Posts in Category: Texas Army National Guard

Connect, understand, motivate: Command Sgt. Maj. Weedon's life as a student of leadership

Photo By Sgt. Mark Otte | Command Sgt. Maj. Mark A. Weedon speaks with Soldiers during the Texas Military Department's Best Warrior Competition at Camp Swift near Bastrop, Texas, March 3, 2017. The 2017 Best Warrior Competition is considered the final event that Command Sgt. Mark A. Weedon will spearhead before retiring March 25, 2017. (U.S. Army National Guard Photo by Sgt. Mark Otte/Released)
Story by: Sgt. Michael Giles
100th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment


BASTROP, Texas (March 3, 2017)—Long before serving the Texas Army National Guard as its senior enlisted leader, Mark Weedon ran a homeless shelter. This job presented him with a troubling question: why couldn’t he do more for the people he was trying to help?

"I wanted to figure out why it is that there are people who come to this organization that I can't fix," Weedon said.

To better understand the problem, he took a leave of absence and spent two weeks hopping trains, deliberately living as a homeless person. His journey brought him closer to accepting and respecting people with a different mindset. 

"You can survive or thrive," Weedon said. His weeks on the trains helped him realize some people are not ready to let go of the survival mindset that inhibits them from thriving.

"Having spent that time out there living and surviving helped me to understand that you can't fix everything," Weedon said. "It's allowed me not to cast people aside as quickly who don't meet my expectations." 

Now, Weedon approaches the end of a 26-year National Guard career in which he made his mark by demonstrating the same commitment to serving and understanding people that he embraced when he served the homeless. He has gained a reputation as a selfless mentor, a leader who succeeds through building relationships, and an advisor who strives to understand what Soldiers need.

"He's definitely a people person," said Master Sgt. Ramon M. Ruiz with the 136th Regional Training Institute. "I felt comfortable knowing that I could seek guidance from him." 

Ruiz said that Weedon has the ability to see Soldiers' potential and give them good career direction. Weedon once called him into his office to advise against a transfer Ruiz was planning. "If you go to that unit, your skills will waste away," Weedon told him, encouraging him to instead pursue a more challenging position.

"He can just see people, inside and out," Ruiz said. "He can see what they’re capable of—their strengths, their weakness—and he puts the pieces in the right place." 

Weedon demonstrates selfless service to Soldiers and inspires others to take care of their Soldiers, said Sgt. Mitch R. Guile, a medic with the Texas Medical Command, remembering how Weedon came to the aid of a Soldier who had forgotten to bring some crucial gear to a training event. 

"Command Sgt. Maj. Weedon took off his gloves he had—since it was about 20 degrees outside—and gave them to him," Guile said. "When you see the top enlisted guy taking care of even the lowest ranking guy out there, you definitely have to take care of your guys, and make sure the guys below you are taking care of the guys below them."

While Weedon led junior-enlisted Soldiers through demonstrations of selflessness, he also led senior enlisted members by encouraging them to integrate their ideas, said Command Sgt. Maj. Murphy L. McCardell, 56th Infantry Brigade Combat Team.

"We all have a Type-A personality. He has the ability to get his agenda across while allowing other command sergeants major to have a say," McCardell said. “He has the ability to allow other leaders to bring their insights together to collectively come up with a way ahead." 

Improving collaboration was also Weedon's desired outcome for the Texas Military Department’s Best Warrior Competition, which he coordinated during the last month before his retirement. Weedon said the competition creates opportunities for members of both the Air National Guard and Army National Guard forces to adapt to joint force operations. 

"For me, this joint competition is about that," Weedon said. "It's about bringing us together."

Weedon said that one of primary goals of Maj. Gen. John F. Nichols, the adjutant general of the Texas Military Department, is to overcome obstacles that the two forces experience when working together. As Airmen and Soldiers compete together over three days, they develop relationships that will improve their ability to function in joint force missions. 

"By the time we get to Saturday night and we've been sharpening the edge together, now you're going to see some lifelong friends made," Weedon said. "They'll have a relationship, and we will become better at protecting Texas because of that."

Weedon does not attribute his strengths in working with people to any unique talent, but rather to the basics. 

"Part of that is human nature—we tend to want to help our fellow man," Weedon said.

He also credits the basic ideals of the Noncommissioned Officer Corps, which he said he received repeatedly during Army leadership courses. The most basic of these ideals: placing the welfare of one's Soldiers before one's own. 

"Putting that in practice and watching the level of influence rise, when you put other people first, it's incredible, so it stuck with me," Weedon said.

Simply embracing the tenets of Army leadership is how Weedon succeeded in strengthening the 136th Regional Training Institute when he served as commandant, Ruiz said. 

"He went back to the basics and instilled leadership and discipline into the NCO Corps," Ruiz said. "He really got us back on our azimuth of making sure we were doing what's right."

