Posts in Category: Texas Army National Guard

Texas National Guard Soldiers earn Expert Infantryman Badge

Photo of two soldiers outside planning while using the front of a vehicle as a writing surface.
Photo By Staff Sgt. Timothy Moore | A U.S. Army Soldier assigned to Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa receives his Expert Infantryman Badge during the badge ceremony at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, Feb. 2, 2018. After two weeks of training and five days of testing, 50 Soldiers completed the process to earn the coveted special skills badge that requires Soldiers to perform an Army Physical Fitness Test, day and night land navigation, a 12-mile forced march, and 30 individual tasks covering weapons, medical, and security patrol skills. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Timothy Moore)

CAMP LEMONNIER, DJIBOUTI
02.06.2018
Story by Staff Sgt. Timothy Moore 
Combined Joint Task
Force - Horn of Africa

After five days of testing, 50 U.S. Army Soldiers assigned to Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) completed the process to earn the Expert Infantryman Badge (EIB) at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, Feb. 2, 2018.

Established in 1944, the EIB is an award designed to build and maintain esprit de corps within U.S. infantry units as well as recognize infantrymen and Special Forces Soldiers who have demonstrated the discipline and mastery of skills critical to being an infantry Soldier.

Beginning with 184 candidates, the 50 successful EIB earners made this iteration’s pass rate roughly two percent better than the Army’s overall 2017 EIB pass rate of 25 percent as reported on the website of the U.S. Army Maneuver Center of Excellence (MCOE) in Fort Benning, Georgia. 

“It’s the badge that shows you are an expert in your field,” said U.S. Army Command Sgt. Maj. Clinton Petty, Task Force Bayonet senior enlisted leader and EIB board president. “That means a lot for us in the infantry because that’s where you start – with the individual task … to build those teams, squads, and platoons.”

The badge can be awarded to Soldiers who hold an infantry or a Special Forces military occupational specialty (MOS), with the exception of Special Forces medical sergeant, and who meet all the physical and administrative requirements and can complete the qualification process.

However for these Soldiers, obtaining the EIB had a few more obstacles that needed to be navigated even before the process began.

“Being forward deployed, there are a lot of challenges that we face, most notably a supply shortage,” said U.S. Army 1st Sgt. Jonathan Hendrix, 3rd Battalion, 144th Infantry Regiment assigned to Task Force Bayonet, CJTF-HOA and EIB noncommissioned officer in charge of lanes. “We were able to work with a lot of different partner units.” 

Hendrix worked with the Expeditionary Military Facility to get supplies needed to train and conduct the EIB process. He also worked with the leaders of Battle Company, 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division to see how many EIB holders they had assigned to CJTF-HOA to act as cadre during the process. According to Hendrix, the most notable partnership he had was working with U.S. Navy Seabees to build the training grounds used to hold the majority of the EIB process.

“There were several different Seabee units we worked with directly to help us with a lot of the infrastructure - the tables, the platforms, camouflage nets, moving containers around,” Hendrix said. “Without them, we really couldn’t have pulled this thing off. It was absolutely incredible how willing they were each and every time we asked for more. They were always on top of it, ready to help us out at any opportunity.”

Once the training area was completed, a team from the MCOE - who the Battle Company leaders had been in contact with even before Task Force Bayonet arrived at Camp Lemonnier - came out to validate the EIB course and cadres to not only ensure the integrity of the badge is upheld but also grant the Soldiers opportunity to pursue it in a deployed location.

“It was important for us to do that here,” Petty said. “As Guardsmen, we don’t get that opportunity very often at home, so getting the opportunity to do it here was very important to our Soldiers and the force itself, because it makes an infantryman better.”

To earn the EIB, eligible Soldiers must complete four phases. The first phase requires EIB candidates to pass the Army Physical Fitness Test with a score of 80 percent in each event. Candidates are not allowed to retest this portion.

The second phase consists of land navigation exercises, in which candidates must locate three out of four points in both day and night scenarios. If candidates receive a “GO” for this phase, they are allowed to move onto phase three.

The third phase consists of individual testing stations. It requires candidates to pass 30 weapons, medical, and patrol tasks to specific standards. The tasks are chosen from a possible 45 tasks, with several tasks being required to be included in each EIB qualification. Candidates who receive more than two “NO-GOs,” or a double NO-GO on the same station, during this phase are eliminated from the EIB process.

Finally, the fourth phase requires candidates to complete a 12-mile forced march. Candidates must complete the march while carrying 35 pounds in three hours or less, and then immediately complete the tasks associated with “Objective Bull” in 20 minutes or less. For Objective Bull, candidates must evaluate a casualty; apply a tourniquet to control bleeding, and transport the casualty. If a candidate fails to meet the time requirements or perform the procedures in the proper sequence, they are not allowed to retest and are eliminated from the EIB process.

Out of the 50 recipients of the EIB, four members were “true blue.” This distinction means they passed the entire process without having to retest on any part.

“Pinning the badges on these Soldiers is one of the best times of my career, and I’ve been in a long time,” Petty said. “Getting to see those young privates, specialists, and even the sergeants who have been working so hard to get here - this is some of them second or third time trying to get their EIB - that made me feel especially proud for them.”

 

Texas ChalleNGe Academy takes care of soldiers on the road to Hurricane Harvey

Members of the 1st Armored Division’s 127th Aviation Support Battalion en route to Joint Base San Antonio stand together at the Texas ChalleNGe Academy, where they were provided with food and lodging when last minute challenges required them to find a place to stay in West Texas, Aug. 30, 2017. The task force, heading to San Antonio to refuel aircraft engaged in hurricane rescue efforts, intended to make the trip in one day, but unexpected challenges lengthened the journey and led them to the ChalleNGe Academy, which was able to put them up for the night. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Capt. Aaron Oliver, 176 Engineer Brigade)
Members of the 1st Armored Division’s 127th Aviation Support Battalion en route to Joint Base San Antonio stand together at the Texas ChalleNGe Academy, where they were provided with food and lodging when last minute challenges required them to find a place to stay in West Texas, Aug. 30, 2017. The task force, heading to San Antonio to refuel aircraft engaged in hurricane rescue efforts, intended to make the trip in one day, but unexpected challenges lengthened the journey and led them to the ChalleNGe Academy, which was able to put them up for the night. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Capt. Aaron Oliver, 176 Engineer Brigade)

Story by Staff Sgt. Michael Giles, Texas Military Department

AUSTIN, Texas – Eleven military vehicles, including 5,000-gallon fuel tankers and trailers carrying 2,500-gallon tankers, merged onto I-10 for the 550-mile trek to Joint Base San Antonio, where they would refuel aircraft dedicated to rescuing Texans affected by Hurricane Harvey.

