Posts in Category: Texas Army National Guard

Sgt. Maj. Elwood H. Imken-A Life Well Lived

Story by: Brandon Jones
Texas Military Department Public Affairs

Sgt. Maj. Imken Photo

AUSTIN, Texas- Once in a while, you’ll cross paths with someone who will make you smile, laugh, and push you to the best of your abilities. It is almost impossible to forget someone like that.  If you ask family and friends of retired Sgt. Maj. Elwood H. Imken he fits the description in every way.  Imken passed away last year, but, his story is one people will tell for generations. To commemorate his service, the Texas Military Department will honor him again during a special dedication ceremony.

Growing up in Pflugerville and attending college at Southwest Texas State Teachers College (now known as Texas State University), Imken is a homegrown Texan. In March 1967, he boldly stood up for God and country and joined the Texas Army National Guard.

Imken's five decades-long service to the military would take him to places some Soldiers could only dream of. His career reached every echelon from platoon to division and every level of leadership, culminating as the Division Operations Sergeant Major for the 49th Armored Division and the 36th Infantry Division. From directing the mobilization of Texas Soldiers in state active duty missions to overseeing all four division warfighter exercises, Imken's work showed a love for his job. Retired Command Sgt. Maj. Bob Marshall knows a thing or two about Imken's service.  They met in 1980 when Imken was with the 124th Cavalry Regiment. The two remained friends until Imken's death. "E.H. had a way of looking out for people regardless of your command level. It really made you humble yourself and get the job done," said Marshall. " He was also one heck of a hunter and fisher. I'm going to miss that tenacity he had."

Community outreach was another important value for Imken. He worked for outreach missions like Operation Blue Santa and Food for Families. Imken said he learned early in his career that planning and program management were important for taking care of Soldiers. His efforts didn't go unnoticed especially from the organization he signed up to serve with so many years ago. 

On May 14, 2016, The Texas Military Department inducted Imken into its Hall of Honor. The Hall of Honor, which was established in 1980, recognizes outstanding service and leadership of individuals serving as members of the Texas Military Department in a state or federal status. A room in the Texas Military Forces Museum at Camp Mabry, in Austin, Texas, displays portraits and histories of military members inducted into the Hall of Honor.  His desire to serve others and give back on a much larger scale, characterized his career. It was this induction that allowed the organization to give back to him.

One Soldier who knows Imken's compassion for the men and women in uniform is retired Texas Army National Guard Col. Guy Schultz.  Col. Schultz is a close friend of Imken and coordinator with the Military Funeral Honors Team so he is happy to see his friend get this kind of recognition. "His work and life will have an impact for generations to come,” said Schultz. “However, when he took the time to know you, it was easy to recognize him as a great mentor who always strived for the best.”

Now three years after his Hall of Honor induction, the honors for Imken, and his legacy, continue even after his death. On July 12, 2019, the Texas Military Department will rename its Joint Operations Center as the Sergeant Major E.H. Imken Joint Force Headquarters-Texas Joint Operations Center. Imken was instrumental in the creation of the Joint Operations Center by using his extensive network to aid in disaster response efforts.  The Adjutant General of Texas, Maj. Gen. Tracy R. Norris, will speak at the dedication ceremony for her dear friend.
“I imagine that a few things surprised him, and it’s appropriate that we rename our JOC in honor of him,” said Norris.

Imken's family and friends will tell you his life of service shaped the Texas Military Department to always be ready to serve.  The recent JOC dedication is one more to note that ‘E.H. Imken had a life that was well lived! If you are visiting Austin and have the chance to stop by our museum to view the Hall of Honor, please do so. We are proud of our rich heritage at the Texas Military Department and honored to remember one of our own who crossed our path and lit the way for future generations. We also want to remember and honor all those who have had a lasting impact on us and who shaped who we are as “Texans Serving Texas.”
 

36th Infantry Division completes Warfighter

Story by: Staff Sgt. Michael Giles

Posted: 06-19-2019

Photo By Staff Sgt. Michael Giles | Maj. Gen. Patrick Hamilton, commander of the 36th Infantry Division, works with division Soldiers to load gear into a vehicle during Warfighter 19-05 at Fort Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania, June 8, 2019. The 36th Infantry Division's Headquarters and Headquarters Company travelled to Fort Indiantown Gap in May, 2019, to participate in Warfighter 19-05, an simulation designed to test command staff in decision-making and communication. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Michael Giles)
Photo By Staff Sgt. Michael Giles | Maj. Gen. Patrick Hamilton, commander of the 36th Infantry Division, works with division Soldiers to load gear into a vehicle during Warfighter 19-05 at Fort Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania, June 8, 2019. The 36th Infantry Division's Headquarters and Headquarters Company traveled to Fort Indiantown Gap in May 2019, to participate in Warfighter 19-05, a simulation designed to test command staff in decision-making and communication. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Michael Giles)

FORT INDIANTOWN GAP, Pa.— The Texas Army National Guard’s 36th Infantry Division completed a large-scale command training exercise on June 12, 2019.

