial Wall and days like Memorial Day are so much more than a tribute, or a day to barbeque with family. For us, it is a time to stop and remember the lives of our friends, our brothers and sisters in arms – the ones who never came home as well as those that came home, but are no longer with us.

It doesn’t matter when we served, or what combat theater we served in, we are all connected by those we’ve lost – perhaps the deepest battle wounds we carry.
It’s true what they say – Freedom isn’t Free. It has been paid for by the blood of so many. But each man and woman, who paid that price, first lived a full life; they did not just have a death. 

This Memorial Day, as we roll out the grills and enjoy the beginning of summer, may we all pause to remember those who went before and those who never came home to their families. Take a minute to remember their sacrifice and toast the lives they lived.

TAG Talks: LTC Les Davis

LTC Les Davis, Deputy Director CFMO, Texas National Guard, talks about Camp Mabry and its relationship with the local community in a TAG Talk at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas.

Growing up Army (Part 3)

returning to Texas where my sister and ICommentary by Michelle McBride

One of the best parts about moving was the amount of time I got to spend with my parents. It was time together I will never get to have again as an adult living in a different city from my parents. There was less traveling so it was more time than I had ever spent with my parents and we were able to connect and form a bond that we may not have done otherwise.

By the time I graduated I was having serious thoughts about going to a university in Colombia.  However, I had reconnected with an old friend in Texas and we were making plans to be together.

My parents stayed in Colombia for a few more years while I was in college before returning to Texas where my sister and I both still live. It was strange being so far away, and I missed them all the time. 

As an adult, I have a deep appreciation for our service members as well as their families. In fact, I now work for the military as a civilian.

In high school, I thought moving around would negatively affect my relationships with people but instead it did the opposite. It made me enjoy meeting new people and getting to know their quirks. It’s nice having friends around the world, especially when traveling (not having to pay for a hotel doesn’t hurt either). I have also managed to stay in the same relationship with the guy I reconnected with in High School. He even went to Colombia to visit me and attend my high school graduation ceremony. We then went to the same college and have been together ever since.

My dad is a contractor now, working in Iraq. I think for people like my dad it is a lifestyle that is hard to let go of. He still gets up and runs every day, still keeps in touch with his Special Forces buddies and he still likes to share his old war stories (especially when my boyfriend comes around).

My parents always did what they had to do for us and now, as an adult, it’s my turn to do what I need to do for them. I thank my parents for raising me as a military child. I wouldn’t be me if they hadn’t. 

(Part 3 of 3 documenting my experience as the daughter of a soldier in honor of the Month of the Military Child. If you or someone you know is a military family member in need of support please contact Family Support Services at their 24/7 hotline 1-800-252-8032 or visit their website at

Growing up Army (Part 2)

honor of the Month of the Military Child. Commentary by Michelle McBride

The summer before the start of high school was a big turning point for me. I had spent many years swimming competitively and training with swim coaches year round. That summer I tried out for the High School team, and made it. I was beyond excited. A lot of my friends from around the city were going to be joining me and I felt like I found my place. On top of that, it was the longest we had stayed in one place and the stability was comforting.

A week after making the team, my parents dropped the bomb. We were moving to Colombia at the end of summer. On top of that, my sister, who had just graduated from the high school I planned on attending, would not be moving with us. I felt alone and I was devastated. The news turned me in to a person neither me nor my parents recognized- a whiny brat refusing to accept change.

I did everything I could to fight it including attempting to guilt my parents in to letting me stay. I had to accept it though, and the move happened.

I ended up living in two different cities, attending two different high schools. Each school presented its own unique challenges. The first one, in Santa Marta, was mainly Spanish speaking. There were a few people who spoke English and among them I did make some very good friends who I still keep in contact with, but I struggled. I was failing my classes and had to have three different tutors for the different subjects. This did not last long.

The next year, my dad was able to move us to Barranquilla where I was placed in an American school.  The school was the exact opposite of my previous one. Everyone spoke English, everyone traveled to the U.S. regularly and everyone was very wealthy. There also weren’t uniforms, which was a plus for me. The downside, however, is that this group of kids was extremely tight knit and not as open to newcomers. I was very different from them. Having spent a lot of my time alone for the past year, I spent all of my time reading and writing. I felt dark and angry and if people did not want to accept me, I wasn’t going to accept them.

This all changed of course, as it always does. Eventually, I became part of the group and made some lasting friendships. I will always look back at my memories of Colombia fondly and with gratitude. How my parents dealt with me at the same time as dealing with their marriage and all the changes they were dealing with is beyond me. When my parents made the decision to move to Colombia, my dad had already been going back and forth for a couple years. They spent most of their marriage long distance at that point and I was too selfish to accept what they needed.

(Part 2 of 3 documenting my experience as the daughter of a soldier in honor of the Month of the Military Child. If you or someone you know is a military family member in need of support please contact Family Support Services at their 24/7 hotline 1-800-252-8032 or visit their website at