Enthusiasm was not at an all-time high as these 29 active-duty soldiers from the 1st Armored Division Combat Aviation Brigade took to the roads the morning of Aug. 30, 2017.

“Morale was mixed when leaving on the convoy from Fort Bliss,” said Sgt. Michael McGrady, a squad leader with the Combat Aviation Brigade's 127th Aviation Support Battalion. “Obviously there was the unknown of where we were going to stay, and we didn’t know where we were going. But we are soldiers and keep ourselves resilient to accomplish the mission.”

The hope was to complete the trip in one day, but this proved unfeasible. Had they been able to maintain their maximum speed of 45 mph, they would have arrived in San Antonio that evening. Instead, as the sun started to descend, they found themselves still pushing through the high plains of West Texas.

Choices for how and where to spend the night were limited, and the urgency with which they departed on this mission prevented them from thoroughly planning for such a contingency, explained Capt. Jess Baca, with the 127th’s support operations section.

“Letting them drive through the night to San Antonio was not an option,” Baca said. “It would take far too long in tactical vehicles. We can’t do that to our soldiers.”

Hotels weren’t an option either, Baca explained. There weren’t many around. So she began researching nearby churches and schools for a sheltered floor where the team could sleep in their cots and eat their preserved field rations.

Fortunately, her search led her to the Texas ChalleNGe Academy, a National Guard-run educational facility able to provide beds, showers, hot food, and space to park the 11 wheeled behemoths.

Any other week, the Texas ChalleNGe Academy would have been full of teenagers working to develop into strong adults. With program oversight provided by the Texas Military Department’s Joint Counterdrug Task Force, the ChalleNGe Academy houses, trains and mentors students for 5 1/2-month cycles. Fortunately for soldiers en route to San Antonio, the Academy’s west campus in Sheffield was on a cycle break, leaving the beds, showers and dining facility available for unexpected guests.

Aaron Oliver, program director for the west campus, said that when he received Baca’s call, he didn’t hesitate to accommodate her soldiers.

“We made that happen,” said Oliver, who is also a captain in the Army National Guard’s 176th Engineer Brigade. “In a span of just a few hours, my staff made sure that the bays were clean, the DFAC manager was able to verify that we had enough chow for this company-sized element, and we got it done.”

Most of the soldiers arrived after 9 p.m. and then local community members surprised them with a generous gift. 

“Somebody in the community got wind of it somehow and a couple community members showed up with 30 pizzas and several platters of cookies,” Oliver said. 

Sgt. Maj. Michael J. Resmondo, the 127th’s support operations section sergeant major, said thanks to the hospitality they received, the soldiers were safer, more rested, and more ready to perform their functions in the hurricane relief efforts. 

“It beats going on a 24-hour mission to try to get down to San Antonio, eating MREs and getting rest on the side of the road,” Resmondo said. “It really helped. It probably made things a lot more safe than trying to push through.”

McGrady said the hospitality they received was the answer to the stymied morale.

“Having some hot food along with baked goods, and cold water after a long drive was a great relief and helped everyone relax.”

The warmth and professionalism the ChalleNGe Academy staff showed the members of the 127th reflected the high quality of service they provide to their students, explained William Pettit, a retired Air Force colonel and the TCA state youth programs director.

“It does not surprise me that TCA employees extended hospitality to these active duty soldiers in the same way that they routinely take care of and develop their cadets,” Pettit said. 

Pettit also asserted that the interest in supporting fellow military personnel reflected the spirit of camaraderie and collaboration that the Texas Military Department promotes in its programs.

“As a Department of Defense-funded program, we were pleased to have the opportunity to support these soldiers who were deploying to help Texans deal with and recovery from Hurricane Harvey.”

Joint, Total-Force Team Soars to New Heights

Photo By Senior Airman Stormy Archer | Airmen from the 26th Aerial Port Squadron attach an A-22 cargo bag with 2,000 pounds of “relief supplies” to the cargo hook of a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter flown by Soldiers from Texas Army National Guard Company C, 2-149 Aviation during Operation Alamo Evacuation Nov. 18, 2017, at Martindale Army Airfield, Texas. 36,000 pounds of cargo and 27 passengers were transported as part of the sling load and medical evacuation exercise.
Photo By Senior Airman Stormy Archer | Airmen from the 26th Aerial Port Squadron attach an A-22 cargo bag with 2,000 pounds of “relief supplies” to the cargo hook of a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter flown by Soldiers from Texas Army National Guard Company C, 2-149 Aviation during Operation Alamo Evacuation Nov. 18, 2017, at Martindale Army Airfield, Texas. 36,000 pounds of cargo and 27 passengers were transported as part of the sling load and medical evacuation exercise.

Story by: Col. Kjäll Gopaul,

Deputy Director, Air Force Personnel Operations Activity

 

The deceptively cool morning skies over Martindale Army Airfield had started their climb to 90 degrees Fahrenheit as a joint, Total Force team of Texas Army National Guard Soldiers, Air Force Reserve Airmen, and an Active Duty pathfinder team prepared for their own climb into the heavens on wings of titanium.

Their mission, dubbed OPERATION ALAMO EVACUATION, was simple in its definition, but far-reaching in its demonstration for how components of the armed services can flawlessly converge on an objective and excel in its execution.

