Posts in Category: Texas Army National Guard

New partnership brings together Naval and Texas Army Guard aviators

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Credentialing assistance program offers Texas Guardsmen with opportunities for career growth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Texas Guardsmen satisfy thirst for Lake Jackson

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

“We knew we were in a crisis.”

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

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

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

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


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

But this still was not a good solution, said Sidebottom, as the elevated levels of chlorine used to disinfect the system caused great concern for the residents.

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

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


31 Army National Guardsmen arrived on the morning of September 27, 2020, bringing water to quench the thirst of Lake Jackson residents. Over a span of nearly two weeks, the team handed out cases of water, talked to residents, and expressed their joy at being able to serve.

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

“That’s the reason why I joined. I wanted to help people.”

Locks said he was struck with the depth of the situation when the team had to move hotels because they could not shower.

“We were a little scared,” said Locks. “Water is a part of life. It’s a part of our body.”

But the outpouring of gratitude from the residents had a positive reaction on all the members.

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

The mission was not without its risks. Several days into the mission, one of the Guardsmen began experiencing symptoms of COVID-19.

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

The team was taken off mission while they waited in isolation to see if they also would test positive. The state immediately mustered a Quick Response Force to fill the mission’s needs.

“Within six hours’ notice, the QRF was out here,” said Guerrero. “It was really awesome. Next morning at 7:00, they started doing our thing and they kept it up for two days until we got our tests back.

The rest of the team was relieved to receive a negative COVID test within a couple of days.

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

Sidebottom explained everyone was immensely grateful for the Citizen Soldiers who came to distribute water to their city.

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

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

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

Sidebottom said it takes a special person to serve.

“They’re very high spirited,” said Sidebottom. “They’re motivated. They understand the cause, and they’re always ready to serve.
 

They are Texans serving Texas.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


COVID-19 RESPONSE

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

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

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

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

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

CIVIL DISTURBANCE RESPONSE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amidst a crisis: At-Risk Youth Receive Second Chance

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

EAGLE LAKE, Texas – Broken homes. Limited Opportunities. Marginal education. Drugs. Gangs. Violence. For some children, this is everyday life with no way to escape. Their reality is something many only see on the television or in nightmares.

What they may not know, is that there is stability, opportunity and education ready for them at the Texas ChalleNGe Academy located in Eagle Lake. With the support of the Texas National Guard Joint Counterdrug Task Force, the 16-18 year old kids get a chance.

“The youth of TCA come to us from a variety of backgrounds with a myriad of challenges,” said David De Mers, Director of the Texas ChalleNGe Academy. “For most, the challenges they face are not self-inflicted, but they are likely to be a significant determining factor in their futures.

“At TCA, we put cadets back in a position of authority in their lives by assisting youth in removing the barriers to their success,” said De Mers. “In effect, TCA is a reboot for youth.”

Since approximately 2001, the Texas National Guard Joint Counterdrug Task Force has supported the Youth Challenge Program with training, mentorship and coaching to help mold the cadets into a more positive lifestyle.

“It is an opportunity to give them a second chance at life and to strengthen them to become a productive adult that is able to serve its country,” said First Sgt. Celsa Reyes, the Counterdrug Drug Demand Reduction Civil Operations non-commissioned officer in charge. “The opportunity to mentor and coach TCA cadets is immensely gratifying, and can only hope we have a positive impact on their lives and future.”

The 2020 summer class has some unique challenges never before seen in the world.

“This class includes almost 40 cadets who are returning to our campus after having the last class cancelled amidst the initial COVID-19 closures across the State,” said De Mers. “Because of the COVID-19 social distancing guidelines, we are not able to accept our full capacity of candidates as only 110 were invited compared to our maximum capacity of 192.”

To make sure to stop the spread of COVID-19, many protocols and measures are in place.

“TCA is closely following the guidelines described by the Center for Disease Control and the Texas Military Department,” said De Mers. “All staff and candidates were tested for COVID-19 prior to the start of this class.