The division’s command staff, Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, as well as units from five other states, Army Reserve and active U.S. Army completed Warfighter 19-5, a scenario-based exercise designed to test battlefield decision-making and communication. 

“Warfighter is a computer simulation,” said Col. Edward Dextraze, the division’s senior liaison officer. “It’s a training exercise used to assess a division’s ability to execute their wartime mission in a full-spectrum operation.”

According to Dextraze, Warfighter exercises provide awareness about how ready a unit is to handle the complexity of large-scale combat operations. Warfighter reflects an actual deployment, including the challenges that arise when various sections synthesize their efforts. 

“If you don’t take advantage of that compressed stress situation, when you have to do it for real for a mobilization, you’ve kind of cheated yourself,” Dextraze said. 

The virtual battleground for Warfighter 19-5 was a full-scale combat exercise, a change from previous scenarios. In this scenario, United States allies requested support after being attacked by rockets, chemical agents and an invading ground force. The 36th Infantry Division deployed its forces taking the fight to the enemy. Utilizing the military decision making process, leaders made tactical choices to cross rivers, overcome geological and other modern obstacles.

Col. Oliver Mintz, the 36th Infantry Division’s chief of staff, explained that Warfighter is an unparalleled opportunity for a unit to sharpen its skills and test their fighting readiness. 

“You will unequivocally come out of Warfighter better than when you went in,” Mintz said. “There’s quite simply no better training event for Army staff than Warfighter. I’ve done a number of them in my career and every single time, you learn a lot.” 

Staff Sgt. Neethu Cherian, a protection staff noncommissioned officer with the 36th Infantry Division Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, said Warfighter 19-5 was an opportunity to build on previous skills obtained while attending the Battle Staff Noncommissioned Officer course.

“You get to understand and visualize how the different Warfighter functions integrate with each other to get the job done,” Cherian said.

Cherian related a new experience she had during the exercise, when a senior leader asked her how she thought a course of action would impact the fight. Though she believed she knew the correct answer, she still experienced a moment of doubt because prior to that moment, it was an experience she had never had. 

“Doctrinally, if we are assuming they’re going to use a non-persistent chemical agent, then the forces should move in now, towards the objective, while the weather is at our advantage,” she responded. 

Later, she sighed a breath of relief as she double-checked the doctrinal answer. She had gotten the answer right. And now she feels more confident than ever in her role. 

“Getting tested like this builds my confidence because it confirms that my knowledge held up when it all comes together,” Cherian said.

Mintz explained that learning from failure is a significant part of Warfighter.

“This is not about turning in an A-plus answer on day one,” Mintz said. “You’re going to show up. You’re going to get it wrong. You’re going to have to fix it.”

“The enemy’s going to punch you in the mouth and you’ve just got to keep getting up and getting after it,” Mintz said. “If they approach it with that attitude and are willing to learn from their mistakes every day, they’ll be on their way to a successful event.” 

Maj. Gen. Patrick Hamilton, the 36th Infantry Division’s commanding general, said that although our performance during Warfighter was by no means perfect, they far exceeded expectations.

“I couldn’t be more proud of the progress we’ve made as a staff,” Hamilton said. “Our evaluators have told me that we’ve accomplished some things that other divisions haven’t been able to. That’s because of hard work and preparation.” 

Hamilton said the division’s success at Warfighter is worthy of its proud historical legacy.

“Commanding the 36th Infantry Division, because of its historic lineage in combat in World War I, in World War II, and in Iraq and Afghanistan, we have big shoes to fill,” Hamilton said. “The Soldiers of the 36th Infantry Division here are absolutely stepping up and are ready to conduct operations wherever our nation calls us to go.”

“I could not be more proud of the patriotic service, the competence, dedication and the effort of the Soldiers in this division,” Hamilton said.

