Posts in Category: Texas Army National Guard

Texas Army National Guard Green Berets mentor U.S., Albanian and Lithuanian forces during Allied Spirit VIII

Photo By Sgt. Karen Sampson | Lithuanian National Defence Volunteer Forces (KASP) conduct familiarization with pyrotechnics to be used while acting as Observer-Coach-Trainers ahead of Allied Spirit VIII at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hohenfels, Germany, January 19, 2018. Allied Spirit VIII was a multinational exercise which integrated special operation forces and conventional forces from ten nations, improving combined interoperability and interdependence. (U.S. Army photo by SGT Karen Sampson)

TX, UNITED STATES

05.01.2018

Story by Sgt. Karen Sampson

U.S. Special Operations Command Europe

 

Allied Spirit was a multinational exercise involving approximately 4,100 participants from 10 nations at 7th Army Training Command’s Hohenfels Training Area. The U.S. Army Europe-directed multinational exercise series Allied Spirit is designed to develop and enhance NATO and key partner’s interoperability and readiness.

The Texas Army National Guardsmen from 19th SFG(A) augmented the OCT team from U.S. Special Operations Command Europe and the JMRC Special Operations Forces Cell. OCTs acted as on-the-ground trainers supporting SOF and conventional forces during training exercise Allied Spirit VIII conducted January 15 through February 5.

The 19th SFG(A) team mentored a diverse group including U.S. SOF assigned to 1st SFG(A), Albanian SOF, and the Lithuanian National Defence Force Volunteers (KASP).

“Being an OCT assisting in unit tactical development, bridging the units together and integrating them into action was a great experience,” said a 19th SFG(A) team sergeant. “Everyone gained from completing the exercise.”

The Texas-based Green Berets were particularly impressed by the performance of their Lithuanian Allies. 
“Lithuania’s KASP trained smart, were decisive and their tactics were sound,” said the team sergeant.
The opportunity to observe and train other U.S. Special Forces Soldiers provided a training opportunity for the 19th SFG(A) OCTs, challenging them to remain experts in their doctrine.

“We drew upon their knowledge of Unconventional Warfare from the Special Forces Qualification Course and combined it with the training and deployment experience to provide training feedback to [the ODA from 1st SFG(A)],” said the 19th SFG(A) officer in charge of operations.

TXARNG OCTs reinforced the concept of “free play” during Allied Spirit VIII to the greatest extent possible to meet the rotational training unit’s training objectives.

“This experience was worthwhile as a guest OCT because you get to evaluate another unit's tactical training and standard operations and witness what works for them,” said the operations OIC. “As a Special Forces Soldier, observing a [team] from another group gives you the perspective they have from their area of responsibility and strengthens your unit\s repertoire.”

Texas Guardsmen improve disaster response skills in Slovakia

By Staff Sgt. Steven Smith

Texas Army National Guard

April 30, 2018

 

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Texas Army National Guard engineers from the 836h Engineer Company, 136th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, work alongside soldiers from the Indiana National Guard, the Czech Republic and Slovakia in support of Operation Toxic Lance, a search and rescue exercise involving a chemical warfare scenario, March 12-23, 2018, at Training Area Lest in central Slovakia. The soldiers were brought together as part of the National Guard Bureau’s State Partnership Program that focuses on building interoperability and strengthening international relationships through military-to-military exchanges. (Photo by Capt. Martha Nigrelle)

Texas Army National Guard engineers from the 836h Engineer Company, 136th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, work alongside soldiers from the Indiana National Guard, the Czech Republic and Slovakia in support of Operation Toxic Lance, a search and rescue exercise involving a chemical warfare scenario, March 12-23, 2018, at Training Area Lest in central Slovakia. The soldiers were brought together as part of the National Guard Bureau’s State Partnership Program that focuses on building interoperability and strengthening international relationships through military-to-military exchanges.

Texas Army National Guard engineers from the 836h Engineer Company, 136th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, work alongside soldiers from the Indiana National Guard, the Czech Republic and Slovakia in support of Operation Toxic Lance, a search and rescue exercise involving a chemical warfare scenario, March 12-23, 2018, at Training Area Lest in central Slovakia. The soldiers were brought together as part of the National Guard Bureau’s State Partnership Program that focuses on building interoperability and strengthening international relationships through military-to-military exchanges. (Photo by Capt. Martha Nigrelle)

TRAINING AREA LEST, Slovakia – Seventeen Texas Army National Guard engineers from the 136th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade's 836th Engineer Company provided search and rescue support and participated recently in a multinational exercise, Operation Toxic Lance, at this site in central Slovakia.

The operation, which ran March 12-23, brought together chemical and engineer-trained Soldiers from the Texas and Indiana Army National Guards as well as the Slovakian and Czech Republic militaries, as part of the National Guard Bureau's State Partnership Program that focuses on building interoperability and strengthening international relationships through military-to-military exchanges.