"He sets the example," Ruiz continued. "He sets the standard. He's the mold of what right looks like and gives us the inspiration to be like that."

Camp Buehring breaks ground on $3.7 million Essayons Village

Courtesy Story By: Capt. Maria Mengrone

Posted On: Feb. 22, 2017

Photo By Capt. Maria Mengrone | On Feb. 14, 2017, Camp Buehring officials broke ground on the $3.7 million Essayons Village complex which will include a series of buildings for future engineer brigades and battalions supporting operations in the Middle East. Pictured (left to right) Mr. Raymond Soto, Program Operations Senior Director for Vectrus and resident of New York City, N.Y., Lt. Col. Carl W. Aufdenkampe, Director of DPW-North and hails from Fort Huachuca, Ariz., Lt. Col. Christopher M. Leung, Camp Commander of Camp Buehring and resident of Champaign, Ill., and Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Maurice D. Millican, representing Soldiers of the 176th Engineer Brigade (Task Force Chaos) and resident of Harker Heights, Texas. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Capt. Maria Mengrone/Released)

CAMP BUEHRING, Kuwait – Camp Buehring officials broke ground on the construction of the $3.7 million Essayons Village complex which will include a series of buildings for future engineer brigades and battalions supporting operations in the Middle East, Feb. 14, 2017, Camp Buehring.

The village will consist of seven pre-engineered buildings which will include workspace for one engineer brigade, two engineer battalions, and four company headquarters.

“Right now the brigade headquarters and a lot of their battalion headquarters are in tents; the environmental control isn’t as good and they work out of temporary partitions and cubicles,” said Camp Commander of Camp Buehring Lt. Col. Christopher M. Leung and resident of Champaign, Ill. 

Planning for the project began as early as February 2016 and final approval was granted in September 2016.

“Each building has its own scope of work so each building required its own development plans,” said Project Manager Capt. Joshua J. Flury, 308th Engineer Facilities Detachment, Brigade Support Troops Battalion, Directorate of Public Works-North (DPW-N).

The work for the project is contracted with an expected completion date of Sep. 12, 2017. 

“The brigade headquarters building will be able to support about 50 personnel. But some of the other buildings are roughly 100 square meters, they will include space for a company commander, company first sergeant and a common area where administrative tasks can be completed. Each building will have its own male and female latrine directly connected to the building,” said Flury.

Onlookers at the ceremony included currently serving Soldiers of the 176th Engineer Brigade, Task Force Chaos, of the Texas Army National Guard. 

“I know we won’t be able to enjoy the Essayons Village but it was important that we were able to be part of this ceremony. It’s always great to know that the follow on engineer units will have a more suitable work environment,” said Senior Enlisted Advisor of the 176th Engineer Brigade Command Sgt. Maj. Anthony Simms, a native of Copperas Cove,Texas. 

The ceremony for Essayons Village is the first of many projects expected for Camp Buehring.

“This is just another part of Camp Buehring’s continued progress. We are growing and continuing to look at new projects to improve things for the tenants who live and work here,” said Leung. 

“This investment in Essayons Village is evidence of the important role the Engineer Regiment is playing throughout the USCENTCOM Area of Responsibility,” said Task Force Chaos Commander, Col. Charles M. Schoening, a Georgetown, Texas resident. “Engineer operations in this theater will continue to be a primary focus and will require enduring facilities for headquarters elements to support mission command functions.”

“Essayons” is French for, “Let us try,” and the adopted motto of the U.S. Army Engineer Regiment.

Texas guard engineer mission making history

Story by: Capt. Maria Mengrone, 176th Engineer Brigade, Texas Army National Guard

Posted On: Feb. 09, 2017

Soldiers from the 310th Multi-Role Bridge Company work alongside engineers from the British Army to dismantle an Acrow bridge they built together. The Acrow bridge built helped hone the skills of U.S. and British engineers in preparation to train Iraqi Army bridge engineers at Camp Taji, Iraq, Jan. 31, 2017. The 310th MRBC is assigned to the 153rd Engineer Battalion, 176th Engineer Brigade (Task Force Chaos). (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Capt. Maria Mengrone/Released)

CAMP BUEHRING, Kuwait – Approximately 135 Soldiers of the 176th Engineer Brigade, Texas Army National Guard continue to provide command and control of more than 1,600 Active Duty, National Guard and Army Reserve engineer forces across the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility while deployed.

“This is a historic mission for the engineer brigade. This is the first time an engineer brigade headquarters has had this type of mission in a contingency environment,” said 176th Engineer Brigade Commander, Col. Charles Schoening, a resident of Georgetown, Texas.

Since arriving in theater, the brigade tackled many challenges in order to develop operational capability.

“The greatest challenge we initially faced was not having our network infrastructure and connectivity in place,” said Schoening. “We overcame these shortfalls and were able to become fully operationally capable within the first 30 days.”

