Posts in Category: Texas Army National Guard

Texas Guardsmen Mentor High School Competitors to First Place

Texas Guardsmen Mentor High School Competitors to First Place

Story by: Maj. Ray McCulloch

Posted On: February 3, 2016

Courtesy Photo From 71st TC
Courtesy Photo From 71st TC

CEDAR PARK, Texas - Texas Guardsmen from the 71st Theater Information Operations Group mentored students from Leander High School as they competed in the Air Force Association’s CyberPatriot VIII competition, November 14-15, 2016 and December 4-6, 2016, at Corvalent’s office complex in Cedar Park, Texas. The Vista Ridge Navy Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps cadets vied against other United States and Department of Defense Education Activity high school students from around the globe for placement in the Platinum tier, which puts them on track to compete at the national level. The Vista Ridge team competed on multiple platforms – 1) Cisco, 2) a Windows Server, 3) a Windows workstation and 4) a Linux system.

Cyber Patriot is a national youth cyber education program. CyberPatriot was conceived by the AFA and works to inspire high school students towards careers in cyber security or other science, technology, engineering, or mathematics disciplines.

According to the CyberPatriot website, “At the center of CyberPatriot is the National Youth Cyber Defense Competition. High school and middle school students work in teams and play the position of newly hired IT professionals tasked with managing the network of a small company. Teams are given a set of virtual images that represent operating systems and are tasked with finding cybersecurity vulnerabilities within the images and hardening the system while maintaining critical services.”

“This opportunity is in a very technical field, and it requires [Information Technology] mentors,” said retired Cmdr. Rick Hamblet, the Vista Ridge Navy JROTC senior naval science instructor.

Only four of his 130 cadets were able to compete in the competition.

To help prepare these students, Maj. Tim Amerson, Sgt. 1st Class James Medlock and Sgt. 1st Class Jon Wachter, all of the 102nd Information Operations Battalion, 71st Tactical Information Operations Group volunteered to help.

Amerson serves as the Web Operations Security Team Chief in the 102nd Information Operations Battalion.

“We are the Technical Mentors for the Vista Ridge HS Naval [JROTC],” said Amerson. “We volunteer our own time teaching students how to be Cyber Network Defenders.”

Using their military experience, they helped prepare the cadets for this challenging competition.

In addition to the military members of the 102nd Information Operations Battalion., Ed Trevis, President and CEO of Corvalent, wanted to help. Corvalent produces ruggedized industrial computers. Corvalent partnered with Cdr. Hamblet and Vista Ridge for the CyberPatriot competition. Corvalent provided the location, computers, and network for the VR team.

“We at Corvalent wanted to make sure we invested in the future of our military and leaders,” said Ed. “They are the reason we are able to do what we do here.”

On November 14th, during Round 1 of the competition, the four juniors on the team had six hours to find as many security loopholes, breaches, or backdoors as possible in order to secure their computer images. With a max score of 200, the team garnered 190 points. On Dec. 6th, during Round 2, they had to repeat their success on three images, and complete a quiz. This time the team earned an unofficial score of 272, and 33 points - the maximum amount - for the Cisco quiz. Their combined scores placed them in first place for all Texas Navy JROTC teams, seventh in the nation among all Navy JROTC teams, and sixteenth out of 820 teams nationally.

"I can say we couldn't be more grateful. I feel like so far the National Guard and their participation in the program has been instrumental to how far we have gotten. So we really appreciate it,” said Mason Buettner, student team lead for Vista Ridge Navy JROTC’s CyberPatriot team.

Cooperative Competition

Story by: Sgt. Michael Vanpool

Posted on: January 12, 2016

Staff Sgt. Timothy Boutte, the senior mechanic for Company D, 949th Brigade Support Battalion, 56th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 36th Infantry Division, Texas Army National Guard, pushes through prone rows while Command Sgt. Maj. Michelle Thompson, the battalion's command sergeant major, motivates him to complete the air assault course at Camp Swift, Jan. 8. The course was one of eight events that were part of the 56th Infantry Brigade Combat Team’s Best Warrior Competition. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Michael Vanpool/Released)
Staff Sgt. Timothy Boutte, the senior mechanic for Company D, 949th Brigade Support Battalion, 56th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 36th Infantry Division, Texas Army National Guard, pushes through prone rows while Command Sgt. Maj. Michelle Thompson, the battalion's command sergeant major, motivates him to complete the air assault course at Camp Swift, Jan. 8. The course was one of eight events that were part of the 56th Infantry Brigade Combat Team’s Best Warrior Competition. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Michael Vanpool/Released)

BASTROP, Texas - “You can do it!” “Just one more left!” “Woo who, you’re almost there!”

Those aren’t exactly words exchanged between people competing for the same title. But it is what a group of Soldiers were saying to each other this past weekend.

Seven Soldiers of the 56th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 36th Infantry Division, Texas Army National Guard, competed in the brigade’s Best Warrior Competition at Camp Swift, Jan. 8-10.

