Posts in Category: Texas Army National Guard

NGB leadership visits Texas National Guard troops on the border

Story by Sgt. 1st Class Elizabeth Pena 
Texas Military Department

Story by Sgt. 1st Class Elizabeth Pena
Photo By Sgt. 1st Class Elizabeth Pena

HARLINGEN, Texas -- Senior Enlisted Advisor Tony L. Whitehead, the senior enlisted advisor for the Chief, National Guard Bureau, visits Texas Guardsmen, November 22-24, 2022, in Harlingen, Texas, to check the pulse of the soldiers and airmen during the Thanksgiving holiday.

SEA Whitehead serves as the Chief's principal military advisor on all enlisted matters affecting training, utilization, the health of the force, and enlisted professional development. As the highest enlisted level of National Guard leadership, he provides direction for the enlisted force and represents their interests.

"The purpose of the visit was to check on our soldiers and airmen working on Operation Lone Star," said SEA Whitehead. "They're Guardsmen, and I wanted to make sure that we had an opportunity to speak to them about their thoughts and ideas about the mission, how they were doing, how they felt about how the mission was going and any ideas that I needed to take back to the Chief of the National Guard Bureau."

Operation Lone Star is a state-led mission to respond to increased illegal immigration on the Texas-Mexico border. In May of 2021, Texas issued a disaster declaration covering 48 counties, primarily counties along or near the Texas – Mexico border. Currently, approximately 6,000 service members are deployed in support of Operation Lone Star.

During the visit, SEA Whitehead met with different units and components to get a full picture of the various mission sets of the state active-duty members, which included getting to ride on a Texas State Guard Center Console boat, used by Task Force East, known as the 'river unit' for the border mission. This unit uses TXSG flat-bottomed and center console boats in support of the border mission.

"Task Force East is responsible for four zones in the McAllen sector of the border. Our unit is specifically responsible for the river," said Texas Army National Guard Capt. Mike Jones, commander of the TF East team. "Today, we were showcasing some of the highlights of both the Mexico and U.S. side such as landmarks, key areas the Cartel uses and Border Patrol use, you know, in the whole cat and mouse game of border security."

Soldiers assigned to the river unit received recognition coins from SEA Whitehead for their outstanding work on the border. They had the opportunity to talk about their experiences on the mission with the highest enlisted leader in the National Guard.

"The Southwest Border Mission is a unique mission to the United States," said SEA Whitehead. "For our soldiers and airmen doing the mission, this has been talked about a lot, and I think sometimes we forget that we've got people down there 24 hours a day, seven days a week."

As part of SEA Whitehead's priority to seek opportunities for innovation and advancement within the ranks, SEA Whitehead asked service members to provide feedback to take back to the top [Pentagon].

"The visit was so great for my soldiers," said Capt. Jones. "These guys [and gals] are all highly motivated, to begin with, but having leadership from NGB come down and see what they do on a day-to-day basis is a big deal."

Some of the unit-level leadership also briefed SEA Whitehead on the morale of the Texas Guardsmen, stating there was an 86 percent volunteer rate for troops wishing to stay on the mission. These extension requests, leaders said, can be attributed to the pay incentives, time off to spend with family and the unique mission set the border mission provides. Through OLS, Texas Guardsmen can work in different units and alongside state partners like the Border Patrol Department of Public Safety, as well as the impact the mission has on the communities.

Reflecting on his visit, SEA Whitehead was incredibly impressed with the service members' work and their commitment to serving the greater good.

"One of the best things I liked about what I heard was that they have been here long enough to see the difference they have made in what they've been doing. So, despite some of the things they've heard regarding the negative social media or negative press, they know that there's been a positive difference in what they have been doing since they've been here."

When asked why he chose to come during a Thanksgiving holiday, SEA Whitehead said he wanted to ensure our soldiers and airmen know military leaders in Washington, D.C., are mindful of their 24/7 commitment.