The brigade is responsible for engineer forces spanning eight countries in 19 separate locations.

“Our primary focus is providing command and control for engineer missions in the CENTCOM area of responsibility. This includes providing support for our down trace battalions and companies. Since arriving in theater, we have made it possible for battalion and company commanders to conduct battlefield circulation, and we immediately started pushing our brigade resources, such as behavioral health, religious services support, and medical support to all the different locations,” said Schoening.

Many of the missions across the various countries are heavily focused on general engineer construction tasks.

“We are in charge of troop labor construction planning; we help the stakeholders plan the project all the way through execution,” said Lt. Col. Robert Crockem Jr., operations officer of the 176th Eng. Bde. and native of New Orleans, La.

To facilitate the execution of the engineer projects the brigade assigned portfolio managers to each area of operation.

“Our portfolio managers coordinate with stakeholders to understand their requirements and we help them build those requirements into construction projects. Once coordinated we push the project through the funding process to get materials and then start tasking our battalions against that,” said Crockem.

The brigade also touts a ready and equipped geospatial team that utilizes geographic data to compile maps which support military engineer operations.

“We provide geospatial products that enhance decision making,” said Warrant Officer 1 Steven Machado, geospatial technician and native of Hobbs, N.M.

“We have received positive feedback because we are able to provide perspective on the ground for the entire CENTCOM area of responsibility,” said Machado.

Allowing movements across the various regions is required to obtain critical data to assist in the planning process.

“We survey different base camps and use our instruments to map out what you see on the ground,” said Spc. Quincy Daniels, technical engineer, 176th En. Bde. and native of Dallas, Texas.

“We then get important to know information for things like drainage flow,” said Daniels.

The arrival of the engineer brigade also helped serve as a conduit to assist its two battalions in prioritizing its various missions.

Additionally, the brigade provides liaison officers to help support and build the various higher command relationships, and provide visibility of future construction requirements.

“There is a lot of pride in the work being done. Our Soldiers are motivated and there are a lot of eyes on the work that they are doing. They are doing everything they can to make Texas proud,” said Schoening.

The headquarters element of the 176th Engineer Brigade is a Texas Army National Guard unit based in Grand Prairie, Texas. The unit is serving a nine-month deployment to the Middle East in support of Operation Spartan Shield, Operation Inherent Resolve, and Operation Freedom’s Sentinel.

Texas National Guard conducts final roll call for 10-year-old Spc. Rowan Windham

Texas Military Department 

Posted: Jan. 24, 2016

Story by: Sgt. Elizabeth Pena

Carrie Windham, mother of deceased honorary Texas Army National Guard Spc. Rowan Jameson Windham, attends final roll call ceremony, Jan. 25, 2017, at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas. Windham was enlisted back in March of 2015, after telling his nurse his dream of becoming a soldier. Texas Military Department The roll call serves as a memorial ceremony to represent the permanent loss of a soldier. Windham, 10, spent the majority of his 10 years battling a rare genetic disorder called Shwachman-Diamond syndrome. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Elizabeth Pena)

AUSTIN, Texas --There wasn't a dry eye in sight during the final Roll Call ceremony, for the honorary Texas Army National Guard Spc. Rowan Jameson Windham, Jan. 24, 2017, at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas. 

A final roll call ceremony is a military ritual designed to serve as a tribute paid by soldiers to their deceased comrade.

Each soldier sounds off, Here, first sergeant!‚ when their name is called. But on this day, the auditorium fell silent as Rowan's name was echoed throughout the packed room. Spc. Rowan Windham.

Traditionally, the ceremony includes a visible reminder of the deceased soldier. The head gear and identification tags signify the fallen. In most cases, an inverted rifle with bayonet, but this case a wooden cross and gear stand, signals a time for prayer, a break in action to pay tribute to their comrade.

"He was an incredible kid," said Command Sgt. Maj. Mark A. Weedon, senior enlisted advisor for the Texas Military Department. "He did more in his small 10 years of life, than some of us do in a lifetime."

Rowan's ever lasting impact on the Texas Military Department was evident during the emotional roll call ceremony, as hundreds of service members came to pay their respects with Kleenex in hand.  

Also present at the roll call ceremony were Windhams parents. 

"He would be crying happy tears as Rowan would say, said Brian Windham, father of Rowan. He would be skipping out of here with joy," said Carrie Windham, mother of Rowan, through her own tears of happiness.

Rowan was born with a rare disease, and spent the majority of his 10 years in a hospital battling a genetic disorder called Shwachman-Diamond syndrome. 

The young trooper became a member of the Texas Military Department, just two years prior, at the age of eight, during an honorary enlistment ceremony at Camp Mabry, where he was awarded the military occupation specialties of Cavalry Scout and Apache Pilot.

Thank you and this is the best day ever of my whole entire life, Rowan said in front of hundreds of people, following his enlistment ceremony in March of 2015.