Ultimately, one noncommissioned officer and one junior enlisted Soldier bested out their comrades to achieve the title of Best Warrior. The winners were Staff Sgt. Jake Jackson, the supply sergeant for Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd Battalion, 144th Infantry Regiment, and Spec. Russell Bega, an infantryman with Company D, 2nd Battalion, 142 Infantry Regiment. They each now have the chance to enter the Texas National Guard Best Warrior Competition. 

“You’ve got to train, not just your body but get mentally prepared,” Bega said. “Whether it’s the board or a 60-foot obstacle tower, you have to be confident in yourself to get past it and that you have the mental fortitude to succeed.”

The road to the title was no cake walk. Combining the ruck march, two runs through a land navigation course, and the air assault course, the competitors pounded their boots on the ground for more than 20 miles throughout a span of 36 hours.

The weekend was also sprinkled with an appearance board, a written essay, and the assembly and disassembly of five military-grade weapons.

“All of this represents tasks that we should all know,” Jackson said. “Whatever your skill set, you should be professional and try your best.”

The down time between events was minimal, but it was not a time for rest. After Soldiers worked through their individual events, they motivated each other to push themselves to their boiling point.

“We want everyone to do their best and to beat each other at their best,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Clinton Petty, the brigade’s acting command sergeant major. “There’s no glory in beating someone on their worst day. There’s more satisfaction in beating them on their best day.”

The competitors were selected from their battalions about two months prior to the brigade’s competition. In between the battalion and brigade competitions, the traditional feasts during the holidays could have prevented a solid physical state.

“I prepared with a lot of PT, a lot of studying,” Jackson said, “which was hard with all the food around during the Christmas break.”

Being citizens Soldiers, most of the preparation took place during the time between drills, and it was often the sole responsibility of each competitor to find their own motivation.

“No matter what as long as I did everything in my power and the confidence in myself I could get it done,” Bega said. “There were times on the land navigation] course where I got tangled up and frustrated. But you take a second, time to breathe, you find out you’re capable of more than you think.”

This internal motivation, boosted by the cheering of fellow Soldiers, pushed the competitors to their physical and mental limits.

“I really think that being a part of something bigger, not just the 56th Brigade, but we’re all a part of the Texas Guard, we’re all a part of the Army.”

USARCENT, National Guard, Reserves talk Total Force in Kuwait

Courtesy Story: Sgt. David Beckstrom

Posted on: January 4, 2016

Sgt. David Beckstrom The adjutant generals of the Utah, Texas, Puerto Rico and Alabama National Guard, along with general officers from the U.S. Army Reserve, took part in a four-day conference to better see how their Soldiers and Airmen support U.S. Army Central’s mission in Southwest Asia, Dec. 10-13. The Total Force concept was a major topic of discussion and focuses on the partnership between the active duty, National Guard and Reserve components as they work hand-in-hand to ensure the security and safety of people around the world and build enduring partnerships. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. David N. Beckstrom, 19th Public Affairs Detachment, U.S. Army Central)
Courtesy Photo:Sgt. David Beckstrom
The adjutant generals of the Utah, Texas, Puerto Rico and Alabama National Guard, along with general officers from the U.S. Army Reserve, took part in a four-day conference to better see how their Soldiers and Airmen support U.S. Army Central’s mission in Southwest Asia, Dec. 10-13. The Total Force concept was a major topic of discussion and focuses on the partnership between the active duty, National Guard and Reserve components as they work hand-in-hand to ensure the security and safety of people around the world and build enduring partnerships. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. David N. Beckstrom, 19th Public Affairs Detachment, U.S. Army Central)

CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait – The Adjutant Generals of the Alabama, Puerto Rico, Texas and Utah National Guard and general officers from the U.S. Army Reserve, took part in a four-day conference here, Dec. 10-13 to gain insight on how their Soldiers and Airmen support U.S. Army Central’s mission in Southwest Asia.

A major focus of the event was the Army’s Total Force concept, which aligns the active duty, National Guard and Reserve components of the Army as one force to ensure readiness and resource efficiency.

“The military expects the reserve components to maintain the same standard as the active duty component,” said Air Force Maj. Gen. John Nichols, the Adjutant General of the Texas National Guard based out of Austin, Texas. “We accomplish this by partnering with the active duty components in Texas for training and mentorship. This allows us to remain proficient in our assigned roles and ready to serve our nation when the call comes.”

During the visit, the generals interacted closely with their Soldiers. They were able to see what they do on a daily basis and what contributions the National Guard and U.S. Army Reserve make to USARCENT.

“Since the first Minuteman left their plows, picked up their rifles and moved to the sound of guns more than 379 years ago, National Guardsmen have been fighting our nation’s wars and defending the homeland,” said Maj. Gen. Jefferson Burton, the adjutant general of the Utah National Guard based out of Draper, Utah. “These Soldiers serving in Kuwait represent America’s finest. They are our ambassadors. They are smart, talented, and passionate about what they do. They are volunteers who serve to make the world a more secure place.” 

“We work to align the needs and efforts of the Army’s mission around the world with the training of our units,” said Brig. Gen. James Blankenhorn, the Deputy Commanding General of the Reserve Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Forces stationed out of Salt Lake City, Utah. “We ensure the service members understand the importance of their missions and that they are fully manned, equipped and trained to accomplish it.”