The Texas-based Soldiers are search and rescue qualified and provide real-world response to FEMA Region VI as one part of the Texas-run Homeland Response Force, under the command of the 136th.

The purpose of this exercise was to participate with and to demonstrate search and rescue skillsets to partnered service members in the Slovakian and Czech Republic military chemical response units.

"We do not have any type of search and rescue units, or soldiers trained in that discipline here in the Slovak army," said Lt. Col. Oliver Toderiska, Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosives Battalion commander for the Slovakian army. "Seeing the Texas Soldiers integrated with our chemical response teams, working hand in hand with our own soldiers shows us how we could also use search and rescue."

While Texas brought refined search and rescue skills, techniques and procedures to the exercise to share with their partners, their Slovakian allies brought experienced chemical experts to share training and response procedures.

The Texas search and rescue team has trained countless hours on simulated exercises, involving scenarios such as accidental and terrorism themed mass explosions, radiation threats and hazardous chemicals. But the main effort during Operation Toxic Lance was a chemical weapons threat and each day a new scenario was presented around that threat forcing Soldiers to respond to new challenges.

One scenario presented a lab, run by a terrorist organization that manufactured chemical weapons and released a chemical.

"We've worked a lot with how to perform in and mitigate radiation threats, but we haven't spent a lot of time on weaponized chemical agents," said Sgt. Myles Merriweather, Texas Army National Guard search and rescue team member. "We can take what we've learned here and use it to establish our own (processes) back home."

Each service member involved in Operation Toxic Lance went through a scenario where a live chemical agent was used. For most of the engineers who are certified in search and rescue, this this was the first time they were exposed to a live chemical agent. The exercise built confidence in their equipment, proved the concept of proper decontamination and showed the importance of technical proficiency in a chemical environment.

"The Texas Soldiers have come a long way since they first arrived," said Slovakian Army Capt. Labraska, doctor of chemistry for the Slovak unit, speaking on the Texas National Guard Soldiers' ability to adapt to new tactics, techniques and procedures.

The Slovak army has state of the art chemical labs, reconnaissance vehicles, equipment, agents and they are subject-matter experts in combating chemical warfare, but have no formal training in search and rescue disciplines.

With the increased threat of terrorism throughout the globe, the Slovak chemical unit is studying how to improve rapid mobilization, response operations and augment rescue efforts in a chemical attack, should that day ever come.

"The Slovak military doesn't usually practice with its local first responders, nor is there a procedure in place for it, but luckily that's something that our task force does very well," said one of the Texas Guard members serving as a search and rescue evaluator for the exercise. "What makes our organization so good at working with any entity and in operational constraints is that we will augment the efforts on the ground and provide whatever support the incident commander needs. Even though we are a military unit, we don't take over an event, we provide the most good for the most people in whatever capacity we're needed."

Texas Guard members discussed these methods at the National Slovakia Emergency Response Conference, as well as, Slovak Lt. Gen. Pavel Macko, the deputy chief of defense, British Gen. Andrew Garth serving as the military attaché to Slovakia, and a group of military command staff comprised of leaders from several other countries.

"I don't know how you Guard Soldiers do it," Garth remarked. "How you're able to have a combat military specialty and also find the time to train on a completely different task such as this, as complicated as this, and be proficient, is beyond me."

Participating in Operation Toxic Lance was a huge endeavor for the Texas Soldiers involved, every day putting on a chemical suit and mask while conducting physically demanding complex search and rescue operations. But the end result was an experience that was once in a military career.

"The training gave me a new perspective on how search and rescue operations can integrate into chemical reconnaissance" said Spc. Katty Gracia, chemical noncommissioned officer for the 836th Engineer Company. "Even with a language barrier, it's amazing what you can accomplish when you have a common goal and the right motivation."

Live Your Mission. Make it Your Brand.

HOUSTON, TX, UNITED STATES

04.26.2018

Story by 1st Lt. Allegra Boutch

100th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

 

In our social media obsessed world, everyone and their pet has a personal brand. It’s the public-facing reputation you make for yourself or what people remember you by. As military service members, we chose our brand when we put on the uniform and promised to live the mission and values of our organization. When we wear the uniform, we should feel pride, but also remember that we were issued it so we could be easily identified.

Military public affairs professionals have an acute awareness of how individuals on-and-off duty affect the military’s public reputation. As a Public Affairs Officer (PAO), my job is to help our leaders make informed decisions and assist the civilian media to document and communicate the actions of the service. In this article, I’ll list some of my own experiences where the actions of service members affected our public standing. It matters, because that character and public reputation can help us win wars, save lives and build morale. 

It isn’t optimism, but observation that leads most of us to say we work with the best human-beings in the world. As the Executive Officer for the 100th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, last year I had the privilege of leading a team of incredible soldiers who reported on incredible individuals. We began the year at Camp Williams in Utah, at Cyber Shield 17, an annual exercise that included members of the National Guard from 44 states and territories, the U.S. Army Reserve, state and federal government agencies, nongovernmental organizations and private industry. 

