Posts in Category: Texas Army National Guard

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.”

5th Engineers repeat as combatives champs

5th Engineers repeat as combatives champs

Courtesy Story and photos by Dawn Arden

Posted On: April 4 2016

The 5th Engineer Battalion Combatives Team poses with the 2016 Commander’s Cup Combatives Post Championship plaque at the conclusion of the finals at Davidson Fitness Center. The team earned 1,578 points over the three-day tournament.
The 5th Engineer Battalion Combatives Team poses with the 2016 Commander’s Cup Combatives Post Championship plaque at the conclusion of the finals at Davidson Fitness Center. The team earned 1,578 points over the three-day tournament.

Three days of modern Army combatives concluded Friday at Fort Leonard Wood’s Davidson Fitness Center, where competitors battled it out in the Commander’s Cup Combatives Tournament finals. 

Eighteen service men and women took to the cage on the final night in a bid to see who would be ultimately victorious in the nine weight classes.

At the end of the night, it was 5th Engineer Battalion that walked away with the Commander’s Cup trophy with a total of 1,578 points. 92nd Military Police Battalion came in second place with 638 points, followed by 14th Military Police Brigade in third place with 434 points.

In the days leading up to the final event, competitors were put to the test in grappling, followed by Pancrase and finally a mixed martial arts style.

“We started out first with just straight grappling on Wednesday, and then Thursday was Pancrase, which is kind of like a little bit of stand up:  a little bit of kicking; you can slap, you can go to the ground and submit, and then today is what you would classify as MMA where we’re allowed to punch, kick, knee, but no elbows. You can take them to the ground and do any type of submission holds that we can,” said Spc. Rebekah Klimt, Company B, 169th Engineer Battalion, and Flyweight champion.

Service members involved in the combatives program agree that the discipline and hard work it takes to be successful in the program makes for a better, stronger, military.

“This makes me a better Soldier because of the discipline that it takes: day after day training,” said Spc. John Suarez, 5th Engr. Bn., “It’s going through with it when you think that you can’t go any more, and just finding that will. This translates into my workplace or the battlefield in general. I’m very proud to represent my unit; they are very encouraging, very  supportive.”

Suarez added, “I think there’s no excuse for not trying it. You can start on your own level, you don’t go right into fighting people in the cage. You can start off with just a little bit of cardio kickboxing, and move on from there. They’re just going to fall in love with it as so many people do once they get started.”

This is only the second year that combatives have been included in the Commander’s Cup, and although it is a popular and welcomed addition, it does take more planning than the other sports in the program. Planning for this three-day tournament began after the finals last year.

“This one’s not self-sufficient; we need help from those that run the combatives,” said Danny Howell, Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation sports specialist. “We’re getting to the point now where we know our role in the combatives tournament, and they know their role, so it kind of works. This is the second time for this event, so a lot of the kinks from the first time are worked out. They take care of everything on the mat or inside the  cage, and I do the logistics on the outside of that.”

2016 Commander’s Cup Combatives
  • Winners by weight class:
  • Bantamweight: Ariel Espinoza-Levy, 14th MP Bde.
  • Flyweight: Rebekah Klimt, 169th Engr. Bn.
  • Lightweight: Daniel Bido, 92nd MP Bn.
  • Welterweight: Adrian Alonzo, 5th Engr. Bn.
  • Middleweight: Jason Powell, 1138th MP Co.
  • Cruiserweight: Marcus Knauft, 1st Engr. Bde.
  • Lt. Heavyweight: Javier Santos, 92nd MP Bn.
  • Heavyweight: Matthew Lansford, 5th Engr. Bn.
  • Super Heavyweight: Cory Lemeron, 5th Engr. Bn.

Texas Guardsmen host high school chemistry field trip

Texas Guardsmen host high school chemistry field trip

Story By: Master Sgt. Daniel Griego

Posted on: March 31 2016

Master Sgt. Daniel Griego Students from the Hill Country Christian School of Austin visit the Texas National Guard's 6th Civil Support Team at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas, March 24, 2016. The field trip showed the students practical applications of chemistry in the real world and allowed them the opportunity to try on specialized hazardous materials suits. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by 1st Sgt. Daniel Griego)
Master Sgt. Daniel Griego
Students from the Hill Country Christian School of Austin visit the Texas National Guard's 6th Civil Support Team at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas, March 24, 2016. The field trip showed the students practical applications of chemistry in the real world and allowed them the opportunity to try on specialized hazardous materials suits. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by 1st Sgt. Daniel Griego)

High school students from the Hill Country Christian School of Austin took part in a special field trip recently when the Texas National Guard’s 6th Civil Support Team welcomed them to Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas, for a tour and demonstration of their mission. The trip, held March 24, provided the 47 students an opportunity to experience real-world applications of chemistry through the equipment and techniques used by the 22-person team.