"When the holidays come around, I don't know if people have the impression that things are halted because of it or that they are just comforted that we have military members down there on the Texas-Mexico border. Some of our Guardsmen have families that they're separated from, that's not just those deployed overseas but those deployed right here in the U.S.," said SEA Whitehead. "So, it's important for the Chief of the National Guard Bureau, myself, and the rest of the leadership team to go down and tell them ‘Thank you’ for what they're doing. We appreciate what they're doing, and we must let them know they're standing in a gap that's extremely important to our nation's security."

Task Force Mustang increases equal opportunity leadership overseas

CAMP BUEHRING, Kuwait – The 36th Combat Aviation Brigade (CAB), 36th Infantry Division, Texas Army National Guard (TXARNG), currently deployed as “Task Force Mustang,” appreciated and recognized 16 of its Soldiers for completing the Equal Opportunity Leaders Course (EOLC) on Oct. 14.

The Soldiers were appointed to serve as Equal Opportunity Leaders (EOLs) within their first month in theater as part of Task Force Mustang’s mission to provide full-spectrum Army aviation operations for Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR) in the Middle East.

The Military Equal Opportunity (MEO) Program commonly defines a comprehensive effort to maximize human potential and fair treatment for all Soldiers, family members, and DA civilians without regard to race, color, sex (to include gender identity), religion, national origin, or sexual orientation. Task Force Mustang’s EOLs are taking on the additional duty to promote safe and inclusive work environments, and help resolve informal complaints regarding any perceived unlawful discrimination and offensive behaviors in its ranks.

U.S. Army Col. Scott P. Nicholas, commander of Task Force Mustang, expressed his appreciation for the EOLs and how they will support daily operations.

“Regardless of location, number of locations, or type of duty orders our Soldiers receive, every Army aviation unit makes promoting the Army Values a top priority in every workplace, and it starts with training,” said Nicholas. “Task Force Mustang now has an EO program that will deliver that training and amplify awareness, so that our teams remain mission-focused on supporting our partnered forces in the enduring defeat of ISIS.”

Leading the 16 EOLs for Task Force Mustang is U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Mildred A. Restrepo, retention NCO and EO leader for the aviation brigade’s command team. She hosted the EOLC and assisted MEO advisors with certifying the Soldiers’ additional duty.

“It’s great to serve as the EOL for Task Force Mustang,” said Restrepo. “It is a privilege to get to serve as the eyes and ears for the brigade commander, and it is most rewarding when our Soldiers and leaders can resolve potential EO complaints at the lowest level.”

Restrepo is a member of the U.S. Army Reserve, previously serving as the S-1 non-commissioned officer in-charge for the 11th CAB “Task Force Eagle” before the 36th CAB took over their mission last summer. In her civilian career back home, she serves as a police officer for the NYPD.

“I knew I was going to stay for a second tour overseas, but I knew I was not going to be able to keep my same duty in human resources,” she said. “Task Force Mustang saw a benefit to having me serve in their EO office at the time, so it worked out where I could stay and help strengthen the brigade’s EO network.”

Restrepo noted that her EOL training allows her to provide input to the commander with regards to informal complaints.

“Our EOLs are here to serve as resources to all Soldiers, and are ready to take anonymous or informal complaints, while certified MEO Advisors can directly facilitate formal complaints,” she added. “All Soldiers have the right to choose their type of complaint reports, and our EOLs are always there to educate them about their options, as well as support workplace condition checks for their respective unit leaders.”

Numbers in EO complaints easily vary based on mission and deployment durations.

“The highest number of informal complaints we’ve received has been four within a given week, and there have been a couple weeks where we’ve received no complaints at all, which is great,” Restrepo shared. “There have also been instances where a Soldier’s complaint was potentially turning into a formal one, but the Soldier was able to get it resolved with their immediate supervisor, thanks to the unit leader’s attention and the EOL involved.”

U.S. Army Master Sgt. Acie Matthews, operations NCO and MEO Advisor for CJTF-OIR, serves as the coordinator of all EO programs assigned across OIR’s Combined/Joint Operations Area (CJOA).

