Posts in Category: Texas Army National Guard

Multinational forces make preparations for communications and safe operations

Multinational forces make preparations for communications and safe operations
Story by:
Sgt. Adrian Shelton
Posted: June 8, 2016

Photo By Sgt. Adrian Shelton | An instructor rushes to assist Soldiers in exiting a simulated rolled over vehicle during HMMWV Egress Assistance Training (HEAT) at the Observer Coach Trainer Academy, at Operation Swift Response at JMRC, Hohenfels Training Area in southeastern Germany, June 10, 2016. HEAT teaches Soldiers how to react and survive in the event of a vehicle rollover event. Exercise Swift Response is one of the premier military crisis response training events for multi-national airborne forces in the world. The exercise is designed to enhance the readiness of the combat core of the U.S. Global Response Force -- currently the 82nd Airborne Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team -- to conduct rapid response, joint-forcible entry and follow-on operations alongside Allied high-readiness forces in Europe. Swift Response 16 includes more than 5,000 Soldiers and Airmen from Belgium, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain and the United states and takes place in Poland and Germany, May 27-June 26, 2016. (Photo by U.S. Army National Guard Sgt. Adrian Shelton)
Photo By Sgt. Adrian Shelton | An instructor rushes to assist Soldiers in exiting a simulated rolled over vehicle during HMMWV Egress Assistance Training (HEAT) at the Observer Coach Trainer Academy, at Operation Swift Response at JMRC, Hohenfels Training Area in southeastern Germany, June 10, 2016. HEAT teaches Soldiers how to react and survive in the event of a vehicle rollover event. Exercise Swift Response is one of the premier military crisis response training events for multi-national airborne forces in the world. The exercise is designed to enhance the readiness of the combat core of the U.S. Global Response Force -- currently the 82nd Airborne Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team -- to conduct rapid response, joint-forcible entry and follow-on operations alongside Allied high-readiness forces in Europe. Swift Response 16 includes more than 5,000 Soldiers and Airmen from Belgium, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain and the United states and takes place in Poland and Germany, May 27-June 26, 2016. (Photo by U.S. Army National Guard Sgt. Adrian Shelton)

Joint Multinational Readiness Center (JMRC), US Army Garrison, Hohenfels, Germany - Service members from the Army active duty component, National Guard and Reserves, and US Army Europe, prepared for their roles in Swift Response 16 by attending observer/controller training here alongside multinational forces on Wednesday, June 8, 2016. 

Swift Response is a two-phased, premier military crisis response training event; it involves a multinational task force whose primary purpose is to evaluate and enhance the forces' readiness to rapidly deploy in response to conflicts anywhere in the world within less than 24 hours. The first phase began May 27 in Poland, during which paratroopers of several nations conducted multiple and simultaneous airborne jumps to demonstrate allied rapid response capabilities.

"Learning how to work together with the multinational members from all around NATO and the Unified Europe (UE) forces creates some difficult challenges," said Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael P. Perez, commandant of the Observer Coach Trainer Academy. "One of the biggest challenges is learning languages and having to work through the language barriers, having to use linguists to help facilitate the information critically that needs to get across to everybody."

During Swift Response's second phase, the OC-T teams gather at JMRC, during which the teams provide coaching, teaching, mentoring and after action reviews (AAR) to military units that are part of NATO. A primary focus for them, other than exercising control and adjudication of instrumentation systems, is assisting the chain of command in enforcing safety and mitigating risk. Their initial training involves pyrotechnics safety and what is known as HMMWV egress assistance training (HEAT) that teaches Soldiers the effects of rollover incidents and the skills to react and survive such incidents should they occur.

"The units give us what they want to train on, and whatever the training plan they have is our indicators that they're succeeding at the mission they're on," said Army Capt. Joshua A. Wright, 1st Battalion, 141st Infantry Brigade, San Antonio, Texas. He is also the mobilization officer in charge for Texas Army National Guard. Wright said that OC's ensure the units maneuver safely and that their actions are documented in order for units to maximize the quality of their training at JMRC.

One of America's allies, France, sent members of a newly established joint airborne brigade in the city of Marseille, to JMRC to learn ways to observe and coach their unit's training. They presented the challenge of language barriers but how that can be overcome during the integration efforts during an exercise such as Swift Response.

"The first thing we have to learn is to speak English," said French Army Maj. Fabrice Vasseur. "It is sometimes very difficult for us. Like Americans, French have many different accents and sometimes for us for example on the radios, there is misunderstanding, so it is important for us to hear people speaking."