“It honestly blows my mind,” said Holly Wedgeworth, a senior at Hill Country
Christian School of Austin. “They know so much about it and to be able to apply it, especially in very real world situations and very important situations, it’s crazy. It just makes you realize how great these people are.”

The 6th Civil Support Team is a specialized Guard outfit designed for quick responses to chemical and hazardous incidents. Twenty-two full-time service members comprise the team ready to identify, contain, and monitor substances at locations throughout Texas.

“We’re definitely not your traditional Guard unit or Army unit,” said Capt. Brandon Wells, a survey team leader with the 6th CST. “While we do maintain basic Soldier skills as a requirement, our mission set is completely different. 90% of the gear that we use is not standard Army equipment. We go to hours and hours of training taught by PhD-level scientists to learn the ins and outs of what it is we’re required to do for our job.”

During the tour, they allowed the students to try on protective gear, handle sampling equipment, and explore their mobile labs.

“I think they will think more about not just the academic piece,” said Sarah Jo Smith, the class chemistry teacher, “but really think about how these reactions and these principles they are learning actually apply in their day to day lives, not just something from a textbook.”

By providing this tour to high school students, the Texas Guardsmen are able to show a practical side to military service not often known by civilians.

“When I was in high school, I didn’t know that the military offered these kinds of specialty units and jobs,” said Wells. “When you see the real-world application and how you can take that knowledge that you’ve learned, it just drives those learning points home and that’s why we do it.”

The field trip further bridges the gap between National Guardsmen and the communities they support, especially in reinforcing the importance of education.

“I’m very grateful that we got to do this,” said sophomore Amber Carroll. “It makes it more meaningful. I want to do something with chemistry or forensics, so that kind of helps me see how it applies. Actually getting to come out here and see it makes you realize how important and significant it is.”

This is the second year for the school to visit Camp Mabry, with more than double last year’s turnout.

“I think it’s something that we’re going to look to sustain in future years and probably look to expand it,” said Wells.

Sense of Service in Texans' Blood, Deeper than Water Texas National Guard Supports Health Department Supply Mission

Sense of Service in Texans' Blood, Deeper than Water

Texas National Guard Supports Health Department Supply Mission

Story by: Tech. Sgt. Shawn McCowan, 147th Reconnaissance Wing Public Affairs

Soldiers moving suppliesHundreds of Texans left their normal daily routine in mid-March to collectively help those affected by recent flooding in Orange, Texas. Orange County Emergency Management staff were joined by members of organizations like the local Red Cross, law enforcement, fire and rescue, various units from the Texas Military Department, and many others.

While this team was dedicated to rescue and support residents, some situations required them to provide a helping hand to each other.

Flooding forced the evacuation of the Orange County Health Department. But once workers were safe from the rising waters, someone had to return to retrieve vital medical supplies they would need to help injured evacuees.

Sabrina Davis, a Registered Nurse with the county health department, volunteered to return to get as many supplies as possible, but she couldn't get there alone. Members of the 551st Multi-Role Bridge Co., 386th Engineer Battalion, 176th Engineer Brigade stepped up to get her safely through the high waters.

Davis was escorted by SPC Gabriel Torres, a member of 551 MRBC, who helped carry and load alcohol pads, syringes, bandages, gloves, and many other daily-use medical items. She recognized the importance of what could have seemed like a basic chauffeur trip.

"I am very thankful these Texas Guard members are here to help. We really need these supplies at our local shelters and other support locations. The health department couldn't help anyone without the things we retrieved. This is a terrible situation Orange is experiencing, but it is great to see us coming together together like this," said Davis.

Even the seemingly simple supply run reinforced the definition of the Texas Guard mission, "Texans helping Texans."