“EOLs are selected and trusted by their commanders to keep a pulse on the climate and culture of their units,” Matthews stated. “Our goal for EOLs is to have them be an extension of their commander’s ear to the unit and be a voice of the unit to the commander and other leaders. When not dealing with informal complaints, EOLs are tagged with executing their primary military duties, and that varies greatly across the team.”

Matthews brings to CJTF-OIR several years of EO experience, both stateside and overseas.

“Being an MEO Advisor is a very rewarding and humbling position. People are our most valuable resource, so providing support for their rights to be treated with dignity and respect is an absolute honor,” said Matthews. “Prior to this deployment, I served as the Minnesota National Guard State MEO Advisor, and I enjoyed supporting the Soldiers and Airmen during that time.”

He remarked how well Task Force Mustang was heading in the right direction for their EO program.

“Task Force Mustang is unique in that its responsibilities spread across multiple locations, in multiple countries, across the CJOA. Maintaining consistent messaging across such a vast area is challenging,” he added. “However, EOLs across Task Force Mustang are fired up and excited about the opportunity to support their respective commanders’ missions. While deployed, Soldiers are subject to U.S. Army regulations and reporting procedures, which differ slightly from National Guard Bureau’s processes. However, with dignity and respect being the drumbeat, these EOLs are seamlessly integrating the Title 10 rules into their battle rhythms.”

Restrepo couldn’t agree more with Matthews over the importance of their EO teams serving as a support channel to Soldiers.

“Towards the end of a deployment, it’s very common to see an increase in concerns and complaints,” Restrepo shared. “Everything is a fresh start at the beginning of a year-long mission. But, when daily routines change or several things do not go as planned throughout the mission—quality of life changes, resource reductions, Soldiers not talking to other Soldiers, leadership engagements perceived as less common, or Soldiers not letting go over their cultural differences or holding onto their complaints for months—all these things can affect discipline and unit morale. So, our EOLs will prove vital to safeguarding the professionalism and respect between Soldiers and their chain of command.”

To achieve MEO requirements, Restrepo says EO awareness classes will be completed by all Task Force Mustang Soldiers within the next month, and that 15 more Soldiers will complete the EOLC before the start of the new year. Task Force Mustang will have had every company level to brigade level leadership fully supported by EOLs for the rest of its deployment.

“And that’s what we want,” Restrepo concluded. “We want all unit leaders to be able to communicate with their Soldiers about any inequality concerns and have them resolve potential issues at the lowest level possible. EO complaints can happen anytime, but our EOLs will always be there to assist in maintaining a safe and welcoming work environment for everyone until mission complete.”

The 54th SFAB: the National Guard’s security force advisors

National Guard Bureau--Courtesy Story
Capt. Madison Bips, a member of the Georgia National Guard's 1st Battalion of the 54th Security Force Assistance Brigade, returns a salute from a member of the Honduran Armed Forces, Sept. 8, near Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Bips was deployed to Honduras as part of the 54th SFAB's 6-month deployment to Honduras providing security force assistance, which was the first National Guard deployment of its kind. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Whitney Hughes)

SOTO CANO AIR BASE, Honduras – The 54th Security Force Assistance Brigade recently made history as the first National Guard unit of its kind to activate and deploy in support of combatant command missions.

Activated in March of 2020, the 54th SFAB is headquartered in Indiana and has six battalions in Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Ohio, and Texas. While the five active component SFABs are directly aligned under combatant commands, such as United States Southern Command or United States European Command, the Army Guard SFAB is globally focused and capable of deploying Soldiers to support missions anywhere in the world.

Recently, members of the Georgia National Guard 1st Battalion, 54th SFAB, completed a deployment to Honduras, making them the first National Guard members to deploy as an SFAB.

“The whole intent of having a security force assistance brigade is to assist our partner nations and foreign security forces,” said Col. Jeff Hackett, who commanded the 54th SFAB from its activation until last year.