The exercise scenario took place November 18 at Martindale Army Airfield and simulated Airmen from the 26th Aerial Port Squadron receiving airdropped relief supplies from the 136th Airlift Wing in a remote part of Southwest Asia.  The Airmen then re-rigged the loads for sling load evacuation and pinpoint delivery by the Soldiers of Company C, 2-149 Aviation, to the relief supply recipients in the impassable mountains overlooking the drop zone.  The Soldiers subsequently conducted no-notice “alert” 9-line medical evacuation (MEDEVAC) responses in support of the scenario’s follow-on operations that afternoon, and flew the Airmen as MEDEVAC actors from Martindale Army Airfield to Joint Base San Antonio-Camp Bullis and back.

 “We started the morning with an aircraft safety brief and rehearsals for our hookups,” Senior Airman Justin King, 26th APS ramp operator, said as he described the morning’s activities. “Once things got going, the UH-60 Black Hawks came in two at-a-time, picking up the sling loads for a simulated relief supply drop-off.  It was exciting to do something that is part of the aerial porter job, yet not part of our everyday norm. This was a great experience! Now we’ve all conducted live sling loads, and understand how they can benefit our future operations wherever we go.”

During the exercise each two-person hook-up team on the ground stood beneath a helicopter while it hovered overhead, then attached the load to the aircraft’s cargo hook.

“It was neat watching the Soldiers bring their aircraft in over us,” Air Force Second Lieutenant Matthew Gonzales, 26th APS officer in charge of the passenger terminal, added. “It’s also intimidating as a huge helicopter approaches the load with the blades spinning, the rotor wash was incredible.  I didn’t think that it would be that powerful, or that someone would really be needed to stand behind and brace the hook-up person, but I’m glad they were there.  This was an awesome opportunity. I just received my commission last week, and I haven’t done anything like this in my 10 years in the Air Force.  This is my first drill weekend at the 26 Aerial Port Squadron, and this type of training instills military pride, develops a joint mindset by working with other services, and aligns with the chief of staff of the Air Force’s vision on joint operations.”

Chief Master Sergeant Joe Gonzalez, 26th APS operations superintendent, served as the pick-up zone NCO in charge (PZ NCOIC) and remarked on the opportunity this mission afforded his Airmen. 

“As the PZ NCOIC, I participated in the mission planning and supervised the safe execution of hook-ups at the touchdown points,” he said. “It was great see our Traditional Reservists get outside the normal garrison training environment and onto a flight line with the Army National Guard Soldiers. As aerial porters, we deploy downrange, and don’t always know what we’ll be asked to do; so we have to work with what’s there.  Likewise, this mission gave us valuable experience with less familiar tasks. We rigged A-22 cargo bags and conducted sling load training with live helicopters, something that that most aerial porters rarely do before deploying.  This was especially valuable as our unit approaches its deployment window.”

Offering an aviator’s perspective of the sling load hook-ups, Army First Lieutenant Christian Lubbe, Texas ARNG Company C, 2-149 Aviation, aeromedical evacuation officer and platoon leader for the Sustainment Platoon, commented, “The ground crews were very proficient and clearly had been trained to be familiar with the task at hand. I was impressed at the rate which we were accomplishing the iterations.  The aircraft would leave and the ground teams were ready to hook the next load.”

He particularly noted the joint benefit, “From an inter-service standpoint, it’s amazing to have a team of Airmen here with us. This is my first type of training like this, and I hope to do more in the future.”

Army Sergeant Tiffani Smith, Texas ARNG Company C, 2-149 Aviation, flight medic, echoed that the morning sling loads were well coordinated from beginning to end.

“It was well-thought out process, executed well, and served as a good refresher for me,” she said. “I thought that the visual cues with the ground marking panels and hook-up teams’ colored safety vests were helpful.  It allowed me to see when the hook-up team was ready, and where to aim the aircraft as we approached the load.” 

She noted the inter-service camaraderie demonstrated during her safety brief to the Airmen that morning carried over to their MEDEVAC flights as passengers that afternoon.

“They were all eager and professional,” she said. “During the safety brief, they were focused and paid attention.  I think it’s because we’re all familiar with American military operations.  We just came back from Kosovo, and working with other nations presents different challenges.  Today’s team was calm, cool, and collected.  They were prepared, and followed directions very well so we could focus on the mission.”

In keeping with its exercise name, OPERATION ALAMO EVACUATION witnessed the sling load evacuation of more than 36,000 pounds of cargo and the medical evacuation of 27 MEDEVAC actors.  Both of the leaders of the participating Texas Army National Guard and Air Force Reserve units emphasized that the day’s mission had value far beyond these tactical measures of accomplishment.

Lieutenant Colonel Jeremy Moore, 26th APS commander, underscored that the mission of the exercise aligned with his unit’s warfighting mission.

“Our primary mission at the 26th APS is to train and provide combat ready aerial porters,” he said. “This joint opportunity let us exercise some of our more unique support requirements that we normally wouldn't see outside of a deployed location.   More importantly, it provided our younger Airmen the opportunity to build and understand inter-service relationships with a key mission partner, the Army. It was exciting to see this come together, and to reinforce our ability to provide Rapid Global Mobility.”

Offering his key leader perspective, Lieutenant Colonel José Reyes, Texas ARNG Company C, 2-149 Aviation commander, remarked how beneficial the training was for both developing technical proficiency and inter-service relationships. 

“This was a tremendous opportunity for our units to work together,” he said. “I challenged my staff to plan the most efficient training with aircrew and aircraft sequencing.  Integrating the Air Force hook-up teams and pre-rigged loads improved the process, allowing faster iterations.  We trained 12 pilots, six crew chiefs, and four medics. To put that many crews through training with only two aircraft in such a short amount of time speaks volumes for the value of inter-service cooperation.”

Reyes remarked that the success of the day’s exercise shows a promising future for joint operations.

“We’re building a relationship,” he said. “We’ve established an association, successfully executed this mission, and now we can plan on future opportunities to reinforce our Joint, Total-Force partnership.”

