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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.”


From the Top: The Transitional Leadership of General George C. Marshall

Chief of Staff, Office of the Adjutant General

As overseas contingencies and operations lessen for our current military forces, many service members returning home may not only question his/her own future career, but that of the profession. Common questions may include a desire for one to predict the types of future conflicts or focus on overall costs of maintaining the most expensive defensive strategy in the world. Regardless of the era or generation, post-war transitions result in leaders providing tough answers to difficult questions, while keeping the well-being of the country a top priority. During these times of uncertainty, the U.S. needs strong leaders across all levels who adhere to attributes necessary to navigate these transitions. Through monumental achievements, ethical qualities and an extraordinary philosophy and managerial style, Gen. George C. Marshall serves as a model of such a leader.

Before discussing the attributes and competencies contributing to revered success, it is important to provide some background and insight to the leader dubbed “a man for all seasons.” A shy and reserved youth and mediocre student at best, it was a love for history and a desire to seek advanced education at the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) that launched his career. Fast forward to the day Marshall became the U.S. Army Chief of Staff, at which time, Germany invaded Poland and ushered in World War II.  Over a three-year period, Marshall transitioned the U.S. Army from 189,000 outmoded and ill-equipped soldiers into the 8,000,000-soldier force that won the war.

Following the war and its victories, he broke through parochial services plans and rebuilt the total force that included maintaining the National Guard as an integral force, part of America’s first line of defense. This decision is one we benefitted from during a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan. As secretary of state and the orchestrator of the so-called Marshall Plan (European Recovery Plan), he helped rebuild European economies and stem the spread of communism.  In fact, Marshall is one of a few incredible leaders in our nation’s history whose attributes and competencies are worth emulating in today’s ever-changing environment.

Although it is difficult to encapsulate such a large body of leadership success into a form that is easy to imitate or reproduce, an article in the professional journal, “Public Integrity” attempted such a task in 2006. Built on a foundation of moral principles, the following attributes and competencies contributing to his leadership success are listed below.

•    Personal courage
•    Integrity and self-discipline
•    An organizational philosophy both task-centered and employee-centered
•    Ability to recognize talent in others
•    Exercising and demanding high ethical standards of organization members
•    Inclusiveness
•    Understanding of and sensitivity to the political/social/economic environment
•    Putting the public interest ahead of self-or narrow organizational interests

The first five attributes should resonate as they mirror the military services’ values and leadership doctrine with which we are familiar. However, it is the final two that are the salient points for leaders capable of influencing in transitional periods. First, Marshall had a clear understanding of the world’s strategic environment and more importantly, how his actions would affect it. No matter the time period,  it is imperative today’s military leaders must continue to educate themselves in order to fully understand the operational environment.  Secondly, leaders should work to translate their environmental understanding into an operational vision that keeps the overall interest of the nation superior to the parochial self, unit, or organizational interests. In any case, both of these competencies require deliberate development to integrate into the art of one’s leadership style.
Every member of the military is a leader and mentor to someone else. As a leader, you are responsible for developing the individual attributes and competencies necessary to keep our military strong, capable of responding when needed, and protecting our nations’ interests. As you seek to grow and advance, look to proven leaders like Marshall to guide your development. More importantly, strive to emulate Marshall by maintaining an understanding of the strategic environment, so that your vision and actions continue to contribute to the strong security of the United States. 

Journey to becoming Army Fit

Week 10- PT Test

PT TEST DAY! It was a chilly morning but the sun was out, not a cloud in the sky on this third day of spring. We arrived early, and discussed how neither of us slept very well the night before. Maybe our nerves were running a little higher than we thought they would. As much as we told ourselves it would be okay if we didn’t pass, we really wanted to do well.

We had the great fortune of having Cpt. Orozco, Deputy State Surgeon, and Sgt. Moten, Texas Army National Guard, administer our test. We also had support from Michelle McBride of the Public Affairs Office, who has been our blogger extraordinaire for the last two months, and Capt. Nigrelle, who has helped tremendously with editing and who was featured in a previous blog demonstrating excellent pushup form. 

Cpt. Orozco and Sgt. Moten were all business. She read us the standard test protocol with she and Sgt. Moten demonstrating proper form for sit ups and pushups. As a reminder, less than 3 months ago, we struggled to do 1 proper pushup, and a handful of ugly sit ups. 

On PT Test day, however, we exceeded our goal of 60%! We tested on pushups at the same time and were both impressed. Tracy did 15 (needed 9 to pass), and Courtney did 22 (needed 12 to pass).