SFAB Personnel

In addition to the unique nature of the SFAB mission, its manning is also one of its defining characteristics. SFAB Soldiers are all volunteers, hand-selected from other units across all 54 states, territories, and the District of Columbia.

“The way the SFAB is set up is to try to get more mature individuals that already have their key leader development time,” said Sgt. 1st Class Dean DeAngelo, the senior battalion logistics noncommissioned officer, Georgia Army National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 54th SFAB. “The whole idea behind it is to be able to advise your partner forces two levels up from your current position.”

The brigade also differs from the traditional Army force structure in accomplishing its advising mission. The advisor teams are typically comprised of between four and 12 Soldiers and operate much more autonomously than conventional forces, based on their partner force needs.

These teams are broken down into:

● Maneuver advising Teams
● Field artillery advising team
● Engineer advising teams
● Logistics advising teams






The Selection Process

There are two ways soldiers can join an SFAB.

For immediate eligibility, Soldiers must be the rank of sergeant first class or above and have completed key and developmental positions, such as platoon sergeant for an infantryman. Upon completion of requirements, Soldiers are eligible to be selected through an interview with SFAB leadership.

Soldiers that do not meet these criteria must pass a rigorous five-day assessment and selection. The selection entails an Army Combat Fitness Test, a leader reaction course, team events, a warrior skills test, military occupational skill proficiency and ethical dilemma tests, a subject matter expert interview, and culminates with a ruck march.

“We are getting Soldiers that are senior leaders already, but not everybody is cut out for the SFAB,” said Lt. Col. Matthew Makaryk, commander of the 1-54th SFAB, adding that the success rate of the selection process is not high.

In Makaryk’s Battalion, the average enlisted advisor is 31 years old with 10 years of service and an associate degree. The average officer advisor is 36, with 13 years of service and a master’s degree. Most also have two to three years of deployment experience as well, said Capt. Madison Bips, the unit’s operations officer.

Specialized Training

The SFAB training cycle also differs from Army Guard’s traditional training schedule. Rather than attending training for the traditional one weekend a month and an annual training event, they train one week a fiscal quarter and attend an annual training event.

In addition to the yearly training, SFAB Soldiers are given specialized training opportunities. Soldiers assigned to advisor positions complete the 54-day Combat Advisor Training course at the Military Advisor Training Academy at Fort Benning, Georgia. On top of that, many SFAB members receive cultural and language familiarity training and training on foreign weapons, advanced medical training, driver training, and survival, evasion, resistance, and escape techniques.

In addition to their domestic training, SFAB Soldiers also participate in numerous foreign training exercises.


“What drew me to the SFAB was the opportunity to stand up a unit from the ground up in the Guard and being able to go on overseas training,” said DeAngelo. During his four years with the SFAB, he trained in Brazil as part of Exercise Southern Vanguard in 2021 and deployed to Honduras with the SFAB in 2022.

Now that he has surpassed the three-year mark as an SFAB member, he has reached the end of his time with the unit. But this is by design —the SFAB is structured to return its advisors to the force as more seasoned professionals.

“It’s time for me to move on and take my experience from the SFAB and take it back to the conventional force,” he said.

Cannot stop the fight: Texas Counterdrug helps take down drug networks in 2021

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

Photo by Master Sgt. Michael Leslie | Texas National Guard Joint Counterdrug Task Force support Red Ribbon Week flying to schools across Texas to help spread the word about the dangers of drug use. 

AUSTIN, Texas – During the past two years, life as we had grown accustomed to has drastically changed. From a global pandemic to several calls for National Guard support, the members of the Texas National Guard Joint Counterdrug Task Force have adjusted and thrived.

When the COVID-19 virus shut the country down, law enforcement agencies had to come up with new ways to detect, interdict and disrupt drug trafficking in the state without operations slowing down.

“One of the first things I did was reach out to our law enforcement partners stating that we would continue to be by their side and assist,” said Lt. Col. Erika Besser, the Texas National Guard Joint Counterdrug Task Force Coordinator. “Continuity of our support is critical. If they are out there, we are out there.