The two-week exercise was designed to assess participants’ ability to respond to cyber incidents. Over the weeks, we saw civilians, soldiers and government agents work together to ensure that government and civilian infrastructure was safe against cyberattack. While it’s our job to defend our nation, what struck me was most of the guardsmen and reservists on this mission were also members of local law enforcement and civilian emergency response. These citizen-soldiers worked week and weekend in their communities, and when we published our stories their communities noticed. 

It figured that my own soldiers did so well at their jobs that we were invited a few months later to provide public affairs support to Saber Strike 17 in Pabrade, Lithuania. While the potential threat during Exercise Cyber Shield 17 was invisible and unknown, in Lithuania, it was very real, and just next door. Exercise Saber Strike 17 was a NATO exercise hosted by four Eastern-European countries, including Lithuania, and designed to promote regional stability and security while strengthening partner capabilities and fostering trust in our Baltic allies. The exercise, which combined 20 partnered nations, focused on building interoperability and improving friendships between our allies. 

What started as a public affairs mission turned into something larger however when our presence as public affairs soldiers became key to mission success. Just as it was important for us to foster these friendships, it was also important for us to show locals across the participating countries that U.S. support does not waver. During a Field Day hosted for local Lithuanians, the number of ‘thank you’s” and hugs U.S. Soldiers received was enough to win any heart. But it was only with the realization that less than 30 years ago Lithuania was still under Soviet rule that the soldiers really began to understand how much their presence was appreciated. 

During the exercise, we were able to bring hope because the U.S. Army and the U.S. Soldier is still seen in the world as a refuge for those in need. So, when Hurricane Harvey hit Houston, people stranded by the flood water knew to look for camo. The 100th MPAD helped document soldiers rescuing Houstonians from their homes. My own duties also included embedding members of the media with soldiers, so they could help report the soldier story.

Through tragedy and uncertain times, service members need to be the figures our communities and allies can look to for help. When soldiers defame the uniform and our mission by behaving dishonorably, they are crippling the people we serve. It may be hard to correct a friend’s behavior, or take seriously staunch memos about how to behave, but the United States is still an example to the world, and our members of the military need to be as well. 

Live your mission. Make it your brand.

36th Division’s Honor in History: The 100th Anniversary of WWI, 75th Anniversary of WWII

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Photo By Master Sgt. Michael Leslie | Reenactors put on a show in front of military and civilians during the Camp Mabry Open House on Arpil 21, 2018. The scene was set during a World War II battle in which the Arrowhead Division broke through the German lines and achieved a victory. The 36th Infantry Division is celebrating its 100th anniversary entering World War I and 75th anniversary conducting an amphibious assault landing during World War II.

AUSTIN, TX, UNITED STATES

04.25.2018

Story by Spc. Christina Clardy

36th Infantry Division (TXARNG)

 

AUSTIN, Texas – The 36th Infantry Division commemorates the 100th anniversary of entering World War I and the 75th anniversary of entering World War II in 2018, by remembering the unit’s history, honoring its service members and paying tribute to its fallen heroes. Members of the Texas Military Forces Museum’s Living History Detachment honored those historical Soldiers by reenacting a World War II battle during the Texas Military Department Open House, Apr. 21-22, 2018 at Camp Mabry in Austin.

“History is about people – the sacrifices that people have made,” said Gill Eastland, a history enthusiast and re-enactor with the Texas Military Forces Museum’s Living History Detachment. “Without those people, without their lives and deaths, we would not have our history. They deserve to be honored and remembered for that.”

Muster Day

The 36th Division was created by the U.S. War Department in Washington D.C., July 18, 1917, with the publication of General Order Number 95. Eight days later, men from the Texas and Oklahoma National Guards began to muster at Camp Bowie in Fort Worth, for federal military service. Thus, the “Texas Division” was born.

World War I

After initial and extensive training, the division boarded ships and trekked across the Atlantic Ocean to join the fight against the Central Powers in Europe. The division consisted of two infantry brigades with two infantry regiments each, an artillery brigade with four regiments and four specialized support regiments.

“The U.S. entered World War I in April 1917,” said Eastland. “But the war in Europe had already gone on for two years at that point.”

Jumping into the war mid-fight, the division endured 24 days of combat during the Meuse-Argonne offensive as part of the French 4th Army in the north east of France. This offensive was part of the final Allied offensive push of World War I and was later recognized as the largest American campaign of the war with more than 1.2 million American soldiers.

“For the European Armies, most of the war was fought in trenches,” said Eastland. “But most of the American troops spent more time fighting across open ground trying to overtake different enemy positions.”

Eastland continued, “And although our experiences weren’t the same in length of time or location as say the French or British, we suffered a tremendous amount of casualties such as frontal assaults against machine guns and artillery fire both incoming and outgoing.”