PT Test day PT Test day

Our confidence was up! They reminded us to keep moving to stay warm, as she read the sit up protocol. Tracy knocked out 40 sit ups (needed 28 to pass), and Courtney completed 36 (needed 32 to pass).

We were feeling good, and ready for the run! Although our support team encouraged us to compete with each other to get the best score possible, we decided that we would run just as we trained, together and talking. We felt good the entire two miles- finished strong with10 minute miles- and came in three to four minutes under our passing goal. 

PT Test day

So, what did we learn in our journey? We learned that our bodies can do much more than we thought they could. We learned that making fitness and exercise part of our regular routine was a big part of improving, and having a partner for encouragement, company, and support was absolutely essential. We learned that over time our moods improved with the routine of running. Not only were our bodies moving, but exercising together allowed us time to talk, laugh, and share, and go home feeling ‘lighter’. We learned that we want to keep going! We worked hard to improve and meet our goals and we want to maintain our physical fitness. Lastly, although we had the knowledge that physical and mental fitness were connected, this journey provided an opportunity for us to put this into practice and experience the positive results in both our bodies and our minds. 

We would like to sincerely thank all of the service members, co-workers, and our families, who offered support, advice, and encouragement all along the way. It was very helpful in keeping us motivated, and in steering us in the right direction, and thank you to the Public Affairs Office (PAO) for giving us the opportunity to document our ‘Journey to Becoming Army Fit.’ 

Commentary by Courtney J. Lynch and Tracy K. Ward, Psychological Health Coordinators

Journey to becoming Army Fit

Week 9

We are continuing to gather advice about strengthening our form, technique and bodies.  More than one service member and one of our own family members told us to try the ‘Perfect Pushup’ device.  Sounds great!  A tool that will perfect our pushups and help us reach our goal numbers in order to pass the test.  Just like that, the device showed up in the office thanks to a kindhearted service member.  We were thrilled.  If you’ve never seen this apparatus, it is two round disks (that swivel) and there are handles on top of each disk. We immediately tried them out, figuring that they were the magic wand that would fix everything.  Wrong!  We had a tough time figuring out how to use them correctly and the swiveling made us very unsteady.  We looked online for more information. The person in the video we found made it look so easy. We tried again. No luck. 

We asked our co-worker Sgt. Sanders for help since he was the one who first mentioned the device to us. With grace and ease, Sgt. Sanders performed several perfect-form pushups and instructed us patiently when we tried again.  We can see how the device could be helpful, but have decided that it is, unfortunately, still beyond our skill level.  Back to doing pushups the old fashion way!  

Lesson of the week:
What works for some does not always work for others.  This is true for mental fitness as well as physical fitness.  The only way to know what suits you is to listen, watch, gather lots of ideas and then try them. Those that work, add them to your list of techniques.  Those that don’t...well, as with the ‘Perfect Pushup’ device, it is a learning experience.  

Commentary by Courtney J. Lynch and Tracy K. Ward, Psychological Health Coordinators

Journey to becoming Army Fit

continue to work toward our goal of taking and passing a PT testWeek 8

We continue to work toward our goal of taking and passing a PT test; however, we both notice that it is not as easy as we thought it would be. Initially, our motivation was high and our day-to-day jobs were a little less hectic since we were still new and it was the holiday season. Now, our work days are much busier and our bodies have various aches and pains from increased exercise and working under-used muscle groups, which makes working out tougher. We remind ourselves that progress is slow, and we respect that our bodies need a bit more recovery time now than they did when we were in our twenties and thirties. 

It gets us thinking about service members in the National Guard. Active duty service members typically do PT together in an organized group, and as a required part of their daily work routine. Guard members, on the other hand, often live and work apart from each other, and must rely on their own initiative to maintain their physical fitness in order to pass their PT test. It makes us very much appreciate their commitment, dedication, and self-discipline to being in the National Guard. They inspire us, along with a deep desire not to flunk, to keep chugging toward our goal. 

We have received so many good tips and strategies for building our strength and physical fitness. It is interesting to note that all of these tips and strategies are helpful, yet different. Each takes a unique approach to accomplishing the same goal or task. We see the same occurrence in mental fitness. There are varied ideas about how to maintain mental fitness and increase coping skills; all good, yet different. We compiled a list of coping skills, some that are our favorites and some that are borrowed from others:

•    Ask for help 
•    Create a support system
•    Accept imperfection / Be gentle with yourself
•    Take a relaxation break
•    Monitor inner thoughts
•    Take care of your (physical) health
•    Have a friend and be a friend

For more ideas and suggestions about coping and emotional health, check out:

Commentary by Courtney J. Lynch and Tracy K. Ward, Psychological Health Coordinators

Journey to becoming Army Fit

our PT date is closing in on usWeek 7

As our PT date is closing in on us, we notice we are feeling some anxiety about taking the test.  We are having to use more positive self talk, such as: You can do this; Others have started out weak but got stronger and passed the test;  You are progressing, be patient.  