The OC's agree that communications is their biggest challenge. The host nation for Swift Response 16, Germany, identifies its location as a key strength that enhances overall multinational operability. 

"To all the nations that are not here, take a chance and join us," said German Army Capt. Sascha Duderstaedt, 3rd Company, 31st Airborne Regiment, also known as German Ranger Company, in Seedorf. "It's a great opportunity, especially how much effort and money the U.S. put in here, and to train here in the environment that is international, that is challenging, and hopefully more nations from the NATO side will join us here at Swift Response to get better within the NATO."

This year marks the 16th rotation of Operation Swift Response, and will conclude on June 26.

Texas Guardsmen stay mission ready to help fellow citizens

Texas Army National Guard Sgt. Joseph A. Fuentes, a crew chief with the 2-149th General Support Aviation Battalion, of the 36 Infantry Division, based out of San Antonio, Texas, stands ready for the next medevac emergency June 4, 2016. The State Operations Center requested more resources from the Texas Military Department due to the recent flooding across Texas. The 2-149th is equipped with medevac capabilities such as aircraft, to transport litter and ambulatory patients to a higher level of care. (Photo by: U.S. Army National Guard Sgt. Elizabeth Pena)
Texas Army National Guard Sgt. Joseph A. Fuentes, a crew chief with the 2-149th General Support Aviation Battalion, of the 36 Infantry Division, based out of San Antonio, Texas, stands ready for the next medevac emergency June 4, 2016. The State Operations Center requested more resources from the Texas Military Department due to the recent flooding across Texas. The 2-149th is equipped with medevac capabilities such as aircraft, to transport litter and ambulatory patients to a higher level of care. (Photo by: U.S. Army National Guard Sgt. Elizabeth Pena)

Texas Guardsmen stay mission ready to help fellow citizens

Story by: Sgt. Elizabeth Pena

Posted: June 4, 2016

SAN ANTONIO, Texas -- The results and lingering effects of El Nino continue to wreck havoc on the state of Texas, as severe flooding across the state is forcing hundreds of people to evacuate their homes. From May 29, 2016 through June 4, 2016, more than 250 members of the Texas Military Department mobilized to support its local and state partners with emergency operations. 

Disaster situations like these are exactly what part-time guardsmen like Sgt. Joseph A. Puente, crew chief for the Charlie Company, 2-149th General Support Aviation Battalion, 36th Infantry Division, Texas Army National Guard, are trained to be ready for. 

“They call us M-day guys, meaning that we have a civilian job by day and we do this on the weekends,” said Puente. “But we always know that state active duty missions could come up, so if we are watching a big rain event, we know the possibility is there.”

When not in uniform, Puente works as a field operations technician at one of the nations leading Telecommunications Company in San Antonio, Texas.

On May 30, 2016, the State Operations Center requested more resources. Guardsmen from the 2-149th General Support Aviation Battalion, to include Puente, and Texas Task Force 1 Search and Rescue Team, were activated and mobilized to the San Antonio Army Aviation Support Facility in San Antonio, Texas.

“I looked at my schedule and said – if the state needs me, if the guard needs me, if the unit, and if I can be an asset to the public, please give me a call,” said Puente. “The call was sent out on Saturday on Memorial weekend and we reported in Tuesday morning at 7 am.”

The 2-149th is equipped with medevac capabilities such as aircraft, to transport people and ambulatory patients to safety or a higher level of care. 

When paired with Texas Task Force 1, the unit is able to rescue citizens from life-threatening situations like trees, flooded creeks, or vehicles that have been swept away from high-rise water.

Guardsmen like Puente know that being mission ready is essential to saving lives. 

“I’ve always heard the medevac world runs real fast,” said Puente. “I was prior infantry so I had all my stuff laid just right. Everything moved really fast but it was kind of like a controlled chaos. That aircraft was up and running in the least amount of time to get to that victim.”

Crew chiefs must go through about 25-50 hours of monitored training as a crew member and pass basic tasks as well as perform mission tasks which consist of tactical flying, fire fighting, hoist operations, night missions using night vision goggles.

This was Puente’s’ first real-world disaster response mission as a crew chief, and having that practice gave him confidence in his abilities to perform when Texas made the call for help.

“You’re with them all the time, you train with them, you’re doing high strenuous tasks and so you push through it together and when the aircraft lands at the end of the day you feel a sense of accomplishment.”

