Posts in Category: Texas Army National Guard

Texas National Guard hosts Egyptian Armed Forces for state partnership summit

Egyptian Delegation
Photo By Sgt. 1st Class Melisa Washington | The Texas National Guard hosted a delegation of senior officers from the Egyptian Armed Forces for the Egypt-Texas International Summit (ETIS) in Texas this past week at the invitation of Texas Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Tracy Norris. The weeklong summit provided a collaborative environment for Texas and Egypt’s senior military leaders to discuss the future of the Egypt-Texas partnership and learn more about each other's respective organizations. The Texas National Guard formally established a partnership with the Arab Republic of Egypt through the National Guard State Partnership Program (SPP) at a signing ceremony in Cairo this past June. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Melisa Washington) 

10.04.2021
Story by Sgt. 1st Class Melisa Washington 
Texas Military Department  

AUSTIN, Texas - The Texas National Guard hosted a delegation of senior officers from the Egyptian Armed Forces for the Egypt-Texas International Summit (ETIS) in Texas this past week at the invitation of Texas Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Tracy Norris.

Texas formally established a partnership with the Arab Republic of Egypt through the National Guard State Partnership Program (SPP) at a signing ceremony in Cairo this past June. The ETIS is the first senior leader summit between the two organizations since the partnership began.

“This weeklong summit provides a collaborative environment for Texas and Egypt’s senior military leaders to discuss the future of the partnership,” said William Duff, Senior Advisor for Political-Military and International Affairs for the Texas Military Department.

During the summit, attendees participated in a two-day conference in Austin, discussing their respective organizations, security challenges, areas of cooperation, and future subject matter expert exchanges.

Areas of emphasis for future exchanges will include the C-130J Super Hercules airlift and F-16 Fighting Falcon multirole fighter operations, AH-64 Apache helicopter flight maneuver and maintenance, cyber defense, logistics, special forces, homeland security response, military support to civilian authorities, and humanitarian and disaster assistance response.

“The exchanges between our militaries will make both our forces stronger, build our interoperability, and diversify our formations,” said Norris. “And these exchanges don’t just benefit Egypt and Texas. They benefit CENTCOM’s strategic objectives and the overall U.S.-Egypt relationship.”

Since June’s signing ceremony, as part of the SPP, Texas And Egypt have already facilitated five subject matter expert exchanges focused on the commanders’ resilience program, cavalry scout tactics, civil disturbance operations, explosive ordnance operations, and marksmanship.

“Conducting five training events in a relatively short time is concrete evidence that the partnership is developing really quick,” said Maj. Gen. Mohamed Fekry, Deputy Education and Training Commander, Egyptian Training Authority.

The summit also provided the opportunity to build upon the longstanding relationship Texas and Egypt already have.

Since 2006, the Texas National Guard has contributed troops to five rotations of the Multinational Force and Observers, an international peacekeeping force in the Sinai peninsula that oversees the terms of the 1979 Camp David peace treaty between Egypt and Israel.

More recently, Texas Guardsmen participated for the second time in Exercise Bright Star, a multilateral Egyptian and U.S.-led multinational exercise designed to enhance regional security and stability by responding to present-day security scenarios.

“Partnership with Texas is an expansion to the strategic partnership with the U.S., a great partnership that lasts over four decades where military and security cooperation are the milestone of the relation between the two countries” said Fekry.

The summit also familiarized Egyptian partners with the TXNG’s facilities and capabilities. The visit included an orientation flight on the Texas National Guard’s newest aircraft, the C-130J and tours of the Texas Air National Guard’s 149th Fighter Wing, the Inter-American Air Forces Academy, and the Texas National Guard Regional Training Institute.

“Texas owns great potentials in all fields and excels in some areas such as [unmanned aerial vehicles], intelligence, education, and supporting their civil community,” said Fekry. “Texas and Egypt have great capabilities and expertise that may help both sides achieve mutual benefits.”

The Texas National Guard has state partnerships with the Czech Republic and Chile, routinely conducting exchanges and joint operations.

“Texas has the most experienced troops we’ve ever seen. In the last several years we’ve contributed to numerous overseas deployments, multilateral training, civil disturbance operations, COVID-19 response, natural disasters, and border support.” said Norris. “The timing is perfect for this partnership, Egypt is getting the best skills we have to offer.”

MG Federico Lopez III Story

MG Frederico


HARLINGEN, Texas – Retired Maj. Gen. Federico Lopez III, the first Hispanic commander-general of the 49th Armored Division, passed away Tuesday, July 6, 2021. Texas Guardsmen came together to honor their brother in arms with full military honors.  Lopez was laid to rest at the Rio Grande Valley State Veterans Cemetery on Wednesday, July 14, 2021. Lopez served with the Texas National Guard for more than 38 years, beginning as a platoon leader with the 4-144th Infantry Regiment starting in February 1963 and retiring in 1998.

Lopez is survived by his wife, Enriqueta "Keta" Lopez, and two daughters, Laura and Melissa.

"My uncle was extremely influential on our family," a member of the Lopez family said. "He taught us to work hard and value service to the nation."