U.S. Army South motto comes to life during Fuerzas Aliadas Humanitarias

Story by: Staff Sgt. Melisa Washington

Posted: 5-16-2019

Photo By Spc. Miguel Ruiz | Dominican Republic organizations participate in realistic disaster-relief exercises during media day of Fuerzas Aliadas Humanitarias 2019 at Campamento Militar 16 De Agosto in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, May 14, 2019. Local media and representatives from Dominican Republic governmental and non-governmental agencies and local media gathered at the military camp to witness live disaster-response exercises and answer questions from the media. FA-HUM 19 is a U.S. Army South-sponsored foreign humanitarian assistance and disaster relief exercise designed to build U.S. partner nation’s capacity for civil and military response to major disasters. More than 100 national experts from over 13 Latin American countries will operate jointly throughout FA-HUM 19 simulations and training events from May 6 - 17, 2019 in the Dominican Republic. (U.S. Army photo by Miguel Ruiz, 100th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)
Photo By Spc. Miguel Ruiz | Dominican Republic organizations participate in realistic disaster-relief exercises during media day of Fuerzas Aliadas Humanitarias 2019 at Campamento Militar 16 De Agosto in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, May 14, 2019. Local media and representatives from Dominican Republic governmental and non-governmental agencies and local media gathered at the military camp to witness live disaster-response exercises and answer questions from the media. FA-HUM 19 is a U.S. Army South-sponsored foreign humanitarian assistance and disaster relief exercise designed to build U.S. partner nation’s capacity for civil and military response to major disasters. More than 100 national experts from over 13 Latin American countries will operate jointly throughout FA-HUM 19 simulations and training events from May 6 - 17, 2019 in the Dominican Republic. (U.S. Army photo by Miguel Ruiz, 100th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic.--- U.S. Army South’s motto, ¡Juntos Podemos! - Together We Can! is a fitting representation of its partnership with over 10 Latin American nations. You'll see their motto along with their Spanish galleon insignia on the ARSOUTH website, water bottles and stationary. But the motto represents far more than a few words on a coin. ¡Juntos Podemos! represents the valuable relationships ARSOUTH has established to bring stability and security to the Latin American region.

¡Juntos Podemos! is 100 experts from 13 Latin American countries working together for Fuerzas Aliadas Humanitarias in an annual ARSOUTH-sponsored foreign humanitarian assistance and disaster relief exercise designed to build U.S. partner nation’s capacity for civil and military response to major disasters. 

¡Juntos Podemos! is over 20 national and international agencies collaborating during simulated natural disaster exercises to strengthen civil-military response and relief efforts in this year’s host nation, the Dominican Republic. 

"The meaning of cooperation, collaboration and solidarity is all about harnessing the power of one”, said Brig. Gen. Irene Zoppi, director for the Army Reserve engagement cell & Deputy Commanding General – Army Reserve for U.S. Army South.

¡Juntos Podemos! is the hundreds of residents from Los Contreras and other surrounding communities of Bajo Yuna participating in a flood evacuation simulation, going through the procedures of evacuating their homes to a shelter at Centro Educativo los Guaraguaos. 

¡Juntos Podemos! is preschool children from Escuela Republica de Chile crouching under their desks then evacuating their classrooms simultaneously with over 50 other businesses, schools and government agencies in Santo Domingo during an earthquake simulation.

"These types of exercise help us to visualize the evacuation plan. It helps the the general population”, said Carlos Richardson, physical fitness teacher and evacuation coordinator for Escuela Republica de Chile. “It helps the students and the community, as the students gain the knowledge that they can use at home."
¡Juntos Podemos! is the "Buen Día” we say to each other in the morning and the “cafe” we share together in the afternoon. It’s the continuous effort we make to build the trust and friendship with ARSOUTH partner nations. 

“We as a country are grateful,” said Brig. Gen. Juan Manuel Mendez Garcia, director of the Emergency Operations Center for the Dominican Republic. “My gratitude as a Dominican, as a service member and the gratitude that the President of the Republic feels, in respect to our allies, is that the people of North America and Army South, have always been at the forefront with us.”


 

71st Troop Command Qualifies on Weapons

Story by: Spc Jason Archer

Posted: 4-27-2019

Members of 71st Troop Command, Texas Army National Guard qualified on three different weapons May 3, 2019 at Camp Swift, near Bastrop, Texas. Soldiers from the 100th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, 71st Theater Information Operations Group and 71st Expeditionary Military Intelligence Brigade, qualified on pistols, rifles and machineguns.

Weapons qualification is a requirement of all soldiers in the Army and Army National Guard. The 71st Troop Command uses the annual qualification to keep soldiers ready to answer the call for any mission, stateside or federal.

Sgt. Maj. Jason Morrow, operations sergeant major for the 71st Troop Command, places high importance on the readiness of all Troop Command Soldiers.