Texas Guardsmen conducted more than 135 missions, rescuing more than 900 people and 310 pets following severe flooding across the state, May 29-June 12, 2016.

Texas training institute welcomes new commander

Texas training institute welcomes new commander

Story by: Sgt. Josiah Pugh

Posted on: May 17, 2016

Sgt. Josiah Pugh Brig. Gen. Sean A. Ryan passes the colors from the 136th Regiment's outgoing commander, Col. Michael Adame, to the unit's incoming commander, Col. Carlton Smith, during a change of command ceremony held at the Camp Mabry Simpson Auditorium on April 14, 2016. The ceremony represents the change of responsibility from one commander to another. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Josiah Pugh)
Sgt. Josiah Pugh
Brig. Gen. Sean A. Ryan passes the colors from the 136th Regiment's outgoing commander, Col. Michael Adame, to the unit's incoming commander, Col. Carlton Smith, during a change of command ceremony held at the Camp Mabry Simpson Auditorium on April 14, 2016. The ceremony represents the change of responsibility from one commander to another. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Josiah Pugh)

A group of about fifty Texas Guardsmen gathered into the dimly lit Command Sgt. Maj. Simpson Auditorium on Camp Mabry April 14, 2016. Their purpose? To bid farewell to the 136th Regional Training Institute's outgoing commander, Col. Michael Adame and welcome the incoming commander, Col. Carlton Smith.

The 136th RTI trains more than 1,500 Soldiers per year with more than 45 different courses offered. Soldiers come from across Texas and from around the nation to advance their military career here.

Adame, who has served for 30 years and deployed with the RTI in 2004, spoke to the group from the stage and reflected on his time with the unit. "The most important thing I've seen here is the people. It's been an honor to serve with you."

In the military today, change of command ceremonies harken back to the militaries of the Middle Ages in Europe. The passing of the colors signifies the orderly transfer of responsibility from one commander to another. On the ancient battlefield, the colors critically marked the position of a commander within a battle. During the ceremony, the colors passed from the senior enlisted leader, who safeguards them, to the outgoing commander. The outgoing commander passes the colors to the higher headquarters commander, who in turn entrusts them to the incoming commander, symbolically transferring the responsibility of commanding the unit. The new commander finally returns the colors to the senior enlisted leader, signifying the beginning of a new chapter in the organization's leadership.

Adame expressed his wishes for his troops going forward. "Continue to be all you can be and train the force."

Smith, who deployed with the RTI in 2003, took the stage with pride on his face. He spoke to his new troops about what he hopes the future will hold. "I really want to take the opportunity to know what this regiment is about. I look to carry forward with what Mike has established."

Texas Hall of Honor welcomes two new inductees

Texas Hall of Honor welcomes two new inductees

Story By: Sgt. Michael Giles

Posted On: May 17, 2016

 Sgt. Michael Giles Maj. Gen. John F. Nichols, Texas Military Forces adjutant general, inducts retired Chief Master Sgt. Johnny D. Jones into the Texas Military Forces Museum Hall of Honor at Camp Mabry, Texas, May 14, 2016. (Texas Army National Guard Photo by Army Sgt. Michael Giles/Released)
Sgt. Michael Giles
Maj. Gen. John F. Nichols, Texas Military Forces adjutant general, inducts retired Chief Master Sgt. Johnny D. Jones into the Texas Military Forces Museum Hall of Honor at Camp Mabry, Texas, May 14, 2016. (Texas Army National Guard Photo by Army Sgt. Michael Giles/Released)

AUSTIN, Texas (May 14, 2016) -- The Texas Military Department celebrated the contributions of two lifetime senior enlisted members by inducting them into the Hall of Honor May 14, 2016, at Camp Mabry.

The two retired military leaders, Sgt. Maj. Elwood H. Imken of the Texas Army National Guard, and Chief Master Sgt. Johnny D. Jones of the Texas Air Guard, received recognition for long and impactful military careers when they joined the ranks of the nearly 100 members who have been inducted since the tradition began in 1980.

The Hall of Honor, a room in the Texas Military Forces Museum, displays portraits and histories of military members whose leadership played key roles in transforming the Texas Military Department in positive ways. Texas military regulations state that Hall of Honor nominees need to have demonstrated positive impact through pioneering efforts or by changing the "outlook and focus of the organization."

Imken's 49 years of combined military and civilian federal service included leadership roles in training, disaster relief, and community outreach missions such as Food for Families and Blue Santa. He said he learned early in his career that planning and program management were important for taking care of Soldiers, because training time for Guard Soldiers was limited.

