Posts in Category: Counterdrug

Texas Counterdrug supports Red Ribbon events throughout the state

Story by Master Sgt. Michael Leslie, Texas Joint Counterdrug Taskforce

AUSTIN, Texas – Red Ribbon week has grown since its inception in 1988 educating the public about the hazards of drug abuse. This year, the Texas National Guard Joint Counterdrug Task Force stepped up their support to law enforcement agencies and community anti-drug coalitions to bring this message to communities around the state. 

Members of the Texas National Guard Joint Counterdrug Task Force support El Paso Drug Enforcement Administration during Take Back Day to receive unused prescriptions. (Courtesy Photo, Texas Joint Counterdrug Taskforce)
Members of the Texas National Guard Joint Counterdrug Task Force support El Paso Drug Enforcement Administration during Take Back Day to receive unused prescriptions. (Courtesy Photo, Texas Joint Counterdrug Taskforce)

Drug free starts with me.

“Red Ribbon is about educating the community on drug awareness and the negative impact drugs have on individuals and society,” said Counterdrug civil operations noncommissioned officer in charge, Master Sgt. Celsa Reyes.

The Counterdrug task force started with teaching Girls Scouts in Liberty Hill, Texas with a rock wall, dunk tank and a helicopter, showcasing the various capabilities of the program.

“It was a challenging experience since it was the first time collaborating with Girl Scouts but a great opportunity to involve us and a great success,” said Reyes.

Over the next few weeks, task force members sponsored a Red Ribbon 5k Run, stood side-by-side with Drug Enforcement Administration agents for prescription drug Take Back Day, and went to 39 schools in 12 cities giving briefings and handing out red wrist bands as a reminder to stay drug free.

“Getting the message to youth across the nation on the danger of using drugs is a very important announcement that can save many lives,” said Master Sgt. Almera Rose, an assistant team leader for the Counterdrug program. “To reach out as many audience as possible, the message must be said repetitively in different ways. One way of doing that is through red ribbon week.”

The Texas National Guard Joint Counterdrug Task Force flew Drug Enforcement Administration special agents in an Army National Guard Luh-72 Lakota helicopter to five Austin-area schools to talk about drug abuse prevention and awareness. (US Army National Guard Photo by Master Sgt. Johnie Smith)
The Texas National Guard Joint Counterdrug Task Force flew Drug Enforcement Administration special agents in an Army National Guard Luh-72 Lakota helicopter to five Austin-area schools to talk about drug abuse prevention and awareness. (US Army National Guard Photo by Master Sgt. Johnie Smith)

A new initiative with the DEA was to fly an Army National Guard LUH-72 Lakota helicopter to various Austin-area schools and giving a short message from a DEA agent about what students needed to watch for as they grow up and are possibly subjected to illicit drugs.

“We hope our Texas communities understand the commitment and passion we, National Guard members, have towards drug prevention and education programs,” said Reyes. “Through the use of our helicopter, this event becomes memorable to our children and assists them in staying drug free.”

Each student body then raised their right hand and repeated a pledge to do well in school and stay drug free.

Even the school mascot in Dripping Springs, Texas made an appearance from the helicopter where children erupted in cheer as Timmy the Tiger stepped out with arms wide.

The Texas National Guard Joint Counterdrug Task Force flew Drug Enforcement Administration special agents in an Army National Guard Luh-72 Lakota helicopter to five Austin-area schools to talk about drug abuse prevention and awareness. (Courtesy Photo, Texas Joint Counterdrug Task Force)
The Texas National Guard Joint Counterdrug Task Force flew Drug Enforcement Administration special agents in an Army National Guard Luh-72 Lakota helicopter to five Austin-area schools to talk about drug abuse prevention and awareness. (Courtesy Photo, Texas Joint Counterdrug Task Force)

“It shows that the community cares,” said Senior Master Sgt. Kira Harris, the Counterdrug comptroller noncommissioned officer in charge and Dripping Springs native. “When we stepped off the helicopter, the kids screamed for Timmy the Tiger like he was a rock star.”