HEALING AFTER HARVEY: One soldiers Journey through the great storm of 2017

SWEENY, TX, UNITED STATES

11.01.2017

Story by: Staff Sgt. Bethany Anderson

100th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

 

SWEENEY, Texas - As a mother and Texas Army National Guardsman, I have had first-hand experience with wildfires, tornadoes, ice storms, snow storms and earthquakes, but Harvey was my first hurricane.

What could have been an ugly and terrible life changing event for my little girls was turned into a beautiful adventure.

As Texas Guardsmen from across the state geared up to serve Texas citizens, I was preparing to evacuate my family from our home. Not knowing where we’d go, how long we’d be gone, weighed me down like a ton of bricks. But I was not about to unnecessarily put my three little girls in harm’s way.

While we loaded food and clothes into the cars, I asked my 3-year-old daughter, Kayden, and my 5-year-old daughter, Alex, to make sure they picked up everything off the floor in case water got inside while we were away.

“Is the house going to sink, Mommy?” Kayden asked, peering up at me with her beautiful big blue eyes.

“Sort of,” I replied. “Now, please go pick up your things off the floor.” Alex and Kayden darted off to their rooms and I continued to pack.

I was gathering up the last of our belongings when I heard Alex and Kayden talking in the hallway. “I love you, one would say. “Be safe,” the other would say. “I’ll miss you… we’ll be back soon.”

I peered out of the doorway to see my two babies hugging door frames and kissing the walls of our house. When they reached me, I could barely hold back my tears.

I evacuated my family around six o’clock on the evening of Monday, August 28, 2017. With my mother’s help, we loaded up my three daughters and three dogs into the car. My mother, whose flight back to California out of Houston was canceled, drove my husband’s truck containing our food, water, some valuables, and clothes. My husband, JD, who was working in Brownsville, looked for someone who could house our dogs.

The drive from Sweeny to San Antonio took us almost seven hours; a drive which normally takes three.

My 13-year-old daughter, Emily, argued with Alex while Kayden made animal noises and sang at the top of her lungs and one of the dogs whined and howled. The madness inside our car seemed to mimic the madness outside the car while I gripped the steering wheel and strained to hear the GPS.

I took a deep breath, focusing on the road as another violent gust of wind rocked the car. What used to be open fields of green were now angry oceans of flood water stretching out as far as I could see. It seemed as if our Toyota 4Runner was precariously skimming over the thin ribbon of road that cut through the massive expanse of water. I have driven through a lot of intense situations as a mom and as a Soldier, but this was, by far, my most stressful drive ever.

We arrived at the hotel in San Antonio around one o’clock in the morning, August 29, 2017.

Despite being mentally and emotionally drained, sleep did not come easy. Kayden’s little fingers were gripped around my index finger and Alex’s head rested gently on my shoulder while I listened to Emily sleep on the couch. My family was safe; but instead of feeling relieved, the uncertainty of our situation gnawed at me. With a heavy heart and my stomach in knots, I finally drifted to sleep.

Warm sunshine poured through the windows of our hotel room the next morning. Alex and Kayden hopped up in bed and exclaimed, “It’s not raining! Can we go home now?” I was both amused and disheartened. “No, girls. It’s still raining at our house. It’s not safe to go back.”

I spent the next two weeks answering the same question, and each time my answer never failed to produce a look of disappointment on my children’s faces.

We relocated three times and had to relocate the dogs twice. Each time we left the dogs with someone else, Alex’s heart would break and she’d sulk into my arms desperately fighting back tears.

I spent every day checking the weather, skimming through Facebook for information and watching Brazoria County press conferences for updates. I hated not being able to tell my children when we would go home. I didn’t even know if we’d have a home to go back to.

Anxiety, guilt and frustration came to me in waves, but I held it all; my girls needed to feel safe. They couldn’t see Mom disappear into her emotions.

Disappointing my children wasn’t the only thing on my mind. I had a couple part-time jobs and had recently started my own business to help pay the bills. Even though my husband was still working, Harvey’s relentlessness put every stream of income I had in limbo. Our family was already struggling to keep our finances afloat, and this certainly wasn’t going to help.

When I first received a message from my unit asking if our family was financially affected by the storm, I didn’t respond. Thousands of other people were much worse off than we were; it didn’t feel right asking for help. But my mom reminded me of all the times that we were able to help other people.

“You and JD have helped financially support others when they needed it,” my mom said. “You need to give others the opportunity to bless you.”

I replied to the text and let my unit know our family’s situation.

While our story is filled with tears and frustration, it is also filled with kindness, hope and gratitude. I have never been on the receiving end of so much generosity, support and encouragement.

When I first heard the phrase ‘Texans serving Texas,’ I only thought of myself as a Texas Guardsman, serving the citizens of Texas and the United States. I never thought it would mean Texas Army National Guard Soldiers serving my family.

Peers and leaders in the 71st Troop Command reached into wallets, without hesitation, and gave money, gift cards, toiletries and toys to my family, many of whom had never seen my face or heard my name before. Letters, gift cards and care packages also arrived from friends of Soldiers.

“This is like Christmas!” Alex shouted in excitement as she reached into a box of toys.

My children were filled with joy and laughter as they played with their new treasures. I was, and still am, both overwhelmed and humbled by the support my family and I received from my fellow service members.

One of my responsibilities as a Public Affairs NCO is to help tell the Army story. My unit, the 100th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, even found a way for me to support the Texas Military Department’s mission in response to Hurricane Harvey, despite my situation. I had Soldiers from my team spread out all over the state of Texas working long, hard hours to make sure people knew who the Texas Army National Guard was and what we were doing to help. It is difficult to be a leader and stand on the sidelines, but my unit empowered me to dig in and help my Soldiers be successful.

While my unit was doing everything they could to ensure the safety and well-being of my family, my business partners from all over the country flew into action. They took up donations and sent our family care packages with activities for the girls, home made cookies and gift cards. Another business partner sent a care package of supplements to help with my daughter’s digestive health problems.

We were even able to explore some fun places, as many businesses (like the aquarium) were opening their doors to Harvey evacuees free of charge. I didn’t have to stress over where dinner was coming from, and I didn’t have to confine my children to a hotel room for two weeks because we didn’t have money for gas. Every penny we received was used on gas, groceries and bills. The monetary and physical gifts my family received were in exact proportion to what we needed, exactly when we needed it. No more, no less.