"You knew you had to do good planning," Imken said. "If you didn't do good planning and task analysis on things, you couldn't do anything."

Imken's advice for young service members looking to support the military in positive change is to work to make things less complicated.

"The biggest thing is listen, learn, use common sense and keep things simple," Imken said.

Jones, a 38-year veteran of the Air Force and Air National Guard, served in Vietnam, Desert Storm/Shield as well as Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. His pioneering included breaking a record for transporting loads during Desert Storm and facilitating the emergency airlift of a 30-ton cooling tower by C-130, a feat that had never before been accomplished.

Jones said he was shocked to learn that his image and story would be placed on the wall in the Hall of Honor.

"Many times I've read the narratives and looked at the photos of the people on that wall," Jones said. "I never expected to be on that wall with them."

Hall of Honor inductees such as Imken and Jones have made the Air and Army National Guards far stronger than they used to be, said Maj. Gen. John F. Nichols, the Adjutant General for Texas. He explained that leaders such as these have brought the Texas Military Department out of times when they were under-funded and under-equipped so that they can play key roles in national defense and domestic response.

"We owe our present conditions to them," Nichols said. "It is our honor to honor them, because they honored us by serving. We owe them that same honor to thank them for what they did for us."

Texas Guardsmen support Emergency Tracking Network training

Texas Guardsmen support Emergency Tracking Network training

Story by: 1st Sgt. Daniel Griego

Posted On: May 17, 2016

1st Sgt. Daniel Griego Spc. Victoria Diaz (center) of the Texas National Guard's Joint Task Force 136 (Maneuver Enhancement Brigade) role plays as a disaster evacuee during a training scenario with the Texas Division of Emergency Management to test their new Emergency Tracking Network May 12 at the Round Rock Armed Forces Reserve Center. The scenario allowed the National Guard and civilian authorities to work together while also creating a training video product for use once the new tracking system goes online June 1. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by 1st Sgt. Daniel Griego/Released)
1st Sgt. Daniel Griego
Spc. Victoria Diaz (center) of the Texas National Guard's Joint Task Force 136 (Maneuver Enhancement Brigade) role plays as a disaster evacuee during a training scenario with the Texas Division of Emergency Management to test their new Emergency Tracking Network May 12 at the Round Rock Armed Forces Reserve Center. The scenario allowed the National Guard and civilian authorities to work together while also creating a training video product for use once the new tracking system goes online June 1. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by 1st Sgt. Daniel Griego/Released)

The Texas Division of Emergency Management, part of the Department of Public Safety, is rolling out a new resource to help evacuees during disasters. As a longtime partner within the emergency response community, the Texas National Guard’s Joint Task Force 136 (Maneuver Enhancement Brigade) supported a key effort May 12 in the system’s implementation by hosting a training simulation and instructional video project at its Round Rock Armed Forces Reserve Center.

“Today we are testing the ETN system,” said Sam Miller, the Critical Information Systems Response and Development Manager for TDEM. “We’re running through the steps and recording the process so that we can build a training video so that those who are going to be using the Emergency Tracking Network in the future would be able to watch the video to get a quick lesson before we implement it in real life.”

The network, which operates as both a web-based platform and a smartphone application, integrates capabilities that previously required four separate programs, allowing smoother accountability and tracking of citizens in need following a natural disaster.

“This is very innovative because it’s the first time that they’ve used an application like this and made it a cell phone-based application,” said Lt. Col. Patrick Nolan, the Joint Task Force 136 (Maneuver Enhancement Brigade) chief of staff. “For us it was a great opportunity, just using the resources we have at hand to help them out with that particular problem and further our partnership with the [Division] of Emergency Management.”

The National Guard’s role in the event included providing support personnel, a suitable location, and resources to complete a scaled evacuation scenario and film the training video.

“This National Guard armory had all of the facets that we look for in an entry place and a shelter,” said Miller. “We also had the ability to load a bus. The pieces of the evacuation are simply just tracking the movement of people and assets and animals into vehicles and locations. This particular facility held all of them.”

Both the application and the video will be ready in time for the Texas hurricane season.

“We will have this product before June 1, and it will be available for the end users,” said Jaime Ovalla, CIS Developer for TDEM. “The important thing is we want to track individuals.”

Last month, JTF-136 (MEB) supported TDEM with a scaled display and guest speaker at the annual emergency management conference. This training event is just one of many each year that help to reinforce the strong bond between the two organizations. 