After fighting through the Argonne Forest, the “Texas Division” with the French 4th Army, operating on the left flank of the U.S. 1st Army, engaged German forces in heavy combat near the village of St. Etienne on Oct. 9-10, 1918. Several hundred German soldiers and officers were captured, including their artillery resources.

Upon discovering that the Germans were tapping their telephone communications, the solution from 142nd Infantry Regiment of the 71st Infantry Brigade, was to use one of the more than 26 Native American languages known by Soldiers within the unit to encode Allied communications and disperse the code talkers throughout units along the Aisne River. With the Germans unable to decode their communications, the 36th and their French counterparts made significant advances on the Western Front, putting much needed pressure on the German Forces.

On Nov. 11, 1918, an armistice was signed and “The Great War” came to an end.

“As a percentage of troops engaged, World War I was more deadly than World War II for the U.S. military,” said Jeff Hunt, director of the Texas Military Forces Museum and commander of the museum’s Living History Detachment. “We lost more people more quickly in a smaller physical space in World War I than we did in the Second World War.”

After the war, the division returned home to Texas where it was demobilized and became an all Texas National Guard unit. The division suffered more than 2,500 casualties in World War I, including 466 killed in action. Two of its members earned the nation’s highest award for valor in combat, the Medal of Honor.

“This year, 2018, is the [36th Division’s] 100th anniversary for [entering] World War I,” said Eastland, who is a re-enactor for both World War I and World War II. “World War I was called ‘The Great War’ and those who fought in it, those who sacrificed in it and those that gave their lives in it deserve our remembrance and our respect.”

World War II

Nearly 25 years later, as the U.S. prepared for the possibility of joining the Allied Forces in World War II, the “Fighting 36th” was again mobilized into federal military service. The division spent the next two years undergoing rigorous training at the new Camp Bowie near Brownwood, Texas, at Camp Blanding, Florida, and at Camp Edwards, Massachusetts, to include the newly formed Ranger training provided by British Commandos.

“The men that went to war with the 36th Division in World War II mobilized Nov. 19, 1940 and didn’t come home until late 1945,” said Hunt. “There were no tours of duty; you were in for the duration. You came home when one of three things happened: you won the war and the Army was done with you, you were so badly wounded or crippled that the Army could not fix you and keep you in the ranks or you were killed.”

In the fall of 1941, the 2nd Battalion of the 131st Field Artillery became the first American unit to fight on foreign soil in World War II after it was detached from the division and sent to the Pacific Theater. At the fall of Java in the Indonesian Islands, the service members of this unit became prisoners of the Japanese. Their fate was unknown for the rest of the war and the unit became known as “The Lost Battalion.” Many of those captured worked on the Burma Railway or were detained in prisoner of war camps for the next three and a half years.

The rest of the division landed in North Africa in the spring of 1943, and continued training in preparation to enter combat in Europe. In September 1943, a massive invasion, codenamed Operation Avalanche, combined the U.S.’s 36th and 45th Infantry Divisions, and Britain’s X Corps as they kicked off the Allied Forces’ Italian campaign.

More than 450 U.S. and British warships, transports, support vessels and landing craft cruised into the Gulf of Salerno off the eastern coast of Italy in the pre-dawn hours of Sept. 9th. The transports carried 100,000 British Commonwealth troops, 69,000 American Soldiers, and 20,000 vehicles of various types. The 36th made an amphibious assault landing at Salerno, Italy, making it the first U.S. division to land on the European continent in World War II.

The division encountered heavy German opposition pushing north through Altavilla, Naples, San Pietro and Cassino. The division took heavy losses attempting to breach the Rapido River, Jan. 20-22, but was harshly repelled by the German 15th Panzer Grenadier Division. In those 48 hours the 36th Division sustained 1,681 casualties out of the 6,000 men who took part: 143 were killed, 663 were wounded, and 875 were missing.

“Typically [the casualty rate] was 1500 to 2500 casualties a month killed in direct enemy combat during World War II,” said Hunt. “But there were some engagements that had particularly high casualty rates.”

In May 1944, the 36th, nicknamed the “Texas Army,” moved to the Anzio beachhead to reinforce Allied troops there during Operation Diadiem. After weeks of fighting and pushing to cross the German Winter Line, the 36th led a breakout that resulted in the capture of Rome, June 4th.

After the 36th had been fighting nine months in the Italian Campaign, Allied Forces conducted Operation Overlord, also known as “D-Day,” into Normandy in northern France. Soon after, the “Arrowhead Division” moved up into Southern France for Operation Dragoon. The 36th then moved up through the Rhone River valley, putting pressure on the southern German lines.

The 36th then moved quickly across France to the foothills of the Vosges Mountains and began a harsh winter campaign to take control of the mountain passes. After several months, the vital mountain passes were under Allied control and purged of German blockades. 

The Germans launched a counteroffensive attack in December 1944, but were repelled by the “Fighting 36th” in Alsace, France. It was during this time that the division encountered some of the fiercest artillery combat of the war. The “Texas Army” resumed their push across France to the Rhine River valley, encountering heavy German resistance at Hauenau, Oberhofen and Wissembourg. In March 1945, the division assisted in breaching the Siegfried Line and entered Germany. There they liberated the Dachau and Landsburg Concentration Camps, April 1945.

