Posts in Category: Texas Army National Guard

Volunteers wash more than 100 loads of laundry for troops assisting in Harvey relief efforts

Photo By Capt. Aaron Moshier | Fatima Maniar’s son Gabriel and Nichole Bode’s daughter Gabbie, volunteers from the St. Thomas More Catholic Church and School, pose for a photo with handmade thank you notes for soldiers serving out of the Rosenberg National Guard Armory. Volunteers washed more than 100 loads of laundry as a show of support and appreciation for mobilized Soldiers assisting in Hurricane Harvey relief efforts, Rosenberg, Texas, September 2, 2017.



Story by Capt. Maria Mengrone

176th Engineer Brigade (TXARNG)


ROSENBERG, Texas – A group of volunteers from Meyerland, a neighborhood in Houston, washed more than 100 loads of laundry as a show of support and appreciation for mobilized Soldiers assisting in Hurricane Harvey relief efforts in Rosenberg, Aug. 29-Sept. 4, 2017.

“We don’t have a means to wash our uniforms so this kind gesture allows us to remain focused on the mission,” said Texas Army National Guard Sgt. 1st Class James Thomas, technical engineer, 111th Engineer Battalion, 176th Engineer Brigade and native of Leonard. “Our soldiers are operating in almost five feet of water, they’re soaked and this is helping our morale.” 

Fatima Maniar, a veteran and avid church volunteer, came up with the idea after brainstorming with friends on how she could best help the soldiers serving in surrounding communities. 

“I started thinking of ways I could help and I asked my friend if she would help,” said Maniar. 

Maniar enlisted the help of her friend Nichole Bode, and together the duo began offering free laundry service to service members working out of the Rosenberg National Guard Armory. 

“We began alternating trips because the need for laundry was great,” said Bode.

The idea quickly became popular among soldiers and soon Maniar and Bode recruited more volunteers to help.

“We had friends that just offered to help for nothing in return. I’d say we had about eight people helping with the laundry,” said Maniar. 

The volunteers show up to the armory every day and pick up between six to 15 loads of laundry. 

“The soldiers never told us when to get it back to them but we knew that we had to get their laundry back to them as fast as possible,” said Bode. 

Since the beginning of the operation Maniar and Bode have declined to accept any form of compensation for their volunteer work.

“We've offered them detergent that we brought with us but they wouldn’t take it. They've been here every single day, day after day. That's time, money, and resources that they have given to support us,” said Chaplain Candidate (2nd Lt.) Ismael Berlanga, unit ministry team, 111th Engineer Battalion, 176th Engineer Brigade and native of San Saba. 

“I know, at first, it was difficult for soldiers to give a stranger their dirty clothes but they warmed up and now it has definitely improved the morale of our soldiers.”

The laundry operation has become a family affair with the inclusion of Maniar’s son Gabriel and Bode’s daughter Gabbie.

“We were blessed that our homes were not affected by the floods and I hope the kids see that helping ours neighbors is a good thing and especially our military,” said Bode. “Gabriel’s dad is in the military and his mom Fatima is a veteran, my dad also served. Our kids are growing up with a respect for the military and it warms my heart to see that.”

Soldiers working out of the Rosenberg armory understand the impact of donning a clean uniform when working in wet conditions. 
It has really made a difference to our soldiers,” said Berlanga. “Just having clean clothes and clean socks really has helped the soldiers stay focused on the mission.

“The outreach in this community is just awesome,” said Thomas. “They are going out of their way to do our laundry and make sure we have clean clothes is just awesome. Thank you.”

The soldiers wish to thank an additional group of volunteers: Kim Lesniewicz, Vanessa LaWare, Irma Perez, Christina Sumerall, Heather Gallagher and Paige Wermuth.

At the request of the Governor, the Texas Guard mobilized more than 12,000 military men and women from the Texas Army and Air National Guards, Texas State Guard to support Hurricane response operations following Hurricane Harvey.

Texas Guard aviator guides helicopter deliveries of hay to stranded cattle in Texas

Photo By Sgt. Ariel Solomon | BEAUMONT, Texas -- National Guard members from multiple states help provide feed to livestock trapped by floodwater in Jefferson county, Texas, September 7, 2017. Thousands of cattle were left stranded and without access to food in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, and civilians and Soldiers worked together to come up with means of getting food to as many of those cattle as possible (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Ariel J. Solomon).