Red Ribbon Week is in honor of DEA Special Agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena after his capture, torture and murder at the hands of a Mexican drug cartel in 1985. Task force members were a part of an event in which Mika Camarena, Enrique’s wife, spoke in Dallas, Texas, honoring her husband.

“Carrying on the legacy of “Kiki” Camarena is a constant reminder of how lucrative and dangerous the illegal drug business can be,” said Rose, “and if you get in their way, you will get hurt somehow.”

Before he joined the DEA, Camarena wanted to be part of the solution to take back communities and protect children from the criminals that would harm them for illicit profit.

“Red Ribbon events remind us that people like DEA special agent Enrique Camarena have laid their lives in the fight against drugs,” said Reyes.

Soldier

Texas Counterdrug commemorates 30th Anniversary of law enforcement support

Story by: Capt. Nadine Wiley De Moura

Photo By Capt. Nadine Wiley De Moura | Col. Miguel Torres and Command Sgt. Maj. Brian Harless cut the Counterdrug's 30th Anniversary cake. Current and former task force members reunited with their law enforcement and community partners to commemorate the Texas National Guard Joint Counterdrug Task Force's 30 years of support to law enforcement agencies, Aug. 7, 2019, at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas. Counterdrug law enforcement partners in attendance included the Department of Homeland Security Investigations, three out of the four Texas High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area directors, two of the three Drug Enforcement Administration field division special agents in charge, the Texas Department Public Safety, the Texas Rangers and the Customs and Border Protection, Air and Marine Division. The law enforcement partners were presented with a 30th Anniversary certificate of appreciation and a 30th anniversary commemorative Counterdrug coin. As part of the ceremony, Chief Warrant Officer 4 Brandon Briggs was awarded as the Counterdrug Bil Enney Task Force Member of the Year and Staff Sgt. Tiffany Carrion was awarded as the Texas Criminal Analyst of the Year. Maj. Gen. Dawn Ferrell, the Texas Military Department Deputy Adjutant General-Air, presided over the ceremony with several other TMD leadership in attendance.
Photo By Capt. Nadine Wiley De Moura | Col. Miguel Torres and Command Sgt. Maj. Brian Harless cut the Counterdrug's 30th Anniversary cake. Current and former task force members reunited with their law enforcement and community partners to commemorate the Texas National Guard Joint Counterdrug Task Force's 30 years of support to law enforcement agencies, Aug. 7, 2019, at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas. Counterdrug law enforcement partners in attendance included the Department of Homeland Security Investigations, three out of the four Texas High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area directors, two of the three Drug Enforcement Administration field division special agents in charge, the Texas Department Public Safety, the Texas Rangers and the Customs and Border Protection, Air and Marine Division. The law enforcement partners were presented with a 30th Anniversary certificate of appreciation and a 30th anniversary commemorative Counterdrug coin. As part of the ceremony, Chief Warrant Officer 4 Brandon Briggs was awarded as the Counterdrug Bil Enney Task Force Member of the Year and Staff Sgt. Tiffany Carrion was awarded as the Texas Criminal Analyst of the Year. Maj. Gen. Dawn Ferrell, the Texas Military Department Deputy Adjutant General-Air, presided over the ceremony with several other TMD leadership in attendance.

AUSTIN, Texas— Current and former task force members reunited with their law enforcement and community partners to commemorate the Texas National Guard Joint Counterdrug Task Force’s 30 years of support to law enforcement agencies, Aug. 7, 2019, at Camp Mabry. 

The National Guard Counterdrug program, was established by congressional legislation in 1989, with a mission to leverage unique military capabilities, national resources, and community focus in the nation's response to drugs and associated security threats. 

“The National Guard Counterdrug Program was one of the most brilliant acts our U.S. Congress established 30 years ago,” Col. Miguel Torres, Texas National Guard Joint Counterdrug Coordinator said. “This program allows the Citizen-Soldier to support law enforcement agencies down to our communities, making it a solid grass roots initiative.”