At the same time, however, we’ve also observed an increase in negative self talk: OMG, you are going to flunk; What were you thinking signing up for a PT test and blogging about it?; You are going to make a fool out of yourself; This is a dumb idea; You are going to embarrass yourself and your colleagues; Everyone is going to laugh at you. 

We've had to help each other with these thoughts and spend some time using more realistic statements to combat the negative ones. Ok, if you fail, you tried, it's not the end of the world and you did get in better shape than when you started. Learn, adapt and try again.  As the old saying goes... “If at first you don't succeed, try, try again.”

While we know there is a possibility we might not pass, we do know we will survive if we fail the PT test.  We will survive that failure, that day, that week, and the flack we may have to endure for awhile following the test. 

Mental Fitness maturity comes from facing our fears, our failures, and our mistakes followed by taking responsibility, finding solutions, gathering support and learning from the experience. Mistakes and failures are some of the best teachers, if you take time to learn from them.  Tough situations create an opportunity to practice your coping skills and find out where you may need to add extra ones. 

In sum, learning to be Army Fit is making us “walk the walk”, not just “talk the talk”. And, it is making us use our coping skills as we get closer to the test on March 23, 2015.  

•    Positive Self-Talk (Be encouraging, realistic, and patient with change and progress).
•    Monitor Negative Self-Talk (Watch for words that make the situation worse than it really is; watch for words that are mean or cruel or words that deplete your desire to keep trying or to do better).
•    Evaluate the situation outside of the anxiety/worry or fear of failure.  (Talking to someone who is outside of the situation may help you see the situation more clearly).
•    Learn and Adapt (Remind yourself that we all have challenges; they are part of our human experience and help us mature.  You will make mistakes and have failures in life.  Take responsibility for shortcomings, learn from mistakes, make amends if necessary, and move on....The Next Challenge is right around the corner). 

Commentary by Courtney J. Lynch and Tracy K. Ward, Psychological Health Coordinators

From The Top: “What the Heck is DOMOPS?” The History and Composition of the Domestic Operations Task Force

Brig. Gen. Patrick M. Hamilton CommanderCommentary by Brig. Gen. Patrick M. Hamilton
Commander, Domestic Operations Task Force

CAMP MABRY, Texas – Many members of the Texas Military forces are unfamiliar with the Domestic Operations Task Force also called “DOMOPS”.  What is it?  Who are they?  What do they do?  I will answer these questions and give a short history on how the Domestic Operations Task Force came to be.

Over the years leading up to the Task Force’s creation, the Texas Military Forces had responded to many hurricanes and other emergencies averaging almost 30,000 man days per year since 2001.  The response effort, while effective, lacked a standing headquarters.  Units who were called on to respond were always changing and Soldiers had to learn and re-learn response operations in support of civil authorities.  It was quickly discovered that a permanent task force headquarters was needed.  

In the fall of 2011, the Joint Staff were tasked by the Adjutant General, Maj. Gen. John F. Nichols, to devise a plan which would allow the Texas Military Forces to improve response time, maximize equipment and personnel capabilities, place various critical Domestic Operations programs on a sustainable footing, and make the best use of taxpayers’ dollars in regards to the State Active Duty (SAD) or Federal Title 32 Domestic Operations Missions.  A distributed planning team was assembled and conducted a systematic planning effort to develop courses of action.  After much analysis, a plan was approved. Brig. Gen. Len Smith, now Maj. Gen., spearheaded the establishment of the Domestic Operations Task Force as permanent force structure with subordinate, non-divisional units.  The Domestic Operations Task Force was established on May 21st, 2012 under the command of then Brigadier General Len Smith. 

The Domestic Operations Task Force is a joint organization comprised of four subordinate units and a joint staff.   In addition to the joint staff, the four units that make up the task force are the Joint Task Force 136th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade (MEB), the 176th Engineer Brigade, the Joint Counter Drug Task Force, and the Southwest Border Task Force.  Each of the subordinate units has a mission set that is specific to Domestic Operations, while also maintaining its federal, wartime mission. 