Story by Sgt. Ariel Solomon

128th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment


Sand, grit and hay billowed into the faces of roughly two dozen Texas and Utah National Guard Soldiers as two Ohio National Guard CH-47 Chinook helicopters touched down in the parking lot of Hamshire-Fannett High School in Jefferson County, Texas, Sept. 7. 

As the dust settled, trucks with trailers full of hay moved forward and within moments a flurry of work moved bale after bale of hay into the cargo hold of the transport helicopters. Directing it all, from the middle of the bucket line of haystackers, was Chief Warrant Officer 2 Zach Koehn from the 149th Aviation Regiment Texas National Guard .

After Hurricane Harvey struck the Gulf Coast of Texas, thousands of acres of ranchland was submerged below several feet of water, stranding thousands of cattle on islands of higher ground. Within days of the disaster, the local sheriff's office began using their Huey helicopter to respond to calls from ranchers who were unable to reach their livestock.

“We found a tremendous number of cattle stranded in areas that were inaccessible and wouldn’t be accessible for quite some time in Jefferson and nearby counties,” said Lt. Tony Viator with the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department. “We began dropping hay, but we quickly realized we wouldn’t be able to support that mission over such a broad region. So we contacted the Guard and they sent Zach. We couldn’t have done this without his help.”

At the highschool, the helicopters lifted off to take their cargo of 130 hay bales each to cattle throughout the region. The helicopters followed a grid pattern developed by Koehn, which sped up the delivery of feed.

“I first got here, the civilians were finding all the locations for the cattle, but there were 80 grid coordinates and I didn’t know if it was several bunches of cows or individual cows,” said Koehn. “I didn’t want my pilots to enter in all these numbers into their systems and take up so much time, so I simplified it. We split up the counties into a search grid the military and civilian pilots could use to spot cattle, and feed each sector systematically.”

While throwing hay onto a trailer in preparation for another iteration of helicopter-hay-delivery, Koehn explained that the operation was a governor-mandated effort to restore a $25,000,000 rancher industry investment and protect Texan livelihood.

“It’s not just the ranchers, it’s the truckers that carry the cattle and feed, its the veterinarians that take care of the cattle’s medical needs. Nationally this is where a lot of meat comes from and it has the potential to raise the price of beef nationwide,” Koehn said.

Many local ranchers came to pitch in moving bales of hay onto the trailers and into the helicopters.

“These guys aren’t getting paid to be here,” said Koehn. “They’re here because they know it needs doing for their community and we’re thankful for all of their help.”

Above the flooded pastures, the Chinooks hovered just feet above the ground. The crew rationed out enough feed for each group of cattle to last for a few days until the water recedes and ranchers can reach their livestock. 

By the end of the 4-day mission, crews flew more than 20 flights, providing food for more than 10,000 cows.

Texas Guard: A Life Interrupted by Duty

Photo By Spc. Nathaniel Free | Spc. Markeisha Dudley, a member of Company A, 949th Brigade Support Battalion from Fort Worth, Texas, arrives at a point of distribution station in the City of Orange on 7 September, 2017. Dudley has been collecting donations, transporting supplies on pallets, and distributing everything from trash bags to baby formula since she was activated with her unit in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.



Story by Spc. Nathaniel Free

128th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment


BEAUMONT, Texas — In the early morning hours of August 25, 2017, Hurricane Harvey slammed into eastern Texas as a Category 4 storm, followed by days of record-breaking rainfall. 

“I was evacuated shortly after the hurricane hit,” said Staff Sgt. Ernesto Luevano, a local of Houston, who serves the Texas National Guard’s 551st Multi-Role Bridge Company, located in El Campo, Texas.

By the time Luevano had driven his wife and child to safety, he had received mobilization orders from his unit. As a citizen-Soldier, he dutifully said goodbye to his family, turned his truck around, and returned through flooded neighborhoods to retrieve his military gear from his home.

“I picked up my rucksack and it was full of water,” Luevano said.

Luevano is just one of thousands of citizen-Soldiers in the Texas National Guard who’s life has been interrupted by Hurricane Harvey. The 551st was one of the first units to respond to the call, and deployed in areas still flooded with over 40 inches of rain.

“We’ve been going out in trucks to neighborhoods where there’s water. We go as far as we can, then deploy the Zodiacs,” said Luevano. 

A Combat Rubber Reconnaissance Craft, commonly referred to as a Zodiac, is a versatile inflatable boat that can be carried in the back of a flatbed truck. The high-profile trucks can drive in floodwaters as deep as five feet before deploying the boats, Luevano said.