Service members work together in an inter-department setting to accomplish their missions both in the U.S. and around the world with partner nation forces.

“Since our nation’s inception, citizen Soldiers have been an integral part of our national defense,” said Burton, a native of Payson, Utah. “Nowhere is that more evident than what’s happening in Kuwait today. Soldiers from every component, Active, Guard and Reserve, are training to the same standard, and serve side-by-side with our international partners to make our world more secure.”

These general officers came to Kuwait to ensure their Soldiers are accomplishing their mission and that they are meeting the standard. This will facilitate potential policy changes to train, equip and prepare Soldiers for future missions.

“Being proficient in our job as a reserve unit allows us to augment and support the Army by deploying and assisting other units that might need our help,” said Sgt. Erika Sledge, a squad leader with 366th CBRN Company out of Savannah, Georgia. “Everybody in the military have different jobs and missions, but when we work together we can achieve great things.”

Service members in the National Guard and Reserve components serve the nation by being citizen Soldiers, this means that they are entrepreneurs, construction workers or civil workers while still serving in the U.S. military.

“I have spoken to several service members from the Reserve component,” said Blankenhorn, a native on Atlanta, Georgia. “They are all saying the same thing, ‘we are learning great things while we are out here.’ This shows the dedication and commitment each of these Soldiers have to their nation, community and families. We will continue to train our Reservists to be ready to mobilize should the need arise.”

“Like many other cities across the nation, the impact of war touches the entire community,” said Burton. “The National Guard is the connective fabric to our communities, and that connection has proven vital to maintaining the nations will in confronting these global challenges.”

Texas National Guard responds to winter weather

Story by: 1st Lt. Alicia Lacy

Posted: December 30, 2015

A soldier from 2nd Battalion, 142nd Infantry Regiment, 56th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 36th Infantry Division, Texas Army National Guard responds to the southwest blizzard in the Texas Panhandle.
Courtesy Photo
A soldier from 2nd Battalion, 142nd Infantry Regiment, 56th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 36th Infantry Division, Texas Army National Guard responds to the southwest blizzard in the Texas Panhandle.

AUSTIN, Texas - Teams of soldiers from the Texas National Guard came to the aid of Texans as the onslaught of winter weather immediately following the Christmas holiday left parts of the Texas Panhandle covered in snow and ice.

From heavy rains and thunderstorms with potential flooding to blizzard conditions and tornadoes, the devastating weather that hit Sunday impacted many North Texas residents, with tornadoes leaving 11 dead.

With the winter storm imminent, the Texas National Guard dispatched soldiers Saturday to prepare to respond and assist, prepping their vehicles and winter kits to aid residents who may be impacted, said Capt. Luke Reynard, the military district coordinator for the Texas disaster district 1 region.

“What we saw most is high winds and really low visibility,” Reynard said. “The snow was coming in and blowing so hard it was causing whiteout conditions.”

Because of the low visibility, the Texas Department of Transportation shut down Interstate 40.

The guardsmen partnered with the Texas Department of Public Safety and TxDOT to assess the road conditions, clear roads and assist travelers who may have been stranded.

“Sunday morning I was working directly with DPS, and what we found was that DPS didn’t have a lot of eyes on the road as far as conditions,” Reynard said. 

As a result, the guardsmen became the eyes on the road to survey road conditions as teams were sent west on Interstate 40 to the New Mexico border, east on Interstate 40 to the Oklahoma border and northeast on State Highway 60 toward Pampa.

As the guardsmen navigated the icy roads with little to no visibility, they were able to rescue more than 100 residents and assisted about 65 other stranded motorists by providing blankets, food and water, according to information from the Texas National Guard’s joint operation center.

Reynard said one of the biggest challenges were the snow drifts.

“We can have 3 inches of snow and you’ll encounter a snowdrift 6-foot tall,” he said. “We had a storm dumping about 5-10 inches of snow with 35-40 miles-per-hour sustained winds.” 

Eventually, DPS was able to launch its helicopter and perform route recon near Friona, while TxDOT cleared up the roads making them passable by Monday evening, ending the National Guard’s mission.

“We are proud and grateful we have a team that is so dedicated to helping Texans in these dire times,” said Maj. Gen. John F. Nichols, the adjutant general – Texas. “We couldn’t have completed this mission without the dedication of our soldiers and their families for allowing them to serve the great state of Texas.”

