Posts in Category: Texas Army National Guard

Equal to the Task

Preparing for the Army Combat Fitness Test

Story and Photos by Charles E. Spirtos, TMD Public Affairs

ACFTWhen a force is fit, it is more lethal and more agile in the face of threats. Whether the call is on the battlefield, or during the heat of a natural disaster like a hurricane, the men and women of the Texas Military Department maintain constant preparedness to maintain a force ready to support federal authorities home and abroad.

Part of maintaining a professional force is maintaining maximum physical fitness. A recent Army-wide innovation that will allow the force to maintain relevance and increased lethality is the introduction of the Army Combat Fitness Test as the test of record for assessing Soldier fitness.

The ACFT will be a superior metric in determining a Soldier’s readiness for the battlefield by evaluating complex actions that have direct parallels to motions frequently encountered in the battlefield, according to TMD Command Senior Enlisted Leader CMSgt Michael E. Cornitius. Cornitius also believes that the collaborative nature of the ACFT will increase camaraderie within the force: “You can encourage each other through the course of the test. You’re going to have at least four battle buddies to walk you through it--so that’s what I like about it.

The Army Combat Fitness Test may be a challenge for Soldiers who are used to the older physical fitness test. However, SSG Anthony Delagarza believes that training in support of the ACFT will allow the Texas Military Department to become the fittest, most lethal force in the country. The Army Combat Fitness Test is not easy. In fact, many seasoned Soldiers have described it as extremely daunting. This doesn’t scare us off however, this motivates us. After all, when have Texans ever backed down to a challenge?

A Soldier’s Journey

Texas-based National Guard Soldier turns his life around

Story by Sgt. Karen Lawshae, 1st Armored Division

AFGHANISTAN - For Sgt. James Green, his path to the U.S. Army could be described as a rocky one.

He was born in San Angelo, Texas as a “military brat,” being the son of an Air Force tech sergeant. During his formative years his family bounced around between various places, including several stateside and overseas locations such as Maryland, Texas, Washington, Hawaii, and Japan. His family finally settled in El Paso, Texas following the completion of his father’s term of service in the U.S. Air Force.

Green describes his early life as “chaotic, and unstable.” “As soon as I would make a good friend, I'd have to leave,” he said.

This is an unfortunate fact of life for many military children, but Green had other issues to deal with as well – the eventual divorce of his parents and some extremely challenging anger issues. His mom thought his anger stemmed from the divorce, but Green says there were other concerns beyond the surface. 

Sgt. James Green, a native of El Paso, Texas, assigned to the 1st Armored Division Mobile Command Post Operational Detachment (1AD MCP-OD) stands outside his work location Dec. 30 at Task Force-Southeast Headquarters in Southeastern Afghanistan. Green credits his service in the U.S. Army for helping him change his life around for the better. Green is currently deployed to Afghanistan as a member of the Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 1st Armored Division supporting Operation Freedom's Sentinel and Operation Resolute Support. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Karen Lawshae)
Sgt. James Green, a native of El Paso, Texas, assigned to the 1st Armored Division Mobile Command Post Operational Detachment (1AD MCP-OD) stands outside his work location Dec. 30 at Task Force-Southeast Headquarters in Southeastern Afghanistan. Green credits his service in the U.S. Army for helping him change his life around for the better. Green is currently deployed to Afghanistan as a member of the Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 1st Armored Division supporting Operation Freedom's Sentinel and Operation Resolute Support. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Karen Lawshae)



“I was angry and I was diagnosed with ADHD [Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder]. I had a ton of energy and nowhere to put it,” he said. “I was a very destructive child; I was hard to deal with as a child.”

Green went through years of medication and therapy for his ADHD and anger issues, none of which seemed to help. One day he decided to stop taking the medication out of frustration and found other outlets to deal with his ADHD. Unfortunately, he states he turned to “illegal” means to deal with his issues.

Juvenile delinquency followed, with various forays into theft, drugs, and other illicit behavior. Green got a wake-up call, however, when he got arrested. The arrest was for a minor offense, but it was enough to make him want to turn his life around. He felt military service would help him find structure in his life, so he enlisted as a Soldier in the Texas Army National Guard in 2003 as a cable systems installer-maintainer and deployed to Iraq within a year of his enlistment.

During Green’s first deployment to Iraq, he gained additional clarity and focus through dealing with difficult circumstances. Green’s combat deployment to Iraq was harsh and violent. He was awarded an Army Commendation Medal with Valor device for his actions when his guard tower was attacked by a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) and small arms fire.

In a different incident, some Iraqi children were killed by a roadside IED that was intended to target him and his fellow Soldiers. The attack took place in a location where Green had been interacting with those same children the day before during a combat patrol, and the lone surviving child came to the gate of his unit’s outpost after the tragedy to inform him of what happened.

“It was at that point that all the anger I had been holding on to, all that energy was gone. It was a completely reality-shattering moment for me, and everything changed in my life,” said Green.

Green has since deployed three more times with the Texas Army National Guard: two more tours in Iraq, and he is currently deployed to Afghanistan, where he is an invaluable member of the communications section during his assignment at Task Force-Southeast, based in Southeastern Afghanistan. He assists with everything computer-related and keeps communications running smoothly throughout the task force as the help desk administrator.

Green is a proud member of the 1st Armored Division’s Mobile Command Post Operational Detachment, known as the 1AD MCP-OD, a relatively new Texas Army National Guard unit that is a company-level element for the 1st Armored Division Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, based at Fort Bliss, Texas.