On Saturday, September 9, the roads cleared and the sun broke through the clouds, so we headed home.

JD had driven up from Brownsville to help me get our family back to the house. We hadn’t seen our home in almost two weeks and didn’t know what to expect, but we were hopeful.

The closer we got to home, the more destruction and devastation we saw. Sheet rock, furniture and appliances were already sitting outside of houses. Trees, bushes and buildings were coated with thick brown mud. Some of the trees and bushes were tangled up with mattresses, chairs and trash. My 13-year-old daughter, Emily, noticed her best friend’s house had fallen prey to the flooding.

Our home was spared, for the most part. The menacing waters of the flooded San Bernard River came within just a few short feet of touching our home. Our master bedroom, bathroom and closet will need repairs from water damage caused by a leak from the first few days of the storm.

We are truly blessed to have so little to repair when so much of our neighborhood and community lost everything.

Whether in uniform, or out of uniform, I am a Texan serving Texas. I’m working to raise money to buy new playground equipment for Kayden’s daycare that lost everything in the flood.

Alex and Kayden sorted through all their belongings so they could share their clothes and toys with children who have none. Emily spent her free time with our church youth group helping people clean up wherever they could. So many people helped us after we evacuated and we’re going to do everything we can to help too. Only good things can come from helping others.

The road ahead for our family is going to be a difficult one. But we know that we won’t have to travel that road alone, or more than one day at a time. The recent events of the last three weeks have shown me that I have the strongest support networks a person could hope for.

I am a better person because of this experience and I will be able to bless others because of it. There are too many people who helped to list them all, but I will never forget and will always cherish their generosity.

There is a lot of uncertainty in our near future, but I am certain that everything’s going to be just fine.

Heroes of Harvey

HOUSTON, TX, UNITED STATES

10.01.2017

Story by Staff Sgt. Bethany Anderson

100th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

 

HOUSTON -- Hurricane Harvey carved a path of destruction through countless communities in southeastern Texas for days, after making landfall with an estimated 130 mile per hour winds near Rockport, Texas, August 25, 2017. While storm winds, rain and flood waters brought chaos and tragedy to the area, Texas Guardsmen partnered with local, state and federal first responders, bringing life-saving support and supplies to Texans in need.

Months before Hurricane Harvey struck the Texas coast, the Texas Military Department worked with state and federal partners to plan a concept operation to rehearse inter-agency coordination and joint training. All of the training for Texas National Guard units would be put to the test before, during and after Harvey left its mark on Texas.

“While we don’t want to have to put our training to the test during a tragedy, our citizen-guardsmen remain prepared to help save lives and property, when called,” said Texas Army National Guard Brig. Gen. Patrick M. Hamilton, Dual Status Commander for Hurricane Harvey recovery efforts.

The Texas Military Department began strategically mobilizing Texas Army, Air and State Guardsmen as Harvey entered the Gulf of Mexico and approached the Texas coast. While the storm raged on, they worked with state and federal agencies through a phased approach to put the appropriate military resources in the right place at the right time.

“We are here to help our communities,” said Hamilton. “Working alongside our partner agencies and local first responders, we focused on deploying Guardsmen and resources where they were needed to save lives.”

Within three days of Harvey’s landfall, 12,000 Texas Guardsmen were working around the clock to support Hurricane Harvey relief efforts. It was the first time in since World War I that the entire force was mobilized at once.

The first priority was search and rescue. Zodiac boats, high-profile vehicles, helicopters and fixed wing aircraft from Texas and across the country were deployed in response to emergency conditions in affected areas.

Guardsmen from across the United States, partner first responders and service members from both active and reserve components waded through waters with boats and high profile vehicles. Overhead helicopter crews worked to airlift Texans stranded on rooftops, while Airmen in C-130s evacuated numerous people to safety.

Texas State Guardsmen were waiting with dry blankets and a smile, for displaced Texans at shelters across the state where evacuees would be identified and reunited with loved ones. Integrating seamlessly into Harvey relief operations, Texas Guardsmen helped with everything from search and rescue to critical life support, logistics support and safety operations.

Texas Guardsmen conducted hundreds of air and ground missions, performing more than 16,000 rescues and evacuating more than 18,000 people and 1,200 animals. As part of the complex inter-agency and joint operation, state and federal partners performed thousands of additional evacuations and rescue operations.

“This is what we train for,” said Hamilton. “And we’re proud to stand by our civilian partners, first responders and volunteers to serve the citizens of Texas.”

The Texas State Guard, an all-volunteer force, supported Harvey relief efforts with 17 boat teams for search and rescue operations and eight Electronic Tracking Network teams to help evacuees locate loved ones checked into shelters. In addition, the 41 Texas State Guard shelter teams sheltered more than 26,000 evacuees and more than 700 animals in 15 shelters across the state.

On Sept. 1, The sun broke through clouds, stopping what seemed like Harvey’s never-ending stream of rain a, causing flood waters to recede. As the threat from severe flooding began to dissipate, Texas Guardsmen switched their focus to supporting recovery and stability operations.

Texas Army and Air National Guardsmen immediately began constructing temporary hospitals and emergency clinics to aid medical first responders until hospitals regained power. Inside Texas Military Department medics worked side-by-side with civilian doctors to assess and treat those injured in the storm.

“There’s been some pretty serious injuries,” said Texas National Guard Spc. Sergio Villarreal, 1-143rd Infantry Regiment, “It’s great to see civilians and military working hand in hand.”

Thousands of families and individuals were stranded and without clean drinking water for days after Harvey passed over their cities. To provide Texas families in need of basic necessities, the Texas Military Department managed approximately 30 points of distribution in areas affected by Hurricane Harvey. Guardsmen, working with volunteers from all over the country, distributed food, clean water, hygiene, baby and pet products to more than 100,000 Texan families in cities from Corpus Christi to Beaumont as part of the relief operations.

