Posts in Category: Blog

A Texas Family Christmas

“This is a time to spend with your families,” said Brig. Gen. Patrick Hamilton, commander of Domestic Operations, Texas National Guard.

Commentary by: Michelle McBride

Photo by: Sgt. 1st Class Malcolm McClendon

AUSTIN- Members of the Texas Military Forces and their families gathered together to celebrate the holidays at the Adjutant General’s annual Christmas Party Dec. 5, 2014. 

This year, festivities included the annual tree lighting as well as a barbecue cook-off, where service members competed in teams for the best brisket.  

“This is a time to spend with your families,” said Brig. Gen. Patrick Hamilton, commander of Domestic Operations, Texas National Guard. “Use this time to recharge your batteries, to thank your families for their support, and return from the holidays ready to work.”

After the official lighting of the tree, the crowd and the 36th Infantry Division band sang Christmas carols as the drill hall was prepped for barbecue and Santa.  Once ready, service members and their families enjoyed a brisket lunch complete with festive desserts while Santa raffled out door prizes. 

“Let’s take a moment to remember that we still have soldiers and airmen in harm’s way today both from Texas and from our nation,” said Maj. Gen. John F. Nichols, Adjutant General, Texas National Guard, “As we celebrate this time of the year, let’s keep them and their families in our prayers.” 

For more pictures from the holiday party, please visit our Flickr page at https://www.flickr.com/photos/texasmilitaryforces/with/15958196396/

Texas Guardsmen Celebrate Thanksgiving on the Border

“We’re a family here at DPS and now our family is growing, because of Operation Strong Safety,” said Jose Rodriguez Commentary by: Staff Sgt. Tamara Dabney, Texas Air National Guard

Texas National Guard members serving away from home on the Texas-Mexico border enjoyed a home-cooked holiday meal last week thanks to their partners at the Texas Department of Public Safety.

Since July, nearly 1000 Texas National Guard members have been serving alongside DPS, in support of Operation Strong Safety in an effort to secure the Texas border. Their mission is meant to help safeguard the lives and property of Texas citizens, but it has also brought many DPS employees and Texas National Guardsmen closer together.   

“We’re a family here at DPS and now our family is growing, because of Operation Strong Safety,” said Jose Rodriguez, DPS Regional Commander. “This operation has allowed me to work side-by-side with Texas National Guard members. We are glad to see the Guardsmen here with smiling faces and full bellies!”

Through the unique military capabilities of the Texas National Guard, DPS has the advantage of nearly one thousand extra pairs of eyes watching the border.

During the luncheon, DPS Commander Jose Rodriguez expressed appreciation for the service of Texas National Guard members who observe and deter criminal activity along the Texas border everyday.

“The amount of criminal activity on the border has come down significantly”, said Rodriguez. “Our mission is to detect criminals on the front line…so having the National Guard here is a definite plus.”

Lessons Learned From a Fried Turkey

How to fry a turkey Commentary by: Lt. Col. Jamey Creek, Base Operations Manager TCGC and Buffalo Gap Firefighter

Photo by: courtesy of All Hands Fire Equipment

You will likely be utilizing propane, a burner and extremely hot oil to cook your turkey. The safe operation and application of these essentials are vital to success of your Thanksgiving Meal.

Last year was my first attempt at frying a turkey. I simply searched the internet, watched numerous videos and read several articles on frying a turkey. Most all are similar in nature, with only slight variables in temperature, time and seasoning.  A good link to review is:  http://www.heb.com/page/recipes-cooking/cooking-tips/deep-fried-turkey

However, good old fashion first-hand experience is hard to beat. The following are personal lessons learned along with my experience as a volunteer firefighter.  