1AD MCP-OD Soldiers work side-by-side with the division’s active duty Soldiers, providing essential skillsets needed during major training exercises and frequent deployments. It is a rare opportunity for a National Guard Soldier to work so closely intermingled with the active component.
 

Sgt. James Green, native of El Paso, Texas, assigned to the 1st Armored Division Mobile Command Post Operational Detachment (1AD MCP-OD), Texas Army National Guard, kisses his wife Hannah on their wedding day, May 12, 2017. Green's journey into the U.S. Army has been filled with challenges, but he values the lessons the Army has given him. Green is currently deployed to Afghanistan with the 1st Armored Division Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion in support of Operation Freedom's Sentinel and Resolute Support. (Photo Courtesy of Sgt. James Green)

Sgt. James Green, native of El Paso, Texas, assigned to the 1st Armored Division Mobile Command Post Operational Detachment (1AD MCP-OD), Texas Army National Guard, kisses his wife Hannah on their wedding day, May 12, 2017. Green's journey into the U.S. Army has been filled with challenges, but he values the lessons the Army has given him. Green is currently deployed to Afghanistan with the 1st Armored Division Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion in support of Operation Freedom's Sentinel and Resolute Support. (Photo Courtesy of Sgt. James Green)

“I really enjoy a lot of facets of it,” Green said. “We have a lot more reach and a lot more opportunity to do the jobs that we originally signed up to do.” Green also enjoys the MCP-OD’s frequent opportunities for training missions and overseas deployments.

In addition to his military achievements, Green has educational goals as well. He currently holds an Associate’s Degree in Information Systems & Security from Western Technical Institute, and aspires to earn both a Bachelor’s and a Master’s Degree in Cyber Security and Information Assurance in the future. He hopes to re-class his military occupational specialty (MOS) to 35 series, Intelligence, and hopes to get the opportunity to work within the Department of Defense in the future. As for his Texas Army National Guard career, Green plans to take full advantage of the unique opportunities afforded by his unit, saying “This MCP-OD will keep me until my military retirement.”

Guard members reflect on 2019, prepare for new decade

By Tech. Sgt. Erich B. Smith, National Guard Bureau

ARLINGTON, Va. – From cyber missions to training with international partners, supporting the war fight and responding to natural disasters, 2019 was a busy year for the National Guard.

The year began with Guard members helping out during numerous winter storms.

More than 450 New York National Guard members were on duty in January responding to a snowstorm that blanketed most of New York, including New York City. Many of those same troops were back at it when gusting windstorms in February meant clearing debris from roadways and conducting traffic control operations.

In March, massive flooding affected thousands of people in Nebraska, Missouri, Iowa and other Midwest states, prompting governors to activate more than 340 Guard members. Airmen from the Missouri Air National Guard's 139th Airlift Wing used sandbags to stem the flow of running water, while Soldiers with the Nebraska Army National Guard's Company B, 2nd Battalion, 135th Aviation Regiment, used CH-47 Chinook helicopters to drop bales of hay for displaced livestock.

"We pushed hay out of the back of one of our helicopters in order to feed cows that were stranded," said Air Force Maj. Gen. Daryl Bohac, the adjutant general of the Nebraska National Guard. "The floodwaters have trapped the cattle and isolated them."

In Colorado, winter storms came as late as April, and the Colorado National Guard activated 50 members to help first responders with transportation needs, using Humvees to get to hard-to-reach places.

"The [Colorado National Guard] is always ready, always there to assist our neighbors [and] to save lives, prevent suffering and mitigate great property damage," said Army Col. Scott Sherman, commander of Joint Task Force Centennial, which leads the Colorado Guard's response to domestic events.

As winter storms subsided, many Guard units shifted their attention to wildfires.

In May, Alaska Army National Guard fire suppression efforts included water bucket drops from UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters while ground troops provided traffic management and evacuation support using Humvees.

"Soldiers are manning traffic control positions 24/7," said Army Capt. Ralph Harris, commander of the Alaska Army National Guard's 297th Military Police Company. "Some folks were asked to leave their homes, but had to return to their homes first to prepare, so our MPs check them in and out for accountability and to ensure people are aware of the unsafe roads for travel."

More than 100 Soldiers and Airmen with the California National Guard's Task Force Rattlesnake cleared out potential fuels, such as dead trees, dry vegetation and other flammable material, throughout the state.

"Everyone's really motivated and excited to be a part of this project," said Army 2nd Lt. Jonathan Green, the officer in charge of a firefighting team with the California Army National Guard's 115th Regional Support Group. "We're excited to hit the ground, make progress and hopefully prevent future fires from happening."

But wildfires and snowstorms weren't the only natural disasters that tested the Guard's readiness. As the active hurricane season arrived, Guard members were primed to respond.

After Hurricane Dorian ravaged the Bahamas, Airmen from the Tennessee Air National Guard's 118th Wing provided imagery analysis, including damage assessments, infrastructure reports and identification of potentially hazardous material.

"I am proud of our Airmen for their tireless efforts to respond in the affected areas and from right here in Nashville, Tennessee," said Air Force Lt. Col. Aaron Wilson, commander of the 118th Intelligence Group. "This is what we train for. This is why America has a National Guard: to save lives at home, to fight our nation's wars and to build partnerships."

More than 5,500 Guard members were on duty, positioned to respond in the aftermath of Dorian.