“Soldiers’ physical and mental fitness is the foundation for the readiness and lethality of our force,” Morrow said. “It is important for soldiers to be proficient in their advanced individual skills, but they also have to stay relevant by maintaining their soldiering skills.”

To prepare for the shooting range, the 71st used the Integrated Weapons Training Strategy, U.S. Army Training Circular 3-20.0. The publication is a step-by-step manual to prepare soldiers for the shooting range and ultimately make a ready and lethal force. Chapter 4 of the manual includes a six-step process leading up to the range.

Sgt. Matthew Wright, a public affairs specialist with the 100th MPAD, went through the entire process in the months leading up to the firing range. During the simulation portion of his training, his unit used a laser marksmanship training system.

“The laser pop-ups helped me raise my score significantly,” Wright said. “I was more prepared for the targets and controlled my weapon and breathing better.”

Wright qualified on the M-4 rifle and the M-249 machine gun. Going to the range is one of his favorite parts about being in the Texas Army National Guard.

“I really look forward to range day,” said Wright. “It is a break from my routine civilian job, and I get to fire expensive weapons for free. I find myself more excited to go to drill when I know I’m going to be shooting that weekend.”

Success on the range positively effects a soldier’s outlook on being a soldier. Good training is essential to achieve this success.

Soldiers from Troop Command were trained from Preliminary Marksmanship Instruction through the firing range with battle buddies in order to ensure their success.

Pfc. Gunnar Gransbury and Pfc. Clay Ayanna are paralegal assistants for the 71st TIOG’s HHC. Both were coaching each other while on the range. While they were shooting, the pair would help spot targets and check each other’s fundamentals.

“We are pretty new to the unit,” Gransbury said. “I thought it would be harder to qualify since it has been a while since I last shot, but I think I hit 34 out of 40 targets today.”

Morrow further explained the importance of following the training syllabus put out by the Regular Army.

“Any task in the National Guard has the added difficulty of time constraints,” Morrow said. “By following the doctrine and utilizing all the tools available to us, we can make sure our reserve-component soldiers are ready for weapon qualifications and fulfilling their missions.”

Texas National Guard and Chilean Partners Celebrate 10 years of Partnership

Story by Brandon Jones

Texas military leaders and Chilean military leaders pose for a photo at the Texas State Capitol in Austin, Texas, April 12, 2019. The Texas National Guard and Chilean armed forces converged in Austin, Texas to discuss and celebrate their partnership that started one decade ago. As part of the annual State Partnership Program Planning meeting, the parties met to discuss, plan and establish agreed upon activities, in both countries, for the year ahead. The events, held throughout the year, focus on disaster/emergency response; aviation operations, maintenance and safety; military medical and engineer activities; as well as leadership, staff, officer and noncommissioned officer development.
Texas military leaders and Chilean military leaders pose for a photo at the Texas State Capitol in Austin, Texas, April 12, 2019. The Texas National Guard and Chilean armed forces converged in Austin, Texas to discuss and celebrate their partnership that started one decade ago. As part of the annual State Partnership Program Planning meeting, the parties met to discuss, plan and establish agreed upon activities, in both countries, for the year ahead. The events, held throughout the year, focus on disaster/emergency response; aviation operations, maintenance and safety; military medical and engineer activities; as well as leadership, staff, officer and noncommissioned officer development.

AUSTIN, Texas- It is a well-known fact the National Guard’s core mission includes fighting America’s wars and securing the homeland, but perhaps a lesser-known mission is that of building enduring partnerships. 

From April 10-13, 2019, members of the Texas National Guard and Chilean Armed Forces converged in Austin, Texas to discuss and celebrate their partnership that started one decade ago. As part of the Annual State Partnership Program Planning Meeting, the parties met to discuss, plan and establish agreed upon activities, in both countries, for the year ahead. The events, held throughout the year, focus on disaster/emergency response; aviation operations, maintenance, and safety; military medical and engineer activities; as well as leadership, staff, officer and noncommissioned officer development. 

“Both our state and their nation have significant responsibilities with regards to disaster response, and experience is often one of the best teachers so what better way to support one another than helping to share and improve upon best practices,” said Maj. Mark White, State Partnership Program Director, Texas Military Department. “An experience our Soldiers and Airmen value, a great secondary benefit to SPP is the exchanging of our cultures and what makes Chile and Texas special places respectively. We create lifelong friendships through every event together.”