Texas Guardsman raises 25,000 toys for sick children

Story by: Capt. Martha Nigrelle

Posted On: December 21, 2015

Texas State Guard Staff Sgt. Williams, 1st Battalion, 2nd Regiment, stands amongst donated toys at Dell's Children Hospital in Austin, Texas, Dec. 19, 2015, as part of the annual "Young Heroes of the Guard" program. Williams led toy drive operations for 1st Battalion, 2nd Regiment and collected more than 25,000 toys to be delivered to sick children all over Texas. (Texas State Guard photo by Col. Joseph Jelinski/ Released)
Texas State Guard Staff Sgt. Williams, 1st Battalion, 2nd Regiment, stands amongst donated toys at Dell's Children Hospital in Austin, Texas, Dec. 19, 2015, as part of the annual "Young Heroes of the Guard" program. Williams led toy drive operations for 1st Battalion, 2nd Regiment and collected more than 25,000 toys to be delivered to sick children all over Texas. (Texas State Guard photo by Col. Joseph Jelinski/ Released)

AUSTIN, Texas - Santa’s Texas State Guard elves brought holiday cheer to the Dell Children’s Hospital in Austin, Dec. 19, 2015, as Staff Sgt. James “Damon” Williams, 1st Battalion, 2nd Regiment and a group of Texas State Guardsmen unloaded thousands of toys from trucks and proceeded to fill the hospital’s amphitheater with toys.

In 2009, the Texas State Guard started the Young Heroes of the Guard program, with the hopes of collecting enough toys to distribute to every pediatric patient in every children’s hospital in Texas during the Christmas season, and leave a year’s worth of toys behind.

That first year, they collected more than 2,000 toys and by 2014, they collected almost 23,000 toys across the state.

This year, Williams leading the toy drive efforts for his battalion, just one of the many units participating in the State Guard’s toy drive, collected more than 25,000 toys.

“We want to help everyone in need,” said Williams.

Starting in March, Williams coordinated a three-prong approach to collecting toys.

“I start my toy drive operations in March,” said Williams. “My goal is to submit the application for support the day they are first accepting letters so that my request is the first one on the pile and hopefully the first one to be considered.”

Williams and his team of State Guard volunteers work with local companies and major corporations to coordinate donations until October.

“Then we deploy toy drive operations,” said Williams.

In true military fashion, Williams coordinates one team to man large donation boxes at designated drop off points, another team to stand outside major retail stores and advertise the toy drive and collect donations, and a third team to handle other donations.

“I have a calendar of all our operations to make it easy for soldiers to find dates and times that would be conducive for them to help,” said Williams.

After meeting the Battalion’s goal of 11,000 toys, Williams and his team decided to keep going.

“Staff Sgt. Williams took the lead for the battalion and just went with it,” said Lt. Col. Cendy Brister-Antley, commander of 1st Battalion. “You can give him something and he will run with it. He has contacts like you wouldn’t believe!”

For Williams the drive to bring joy to children staying in hospitals hits close to home.

“I spent time in the hospital as a child,” said Williams. “It was one of the most difficult times of my childhood. That’s what drives me, that memory of what it was like.”

Hospital staff members will give these toys to hospitalized children, siblings of hospitalized children and children of hospital patients throughout the entire year.

“Our goal is to give them enough toys to make it through the entire year,” said Williams.

Units are assigned to local hospitals. For 1st Battalion, that means Dell Children’s Hospital.

“Last year they got 6,000 toys and started running out in October,” said Williams. “That was our incentive to boost our toy collection.”

Meeting their original goal of 11,000, and then some, they should meet this goal.

The battalion delivered more than 10,000 toys to Dell Children’s Hospital and have given the remaining toys to State Guard units across Texas, to help support toy drive effort statewide.

“It was a planned operation,” said Brister-Antley. “To blow away the State Guard.”

Despite the large piles of toys and the competitive spirit of the unit to outdo last year’s numbers, being able to give back to the community and bring joy to children is what means the most to these guardsmen.

“We delivered more than 10,000 toys to Dell Children’s Hospital,” said Brister-Antley. “I saw pride in my Soldiers, pride in the accomplishment of giving back.”

For Williams, it’s about bringing joy to a child’s life.

“I had a large pink stuffed dog that one of the girls was eyeballing. I walked over to her and asked her if she could give the dog a good home. She grabbed it and seemed really happy,” said Williams. That’s why we do it – for the smiles and the happiness we can bring to the kids.

Next year, Williams said he hopes to collect 50,000 toys.

For more information on the Texas State Guard toy drive, please visit their website http://www.txsgtoydrive.org/. To see more photos from the toy drop off at Dell Children’s Hospital, Dec. 18, 2015, visit https://www.flickr.com/photos/texasmilitaryforces/albums/72157662483102302

Chemical soldiers train for dual mission

Story by: 1st Lt. Matthew Verdugo

Posted: December 9, 2015

1st Lt. Matthew Verdugo Soldiers from the 436th Chemical Company, 6th CBRNE Enhanced Response Force Package, 136th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Texas Army National Guard, decontaminate a volunteer at the San Marcos municipal airport during a simulated plane crash exercise, Nov. 16, 2015. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by 1st Lt. Matthew Verdugo/Released)
1st Lt. Matthew Verdugo
Soldiers from the 436th Chemical Company, 6th CBRNE Enhanced Response Force Package, 136th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Texas Army National Guard, decontaminate a volunteer at the San Marcos municipal airport during a simulated plane crash exercise, Nov. 16, 2015. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by 1st Lt. Matthew Verdugo/Released)

BASTROP, Texas – National Guardsmen of the 436th Chemical Company conducted dual-mission training exercises at Camp Swift near Bastrop, Texas, and San Macros, Texas, during their annual training period Nov. 13-18, 2015.