Air Force Gen. Joseph Lengyel, chief of the National Guard Bureau, highlighted how Guard members were ahead of the storm as it made its way toward landfall.

"[Guard members] will be poised to work and ready for their communities and states – from the inception of preparation, through the response, through the recovery – until the [local first] responders can handle this without any military assistance," said Lengyel.

But first responders weren't the only partners the Guard had in 2019.

The Guard saw continued growth and activity with the State Partnership Program, a Defense Department priority that pairs Guard elements with partner nations worldwide.

The Nebraska National Guard was paired with Rwanda's military, marking the 78th partnership in the SPP.

"I know that the training opportunities, cultural experiences and professional exchange of ideas that the SPP makes possible will benefit both the Nebraska National Guard and Rwanda for years to come," said Bohac, the adjutant general of the Nebraska Guard.

During the year, other Guard elements worked with their SPP partners.

New York Air National Guard members worked with South African firefighters near Cape Town, South Africa, honing their skills battling brush fires. The effort was part of the partnership between the New York National Guard and the South African National Defence Force.

"It was a great experience to be part of an international partnership and to be able to learn from other firefighters as well as show them what we are capable of," said Air Force Staff Sgt. Jodi Ruther, a firefighter with the New York Air Guard's 109th Airlift Wing.

She was pleased to see many women involved in the training.

"Hopefully, encouraging more women to join firefighting [teams] will show that we are just as capable as the men in the world of wildland firefighting," Ruther said.

In Estonia, military police and security forces from the Maryland National Guard participated in Spring Storm, an annual exercise conducted by Estonia's military that focused on convoy security, detainee operations and tactical patrols.

"This is not a typical training environment for the military police detachment," said Spc. Angelique Helkowski, with the Maryland Army National Guard's 290th Military Police Company. "When we train stateside, we do the same things repetitively. This gets us out into nature and relates more to a deployed environment."

For Tech. Sgt. Kevin Miner, a security forces specialist with the Maryland Air National Guard's 175th Wing, working with a mixed group of U.S. and Estonian soldiers meant his squad had to operate more efficiently and effectively.

"Although my squad had never trained together, we were able to mobilize as a team," Miner said. "It was a very easy transition, and we had unit cohesion immediately."

The year also had its share of milestones and anniversaries.

In early June, aircrews from the Kentucky Air National Guard's 123rd Airlift Wing, flying two C-130 Hercules aircraft, participated in the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion in Normandy, France. The aircrew performed seven flyovers in the C-130s and helped airdrop nearly 1,000 U.S. and Allied paratroopers as part of the commemoration.

"This was an incredible opportunity," said Chief Master Sgt. Jeff Brown, the loadmaster superintendent at the wing. "To be involved with something so significant – I never thought that in my career I would get to do something like this. We have some young guys with us, too, and it has been great for them to see what it takes to go into a large exercise like this."

In North Carolina, a Virginia Army National Guard artillery unit took part in a unique live-fire exercise: firing from a waterborne landing craft.

Though artillery crews employed their guns from landing craft during the D-Day invasion in World War II, the tactic has not often been used since that era. 

Spc. Jerrad Nicholson, with the Indiana Army National Guard's 1st Squadron, 152nd Cavalry Regiment, leads Soldiers into a room during Slovak Shield 2019, a training exercise in Lešt, Slovakia, Nov. 10, 2019, as part of the Defense Department's State Partnership Program. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Senior Airman Jonathan Padish)
Spc. Jerrad Nicholson, with the Indiana Army National Guard's 1st Squadron, 152nd Cavalry Regiment, leads Soldiers into a room during Slovak Shield 2019, a training exercise in Lešt, Slovakia, Nov. 10, 2019, as part of the Defense Department's State Partnership Program. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Senior Airman Jonathan Padish)

Army Staff Sgt. Ryan Turner, with the Virginia Army Guard's 1st Battalion, 111th Field Artillery Regiment, said the unusual setting for the artillery exercise presented challenges.

Every time a shell was fired, he said, the recoil from the shot would displace the howitzer on the landing craft.

"Being on the boat, we had to situate sandbags behind the tires [on the howitzer] as well as the spade," said Turner. "What we've rigged up seems to work."

The year also marked the 30th anniversary of the National Guard Counterdrug Program, which has Guard members working with law enforcement agencies to combat the flow of illegal drugs into the United States.

"This program allows the Citizen-Soldier [and Airman] to support law enforcement agencies down to our communities, making it a solid grassroots initiative," said Army Col. Miguel Torres, the head coordinator for the Texas National Guard Joint Counterdrug Task Force, one of the first units to conduct counter-narcotics support missions with law enforcement. "Guardsmen can help do the nuts and bolts of things and allow law enforcement agencies to put people behind bars."

In July, Army Lt. Gen. Daniel Hokanson took the reins of the Army National Guard.

Hokanson, previously the National Guard Bureau's vice chief, said it's the Soldiers who make leading the Army Guard worthwhile.

"With all the changes nearly four centuries have brought with them, what has made the National Guard great remains the same – that's our people," Hokanson said, adding that close to 30,000 Army Guard Soldiers are currently deployed worldwide.

Air National Guard members deployed as well, fulfilling a variety of roles, such as providing tactical airlift throughout the U.S. Central Command area of operations.

C-130 aircrews from the Montana Air National Guard executed nonstop missions flying personnel, equipment and supplies to established bases and austere locations.