“Additionally, all staff and cadets are being monitored for symptoms and temperatures daily. Staff and cadets wear facemasks all day and socially distance except in rare cases. All classrooms, living spaces, and meeting rooms are sanitized immediately after each use.”

TCA and Counterdrug provided additional measures to ensure the safety of staff and students.

“Because of COVID-19 the class size has been reduced to facilitate social distancing, three masks per cadet have been provided as well as hand sanitizer dispensers installed throughout the campus,” said Sgt. Matthew Harrison, a Counterdrug task force member helping mentor students and staff.

Working through tough circumstances is what the military accomplishes daily, and COVID-19 is no different.

“Texas could not afford to have such an essential program be stopped by a pandemic,” said Reyes. “TCA makes an everlasting impact in our community by teaching youth the necessary tools to be successful and productive members in our society while also earning credits to graduate from High School or gain a GED.”

Texas Counterdrug brings something more to the youth program partnership than just the typical Soldier does in uniform.

“Many of our youth self-attest to the casual use of drugs and alcohol in the past,” said De Mers. “Counterdrug assists with messaging to our youth, but the youth see the positive interaction and role modeling from members of our military and are drawn toward a better model of citizenship.

“Additionally, Counterdrug members bring a wide variety of expertise that is valuable to staff who serve at TCA. Many TCA staff are not former military and do not have the experience with a number of our quasi-military standards.”

The 17 1/2-month ChalleNGe program includes a 5 1/2-month residential phase and a 12-month follow-up mentorship phase.

“During the residential component, candidates earn cadet status, attend school, participate in physical exercise, and focus on the 8 core components of the Youth ChalleNGe Academy,” said De Mers.

“They are Academic Excellence, Physical Fitness, Leadership & Followership, Responsible Citizenship, Job Skills, Service to Community, Health & Hygiene, and Life Coping Skills. During the post-residential phase, staff and mentors work with graduates on their next steps in education, career, and life.”

Eagle Lake is the third location for the Texas program as Hurricane Ike forced the program to move from Galveston Island to Sheffield in 2008 before consolidating resources to the Eagle Lake campus in 2020.

Counterdrug has helped the youth and staff at every location.

“Counterdrug supports TCA by providing professional Soldiers and Airmen that can train and mentor both staff and cadets in current standard operating procedures, in Drill and ceremony, physical fitness, leadership, etcetera,” said Harrison.

“With schools closed, unemployment high and most things a young adult likes to do closed, TCA is the best opportunity in these times to further their academic career and consequently their professional career.”

Many youth within the state struggle each day to survive in their environment and the Texas ChalleNGe Academy is working diligently to provide a safe, secure and empowering atmosphere for their cadets.

“We believe that there are youth throughout Texas that need this program, and we believe we can make this a safe location for programming by following the guidance that is available,” said De Mers. “We recognize that there is risk in any program that connects people together, however, the youth who are at greatest risk in our communities deserve the opportunities that this program provides.”

Texas Guardsman and 28th Chief of the National Guard Bureau retires to Texas

By Charles E. Spirtos, Texas Military Department Public Affairs

SAN ANTONIO, Texas- On Friday, August 28, 2020 Maj. Gen. Tracy R. Norris, the adjutant general of Texas hosted the retirement ceremony for Gen. Joseph L. Lengyel, Texas Guardsman and the 28th Chief of the National Guard Bureau.

The Texas Military Department hosted a retirement ceremony for Texas Guardsman and the 28th Chief of the National Guard Bureau, General Joseph L. Lengyel at the Alamo in San Antonio on August 28, 2020. The ceremony was officiated by Maj. Gen. Tracy R. Norris, the Adjutant General of Texas, and Gen. Daniel Hokanson, the 29th and current Chief of the National Guard Bureau. (U.S. Army photos by Charles E. Spirtos)
The Texas Military Department hosted a retirement ceremony for Texas Guardsman and the 28th Chief of the National Guard Bureau, General Joseph L. Lengyel at the Alamo in San Antonio on August 28, 2020. The ceremony was officiated by Maj. Gen. Tracy R. Norris, the Adjutant General of Texas, and Gen. Daniel Hokanson, the 29th and current Chief of the National Guard Bureau. (U.S. Army photos by Charles E. Spirtos)


The ceremony was conducted outdoors at historic site of the Alamo in San Antonio, Texas. COVID-19 mitigation efforts were in effect at the ceremony, but despite the limitation in audience size, there was no limitation of gratitude and respect for Lengyel’s service.