MG Frederico Lopez IIILopez assumed command of the 2nd Brigade of the 49th Armored Division in 1990 and led the division in 1995. Lopez focused his efforts on increasing the quality of training in the force. In a 1997 report with Armor Magazine on the state of the 49th Armored Division, Lopez explained his philosophy:

"Do less better." said Lopez. "Stop trying to do more with less."

This philosophy led to relocating weekend drills away from Texas armories to Fort Knox, Kentucky, where infantry units and armor units would participate in combined drills to take advantage of top-of-the-line simulation technology.

Lopez helped modernize the division by upgrading the division with M2 Bradley Fighting Vehicles and M1A1 Abrams Main Battle Tanks. In addition, thousands of Texas Soldiers deployed under Lopez's command supported peacekeeping efforts in Bosnia and supported efforts in Germany and Australia.

Lopez also mentored partner military leaders through the State Partnership Program. The program was established to developed relationships between state national Guards and allied nations. Texas leaders like Lopez worked together helping prepare the nation to enter the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which occurred in 1999, shortly after Lopez retired.

"Major General Lopez had a monumental impact on the Texas National Guard, said Maj. Gen. Tracy Norris, the Adjutant General of Texas. "His leadership and innovation helped shape our force for the future. We are where we are today because of people like him."

TEXAS GUARDSMAN AMONG 17 TO GRADUATE FROM MOTOR TRANSPORT OPERATOR COURSE

Spc Lois Davilla
Spc. Louis Davilla (left), of the Texas Army National Guard, receives a Certificate from Lt. Col. Brad Leighton, of Sherman, Illinois, Commander, 1st Battalion, 129th Regiment (RTI) during the Motor Transport Operator Reclassification Course graduation ceremony May 6 at the Regional Training Institute, Camp Lincoln, Springfield, Illinois. (U.S. Army photo by Barbara Wilson, Illinois National Guard Public Affairs Office)

SPRINGFIELD, Illinois – Seventeen Soldiers, including Spc. Louis Davilla of the Texas Army National Guard, graduated from the Motor Transport Operator Reclassification Course May 6 at the Illinois National Guard Regional Training Institute, Camp Lincoln, Springfield, Illinois.

“Nothing happens until something moves,” said 1st Sgt. James Davis, of Springfield, Illinois, Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 129th Regiment (RTI) and Commercial Transportation Officer, U.S. Property and Fiscal Office, Illinois National Guard. “You have learned a skill set that not many people have. But it’s a lot more than just driving a truck.”

Davis told the graduates they have spent the past 28 days learning to become entry-level logisticians.

“You will have Soldiers that will depend on your leadership skills,” he said. “Those Soldiers will get you through your day-to-day operations. You’re there to keep the battle moving, to keep supplies on the front lines and to get troops where they need to be.”

Davis said that as motor transport operators they’ll be among the first Soldiers called up when needed.

1st Sgt. James Davis
1st Sgt. James Davis, of Springfield, Illinois, Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 129th Regiment (RTI), congratulates the 17 Soldiers graduating from the Motor Transport Operators course May 6 at the Regional Training Institute, Camp Lincoln, Springfield, Illinois. (U.S. Army photo by Barbara Wilson, Illinois National Guard Public Affairs Office)

“There will be supplies that need to be moved, and you’ll be there to back up the front line troops,” he said.

He urged the graduates to be ready, and always be open to learning.

“Take what you have learned back to your units and share it with your junior enlisted Soldiers,” he said. “Share with your command what you have learned so they can better their standard operational procedures. Be ready and keep brushing up on your skill sets.”

Davis urged the Soldiers to stay safe as they put their new MOS into action.

 

“Do all the safety checks before pulling out on a mission,” he said.

The two-phase course honored a Distinguished Honor Graduate and Honor Graduate Sgt. Arthur Krupa, of the Missouri National Guard, was selected as the Distinguished Honor Graduate and Staff Sgt. Cody Schaefer, of Murphysboro, Illinois, was selected as the Honor Graduate.

“The course was a great experience,” said Krupa. “We had some good times and received a lot of good training.”
 

Texas Counterdrug leads the way in the technical field, assists HSI succeed in its mission

Story by Master Sgt. Michael Leslie 
Texas Joint Counterdrug Task Force 

Texas National Guard Joint Counterdrug Task Force communications support member, Staff Sgt. Daniel Pando, works on cutting-edge electronic equipment to support the Homeland Security Investigations Technical Operations Unit catch drug trafficking organizations in El Paso, Texas. Texas Counterdrug has supported federal, state and local law enforcement throughout the state for more than 30 years in the war on drugs.
Texas National Guard Joint Counterdrug Task Force communications support member, Staff Sgt. Daniel Pando, works on cutting-edge electronic equipment to support the Homeland Security Investigations Technical Operations Unit catch drug trafficking organizations in El Paso, Texas. Texas Counterdrug has supported federal, state and local law enforcement throughout the state for more than 30 years in the war on drugs.