In addition to planning events for the fiscal year 2020, this trip included multiple activities commemorating the tenth anniversary of the partnership. On April 12, 2019, the Chilean delegation was presented with a proclamation from the Deputy Secretary of State of Texas, Jose A. Esparza, recognizing and honoring the important partnership between the Texas National Guard and the Republic of Chile. This same group was furthered honored on the House floor of the Texas Capitol prior to signing the formal agreement on the steps of the Texas Capitol. 

“Today’s events, in which representatives from Texas and Chile were standing side-by-side, exemplify the solidarity of our commitment to the program and one another,” said White. “In 2020 we will jointly execute over 40 SPP events in both of our countries as we start our second decade of partnership which strives to be the model for SPP in SOUTHCOM.”

In a Strategic Studies Quarterly article published in 2018 Gen. Joseph L. Lengyel, Chief of the National Guard Bureau, stated SPP is future focused and adaptive to geopolitical changes. Lengyel says NGB has seen the program grow from assisting nations in developing more modern and professional militaries functioning under civilian control to partnerships that look to deepen interoperability with complementary capabilities and forces.

"Beyond the military benefits, we have witnessed the fruits of these relationships as they help the United States maintain and grow its alliances across the globe through enduring and personal relationships," said Lengyel. "What began as a program of 10 partnerships in Eastern Europe has spread across five continents and currently encompasses approximately one-third of the nations in the world."

As part of the program and in addition to Chile, the Texas and Nebraska National Guards share a partnership with the Czech Republic. In 2018, the Czech Armed Forces and its state partners commemorated the 25th anniversary of the union. Under the National Guard Bureau’s State Partnership Program there are currently 76 partnerships in place and support to 83 nations around the globe.

Agents back to the border

National Guard Troops filling crucial support roles for U.S. Border Patrol

By Maj. Mike Perry, Operation Guardian Support Public Affairs

EDINBURG, Texas – U.S. Border Patrol agents in South Texas are returning to assigned patrol areas along the Mexico border thanks to Texas National Guard personnel assigned to Operation Guardian Support.

Since the Texas National Guard was mobilized to the Southwest border in April, the Rio Grande Valley sector Border Patrol has returned over 20 percent of its ground support law enforcement operations personnel back to patrol.

“Border Patrol operations are continually assessed in various ways to include apprehensions, seizures and turn backs,” said Casey Marchmont, Assistant Operations Officer, USBP Rio Grande Valley Sector. “The return of additional experienced agents to line-watch duties increases efficiency by placing the much-needed boots back on the ground.”

The operational payoff for Texas Guardsmen in supporting roles is not limited to returning agents back to patrol duties. In the early months of the operation, guardsmen monitoring USBP cameras in the RGV sector assisted in more than 2,600 apprehensions and the seizure of almost 6,500 pounds of marijuana. 

Guardsmen assigned to Operation Guardian Support have taken on various supporting roles such as maintaining and repairing infrastructure, clearing vegetation, unloading and loading trucks at ports of entry, repairing emergency beacons, conducting aerial detection and providing logistical support. This varied support, in turn, allows USBP to focus on patrolling the border and enforcing immigration law.

“Our guardsmen’s work in support of this mission is instrumental to the Department of Homeland Security’s goal of enhancing border security and increasing the physical presence of Border Patrol agents along the entire southwest border,” said Col. Rodrigo R. Gonzalez III, Operation Guardian Support Commander. “Our firsthand knowledge of the operating area and our long-standing relationships with federal, state and local law enforcement demonstrates to the nation that our force is ready and trained for any mission at hand.”

Operation Guardian Support consists of Task Forces Anzio, Salerno, Defender and Aviation, which also includes Operation Secure Texas, a separately funded border mission launched in 2014 to coordinate efforts between the Texas Department of Public Safety with Texas National Guard and federal law enforcement to secure Texas’ border with Mexico.
 

 

Texas National Guard conducts border mission Transfer of Authority

Story by Capt. Maria Mengrone, Texas Military Department

MCALLEN, Texas-- After a few weeks of training, Texas National Guard Soldiers began work in their sectors fulfilling administrative, surveillance and maintenance tasks in order to free up agents and assist in border mission efforts as part of Gov. Greg Abbott’s directive of “putting badges back to the border,” Tuesday, May 1, 2018.  (Photos by Army 1st. Lt. Nadine Wiley De Moura, 100th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment/Released)
MCALLEN, Texas-- After a few weeks of training, Texas National Guard Soldiers began work in their sectors fulfilling administrative, surveillance and maintenance tasks in order to free up agents and assist in border mission efforts as part of Gov. Greg Abbott’s directive of “putting badges back to the border,” Tuesday, May 1, 2018.  (Photos by Army 1st. Lt. Nadine Wiley De Moura, 100th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment/Released)

AUSTIN, Texas – The Texas National Guard conducted a transfer of authority on July 12, 2018, for Operation Guardian Support, the ongoing border mission prompted by the president’s call to enhance security along the U.S. southwestern border.