On May 8th, also known as Victory in Europe Day (V-E Day), the division captured the commander of All German Forces on the Western Front, General Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt, while based in Kitzbühel, Austria.

In more than 400 days of combat, the division suffered nearly 19,500 casualties with 3,131 Soldiers killed in action. The unit returned home in December 1945 and continued service back in the Texas Army National Guard.

The 36th secured a reputation for great bravery and valor. Seventeen members of the 36th Infantry Division received the Medal of Honor during World War II, which cemented a legacy that is still significant today at home and in Europe.

“The thing that is always most impressive is that combat veterans, in both World War I and World War II, will tell you that they aren’t heroes,” said Hunt. “They will tell you that the heroes are the ones that didn’t come home. The heroes are the ones who are still there or in our National Cemeteries sleeping beneath the white stone crosses and stars of David.

“They didn’t want to go to war,” continued Hunt. “They didn’t want to be there. They would have rather have been home going about their lives. But their country needed them so when their country called, they stepped up. They did the job and they paid the price. For those that died and for those that lived, they will all always be true heroes.”

The Texas Military Department, in conjunction with the American Heroes Air Show, presented its annual public Open House and Air Show on Camp Mabry in Austin, April 21-22. During the event, the Texas Military Department showcased its civilian and first responder partnerships with operations demonstrations, air-to-ground missions, and historic reenactments including the Texas Military Forces Museum’s Living History Detachment, which gave an adapted re-enactment of the 36th Infantry Division’s December 1944 St. Marie pass engagement in Southern France.

Texas Military Department as State Active Duty: The Heroes Next Door

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Photo By Sgt. Amberlee Bouverhuis | A Guardsman assist a young guest to attach a helmet while at the Texas Military Department Open House and American Heroes Air Show on Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas, April 21, 2018. This annual event is an opportunity for the public to interact with thier local Texas National Guard and State Guard. 

TX, UNITED STATES

04.22.2018

Sgt. Amberlee Bouverhuis

 

AUSTIN, Texas - Camp Mabry opened its doors to the public during its annual Texas Military Department Open House and American Heroes Air Show April 21-22 2018. During the event organizations State Active Duty mission was highlighted.

“ For a state active duty mission, we respond to a multiple of things whether it be forest fires, flooding, winter events, whenever we have ice or snow and of course hurricanes,” said Chief Master Sgt. Michael Cornitius, Command Senior Enlisted Leader for the Texas Military Department. “It’s a state support piece, so we can help Texans, which is what we are here for.”

The Texas National Guard and State Guard is composed of service members that the State Governor can activate to State Active Duty status in response to natural, man-made disasters or Homeland Defense missions.

Recently the Texas Military Department responded to the Governor's call for Hurricane Harvey relief efforts, assisting local services in rescue and aid to those affected by the disaster. Two Soldiers with 551st Multi-Role Bridge Co., 386th Engineer Battalion, 176th Engineer Brigade out of El Campo, Texas, were present at the open house to share their stories about their role in the relief effort.

“We went out on the first day after Harvey hit to the nearby communities of Katy, Texas.” said Sgt. Robert Matthews.

“It was a challenge to see the loss, but we saved a lot of people and the lives are what matters.” said Sgt. Willie Wallace.

Opportunities for service members to share their stories with the public is why Cornitius says the open house is important.

“It’s a chance for us to showcase the tools, equipment, and the soldiers and airmen available to help the state and our citizens” said Cornitius. “The citizens of Austin get to come out and look at what we have and how we are supporting them.”

This two day event hosted over 5,000 guests, who were able to see and interact with Texas Military service members and learn about their State Active Duty capabilities.

From combat boots to a crown, Texas Guardsman named Mrs. Texas Galaxy

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Photo By Sgt. Steve Johnson | Texas Army National Guard soldier and Mrs. Texas Galaxy, Staff Sergeant San Juanita Escobar poses for photos at Camp Mabry, in Austin, Texas, Mar. 30, 2018.

TX, UNITED STATES

04.04.2018

Story by Sgt. Steve Johnson

100th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

 

AUSTIN, Texas - The southernmost tip of Texas falls into what is colloquially known as “The Valley.” No one really knows why it’s called this since the actual Rio Grande Valley proper consists of just the four counties of Hidalgo, Cameron, Willacy and Starr counties and the nearest mountains are hundreds of miles away. The land is flat, tropical and the home of a predominantly, Hispanic population.

It was there, in what she calls the “blink-and-you'll-miss-it” town of Premont that Texas Army National Guard Staff Sgt. San Juanita Escobar took the first steps that would both change her life and the lives of hundreds of young women in Texas and around the world.

