Posts in Category: Blog

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

Growing up Army

The month of the Military childCommentary by Michelle McBride

Starting with Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger in 1986, each serving Secretary of Defense has designated April as “The month of the Military child.” Although I am an Army brat myself, this is a very new and interesting concept to me.  In fact, I never even knew it existed until I began working for the military. Like most members of our Armed Forces, recognition and praise has never been necessary or even wanted.

For me, it all began in El Salvador in the 1980s. My dad was conducting some training missions as part of a Special Forces unit in San Salvador when he met my mom. For my dad, it began in the 1970s when he made the bold decision to enlist in the Army right out of high school.  I’ve always been very proud of my dad for making this decision, even when it meant not recognizing him at the airport when he returned from a deployment.

As a child, I traveled all over. I spanned the globe from Panama, to El Salvador, to North Carolina and back again. I went to three different elementary schools in the span of five years and I cannot begin to tell you what an amazing/terrifying experience that was for me. It was hard moving from place to place-saying goodbye and then starting over.  Rinse, wash and repeat. There were always tears, but there was also always laughter, love and patience. There was also an incredible amount of opportunity to grow as a person and get immersed in different cultures and languages.  I even went through a phase when we moved from El Salvador to North Carolina where I refused to speak English to anyone.  I pretended to forget, but really I just missed speaking Spanish. 

My mom was a rock wall, never faltering, never showing any kind of weakness (there should probably be a month, or year, or decade dedicated to the military spouse). I remember thinking my parents must not have enjoyed having friends, since they were always ready to move on to the next place. Now I know better. It was probably harder for them, especially adding in the pressures of real estate shopping, school district searching and grumpy children.

For me, being an Army brat was just that. It was nothing special or unique. You did what you had to do every day to support the people that meant the most to you. It may have been different, but my dad still taught me how to ride a bike (or at least tried to; I was a very stubborn child). And we still celebrated birthdays and holidays together. Sure it may have been Christmas in October, but that didn’t change the sentiment. 
And then I became a teenager.

(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

Camp Mabry welcomes new Garrison Commander


Maj. Paul D. Mancuso assumed command of Camp Mabry’s Garrison Command unit, from Lt. Col. John (Les) Davis at a ceremony held on Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas.Photo Courtesy John Thibodeau

Commentary by TXMF Staff


On Thursday, April 2, 2015, Maj. Paul D. Mancuso assumed command of Camp Mabry’s Garrison Command unit, from Lt. Col. John (Les) Davis at a ceremony held on Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas.

Mancuso, of Cedar Park, received his commission in 1990 through the University of Texas at Arlington ROTC. Additionally, he has served in a variety of key leadership positions to include Recruiting and Retention Region II Commander, Executive Officer for the 1st Squadron, 112th Cavalry Regiment, as well as other positions within the 36th Infantry Division. Awards include the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, three Meritorious Service Medals, five Army Commendation Medals, the Joint Service Achievement Medal, two Army Achievement Medals, the National Defense Service Medal, the Meritorious Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal, the Joint Meritorious Unit Award, the Iraqi Campaign Medal, the Armed Forces Reserve Medal and the Order of Saint George.

Mancuso most recently was assigned to Joint Force Headquarters as the Current Operations Chief where he assisted in updating the Texas Military Forces’ All Hazard Plan while managing the Texas Military Forces’ response to numerous state support events. Mancuso holds a bachelor’s degree in Interdisciplinary Studies from the University of Texas at Arlington and is projected to receive a masters of science in Homeland Security- Cyber Security later this year.

Davis served as Garrison Commander for three and half years and currently serves as the Deputy Director of Construction and Facilities Management for the Texas Military Forces, which oversees more than 110 facilities across the state. During his tenure as garrison commander, Davis was instrumental in the development and fostering of Camp Mabry’s relationship with the City of Austin.

As the garrison commander, Mancuso will be responsible ensuring the quality of life for military personnel, employees and guests, as well as the preservation and safeguarding of infrastructure and environment. Additionally, he will work to execute the vision of an organization which facilitates the Texas Military Forces mission, provides first-class tenant support, and partners affirmatively with our agency partners and the surrounding community.

 “I am honored to be selected as the Garrison Commander and I am excited to lead the great organization and continue the tremendous work that Lt. Col. Davis has established,” said Mancuso.

Camp Mabry Garrison Command maintains the force protection and physical security of the base, oversees the Texas Military Forces Museum, Camp Mabry Lodging program and the Texas National Guard Mail Distribution Center.

Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month

 declaring April “Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month.”Photo and Commentary by Michelle McBride

While April is nationally recognized as Sexual Assault Awareness Month, on Thursday, April 2, 2015 members of the Texas Military Forces leadership decided to bring awareness to this serious issue with a proclamation declaring April “Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month.” 

At the ceremony, Maj. Gen. John F. Nichols, Texas Adjutant General; Command Chief Master Sgt. Marlon Nation, Senior Enlisted Advisor, Texas Air National Guard; and Command Chief Warrant Officer Earnest Metcalf, Texas Army National Guard, signed the proclamation in support of eliminating sexual assault.

“We create a culture of dignity when we work together,” said Caitlin Sulley, from the Institute on Domestic/Sexual Violence at the University of Texas at Austin, who appeared as a guest speaker at the ceremony. 

This year, the Department of Defense’s theme is “Eliminate Sexual Assault: Know Your Part. Do Your Part.” 

Eliminate Sexual Assault: Every service member, at every level in our military, must know, understand and adhere to service values and standards of behavior in order to eliminate sexual assault, and other inappropriate behavior. 

Know Your Part: Each member of our Department of Defense community has a unique role in preventing and responding to sexual assault. We must recognize our part in stopping this crime starting with our own awareness and knowing when and where to intervene

Do your Part: We have to act. If we see a crime or inappropriate behavior unfolding, we need to step in to prevent it. We each need to add our voice to the call to end this crime. 

This theme was set with the expectation that all service members, civilians and family members do their part in preventing sexual assault and should encourage victims to report offenses.  

“Change your behavior or get out of my organization,” said Nichols. “I think we have trust and dignity for each other, but there are some who want to come in and take that away. They are not allowed in our formation.”