“They can depend on us to bring resources together in partnership with them when they need to do just about anything,” said Nolan.

Texas Guardsman saves lives of Danish citizens; awarded Danish Defense Medal for Special Meritorious Service

Texas Guardsman saves lives of Danish citizens; awarded Danish Defense Medal for Special Meritorious Service

Story by: Capt. Martha Nigrelle

Posted On: April 22, 2016

CAPTION:  Capt. Bradley Grimm, center,Texas Army National Guard, receives the Danish Defense Medal for Special Meritorious Efforts by Danish Defense Gen. Peter Bartram, left, and American ambassador to Denmark Rufus Gifford, right, at a ceremony held in Denmark, April 19, 2016.  Grimm was instrumental in foiling a terrorist plot to bomb a Danish school and assisted Danish security forces in making an arrest. (Danish Military photo by Sune Wadskjær/Released)
Capt. Bradley Grimm, center,Texas Army National Guard, receives the Danish Defense Medal for Special Meritorious Efforts by Danish Defense Gen. Peter Bartram, left, and American ambassador to Denmark Rufus Gifford, right, at a ceremony held in Denmark, April 19, 2016. Grimm was instrumental in foiling a terrorist plot to bomb a Danish school and assisted Danish security forces in making an arrest. (Danish Military photo by Sune Wadskjær/Released)

AUSTIN, Texas – Texas National Guard Capt. Bradley Grimm was awarded the Danish Defense Medal for Special Meritorious Service in a ceremony held in Denmark, April 19, 2016.

“Capt. Grimm provided actionable intelligence about a bomb threat against a school in Denmark,” said Col. Steve Warren, a spokesman for Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve. “The information he provided helped to foil a plot, and resulted in an arrest and a confiscation of explosives. Brad's work likely saved the lives of Danish citizens.”

The information included a bomb threat against a Danish school.

According to Warren, Grimm helped develop a system to speed the flow of intelligence from the ground up to national capitals. This system was paramount in identifying the Danish authorities of the terrorist threat.

“It’s not every day an American captain receives a very high, prestigious medal from a foreign country,” Warren said.

Defense Gen. Peter Bartram, Danish Defense Chief, presented Grimm with the Danish Defense Medal for Meritorious Service with special honors.

According to a Danish officer, not only is the award one of the highest awards in Denmark, but also the special meritorious duty citation makes this award very rare. The medal is awarded infrequently, even to Danes, and is roughly equivalent to something more than a Legion of Merit, but less than a Silver Star.

The medal was originally awarded for meritorious deployment outside of Denmark, but after 2010, the Danish government began awarding it to civilians or military personnel for meritorious service for the betterment of the Danish Defense.

“Capt. Grimm’s actions had a monumental impact on our allies in Denmark, and consequently on our coalition in the fight against international terrorism,” said Maj. Gen. John F. Nichols, the Adjutant General of Texas. “He embodies what our force stands for – Duty, Honor, Texas.”

Texas Guardsmen rescue 140 in Houston floods

Texas Guardsmen rescue 140 in Houston floods

Story by: Capt. Martha Nigrelle

Posted: April 21, 2016

Texas Guardsmen from the 736th Component Repair Company, 36th Sustainment Brigade, 36th Infantry Division work alongside local and state emergency responders to rescue Texans in need from severe flooding in Houston, Texas, April 19, 2016. Texas Guardsmen, working with Harris County emergency response units and Texas Task Force 1, rescued 140 people in five hours. (U.S. Army National Guard photo courtesy of 736th Component Repair Company, 36th Sustainment Brigade/Released)
Texas Guardsmen from the 736th Component Repair Company, 36th Sustainment Brigade, 36th Infantry Division work alongside local and state emergency responders to rescue Texans in need from severe flooding in Houston, Texas, April 19, 2016. Texas Guardsmen, working with Harris County emergency response units and Texas Task Force 1, rescued 140 people in five hours. (U.S. Army National Guard photo courtesy of 736th Component Repair Company, 36th Sustainment Brigade/Released)

HOUSTON – Texas Guardsmen from the 736th Component Repair Company, 36th Infantry Division, pulled 140 people to safety from severe flooding in Houston, April 19, 2016.

Working alongside Harris County Police officers, firefighters, Sheriff’s Office and Texas Task Force 1, guardsmen worked through the night to help Texans in need.

After linking up with partner emergency responders at the Harris County Fireman Training Center in Humble, the soldiers split up to provide assistance to severely flooded neighborhoods, sending half of their trucks to Ponderosa, a neighborhood located on the north side of Houston.