EL PASO, Texas – In a world where technological advances have become a part of many people’s everyday life, these Texas National Guard Joint Counterdrug Task Force members must ensure they are ahead of the game, or they will fall behind to the drug trafficking organizations they are trying to help dismantle.

For the past four years, Texas Counterdrug has supported the Technical Operations Unit of Homeland Security Investigations in El Paso and its contribution has paid high dividends.

“The Technical Operations Unit provides HSI components with the most innovative, cutting-edge electronic surveillance equipment and support in furtherance of criminal investigations and national security operations,” said HSI El Paso Group Supervisor Efren Aguilera, who oversees Tech Ops.

The support that Texas Counterdrug members, Army Staff Sgt. Jose Pena and Air Staff Sgt. Daniel Pando, provide for the Tech Ops Unit has no limits.

“They assist with the everyday functions of the Tech Shop that includes fabricating enclosures, function testing and issuing electronic equipment to special agents,” said Aguilera. “They support the office with radio operability functions and assist with surveillance operations. In a nutshell, they provide a wide spectrum of support.”

When Pena and Pando were assigned to the group 3 1/2 and 2 1/2 years ago respectively, they had interest in the mission but were not fully capable – yet.

“The way we were able to learn and become more proficient of the job was due to on-the-job training and exposure to the experience Technical Enforcement Officers have,” said Pena. “We had plenty of hands-on training.”

Now, Pena and Pando are providing essential instruction to agents on proper deployment, use and exploitation of various pieces of covert technical surveillance equipment.

“We pass on our experience to others by informing agents how to utilize equipment properly for their operations,” said Pena. “We also assist them in making key decisions on what specific device is the most adequate pertaining to the related case and environment.”

How they accomplish this support is even more intriguing.

“We have, several times, designed, fabricated and constructed fully customized enclosures utilizing various combinations of Plexiglas, fiberglass, metal, wood, 3D printed parts, customized decals, and paint to fully conceal,” said Pena. “All fabrications and constructions met and exceeded specifications for temperature and humidity.”

The Texas Counterdrug support not only provides HSI with additional technical support, but it allows for licensed HSI officers to return to the operational field.

“They're a force multiplier,” said Aguilera. “HSI El Paso is an extremely busy office and having National Guard support the Tech Ops Unit is a huge benefit. The Tech shop is a small unit with a big mission, so having Pena and Pando as part of the team, has been a relief.”

As an Air Force veteran, Aguilera knows what the service members bring to Tech Ops and beyond.

“In my experience, you can always count on National Guard personnel getting the job done in a timely manner and with minimal guidance,” said Aguilera. “The mission is in a better place with the partnership fostered with the National Guard, not only for Tech Ops, but for the other HSI programmatic areas for which they offer support.”

Tech Ops and Counterdrug must always improve; thinking outside the box to build new products and how they can implement them.

“They are hardworking task force members who go above and beyond, learning new ways to create new products to put in new devices,” said Sgt. 1st Class Gilberto Urbina, a Texas Counterdrug assistant team leader.

These capabilities support HSI, but also several law enforcement agencies in their area ranging from Deming, New Mexico, and reaching far into the Texas plains. They also provide support for nationwide cases.

“Our capabilities within Tech Ops would include support to the whole HSI El Paso area of responsibility with specialty technical equipment for HSI cases,” said Pando. “As well, we assist Border Patrol and the Texas Department of Public Safety with equipment.”

The task force members are not content where they are now, Pena and Pando want to keep training and moving forward to support HSI even more.

“We want more advanced training that benefits the members,” said Urbina. “For example, we’d like high-voltage training and media exploitation devices.”

Law enforcement agencies throughout the state have witnessed the expertise, commitment and dedication that the Counterdrug task force members have brought to their offices for more than 30 years.

“I respect the professionalism of the National Guard personnel,” said Aguilera. “I look forward to the continued partnership with Counterdrug.”

It is clear that the HSI Tech Ops Unit is one of the best in the country and Staff Sergeants Pena and Pando have had a crucial role in that success.

“Nationwide, HSI El Paso consistently ranks among the top in overall enforcement statistics,” said Aguilera. “These are the successes we share with our partner agencies to include the National Guard.”

Guardsmen deliver water to communities throughout Texas following record-breaking winter storm

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By WO 1 Gregory Illich Texas State Guard and Robert Seyller

COLLEGE STATION, Texas – As a winter weather storm moved into Texas on February 13, 2021, Governor Greg Abbot activated the Texas National Guard in response to increasing precipitation and projections of record low temperatures throughout the state.

As snow and sleet continued to fall, water and power infrastructure were lost by more than 12 million Texans. In response, The Texas Department of Emergency Management in Coordination with the Texas Military Department began distributing bottled drinking water to those in need.

As Texas Guardsmen in San Antonio unloaded pallets of water from a C-17 Globemaster, Maj. Gen. Tracy R. Norris, the adjutant general of Texas, took a moment to highlight the importance of the mission.

"This is water, this is critical to life, you can only go two or three days without water so this is a life-sustaining mission you are taking on," said Norris.