"It's a very consistent flow here. But that's the beautiful thing about the C-130 – it can land on short runways," said Air Force Lt. Col. David Smith, commander of the 779th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron. "Our flying schedule is extremely busy."

Meanwhile, Soldiers with the North Carolina Army National Guard's 30th Armored Brigade Combat Team operated M2A2 Bradley Fighting Vehicles in the Middle East in support of Operation Inherent Resolve.

"We are here as American Soldiers, one team, to do what our nation needs us to do," said Army Col. Robert Bumgardner, commander of the 30th ABCT. "We didn't come here to sit and watch. We came here to be part of the fight."

While the Guard's support of the war fight continued, cybersecurity activities in Texas reflected a different battle.

"In May, one county – Jackson County – got hit with ransomware," said Army Maj. Gen. Tracy Norris, the adjutant general of the Texas National Guard. "It disrupted county services. People weren't able to transfer property, the police doing a background check weren't able to pull up that information."

Texas Guard cyber teams were called in.

"We had people out there within 12 hours to do an assessment on what had happened and to get that county back online," said Norris. "We helped them get to a recovery point where their IT professionals could come in and get the county back to where it could deliver services."

Later in the year, the Ohio National Guard forged ties with the University of Akron to open a "cyber range" – a virtual training ground and testing site to enhance cybersecurity.

"This cyber range for us is a big deal," said Army Col. Daniel Shank, the assistant adjutant general for the Ohio Army Guard. "The cyber threat is changing, and we have to change with it. The military understands the threat, and we've actually changed our doctrine."

Lengyel said the more than 3,900 troops that make up the Guard's cyber element include traditional part-time units and full-time units that work directly for U.S. Cyber Command.

"The Air National Guard always provides two [cyber protection teams], and on the Army side, the Army [National Guard] always provides one, that are continuously mobilized and doing duty for U.S. Cyber Command and the cyber mission force," said Lengyel.

He said the Guard must continue to meet the challenges the cyber domain presents.

"When I first joined the National Guard, cyber was not part of our vocabulary," he said. "Now, it's one of our daily battlegrounds."

The National Guard celebrated its 383rd birthday on Dec. 13, the same day two Army Guard members became the first female enlisted Soldiers to complete the challenging U.S. Army Ranger School.

Army Staff Sgt. Jessica Smiley, a military police officer with the South Carolina Army National Guard, and Army Sgt. Danielle Farber, a medical instructor with the Pennsylvania Army National Guard, joined a small group of other women who have successfully negotiated the iconic school.

Farber attributed her success to seeing herself as a Soldier first.

"Come into it knowing you're going to be doing things that every other male that comes through here has to do," said Farber. "Don't come through here and expect any sort of special treatment, because it won't happen."

For Smiley, putting on the Ranger tab meant never giving up.

"My mindset going into this was to leave 100 percent on the table and never have a regret or look back and say, 'I should have pushed harder or I should have done something different,'" said Smiley. "I gave 100 percent. I did everything that I could, and now here I am."

With specialized training options, multiple mission sets and continued deployments, the Guard is an important part of the joint force, said Lengyel.

"Right now, about 40,000 Guard members are serving (overseas) worldwide," he said. "I wish I could visit with and thank every single one. It's an extraordinary force that has contributed more than 1.1 million individual overseas deployments since 9/11."

The Guard continues to stand ready as a new decade approaches.

"It is imperative the National Guard remains an operational force, as part of our Army and Air Force, that helps protect and secure our interests at home and abroad," Lengyel said.

This article was originally published by the National Guard Bureau at: https://go.usa.gov/xpMKQ

From the Top December 2019

Words from Brigadier General Greg Chaney

Brigadier General Greg Chaney is the Deputy Adjutant General - Army for the Texas National Guard

As we enter into the holiday season, I want each of you to pause and take time to reflect on what brought you into the profession of arms to begin with. We get so caught up in day-to-day tasks that years can go by in a blink, and we look up in amazement at all that has transpired. This same phenomenon can often result in us getting off track and forgetting where we were going in the first place. Taking time away from work to connect with family and friends helps us reconnect to our roots. It is important to re-discover your motivation to get up and do the good work you do day in and day out. Brigadier General Greg Chaney is the Deputy Adjutant General - Army for the Texas National Guard

If you are a leader in this organization, I want you to encourage your Soldiers, Airmen, State Guardsmen, and civilian employees to reset, and take care of themselves and their families. By the very nature of the environment we operate in, there are no “slow” seasons, no set routine breaks in the tempo of effort. We therefore must create those for ourselves when and where we can. 

Here in Texas we have a deep heritage of military service. Many of us signed up to serve because of this legacy. Following in the tradition of duty to country that we have had demonstrated to us by family members and those we look up to, has led many of us to where we are today. Throughout our history, the Texas Military Forces have consistently remained the most capable and mission ready forces in the Nation.  This distinction is indicative of our hard work and neighborly attitude. When disaster strikes at home or abroad, the Nation turns to Texas for personnel, equipment, and expertise. Thank you for following in the footsteps of our veterans of the generations before us.  It is an honor to serve here with each of you. 

Stay safe out there, take care of each other, and have a happy and healthy holiday. 