The 136th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, based in Round Rock, relinquished its authority of the border mission, as part of Operation Guardian Support, to the 72nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 36th Infantry Division based in Houston. 
 
The 136th MEB was the first headquarter element tasked to provide operational oversight and implementation of logistical and administrative support to Guardsmen deployed along the 1,254-mile Texas-Mexico border.
 
“As a standing Joint Task Force, the 136th MEB was able to respond to the rapid mobilization and deployment requirements,” said Texas Army National Guard Col. Scott M. MacLeod, commander of the136th MEB.  “Our authorities granted by the U.S. Constitution, combined with our unique military capabilities, make the National Guard the perfect force to bridge the gap between the military and law enforcement.” 
Operation Guardian Support officially kicked off on April 6, 2018, when Gov. Greg Abbott activated 250 Texas National Guardsmen.

Even in the face of challenges with manning, equipment and training Soldiers from across Texas, the 136th MEB was able to successfully establish requirements of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
    
“Our experience in the 2014 border mobilization and previous mobilizations enabled us to anticipate the requirements for the operational environment in which we’d be operating,” said MacLeod. “Both Hurricane Harvey, as well as this recent mobilization, have reminded us that we must be prepared to deploy with no notice in support of our state and nation.”

Guardsmen assigned to Operation Guardian Support are activated under Title 32 duty status, allowing the governor to maintain command and control of the Guard force.  

The troops are assigned to the five CBP sectors in El Paso, Big Bend, Del Rio, Laredo and the Rio Grande Valley.

The border mission has steadily grown to include 1,100 deployed troops, with personnel and aviation assets from other states, including South Carolina, Oklahoma, Georgia, Alabama, Florida and Mississippi. 
  
The 72nd IBCT leadership is prepared and committed to continue the success of the 136th MEB.

“I am truly looking forward to this great opportunity for myself and the 72nd IBCT along with all the units supporting OGS. Any time the 72nd IBCT is selected to conduct a challenging mission, it is a great honor which we will make happen,” said Texas Army National Guard Col. Rodrigo R. Gonzalez, Commander, 72nd IBCT, 36th Infantry Division.  

Guardsmen assigned to Operation Guardian Support have taken on various support roles maintaining and repairing infrastructure, clearing vegetation, unloading and loading trucks at ports of entry, fixing emergency beacons, conducting aerial detection and providing logistical support, while CBP focuses on enforcing immigration law.

The 72nd IBCT’s commander has set forth a clear vision for his Guardsmen as the unit assumes control of the OGS mission, which is currently funded until September 30, 2018.

“My three priorities are to conduct and accomplish the mission to support CBP throughout the Texas border areas, provide support to the three OGS Task Forces so they can execute the mission and improve Soldier readiness and collective training readiness while Soldiers and units are on mission,” said Gonzalez.

Operation Guardian Support consists of Task Force Anzio, Task Force Salerno, Task Force Defender and Task Force Aviation, which also includes Operation Secure Texas, a separately funded Title 32 border mission that launched in 2014 as a coordinated effort between the Texas Department of Public Safety, Texas National Guard and federal law enforcement to secure Texas’ border with Mexico.  
 

Transportation Company sets new National Guard gun crew record

Story by: Spc. Christina Clardy

National Guard soldier manning truck based mounted gun
Photo By Spc. Christina Clardy | The 249th Transportation Company, 372nd Combat Sustainment Support Battalion set a new National Guard record as of June 2018 for being the only sustainment unit to have 32 qualified mounted gun crews. The 36th Infantry Division, Texas Army National Guard transportation company set this new record during their annual training at Fort Hood, Texas. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Christina Clardy, 36th Infantry Division Public Affairs)

FORT HOOD, Texas -- The 249th Transportation Company, 372nd Combat Sustainment Support Battalion of the Texas Army National Guard set a new National Guard record as of June 2018 during their annual training. 

"As it stands right now, no sustainment unit has qualified 32 gun crews in the National Guard," said Capt. Aaron Sanders, commander of the 249th Trans. Co., out of Killeen, Texas. "We started the training in January moving through the process up to our blank fire exercises in February."