On Dec. 15, 2016, Rowan took his final breath at the Seattle Children's Hospital, following complications from two consecutive bone marrow transplants.

A native Texan, Rowan was an avid, thespian, video gamer, Lego builder, chef, Bigfoot fan and philanthropist who touched the lives of thousands around the world. 

He is survived by his father Brian, his mother Carrie, his sister Zoe, his brother Ian, family members, friends and Texas Guardsmen across the force. 

To read more about Windham's story please visit:

36th Inf. Div. Soldiers from Texas deploy to Afghanistan

Story by: Spc. Christina Clardy

Posted On: Feb. 02, 2017

FORT HOOD, Texas - Soldiers from the 36th Infantry Division, Texas Army National Guard, say farewell to friends, family and colleagues at a deployment ceremony Jan 28, at Cameron Field on Fort Hood, Texas. This second group of Task Force Arrowhead advisors is headed to southern Afghanistan to take responsibility of the Train, Advise and Assist Command -- South and relieve the first Task Force Arrowhead TAAC-S team who deployed last year. The new TF Arrowhead Guardsmen will be advising Afghan National Defense and Security Forces to promote the long-term success of these institutions and the sovereignty of the Afghan government. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Christina Clardy)

AUSTIN, Texas – Soldiers of the 36th Infantry Division, their families, and their friends gathered for a ceremony at Cameron Field at Fort Hood, Texas, on Jan. 28, to send off “Task Force Arrowhead” as they deploy to Afghanistan in support of Operation Freedom's Sentinel.  The Austin-based unit is part of the Texas Army National Guard and is headquartered at Camp Mabry.

The detachment of over 50 experienced officers, warrant officers and senior enlisted T-Patchers will be replacing the current Train Assist and Advise Command group, also from the 36th Inf. Div., who deployed last year.

"We will be taking over responsibility for the Train, Advise and Assist Command-South mission, which includes 4 Afghan provinces and 42 districts," said the incoming TAAC-S Commander, Brig. Gen. Chuck Aris, a native of Waxahachie. "We will assume command of Australian, Bulgarian, and Romanian Troops, and U.S. Army Soldiers from the 101st and 82nd Airborne Divisions. All Soldiers will be working under a NATO-led mission to help the Afghan people."

In 2014, the regional commands transitioned to a Train, Advise and Assist Command (TAAC) structure, advising Afghan National Defense and Security Forces to promote the long-term success of these institutions and the sovereignty of the Afghan government. Two-thirds of the Soldiers will be deploying to Afghanistan; the rest of the service members will mobilize but remain stateside. Those remaining in Austin will serve as intelligence analysts and advisors to those deployed. The remote capability is made possible by the advances in today's modern combat technology and communications systems.

"We are a team of teams," said Aris. "We have selected our best to ensure that we will excel at this mission… and we have trained for more than a year and a half to build a world-class team. This group has already shown amazing skill, expertise, training and a deep commitment to what they do."

Chief Warrant Officer 4 Kirk A. Burns, who is deploying with the task force, explained that the group is comprised of experienced service members who have been chosen from across the whole division. They are both civilian and military experts in their fields: law enforcement; legal advisors; medical staff; aviation operations; and computer systems.

As a civilian, Burns works for the Texas Department of Public Safety's Cyber Security division and as a computer science professor at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville. In the Army National Guard he is a UH-60 Blackhawk pilot and tactical operations aviation officer. This will be his fourth overseas deployment, having served in Desert Storm, Operation Iraqi Freedom, Kuwait, and now Afghanistan.

"I'm looking forward to advising our Afghan counterparts and sharing some of my experience in aviation with the Afghan military," said Burns. "The more we have talked with our counterparts, the more I have realized that the Afghan government and military truly wants our assistance. They want to protect their country from the outside influences that are keeping it so unstable. They really seem to want to partner with us and learn from us."

At the ceremony, Maj. Gen. Lester Simpson, Commanding General of the 36th Inf. Div., thanked the citizen-Soldiers for their service to Texas and our nation. He also thanked their families for their support, and continued sacrifice as their loved ones are called upon to serve overseas.

"To the parents and children, husbands and wives, and brothers and sisters of those headed overseas - you are the unsung heroes of a nation at war," said Simpson. "You undoubtedly serve through your personal sacrifice and your commitment… and I want to personally thank you for your support and your strength. Because without you, we couldn't do what we do and are called upon to do."

To the Soldiers deploying, the division commander concluded with this encouragement:

"You'll be working hand-in-hand with our allies and our host nation to bring peace and stability to a complex region," Simpson said. "I have complete confidence that you will continue the legacy of exemplary performance that we've become known for, and will return at the end of your tour with pride knowing that you've achieved great things in the name of the 36th Infantry Division."