The soldiers practiced their traditional warrior skills at Camp Swift, Texas, in areas such as land navigation, security clearing, basic rifle marksmanship, machine gun familiarity, reacting to improvised explosive devices, and physical fitness. This training is essential to maintaining a state of readiness and deployability in support of the citizens of Texas and civil authorities at home or abroad. 

“It is always important to return to basics and improve upon warrior tasks and drills that lay the foundation for everything we do as soldiers,” said 1st Sgt. Dianne Overshown, first sergeant for the 436th Chemical Company. “In many cases, our Soldiers can bring valuable insight from their civilian careers to enhance the training the unit receives in the field.”

The 436th Chemical Company’s core mission is to decontaminate friendly units that have come under a chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear attack in theaters of operation. In addition, the unit specializes in the reconnaissance of CBRN threats and the surveillance of biological dangers. However, their basic Army fundamentals are the foundation that allows the unit to excel in their more technical responsibilities.

“It was fascinating to see some of our soldiers with law enforcement backgrounds take the lead on room clearing and marksmanship,” said Sgt. 1st Class Stephen Snyder. “Training like this really gives the soldiers confidence for future, more complex operations.”

Experienced leaders shared their lessons and best practices with subordinates throughout the week, refining team skill sets in reacting to IEDs, clearing buildings, and weapon familiarization. Each drill reinforced the common themes of teamwork and cooperation. 

“It was great to shoot rounds down range and learn from our experienced sergeants some of the finer points of marksmanship,” said Spc. Zacharias Trigo. “I never realized the infinite number of situations that could present themselves during the clearing of a building and how all team members must work as one.”

The service members also practiced mass casualty decontamination operations as part of their FEMA Region VI Homeland Response Force mission. The HRF mission calls for Guardsmen to augment first responders during stateside natural or man-made disasters requiring specialized decontamination capabilities.

“Our unit has the unique challenge and privilege of being able to help our fellow citizens in a time of crisis,” said 1st Lt. Luis Lopez, 436th Chemical Company commander. “We train, hoping that a day like that never materializes. It is training like this that makes it real for everyone involved.”

The 436th Chemical Company additionally participated in a simulated downed plane scenario at the San Marcos Municipal Airport alongside area first responders and other elements of their National Guard battalion, the 6th CBRN Enhanced Force Package. The exercise simulated dozens of casualties and the release of toxic elements in and around the crash site. The chemical soldiers practiced setting up the decontamination infrastructure and conducting mass causality decontamination while wearing personal protective equipment.

“Exercises like this really bring to light the responsibility our unit has to help our fellow citizens survive such a potential tragedy,” said Staff Sgt. Vanessa Stange. “I am amazed by the professionalism of the area first responders and how our soldiers are performing under stress.”

In addition to the simulated plane crash, 436th Chemical Company soldiers were certified during a three-day course as hazmat operators and recognized by the National Guard Bureau as qualified to perform their decontamination duties. This gives the troops an academic component to augment their practical application exercises throughout the year.

“Having two missions is a lot of work, but it is rewarding and feels good that we can help,” said Spc. Katty Gracia. “I can’t wait until the next annual training.”

Texas Guardsmen stand battle ready after Warfighter (Part 3 of 3)

Texas Guardsmen stand battle ready after Warfighter (Part 3 of 3)

By Sgt. Elizabeth Pena

Brigade General John E. Novales II, Deputy Commanding General of the 101st  Airborne (Air Assault) Division, Fort Campbell, Kentucky, visits Texas Army National Guards' 136th MEB during the Warfighter exercise on November 10, 2015. (Photo by U.S. Army National Guard Sgt. Elizabeth Pena/Released)
Brigade General John E. Novales II, Deputy Commanding General of the 101st  Airborne (Air Assault) Division, Fort Campbell, Kentucky, visits Texas Army National Guards' 136th MEB during the Warfighter exercise on November 10, 2015. (Photo by U.S. Army National Guard Sgt. Elizabeth Pena/Released)

Texas Guardsmen from the 136th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, based out of Round Rock, Texas, exercised their combat readiness skills during a three-week Warfighter at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, just in time to get home for Thanksgiving.

The 136th MEB went to Fort Campbell November 5-22 in support of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) for the real-time scenario spanning three fictional countries in the Middle East. The purpose of Warfighter is to test a unit’s battle skills and ensure it is fit for overseas combat.

“This is our available year, so generally that is when you are going to see a brigade assigned to a warfighter exercise,” said Col. Scott Mac Leod, commander of the 136th MEB. “It’s part of the [Army Force Generation] cycle, which means, theoretically, that if an overseas contingency requirement occurred, it’s possible that the 136th MEB could be assigned to deploy in support of that assignment.”

During the exercise, each participating brigade or division is assigned an observer team to help guide them in the right direction.