  • Make certain safety items are in close proximity. A fire extinguisher is an incredibly handy tool when needed. Even more important is to have a phone and the number for your local Emergency Service Provider. Most likely, the simple 9-1-1 will do the trick. Do not wait if an event occurs. Time is critical on fires. The faster responders get there, the greater the likelihood of success will be.
  • Make sure you are familiar with the operation of your propane burner. There are several variables; most notable is that some burners are equipped with timers that require your frequent attendance. Otherwise, it will automatically shut off after a few minutes. 
  • Firmly seat the hose from your burner to the propane tank. A faulty connection can be disastrous. Simply turn on the propane valve and listen for a “hissing” noise to confirm or deny your connection. If you hear or smell anything, immediately close the valve and re-check your connection. 
  • Proper oil depth is imperative. Too little oil prevents proper cooking and too much oil can lead to a fire and or injuries. The best method is to place your turkey into your pot and cover with water. You must then remove the turkey and mark the depth. This will later become the fill mark for your oil. The pot must subsequently be dried along with the turkey. 
  • Under no circumstance should you make an adjustment to the fryer pot without first turning off the burner. This is the most abused step, which leads to the most injuries when frying. By turning off the burner, there are no flames to ignite a potential oil spill. If oil is spilled, be sure to wipe it up prior to relighting the burner. 
  • Flip-flops, short shorts and short sleeves are not your friend when contact is made with 325-375 degree oil. Dress for success when frying. Leather shoes, long pants, long sleeves and gloves are imperative for your protection. 
  • The turkey MUST BE fully thawed and as dry as possible before placing into the hot oil. A significant emotional event will instantly occur if a frozen turkey is dropped into 375 degree oil. Your local emergency service providers will most certainly be needed if this is done.
  • Location is important. Your frying location should be on a hard, level and non- combustible surface. It must also be out of the wind, but in a well-vented area. 

A simple review of these lessons learned, combined with quality research time will undoubtedly set the stage for your safe and enjoyable holiday meal.   

Happy Thanksgiving!

Holiday Survival A-B-Cs

A is for Appreciation. B is for Budget, Budget, Budget. C is for Call for Support. Commentary by: Tracy Ward, TXMF Behavioral Health Counselor

A is for Appreciation.  Appreciation is the opposite of depression.  It is difficult to be depressed and grateful at the same time.  Sincerely being grateful for what you have decreases depressing thoughts and opens the possibility for a positive mood and a smile on your face.  Take time during the holiday season to be aware of all the blessings you have around you.  Many times we take these blessings for granted or just enter in to a type of forgetfulness because the blessings have always been there.  Soldiers I have worked with in the past have shared with me how serving overseas made them realize how many blessings we take for granted in this country.  As they list things like clean water, shoes, a roof over our heads, peaceful nights and abundance of food, I realize I’ve taken those things for granted too and had stopped seeing them as blessings. During the 2014 holiday season make an intention to WAKE UP and see the blessings around you.  Train your eyes to look for hidden blessings that you may have forgotten.  Look for the good around you.  Take inventory of the good in people, in situations, in places and remind yourself that there is good in the world.  A helpful nighttime ritual is to state at least 10 blessings each night before you go to sleep.  Try to add one or two new items to your list each evening.  Making this a habit will help your sleep, decrease depressing thoughts and remind yourself how blessed you truly are. 

If, for any reason, you struggle finding good in yourself or others or struggle remembering your blessings, you may want to contact the Chaplain at 1-866-822-7685 select 7# or write ng.tx.txarng.list.txmfchaplain@mail.mil. 

B is for Budget, Budget, Budget.  Nothing can put a damper on the holidays faster that a stack of unpaid bills.  Spending outside of your means causes tremendous stress.  One way to reduce the amount of debt for this season is to create a holiday spending budget.  Know what you want to buy, for whom, and how much you want to spend. Even deciding on how much you can spend on extra holiday food and travel expenses will save you a lot of grief in January.  After you create your spending list (this is important to discuss with your significant other and get agreement) stick to the list.  A good rule of thumb is always go into a store with a list, an amount you want to spend and a time limit.  The stores want you to have: no plan, no budget, no list and a lot of extra time to look around.  The more time you browse the store or browse on-line the higher the odds of you overspending.  Buy what you need then get out of the store.  