389th Engineer Company Soldiers build new MEDEVAC facility

Courtesy Story by: Sgt. Courtney Champagne

Photo By Jet Fabara | Flight medics talk with their leadership following an awards ceremony held for the 389th Engineer Company, 368th Engineer Battalion, 176th Engineer Brigade, for the construction of a new MEDVAC facility in Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan. The facility will house members of Charlie Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Aviation Regiment (General Support Aviation Battalion) from Ft. Riley, Kan. (“Boomer Dust-off”). (DOD photo by Jet Fabara)

BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan – The MEDEVAC facility at Bagram Air Field in northern Afghanistan has seen better days. Its shattered windows, leaning walls, and peeling paint serve as evidence of the building’s lengthy history. 

The old hangar was constructed in the 1950s for the Afghan people by the U.S. Government in an effort to impede the spread of communism in Asia. 

During the Invasion of the Soviet Union in Afghanistan in 1979, it was inhabited by Russian forces until they withdrew in 1989, after which the Taliban maintained domination of the location that the old hangar was built on. 

In 2002, Bagram Air Field became home to American forces as part of the US-led invasion of Afghanistan, and the hangar became the workspace for hundreds of medical evacuation (MEDEVAC) crews, providing them with administrative offices as well as break, maintenance, and storage spaces which are critical for successful MEDEVAC operations. 

The primary mission of Charlie Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Aviation Regiment (General Support Aviation Battalion) from Ft. Riley, Kansas (“Boomer Dust-off”) is to save lives by providing MEDEVAC from the frontlines of conflicts in Afghanistan to the medical facility at Bagram Air Field. 

The GSAB mission is vital to the overall success of operations in Afghanistan; ensuring Soldiers and Afghan Nationals are provided with swift medical attention after sustaining battlefield injuries.

In the spring of 2016, the 389th Engineer Company a U.S. Army Reserve unit from Middletown, Iowa teamed up with C. Co., 2-1 GSAB to coordinate the build-out of a new MEDEVAC facility. The aging hanger required replacement to address safety concerns and provide a new facility that met standard operating requirements. 

The Base Support Group Commander, Col. G. Shawn Wells Jr. ordered the hangar’s evacuation due to overall structural instability however it became an urgent necessity to figure out where MEDEVAC crews would now conduct operations. 

A large area maintenance (LAM) tent was placed nearby as a short-term solution. Although the LAM tent provided a covered space for the crew to operate in, it lacked space for administrative offices and break areas, as well as maintenance and equipment storage. It hardly met the crew’s needs as a sensible area of operation. 

The 389th Engineer Company rose to the occasion and immediately began the early design plans to create a work space worthy of Boomer Dust-off as well as future MEDEVAC crews and their missions.

The MEDEVAC crews must be prepared to respond to emergencies at any time, spending long hours in their work spaces on standby. Special considerations were taken into account when weighing the design options of the new structure within the LAM tent. 

The final design was a collective effort amongst Boomer Dust-off personnel, Joint Engineering (JENG) at Bagram Air Field, the Forward Engineer Support Team (FEST-A), the 368th Engineer Battalion’s Construction Management Section, and the 389th Engineer Company. 

A crew of 14 Soldiers were selected to complete the build-out based on their carpentry expertise. Their skills were immediately evident based on their productivity. Only three days into the job, they were an entire day ahead of schedule. 

“This is one project that is going to have a lasting impact here,” said Spc. Kevin R. Suzie, carpentry and masonry specialist with the 389th Engineer Company. 

The end result included crafted trimming, cut and placed balusters, and sections of spacious rooms. 

“Their attention to detail was remarkable”, said Lt. Col. Matthew J. Strub, Deputy Commander of Task Force Victory.

The completed project was executed in just under three weeks. It included creative design solutions to the customer’s specific conditions, including adequate space for storage of a UH-60 Blackhawk aircraft during maintenance and repair. 

“We got to test our skills. We got to make design changes and use creativity”, said Sgt. Kent A. Hortstman, carpentry and masonry specialist with the 389th Engineer Company.

The 1st Combat Aviation Brigade hosted a ribbon cutting ceremony on November 10, 2016 honoring both the critical service of the Soldiers of C Co., 2-1 GASB, and the key role of the 389th Engineer Company throughout the construction of the new facility. 

During the ceremony, 1st CAB Commander Col. John M. Cyrulik and Command Sgt. Maj. Roque R. Quichocho presented Soldiers of the 389th with impact awards for their indispensable contribution to current and future MEDEVAC missions. 

Afterwards, leaders conducted a field expedient ribbon cutting in the new facility, in true MEDEVAC style, using trauma shears to cut the ribbon. 

“No other force on the planet goes to the extent that we do to make sure no Soldier gets left behind. This collaboration provides the capability to save lives,” said Cyrulik. 

The highly-skilled and dedicated Soldiers of the 389th provided a site for hundreds of MEDEVAC crews to proudly call their own today, and for many years to come. 