Guardsmen from the Texas Army, Air, and State guard were joined by service members from multiple state National Guards including South Carolina and Illinois along with active duty Air Force members to fly pallet after pallet into distribution hubs in San Antonio and College Station, Texas.Loading water

The Texas Air National Guard’s 136th Airlift Wing out of Fort Worth, Texas is among the units bringing water to airports across the state. The 136 AW’s C-130 Hercules transport planes deliver thousands of pounds of water that are stacked into Texas Army National Guard helicopters and Medium Tactical vehicles for transport to county and city distribution centers.

Col. Keith Williams, wing commander, 136th Air Wing Texas Air National Guard, explained that the unit's personnel have been working to support water distribution efforts while still supporting overseas operations and homeland defense missions.

"It takes a monumental effort. A large portion of the 136 AW is deployed overseas. We overcome the challenges and provide services to the Texas Department of Emergency Management,” said Williams. "The 136 AW has a large team of guardsmen who are receiving and preparing water for air shipment, loading aircraft, and performing maintenance along with aircrews and operations support personnel, coming together as one big team to make the mission happen.  We are proud to support our fellow Texans in their time of need."

Williams explained that service members who were assisting were not immune from the impacts of the storm explaining that the responding guardsmen had families they had to leave behind to help entire communities return to normal. Norris also shared that without that sacrifice the organization could not succeed, thanking each guardsman for their service.

"You have a family at home, probably without power, without water and here you are helping your neighbors and Texas recover,” said Norris. “Our number one asset in the Guard is our people and every time Texans need help you guys show up. You’re truly heroes.

For Texas State Guard Member Pvt. Mary Boscarino the water distribution was her first mission since enlisting last year but she knew why she had to help the people of Texas.

Loading water“College Station is my home and I feel so honored to be here, helping my fellow Texans in a time of crisis. My passion is helping others, giving back to the community. What greater way for me to start than to help right at home."

That sense of service was in full display among the assembled Texas Guard members and volunteers, each working to support the mission by leveraging their unique military training to increase the speed and amount of water being delivered to communities. That training provided the state with a key method of distribution as members of the 36th Combat Aviation Brigade flew UH-60 Blackhawk and CH-47 Chinook helicopters from the airports to the distribution centers.

“We have completed seven round trips, flying water out from the College Station hub to local municipalities including Leon County and Brenham,” said Capt. Sean Thomas, a Black Hawk pilot with the 36th CAB. “It is always a pleasure to work with the Air National Guard, Texas State Guard, Texas Department of Emergency Management and other civil authorities to bring relief as we have done in previous natural disasters."

Guardsmen will continue to transport water and additional resources to impacted communities until the state's infrastructure is repaired and the people until our Texas neighbors have fully recovered from back-to-back winter storms.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Texas Guardsmen serve as part of the 54th Security Forces Assistance Brigade

By Charles E. Spirtos, Texas Military Department Public Affairs

AUSTIN, Texas – The Texas National Guard remains the premier state fighting force, relevant to provide combat ready forces to the Department of Defense, in part because of its diversity in force strength. The Texas Guard contains units rarely found in other states, thus enhancing its war fighting assets.

The 4th battalion of the 54th Security Forces Assistance Brigade is one of these unique units. The 54th SFAB was constituted in March 2020 and is comprised of units from Texas, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Florida, and Georgia. While the other SFAB units in the Army are comprised of active component Soldiers, the 54th is exclusively made up of units from the National Guard.

Security Force Assistance Brigades are specialized units with the core mission to conduct training, advising, assisting, enabling and accompanying operations with allied and partner nations. These units provide advice and education to partner nations as they seek to combat security threats in their area of operation. SFABs are intended to reduce the burden of such advising-based missions on conventionally-organized Brigade Combat Teams, allowing BCTs to focus on fighting near-peer threats.

Soldiers in SFABs are highly trained, and among the top tactical leaders in the Army. Their work strengthens the defense infrastructures of allies and partners, while supporting American security objectives. SFABs are also leveraged to provide maximum support to the combatant commanders' warfighting needs.

“The whole intent of having a Security Forces Assistance Brigade is to provide assistance to our partner nations and to foreign security forces to free up Brigade Combat Teams to concentrate on multi-domain operations and large scale ground combat operations,” said Col. Jeff Hackett, commander of the 54th SFAB.

In Texas, the 4th battalion contains 39 Soldiers in 7 decentralized advisory teams. All Soldiers on this mission are either senior non-commissioned officers or commissioned officers who have received training in foreign weapon systems. The Texas Guardsmen attached to this mission maintain maximum flexibility to adapt to various missions at the request of the combatant commanders.

SFAB’s maintain a wide mission set in order to best advise foreign militaries. In terms of training, they provide education on basic Soldier skills, artillery proficiency and integration, and medical training. They also serve to prepare the partner nations on deployment of particular weapon systems, and help in the development of standard operating procedures to be enable maximum performance of the foreign militaries.

Lt. Col. Joshua J. Pritchett, commander of the 4-54th, said that Texas advisors are consummate professionals who exhibit discipline, maturity, discretion, empathy, and patience. These traits help the Soldiers to understand the human element in others, which enables the advising process.