“We go house to house knocking, screaming, doing whatever we can to find people,” said Luevano. “We started out in Houston and we’ve been working our way east. The last place we went to was Orange.”

There are approximately 30 points of distribution stations, called PODs, set up in and around the city of Orange, to provide vital commodities like food and water. Mobile PODs also require Soldiers to brave floodwaters to reach people unable to obtain supplies because of road conditions, or because they’ve lost their only means of transportation. 

“I saw it on the news, getting worse and worse, so I told my fiancé it looks like we might be getting pushed out,” Spc. Markeisha Dudley said, a member of Company A, 949th Brigade Support Battalion, located in Fort Worth, Texas. 

The 949th BSB was activated August 28, and has since been managing various PODs across the hurricane-affected area, not only saving lives, but also restoring livelihoods.

Dudley said her fiancé, Brandon, has been extremely supportive. 

“We were planning to get married on September 3rd. We’ve been planning a big wedding for quite some time, and invited a lot of people,” she said. “We had to call everyone, and postpone it. He knows that the people out here need me.”

Dudley has been collecting donations, transporting supplies and distributing everything from trash bags to baby formula. With less than six months before the end of her military contract, it’s given her time to reflect.

“This is what I signed up for. This is the action that I wanted. It’s made me think about re-classing instead of getting out. When I was a young child, I saw the Army coming in and asked, ‘who’s that?’ It was the National Guard. That’s what I wanted to do,” Dudley said. 

Luevano and Dudley are just two of more than 16,000 military personnel currently on the ground, volunteering to live a life interrupted by duty.

Texas Soldiers break language barriers to help victims of Hurricane Harvey

Photo By Staff Sgt. Melisa Washington | Pvt. Andres Lopez of the 3-133rd Field Artillery ground guides a Light Medium Tactical Vehicle through flood waters. Texas Army National Guard Soldiers from the 36th Infantry Division transported and distributed food, water, and supplies from Orange County Airport to standed residents in low-income areas of Orange, Texas on September 6th, 2017. US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Melisa Washington/ RELEASED



Story by Staff Sgt. Melisa Washington

100th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment


ORANGE, Texas - “Stop, they might need something!” Spc. Laura Campa barked at Sgt. Andrew Felthous, the driver of our high water truck.

He obliged, stopped the vehicle and pulled back his window. Campa took off her seatbelt and leaned over him. “Ocupan algo?” she asked. ‘Do you need something?'

The two middle-aged women with two small girls shook their heads no and continued to walk. 

“They're Hispanic, they might need something and not be able to ask for it” she explained to me, “I always stop to ask, even if they don’t wave for us." Felthous put the vehicle back in drive to catch up to the lead truck.

As a public affairs specialist assigned to escort a journalist on a relief effort mission for the Texas Military Department, I was intrigued. But as a Mexican-American, my intrigue increased two-fold.

I asked Campa if she felt that her ability to speak Spanish had proven useful during their mission to distribute food, clean water, and supplies to Harvey victims in low-income neighborhoods of Orange. 

“We went to one shelter to give out supplies, and a woman there couldn’t speak any English. I had to translate for her” she replied. 

On this particular venture, Spanish was far from a foreign language. Out of 11 Soldiers and one civilian journalist on the mobile supply distribution mission in Orange, eight of us were bilingual. I soon realized there was no standard operating language for this mission.

We all found our operational tempo in the neighborhood we were assigned to bring relief to.

Texas National Guard Soldiers from the 36th Infantry Division trekked through flooded streets asking residents what items they needed. They shouted the requests back to the truck and returned with the items. 

The embedded journalist and I took photos and captured videos of the Soldiers in action.

Several streets down, I found myself shouting requests "Agua, necesito agua!” I yelled down the road, ‘Water, I need water!' I had put my camera down to help. 

The Soldier on the truck handed me a case of water. 

As soon as I passed off the water, I asked for the next item. "Pañales, talla dos!” I shouted back to him, ‘Diapers, size two!’ Requests for supplies continued to bounce back and forth between driveways and LMTVs in English and Spanish. 

Language was fluid that day; there were no barriers. We acted and reacted rhythmically because we understood each other far beyond the words we were speaking.