These first steps consisted of beauty pageants in the nearby and even smaller town of Concepcion, where pageant competitions are the source of longstanding family rivalries, and defending a title is a matter of honor. Back then no one anticipated that this south Texas girl from the Valley would rise to the title of Mrs. Texas Galaxy.

“Pageants were always something that my family did,” Escobar said. “We had the crown for years, so it was something you just did when you reached a certain age. After that, I competed in several smaller, regional pageants and county fairs.”

Those pageants led to small, local modeling jobs and eventually to auditions in California. But as much as Escobar dreamed of getting out of the small town she lived in, she decided this was not the path she wanted to follow. Commitments at home made her decide to decline the audition call-backs.

“At the time, I wasn’t going to pick up and move to California,” she said. “I had sports, school and my friends that were more important to me. I also didn’t want to do that to the rest of my siblings, so I put all that on the back burner.”

So Escobar stayed in Premont, filling every spare moment of time with studies, volleyball, basketball, cross-country, tennis, and band until one day during her senior year she was approached by a recruiter from the Texas Army National Guard. 

Then everything changed, and it changed in a matter of days. 

“When the National Guard recruiter came and talked to me, and explained the education benefits, I was sold and it became a matter of ‘how fast can we do this?’” Escobar said. “So I met my recruiter on Tuesday and I was enlisted by Friday.”

Naturally, the abruptness of Escobar’s decision came as a quite a shock to friends and family. But while joining the military was a leap into unknown territory for Escobar and her family, the lure of education and travel while still being able to serve close to home was irresistible to the 17 year -old.

“I never really knew much about the military,” she said. “When they told me I could serve part-time, serve my country, still make a change in the world, better my community and still get my education, that’s really what made the National Guard stand out from the other services.”

In July of 2008, Escobar finally left the small towns of her childhood for basic training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina.

“I’m very competitive. I always want to win and be the best, so I used that as my driving force,” she said.

Basic Training was not without some challenges for Escobar. This was her first time really being away from her home and her family. Without them, she had to discover and nurture new internal strengths to help her get through some of the tougher moments on her path to becoming a soldier.

“My strength to continue was knowing that this was something that I truly wanted,” she said. “I knew it was going to change my life for the better and I knew it would make my family proud.”

When she graduated in November of that year, Escobar returned to Texas and was assigned to the 368th Engineer Battalion, in Corpus Christi. There she worked in personnel administration, processing paperwork for other soldiers to deploy. It was also while there that she quickly began to feel like it wasn’t enough.

“I was there for maybe two drills before I started seeing that all my friends were deploying and I really loved the National Guard active life, so I volunteered to deploy,” she said.

By this point many might look for a chance to relax, but Escobar was looking for a chance to be on the move again. She had been home for about six months when an opportunity came up to deploy to Djibouti, Africa with 3rd Squadron, 124th Cavalry Regiment as a member of the security forces for a civil affairs team.

While in Africa, the future Mrs. Texas Galaxy saw a problem, and in a move that would come to be a hallmark of her military career, she decided to help solve it.

“While I was assigned to the civil affairs team, I helped create the Women’s Initiative Program in Ethiopia,” Escobar said. “Because of how high the school dropout rate is for young women, we developed special groups to go to different villages and orphanages to educate and empower them to speak to their political figures and to also inform other women about different political and medical issues.“ In many parts of Africa, women are routinely subjected to discrimination and violence by virtue of tradition or customs. Escobar’s team was engaged to address these issues head on through a combination of education and strength.

“The women always felt alone, like it was them against everyone, so we brought groups together for school and we would teach them that if males don’t want to help them, they can help each other,” she said. “That effort fostered an environment of empowerment for them and let them know that their internal strength could be used to benefit each other.”

The first groups started with 20 girls who were between the ages of 18 to 23, but would eventually reach out to thousands of girls of all ages. The Women’s Initiative Program also worked closely with the Improving the Quality of Primary Education program and the National Women’s Coalition Against HIV and AIDS, to reach even further. When then Army Chief of Staff, Gen. Raymond T. Odierno heard about the program he expanded it, leading to an outreach in 13 different countries that focused on teaching women to advocate for themselves.

When that mission was over, Escobar returned home and eventually became a recruiter for the Texas Army National Guard so she could continue to change young people’s lives the way her own life was changed. It was here that she again saw a specific problem that she felt she could solve.

“When I was a recruiter, my motivation was that I knew where I started and I know where I’m at now and I just want to tell people that there’s going to be light if that’s what they choose, if they choose to turn their challenges into a positive,” Escobar said. “When I would talk to students, the females would always say ‘Oh, I’m too girly to serve in the military,’ or they would worry they weren’t going to be able to ‘be girly.’”

So she did what any recruiter would do in that situation. She started doing pageants again.