“Sometimes that meant thinking of new and different ways to maintain our support, like working remotely. My preference will always be working side by side because collaboration and interaction are pivotal to successful partnerships, but we had to balance that with safety concerns.”

Members of the Texas Counterdrug Task Force have come up with new ways to stay relevant and fight the threat as they have for more than 30 years.

During 2021, although there were different challenges, service members still supported law enforcement in seizing more than $350 million in drugs, bulk cash, vehicles and property, as well as nearly 4,200 weapons. The increase from 2020 numbers of $290 million and 3,100 weapons, shows that as the environment adapts, so do the techniques of catching the bad guys.

“The last few years have challenged our normal collaboration process to support law enforcement agencies,” said Maj. Robert Anspaugh, Executive Officer for Texas Counterdrug. “But we are used to working across the entire state and found ways to stay engaged, utilizing new tools and skills harnessed by serving in the military, to continue providing excellent support to our partners.”

Another way of increasing the illicit revenue denial was to bring back a capability that had been used in other ways. The Air National Guard RC-26 fixed-wing aircraft had been supporting other missions in Texas and abroad, but in 2021, RC-26 came back home to Counterdrug.

The RC-26 program, along with the Counterdrug Aviation Element of LUH-72 Lakota helicopters, increased support from 570 flight hours in 2020 to 1,130 flight hours which directly supported law enforcement agencies.

“Having the RC-26 program back on Counterdrug orders has allowed us another aerial platform with similar capabilities but can be used in conjunction with each other or separately,” said Besser. “We have been able to expand our support all over the state, in multiple locations at once.”

The adjustments in tactics and capabilities have led to seizures that significantly impacted drug-trafficking organizations in Texas and Mexico.

In north Texas, Counterdrug analysts supported the Drug Enforcement Administration in taking down a methamphetamine ring helping seize nearly 1,600 pounds at a value of more than $16 million and arresting 13 drug-trafficking organization members. Another case resulted in seizing 1,000 pounds of methamphetamine and another seven arrests.

In west Texas, Counterdrug task force members assisted in a $5 million liquid methamphetamine seizure that linked suspects to a previous seizure in Oklahoma. Link chart analysis in a different case resulted in finding nearly 500 pounds of marijuana and 160 pounds of methamphetamine.

In east Texas, the Texas Counterdrug Ground Reconnaissance Detachment supported DEA for weeks as they conducted area observation to gather critical vehicle confirmations, patterns of life and helped identify suspected narcotics supplier locations resulting in the seizure of cocaine, cannabis, bulk cash and weapons.

“Changes in the operational environment affect how drug-trafficking organizations do business,” said Anspaugh. “Working with our law enforcement partners, we must anticipate these changes to stay a step ahead and continue disrupting the flow of drugs into our state and nation.”

Along with analysis, Texas Counterdrug increased their Drug Demand Reduction Outreach program placing personnel in each of the four High-intensity Drug Trafficking Area prevention initiatives leading to an increase of 40% in events. DDRO handed out 300,000 Red Ribbon bracelets in support of the DEA’s Red Ribbon Week honoring fallen agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena and spoke to 9,000 students across the state.

An enduring mission for the Texas Counterdrug Task Force is supporting two Texas ChalleNGe Academy classes each year. During the acclimation phase, service members mentor at-risk youth to get back on the right track.

Texas Counterdrug has a long history of helping law enforcement fight drug trafficking, manufacturing and distribution, and 2021 wasn’t any different. Now that 2022 is here, the program will continue to endure, coming up with innovative ways to face new challenges.

“We will continue to put effort into influencing at the national level, and into growing and evolving in order to have the most effective impact possible,” said Besser. “We have several initiatives in the works, which will benefit not only Counterdrug programs nationally, but also our law enforcement partners across Texas and other states, namely those facing specific challenges associated with the southern border.”

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.