Texas National Guard Soldiers distribute food and supplies to stranded residents in Orange

Photo By Staff Sgt. Melisa Washington | Soldiers ground guide a Light Medium Tactical Vehicle around an abandoned car. Texas Army National Guard Soldiers from the 36th Infantry Division transported and distributed food, water, and supplies from Orange County Airport to residents in low-income areas of Orange, Texas on September 6th, 2017. US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Melisa Washington/ RELEASED



Story by Staff Sgt. Melisa Washington

100th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment


ORANGE, Texas — Texas National Guard Soldiers from the 36th Infantry Division distributed goods ranging from food and clean water to diapers and baby shoes to stranded residents in low-income neighborhoods of Orange, Sept. 6, 2017. 

Orange County established a point of distribution, or POD, at the Orange County Airport following the devastating flood from Hurricane Harvey. The POD receives donated food, water, and hygiene, baby and pet products from private organizations, individuals and the military to distribute to the community. Most PODs are stationary; residents drive through to receive supplies.

Glynis Gothia, a local school teacher and the county commissioner’s wife, serves as the supply coordinator at the airport’s POD. She saw there was a need to transport food and water to residents in some affected areas with help from the Texas National Guard. 

"They’re still under water, the military is going to them and bringing them supplies. Because they haven’t been able to get out and get any supplies” Gothia said.

Soldiers encountered families with children and several elderly residents that lived alone. At most houses, the water had receded to the driveway, but the water was still too deep in the street to leave safely.

“Most of these residents are low income. They don’t have anywhere to go or a means to leave. Some people are afraid to leave their homes and their belongings,” said Texas National Guard Cpt. Patrick Lane, 1-133rd Field Artillery, explaining why so many people did not leave.

The Soldiers drove high water vehicles to get through neighborhoods where water levels were still waist-deep in some areas. Soldiers dismounted and trekked through the water on foot to guide the vehicles through the streets and run supplies from the vehicles to driveways and doorsteps. 

Texas National Guard Pfc. Jonathan Galindo, 3-133rd Field Artillery, stood on the back of the vehicle, sorting through food and hygiene products to find what the flood victims needed. This was his first experience assisting in a natural disaster.

"This is the way I serve my country. I’m here helping people out, it’s a great feeling. You know, the water is high, they’re not able to get out of their homes. It’s great we’re able to provide for them here” Galindo said. 

Soldiers also provided assistance to a Marine veteran and volunteer. His truck went into a ditch full of water while he distributed supplies to affected residents. Equipped with a rope, they pulled the truck out of the ditch. 

Teamwork was key for Soldiers on the mobile distribution mission as well as between the military and civilian crew at the POD. 

"The coordination effort has been working fairly well. We’ve been real impressed with our military” Gothia expressed, "As long as there’s a need, they’re going to take care of it.” 

The Texas Military Department is managing approximately 30 points of distribution in areas affected by Hurricane Harvey.


Photo By Sgt. Steve Johnson | Soldiers and Airmen from the Texas Military Department loading hay bales onto Chinook helicopters are joined by civilians in Hamshire, Texas, September 5, 2017. Texas Military Forces are using air assets to support local cattle ranchers protect their herds from starving, by air dropping hay bales to flooded areas.(U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Steve Johnson/Released)



Story by Sgt. Steve Johnson

100th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment


HAMSHIRE, Texas -- Soldiers and airmen from the Texas Military Department joined forces with civilians from the city of Hamshire, for “Operation Hay Drop,” Sept. 05, 2017. The goal of the operation was to feed the region's cattle that had been stranded by Hurricane Harvey related flooding.

The soldiers and airmen, along with CH-47 Chinook helicopters from Texas and Ohio National Guard units, local law enforcement, ranchers and farmers organized the operation as a way to ensure livestock across a five county area were fed. High floodwaters have made reaching the animals by land impossible for over a week. The operation targeted an estimated 10,000 animals across an area of over 50,000 acres.

This mission was a key part of ensuring that once the rescue missions wound down, the long term needs of Texas communities would be addressed. 
“It’s important for the Texas Military Department to use the assets we have on hand to help protect the livelihoods of people who have been impacted by the floods,” said Texas National Guard Maj. Alicia Schweitzer, 71st Troop Command. “This affects people’s lives from today to months down the road, if we don’t protect their livestock; their communities aren’t going to survive in the long run.”

Cattle ranches make up a significant part of the local economy in Hamshire. The benefits of the hay drop by Texas Military Department personnel were greatly appreciated by the residents of the small town that depend on it. 

“The cattle industry in this area is a $25 million dollar a year industry. Losing that type of dollar amount would be a tremendous hardship on the community,” said Tony Viator, a lieutenant with the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department, who was helping with the operation. 