My VIRIN - 160317-Z-UZ218-

DSC_3343 - 551st Into the Deluge - A vehicle operator with the 551st Multi-Role Bridge Co., 386th Engineer Battalion, 176th Engineer Brigade prepares to drive into the flooded city of Orange, Texas, March 17, 2016. The 551 MRBC stepped up to retrieve medic

al supplies left behind during evacuations due to the high waters.

DSC_3357 - Reality Washes Over - Sabrina Davis, a Registered Nurse with the Orange County Health Department, takes a photo of her flooded building while aboard a vehicle operated by the 551st Multi-Role Bridge Co., 386th Engineer Battalion, 176th Engineer Brigade in Orange, Texas, March 17, 2016. The 551 MRBC stepped up to retrieve medical supplies left behind during evacuations due to the high waters.

DSC_3359 - Dry Doc - Sabrina Davis, a Registered Nurse with the Orange County Health Department, prepares to return to her flooded building while aboard a vehicle operated by the 551st Multi-Role Bridge Co., 386th Engineer Battalion, 176th Engineer Brigade in Orange, Texas, March 17, 2016, with the help of SPC Gabriel Torres, a member of 551 MRBC. The 551 MRBC stepped up to retrieve medical supplies left behind during evacuations due to the high waters.

DSC_3362 - Texas State and County Services Stick Together - Sabrina Davis, a Registered Nurse with the Orange County Health Department, and SPC Gabriel Torres, a member of the 551st Multi-Role Bridge Co., 386th Engineer Battalion, 176th Engineer Brigade, gather important medical supplies in Orange, Texas, March 17, 2016. The 551 MRBC stepped up to retrieve medical supplies left behind during evacuations due to the high waters.

DSC_3371 - That Sinking Feeling - Sabrina Davis, a Registered Nurse with the Orange County Health Department, inspects the flooded area and homes around her building after gathering vital medical supplies with the help of the 551st Multi-Role Bridge Co., 386th Engineer Battalion, 176th Engineer Brigade in Orange, Texas, March 17, 2016. The 551 MRBC stepped up to assist retrieve medical supplies left behind during evacuations due to the high waters.

DSC_3372 - That Sinking Feeling - Sabrina Davis, a Registered Nurse with the Orange County Health Department, inspects the flooded area and homes around her building after gathering vital medical supplies with the help of the 551st Multi-Role Bridge Co., 386th Engineer Battalion, 176th Engineer Brigade in Orange, Texas, March 17, 2016. The 551 MRBC stepped up to assist Davis retrieve medical supplies left behind during evacuations due to the high waters.

Texas Guard member and his daughter personally supported Flint relief mission

Texas Guard member and his daughter personally supported Flint relief mission

Story by:  Master Sgt. Daniel Griego

Posted: March 18, 2016

Maj. George Hurd, left, Staff Sgt. Erdoo Thompson, center, and 1st Lt. Matthew Verdugo, right, all of the 136th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, load bottled water in preparation for Hurd's convoy to Flint, Michigan, March 10, 2016, in Round Rock, Texas. (Photo by Master Sgt. Daniel Griego)
Maj. George Hurd, left, Staff Sgt. Erdoo Thompson, center, and 1st Lt. Matthew Verdugo, right, all of the 136th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, load bottled water in preparation for Hurd's convoy to Flint, Michigan, March 10, 2016, in Round Rock, Texas. (Photo by Master Sgt. Daniel Griego)

ROUND ROCK, Texas - As the Flint Water Crisis enters its third month, one Texas Army National Guard member decided to step up and directly help the people most affected. So he took a road trip to Michigan.

More than two months ago, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder declared a state of emergency for Flint, Michigan, in response to the ongoing water crisis that has exposed up to 12,000 children to contaminated drinking water. Since then, private donations have poured in to support the community suffering from long-term lead poisoning. For Maj. George Hurd, a Texas Army National Guard member and combat veteran, sitting idly was not an option.

"Part of it comes from my experience overseas in Egypt, Iraq and Afghanistan, where we gave out bottled water to children all across that region," said Hurd. "When I sat back and became more aware of what was going on in Flint and seeing the disaster that's going on up there, I just thought there wasn't enough attention. It affected me to the core and instead of just complaining about it, I decided to do something about it."

Hurd, who serves as the deputy operations officer for the 136th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade in Round Rock, Texas, organized a support effort wherein he and his daughter loaded up the family truck and drove more than 1,200 miles from their Mansfield home to Flint to deliver water and other supplies to the children in need.