“I started doing beauty pageants again and then I would go into schools and show them a pageant picture but I would be there in uniform and I would say that ‘you can’t tell me you can’t do this.’ It was after that I started seeing more of an ‘I can do this’ attitude,” Escobar said.< /p>

Going back in the pageant world after travelling the globe as a Soldier gave Escobar a unique perspective. She drew on those experiences and prepared as rigorously as she would for a military mission, using the training and confidence she gained while serving to make her an even tougher and more determined competitor. After three years, Escobar left the recruiting world to dedicate more time to school but was still competing in pageants.

On March 10th, 2018 she was crowned Mrs. Texas Galaxy. The Galaxy Pageant system ends with the Galaxy International Competition in Orlando, Florida. In July she will represent Texas against dozens of competitors from all over the world. Despite this potential for international celebrity, her primary focus remains serving those in need.

As Mrs. Texas Galaxy, she focuses on highlighting suicide prevention for veterans and spreading awareness. And as a Texas Guardsman she focuses on helping others around the world and specifically her fellow Texans.

“As a member of the National Guard I have been able to go to multiple countries but I have also been able to serve stateside,” said Escobar. “I saw the impact of what it meant when our soldiers went in to help during Hurricane Harvey, and how much our citizens appreciated that. To me that’s important because these are our friends and family. Who is going to take care of them better than us, ourselves?”

Texas Guardsmen partner with international allies; improve disaster response skills

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Texas Army National Guard engineers from the 836h Engineer Company, 136th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, work alongside soldiers from the Indiana National Guard, the Czech Republic and Slovakia in support of Operation Toxic Lance, a search and rescue exercise involving a chemical warfare scenario, March 12th – 23rd, 2018, at Training Area Lest in central Slovakia. The soldiers were brought together as part of the National Guard Bureau’s State Partnership Program that focuses on building interoperability and strengthening international relationships through military-to-military exchanges. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Steven Smith)

SLOVAKIA

03.21.2018

Courtesy Story

Texas Military Department

 

Training Area Lest, Slovakia – Seventeen Texas Army National Guard engineers from the 136th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade’s 836th Engineer Company provided search and rescue support and participated in a multinational exercise, Operation Toxic Lance, March 12th – 23rd, 2018, at Training Area Lest in central Slovakia.

The operation brought together chemical and engineer trained soldiers from the Texas and Indiana Army National Guards as well as the Slovakian and Czech Republic militaries, as part of the National Guard Bureau’s State Partnership Program that focuses on building interoperability and strengthening international relationships through military-to-military exchanges.

The Texas-based soldiers are search and rescue qualified and provide real world response to FEMA Region VI as one part of the Texas-run Homeland Response Force, under the command of the 136th. The purpose of this exercise was to participate with and to demonstrate search and rescue skillsets to partnered service members in the Slovakian and Czech Republic military chemical response units.

“We do not have any type of search and rescue units, or soldiers trained in that discipline here in the Slovak Army,” said Lt. Col. Oliver Toderiska, Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosives Battalion commander for the Slovakian Army. “Seeing the Texas soldiers integrated with our chemical response teams, working hand in hand with our own soldiers shows us how we could also use search and rescue.”

While Texas brought refined search and rescue skills, techniques and procedures to the exercise to share with their partners, their Slovakian allies brought experienced chemical experts to share training and response procedures.

The Texas search and rescue team has trained countless hours on simulated exercises, involving scenarios such as accidental and terrorism themed mass explosions, radiation threats and hazardous chemicals. But the main effort during Operation Toxic Lance was a chemical weapons threat and each day a new scenario was presented around that threat forcing soldiers to respond to new challenges.

One scenario presented a lab, run by a terrorist organization that manufactured chemical weapons and released a chemical.
“We’ve worked a lot with how to perform in and mitigate radiation threats, but we haven’t spent a lot of time on weaponized chemical agents,” said Sgt. Myles Merriweather, Texas Army National Guard search and rescue team member. “We can take what we’ve learned here and use it to establish our own TTP’s back home.”

Each service member involved in Operation Toxic Lance went through a scenario where a live chemical agent was used. For most of the engineers that are certified in search and rescue, this this was the first time they were exposed to a live chemical agent. The exercise built confidence in their equipment, proofed the concept of proper decontamination and showed the importance of technical proficiency in a chemical environment.

“The Texas soldiers have come a long way since they first arrived,” said Slovakian Army Capt. Labraska, doctor of Chemistry for the Slovak unit, speaking on the Texas National Guard soldiers’ ability to adapt to new tactics, techniques and procedures. “By the end of Toxic Lance, your soldiers were just as proficient in our TTP’s as our own.”

The Slovak Army has state of the art chemical labs, reconnaissance vehicles, equipment, agents and they are subject matter experts in combating chemical warfare, but have no formal training in search and rescue disciplines.

With the increased threat of terrorism throughout the globe, the Slovak chemical unit is studying how to improve rapid mobilization, response operations and augment rescue efforts in a chemical attack, should that day ever come.