“At the end of the day, nothing gets done without the nuclear fuel that is our Soldiers,” said Cyrulik.

The 389th is a U.S. Army Reserve unit on a nine-month deployment. The unit is assigned to the 368th Engineer Battalion, and the 176th Engineer Brigade, Task Force Chaos.

Texas Guardsman saves life of blind man seconds after he was struck by vehicle

Texas Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Aaron Dias, recruiting and retention officer for the Recruiting and Retention Battalion, Region II, Team VII, enjoys lunch with his six-year-old son Gavin, left, and 18-month-old Aeryn, right, at a local resturant Nov. 12, 2016, in Tyler, Texas. Dias is responsible for rendering aid and saving the life a blind pedestrian that was struck by a vehicle in East Texas. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Elizabeth Pena)

Story by: Sgt. Elizabeth Pena

Posted: Monday, January 9, 2017

TYLER, Texas – Disaster can strike at anytime. Citizen-soldiers of the Texas Army National Guard are taught to always be prepared.

Texas Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Aaron Dias, recruiting and retention officer for the Recruiting and Retention Battalion, Region II, Team VII in Tyler, was driving back from the Military Entrance Processing Station in Shreveport, Louisiana, to his armory in Tyler with his recruit when disaster struck.

“The sun was starting to set,” said Dias. “It was to that point where you run into the sun it kind of casts a glare on you.”
Hiwatha Hudson, a legally blind 55-year-old man had just stepped off to cross the street with his cane.

“My applicant in the passenger seat hollered at me ‘there’s someone on the road!’ said Dias. “Sure enough, as soon as we cast over the hill, I saw a silhouette of a man and I swerved to miss him.”

At that moment Dias was thankful he avoided the man, but as he was pulling over, he saw something horrid.

“Then I looked back in my rearview mirror, I saw someone hit him so I turned around, jumped in the suicide lane and jumped to assist him,” said Dias.

Without hesitation, Dias immediately called 911 and took the situation into his own hands. 

“I jumped out, got my applicant to start blocking traffic. When I came up to the man he was face down and the blood was running down pretty heavy,” said Dias. “So I rolled him over on his side to the recovery position to kind of balance his head so the blood 
would drain out and I held him there and checked his pulse until the EMT arrived.”

The recovery position, one of the many skills learned in the military, is designed to prevent suffocation through obstruction of the airway. 

“We are taught over and over, repetition so that way when it comes to a situation like this, you don’t think you just react. I don’t think if I had that training or that repetition of training I don’t know if I would have done anything successfully like I did,” said Dias. 

Service members in the Texas Army National Guard must go through combat life saving courses throughout their military career and are taught to always be ready to help.

Dias, father of two, has been a member of the guard for over ten years.

“Every other generation of my family has served,” said Dias. “It’s a duty, it’s an honor and opportunity to put on this uniform everyday.”

Hudson has since been transferred to the Ocean Behavior Hospital in East Texas. 

“I am so glad he was there to render aid because if he hadn’t, I would not have my son today,” said Jerleane Hudson, mother of Henry. “I’m praying that God will forever bless him.”

Although he has not made a full recovery, it is Dias’s fast response that saved his life.

“People will drive past people in wrecks all the time they won’t stop and ask if they’re OK. Heck it could've been you, or me and I would pray that someone would stop and do what they could, whether it was helpful or not, at least they were trying. You know, just help," said Dias.

Thousands of fatalities every year in casualties where the cause of the unconscious was not fatal, but the airway was blocked, causing the patient to suffocate. Dias accredits the military with giving him the knowledge and experience to respond to this situation.

“It’s a part of being in the military but it’s also a part of just being raised in a small town. You help anyone that needs help. That also goes hand in hand with being in the guard. We are citizen soldiers we are supposed to help out wherever we can,” said Dias.

T-Patch Division promotes new brigadier general

Story by: Spc. Christina Clardy

Posted: December 4, 2016

Maj. Gen. James K. "Red" Brown, U.S. Forces Command Deputy Commanding General - Reserve Component and former 36th Infantry Division Commanding General, and Amy Aris promote Charles "Chuck" Aris to Brig. Gen. on Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016, at Camp Mabry, Austin, Texas. He is joined by family, friends and colleagues to celebrate his promotion at a ceremony and following reception at the Texas Military Forces Museum. Aris has been selected to deploy to Afghanistan as the Commander of the Train, Advise, Assist Command -- South during the 36th Infantry Division's second command rotation in support of Operation Freedom's Sentinel.
Maj. Gen. James K. "Red" Brown, U.S. Forces Command Deputy Commanding General - Reserve Component and former 36th Infantry Division Commanding General, and Amy Aris promote Charles "Chuck" Aris to Brig. Gen. on Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016, at Camp Mabry, Austin, Texas. He is joined by family, friends and colleagues to celebrate his promotion at a ceremony and following reception at the Texas Military Forces Museum. Aris has been selected to deploy to Afghanistan as the Commander of the Train, Advise, Assist Command -- South during the 36th Infantry Division's second command rotation in support of Operation Freedom's Sentinel. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Michael Leslie)

AUSTIN, Texas — Colonel Charles "Chuck" Aris, the Assistant Division Commander of Support, was promoted to the rank of brigadier general in a ceremony on Sunday, Dec. 4, at Camp Mabry.