Speaking at the ceremony, Lengyel expressed admiration and pride in the service and dedication of all men and women in the National Guard.

“One of the most impressive things about all of the men and women who serve in our military and who put on this uniform, is that none of us knows what the uniform will ask of them. You may deploy multiple times, you may serve domestically, but that is what we signed up for.”

Lengyel sought to focus additional attention onto the service members of the National Guard: “Let’s take a moment to acknowledge what we all have done together as Soldiers and Airmen in service of our country. As Guardsmen though, we not only serve our country, but we also have served in our states and our communities.”

Lengyel exits the military after nearly four decades of service to the Air Force and the Air National Guard. He served in various operational and staff assignments, primarily as an F-16 Instructor Pilot and Weapons Officer. His experience in the F-16 includes tours in Air Combat Command, Pacific Air Forces, United States Air Forces in Europe and the Texas Air National Guard.

He has commanded a fighter squadron, operations group, air expeditionary group and the Air National Guard Readiness Center.

Lengyel is a command pilot with more than 3,000 flying hours primarily in the F-16. Additionally, Lengyel served as the Senior United States Defense Official; Chief, Office of Military Cooperation; and Defense Attaché, Cairo, United States Central Command, Cairo, Egypt.

Prior to his assumption of command as the Chief of the National Guard Bureau, Lengyel was the vice commander of the Texas Air National Guard’s 149th Fighter Wing, the “Gunfighters,” who performed an fly-over above the Alamo in honor of Lengyel’s service to the Wing and to the United States Military.

Throughout his command, Lengyel dedicated his service to improving the quality of life for all the service members under his responsibility, as well as focusing on maintaining readiness and agility within the Guard.The Texas Military Department hosted a retirement ceremony for Texas Guardsman and the 28th Chief of the National Guard Bureau, General Joseph L. Lengyel at the Alamo in San Antonio on August 28, 2020. The ceremony was officiated by Maj. Gen. Tracy R. Norris, the Adjutant General of Texas, and Gen. Daniel Hokanson, the 29th and current Chief of the National Guard Bureau. (U.S. Army photos by Charles E. Spirtos)

Lengyel’s command has seen the Guard usher in a new era as a strategic reserve force, which is relied upon by both federal and state partners for a variety of mission sets.

Under his tenure, Lengyel has seen National Guard Soldiers and Airmen deployed in support of every United States Geographic Combatant Command.

Lengyel has also presided over one of the Guard’s most active periods of domestic support operations. From large scale hurricane response efforts like those seen after Hurricane Harvey, to the broad and varied mission sets in the response to COVID-19, to protection of liberty, life and property during the June 2020 civil disturbance, Lengyel has ensured that the Guard was ready to meet the call. As of his retirement, 180,000 Guardsmen were on some form of active duty order.

Because of Lengyel’s tireless dedication, and his advocacy of Guard issues to both the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Secretary of Defense, the National Guard has seen respect and admiration unlike any other era. True to the National Guard motto, Lengyel’s leadership truly has established a force that is always ready and always there.
Norris praised Lengyel’s lifetime of leadership and service:

“The same fighting Texas spirit that was displayed here at the Alamo centuries ago lives on throughout the entire Lengyel family, and especially through Gen. Lengyel’s decades of service to Texas and the United States.”

At the ceremony, Lengyel received numerous accolades from state and federal leaders, including Texas Governor Greg Abbott, who praised all that Lengyel has accomplished for the State of Texas. Lengyel also received the Texas Superior Service Medal from Norris, as well as the Defense Superior Service Medal.