One of these missions is the Homeland Response Force (HRF) Mission.  The HRF Mission belongs to the Joint Task Force 136th (MEB) in Round Rock, Texas.  The HRF mission is to provide a CBRNE (chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and explosive) response capability in each FEMA region that is able to provide timely life-saving skills within the first 48 hours of a CBRNE event, and to establish, when necessary, a regional command and control structure in order to synchronize all State Active Duty/Title 32 CBRNE responses involving Civil Support Teams (CST), CBRNE Enhanced Response Force Packages (CERFP) and prepare for follow-on forces.   Texas is in FEMA Region VI, which is also comprised of Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, and Oklahoma.  The JTF 136th (MEB)’s HRF mission is evaluated and re-certified every three years. 

The 176th Engineer Brigade is assigned the All Hazards mission set and provides the Joint Task Force Headquarters for Defense Support to Civil Authorities (DSCA) missions.  TXMF are continuously supporting civilian authorities by responding to all hazards at the direction of the Governor, in order to preserve the lives and property of the people of Texas.  Those missions include hurricane response, ground wildfire suppression, and winter storm response to name a few. The 176th’s geographic dispersion and variety of equipment make it a perfect unit for domestic all hazards response.

The Joint Counterdrug Task Force’s mission is to assist Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs) and Community Based Organizations (CBOs) in the disruption of illicit drug financing, production, transportation and distribution, and promotes drug-free living through community-based education and prevention.  The Joint Counterdrug Task Force (JCDTF) conducts operations throughout the state of Texas and along the southwest border.  In addition to military counterdrug operations, the JCDTF also conducts civil operations to coach communities by delivering collaborative and effective strategies that create healthy citizens.  Civil operations include the Texas ChalleNGe Academy, STARBASE, Operation Crackdown, and the Joint Substance Abuse Program. 

The Southwest Border Mission (Operation Phalanx) is conducted by Joint Task Force Liberty, of which the Texas Military Forces has operational control.  The Task Force’s mission is to conduct aerial detection and monitoring to disrupt Transnational Criminal Organizations (TCOs) and Drug Trafficking Organizations in support of U.S. Department of Homeland Security.  JTF Liberty works closely alongside the Customs and Border Protection Office (CBP) to provide air-centric operations and increase CBP’s capability with personnel and technology.  The helicopter used to conduct air operations along the border is the UH-72 Lakota and it is the premier Law Enforcement Agency support aircraft within the National Guard.  The National Guard is a key partner in the Department of Defense’s efforts on border security, and our operations on the border have led to the seizure of over 75,000lbs of illegal narcotics and the apprehension of over 61,000 undocumented aliens since 2012. 

As we move into hurricane and wildfire season and as activity along the southwest border is picking up, there is no question that the Domestic Operations Task Force is ready to respond at a moment’s notice. The Soldiers and Airmen of the Domestic Operations Task Force are “Texans Defending Texas.”

Brig. Gen. Patrick M. Hamilton has served over 28 years in the Texas Army National Guard and became the Commander of the Domestic Operations Task Force in June of 2013. His military career includes deployments to Bosnia and Afghanistan and has served as the Adjutant General’s Chief of Staff. Brig. Gen. Hamilton holds a bachelor’s degree from Texas A&M University and a Master of Strategic Studies from the U.S. Army War College.

Journey to becoming Army Fit

great tips for reaching our pushup goalsWeek 6

We had an interesting and very helpful meeting with Capt. Nigrelle at PAO. She gave us great tips for reaching our pushup goals. For pushups, she demonstrated a technique that helped her and described it like this: Set a number goal for your pushups, let’s say 20. So, start by doing as many of the 20 on your toes that you can. If you do less than 20 on your toes, do the remainder up to 20 on your knees. Then do an additional 20 pushups from your knees, then 20 more from your hips. We like this idea and have been trying it. 

We are still several weeks away from the test day, so we need all the encouragement we can get. We so appreciate the soldiers who stop us to say that they are reading the blog, those who write comments on the blog itself, and the many who offer great tips/suggestions to help us improve! We try to remember and practice all of the helpful hints. 

Mental Fitness Tips

Add the word ‘yet’! 

During times of struggle, we often have negative thoughts or doubts about our abilities. We are noticing these thoughts creeping in lately. Thoughts like, ‘I can’t do this’, ‘I’m not good at this’ or ‘I don’t know what I’m doing.’  When you think this way, try adding the word ‘yet’ to the end of the phrase. For example, ‘I can’t do 32 sit-ups’, becomes ‘I can’t do 32 sit-ups ‘yet’.  Just adding the small word ‘yet’ opens the door to feeling more hopeful and motivated to keep trying. 

We think this strategy could apply for any challenge or struggle in your life when your self-confidence is waning. To read more about this and other strategies to build self-confidence, go to

Commentary by Courtney J. Lynch and Tracy K. Ward, Psychological Health Coordinators