Duty Honor Texas 

 

CBRNE Task Force Certifies in Disaster Response

Story and Photos by Andrew R. Smith, TMD Public Affairs

 

ROUND ROCK, Texas Dec 5, 2019 — A National Guardsmen from the Texas based 136th Infintray Division, CBRNE Task Force, stands a decontamination boundry watch as part of a FEMA certification. These drills are an important preperation for disasters that may occurn in FEMA region 6. (U.S. Army Photo by Andrew R. Smith/Released)

ROUND ROCK, Texas Dec 5, 2019 — A National Guardsmen from the Texas based 36th Infantry Division, CBRNE Task Force, stands a decontamination boundary watch as part of a FEMA certification. These drills are an important preparation for disasters that may occur in FEMA region 6. (U.S. Army Photo by Andrew R. Smith/Released)

ROUND ROCK, Texas, Dec. 5, 2019 – National Guard units from Texas and Louisiana met at the Round Rock Public Safety Training Center for an emergency response training evaluation. The training of the day was a large staged incident that rated the Guard units’ response to a simulated chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear contamination incident. The units had to set up and maintain contamination boundaries, perform search and extraction of crisis actors, decontaminate the actors and provide medical triage care for any injured actors.
 

ROUND ROCK, Texas Dec 5, 2019 — National Guardsmen from the Texas based 136th Infintray Division, CBRNE Task Force, preform washdown drills as part of a FEMA certification. These drills are an important preperation for disasters that may occurn in FEMA region 6. (U.S. Army Photo by Andrew R. Smith/Released)

ROUND ROCK, Texas Dec 5, 2019 — National Guardsmen from the Texas based 36th Infantry Division, CBRNE Task Force, perform washdown drills as part of a FEMA certification. These drills are an important preparation for disasters that may occur in FEMA region 6. (U.S. Army Photo by Andrew R. Smith/Released)

The Texas-based Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosive Task Force took part in the training exercise and activated nearly 200 Guardsmen and more than a dozen vehicles as part of the training event.

The exercise was a combined green and white exercise, with the “green” referring to military personnel and the “white” referring to local first responders. Observers graded the National Guard units taking part in the training on the day’s response efforts. The U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command sent personnel to observe and grade CBRNE Task Force’s efforts and rate its level of preparation to respond to a real-world event of a similar nature.

Due to the extensive training and requirements to set up and properly use the decontamination equipment, as well as CBRNE’s unique cooperation with local authorities and disaster response units, the unit has a very high training tempo. Guardsmen in the unit often have to devote additional time to training and certifications such as this one.

“Our unit works with a variety of local agencies,” said Maj. Bradley Smejkal, executive officer of CBRNE Task Force. “Due to these missions, all of our traditional Guardsmen have to balance the green and white mission. We do a lot of extra training including additional annual training, most of which is devoted to cooperating with and being certified by the white side.

“If you can’t protect yourself and your personnel, you’ll become an additional casualty. We are here to help, not hinder, local assets. To assist them, we bring in our own gear and train to meet the local standards.” 

ROUND ROCK, Texas Dec 5, 2019 — National Guardsmen from the Texas based 136th Infintray Division, CBRNE Task Force, check resperators before preforming decontamination drill as part of a FEMA certification. These drills are an important preperation for disasters that may occurn in FEMA region 6. (U.S. Army Photo by Andrew R. Smith/Released)

ROUND ROCK, Texas Dec 5, 2019 — National Guardsmen from the Texas based 36th Infantry Division, CBRNE Task Force, check respirators before preforming decontamination drill as part of a FEMA certification. These drills are an important preparation for disasters that may occur in FEMA region 6. (U.S. Army Photo by Andrew R. Smith/Released)



The scenario utilized numerous crisis actors whose independent actions added realism and chaos to the exercise.

“I learned a lot from the exercise and the presence of the crisis actors. I saw firsthand how civilians under stress can be random and unpredictable,” said Pfc. John Albert Dearing Jr., a member of the unit. “It is important to explain any instructions clearly and keep them updated with the status of the situation.”

By the end of the first day, the task force completed all of the tasks associated with the training. However, the event had more tasks and challenges to follow over the next two days.

The combined training of Texas and Louisiana guard units alongside local responders helps to organize all assets that might respond to a disaster in FEMA region 6, which encompasses much of the southwestern United States. The training was coordinated by the 136th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade in coordination with local authorities, in preparation for potential disaster response. The 136th MEB is the brigade-level command for CBRNE Task Force.

National Guard conducts transfer of authority with Active Duty components

Story by Captain Leyda Ocasio-Kanzler, Joint Task Force - Guardian Support Public Affairs Officer

MCALLEN, Texas – Members of the Georgia Army National Guard deployed as part of Joint Task Force- Guardian Support to form Task Force Volunteer in support of United States Customs and Border Protection. 

U.S. Army Lt. Col. Brian Tritten shakes hands with Georgia Army National Guard Capt. Guy Serapion at the U.S. Border Patrol Rio Grande Valley Sector Headquarters, Edinburg, Texas, Nov. 1, 2019. (Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. De’Jon Williams)
U.S. Army Lt. Col. Brian Tritten shakes hands with Georgia Army National Guard Capt. Guy Serapion at the U.S. Border Patrol Rio Grande Valley Sector Headquarters, Edinburg, Texas, Nov. 1, 2019. (Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. De’Jon Williams)

Task Force Volunteer is the fifth task force to join Joint Task Force- Guardian Support since its inception in April 2018.

Task Force Volunteer conducted pre-mobilization deployment training at Fort Stewart, Georgia. They assumed responsibility for the mission upon the transfer of authority from the 317th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 10th Mountain Division, Fort Polk, Louisiana.