“We went into the water for about an hour and a half and came out with about 20 people,” said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Michael Hoover, 736th Component Repair Company. “One of our other trucks stayed in the water until after 9 p.m. and pulled out 90 people.”

Each truck went out with officers from the Sheriff’s Office or the local police department and some also went with boat rescue squads from Texas Task Force 1.

“Our trucks can only go into 40 inches of water,” said Hoover, explaining that some of their trucks went out worked with rescue boats. “Task Force 1 boats would go ahead of us in their boats and bring them back to the truck, then we would bring them to dry land.”

The Emergency Medical Technicians, working with 9-1-1 dispatch, received addresses of distressed citizens, and passed the addresses on to guardsmen and firefighters so they could respond. 

“As we would go to the address, we would pick up others who needed help,” said Sgt. Allan Abel, 736th Component Repair Company. “We were supposed to stop at dark, but we got four priority calls just after dark and that took us a while because we kept filling up with people.”

Deep waters made military land navigation training important in their ability to help those in need.

“In some places we had to go light pole to light pole; there were essentially no markers,” said Abel. “Our training in hasty navigation and terrain association was hugely beneficial – that’s what we were doing.”

Texas National Guard high profile military vehicles were essential in rescue operations, said Chief Bob Royall, Assistant Chief of Joint Emergency Operations, Harris County Fire Marshall’s Office. The majority of first responder vehicles are unable to maneuver through such deep waters and many rescue boats are limited to holding about six people, said Royall. 

According to Abel, the military trucks were able to safely seat up to 25 people, in addition to the necessary soldiers and emergency first responders that accompanied each mission. 

“Many Harris County residents underestimated the dangers of rising flood waters; they lost all power and were cut off from society. Simple things like going to the doctor became very dangerous,” said Royall. “Had it not been for the National Guard’s high water vehicles, we would not have been able to get to many of these folks. There are untold hundreds, possibly thousands, we would not have been able to get to.”

Members of the community also worked to support rescue efforts. 

“We went to Tin Roof Barbecue in Humble with Task Force 1 for lunch, about 60 people, and the owner refused to let us pay,” said Hoover. “There are a lot of civilians out here doing really outstanding stuff, supporting the guard, the task force and the police. They make our work a lot easier.”

Throughout Harris County, and the state, people worked together to help those in need.

“I’ve always felt the need to serve,” said Abel. “This is my main driver, to be able to do things like this for my fellow Texans.”

To date, Texas Guardsmen have helped rescue 221 people and 41 pets from severe flooding in southeast Texas.

Texas recruiter helping people to change their lives

Texas recruiter helping people to change their lives

Story by: Capt. Martha Nigrelle

Posted: April 20, 2016

Courtesy Photo Master Sgt. Andrew Marmolejo , right, Texas Army National Guard, goes over administrative paperwork with one of the recruiters on his team. Marmolejo is the top recruiter for the Texas Army National Guard’s Recruiting and Retention Battalion, a unit consistently meets and exceeds their recruiting goals. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Mr. Steve Johnson/ Released)
Courtesy Photo
Master Sgt. Andrew Marmolejo , right, Texas Army National Guard, goes over administrative paperwork with one of the recruiters on his team. Marmolejo is the top recruiter for the Texas Army National Guard’s Recruiting and Retention Battalion, a unit consistently meets and exceeds their recruiting goals. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Mr. Steve Johnson/ Released)

AUSTIN, Texas – Master Sgt. Andrew Marmolejo has been a recruiter for the Texas Army National Guard for ten years; it’s a mission he believes in.

“It’s all about being able to help people,” said Marmolejo, “taking a 17-year-old kid, seeing him transition and being able to help him change his life.”

Marmolejo is the noncommissioned officer in charge of Texas Army National Guard’s Recruiting and Retention Battalion’s Recruiting Team 13 or Team Wolfpack.

The Wolfpack’s territory runs through Austin and into surrounding counties. From this area Marmolejo’s team is expected to recruit 96 soldiers in 2016. With 75 enlistments already processed Marmolejo expects to reach their goal by May. Most would be ready to rest, but Marmolejo says they will stay busy.

“We will continue to recruit and we will help with retention and transition,” he said.

The Recruiting and Retention Battalion mission is three-fold, said Lt. Col. August Murray, Recruiting and Retention Battalion commander, recruit the right people for the job, retain the best people for the job and to prevent losses.