If you need help creating a holiday budget (or any type of financial budget), contact the Soldiers For Life Transition Assistance Program (SFL-TAP) at Camp Mabry.  The financial counselors will be waiting for your call and can be reached at 512-782-5353.  Financial services are free to all TXARNG service members. 

C is for Call for Support.  The holidays can be a time of stress and loneliness.  If you find yourself stressed out, lonely, short tempered or all three, call for support.  Texas has excellent counselors that are located throughout the state to support you and your family.  These counselors are available for confidential sessions by phone, on-line or face-to-face.  They also offer a 24/7 counseling line at 512-782-5069 to support you when you have questions, concerns or just want to talk.  

Counseling services are available to all TXARNG Service Members and Family Members at no charge and are confidential.  

So to review:  A is to Appreciate all the blessings.  B is to budget your resources and C is to call for support when you need it.

And finally....Tis the Season. Remember to treat others the way you want to be treated.  The Golden Rule is always “in season.”  Have a blessed and safe holiday season.

National Hotlines:

Military Suicide Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255, Text 838255

Sexual Assault: 1-800-656-4673

Substance Abuse: 1-800-662-4357

Domestic Violence: 1-800-799-7233

Child Abuse: 1-800-252-5400

Vets4Warriors: 1-855-838-8255

Army Sexual Harassment Hotline: 1-800-267-9964

Bryan native named Texas Military Forces’ Senior Enlisted Advisor

Command Sgt. Maj. Mark A. Weedon, a Bryan native, assumed responsibility as the Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Texas Military Forces from Command Sgt. Maj. Bradley Brandt, in a ceremony held at Camp Mabry in Austin, Saturday, Nov. 15, 2014.
Maj. Gen. John F. Nichols, the Adjutant General - Texas, passes the non commissioned officer's sword to incoming Texas Military Forces' Senior Enlisted Advisor Command Sgt. Maj. Mark A. Weedon at a change of responsibility ceremony held at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas, Nov. 15, 2014. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Kenneth Walker/ Released

Commentary by: Capt. Martha Nigrelle

AUSTIN, Texas (Nov. 18, 2014) – Command Sgt. Maj. Mark A. Weedon, a Bryan native, assumed responsibility as the Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Texas Military Forces from Command Sgt. Maj. Bradley Brandt, in a ceremony held at Camp Mabry in Austin, Saturday, Nov. 15, 2014. 

During the ceremony Weedon took time to thank his family for their many years of love, support and sacrifice.  He also commented on his early days in the Texas National Guard and when he decided to make a long term commitment to the force.

"I fell in love with the guard when I recognized the true sacrifice and the true patriot that guardsmen and women are," said Weedon.

Weedon’s previous leadership positions include fire team leader, squad leader, platoon sergeant, operations sergeant, first sergeant, sergeant major and command sergeant major.

"I am very humbled and proud at the same time, to serve you in this position," said Weedon speaking to the men and women of the Texas Military Forces.

As the Senior Enlisted Advisor for the Texas Military Forces, Weedon will advise the Adjutant General – Texas on all enlisted matters affecting training, effective utilization, health of the force and enlisted professional development.

"It is the spirit of men and women who follow and the men and women who that gains the victory," said Weedon. "I believe that we have the right team in place to do just that and I look forward to our ride together."

Weedon graduated from Bryan High School in 1986 and joined the U.S. Army in January of 1988. He and his wife Shelli have four children and three grandchildren.

From the Top: Organization of the Texas Military

Col. Gregory P. Chaney Chief of Staff, Office of the Adjutant General Commentary by: Col. Gregory P. Chaney
Chief of Staff, Office of the Adjutant General

CAMP MABRY, Texas – As we celebrate another year of American independence, we also reflect on the sacrifice of the early citizen-soldiers, who put down their plowshares and marched and fought alongside George Washington, and others, to begin the process of securing our founder’s ideals and promise of greater freedom for all.