With miles of border and numerous bridges and border crossings, Texas is prime real estate for major drug trafficking organizations to operate, but not without a fight from the task force. 

Shortly after President Reagan declared a “War on Drugs”, the Texas National Guard was one of the first states to conduct counter-narcotics support missions with law enforcement.

“Cartels and drugs do not discriminate and show no mercy,” said Torres. “The Counterdrug program adds a layer of support and hope to our communities, our great state of Texas and our national security.”

Counterdrug law enforcement partners in attendance included the Department of Homeland Security Investigations, three out of the four Texas High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area directors, two of the three Drug Enforcement Administration field division special agents in charge, the Texas Department Public Safety, the Texas Rangers and the Customs and Border Protection, Air and Marine Division. 

The law enforcement partners were presented with a 30th Anniversary certificate of appreciation and a 30th anniversary commemorative Counterdrug coin. 

As part of the ceremony, Chief Warrant Officer 4 Brandon Briggs was awarded as the Counterdrug Bil Enney Task Force Member of the Year and Staff Sgt. Tiffany Carrion was awarded as the Texas Criminal Analyst of the Year. 

In addition, Arthur Doty, a DEA senior executive from Washington D.C., was the law enforcement guest speaker. 

“Terrible people do terrible things, but in order to get them into the court room you have to synthesize this,” said Doty pointing to a photo of multiple stacks of case evidence in a presentation. “And don’t forget the electronic version. The only way we are going to do that is with the relationship with the Guard and law enforcement. 

“You take the best and brightest in the National Guard and combine them with our law enforcement analysts and case agents and synthesize that into something a courtroom, an Assistant U.S. Attorney, and a jury will understand.”

Leaders from the Massachusetts, New Mexico and Mississippi Counterdrug programs also attended to commemorate the national program’s success. 

“I love the fact this is the 30th anniversary and we are proud of that history,” said Doty. “The relationship between the Guard and our law enforcement has to grow. This is our community, our state, our country and we become all the stronger when we work together. On the behalf of all law enforcement personnel, we thank you for support to us as well.”

Maj. Gen. Dawn Ferrell, the Texas Military Department Deputy Adjutant General – Air, presided over the ceremony with several other TMD leadership in attendance. 

“In my opinion, it is the worst epidemic problems that we have in our country when 70,000 U.S. citizens die from drug-related overdoses in a year,” said Maj. Gen. Patrick Hamilton, the 36th Infantry Division commander. “One thing about the Guard is that we are a community-based organization, at the grass roots---it’s how we were built. 

“It shows we were organized from the very beginning and working with our partners in an intergovernmental agency relationship is how we get after the problem.”

Hamilton, previously presided over the Counterdrug program when he served as the Domestic Operations Task Force Commander.

“The thing to me, as a Division commander, a combat commander, who has troops who serve---the Counterdrug program is not what I think people feared; that it would be a distractor to the readiness of our force,” said Hamilton. 

“It was exactly the opposite. The Soldiers who I have serving the program are physically fit because they have to be because they are on active duty, they are medically ready and because of the way Title 32 was written they have to be able to train with my formation to maintain their readiness and be available for deployment at any time. Counterdrug is a readiness enhancer for our force.”

The 30 years of the program’s history are marked by parks that are built in the place of demolished drug houses, record multi-billion dollar drug seizures, positively impacted at-risk youth, and has enhanced law enforcement agency’s capabilities. 

Hamilton recalled attending Operation Crackdown, where Counterdrug engineers knocked down a home known for illicit drug activity.

“I’ve seen it first hand, a crack house getting knocked down in a neighborhood and hours later watching kids play soccer on an empty lot that was a crack house 24 hours before with people dealing and using drugs,” said Hamilton. “That is getting after what the problem is in communities. That folks, is why we have a Counterdrug program and why it needs to continue to be successful.”