Rio Grande Valley Sector assistant chief patrol agent Vaughn Horne speaks to National Guard members at the U.S. Border Patrol Rio Grande Valley Sector Headquarters, Edinburg, Texas, Nov. 1, 2019. (Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. De’Jon Williams)
Rio Grande Valley Sector assistant chief patrol agent Vaughn Horne speaks to National Guard members at the U.S. Border Patrol Rio Grande Valley Sector Headquarters, Edinburg, Texas, Nov. 1, 2019. (Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. De’Jon Williams)

The mission of Task Force Volunteer is to work alongside our law enforcement partners to enhance security efforts by serving as a force multiplier enabling our partners to better provide the necessary manpower to deliver frontline law enforcement.

Georgia National Guard 1st Lt. Ashton Griffith serves as the Task Force Volunteer executive officer. He, answered the call to be a part of JTF-GS while on a seven-month deployment to Afghanistan. 

“This is a great opportunity not only for myself but for my soldiers as well,” said Griffith. “Everyone is excited to do this mission.”

Georgia Army National Guard Capt. Guy Serapion briefs National Guard and U.S. Border Patrol members at the U.S. Border Patrol Rio Grande Valley Sector Headquarters, Edinburg, Texas, Nov. 1, 2019. (Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. De’Jon Williams)
Georgia Army National Guard Capt. Guy Serapion briefs National Guard and U.S. Border Patrol members at the U.S. Border Patrol Rio Grande Valley Sector Headquarters, Edinburg, Texas, Nov. 1, 2019. (Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. De’Jon Williams)

This partnership between Georgia and Texas offers Guardsmen and women a chance to not only work together, but it also provides an opportunity for them to understand how federal law enforcement works and potentially pursue a civilian career with U.S. Border Patrol.

“This mission was something to help further their career,” said Griffith. “They’ll also have the time to learn more about the military and how we can work with Texas and the border patrol.” 

National Guardsmen and U.S. Border Patrol Agents discuss the transfer of authority responsibilities at the U.S. Border Patrol Rio Grande Valley Sector Headquarters, Edinburg, Texas, Nov. 1, 2019. (Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. De’Jon Williams)
National Guardsmen and U.S. Border Patrol Agents discuss the transfer of authority responsibilities at the U.S. Border Patrol Rio Grande Valley Sector Headquarters, Edinburg, Texas, Nov. 1, 2019. (Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. De’Jon Williams)

The unique skills and resources that the Georgia National Guard provides will continue the mission to provide civil support with ground and aerial forces supporting USCBP to enhance the Department of Homeland Security in the five USCBP five sector in Texas.

The Texas National Guard stands ready to serve Texas and the United States with partnerships like these.

At the Forefront of Fitness

Our Interview with Texas Army National Guard Sgt. Benjamin Magby

Story by Charles E. Spirtos, Texas Military Department Public Affairs

Sgt. Magby training. (Courtesy Photo: Sgt. Benjamin Magby)
Sgt. Magby training. (Courtesy Photo: Sgt. Benjamin Magby)

Sgt. Benjamin Magby, Alpha Troop, 1st Squadron, 124th Cavalry Regiment, is no stranger to fitness. As a calvary scout in the Texas Army National Guard, he also maintains status as a competitive powerlifter with a deadlift max of 515 lbs. and a total max of 1,200 lbs. This lifestyle requires a strict regimen of physical fitness and allows him to maintain his peak performance both as a powerlifter and as a warrior in the Texas Army National Guard.

Magby likens the structure and format of powerlifting to the sort of fitness requirements that a well-prepared Soldier must maintain. He believes that his career as a powerlifter prepares him for the battlefield.

Sgt. Magby completing "The Murph Challenge", a CrossFit workout in honor of the late Navy LT and Medal of Honor recipient Michael P. Murphy. Participants in the Murph Challenge are encouraged to complete the workout while wearing 20-pound armor plates. (Courtesy Photo: Sgt. Benjamin Magby)
Sgt. Magby completing "The Murph Challenge", a CrossFit workout in honor of the late Navy LT and Medal of Honor recipient Michael P. Murphy. Participants in the Murph Challenge are encouraged to complete the workout while wearing 20-pound armor plates. (Courtesy Photo: Sgt. Benjamin Magby)

“In powerlifting, one does not win simply by mere strength alone,” said Magby.

While the amount of weight lifted is certainly a key factor, proper form and execution is equally essential. The synergy of power and form as seen in powerlifting has a direct parallel to resiliency and lethality on the battlefield, as exemplified by the fact that in combat, a Soldier must employ proper technique in tandem with force.

Magby takes great pride in operating at a peak level of physical fitness. When asked for his motivation to maintain physical wellness, Magby responds that being in the best possible physical shape directly correlates with the Army value of duty. 

“It’s my duty and responsibility to maintain the standard required of a Soldier to perform on the battlefield,” said Magby.

As a non-commissioned officer and leader, he believes it’s his duty to lead by example and model to his Soldiers what the expectations of physical fitness are and what steps are required to reach and exceed those expectations.

In order to serve as a role model for his fellow Soldiers, Magby constantly looks for new challenges to conquer. In November, he participated in a charity ruck march to support the Texas Airborne Alliance during which he rucked 42 miles in 24 hours.

“It was one of the most physically challenging activities I have ever participated in,” Magby said.