With much of his jurisdiction still reeling from Hurricane Harvey, Viator was glad to have access to the resources Texas Military Department could bring to the region.

“We have a five-county area that due to the flood waters has approximately 10,000 head of cattle that are trapped on islands, unable to be fed and taken care of by their owners. We asked the Texas Army National Guard for help, and they have done an outstanding job, giving us everything we needed, from pilots, to logistics, ground support, and help loading the aircraft,” said Viator.

Before the operation ended for the day, Texas soldiers and airmen had loaded and air dropped approximately 1000 bales, and residents of Hamshire, like rancher Danny Drawhorn were thankful for the help in the wake of Harvey. 

“I have about 50 head of cattle in my pasture, probably about $100,000 worth of cattle, plus they’ve all got calves with them, “ said Drawhorn. “This part of the country is America's table-top and when we get 42 inches of rain like we did, it’s virtually impossible to get hay back there. This air-drop has just been tremendous for us. “

Citizen Soldiers support and supply in Hurricane Harvey effort

Photo By Sgt. Jazmin Jenkins | Soldiers from the 36th Combat Aviation Brigade unload pallets of water from a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) semi-truck at Houston Exective Airport in Katy, Texas to be distributed to Hurricane Harvey victims Sept. 3, 2017. The Department of Defense is conducting Defense Support of Civil Authorities operations in response to the effects of Hurricane Harvey. DSCA operations are part of the DOD's response capability to assist civilian responders in saving lives, relieving human suffering and mitigating property damage in response to a catastrophic disaster. (U.S. Army photo by: Sgt. Jazmin Jenkins / 22nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)



Story by Sgt. Jazmin Jenkins

22nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment


KATY, Texas - Six forklifts manned by Texas Army National Guardsmen line up outside of a hangar at a small airport just outside of Houston awaiting the next semi-truck filled with supplies to offload. Although most of the forklift operators are not logisticians by trade, they are combining skills earned working for the military and in the civilian sector to accomplish the mission. 

First Lieutenant Tim Dubose, an intelligence officer with 36th Combat Aviation Brigade, volunteered to manage a shipping and receiving site for distributing supplies based on his 10-years of civilian experience as a project manager. 

The mission of Dubose’s Austin-based unit is to support Texas Army National Guard disaster recovery operations by getting Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) supplies to distribution points using helicopters.

Dubose said that no mission within the specialty for which the military trained him existed for hurricane relief operations. However, the leadership skills taught to all Army officers, paired with his civilian credentials, made his selection for a leadership position at a logistics hub in the recovery efforts a natural one.

"I was selected to be in an (officer in charge) position,” said Dubose. “When I arrived at Houston Executive Airport, there was a need for logistical problem set." 

He used the project management skills required in his civilian job experience to synergize a team of Soldiers sent from around the United States to efficiently deliver supplies at the FEMA distribution site established at the airport. 

One of the people working for Dubose is Pfc. Matthew Riffe, a generator mechanic with 36th CAB, based out of Austin, Texas. Like Dubose, the 22-year old is using a combination of skills learned in the military and in his civilian job to ensure mission success. Riffe works in logistics shipping and receiving coordinator in his civilian occupation and has six years of forklift experience. 

"I volunteered to man the forklift because they were short-handed and I have the experience and skillset to contribute to the mission," said Riffe.

FEMA brings life sustaining supplies to be distributed by the military to the Houston Executive Airport for Hurricane Harvey victims. Soldiers with 36th CAB off-load and inventory those supplies. Afterwards the supplies are palletized and organized to fit inside the dimensions of a CH-47 Chinook helicopter. 

Dubose said one of the most important skills he’s using from his civilian job is proper communication between teammates and managing resources effectively. Additionally, his experience in acquisitions aligns with the mission at the distribution site. 

"Flight operations identifies specific supplies to go on the necessary aircraft by customer demand," said Dubose. "We fill that order by loading the supplies in the aircraft, then make sure we track and inventory afterwards." 

The FEMA distribution site at Houston Executive Airport is one of the major hubs re-supplying areas affected by Hurricane Harvey. The site has delivered an average of 25 tons of supplies per day since operations began on Aug. 31. 

Thousands of people along the U.S. Gulf Coast were affected by Hurricane Harvey. The efforts to relieve those in need involves Soldiers and necessary skills to accomplish the mission.