Texas Military Department chaplains provided emotional and spiritual support to service members and first responders, while simultaneously coordinating with local churches to get much needed supplies to affected Texans. Soldiers from Texas and Ohio worked together to deliver and feed hay to stranded livestock, helping to preserve the local agriculture and economy.

“This is the way I serve my country. I’m here helping people out,” said Texas National Guard Pfc. Jonathan Galindo, 3-133rd Field Artillery, who worked as a member of a POD team in Orange. “You know, the water is high, they’re not able to get out of their homes. It’s great we’re able to provide for them here.”

The mission of the Texas Military Department is to provide the Governor and the President with ready forces in support of state and federal authorities at home and abroad. When they were called upon, the men and women from the Texas Guard were ready and answered that call with a passion to help people.

“Hurricane Harvey left great destruction in its path, and the recovery process will take many years,” said Maj. Gen. John F. Nichols, The Adjutant General of Texas. “However, the Texas Military Department’s response to Hurricane Harvey, alongside our partners, saved lives and helped many Texans take the first step towards rebuilding.”

Maintenance Soldiers keep the Hurricane Harvey rescue and recovery effort moving forward

Photo By Sgt. Ariel Solomon | Sgt. Jennifer Bruner from Claremore, Okla. and Pfc. Thunder Sharp from Perkins, Okla., both with the 700th Brigade Support Battalion, Oklahoma National Guard, check for a short in the wiring of a Light Medium Tactical Vehicle at the Beaumont Regional Staging Area in Jefferson County, Texas, Sept. 9, 2017. The 700th BSB is coming in to relieve the Combined Maintenance crew.
Photo By Sgt. Ariel Solomon | Sgt. Jennifer Bruner from Claremore, Okla. and Pfc. Thunder Sharp from Perkins, Okla., both with the 700th Brigade Support Battalion, Oklahoma National Guard, check for a short in the wiring of a Light Medium Tactical Vehicle at the Beaumont Regional Staging Area in Jefferson County, Texas, Sept. 9, 2017. The 700th BSB is coming in to relieve the Combined Maintenance crew.

BEAUMONT, TX, UNITED STATES

09.10.2017

Story by Sgt. Ariel Solomon

128th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

 

In disaster response operations, Soldiers depend on their vehicles to rescue stranded people and bring supplies to those in need. Flooding along the Gulf Coast of Texas following Hurricane Harvey placed significant strain on even the hardiest of military vehicles. 

During these operations, Army mechanics and vehicle maintainers work around the clock to do their part to keep the rescue and recovery effort moving.

“You can tell some of these guys have been living in their trucks for three or four days,” said Sgt. Michael Shupak of the 736th Component Repair Company, Texas National Guard. “We put them in cots, give them drinks, food from the dining facility, whatever they need to be comfortable while we work on their trucks. When we’re done, they’re on the road again.”

The most common issue causing trucks to break down is water diluting the various oils used to lubricate moving parts within the vehicles, which makes parts break, bearings seize or engines overheat. When this happens, the vehicle is “deadlined” and unable to be sent back out on missions.

“The Soldiers are going above and beyond the capabilities of the vehicles when fording water,” said Sgt. Feraz Hosein with the 736th CRC, a native of Saginaw, Texas. “To rescue people, they have to do what they have to do.”

The Soldier’s Creed states that “I will always place the mission first,” and it doesn’t matter if their mission is rescuing civilians at the risk of damaging trucks or repairing those vehicles before preparing their own sleeping area.

“There wasn’t anything set up for us when we arrived and there were six vehicles that needed repairs,” said Sgt. Derwood Smelley with the 112th Quartermasters, Texas National Guard, a native of Hallsville. “We got to work before we got our own tent setup. We were up until 2 a.m. getting those trucks working.”

These Soldiers, from several different units, received the call and in a few days they came together as a team to accomplish their task. In total, the combined maintenance crew has repaired more than 40 vehicles, some of which are being sent immediately to Florida to help with the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. 

“Overall, it was a really good mission and we accomplished a lot,” said Hosein. “We pushed to the limit, working 24 hours a day, late at night and everyone did awesome.”

Ragin' Cajuns feed First Responders

Photo By Sgt. Matthew Wright | Staff from the Cajun' Caterers who's main purpose is to feed first responders, set up at the Ford Center in Beaumont to feed the thousands of Guards members from Texas and other states as well as first responders and government relief workers.
Photo By Sgt. Matthew Wright | Staff from the Cajun' Caterers who's main purpose is to feed first responders, set up at the Ford Center in Beaumont to feed the thousands of Guards members from Texas and other states as well as first responders and government relief workers.

BEAUMONT, TX, UNITED STATES

09.09.2017

Story by Sgt. Matthew Wright

56th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (36th ID, TXARNG)

 

Beaumont, TEXAS -- There is a saying during the Napoleonic period, an Army marches on its stomach. Centuries later, that saying still holds to be true. Though the Texas National Guard’s objective is not war related, the supplies most needed to run this hurricane relief mission still stands, being fed.

This is where Heads and Tails, a part of Cajun Caterers company comes in. The Thibodaux, LA based company works from disaster to disaster providing three meals a day and refreshments to the military and first responders. The company is a subsidiary of Disaster Resource Group based out of Baton Rouge, LA and their food is measured by size and style to accommodate those they serve.

Co-Owner and supervisor, Ronnie A. Eschete explains, “My purpose is people are fed with a protein, a vegetable and we make sure they’re hydrated with all types of beverages.”

They support all different types of disasters, which includes fires, earthquakes and tornadoes among others. The company is setup to cater to a large group to endure for a long time period. 

“We have fed from 1500 people to 2400 plus, here.” Eschete said.

Though the people they feed are large in numbers, the staff comprises of only 17 people. They play different roles, cooking, setting up the serving areas and loading and unloading the food.

Cajun Caterers receives its supplies from both Beaumont and Louisiana. Since East Texas was hit by Hurricane Harvey, they have reached out to other distributors from other cities and states. 


The company prides itself on the quality of food even with the quantities they have to serve. Their chefs have cooked from all over the world, like Paris, and some of the finer restaurants in the United States he said.