Sgt. Magby and Cpl. Garrett Thompson completing the "42 in 24" Ruck March in support of the Texas Airborne Alliance. (Courtesy Photo: Sgt. Benjamin Magby)
Sgt. Magby and Cpl. Garrett Thompson completing the "42 in 24" Ruck March in support of the Texas Airborne Alliance. (Courtesy Photo: Sgt. Benjamin Magby)

Despite numerous opportunities to leave the ruck march, Magby nevertheless persisted and completed the forty-two miles in stride. Having risen to the occasion, Magby exhibited superior physical fitness and led by example.

When asked about the Army Combat Fitness Test, Magby expressed excitement for the Army’s evolution in assessing Soldiers’ holistic wellness. He believes these changes to the Army physical fitness program will result in fewer battlefield injuries and a force that exhibits increased resiliency and agility.

“You are not going to be able to walk in one day and max [the ACFT] out,” said Magby. “But with continuous conditioning, every Soldier will be able to succeed.”

Magby looks forward to the ACFT becoming the official Army fitness test of record because the complex motions required for each event remind him of powerlifting and also have direct parallels to activities that a Soldier may need to perform in combat.

In discussing the importance of a holistic wellness program, Magby acknowledges the importance of emotional and spiritual health in maintaining peak resiliency. These facets of fitness are all equally important, and spiritual health is especially significant for Magby, who is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Here, he finds inspiration for personal growth in his spirituality.

His spiritual health “gets him through hard times” and centers him during periods of stress and adversity, improving his quality of life in the civilian world and as a Guardsman, as well.

Rucksack. (Courtesy Photo: Sgt. Benjamin Magby)
(Courtesy Photo: Sgt. Benjamin Magby)

Magby’s holistic spiritual, physical and emotional wellness provides a system of support to ensure that he can balance the many demands he faces as a citizen-Soldier. 

One does not need to be a professional powerlifter, a fitness guru or a nutrition expert to reach his or her fitness goals. By setting and meeting goals for fitness as Magby has, every member of the Texas Army National Guard can be the best citizen-Soldiers they can be.

 

National Guard competition showcases its elite

Story by Specialist Miguel Ruiz, 100th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, TXARNG

AUSTIN, Texas – The sun has yet to shine for another few hours, its hovering around 30 degrees Fahrenheit and Best Warrior competitors are running on merely four hours of rest as they crowd the starting line of a makeshift running trail at a National Guard training center in Bastrop County.

Despite little recovery time from the pains and injuries from the previous day’s events, roughly 40 Soldiers and Airmen from the Texas National Guard endure their next task, marching (or running) a 12-mile course while carrying a weighted pack in full military uniform. 

Soldiers with the 36th Infantry Division showed their strength and knowledge in the Best Warrior competition at Camp Swift, Bastrop, TX. The winning Soldier and NCO will go on to the active duty Best Warrior Competition. (U.S. Army National Guard Photo by Staff Sgt. Mark Scovell, 36th Infantry Division Public Affairs)
Soldiers with the 36th Infantry Division showed their strength and knowledge in the Best Warrior competition at Camp Swift, Bastrop, TX. The winning Soldier and NCO will go on to the active duty Best Warrior Competition. (U.S. Army National Guard Photo by Staff Sgt. Mark Scovell, 36th Infantry Division Public Affairs) 

The course is unlit with no indication of how far a competitor has traveled. Large and loose gravel exposes weak ankles and is unforgiving of thin boot soles. The winding, hilly trail is a grueling challenge for any experienced trail runner.

Nevertheless, the competitors persevered placing one foot in front of another, fighting mental and physical discomfort, in a race to the finish line against their peers in the Texas Military Department’s Best Warrior Competition.

TMD BWC competitors are hand selected from Texas’ 24,000 Guardsmen and are representatives of their respective units within the Texas Army National Guard and the Texas Air National Guard.

The annual competition showcases TMD’s most capable Soldiers and Airmen and promotes a lethal, capable and well-rounded fighting force that serves both Texas and the United States for stateside emergency responses or overseas deployments in addition to their year-round training initiatives.

“It’s challenging and rewarding. You can’t fully anticipate what to expect to run into, whether it’s board (interview with senior leaders) questions, mystery events, or running into brush and trees during the night land-navigation course,” said Staff Sgt. Josh Pittman, a combat engineer with the 840th Mobility Augmentation Company and a competitor in 2018’s TMD BWC. “You have to be ready for anything and everything.”

Best warrior competitions take place nationwide on state, regional and national levels and are sponsored by various National Guard or active Army organizations. No one competition is identical to another but what is for certain is that each competition lasts for several days, throughout the night, and will push competitors to the brink of their physical and mental limitations by way of enduring continuous and stressful tasks, exams and challenges.

“Every competition had at least an interview board, ruck march, ACFT (Army Combat Fitness Test), day and nighttime land-navigation courses, various warrior-task challenges and various live-shooting events,” said Spc. Hunter Olson, the overall national winner of the National Guard Best Warrior Competition, first runner up in the All-Army national-level BWC, and an infantryman with the 1-175th Infantry Regiment, Maryland National Guard.

“The competition is difficult for the average Soldier, mostly due to the cumulative fatigue the competition can inflict,” said Olson. “There were days where competitors traveled over 18 miles with weighted rucksacks.”

Traveling long distances while carrying 40 pounds or more of gear may be only one piece of a competitor’s pain puzzle.