Maj. Gen. James K. "Red" Brown, the Deputy Commanding General — Reserve Component, United States Forces, promoted Aris to his one-star rank with his friends, family members and colleagues present.

During the ceremony, Brown, a former commanding general of the 36th Inf. Div., and Aris' wife of 26 years, Amy, pinned the new general's rank to the shoulders of his uniform. His son Matthew and daughter Kate presented him with a one-star general's flag, a traditional general officer's belt, and a desk placard. As per Texas tradition, Aris then gave bouquets of yellow roses to both his wife and his mother, Janice. 

"Aris is one of those officers that we always knew was going to rise to the top," said Brown. "He and his family are the ultimate traditional National Guard family. As a civilian, Chuck is a very distinguished and a very successful attorney, who doesn't have to do this; but he chooses to do so as a service to this great state and this great nation."  

Because of his dual military and civilian careers, several military dignitaries and civilian colleagues attended the ceremony, including Maj. Gen. John F. Nichols, the Adjutant General of the Texas Military Department, Maj. Gen. Lester Simpson, Commanding General of the 36th Infantry Division Commander, and fellow attorneys from his law firm. Aris, a resident of Waxahachie, Texas, is also a partner with the Dallas-based Byrne, Cardenas and Aris Law Firm, where he handles civil litigation.

"I want to say thank you to every senior leader, every mentor and every person in my life who has supported, trained, and guided me," said Aris. "But I need to say 'thank you' to my family, because without them, their love and their support, I would not be standing where I am today."

Aris will deploy to southern Afghanistan next year as the Commander of the Train, Advise and Assist Command -- South in support of Operation Freedom's Sentinel. 

"Its an honor to be selected for this [promotion and deployment]," said Aris. "I pledge to do my very best to make sure that we excel in this mission and continue the great heritage of the Texas Army National Guard."

His most recent assignments include serving as the acting Assistant Division Commander of Maneuver, division Chief of Staff, and Commander of both the 56th and 72nd Infantry Brigade Combat Teams. He served as a task force commander during a 2005 rotation to Kosovo, and deployed to Iraq in 2009 as an assistant chief of staff in operations.

In 1998, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree and commission from the Texas A&M University and was awarded as a Distinguished Military Graduate in the ROTC program.  After serving on Active Duty in the Army, in 1993 he joined the Texas Army National Guard. Aris also holds a Master of Science from the Army War College and a Juris Doctorate from South Texas College of Law. 

Aris’ awards and decorations include the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star Medal, Meritorious Service Medal (with two Oak Leaf Clusters), Kosovo Campaign Medal, Iraqi Campaign Medal  (with two service stars), Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and the Humanitarian Service Medal.

The mission of the 36th Infantry Division is to provide ready and responsive forces that can deploy to conduct unified land operations in joint and coalition environments, in support of a geographical combatant commander. On order, the division provides defense support to civil authorities within the United States in support of state and federal agencies.

Texas Army National Guard trains, graduates first female cavalry scout in U.S. Army

Story by: Sgt. Elizabeth Peña

Posted: Nov. 22, 2016

Texas Army National Guard’s 3rd Battalion 136th Regional Training Institute graduated the U.S. Army’s first female cavalry scout Nov. 17, 2016, during a graduation ceremony held at Fort Hood. The 136th RTI recently moved the cavalry scout course to Fort Hood to provide more space and accessibility to various training facilities. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Elizabeth Pena)
U.S. Army Sgt. Kayci Landes, with the 1st Cavalry Division, stationed at Fort Hood, Texas, poses with her family following her graduation as the first female cavalry scout Nov. 17, 2016. Texas Army National Guard’s 3rd Battalion 136th Regional Training Institute trained and graduated Landes during a rigorous 20-day course at Fort Hood. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Elizabeth Pena)

FORT HOOD, Texas – It was a proud moment for the Texas Army National Guard’s 3rd Battalion 136th Regional Training Institute when Army Sgt. Kayci Landes, walked across the stage as the U.S. Army’s first female cavalry scout Nov. 17, 2016, during a graduation ceremony held at Fort Hood.

The Department of Defense announced that all military occupations and positions would be open to women, Jan. 2016. Landes, a wife and mother of four, had been waiting for this moment since she was seven-years-old.

“I’ve always wanted to be in the combat military occupational specialty; I just wasn’t allowed. As soon as it opened I was like ‘hey combat MOS’s are open, I’m going to have this baby real quick then I’m going to re-enlist for it,” said Landes.