These 32 vehicle-mounted crew-served weapon crews are part of larger changes in the U.S. Army and the missions for each type of unit creating new training requirements for transportation units.

"Under the U.S. Army's new modular system, a combat arms unit will no longer be allocated to provide convoy security to logistics convoys," explained Sanders. "So the new unit requirements allot for logistics and sustainment units to be given their own crew-served weapons to provide their own security on convoys. This means that my 39 gun crews in my two transportation platoons will provide their own convoy security as they move people, containers and equipment from point A to point B."

The three-person crews completed their next two levels of exercises during their March, April and May drill weekends. These blocks of training consisted of day and night fire missions with live ammunition. 

"These crews have been putting in extra drill days and our annual training is 21 days this year when normally it's only 15 days," said 1st Sgt. Jason Coates, first sergeant of the 249th "Road Hogs" Trans. Co. "They've had to do a lot of work, and training in things they have never done before. These Soldiers have gone from zero: never doing anything like this, to qualified gun crews in under six months."

The sixth block of training is the qualification level. The minimum score to qualify is 700 points. A score over 800 is "Superior" and a score over 900 is "Distinguished." By June 22, the company had qualified 32 mounted gun crews and set a new record in the National Guard.

"For a bunch of the crews, day fire was really hard but we all still qualified," said Private 1st Class Daniel Hughes, a gun crew gunner in the 249th Trans. Co. "However, my gun crew specifically rocked the night fire. I love being on a gun crew and I love doing this kind of training." 

In February, the 249th was officially identified as a focused readiness unit and given a deadline of the end of June 2018 to meet the readiness standard. An FRU is a National Guard unit that has been placed at a higher state of readiness and will have a shorter time on the mobilization platform when called up. The unit must maintain this higher readiness level and status so that if called upon, the unit can mobilize and be deployed within 30 days. 

372nd CSSB hosts employer visit during annual training

Story by: Spc. Christina Clardy

372nd CSSB Hosts employer visit during annual training
Photo By Spc. Christina Clardy | Fort Hood, TEXAS -- Guardsmen with the 372nd Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 36th Infantry Division, Texas Army National Guard, hosted an employers visitation day during their three week annual training June 22, 2018 at Fort Hood, Texas. About 30 employers visited their employee Guardsmen out in the field for a day of range tours, weapons demonstrations and an airborne jump as part of the Department of Defense's Employer Support for Guard and Reserve program. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Christina Clardy, 36th Infantry Division Public Affairs)

FORT HOOD, Texas - Soldiers with the 372nd Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 36th Sustainment Brigade hosted an employer support of the guard and reserve visitation day during their annual training June 22, 2018.

About 30 employers visited their Texas Army National Guard employees out in the field for a day of range tours, weapons demonstrations and an airborne jump as part of the Department of Defense's ESGR program.

"I think it's great to bring the employers out to visit their employees and our Soldiers in the field," said Lt. Col. John Crawson, commander of the 36th Sustainment Brigade. "It’s important that they see that our Soldiers wear two hats - one as their civilian employee and one as a member of the National Guard serving their communities, their state and their country."

Some Soldiers invited not only employers, but peers from their civilian careers.

"I work for Liberty Mutual Insurance as a senior manager and today I invited other senior managers from different departments within my company," said Capt. Eric P. Amstutz, commander of the 112th Quartermaster Company, 372nd CSSB, out of Corsicana. "They wanted to come out because they have a strong interest in understanding what I do, seeing how we function in an army unit collectively, and how we task out Soldiers to do different events and how we conquer objectives."

Employer visits allow the Soldiers the opportunity to show their bosses and peers more of who they are and what they do when away for military duty.

"I'm also excited to get to show them the other side of me that they never get to see in our corporate world," said Amstutz. "So there is a corporate Eric and there is a Capt. Amstutz that's in the Army. I'm hoping they can see the differences and challenges of being an employee and Guardsmen, but I definitely hope they will be able to see the benefits that can come from both a civilian and a military career."

The employers were flown in by CH-47 Chinook helicopters from Grand Prairie and Austin, to the battalion’s tactical operations center, where they received a briefing about the unit, the Soldiers, the military equipment they use and an overview of recent past missions, such as the battalion's response and actions during Hurricane Harvey.

"We like to demonstrate some of our combat capabilities that we do in the field and showcase our ability to respond to a natural disaster here in the state to support our neighbors and our communities in Texas," said Crawson. "Our Soldiers and their employees are part of a bigger picture both in the national defense plan for the United States and how we support our neighbors and communities here in Texas.