Texas Counterdrug Guardsmen educate Burnet Middle School students at wellness fair

-A student of Burnet Middle School holds a Texas National Guard Counterdrug Task Force t-shirt BURNET, Texas---A student of Burnet Middle School holds a Texas National Guard Counterdrug Task Force t-shirt during Join the Journey’s Safe and Drug Free Wellness Fair in Burnet, Texas, February 7, 2019. Sgt. Irma Flores and Spc. Jacob Raygo of the Texas National Guard Joint Counterdrug Task Force supported the event. The Task Force members encouraged students to try on fatal vision goggles and try to catch a ball. The exercise is intended to educate them on the negative effects of drug and alcohol use. The Join the Journey fair began 6 years ago with the goal of addressing drug use in the community. Local law enforcement, coalitions and wellness organizations also attended the event. Counterdrug Task Force members routinely partner and participate in drug use awareness and prevention events to educate their local communities.

Operation Crackdown gives Texas neighborhoods hope for a better tomorrow

Story by Staff Sgt. Michael Giles

Texas Military Department

 

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Courtesy Photo | Army National Guard Maj. Travis Urbanek, officer in charge of Operation Crackdown, coordinates the demolition of and abandoned home in Robstown, Texas, Aug. 11, 2017. Operation Crackdown, a component of the Texas Joint Counterdrug Task Force, supports local governments in removing dilapidated structures that are known to shelter the sale and use of illegal drugs. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Yuliana Patterson)

CAMP MABRY, Texas—The paint fades and peels. Shattered glass collects on windowsills. Gigantic holes rot through doors and shingled rooftops. These were homes once—symbols of safety, pride and togetherness. Now they have become portraits of neglect.

When these neglected homes are known to shelter illegal drug activities, Operation Crackdown, a component of the Texas National Guard’s Joint Counterdrug Task Force, helps cities remove them. Demolition of dilapidated structures is one of the unique military capabilities Texas Counterdrug leverages to support law enforcement agencies and local communities in the detection, interdiction, and disruption of drug trafficking.

Abandoned homes threaten the peace of mind of community members, such as Robstown, Texas, residents Mandy Carrion and Romelia Yanez, who recognize the risks they engender for children, for the homeless and for pets.

“Kids, homeless and drug addicts all hang out in there,” Carrion said. “Kids go in there, and the buildings could collapse.”

"A lot of people stay sometimes weeks, months,” Yanez told television station KRIS in August. “And so many homeless in there. And sometimes they die."

Operation Crackdown tore down 32 abandoned structures in Robstown between Aug. 8 and Aug. 17 this year, using funds seized from drug manufacturing or distribution operations.

It removed a hundred such structures from neighborhoods in Robstown, Harlingen and Laredo in 2017, said Maj. Travis Urbanek, the officer in charge. More than 1,500 abandoned structures have been removed over the years.

Community members are pleased to see the structures removed because they create problems that require attention from various local agencies, Urbanek said.

“In addition to the obvious drug problem, removing these structures reduces the burden on public safety, whether it’s the police department, fire department, EMS or animal control,” he said.

Operation Crackdown personnel and city officials work together to line up the demolitions; then, Texas National Guardsmen knock them down.

Spc. Jeremiah M. Thompson, a heavy equipment operator with the 822nd Horizontal Engineering Unit out of Brownwood, said it is gratifying to see that community members appreciate the efforts that guard members put in to minimize illegal activity such as drug use and prostitution.

“You can see the civilians’ faces full of excitement about waking up to a better tomorrow in their neighborhoods,” he said.

Thompson also enjoys showing Texans how the Texas National Guard serves communities.

“Here’s Texas stepping in helping Texans, not just leaving the drug problem in the federal government’s hands,” Thompson said.

Guard units are scheduled to return to Robstown in early 2018 to demolish 30 more buildings, said Urbanek, who projects that Operation Crackdown will eventually remove all 160 structures the city has identified.

“It’s something that we’re going to continue to do because it makes an immediate and visible impact in those communities,” he said.