There is a lot that goes into making meals for a large group. They have to follow a specific menu that would be able to accommodate the majority of the people. Yet the cooks still try to infuse some of their hometown flavors.

“A lot of people are not used to Louisiana style cooking, a lot of people get construed with seasonings.” Eschete explained, “People think seasoning is Cayenne pepper. Seasonings are shallots, bell peppers, onions and garlic, that is the Cajun way.”

Through it all, Cajun Caterers have one mission, to support those involved with disaster relief and help out the best way they can. Feeding the first responders is their way of doing that.

“Naturally these guys support the Military and we also support law enforcement and naturally we will do whatever it takes to support our neighboring states.”

Texas guard “Spice Girls” rescue more than 300 Harvey flood victims

 

LUMBERTON, TX, UNITED STATES

09.08.2017

Story by Capt. Maria Mengrone

176th Engineer Brigade (TXARNG)

 

LUMBERTON, Texas – A group of female Texas guardsmen dubbed themselves the “Spice Girls” after helping rescue more than 300 flood victims in Lumberton, Texas. The soldiers are mobilized on state active duty orders in support of ongoing Hurricane Harvey relief efforts. 

“At first the nickname was a running joke because we were five females running around the town of Lumberton helping people,” said 1st Lt. Mikayla Schulte, environmental science/engineering officer, 136th Military Police Battalion native of Fort Worth. “After we took a picture copying the group we decided it really was a perfect description.”

The five soldiers took a photo replicating an iconic image of the famous ‘90s pop group, the Spice Girls, that helped seal their newly adopted moniker. 

The soldiers felt that the pop group closely represented and captured the strength of their all-female team.

“We were messing around trying to come up with names and that’s what stuck; that’s what many of us grew up listening to,” said Staff Sgt. Amanda Riley, wheeled vehicle mechanic, 136th Military Police Battalion and native of Berryville. 

The group of female Soldiers came together after its convoy was split from their main element due to the rapidly rising flood waters. 

Although in the same battalion, prior to Harvey, the five female Soldiers had not worked so closely together. The events that unfolded on August 29, 2017 brought the group closer together.

Initially part of a group of 16 vehicles and 52 soldiers, Schulte’s group was temporarily separated due to mission requirements, with the intent of regrouping by the end of the day. 

The entire group had been ordered to move to another city where they would receive a new mission that day.

The flood waters in Lumberton rose two-feet in less than one hour, making a portion of interstate 96 impassable for even the two high-profile military vehicles Schulte commanded. 

The flood waters posed a major threat to the convoy and Schulte made the decision to turn around, which prevented her from being able to link back up with the original team.

“By the time our two trucks tried to cross, the water was too high and moving too fast. I ordered the team to back out of the water; it was one of those decisions that I may not have had a chance to take back if I didn’t trust my lead vehicle driver,” said Schulte.

The team of Soldiers, with its two high-profile vehicles, headed back to the Lumberton Fire Department, looking to see if they could help. 

Later, the soldiers learned that all roads leading into the city of Lumberton had flooded leaving them separated from the rest of their team, no longer in Lumberton, but making their mission that much more critical.

“We reported to the incident commander and we immediately started to help get as many of the evacuees to dry land,” said Riley.

The group of five soldiers worked tirelessly and assisted in relocating evacuees in a flooded-out shelter to a secondary location with the use of its dump truck and high-water vehicle.

“We loaded families, children, elderly, dogs, cats, birds and everything in between. If we could get it into a dump truck we loaded it,” said Schulte.

The surrounding communities also responded to help the city of Lumberton.

“Boats from all over had converged here to help evacuate people from the flooded neighborhood,” said Schulte.

In total, the five soldiers helped rescue more than 300 flood victims in the span of four days from Aug. 29 to Sep. 1, 2017. 

“We are humbled and I want to thank the Lumberton Fire Department. They took care of us for four days. These first responders lost their homes, cars and everything in between but they still were out there saving people,” said Schulte. 

The soldiers are assigned to Joint Task Force 136 Maneuver Enhancement Brigade based in Round Rock. 

“Once we realized we couldn’t get out, the Lumberton Fire Department went out and got us sleeping bags and pillows,” said Riley. “It was just heartwarming how they welcomed us.”

“It’s amazing how we have come together as a team,” said Schulte. “This experience brought a group of female soldiers together and calling ourselves the ‘Spice Girls’ is our way of remembering our unity and strength in our group, but more importantly it remained us of the human spirit and how even in a time of crisis people are willing to help one another.” 

At the request of the Governor, the Texas Guard mobilized more than 12,000 military men and women from the Texas Army and Air National Guards, Texas State Guard to support Hurricane response operations following Hurricane Harvey.

Chaplains Provide Relief to Hurricane Harvey’s Victims

 

Photo By Sgt. Matthew Wright | Soldiers from 36 ID help Chaplain Brian K. Hudson offload supplies to First Church of Orange, Texas on Thursday Sep. 7, 2017 as a coordinated effort to get much needed provisions to the local communities.
Photo By Sgt. Matthew Wright | Soldiers from 36 ID help Chaplain Brian K. Hudson offload supplies to First Church of Orange, Texas on Thursday Sep. 7, 2017 as a coordinated effort to get much needed provisions to the local communities. 

ORANGE, TX, UNITED STATES

09.08.2017

Story by Sgt. Matthew Wright>

56th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (36th ID, TXARNG)

 

Beaumont, TEXAS -- Hurricane Harvey may be long gone, but it’s path of destruction is still felt throughout the coastline of Texas and Louisiana. As the flooding continued throughout Houston and east to the state border, thousands of Army and Air National Guard troops made their way into the area with the purpose of rescuing residents trapped by the rising waters. 

The Chaplain Corps of the Texas National Guard went were out into the water with the rest of the Soldiers and Airmen rescuing people out of their homes as the waters started rising at a rapid rate. 

Chaplain (1st. Lt.) Angel D. Newhart from the 71st Theater Information Operations Group (TIOG), along with her chaplain assistant, Spc. Alexandria N Velasquez were part of a unit out in Katy, Texas aiding the rescues. Newhart recalled several stories of camaraderie with the Soldiers and the compassion the citizens had for their rescuers, especially with those who weren’t able to save themselves.