After the briefing, the visitors went to a marksmanship rifle range. There they could climb inside gun-mounted trucks and talk to Soldiers about the static crew-served weapons that were on display. 

"I really appreciate getting to see service members show their expertise in their training and with all the equipment," said Kathleen Harman, a business and leadership professor at Norwich University and professional mediator in partnership with the ESGR. "I can really see now all the minutia that goes into every detail of all training for gunners and drivers inside the cabs of the military trucks."

Employers were allowed to go onto the rifle range to get a first-hand experience of what it takes to qualify with the weapons. Paired with an experienced Soldier, each visitor was given a lesson on safety and proper use of the M4 carbine, and then given the opportunity to fire the rifle in a mock weapons qualification scenario.

"Getting to fire the rifle on the range was fun, but what I really loved was getting to know some of the different Soldiers, hearing what they do and where they are from, and seeing what they do," said Harman. "You get to see and experience first-hand servant leadership through the ranks and through the different training aspects and missions. It's truly incredible."

The tour then moved to a range with an urban training town, nicknamed "shanty-towns," to watch a mounted gun-crew convoy exercise. In the exercise, the crews must react to contact with oppositional forces and respond to simulated crew injuries by calling in a casualty evacuation by helicopter. 

"I come from a really strong military family of three generations," said Harman. "It's really wonderful to see all the different layers of training and how things interplay together. The logistics, the team building, and all the activities in the training that have to happen, it just really makes me appreciate these Guardsmen and their service."

Following the exercise, the employers were taken to their final demonstration - an airborne jump by Soldiers from the 249th Quartermaster Company, 372nd CSSB, out of Fort Worth.

"I think every component of the whole program is really valuable," said Harman. "This experience has really given me a sense of appreciation for what service members go through and all their sacrifices for their training. I know I will be able to take back what I've seen and learned here today to be able to further assist and understand the National Guard and reserve Soldiers I work with."

Past Division Leaders Observe Annual Training Events

Story by: Spc. Christina Clardy

Past Division leaders observe annual training events
Photo By Staff Sgt. Michael Giles | The 36th Infantry Division hosted a former senior leaders reunion during annual training on June 10, 2018 at Fort Hood, Texas. The event allowed past leaders to see the advancements in technology within the military and talk with soldiers about their past experiences in the service. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Michael Giles, 36th Infantry Division)

The 36th Infantry Division hosted former senior leaders to showcase annual training events and brief them on current operations June 10, 2018.

The “Arrowhead Muster Day” allowed past division leaders the chance to meet with current Soldiers and observe the training being conducted during the summer months.

“It’s essential to invite the past leaders of the division out to see the current generation of citizen-Soldiers in action as they conduct collective training across Fort Hood,” said Maj. Gen. S. Lee Henry, the current commanding general of the 36th Inf. Div. “While these retired general officers and command sergeants major get the opportunity to see the transformations of training and technology, we get the benefit of learning from the tremendous wealth of experience and knowledge that they bring to the table.” 

Upon arriving at the division’s operation center, the visitors were flown by a CH-47 Chinook helicopter to watch the 156th Brigade Engineer Battalion train on crew-served weapons at a mounted gunnery range. They had the opportunity to see the new technological advances the military is adapting for use on the battlefield in an effort to better protect Soldiers.

The group then boarded the aircraft again and were flown to the 56th Infantry Brigade Combat Team’s training area, where they were given a tour of the brigade’s operations center and the tactical action center.

“It’s a great opportunity to get back and see the division,” said Brig. Gen. (Ret.) Jim Bisson, who had served in the 36th Infantry Division as an assistant division commander of maneuver.

The distinguished guests then returned to the division’s operations center for an overview briefing with the commanding general and staff officers on recent accomplishments, current changes within the organization, and the future of the division. Among other operations, the briefing showcased the tremendous success of the division during Hurricane Harvey and current missions along the Texas-Mexico border.

“I really enjoyed the briefing about the unit’s participation during Hurricane Harvey and the involvement in programs where Active Duty U.S. Army units are partnering with National Guard units,” said Bisson, referring to the Associated Unit Pilot program, or AUP, in which the division is actively partnered with several units to include the 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team of the 10th Mountain Division out of Fort Polk, La.

The guests also attended a meet and greet with current Soldiers in the division, where they were able to share stories of their experiences serving in the "Texas Division" and enjoy a meal, ready to eat lunch.

“I hope the division continues to do get-togethers like this,” said Bisson. “I think it’s great to be able to keep up with what the unit is doing and see where it is heading in the future.”