“We pretty much just coach. We don’t control anything,” said Lt. Col. Randy Spell, chief observer coach/trainer for the Mission Command Training Program. “If y’all have a process that needs some improvement or you have some gaps within that process, we help you through them with a doctrinal example for a way that we have seen successful.”

Warfighter is a great opportunity for soldiers to exercise their duty roles while training to respond quickly to incidents and short-term objectives within a full-scale scenario.

“There were priorities of work for our unit in support of the division,” said Mac Leod. “Protection of critical assets, security and clearance of all of the routes within division area, providing security forces to the base defense clusters, as well as the employment of tactical combat force to find fix and destroy level three threats that might appear in the rear area.”

These real-life scenarios gave the brigade’s combat veterans a chance to mentor their less-experienced team members on the best plans and procedures, should a real-world contingency occur.

“I’ve been on six deployments and I can tell you that most of the things we are doing here, just from the tactical side, are things that I think about, worry about, address, fix and react to on the battlefield,” said Maj. George Hurd, chief of operations for the 136th MEB. “Having the whole brigade be exposed to these systems, whenever we go forward and the next time we deploy, is one less roadblock we have to worry about.”

Throughout the three weeks, the 136th MEB demonstrated the greatest proficiency in staff communication and ensuring everyone knew the status of the conflict at any given moment through the live battle tracker.

“Our common operational picture put us in a position to follow the [division] commander’s intent. So basically the tools that the staff developed from the beginning to the mid point put them in a position to help me know if, when and what to decide so they supported my decision cycle. By increasing the rate at which they were able to do that, it enabled us to work more rapidly to solve the problems we were encountering.”

For some of these soldiers, this is as close to a deployment as they have experienced.

“The thing that I really got out of it was getting to see how the 136th MEB interacts with other units around it,” said Spc. Shane Wilson, an intelligence analyst with the 136th MEB. “The MEB has a unique role, which the Army is trying to test and trying to figure where it belongs. [It] was pretty interesting to see how the staff functions and how complex it really is.”

The 136th MEB was distinguished as the only National Guard outfit participating in the Warfighter, joining the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) and one of its subordinate brigades, the 101st Sustainment Brigade.

“There is no question that y’all have come a long way,” said Spell. “We are very proud of you; we feel like we are integrated as a part of your staff. National Guard, active duty, it doesn’t matter. We all respond to one fight."

When the 136th MEB isn’t training for their overseas mission of area support operations, they are back home in Texas where they are custodian of the FEMA Region VI Homeland Response Force mission. There, they train alongside first responders and civil authorities to combat the threat of Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and High-Yield Explosive incidents throughout Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arkansas, and Louisiana.

“There is a lot of what we do here that can be run over to our Defense Support of Civil Authorities,” said Hurd. “One is having to make swift timely decisions. I’m looking forward to taking these products home. I’ve got a lot of good examples of ways to better synergize our efforts.”

These vigilant guardsmen can return home with confidence knowing they are fit for the fight.

“I’m immensely proud of our soldiers, said Mac Leod. “Everyone here is just a little bit sleep deprived, a little bit worn out but they’ve got a lot to be proud of. We came here, we wanted to do well tactically and technically but we also wanted to represent Texas, and I think we achieved that objective.”

Texas Soldier realizes dream

Texas Guardsman realizes dream

Story by: Sgt. 1st Class Malcolm McClendon

Post: November 19, 2015

Angeline SanchezAUSTIN, Texas - Growing up in a family full of service members, Angeline Sanchez knew to take charge and lead fellow recruits through the 2nd Regiment’s, Texas State Guard, Regional Basic Orientation Training, gaining her the title of honor graduate of Class 001-015 at the class’s graduation ceremony held in Austin, Texas, Sept. 18, 2015.

Sanchez began her journey in the military long before she ever joined. Growing up around her U.S. Army father, stepfather, mother and U.S. Marine Corps grandfather had a profound impact on her life.

“My stepfather was a drill sergeant and when he’d come home wearing that big round brown hat, I knew that was something I wanted to do,” Sanchez said. “I loved the structure and the uniform, so my goal ever since was to join the military and serve.”

Even before she was old enough to join, she began researching jobs and the minimum placement scores needed for each. Then when her older brother joined the U.S. Army she knew she had found her calling.

“My brother joined as a medic and when he was home he’d show me his gear, which I thought was really cool,” Sanchez said. “When he came back from deployment he showed me pictures and told me stories about how he helped people and fellow soldiers in Iraq as a combat medic; and I knew then that’s what I wanted to do.”

When she turned 18, Sanchez took the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test, was sworn into the U.S. Army and shipped out on Valentine’s Day, 2012.

“I remember the six-hour ride to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, feeling excited and saying to myself, ‘I made it, I made it.’” Sanchez said. “When we finally arrived at the base my heart was pumping. Then the drill sergeant got on the bus and began ordering us to get our stuff and get off! It was exciting.”

Sanchez, along with other new arrivals, was placed in the reception platoon while they waited for the next training cycle to begin. There, she did not take any time off and was placed in leadership roles, such as barracks lead and marching the platoon.