“You have to be trusted to operate autonomously and to advise foreign military leaders,” said Maj. Robert Anspaugh. Through their dedication and professionalism, the Texas Guardsmen serving as part of the 54th SFAB are contributing to multilateral security cooperation efforts which promote peace throughout the world.

New partnership brings together Naval and Texas Army Guard aviators

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

NAVAL AIR STATION FORT WORTH JOINT RESERVE BASE, Texas – Aviators from the Texas Army National Guard conducted a familiarization flight with agency partners aboard a CH-47 Chinook helicopter on October 6, 2020.

This flight brought four Chinooks to Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base in order to demonstrate the aircraft’s capabilities to Naval personnel stationed at that facility.

The familiarization flight marked the beginning of a partnership between leadership of NAS Fort Worth JRB; Commander, Naval Facilities Engineering Command; the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; and the Texas Military Department.

Commander Allen Grimes, Executive Officer for NAS JRB Fort Worth, said that the Chinook familiarization flight has provided him with a concrete view into the Texas Army National Guard’s aviation mission set, and into what operations may look like the Texas Guard’s hangars are incorporated into the JRB.

Aviators from the Texas Army National Guard conducted a familiarization flight aboard a CH-47 Chinook helicopter, October 6, 2020. The flight brought four Chinooks to Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base to demonstrate the aircraft’s capabilities to Navy personnel stationed at the facility. (U.S. Navy photo by MC1 (SW/AW/IW) Jose Jaen/Released)
Aviators from the Texas Army National Guard conducted a familiarization flight aboard a CH-47 Chinook helicopter, October 6, 2020. The flight brought four Chinooks to Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base to demonstrate the aircraft’s capabilities to Navy personnel stationed at the facility. (U.S. Navy photo by MC1 (SW/AW/IW) Jose Jaen/Released)


The Sailors who participated in the flight were also impacted positively by the experience.

“I was actually very impressed with the capabilities of the Chinook. The low flying, maneuvering through the woods definitely made me feel as if I was on a mission in a movie scene. It was a once in a lifetime experience,” said Aviation Structural Mechanic Safety Equipment First Class (AW/SW) Bianca Henderson.

This partnership also supports the Adjutant General of Texas’ intent on modernizing the Texas National Guard’s aviation hangar assets. The Texas Army National Guard has been working closely with the leadership of NAS JRB FTW and NAVFAC for over three years to acquire two additional hangars intended to house CH-47 Chinooks.

The hangers include a ramp space which will allow the Texas Guard to establish a rotary wing operations and maintenance capability at the JRB.

“Moving to JRB for the Texas Army National Guard Chinooks means quicker access to training areas, [increased] ability to depart and return under more challenging weather condition, and less restrictive airspace,” said Lt. Col. Chris D. Hanna, 449th Aviation Support Battalion commander.

In addition to providing the Texas Guard with much needed hangar space, the initiative will allow partnerships to grow between the Army aviators of the Texas National Guard, and the Naval Aviation community.

Nurturing this partnership will benefit both services as they work to meet the intent of the National Defense Strategy which relies on “Joint Force military advantages enabling U.S. interagency counterparts to advance U.S. influence and interests.”

Aviators from the Texas Army National Guard conducted a familiarization flight aboard a CH-47 Chinook helicopter, October 6, 2020. The flight brought four Chinooks to Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base to demonstrate the aircraft’s capabilities to Navy personnel stationed at the facility. (U.S. Navy photo by MC1 (SW/AW/IW) Jose Jaen/Released)
U.S. Navy photo by MC1 (SW/AW/IW) Jose Jaen/Released


Once the two hangars are procured, the CFMO will engage in a nearly $6 million renovation project to expand the hangar depth in order to allow the Chinook’s to comfortably fit. The construction project will also entail adding administrative and support facilities at the hangars in order to facilitate increased operations.

“We anticipate receiving the official licenses for the property before the end of 2020,” said Brian Stevens, the director of planning and programming for the Texas Military Department’s Construction and Facilities Management Office.

“The most important outcome from this event is the partnership that we are building to ensure we will successfully integrate the TXARNG facilities, aviation mission and personnel into the NAS JRB FTW Community."

Credentialing assistance program offers Texas Guardsmen with opportunities for career growth

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

AUSTIN, Texas— The Texas Army National Guard graduated twenty-four students from the University of Texas Project Management Certificate Program, October 7, 2020, during a ceremony at Camp Mabry in Austin.

Maj. Gen. Greg Chaney, Texas Military Department Deputy Adjutant General – Army, presented the graduates with certificates to recognize this significant achievement. The twenty-four Soldiers came from across the state to enhance their skillsets through the use of the Army Credentialing Assistance Program.
The Texas Army National Guard graduated twenty-four students from the University of Texas Project Management Certificate Program, October 7, 2020, during a ceremony at Camp Mabry in Austin.
Students underwent a rigorous 60-hour course of instruction as well as over 750 pages of reading material and were taught by Col. (ret.) Garry Patterson, a former Texas National Guard officer who now serves as an educational consultant for the University of Texas at Austin Center for Professional Education.