Our heritage is directly tied to these early Americans. They laid the foundation of the modern National Guard. Our organization grew from the militias of the early colonies, their experiences during and after the Revolutionary War, and the desire of states to prevent an overreaching federal government.

The Militia Act of 1792 codified the traditional view of the militia, and the organization and control states had over their military forces. Later, the Militia Act of 1903, also known as the Dick Act (after U.S. Sen. Charles Dick of Ohio), restructured state militaries and allowed for greater opportunities for the federalization of state troops, with the consent of state governors. The Act provided federal funds to the National Guard to pay for equipment and training, including annual summer encampments.

The National Defense Act of 1916 established the National Guard of the United States, and gave the president expanded authority to federalize state National Guard forces. While federal responsibilities and funding have increased, one thing remained the same: state National Guards are organized by each state’s statute and are controlled by the governor, unless they are called into federal service with the National Guard of the United States or as a part of the U.S. Army or Air Force.

Each state’s militia is organized through the Army National Guard and Air National Guard, and many also have a separate state defense force.

In Texas, our military structure is organized by state law, currently within the Texas Government Code (Title 4. Executive Branch, Chapter 437. Texas Military). This statute organizes the Texas Military into the Texas Military Forces and the Texas Military Department.

The Adjutant General (TAG) of Texas serves the dual-role of commanding general of the Texas Military Forces and is the governing officer, policy maker, and head of the Texas Military Department. The Adjutant General is a state employee who is appointed by the governor of Texas – the state military’s commander-in-chief – and must be confirmed by the Texas Senate.

To assist TAG, the governor also appoints two deputy adjutants general (DAGs), one for Army matters and another for Air. Additionally, the governor appoints the commander of the Texas State Guard. These are all state officials, but the DAGs may also serve in dual-roles and assume federal responsibilities. For example, both DAGs also currently serve as the commander of their respective National Guard components.

The Texas Military Forces currently include the Texas Army and Air National Guard, which have federal duty when called upon by the president, as well as a state defense force, the volunteer Texas State Guard, which serves the state and cannot be called into federal service.

The administrative arm that supports the state’s resources and military forces is the Texas Military Department. This state agency is managed by an executive director who serves at the pleasure of TAG, and is a critical component of the Texas Military. Its dedicated civilians support our soldiers and airmen to help ensure they have many of the necessary tools to achieve mission success.

While we are a complex, state-federal organization, our unifying motto is “Texans Defending Texas” – that is the call and charge for all of our members and employees. While times may change, we continue to stand ready. We are proud of our legacy and heritage.

Much like our Guard predecessors who fought during the American struggle for independence, today’s citizen-soldiers and airmen live and work in our communities. But we remain prepared to defend our state and nation, when called: from the ravages of wildfires and hurricanes to the threat of foreign enemies abroad.

Col. Gregory P. Chaney of Merkel, Texas is an Army National Guard Engineer and became the Adjutant General’s Chief of Staff in August of 2013. His military career includes deployments to Bosnia-Herzegovina (SFOR 7) and Iraq (OIF III). Col. Chaney holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Abilene Christian University, and holds a Master of Strategic Studies from the U.S. Army War College.

Memoirs from a Deployment

The last month in Afghanistan stretched on, with the end so close in sight.

10/30

I am home!

The last month in Afghanistan stretched on, with the end so close in sight. During this time back in America, the government shut down due to a lack of agreement in our nation's dire financial state. I still received a paycheck, but many of my friends who are government employees did not. 

I have horrible compassion fatigue. I am not the same eager, bright faced nurse who arrived six months ago. I still do my job, but I'm on auto pilot. Now that I'm home, I need to not see patients for a while. I'm taking leave, and told my supervisor that I'd like to work in the post anesthesia care unit for a while. All you do there is help patients recover after surgery. That's about my speed right now.

About two weeks before we left Afghanistan, we moved into transit barracks. Instead of six girls in a room, there were eight. 