These awards add to Lengyel’s numerous decorations over the years, including: Defense Distinguished Service Medal, Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit with two oak leaf clusters, Bronze Star Medal, Air Force Meritorious Service Medal with oak leaf cluster, and many more.

Reflecting on the totality of his service within the National Guard, Lengyel said: “I never intended to be Chief of the National Guard Bureau, but I will never trade in my experience for anything in the world.”

Communication is key with Task Force Texas

Story and photo by Staff Sgt. Sean Kornegay, 136th Airlift Wing, Texas Air National Guard

AUSTIN, Texas - Captain Michael McCann, Joint Task Force 136 Maneuver Enhancement Brigade Telecommunications Officer, is currently mobilized with the Texas National Guard's Task Force Texas in Austin, Texas. The Task Force Texas mission is to provide personnel support and supplies to hospitals located in Houston, San Antonio, Del Rio, and the Rio Grande Valley during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. CPT McCann’s role is to assure the continuation of support by keeping communication strong between military and civilian personnel.

CPT McCann and his team are responsible for support of the command, control, communications, cyber requirements and development processes that ensure joint interoperability.

"Our job is to make sure our people can reach the outside world," said McCann. "We handle communications and control through phones, internet, and computers. We have a team here that monitors the networks that allows information to flow from top to bottom and vice versa.” 

Captain Michael McCann, Joint Task Force 136 Maneuver Enhancement Brigade Telecommunications Officer, is currently mobilized with the Texas National Guard's Task Force Texas in Austin, Texas. The Task Force Texas mission is to provide personnel support and supplies to hospitals located in Houston, San Antonio, Del Rio, and the Rio Grande Valley during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. CPT McCann’s role is to assure the continuation of support by keeping communication strong between military and civilian personnel.
Captain Michael McCann, Joint Task Force 136 Maneuver Enhancement Brigade Telecommunications Officer, is currently mobilized with the Texas National Guard's Task Force Texas in Austin, Texas. The Task Force Texas mission is to provide personnel support and supplies to hospitals located in Houston, San Antonio, Del Rio, and the Rio Grande Valley during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. CPT McCann’s role is to assure the continuation of support by keeping communication strong between military and civilian personnel. 



CPT McCann’s 24 years of commitment to the Signal Corps, a U.S. Army branch dedicated to communication and information systems management, instilled within him the significance of clear communication.

"Proper information flow allows our commanders to make the best decisions,” McCann said. "It allows them to put soldiers where they need to be to support the civilians who need them right now.”

McCann appreciates the opportunity to serve his fellow Texans.

"I’m proud,” said McCann. “I’ve been doing this a long time and it gives me a great sense of purpose. It’s a different type of mission versus deploying somewhere. But this is very important to the nation and to the state of Texas. I’m honored to be able to step in and support.”

CPT McCann and his team accepted the challenge to keep Task Force Texas connected with multiple state agencies for the COVID-19 response.

“There’s always an uncertainty when it comes to working with new agencies,” said McCann. “It’s about how best to make things fit and putting the puzzle pieces together correctly. In no time at all, things began to work very smoothly.”

His prior experience with TMD’s Hurricane Harvey response afforded McCann with the necessary wisdom to better serve the citizens of Texas and the United States.

"While they’re both large, they are two very different operations. Both missions share the same goal and that is to mitigate suffering. That’s what we’re going to do here however we can.”

Texans serving Texas.

Texas Medical Provider Mission highlights partnership between National Guard and Active Duty

Story by Mr. Robert Seyller, Texas Military Department Public Affairs

AUSTIN, Texas – More than 1200 service members are partnering together from the Texas National Guard and the Active and Reserve components of the U.S. Army, U.S. Navy and U.S. Air Force to support Texas hospitals during the COVID-19 pandemic.

With a request to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Gov. Greg Abbot has secured a partnership between the Texas National Guard and U.S. Army North that will provide local hospitals with medical professionals from the U.S. Armed Forces. 