“What we do is of critical importance to our organization and our state,” said Murray. “It is vital that our communities and our units have all the soldiers they need when called upon to accomplish a mission.”

To better prepare recruits for their transition into the military and help promote success, the National Guard developed the Recruitment Sustainment Program, a program designed to introduce new service members to the military environment, and to ease their adjustment to basic training. 

From the time they join the National Guard, recruits begin training monthly with their recruiters and other new enlistees to practice basic military skills that will help them succeed at basic training and advanced individual training. Recruiters continue to mentor their recruits through this training and even bring them to their first drill with their Guard unit.

The extra time recruiters spend with RSP recruits, not only prepares them for basic training, but helps them to excel, said Marmolejo. 

“This year we’ve had six Distinguished Honor Graduates,” he said.

Recruiting men and women to join the military can be difficult in some places, but historically, Texas has met and exceeded their recruiting goals, said Murray. 

Demographics may play a part in this being that Texas is home to five of the 10 fastest growing cities, but Murray thinks it has more to do with the spirit of Texas. 

“Texans are patriotic,” said Murray. “They are proud to serve Texas and the nation in the National Guard. We enjoy a lot of community and state support.”

Texas pride may help Marmolejo when recruiting, but his dedication to mentoring his team and his recruits is what sets him apart. 

In 2009, Marmolejo recruited Diana Lopez, enlisting her into the Texas Army National Guard. 

“I was skeptical at first, but he was very honest about what the National Guard was about,” said Lopez. “He encouraged me; the National Guard was so good for him.”

When Marmolejo found out Lopez wanted to obtain a master’s degree and become an officer, he helped her enroll in the Reserve Officer Training Corps program. 

To offset the cost of her education Marmolejo helped Lopez apply for state tuition assistance, a unique benefit for Texas Guardsmen.

“He set up everything and guided me through the process,” said Lopez. “I just filled in the blanks.”

Marmolejo stayed in touch with Lopez, always available to provide military guidance as she navigated her way through her career in the National Guard. 

When Lopez had to withdraw from the ROTC program due to a family issue, it was Marmolejo who reminded her of her goal to become an officer and helped her apply for Officer Candidate School. 

“He came to my commissioning at the Capitol,” said Lopez. “He puts a lot of focus on leadership; he takes it very seriously.”

An important part of that leadership is teamwork. 

“Either we are going to be great as a team, or we are going to be horrible, but we are a team,” said Marmolejo. “Team mentality – once accepted, it drives big numbers, because everyone wants to be a part of it.”

Marmolejo credits his team for their dedication to the job, recounting how many times a member of his team has called late at night, with a question. 

“They are very hardworking,” said Marmolejo “And they are truly a team. You would think they were a family as close as they are to each other.”

Whether it’s working with the recruiters on his team or mentoring new recruits, working to build and sustain quality service members for the Texas Army National Guard is a job he is committed to for the organization he loves.

“To me, joining the military should be a first resort,” said Marmolejo. “It’s a great opportunity.”

Camp Mabry brings World War II to life during annual Open House

Camp Mabry brings World War II to life during annual Open House

Story By: Capt. James Greenwood

Posted On: April 17, 2016

AUSTIN, Texas – The Living History Detachment of the Texas Military Forces Museum performed a fiery, stirring reenactment of a battle between the Texas Army National Guard’s 36th Infantry Division and a unit of German soldiers near the end of World War II during the annual Texas Military Department’s Open House at Camp Mabry, in Austin, on April 16-17, 2016.

Surrounded by the thick foliage and marshy ponds of Camp Mabry, with a dark gray sky threatening heavy rains overhead, tanks and soldiers emerged from the tree line and opened fire on each other.

Every uniform, weapon and vehicle was reproduced with painstaking historical accuracy, and yet the rattle of machine guns and boom of artillery brought the battle very much into the present.

The detachment traditionally hosts displays and presentations from every military campaign the Texas Guard has participated in since the Texas Revolution through the Vietnam War, to include a World War II reenactment with World War II aircraft and several 1940’s Army tanks. They seek to preserve military history, Texas history and teach people about the equipment and tactics used during each time period.

“The Volunteers are dedicated to honoring and supporting the troops,” said Jeff Hunt the director of the Texas Military Forces Museum at Camp Mabry.

Students, some as young as 14, doctors, lawyers, army veterans, historians and teachers comprised a majority of the actors. They slept in World War II style tents near the battlegrounds and did their best to mimic what life was like for American soldiers of the period.