During the 20-day course Landes, along with her peers conducted 200 academic hours to include the Army’s new high physical demands test that both men and women needed to pass at the same standards.

“We’ve got a streak of seven years of not sending anyone home and we’re not afraid to break that,” said Texas Army National Guard Sgt. 1st Class Michael C. Dixon, an instructor at the cavalry scout course. “She did the 12-mile, she did the hand grenade toss, dummy drag and pulled out the Bradley main gun that weighs collectively almost 300 pounds. She’s done it all.”

The Texas National Guard’s 136th RTI, headquartered at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas, offers courses to any soldier in the U.S. Army, active, guard or reserve, including numerous MOS’s such as the cavalry scout.

Texas Army National Guard Sgt. 1st Class Kristopher E. Townsend, instructor and course manager, said his favorite part of being an instructor is educating his students.

“It’s training soldiers, bringing guys into an MOS that I love and being able to depart my experience, what I’ve learned in my career down to the joe’s and bring them into the fold of the cavalry,” said Townsend.

The Texas National Guard instructors led the course for six prior service members that had made the decision to re-class to 19D.

“They have a really good training set up; it’s better than most Army training. It’s been fun and interesting,” said Landes.

In 2014, the U.S. Army Training Command awarded the 136th RTI as an Institution of Excellence, the highest accreditation an RTI can receive.

“We always want to go beyond the program of instruction and make the course better than just the minimum,” Sgt. Steven L. Conwill, 136th RTI. “Being new here to Fort Hood we have access to a lot of newer things that might not have had access to at Camp Mabry or Camp Bowie.”

As the Army welcomes women into combat roles, Texas’ RTI will continue to train soldiers across the force to the best standard possible.

“The RTI is proud to be a part of training so many fine men and women,” said Texas Army National Guard Col. Kevin Countie, 136th RTI commander.  “Supporting the Army’s readiness and combat performance is our top priority.” 

Landes will be stationed with the 1st Cavalry Division, stationed at Fort Hood.

Texas National Guard Transportation Company partners with active duty unit

Texas National Guard Transportation Company partners with active duty unit

Story by: Sgt. James Strunk

Posted: Oct. 24, 2016

U.S. Army Capt. Lucas Hamilton, commander 249th Transportation Company, receives his cavalry Stetson from Lt. Col. Daryl Morse, commander Special Troops Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division Sustainment Brigade during a patch-over ceremony held on Fort Hood, Texas. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. James Strunk Released) Photo cropped to highlight subjects, 161016-Z-IX228-563PS
U.S. Army Capt. Lucas Hamilton, commander 249th Transportation Company, receives his cavalry Stetson from Lt. Col. Daryl Morse, commander Special Troops Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division Sustainment Brigade during a patch-over ceremony held on Fort Hood, Texas. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. James Strunk)

FORT HOOD, Texas – Soldiers of the 249th Transportation Company made a historical change for the Texas Army National Guard when they re-patched under 1st Cavalry Division, 1st Cavalry Sustainment Brigade during a ceremony at Fort Hood, Oct. 16, 2016. 

“I am anxious and excited just to see where that ultimately takes us – the opportunity that we have now because of this. What we can teach them as well as what they can teach us,” said Texas Army National Guard Capt. Lucas Hamilton, commander of the 249th Transportation Company.

The three-year program pairs an active-duty unit with those in the Army Reserve and Army National Guard so they can train together and deploy together, as well as includes an exchange of assigned personnel between the two partner units to promote better Total Force integration as a part of the Army’s Associated Units Pilot.

“Readiness continues to be my number one priority and in order to maintain that readiness we must leverage our partnerships,” said Maj. Gen. William L. Smith, Deputy Adjutant General-Army and Commander of the Texas Army National Guard, “This Associated Units Pilot Program will be a dramatic shift in what has been a decades old paradigm.”

The 249th Transportation Company joined 27 other Army units selected for the Associated Units Pilot Program, including four from the Texas Army National Guard.

“We are one army and we are not small,” said Lt. Col. Daryl Morse, commander of Special Troops Battalion, 1st Cavalry Sustainment Brigade. “We are big and we are capable; we are capable because of the National Guard.”

This association enables integration of formations from units of different components prior to mobilization through collective trailing. 

“I think this is a fantastic thing,” said Morse. “In a sense it’s just a validation of what we’ve been doing for years. Our sustainment brigade alone has had a connection with the Texas National Guard for years. But it’s something that’s never been formalized.”

During the patch-over ceremony, the 249th Transportation Company officially relinquished command and control of the unit to the 1st Cavalry, for the duration of the pilot program and will include changing of the unit patch on the guardsmen’s uniforms.

Participation in this pilot program, will not an have impact on the unit’s ability to respond or provide assistance during emergency response missions.