“We were marching to breakfast chow one morning and it was my goal that day to lose my voice calling cadence,” Sanchez said. “I was in the back of the formation when the drill sergeant stopped everyone and called me to the front of the platoon and said, ‘this soldier has a voice ten times bigger than her body.’ From that point on, I was known as Mighty Mouse.”

Her time at Fort Sill would be short lived however. A childhood illness, that was all but gone, resurfaced and brought to the drill sergeants’ attention. 

“One night they called me down to report to the drill sergeant that was on duty,” Sanchez said. “He looked right at me and said, ‘Private Sanchez, you can’t stay here, because of your asthma,’ right then I broke down crying.”

Sanchez said she was devastated and returned to Texas with no plan, since the only thing she had ever wanted to do was now not an option.

“I didn’t have a backup plan; my plan was to do twenty plus in the Army,” Sanchez continued. “I fell in and out of jobs; I was too distracted, I didn’t have the drive for anything.”

Then one day while picking up her partner at Camp Mabry in Austin, Sanchez spotted, what she thought, was a soldier out of uniform crossing the street. She looked over at her partner and asked why he was wearing a Texas flag on his sleeve.

“She told me that he was in the Texas State Guard,” Sanchez said. “I immediately began researching what that meant. We went to lunch and I couldn’t put my phone down. I had multiple screens open, reading what they were about.”

She began calling numbers on the website to get more information on joining until she got a hold of Staff Sgt. John Gately, the noncommissioned officer-in-charge (NCOIC) of the communications section for the Texas State Guard.

“I talked to her on the phone and explained that the State Guard is designed to help the citizens of Texas in times of need, whether it be a man-made or natural disaster,” Gately said. “I also told her that we are an all volunteer force that specializes in shelter operations, search and rescue, medical assistance and the manning of points-of-distribution when called on by the governor during those emergencies.”

Since the TXSG mission is in Texas and requires no overseas deployment, Sanchez discovered that her asthma would not be a problem and that she could once more have the opportunity to put on the uniform and serve. She signed up shortly after and began drilling with her unit while waiting for the next RBOT class to begin.

“RBOT is a basic introduction to the Texas State Guard,” Staff Sgt. Curtis Rust said, lead instructor for 2nd Regiment’s RBOT. “We go over first aid, land navigation, military customs and courtesies, drill and ceremony and communications skills. We want to take the overall knowledge of what the Texas State Guard is and does, and take that to build upon.”

At RBOT, Sanchez quickly reverted back to her time at Fort Sill and took charge.

“My time at the reception platoon taught me to step up when they needed someone to volunteer,” Sanchez said. “I made it to formations before time, got up a little early and got my squad up and ready for the day and, of course, called cadence every chance I got.”

Sanchez’ performance was again noticed by instructors.

“She was very motivated, took ownership and had a drive-forward attitude,” Staff Sgt. Jason Rogers said, an instructor with the 2nd Regiment’s RBOT. “She was engaged with everyone else’s efforts in the training, cheering them on and pushing them to make it through.”

By training’s end the instructors came together and overwhelmingly voted Sanchez as the honor graduate for the class. And in a ceremony full of friends and family she was asked to stand and be applauded.

“It was amazing, my mother came in from out of town to see me,” Sanchez said. “She was there with me when I was going through my depression for not being able to complete Army Basic Training. I had never graduated from anything before, so when she came to see me here, she had tears in her eyes and then to find out I was honor graduate… it topped it all and made her proud.”

Sanchez now drills with the 1st Battalion, 1st Regiment in San Antonio and looks forward to her career in the TXSG.

“I feel so much better now, this is the happiest I’ve ever felt in my life,” Sanchez said. “When I first went to basic at Fort Sill, I had that awesome feeling you get when you put on your uniform and take charge. And now, in the State Guard, I have it again.” 

Texas Guardsmen are Warfighter ready

Story by:  Sgt. Elizabeth Peña​

Posted: November 9, 2015

Texas Guardsmen are Warfighter ready
Sgt. Elizabeth Peña
Spc. John Volkmer, a satellite operator with the 625th Signal Company of the Texas National Guard's 136th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, ensures his equipment is ready during the Warfighter exercise Nov. 12-22 at Fort Campbell, Ky. For this brigade, headquartered out of Round Rock, Texas, Warfighter tests coordination and methods of battle through a command and control simulation. (Photo by U.S. Army National Guard Sgt. Elizabeth Pena/Released)

FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. - Texas boots hit the ground running Nov. 5, 2015, at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, as approximately 200 soldiers from the Texas Army National Guard’s 136th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade engage a three-week, combat-oriented training event known as Warfighter.

“Warfighter is an opportunity for a division, in this case the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) to conduct main combat operations,” said Col. Scott Mac Leod, commander of the 136th MEB. “It also enables its brigade combat teams and functional and multi-functional subordinate brigades to exercise their tasks as part of main combat operations.”

For this brigade, headquartered out of Round Rock, Texas, Warfighter tests the headquarters’ coordination and methods of battle through a command and control simulation.