“This is an important mission to be a part of,” said Dubose. “We have all come together and used all of our skills to get the job done."

Clean water for Texas

Photo By Capt. Martha Nigrelle | Texas Army National Guard, Capt. Amber Luecke, 71st enhanced Military Intelligence Brigade, mans the ice point at a the Point of Distribution (POD) where locals received clean water, ice and food in Victoria, Texas, Sept. 2, 2017. Texas Guardsmen set up numerous PODs in areas like Victoria, to ensure residents maintained access to clean water, as they worked to recover from the effects of the hurricane. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Capt. Martha Nigrelle)



Story by Capt. Martha Nigrelle

Texas Military Department


VICTORIA, Texas – Soldiers from the Texas Army National Guard and the Texas State Guard handed out cases of bottled water, bags of ice and bags of food to locals still suffering the effects of Hurricane Harvey, in Victoria, Texas, Sept. 2, 2017.

One week after Harvey passed directly over Victoria, the town was still without clean drinking water.

As the rain finally subsided, and the Texas sun returned, temperatures raised into the 90’s. Thankfully, in Victoria, workers were able to restore the electricity, but potable water still wasn’t there.

“I came here to help people,” said a seven-year old volunteer who said she traveled with her parents from out of town to lend a hand to neighbors in need.

A large team of volunteers helped Guardsmen pass out the water, ice and food as Victoria residents drove through their Point of Distribution, located at the town’s community center. 

Despite the high temperature, and the glaring Texas sun, both Guardsmen and volunteers appeared to remain in high spirits, smiling at every person coming through their POD and making sure each family had the water, ice and food they needed.

Many of the families coming through the POD appeared to also be in high spirits, as bright smiles were passed to volunteers and soldiers with messages of gratitude.

“Thank you, thank you for what you are doing,” said one man. “God Bless you for being here.”

The POD had a simple and efficient set up. Soldiers were stationed at the community center’s parking lot entrance and exit to direct vehicles to the line. 

Upon approaching the POD, the line split in two. On either side, residents were greeted with a smile, by a soldier who explained to them how the operation worked.

Next step, the food stop. Here, residents may be greeted with not only a smile, but the adorable face of one of the younger volunteers as they received however many rations needed.

Moving onto the ice station, a Guardsman would inquire as to how many bags of ice, before signaling the ice team. As the car approached the ice station, soldiers and volunteers would be ready with the amount needed and load them into their vehicle.

Same process for the water.

Last, upon leaving, another smile and a goodbye. 

The operation had both military efficiency and a true Texas spirit.

“We’ve served more than 1,000 families in just three hours today,” said Texas National Guard Capt. Amber Luecke, 71st Enhanced Military Intelligence Brigade.

This group of Guardsmen and volunteers appeared to make every effort possible to make a difficult situation easier for their customers. While they worked on the black pavement in the heat of a late Texas summer, they ensured their customers stayed inside air-conditioned vehicles, with soldiers and volunteers doing any picking up, delivering and loading needed.

“We are here to help our communities,” said Brig. Gen. Patrick M. Hamilton, Commander of the Dual Status Command for Hurricane Harvey recovery efforts. “Helping our neighbors when they need us most is the heart of the Guard, and why we choose to become citizen-soldiers and airmen.”

This same sentiment appeared to be with the soldiers at the Victoria Community Center POD.

“Texas needed help, so we came out here,” said Luecke.

Texas Guardsmen are conducting stability operations throughout south Texas in many of the areas affected by the hurricane, running numerous PODs, shelters and supporting the rebuilding process.

Hybrid team rescues handicapped man from Hurricane Harvey flooding with water, ground and air assets


Photo By Capt. Martha Nigrelle | Texas National Guard soldiers, service members from the U.S. Coast Guard and Texas Task Force 1 and Austin-Travis County Emergency Medical Service swift water rescue technicians work together to rescue a man with special medical needs from high-rising waters and medically evacuate him to a safe location, in Orange, Texas, August 30, 2017. Thousands of first responders from the military and local, state and federal agencies joined together to render aid to all those endangered by the high-rising floodwaters in south Texas following Hurricane Harvey. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Capt. Martha Nigrelle)

Story by Capt. Martha Nigrelle


ORANGE, Texas – A team of National Guardsmen, Coast Guardsmen, swift-water rescue technicians and volunteers worked together to rescue and air-lift a patient needing special medical attention, from severe flooding to a safe, medical facility, in Orange, Texas, August 30, 2017.