The course usually focuses on corporate project management, but this particular version was engineered specifically for the Soldiers to give relevant examples to projects they would encounter in their military careers.

The Project Management Certificate Program is intended to enhance Soldiers’ project management skills through globally recognized processes and a proven framework for leading and directing projects and teams. The program is industry-driven and takes Soldiers through the essential processes in a logical and sequential way to prepare them to move up in their careers.

With their graduation from this program, the 24 Soldiers are eligible to apply to sit for the PMP certification exam, using their remaining credentialing assistance funds. Once certified, these citizen-Soldiers will be able to successfully manage teams and projects across the Texas Guard, as well as in their civilian jobs.

The Army Credentialing Assistance Program was established in 2019 to provide service members with increased opportunities to expand their skills and experiences, enhancing their ability serve in a multi-domain warfare environment.

The program directly contributes to supporting Soldiers’ professional development, retaining quality Soldiers, and preparing Soldiers for meaningful employment upon transition from military service.

“The credentialing assistance program is an additional tool for Soldiers to develop themselves in technical and practical skills, much like the tuition assistance helps students achieve their educational development goals,” said Mary Lantz, Texas Military Department education services specialist.

“We ensured rigorous COVID-19 mitigation procedures were in place,” such as enforced social distancing, mask requirements, and daily temperature checks,” said Lantz. “It was very nice that in the middle of a COVID-19 environment, we were able to provide some normalcy in a classroom setting where the Soldiers could gain new skills as well as build their networks.”

The benefit from the Credentialing Assistance Program is two-fold – providing service members with tangible skills for their military specialties within the Guard, while also bolstering their ability to perform in civilian careers as well.

The program extends beyond simply funding coursework. The funding is comprehensive and provides every Soldier $4,000 every year said Lantz. These funds can be used for course work earned towards a certification, books and supplies, as well as certification and examination fees.

The program is flexible and allows Soldiers to guide their own learning path through the use of a website called Army COOL, which contains a catalogue of all possible credentialing opportunities and the associated requirements. This system affords Soldiers the flexibility to independently work.

However, in the case of the Project Management Professional program, Lantz explained that the Texas Military Department coordinated the coursework directly with the University of Texas so that all twenty-four students could participate together.

“The Soldiers learned the logic behind project management,” said Patterson. “They performed extremely well.”

Texas Guardsmen satisfy thirst for Lake Jackson

Texas Army National Guardsmen distribute water bottles to local residents October 8, 2020, at Lake Jackson, Texas. These jumped into action to supply water to residents when a deadly amoeba affected the water supply. (Texas Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Lynn M. Means)
Photo By Master Sgt. Lynn M. Means | Texas Army National Guardsmen distribute water bottles to local residents October 8, 2020, at Lake Jackson, Texas. These Citizen Soldiers jumped into action to supply water to residents when a deadly amoeba affected their water supply. (Texas Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Lynn M. Means)

 

Story and photos by MSgt Lynn Means, 136th Airlift Wing, Texas Air National Guard

“We knew we were in a crisis.”

When the water supply of a southern Texas city became tainted and unsafe to drink, the Texas Military Department responded sending Army National Guardsmen to ensure residents had access to a supply of life sustaining water.

“Back in September, a little boy lost his life due to a brain eating amoeba,” said Bryan Sidebottom, deputy emergency manager for Lake Charles, Texas. “We were trying to figure out what happened, so we posted a water advisory. We told everyone the water was not consumable, and to use it only to flush the toilet.”

City officials were faced with the dilemma of ensuring residents had safe water to drink. Without the free flow of clean water to houses, it was going to be an enormous task.

“We didn’t have enough manpower in the city to hand out water bottles while we continued to provide city services,” said Sidebottom. “It’s a big task, so we requested the Guard.

“Initially we had a ‘do-not-use’ advisory for the city water, then it became a boil water advisory. This meant you could drink it after you boil the water.”

But this wasn’t the best solution, explained Sidebottom, because the elevated chlorine levels used to disinfect the system were still a great concern for residents.

“We wanted to ensure every citizen felt they were being taken care of,” said Sidebottom. “It’s been a very arduous task, but thankfully the Guard came to our aid.”

Texas Army National Guardsmen distribute water bottles to local residents October 8, 2020, at Lake Jackson, Texas. These jumped into action to supply water to residents when a deadly amoeba affected the water supply. (Texas Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Lynn M. Means)
Texas Army National Guardsmen distribute water bottles to local residents October 8, 2020, at Lake Jackson, Texas. These jumped into action to supply water to residents when a deadly amoeba affected the water supply. (Texas Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Lynn M. Means)

Thirty-one Army National Guardsmen arrived early September 27, 2020, to quench Lake Jackson residents’ thirst. For nearly two weeks, the team handed out cases of water, talked to residents, and welcomed the opportunity to give service before self.