In 2018’s TMD BWC, competitors competed in a nighttime land navigation course where they were tasked with locating markers, spread hundreds of meters apart in Central Texas woodlands, using only a compass, a map, and moonlight. They were not afforded the luxury of using flashlights or lamps.

Competitors traveled by foot up and over thick vegetation and through creek beds with only victory in mind as it continued to rain and temperatures hovered near freezing. The last competitor to complete this portion of the competition crossed the finish line around midnight, leaving roughly four hours of downtime before the ensuing 12-mile ruck march (run).

“The night land navigation portion of BWC was challenging. Starting late at night after going through multiple events all day was mentally and physically demanding,” said Sgt. Zachary Schindler, a 2018 TMD BWC competitor and a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System Gunner with the 4-133rd Field Artillery Regiment. “The weather and conditions of that course immediately put everyone at a disadvantage.”

By this point in the competition cuts, bruises and full-body fatigue began to set in because only hours before the nighttime navigation course, competitors had just completed a grueling obstacle course and an intensified version of the Army Physical Fitness Test which included a four-mile run. All of these events are held back to back.

Perhaps a more invisible deterrent to BWC victory, other than physical exhaustion or injury, is the mental strain and uncertainty that many competitors face as these competitions near their end.

It is not uncommon to hear from competitors that they feel nervous before a particular event or are skeptical of their ability to perform. However the competitors’ resiliency in the heat of battle usually reigns supreme, as was the case for Sgt. Noe Ochoa, a 2018 TMD BWC competitor and a cyber analyst in the TXARNG.

“The obstacle course was my toughest event because of my fear of heights so I prepared myself mentally by taking every opportunity to climb high structures and get used to the feeling,” said Ochoa. “It paid off. I was able to scale the confidence climb in a personal-record best!”

BWC competitors like Ochoa are representative of the resiliency and readiness that all Texas Guardsmen possess.

Despite the individual-based nature of each event, competitors found ways to come together to lift the morale of one another which helped individual performance and created lasting friendships by the end of the BWC, said 2018 TMD BWC competitor Sgt. Schindler.

“The competition is designed to test you as a warrior. And you will be pushed to your limits under conditions you may not be accustomed to,” said Schindler. “All the competitors were great and pushed others along at every event. No one was ever truly alone.”

Faced with intense competition, difficult tasks, and harsh conditions, BWC competitors perform at a high level and all Guardsmen should consider competing says the 2018 overall winner of the National Guard BWC.

“While winning is a good goal, the high-level training that BWCs offer should be a big motivator to competitors,” said Olsen. “If you are goal-oriented and motivated, take the chance to better yourself!”

Supporting Guardsmen and Families from Deployment to Retirement

Story by Andrew R. Smith, Texas Military Department Public Affairs

Soldiers and Airmen attached to guard and reserve elements constantly have to balance military service, a fulltime job, education and family life.  At times this combination of tasks may seem overwhelming.  Fortunately, services exist to assist these hard working service members and their families.  While most of these people know about benefits such as tax free shopping at the Post Exchange and the education benefits of the GI Bill, there exists an entire support system that offers services far beyond those.Citizen soldier for life logo.

The Family Support Services center offers everything from entertainment functions to education classes and benefits workshops so families will be well versed in what benefits they have and how to best use them. 

“Family Support Services offers cradle to grave assistance for guardsmen and civilian employees,” said Shandra Sponsler, Deputy Branch Manager of Family Support Servicer on Camp Mabry. “We offer pretty much everything but pay and MOS training for Soldiers. Even as Soldiers reach retirement age we have programs like resume writing and interviewing classes and the ‘Citizen-Soldier for Life’ program to guide them as they move past the military.”

Citizen-Soldier for Life is an Army National Guard program that offer career readiness support and financial training to National Guard members, their families, veterans and retirees.  They offer events to help those veterans find jobs in the civilian work force as well as professional networking.

The Soldier Support Service Center, located at Camp Mabry, in Austin, also offers services for retired persons, such as issuing new I.D. cards and copies of military records for retirees and dependents. 

Family Support Services also works with many local partners like Hero’s Night Out, Combat Combined Arms, Operation Homefront USA and the YMCA to put on local events to educate service members and families and provide services. Many of these events are aimed at entertaining and providing a sense of community for the children of deployed service members.

“Some of our most useful and most popular services are Tricare healthcare for service members and families, behavioral health counselors and assistance with Veterans Administration benefits,” said Staff Sgt. Jean-Pierre Sanders, noncommissioned officer in charge of Yellow Ribbon programs at the Family Support Services Center.

The Yellow Ribbon program is another major benefit available to veterans that assists with the cost of education at select universities and trade schools.

“One service I would suggest people take advantage of is our Yellow Ribbon events.  At these events we have information about all of our available resources.  Beyond the obvious ones, there some unseen benefits,” said Sanders. “I often see family members of deployed service members meet with other families, share stories and advice and network with one another.  The support they offer each other us something unique and valuable.”

Even organizations like the Army Air Force Exchange (AAFES) who run the Post Exchange (PX) is opened to all active and retired service members as well as 100 percent disabled veterans and families of all eligible groups. PX restraints are open to all. A portion of all AAFES profits go back to troops through donations to Morale and Welfare Recreation Programs.

Many of the support services such as the counseling are available over the phone 24-hours a day year round. Offices are located all over Texas in Austin, Dallas, Houston, Weslaco, Tyler and El Paso.

More information about these services can be found at https://tmd.texas.gov/tmd-family-support-services