Service members from the Texas National Guard and a swift-water rescue team from Texas Task Force 1 and the Austin-Travis County Emergency Medical Service arrived in a severely flooded neighborhood looking to help anyone in need, when due to special circumstances they ended up flagging down a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter and medically evacuating a patient, rescuing him from danger and potentially saving his life.

“When we first got the call the information we were given was that there was a request to evacuate two elderly individuals, one of whom was paralyzed,” said Roger Patterson, Texas Task Force 1 squad leader. “Our Texas National Guard team assisted us with their high-profile vehicles to get us as close to the house as possible.”

Texas Guardsmen staged their vehicles, while Patterson and his team maneuvered through deep waters, diverse terrain and numerous obstacles to get to the family in need.

“The water was pretty bad,” said Texas National Guard Pfc. Martin Davila, 386th Engineer Battalion. “It was everywhere - both sides of the roads. Whole houses were under water.”

Patterson’s team arrived at the house and determined they would need a litter to safely transport the handicapped gentleman to dry land. 

“When we first got there we noticed an inflatable kayak tied to a street sign,” said Matt Paul, swift-water rescue technician and boat operator for Patterson’s Texas Task Force 1 squad. “We decided to use the kayak as a litter and floatation device, which enabled us to transport him in the safest and fastest way we could think of.”

While Paul and the rest of the members of his team worked to safely evacuate their patient, Patterson split off to coordinate for medical transport to ensure that the patient’s medical needs could be taken care of during his evacuation.

Back at the trucks, Guardsmen waited for the swift-water rescue team to return, while volunteers showed up, seemingly out of nowhere, looking to assist in any way possible.

“One of the really cool things was that when we evacuated the patient, a volunteer came over with his boat and evacuated his wife,” said Paul. “Which enabled us to focus on the well-being of the patient and his evacuation.”

Patterson coordinated for ambulance transport after determining that this patient’s medical needs required more attention than might be possible in the military vehicle.

“Because of his medical conditions we couldn’t bring him to any of the shelters open at the time,” said Patterson. “Ambulance transportation was requested but was significantly delayed due to limited resources and an inundation of patients.”

While Patterson worked on coordinating transport, the Guardsmen and Task Force 1 team worked to protect the man as best possible.

“I was keeping a look out for any emergency vehicles so I could help get him out of danger as quick as possible so he could get the medical attention he needed,” said Davila.

Another man, there looking for a family member, had two umbrellas in his vehicle and used them to provide shelter from the rain, for the patient. 

The man needed medical attention for several reasons, one of which was the inability to regulate his own body temperature.

“We had covered him up with as many blankets as we had available, but it continued to rain and the temperature was dropping,” said Paul. “I was concerned with the rain and the temperature; I was worried he would become hypothermic.” 

Then a U.S. Coast Guard rescue helicopter flew by in what appeared to be a regular search pattern. 

Seeing an opportunity for a quicker medical evacuation, Paul placed his hands and arms out in a ‘Y’ signaling to the helicopter crew that he was asking them to land.

“They flew around showing us they would land,” said Paul. “So our Texas Guard partners helped us stop traffic and secure a landing zone for them, and they were able to land – right in the middle of I-10.”

Of course on that day I-10 traffic was a little sparse. 

“It was kind of exciting,” said Davilla. “It was the first time I have ever been a part of an evacuation by air, but it was also nerve-wracking because once we rescued him from the floods we weren’t sure how we would be able to safely evacuate him.”

The team that started out with just Texas soldiers and Task Force 1 swift-water rescue technicians had now doubled in size, adding volunteers and the U.S. Coast Guard, all with one mission, to get a patient in need to safety. 

“The rescue swimmers approached me and I told them the situation,” said Paul. “They agreed that it was a necessary transport given his medical conditions. Then the pilot confirmed that they would be able to evacuate the patient to a safe medical facility.”

As the hybrid team transported the patient from his inflatable kayak-litter to the Coast Guard litter, Patterson told the patient’s wife the plan.

“The wife was very thankful,” said Patterson. “She was extremely surprised with the helicopter, but very thankful.”

Once loaded on board the helicopter, Coast Guardsmen transported the patient and his wife to a medical facility where his condition could be attended to in safety.

“I’m glad we had all of the support we had,” said Davila. “It made me really proud to be a Texan to see how everyone came together to make sure everyone was okay and going somewhere safe.”

In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, first responders say that this type of joint-teamwork is what is helping save lives.