"We're going to go door to door," said Hurd. "We're going to link up with local churches and the police department, and hit the areas that are most afflicted and haven't received as much water as they've hoped or have been asking for."

The trip for the father-daughter team started the morning of Saturday, March 12, and lasted until their return home March 16. In Flint, they delivered water, toiletry supplies, and other necessities directly to families affected by the crisis.

"We wanted to do that human interaction thing and actually just meet with people and give them some water and find out what else they need," Hurd said. "We're hoping to create some awareness. We're calling our mission the Flint Water Brigade, a spinoff from the old days when firemen and the community would come together with buckets of water to help put out fire."

Hurd's daughter Olivia, a high school sophomore, chose to spend her spring break on this trip with her father in support of the Flint Water Brigade.

"I'm so blessed to have this opportunity to help people," Olivia said. "I just want to make a difference one person at a time."

In total, the team delivered two truckloads of water, a truckload of baby wipes, and helped a local single mother purchase a vehicle.

"We're hoping it inspires other people to help out," said Hurd.

Candidates learn to take charge of their future

Candidates learn to take charge of their future

Story by: Pvt. Kourtney Grimes

Posted On: March 8, 2016

Members of Warrant Officer Candidate School Course 16-01 host a car wash at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas, March 5, 2016, to raise funds for their graduation ceremony. The candidates are in Phase II of the three-part course that will turn them into technical experts in their fields within the United States Army. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Pvt. Kourtney Grimes/Released)
Members of Warrant Officer Candidate School Course 16-01 host a car wash at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas, March 5, 2016, to raise funds for their graduation ceremony. The candidates are in Phase II of the three-part course that will turn them into technical experts in their fields within the United States Army. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Pvt. Kourtney Grimes/Released)

Candidates of the Texas Army National Guard’s Warrant Officer Candidate School organized a car wash to raise funds for their graduation ceremony at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas, March 5, 2016. This event is one of several tasks that the candidates will execute without guidance or direction throughout their course.

“This project is entirely led by candidates,” said Warrant Officer Candidate Travis Chappell, a unit supply specialist in the Army Reserves. “We write the operational order, figure out what supplies we need, figure out the route, locate the facility we are going to use, and we do all of it to bring this big project together with a group of individuals that were strangers four or five months ago.”

Chief Warrant Officer 2 Patricia Crawson, a WOCS instructor, provides the candidates with the mission goal and they tackle the objective as a team.

“We provide [candidates] with the training schedule,” said Crawson, “but they get themselves up in the morning, clean the barracks, and conduct physical readiness training. They are ultimately responsible for being in the right place at the right time. That’s how we evaluate the various leadership positions.”

The WOCS program is broken up into three phases: online training courses, the classroom warrant officer candidate course, and a two-week resident phase in Alabama.

“In the first phase, candidates complete two online classes,” said Candidate Erikia Dunn. “In the second phase, they attend five multiple unit training weekend assemblies and get a feel for what the school is actually like. Phase three is a two-week course at Fort McClellan that includes an academic exam, land navigation, and a week in the field doing situational training exercise lanes.”

With only mission requirements provided, the candidates must reevaluate their accustomed leadership roles as they improvise solutions and demonstrate their creativity.

“You have to transition from an NCO mindset to an officer mindset,” said Dunn. “As an NCO we are the ‘do-ers’ of the task, but as an officer we are the planner of the task.”

In addition to the physical and logistical training, candidates must reconcile the crucial differences between the mentality of a non-commissioned officer and a warrant officer.

Chief Warrant Officer 5 Ernest Metcalf, Command Chief Warrant Officer for the Texas Army National Guard, maintains regular contact with both his instructors and the students, ensuring their development is in keeping with the standards of the Warrant Officer Corps.

“It takes some perseverance to complete any officer candidate school,” said Metcalf. “On a monthly basis I meet with all of the candidates to motivate them to persevere through all of the mental and physical challenges they may face within the warrant officer candidate school.”

After months of intensive training, physical rigors, and intellectual challenges, successful candidates graduate and become the technical and tactical experts of the United States Army.

“You have to be serious about being a warrant officer because this class is not a walk in the park,” said Dunn. “It will challenge you as a person, it will challenge you as a leader and it will challenge you in every aspect of your life.”