“In this scenario, the enemy is the Arianans,” said Master Sgt. Daniel Johnson, the brigade’s noncommissioned officer in charge of current operations. “They are after the oil infrastructure in Atropia, and we are sent in after the United Nations’ resolution to [push] out the Arianans and secure the oil fields. The 136th MEB are here supporting the 101st Airborne Division through assured mobility and survivability.”

Warfighter features a number of Army units conducting their combat validation, with the MEB just one of many brigades supporting Fort Campbell’s Air Assault division. The 136th MEB is distinguished as the only National Guard outfit participating. In the scenario, the brigade deploys with battalions of military police, engineers and support companies as it would in a real-world mobilization.

“Working with active duty components is the same as working with National Guard units or Reserve units,” said Sgt. Mikael Lopez, the 136th MEB intelligence team leader. “Soldiers are soldiers wherever you go. We train together. We deploy together.”

Soldiers from the 136th MEB spent months gearing up for the exercise. In September, they engaged in a condensed, three-day command post exercise in anticipation for Warfighter. This gave soldiers the chance to exercise their duty roles and prepare for what would be expected in Kentucky.

“We had a nice, long train up,” said Lopez. “I feel very confident in my team; I have good soldiers. We have a great chain of support up top and our peers are very strong.”

While stateside, the 136th MEB is custodian of the FEMA Region VI Homeland Response Force mission, designed to combat the threat of Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and High-Yield Explosive incidents. Warfighter allows these versatile Guardsmen to also train on their overseas combat mission.

“The HRF has a great reputation, and now this is a great opportunity for us to come and do what we call a green mission,” said Mc Leod, “and to practice those tasks that are common to an actual overseas scenario.”

The 136th MEB will use Warfighter to exercise mission command in maneuver support and area support operations. 

“We’ve met with the 101st and we are getting a lot of positive feedback on our setup and the way we are operating things,” said Johnson. 

The Warfighter scenario runs Nov. 12-22, with the preceding week dedicated to preparations and battle drills.

“I am extremely confident in our troops,” said Mac Leod. “Today, we completed the combined arms rehearsal. I think that we are all proud to be here and represent the Texas Army National Guard and to put a strong foot forward.”

National Guard Gunfighter Fly-in competition unites seven Apache helicopter states

Story by:  Spc. Elizabeth Smith

Posted: November 9, 2015

Gunfighter Fly-In
Spc. Elizabeth Smith
Spc. Ryan Santana, a member of the Arizona National Guard, arms an AH-64D Apache attack helicopter for the Utah Army National Guard for the inaugural Gunfighter Fly-In in preparation for the gunnery event.

MARANA, Ariz. – The Arizona National Guard is hosting the inaugural Gunfighter Fly-in at Silverbell Army Heliport here Nov. 1 to Nov. 6. Seven of the eight states in the National Guard that operate the AH-64D Apache helicopters—Arizona, Idaho, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas and Utah—sent two of their best company-grade crews and maintenance support personnel to participate in the four-day event.

The crews are competing head-to-head in the Gunfighter Fly-in competition, which includes a variety of graded flying and gunnery scenarios: manned unmanned teaming with the small unmanned aerial system, a live fire exercise at the Goldwater Gunnery Range, performance in the simulator and a written gunnery skills test. 

The top team will receive an award for its performance and bragging rights for its home state. 

“We welcome competition,” said Capt. Ben Hickman, Commander of 1-149 Attack Reconnaissance Battalion with the Texas Army National Guard. “That’s one of the things about being a gunfighter. We all have type-A personalities and so we look forward to getting to compete but at the same time the underlying thing of this is to integrate with other units.” 

The Gunfighter Fly-in is an opportunity to share tactics, techniques and procedures, best practices and lessons learned throughout the National Guard Apache community. The competition also builds a unity of effort among National Guard Apache helicopter states. 

“This is a great opportunity to network with your peers,” Chief Warrant Officer 2 Leonard Vidalez of 1-149 Attack Reconnaissance Battalion Texas Army National Guard. “Everybody has experiences and knowledge to share with one another; it’s just more information for your tool kit to use at a future date or implement at the very next mission.” 

The vast amount of skills and experience throughout the National Guard Apache community are invaluable to the Total Force. 

“We have the same skill sets, we have the same capabilities, same abilities, so we’re a key enabler and contributor to the active component fight, both for foreseen and unforeseen events across the globe,” said Col. Christopher Baril, the 98th Aviation Troop Command and Western Army National Guard Aviation Training Site Brigade Commander.

The presence of Apache assets in the Army National Guard continues the guard’s ability to conduct training and is critical to the safety of deployed forces.

“Apaches are vital because in times of war or having to go solve a problem overseas with our active duty counterparts we need to be manned and equipped the same way so that there is synergy on the battlefield once we get there,” Baril said.

The Gunfighter Fly-in isn’t just about the lessons shared, the skills gained or the experience traded. It also has a little bit to do with the competition that brings these units closer together and makes the overall experience more effective for training purposes.

“It’s a competition but you wish everybody the best and you want everybody to be safe,” Hickman said. “We’re a close-knit community; we’re a very small community. When we come together we’re one team. We’re one family.”