“Today we handed out 4,400 cases, hitting a little over one million water bottles since we started,” said Private 1st Class Markel Locks, a Texas Army National Guardsman assigned to the team. “Seeing people smile when we gave them water, it meant the world to us.

“It’s the reason I joined -- I wanted to help people.”

Locks said he was struck with the depth of this situation when the team had to move hotels because they couldn’t shower.

“We were a little scared,” said Locks. “Water is a part of life.”

But the outpouring of gratitude from residents had a positive reaction on the Citizen Soldiers.

“We all love being here,” said Locks. “Every four cars or so, we got cookies, candies, we got to look at all kinds of dogs - it was beautiful! I really love this town! I’ve been thinking about moving here.”

However, the mission was not without risk.

Several days into the mission, one Guardsman began experiencing symptoms of COVID-19.

“We had a Soldier experiencing symptoms and started asking about COVID,” said Army Capt. Juan Guerrero, 449th Aviation Support Battalion ammunition officer and officer in charge of the mission. “We took him to the hospital, then quarantined him at the hotel. Two days later, his test results came back positive.”

The team was taken off mission and waited in isolation to see if anyone else tested positive. The Texas Military Department immediately mustered a Quick Response Force to fill the mission’s needs.

“Within six hours’ notice, the QRF was out here,” said Guerrero. “It was really awesome. Next morning at 7 o’clock, they started [distributing water to residents], and kept it up for two days until we got our tests back."

The rest of the team was relieved to receive all negative results.

“We were ready to get back to work,” said Guerrero. “The city of Lake Jackson was a great host. They made sure we had hot meals and no need to eat MREs (Meals Ready to Eat). They really boosted our morale.”

Sidebottom explained the residents’ show of gratitude for the Citizen Soldiers who came to distribute water to their city.

“One resident wrote she could see everyone was happy to do what they were doing, and she could see that through their smiling eyes,” said Sidebottom, grinning behind his own mask.

He paused for a moment while his eyes welled up and he stood a little taller.

“She said it brought tears to her eyes to see their service,” he said. “I love that … it brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it.”

Sidebottom said it takes a special person to serve.

“They’re very high-spirited. They’re motivated. They understand the cause, and they’re always ready to serve."

They are Texans serving Texas.

 

From serving Texas to serving overseas, Arrowhead Guardsmen shoulder 2020 chaos to deploy forward

Story by Sgt. Christina Clardy, 36th Infantry Division Public Affairs

AUSTIN, Texas (Sept. 22, 2020) – The Headquarters of the 36th Infantry Division is slated to deploy to the Middle East this fall, and has been rigorously training and preparing for the past two years. Despite their hectic training schedule for the mobilization, many division headquarters Soldiers chose to volunteer for COVID-19 response efforts and the civil disturbance missions.

Army National Guard Spc. Jessenia Cano, an automated logistical specialist, and Spc. Tesely Cooley, a petroleum supply specialist, both with the 449th Aviation Support Battalion and assigned to Joint Task Force 176, load personal protective equipment into the vehicle of a medical provider in Austin, Texas, July 1, 2020. General Support Unit 18 is a team of Texas Military Department personnel assigned to Joint Task Force 176 who activated to help distribute medical supplies to health care providers during the COVID-19 pandemic. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Michael Giles, 36th Infantry Division Public Affairs)
Army National Guard Spc. Jessenia Cano, an automated logistical specialist, and Spc. Tesely Cooley, a petroleum supply specialist, both with the 449th Aviation Support Battalion and assigned to Joint Task Force 176, load personal protective equipment into the vehicle of a medical provider in Austin, Texas, July 1, 2020.
General Support Unit 18 is a team of Texas Military Department personnel assigned to Joint Task Force 176 who activated to help distribute medical supplies to health care providers during the COVID-19 pandemic. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Michael Giles, 36th Infantry Division Public Affairs)

This year, Texas Governor Greg Abbott activated more than 3,800 service members from the Texas National Guard with elements of both Texas’ Air National Guard and Army National Guard for two separate crises. The first activation came on the heels of the COVID-19 pandemic; Joint Task Force 176 set up over 150 sites where they administered over 530,000 tests. Service members assisted with the states’ decontamination efforts of nursing homes as well as delivered over 7,000 pallets of protective equipment to civilian-run testing sites across the state. The second activation came two-months later while the COVID efforts continued.

Following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minn., civil unrest rocked many cities throughout the nation. Texas was no exception and the threat of unrest brought about a second wave of Guardsmen activations. Service members answered the call to support local and state law enforcement and assist in the protection of people and critical infrastructure necessary to the well-being of local communities.