When our replacements arrived, we had never felt more happy and relieved. I vaguely knew the new girl who was replacing me. My friend and I put together a welcome pack for them, complete with hair sprays, dry shampoo, cosmetics, lotions, etc. you know, the things we worked so hard to get people to send us since we couldn't buy them here. We just wanted the new girls to be all set up. That is, after all, what soldiers do. We look out for each other.

The trip home took a week. We stopped in Kandahar, Kuwait, Germany, New Hampshire, and finally Ft Bliss, Texas to turn in our weapons and gear. For a week, no one slept more than a few hours at a time, as we were constantly on the go, getting off one C-130 to get on another C-17 and finally onto normal, commercial jets.

Coming home was wonderful and stressful and overwhelming. When we landed at a small airfield in New Hampshire, we were greeted off the plane by a hundred or so veterans and volunteers. They had pizzas, donuts and coffees spread out for us, and let us know how proud and happy they were that we were home. Seeing all of the veterans welcoming us home made me proud to be an American soldier. 

I am home now. For the first time since I left, I took a shower without flip flops on, in a bathroom that was right next to my room! I drove my Jeep, afraid in the heavy traffic, but I did it! I only ran over a few curbs! I look at everyone, from the jerk that just cut me off on the beltway to the McDonalds employee who takes my order with a scowl and I think they have no idea how good they have it.

I think back over the last ten years. I was a naive, young girl when we invaded Iraq. My tour was cut short when I came home to a dying husband. I spent ten years building up a solid, professional career as an Army nurse, while my personal life crumbled. I was a train wreck on the inside, despite my put together exterior. Coming to Afghanistan at the end of our conflict was like closing the chapter to a story. I can move on, and I want to. 

I never went outside the wire. I was a cozy little "fobbit," but still experienced the atrocities of war through our patients. 

As for my comrades, we all went our separate ways, like when you step on an ant mound and all of the ants run in different directions. I'm due for a move soon myself, though where I'm not sure. 

Finale to a 13 part miniseries following the personal memoirs of a deployed soldier

Memoirs from a Deployment

 personal memoirs of a deployed soldier

8/29

When the Internet and phones go down on Camp Leatherneck, there's a chance that it is because someone has died. They do that so that the family can be notified before people start posting stuff on Facebook. Today, we lost a U.S. Marine.

When a service member dies in combat, there is a special ceremony that takes place at the air field as the body gets loaded onto the plane to fly back to the States. I didn't want to go today as it is very emotional. But I had just transferred my patient out of the intensive care unit and had no excuse not to go.

There were probably a couple hundred of us, service members from not just the U.S but the U.K., Denmark, Estonia and Georgia. We were assembled into a mass formation and stood for what seemed like hours by the airfield. Then, file by file, we marched onto the airfield and stood behind a C-17 or a C-130; I'm horrible at naming air craft.

The sun had just set below the horizon. As we approached the aircraft, I could see that the back end was open, ready to receive cargo. It was empty, except for one large American flag that had a soft light behind it, illuminating it in the falling darkness. 

We were then ordered to present arms, and salute the silver coffin as it passed in front of us to be loaded on the plane. I recognized several of the Marines carrying the coffin; they work in the mortuary affairs department in the hospital and we always joke around when we see each other. It was very different, seeing them today, marching somberly and staring straight ahead as they carried our their fallen comrade.

As the body was being loaded, some rockets went off. I'm not sure if they were part of the ceremony or if we were actually firing at someone. And then we were told to order arms. The whole formation dropped their salutes. It didn't matter if you didn't speak English; you still knew what to do. And then we were dismissed.

I'm glad I attended the ceremony. I don't always do well with emotional things, but I'm glad that I got to help see this young man home.