Maj. Gen. Tracy Norris, the Adjutant General of Texas (left), converses with U.S. Army North Commanding General, Lt. Gen. Laura Richardson (right), during a visit to the Texas State Operations Center in Austin, Texas, July 16, 2020. While there, military and civilian leaders strengthened their partnership and discussed the joint military COVID-19 operation in support of federal efforts and the state. U.S. Northern Command, through U.S. Army North, remains committed to providing flexible Department of Defense support to states in need as well as the Federal Emergency Management Agency in support of the whole-of-nation COVID-19 response. (U.S. Army photo by Col. Martin O'Donnell / U.S Army North Public Affairs)
Maj. Gen. Tracy Norris, the Adjutant General of Texas (left), converses with U.S. Army North Commanding General, Lt. Gen. Laura Richardson (right), during a visit to the Texas State Operations Center in Austin, Texas, July 16, 2020. While there, military and civilian leaders strengthened their partnership and discussed the joint military COVID-19 operation in support of federal efforts and the state. U.S. Northern Command, through U.S. Army North, remains committed to providing flexible Department of Defense support to states in need as well as the Federal Emergency Management Agency in support of the whole-of-nation COVID-19 response. (U.S. Army photo by Col. Martin O'Donnell / U.S Army North Public Affairs)

Maj. Gen. Tracy R. Norris, the adjutant general of Texas, welcomed the additional healthcare providers that will be joining a Texas Military Department response that began in March 2020.

“By partnering with the Active duty and Reserve components, we will be able to provide this much needed support and relief to the Texas civilian healthcare workers who have been working tirelessly to care for the people of our great state,” said Norris.

According to Norris, the Texas National Guard already shares a strong working relationship with U.S. Army North. The San Antonio based U.S. Army North also provides defense support of civil authorities in times of need.

Lt. Gen. Laura J. Richardson, commanding general of U.S. Army North (Fifth Army) and the Joint Force Land Component Command, also pointed to the long-standing relationship between the Guard, Active Duty, and the joint force.

“This is a total force effort,” said Lt. Gen. Richardson. “Our joint service members are working determinedly to relieve stress on hospitals and to deliver care to communities in need.”

Maj. Gen. Norris, serving as the first female adjutant general of the state, and Lt. Gen. Richardson, serving as the first female commander of U.S. Army North, have both spent months working to reduce the impact of COVID-19 on the nation.

“We are committed to assisting those in need as part of the ongoing whole-of-nation response to the COVID-19 pandemic and in support of FEMA,” said Lt. Gen. Richardson. “At the same time, we remain fully capable of conducting our primary mission of defending the homeland.”

Leading the effort on the ground will be Texas Air National Guard Brig. Gen. Thomas Suelzer. Appointed as the dual-status commander, Suelzer will provide direction to both Texas National Guard and federal service members.  The nomination and approval of the dual-status commander streamlines the process, ensuring a smoother and more effective collaboration of state and federal resources.

According to Suezler the dual status commander allows the governor to continue leading the response with both state and federal military assets. Under this structure, orders and guidance can simultaneously be received by the President.

“It is an incredible experience to work with our service members in this historic event. My position will allow for collaboration between orders directed by Governor Abbott and those by the President'” said Suelzer.  “I am proud to see how effortlessly our forces have integrated with each other.”

Among the medical staff is Maj. Tanya Island, of the 147th Medical Group, Texas Air National Guard. Island is serving as the Joint Task Force Lone Star Surgeon where she works to position personnel and resources across the state.

Island represents what makes the Guard such a valuable tool for state response as she leverages both her civilian career as a nurse anesthetist and her military training to help her fellow Texans.

“This operation really opened my eyes as to how critical a role the National Guard has in this response,” said Island. “Since COVID-19 began we have coordinated over 320,000 tests and now we are standing up teams of medical professionals to backfill civilian hospitals.”