Texas Army National Guard Soldiers attached to Joint Task Force 176's Task Force Capitol support law enforcement during protests at the Texas State Capitol in Austin, Texas, June 19, 2020. On May 30, 2020, Governor Greg Abbott activated elements of the Texas Military Department to ensure safety for Texans during the protests that followed the death of George Floyd. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Michael Giles, 36th Infantry Division Public Affairs)
Texas Army National Guard Soldiers attached to Joint Task Force 176's Task Force Capitol support law enforcement during protests at the Texas State Capitol in Austin, Texas, June 19, 2020. On May 30, 2020, Governor Greg Abbott activated elements of the Texas Military Department to ensure safety for Texans during the protests that followed the death of George Floyd. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Michael Giles, 36th Infantry Division Public Affairs)


COVID-19 RESPONSE

“I was in the process of transferring over to the 36th Infantry Division for the mobilization when my company contacted me looking for volunteers for the COVID support mission back in March,” said Texas Army National Guard 1st Lt. Juan Bonilla, an infantryman formerly from Texas’ 2nd Battalion of the 142nd Infantry Regiment. “The COVID-19 mission brought on a new kind of mission complexity within a state mission that, as far as I know, we have not encountered so far in our history -- definitely not at this widespread level.”

Bonilla worked in the Joint Operations Cell for the JTF 176 COVID-19 Response mission and got a small glimpse of the many moving parts that must synchronize to handle the magnitude of the state response.

“The hardest part of that mission was learning about all the different sections and parts within the mission, and how they moved and communicated to accomplish the mission as a whole,” said Bonilla about the comparison between the COVID-19 Response and the 36th Inf. Div. Headquarters’ upcoming mobilization. “And now, as the Division Headquarters moves forward with our mobilization, I have really started to see the complexities that go into the movements and operations from a higher headquarters down both in state operations and federal operations overseas.”

Bonilla says he’s looking forward to deploying after serving during part of the COVID-19 crisis this summer; to him, being a Texas National Guardsman is all about service.

“I want to learn as much as I can in order to use that knowledge to help our unit’s federal mission while deployed forward and when we return during our future state support missions,” he said. “I have great pride in my country and in my state. Our motto, ‘Texans serving Texans’ is a big thing for me.”

CIVIL DISTURBANCE RESPONSE

“I was having dinner with my family when I got an email informing me that I was activated for the state’s civil disturbance response,” said Texas Army National Guard Sgt. Eric Chacon, an Army medic formerly from Fort Worth’s 3rd Battalion of the 144th Infantry Regiment. “I reported to Camp Mabry that first week of June and we were issued our protective gear before heading down to Camp Swift for our civil disturbance training.”

All Texas Guardsmen activated for the civil disturbance mission spent 3 to 4 days training in crowd response tactics and non-lethal methods. 

Photo By Staff Sgt. Mark Scovell | (BAYTOWN, Texas) -- Texas Army National Guard Soldiers assigned to 712th Military Police Company out of Houston, look on a peaceful group of protestors as they pass by on their way to a rally at Lee College in Baytown, Texas, on June 5, 2020. On May 30, 2020, Governor Greg Abbott activated elements of the Texas National Guard to augment law enforcement throughout the state in response to civil unrest. The Texas National Guard will be used to support local law enforcement and protect critical infrastructure necessary to the well-being of local communities. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Mark Scovell)
Texas Army National Guard Soldiers assigned to 712th Military Police Company out of Houston, look on a peaceful group of protestors as they pass by on their way to a rally at Lee College in Baytown, Texas, on June 5, 2020. On May 30, 2020, Governor Greg Abbott activated elements of the Texas National Guard to augment law enforcement throughout the state in response to civil unrest. The Texas National Guard will be used to support local law enforcement and protect critical infrastructure necessary to the well-being of local communities. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Mark Scovell) 

“Our civil disturbance training was focused on things like non-lethal training: how to protect yourself and others; how to react or not react to certain threats or taunts; and practice in maintaining our professional manner and bearing when faced with civilians in groups that are in riots or potential riots,” Chacon explained.

The Texas Army National Guard sent Soldiers to more than a dozen areas around the state to support local law enforcement where large protests were happening or where rioting was an ongoing threat. Chacon’s group was sent to guard the State Capitol building grounds in downtown Austin.

“What is really interesting about the Guard to me, is that even though we are military, we are still civilians - we wear both hats,” said Chacon, a native of El Paso. “I feel that with our roots as Texan civilians and our ability to go out in a uniform as a trained force is important because we are a neutral force,” said Chacon. “We aren’t there to choose a side. We are there to protect everyone in general, regardless of which side or which group.”
Chacon, like many 36th Inf. Div. Headquarters Soldiers, spent the spring and summer away from their families supporting the COVID-19 and civil disturbance missions before rolling straight into their mandatory deployment training.

“There was so much to do and so much training we needed to go through to be prepared to deploy [overseas],” he said. “Since activating for the civil disturbance response mission, I have gone straight to my medic refresher course; then into deployment training where we run through our Soldier skills such as weapons qualifications, communications, squad tactics and military vehicle training; and immediately into a support role to assist with preparing and helping my unit pack up for the deployment.”

Even with so much going on at home in their state, Bonilla and Chacon reflect the focus that the 36th Inf. Div. Headquarters maintains as their deployment date fast approaches.

“I’m looking forward to networking with new people during this deployment,” said Chacon. The sense of service and care I have gained through the Guard really helps me connect and communicate with people better. I want to be able to take that forward with us as we deploy, and improve it for when we return home and continue to care for and serve our fellow Texans.