“This type of teamwork is very unique,” said Paul. “It’s the first time I have worked with so many different entities to include the vast number of volunteers. To me, a lot of those folks are out there with their own equipment and on their own time. They are heroes, out there making sacrifices to help their neighbors out.”

First responders may come from different organizations, but they seem to agree on one thing, working together to help someone in need has also changed them. 

“After the hurricane response is over, this situation will stick out, we all worked together and were able to do something really good for this man,” said Paul.

“I’m really proud to have been a part of this mission and help someone in need,” said Davilla. “I will continue to volunteer for any rescue missions or volunteer work needed in the future.”

Texas National Guard partners and neighbors rescue 1000 from floods

Story by: Capt. Martha Nigrelle

Texas Guardsmen from the 386th Engineer Battalion and a local volunteer help residents down from a military vehicle in Cypress Creek, Texas, August 29, 2017. The Texas National Guard partnered with first responders from Texas Task Force One and the Cypress Creek Fire Department to move residents from severely flooded neighborhoods to safety days after Hurricane Harvey hit south Texas. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Capt. Martha Nigrelle)

CYPRESS CREEK, Texas – Texas National Guardsmen from the 386th Engineer Battalion teamed up with Texas Task Force 1 and the Cypress Creek Fire Department, bringing 1,000 Cypress Creek residents from high-rising waters to safety, just days after Hurricane Harvey hit Texas shores, August 28, 2016.

As heavy rains fell over the city, water levels continued to rise to dangerous and historic levels – some areas seeing more than five feet of flooding.

The flooding appeared to be the worst in a handful of sub-divisions. 

“Today was a day no one ever thought they’d see,” said Pfc. Adelisa Fuentes, 386th Engineer Battalion. “There was water rising up to your hips and the further the road went, the deeper the flood was.”

Texas Guardsmen equipped with swift-water vehicles and their partners, equipped with boats set out to help the many people in danger.

Swift water vehicles can safely move through approximately 30 inches of water. Texas Guardsmen took their trucks as far as they could before dismounting Task Force boats.

First responders used boats to go through entire neighborhoods, bringing all those in danger to safety.

“This is what we train for,” said Texas Army National Guard Brig. Gen. Patrick M. Hamilton, Dual Status Commander for Hurricane Harvey Recovery Efforts. “And we’re proud to stand beside our civilian partners, first responders and volunteers to serve the citizens of Texas.” 

It isn’t uncommon to find National Guardsmen working or training alongside emergency first responders – it’s a part of their mission. 

Texas Guardsmen train year-round with partner first responders like Texas Task Force One, so that when a disaster occurs in Texas, they are prepared.

“This is Texans helping Texans – neighbors helping neighbors,” Hamilton said. “While we don’t want to have to put our training to the test during a tragedy, our citizen-guardsmen remain prepared to help save lives and property, when called.” 

The team of Soldiers and first responders took on a new dynamic in the wake of Hurricane Harvey as local residents stopped to help. 

Those owning boats or jet skis, used them to assist in transporting victims to safety. Others brought water and helped transfer people and equipment onto the National Guard vehicles. 

“Watching others bring victims to safety into our LMTVs showed how much heart people really have and that they don’t just depend on us to do the work alone,” said Fuentes. “All help is worth a hand in a time of need.”

One man even cooked a platter of chicken, wading into water three feet deep in order to feed both Soldiers and volunteers – a much welcomed surprise as most appeared to work through lunch without stopping.

Dogs, cats and even a lucky stuffed iguana were passed from boats to Soldiers, followed by their owners and the residents of the neighborhoods suffering from severe flooding. 

Emotions were varied, some were in high spirits while others seemed overwhelmed by their new reality.

One woman had spent the previous day as an EMT rescuing people all over the city from flooding. 

“You never think you’re going to be the victim,” she said. “Thank you. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.”

After six hours of wading through deep waters, Soldiers and partner first responders, ensuring everyone who needed help was safe, began to pack up.

Despite the long hours and poor weather conditions, the Soldiers all appeared to be energized, focused and in good spirits.

“Nothing is more important to our Guardsmen than the chance to serve their local community.” Hamilton said. “Helping our neighbors when they need us most is the heart of The Guard, and why we choose to become Citizen Soldiers and Airmen.”

One Texas Guardsman on scene, felt the same way.

“I am so glad I was able to be there to help my fellow Texans get to safety from their flooded homes,” said Fuentes. “It’s heartbreaking, but everyone is safe.”