The 12 initial teams will consist of 100 medical staff, including doctors, nurses, medics and healthcare administrators from the National Guard, Active Duty forces and Military Reservists.

Current focus areas are Houston, San Antonio, Del Rio, Eagle Pass, the Rio Grande Valley, and the Texas Coastal Bend. Suezler explained the mix of metropolitan and rural response areas highlight very different ways the Texas health system is strained. Cities like Houston and San Antonio are dealing with large populations that increase the communicability of the virus, while rural areas including the Rio Grande Valley and the Texas Coastal Bend struggle to find medical providers in the sparsely populated region. 

In addition to the medical personnel mission in support of COVID-19, Guardsmen across Texas continue to staff mobile testing sites and provide decontamination of critical facilities.

“Our Guardsmen continue to serve their neighbors and local communities’ months after activation,” said Norris. “I want every Soldier, Airman, and their family members, to know how much their dedication means to the people of Texas.”

 

Operation Guardian Support Soldiers Volunteer in the Laredo Community

Story and photos by Staff Sgt. De'Jon Williams, Texas Air National Guard

LAREDO, Texas – Along the south Texas border Guard Members put in many hours of their off time to serve the communities they now call home.

Although many of the soldiers and airmen assigned to the border mission are far from their homes, they have still found a way to give back the new communities they now call, home.

Texas National Guard members come together to volunteer their time in their new local community in Laredo, Texas.

“I actually feel like I’m more a part of the community around me,” said Master Sgt. Brian Franck. “I’m constantly trying to recruit people to volunteer and give back to the community down here in Laredo.”

Franck started the mission August 2019 and quickly got to work, looking for opportunities to help the community.

September, he began volunteering at the Laredo Animal Protective Society (LAPS).

“I was informed about a volunteer opportunity at LAPS,” said Franck. “I talked to some other Soldiers I work with and we started walking dogs and volunteering. I then informed the Laredo Company and my platoon about this opportunity.”

Franck went on to say the Company sent out an email about two volunteer opportunities, he then pushed the email to his fellow soldiers and they then began volunteering at many other companies throughout the Laredo area.

November 2019 was the second volunteer opportunity he had, but first with the local Habitat for Humanity (H4H).

“I was told on Veteran’s Day they were going to start building a house for a Texas veteran,” said Franck. “So, I showed up, found out I was the only one representing the National Guard down here to help start building on the veteran’s home. From that day habitat started to coordinate with me on their build days and needing volunteers.”

Franck and his team helped H4H build two homes since he began volunteering.

“After this point, the company sort of appointed me as the volunteer point of contact,” Franck said. “I was informing them of events and being there if a Soldier said they would be there to introduce them to the organization staff.”

Franck has worked hard to recruit 36 other soldiers in his company to help in the Laredo community. Together they have logged more than 1,600 hours of volunteering.

“I got started through Master Sgt. Franck,” said Staff Sgt. Richard Frost. “I heard about the volunteer programs that we can get involved with here in Laredo. He was the man people said to go to. I’ve been working with LAPS and Habitat for Humanity whenever I can.”

Frost, who is a squad leader with Team Laredo went on to talk about how much he enjoys volunteering at LAPS and helping with the animals.

“I take Tyson out to North Park because they have a dog park there,” said Frost. “He’s a brindle Pit Bull with tiger like stripes. I picked him because pits have a bad rap and he’s done great with me in public.”

Even a pandemic has not stopped these soldiers from continuing to do their part. Despite COVID-19, soldiers in Laredo still do their part to help the community.

“COVID-19 has made it, first where we could not volunteer,” said Franck. “Then for habitat only five volunteers at a time, but for the past months if we are staying away from the general population and working on projects, a small group of us can be there to volunteer. COVID-19 has put a damper on volunteering, but it has not stopped our soldiers from being able to give back to the community of Laredo.”

Team Laredo Soldiers continue to work with these organizations despite the recent pandemic. COVID-19 has not lessened the spirit of Franck who continues to put in time with these organizations.