She recalled, one event when a man suffering from Cerebral Palsy was unable to leave his home. He was helped into his wheelchair and aided into the truck by the Soldiers. The medic came and immediately washed the blood off, cleaned and wrapped his feet from him water exposure.

“It was just, you know, one of those things you see and it touches your heart ” Newhart said. “It was a sweet that’s why we are here moment.”

As the waters receded along most of the coast, the 56th Task Force shifted gears from rescue to recovery, the Chaplain Corps’ work only doubled with the effort to bring much needed supplies to communities.

Another Chaplain, Cpt. Brian K. Hudson from the 36th Infantry Division, has been working with the churches in the Beaumont and Orange townships. Using a warehouse holding supplies, Hudson transported items such as water, food, baby and hygiene products to the churches to distribute.

“I meet with the local church and we drop off the stuff over to them and they take it from there and distribute out to the communities” Hudson stated. “I liasson and I am supplying so they can take care of their communities.”

The churches, once supplied, would be distribution centers in their communities for people hit by the floods, as well as personally sending those items to the those people who couldn’t or wouldn’t leave their homes due to transportation issues, especially in the lower income areas.

At one of their distribution points, First Church of Orange, Texas, Soldiers apologized for only able to bring eight pallets of supplies. Despite that they still felt a sense of pride and selflessness for helping the communities that so desperately need them.

Spc. Adam B. Miller, a Soldier dropping off the supplies said he felt the gratitude from local communities when the unit gives out supplies to the lower income communities and that is a great feeling.

Volunteers wash more than 100 loads of laundry for troops assisting in Harvey relief efforts

Photo By Capt. Aaron Moshier | Fatima Maniar’s son Gabriel and Nichole Bode’s daughter Gabbie, volunteers from the St. Thomas More Catholic Church and School, pose for a photo with handmade thank you notes for soldiers serving out of the Rosenberg National Guard Armory. Volunteers washed more than 100 loads of laundry as a show of support and appreciation for mobilized Soldiers assisting in Hurricane Harvey relief efforts, Rosenberg, Texas, September 2, 2017.
Photo By Capt. Aaron Moshier | Fatima Maniar’s son Gabriel and Nichole Bode’s daughter Gabbie, volunteers from the St. Thomas More Catholic Church and School, pose for a photo with handmade thank you notes for soldiers serving out of the Rosenberg National Guard Armory. Volunteers washed more than 100 loads of laundry as a show of support and appreciation for mobilized Soldiers assisting in Hurricane Harvey relief efforts, Rosenberg, Texas, September 2, 2017.

ROSENBERG, TX, UNITED STATES

09.08.2017

Story by Capt. Maria Mengrone

176th Engineer Brigade (TXARNG)

 

ROSENBERG, Texas – A group of volunteers from Meyerland, a neighborhood in Houston, washed more than 100 loads of laundry as a show of support and appreciation for mobilized Soldiers assisting in Hurricane Harvey relief efforts in Rosenberg, Aug. 29-Sept. 4, 2017.

“We don’t have a means to wash our uniforms so this kind gesture allows us to remain focused on the mission,” said Texas Army National Guard Sgt. 1st Class James Thomas, technical engineer, 111th Engineer Battalion, 176th Engineer Brigade and native of Leonard. “Our soldiers are operating in almost five feet of water, they’re soaked and this is helping our morale.” 

Fatima Maniar, a veteran and avid church volunteer, came up with the idea after brainstorming with friends on how she could best help the soldiers serving in surrounding communities. 

“I started thinking of ways I could help and I asked my friend if she would help,” said Maniar. 

Maniar enlisted the help of her friend Nichole Bode, and together the duo began offering free laundry service to service members working out of the Rosenberg National Guard Armory. 

“We began alternating trips because the need for laundry was great,” said Bode.

The idea quickly became popular among soldiers and soon Maniar and Bode recruited more volunteers to help.

“We had friends that just offered to help for nothing in return. I’d say we had about eight people helping with the laundry,” said Maniar. 

The volunteers show up to the armory every day and pick up between six to 15 loads of laundry. 

“The soldiers never told us when to get it back to them but we knew that we had to get their laundry back to them as fast as possible,” said Bode. 

Since the beginning of the operation Maniar and Bode have declined to accept any form of compensation for their volunteer work.

“We've offered them detergent that we brought with us but they wouldn’t take it. They've been here every single day, day after day. That's time, money, and resources that they have given to support us,” said Chaplain Candidate (2nd Lt.) Ismael Berlanga, unit ministry team, 111th Engineer Battalion, 176th Engineer Brigade and native of San Saba. 

“I know, at first, it was difficult for soldiers to give a stranger their dirty clothes but they warmed up and now it has definitely improved the morale of our soldiers.”

The laundry operation has become a family affair with the inclusion of Maniar’s son Gabriel and Bode’s daughter Gabbie.

“We were blessed that our homes were not affected by the floods and I hope the kids see that helping ours neighbors is a good thing and especially our military,” said Bode. “Gabriel’s dad is in the military and his mom Fatima is a veteran, my dad also served. Our kids are growing up with a respect for the military and it warms my heart to see that.”

Soldiers working out of the Rosenberg armory understand the impact of donning a clean uniform when working in wet conditions. 
It has really made a difference to our soldiers,” said Berlanga. “Just having clean clothes and clean socks really has helped the soldiers stay focused on the mission.

“The outreach in this community is just awesome,” said Thomas. “They are going out of their way to do our laundry and make sure we have clean clothes is just awesome. Thank you.”

The soldiers wish to thank an additional group of volunteers: Kim Lesniewicz, Vanessa LaWare, Irma Perez, Christina Sumerall, Heather Gallagher and Paige Wermuth.

At the request of the Governor, the Texas Guard mobilized more than 12,000 military men and women from the Texas Army and Air National Guards, Texas State Guard to support Hurricane response operations following Hurricane Harvey.