"I have been inspired by WWII history since I was a child,” said Matt Rayson, portraying a rifleman in the 36th Infantry Division. “My father is also a reenactor.”

Reenactments provide more than education, for many veterans it is an opportunity to share their experiences with family and friends, and for some it is an opportunity to heal emotionally.

"A marine veteran who was a POW during Word War II, after seeing a reenactment of the battle of Iwo Jima, finally let go of the pain he endured as a prisoner of the Japanese army," said Hunt.

The living history detachment conducts approximately one living history program a month and participates in reenactments all over the country, hosting several of their own at Camp Mabry each year.

Texas response team exceeds validation standards

Texas response team exceeds validation standards

Story By: Master Sgt. Daniel Griego

Posted On: April 6, 2016

Master Sgt. Daniel Griego Army Sgt. John Cornejo of the Texas National Guard's 6th Civil Support team prepares monitoring equipment during the unit's Training Proficiency Evaluation at the DFW International Airport's Fire Training Research Center March 29, 2016. This evaluation is the official certifying exercise, conducted by U.S. Army North, for the 6th CST to continue service as the state's premier military support element for hazardous materials incidents. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by 1st Sgt. Daniel Griego/Released)
Master Sgt. Daniel Griego
Army Sgt. John Cornejo of the Texas National Guard's 6th Civil Support team prepares monitoring equipment during the unit's Training Proficiency Evaluation at the DFW International Airport's Fire Training Research Center March 29, 2016. This evaluation is the official certifying exercise, conducted by U.S. Army North, for the 6th CST to continue service as the state's premier military support element for hazardous materials incidents. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by 1st Sgt. Daniel Griego/Released)

When one’s mission is to respond to no-notice incidents involving hazardous materials, there is very little room for error. The men and women of the Texas National Guard’s 6th Civil Support Team are in a constant state of heightened alert and readiness. From March 29-31, that readiness was put to the test as the team conducted its Task Performance Evaluation, a series of simulated disaster scenarios that certifies the Guard asset to continue its statewide mission.

“The reason we’re evaluated is to make sure that we’re actually operable in the real world,” said Staff Sgt. Carolina Dilger, the decontamination NCO for the 6th Civil Support Team. “It’s catered more toward real-world threats, things we might actually encounter.”

The validation, required every 18 months and held this time at the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport’s Fire Training Research Center, is conducted by U.S. Army North and reinforces the standards all 54 civil support teams throughout the country must demonstrate proficiency in.

“Army North is mandated by congress with the CST program that we are the official evaluators for their certification to keep on marching,” said Steven Wisniewski, an observer controller/trainer with U.S. Army North. “We try to put on an exercise that would emulate real-world possibilities, as far as this team reacting, responding to a terrorist threat against the homeland involving weapons of mass destruction.”

The 6th Civil Support Team was one of the first teams in the nation to gain initial certification in June 2001. Since then, it has consistently exceeded the standards in its response mission. At the close of this year’s validation, it walked away with the highest ratings across all evaluated tasks.

“This program is not in its infancy anymore,” said Wisniewski. “They have gone from crawling baby steps to coming into a world with high technology, high-speed, highly educated skill sets to tackle the problems they may face.”

Also on site for the training were Col. Scott Mac Leod, the commander of Joint Task Force 136 (Maneuver Enhancement Brigade), and Lt. Col. Oliver Mintz, the brigade operations officer. JTF-136 (MEB) is the National Guard higher headquarters for the 6th CST.

“I’ve been really impressed with the efficiency and the professionalism of the Soldiers in this unit,” said Mintz. “They truly have an understanding of what they’re doing, they’re committed to the mission and they’re extremely professional in everything that they undertake.”

Although the 6th CST excelled in their validation, they are always looking to improve and better serve their state as a response element.

“For the commander, Lt. Col. Phillips, it’s always an opportunity to use an evaluation to assess the performance capability of his team,” said Mac Leod. “As he goes through this evaluation, he’ll be looking for gaps in capability, whether that be training, equipment, logistics, anything that he needs to continue to focus on as he looks at his next training year.”

With this renewed validation under their belts, the members of the CST look toward their next opportunity to showcase their capabilities for their civil and regional partners. In April, they’ll join the emergency response community in San Antonio for the Texas Division of Emergency Management’s annual conference.

“Our CST has a fantastic reputation,” said Mac Leod, “both inside the state and out. They’re a highly trained team; they do well in everything that they do.”