“The Slovak military doesn’t usually practice with its local first responders, nor is there a procedure in place for it, but luckily that’s something that our task force does very well,” said one of the Texas Guardsmen serving as a search and rescue evaluator for the exercise. “What makes our organization so good at working with any entity and in operational constraints, is that we will augment the efforts on the ground and provide whatever support the Incident Commander needs. Even though we are a military unit, we don’t take over an event, we provide the most good for the most people in whatever capacity we’re needed.”

Texas Guardsmen discussed these methods at the National Slovakia Emergency Response Conference, as well as, Slovak Lt. Gen. Pavel Macko, the Deputy Chief of Defense, British Gen. Andrew Garth serving as the military attaché to Slovakia, and a group of military command staff comprised of leaders from several other countries.

“I don’t know how you Guard soldiers do it,” Garth remarked. “How you’re able to have a combat military specialty and also find the time to train on a completely different task such as this, as complicated as this, and be proficient, is beyond me.”

Participating in Operation Toxic Lance was a huge endeavor for the Texas soldiers involved, every day putting on a chemical suit and mask while conducting physically demanding complex search and rescue operations. But the end result was an experience that was once in a military career.

“The training gave me a new perspective on how Search and Rescue operations can integrate into chemical reconnaissance” said Spc. Katty Gracia, chemical noncommissioned officer for the 836th Engineer Company. “Even with a language barrier, it’s amazing what you can accomplish when you have a common goal and the right motivation.”

Story written by Texas Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Steven Smith

Texas Guardsmen cultivate multinational partnerships through competition

BASTROP, TX, UNITED STATES

03.03.2018

Story by Spc. Gerardo Escobar

100th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

 

BASTROP, Texas — Texas Guardsmen and service members from the Chilean and Czech armed forces battled to earn the title of the 2018 Texas Military Department Best Warrior Feb. 28 - March 3, 2018 at Camp Swift near Bastrop. 

The joint competition provided an opportunity for cultural exchange as well as enhanced military capabilities in a friendly but competitive environment. 

"With our state partnerships, the Czech Republic and Chile, we trade technical expertise, leadership and values on how they may operate and how we may operate with tactics and techniques," said Command Sgt. Maj. Kristopher Dyer, Senior Enlisted Advisor of the Texas Army National Guard.

This year’s best warrior competition brought together 28 candidates who competed in nine rated events that closely imitated real-life and combat situations. 

"Everything within the competition is scenario based to where they would be able to participate in a combat environment or a real-world exercise," Dyer said. "We put them in mental and physical fully blown tests to see how they react under pressure and stress.”

The importance of the relationship between the Texas National Guard, the Czech and Chilean armed forces is being able to predict the thoughts and processes of a partner nation, allowing them to work in unison, Dyer said. 

The inclusion of foreign forces is part of the TMD State Partnership Program, which is partnered with the Czech Republic and Chile. The program facilitates cooperation across all aspects of international civil-military affairs and encouraging people-to-people ties at the state level.

For Staff Sgt. Juan Domingo Silva, a Marine with the Chilean Navy, this was his first time participating in a multinational event. 

“The physical aspect has been challenging but we’ve trained for similar events in Chile,” said Silva. 

The competition meant much more than just winning, it meant representing his country and learning to adapt to a different environment and culture, Silva said.

The program provided Chilean service members with a bilingual sponsor to help with the language barrier during the competition. 

“The culture exchange experience has been valuable,” said Texas Army National Guard Spc. Manuel Najera, Alpha Company, 536th Brigade Support Battalion. Najera served as Silva’s sponsor.

“The most challenging part has been adapting to the Chilean-Spanish dialect,” Najera said. 

Sgt. Jan Hronek, a Czech Republic service member also said interacting with other multinational service members increased his cultural awareness.

“This competition has shown me the similarities between forces and how they operate,” said Hronek. “I feel proud to serve and represent my country abroad.”

The competition enabled competitors to refine their skills and learn from their counterparts.

“At the end of the day this is an event that brings Texas together with two separate countries that we are partnered with,” Dyer said. “Together they learn from each other and benefit from training and different techniques and ways that we can lead our Soldiers and operate in the environments that we are in.”

The winner of the competition will be announced at a banquet in April. Competitors from both Chile and the Czech Republic will be invited back for the ceremony.

Texas National Guard Soldiers earn Expert Infantryman Badge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Soldiers from Task Force Bayonet prepare for the Expert Infantryman Badge

DJIBOUTI

01.26.2018

Courtesy of Tech. Sgt. Michael McGhee

Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa

 

Task Force Bayonet has nearly 200 U.S. Army​ Soldiers from 3rd Battalion 144th Infantry Regiment "Fourth Texas" and 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division onboard Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti​, Africa, are going through a rigorous training course to obtain the Expert Infantryman Badge (EIB). The EIB is a coveted special skills badge that requires infantry Soldiers to pass a five-day evaluation that consists of an Army Physical Fitness Test, day and night land navigation, a 12-mile forced march, and 30 individual tasks covering weapons, medical, and security patrol skills.

(Video Imagery provided by U.S. Air National Guard Tech. Sgt. Michael McGhee)