Part 12 of a 13 part miniseries following the personal memoirs of a deployed soldier

Ghosts, ghouls and goblins, Oh my! JFHQ’s FRG hosts Halloween party

The Joint Force Headquarters Family Readiness Group, part of the Texas Army National Guard, hosted its first unit-wide Spook-tacular Fall Festival at Camp Mabry, in Austin.
Texas Army National Guardsmen, family and friends dress up for the Joint Task Force Headquarters’ Spook-tacular Halloween party held at Camp Mabry, Oct. 26, 2014. Te event was organized by the unit’s Family Readiness Group to help promote family and unit fun. (U.S. Army National Guard courtesy photo/Released))

Commentary by: The Texas Military Forces’ UPAR Class

AUSTIN, Texas – On Oct. 26, 2014, the Joint Force Headquarters Family Readiness Group, part of the Texas Army National Guard, hosted its first unit-wide Spook-tacular Fall Festival at Camp Mabry, in Austin. 

"The intent of this event is that everyone has fun," said Joint Force Headquarters commander, Maj. David E. Tyler. “It’s for the families.”

The festival included trick-or-treating, water dunking, pie throwing and other fall festivities.

"This is the very first Halloween party they’ve had," Tyler said. "I told a few enlisted NCOs that this is what I wanted to do, they jumped on board, made some suggestions, had a lot of good ideas and here we are."

The unit’s family readiness group organizers were the ones who set up the event.  Maria Daniels, FRG leader and wife of Sgt. 1st Class Donny Daniels, expressed that this event would not have been possible without her 20 volunteers. 

"A lot of volunteer hours went into this event," Daniels said "I had a lot of good help. I couldn’t ask for better soldiers than here at Joint Force Headquarters."

The FRG exists to support unit troops and families in case of emergencies as well as to increase communication among soldiers. 

"The FRG is so important because we are able to have these events and involve our families," said Tyler. "So many people think we just set up tents and shoot weapons, but that’s not all. I like to have these events to eliminate a bit of stress, boost morale and let the soldiers have a good time with their families."

Rosa Soto, the unit’s FRG co-leader not only helps set up events, but gets personal satisfaction from them as well.

"I get a great, awesome feeling just by seeing everyone smiling and having a good time, enjoying their family and friends," Soto said.

Those contributing to this story include: Story by: 1st Lt. Ira LeRoy, , 1st Lt. Tyler Ahrems, 2nd Lt. Greg Nedell, Sgt. First Class Thomas Jones, Staff Sgt. Santiago Nuno and Sgt. Terry Maldonado.

Ghosts, ghouls and goblins, Oh my! JFHQ's FRG Hosts Halloween party “I get a great, awesome feeling just by seeing everyone smiling and having a good time, enjoying their family and friends,” Soto said. “A lot of volunteer hours went into this event,” Daniels said “I had a lot of good help. I couldn’t ask for better soldiers than here at Joint Force Headquarters.”

Memoirs from a Deployment

Memoirs from a Deployment

8/19

It's always exciting when seasons start to change. That first cool breeze puts a nice spring in everyone's step. Normally, I'd be scouring all of my favorite stores, putting together a lovely fall wardrobe in the process.

Here in Afghanistan, I'm just happy to not have sweat dripping down my back when I walk to the bathroom. The days are getting shorter. Instead of the sun blazing up at four am, it's peaking above the horizon around 0530. And at night, it's almost chilly. I've made friends with some of the most unlikely people, learned to bond with those who I did not care for at first, and also to just let things be when there's no hope for common ground.

At the end of the day, we are still a team. Sometimes part of being a team player is just to keep your mouth shut and pick your battles. And most battles aren't even worth it in the long run.

Our new UK team has blended seamlessly with us, which is a blessing. Whether we are horsing around during slow times or landing several trauma patients at once, everyone has been ready to lend a hand or tell a good joke. Today there was a tiny lizard on the unit, crawling around while the doc inserted a central line into a patient. We all had a good laugh about it before someone caught it and let it outside. It makes for a good rest of the tour.

We have 57 days left. The end is in sight!

Part 11 of a 13 part miniseries following the personal memoirs of a deployed soldier