“Honestly, I wish people would go back to the way it used to be,” Franck said. “Where we were not so focused on ourselves, per se, but more focused on helping each other. When people come down on these missions, they can experience what’s going on in the communities and be a part of the communities because while you’re down here, this is your home.”

Franck went on to say that he’s thankful for the opportunity to work with these organizations, without them and their volunteer programs this would not be possible.

Texas National Guard Soldier gives back to her community

Story by Staff Sgt. De'jon Williams, Texas Air National Guard

WESLACO, Texas – The National Guard is a volunteer force of Citizen-Soldiers and -Airmen who give their one weekend a month and two weeks a year to service.

One Texas National Guard Soldier serving with Operation Guardian Support (OGS) along the south Texas border, gives back to her community as a Citizen-Soldier and volunteer.

Spc. Maritssa Quintanilla, a combat medic specialist (68W), continues to give back to her local community with her volunteer efforts.

"I feel like I'm capable of helping others," said Quintanilla. "Why not? I have all my limbs; I have everything; some people need a little more help than others."

U.S. Army Spc. Maritssa Quintanilla hands markers to a student at Pharr-San Juan- Alamo Early College High School in San Juan, Texas Jan. 31, 2020.
U.S. Army Spc. Maritssa Quintanilla hands markers to a student at Pharr-San Juan- Alamo Early College High School in San Juan, Texas Jan. 31, 2020.

Wanting to give back and helping others started after hearing some shocking information from her younger sister, who was being bullied. She felt the need to speak up and do her part to help her sister and other young people.

She volunteered with local schools through the Helping Everyone Achieve Respect (H.E.A.R.) program speaking with local high schools about bullying.

She said it started with her sister telling her that she was getting bullied; this was information she did not like hearing. She went on to say that she went out to local high schools, conducted surveys and PowerPoints as to why it is not OK to bully.

Quintanilla went on to say that after putting in that effort, her sister felt a lot better. She did it for her and was she proud it made a change.

Her call to action did not stop there; she also volunteered with the Pharr Fire Department.

"I felt like I had too much downtime," Quintanilla said. "I was like, 'OK, I can do something.' I've always liked to be busy. I'm on the go and always have something to do. For example, firefighting was a great way to keep my fitness up and help people out in a way and have connections. It was just fun overall and it made me feel good."

Quintanilla has completed more than 150 hours with the fire department, 130 hours with H.E.A.R. She was able to earn her Certified Nurse Aide License after volunteering 40 hours at a local nursing home. Quintanilla has also volunteered her time with the U.S. Border Patrol at a community service event at the local Boys and Girls Club, helping get school supplies to less fortunate children. Overall, she has accumulated more than 500 hours of volunteer time in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas.

U.S. Army Spc. Maritssa Quintanilla (left), a combat medic specialist poses for a photo with fellow volunteers.
U.S. Army Spc. Maritssa Quintanilla (left), a combat medic specialist poses for a photo with fellow volunteers.

"She's a great Soldier," said Sgt. 1st Class Gary Murrell, "She has a great work ethic, always striving to make herself better. She's one of the few that I've always seen constantly giving up her time to make herself and everyone else better."

Murrell, who is Quintanilla's platoon sergeant, went on to describe her volunteer efforts as constant. Saying she has come to him multiple times about what she can do to make her community better and what she can do to make herself better.

Moving forward, Quintanilla plans to go back to school to finish her bachelor's degree and join the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC).

"I decided to go to school, do ROTC and become an officer," said Quintanilla. "I'm going into the ROTC program and sign my contract this August after I get off mission. I'm looking at it as a good way to become a lieutenant and motivate my troops to become volunteers."

Many OGS Soldiers along the south Texas border have gone above and beyond answering the call to service to continue to volunteer and give back to their communities, Quintanilla is no exception.

"I thank God every day for giving me another chance to be here," She said. "There is a quote 'you make a living by what you get, and you make a life by what you give,' I live by this every day volunteering as a way to give my gratitude for having a chance to be here."