Posts in Category: Texas Army National Guard

Airborne infantry drops into Golden Coyote training exercise

Story by: Staff Sgt. Michael Beck

129th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

Posted: June 17, 2015

 U.S. Army Lt. Col. Max Krupp, commander of the 1st Battalion, 143rd Infantry Regiment (Airborne), Texas Army National Guard, prepares to jump out of a C-130J aircraft flying over the Black Hills of South Dakota, during Golden Coyote training exercise, June 7, 2015. Golden Coyote gives service members from all over the country and world an opportunity to train on their skills. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Bryant Abel/Released)
U.S. Army Lt. Col. Max Krupp, commander of the 1st Battalion, 143rd Infantry Regiment (Airborne), Texas Army National Guard, prepares to jump out of a C-130J aircraft flying over the Black Hills of South Dakota, during Golden Coyote training exercise, June 7, 2015.
Golden Coyote gives service members from all over the country and world an opportunity to train on their skills. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Bryant Abel/Released)

CAMP GUERNSEY, Wyo. – National Guard Soldiers perform combat airdrop training at Camp Guernsey, Wyo., as a part of the 31st Golden Coyote training exercise hosted by the South Dakota National Guard, June 6-20.

The Texas Army National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 143rd Infantry Regiment (Airborne), is performing four jump missions during the exercise.

“Our first jump was challenging,” said Spc. Susana Olalde, a cook with the 143rd’s Forward Support Company. “We jump with all of our gear, which is pretty heavy.”

These airborne Soldiers carry their full gear which includes their weapon, kevlar and up to a 100-pound rucksack while jumping out of an aircraft.

A few of the Soldiers made their first jump outside of Airborne School

“I was a little nervous on my first jump,” said 1st Sgt. Jose Gilberto Del Bosque, of the 143rd’s Forward Support Company, who made his first jump this exercise at 46 years old. “It turned out fine once I focused on what I was doing and did what the jump masters told me to do.”

The 143rd will be utilizing a range of aircraft this year as a part of their operations.

“Our deployment jump used two C-17 and five C-130 Air Force aircraft,” said Lt. Col. Max Krupp, commander of 1-143rd Infantry.

The airborne unit not only conducts operations during the day but they also jump at night.

“We conduct operations in hours of limited visibility to leverage our night vision capabilities and increase stealth,” said Krupp.

The 143rd’s final jump during Golden Coyote will be the beginning of the full-scale cumulating training event, and will consist of three C-130 aircraft delivering a 150-man strike force to assault multiple objectives. The unit expects to perform a total of 720 individual jumps during this year’s exercise.

High-resolution photos are available at www.flickr.com/southdakotanationalguard

Texas Military partners with Native American Tribes to preserve Texas history

Story by: Capt. Martha Nigrelle

Posted: June 8, 2015

Capt. Martha Nigrelle Maj. Gen. John F. Nichols, adjutant general of Texas, left, and Charles Coleman, Thlopthlocco Tribal Town, right, sign letters of understanding during an annual tribal consultation conference to discuss the preservation and protection of historic resources located on Texas military lands, May 19-20, 2015, in Austin, Texas. The Texas Military Forces work one-on-one with tribes who trace their historic roots to Texas, for any period of time, in an effort to record both Texas military history and Texas tribal history for future generations. (Texas National Guard photo by Army Capt. Martha Nigrelle/Released)
Capt. Martha Nigrelle
Maj. Gen. John F. Nichols, adjutant general of Texas, left, and Charles Coleman, Thlopthlocco Tribal Town, right, sign letters of understanding during an annual tribal consultation conference to discuss the preservation and protection of historic resources located on Texas military lands, May 19-20, 2015, in Austin, Texas. The Texas Military Forces work one-on-one with tribes who trace their historic roots to Texas, for any period of time, in an effort to record both Texas military history and Texas tribal history for future generations. (Texas National Guard photo by Army Capt. Martha Nigrelle/Released)

AUSTIN, Texas - Members of the Texas Military Forces gathered with representatives of seven Native American tribes in an annual tribal consultation conference to discuss the preservation and protection of historic resources located on Texas military lands, May 19-20, 2015 in Austin.

The Texas Military Forces work one-on-one with tribes who trace their historic roots to Texas, for any period of time, in an effort to record both Texas military history and Texas tribal history for future generations.

“We have to maintain the history of the place that we live,” said Maj. Gen. John F. Nichols, the adjutant general of Texas. “We are a part of this history. By preserving Texas history, we preserve our history too.”

The Texas Military Forces operates five training sites across the state, covering approximately 30,000 acres of land. These 30,000 acres have had numerous residents in the past 8,000 years – different tribes, different people and now, the Texas Guard. It is this fact that forged a unique relationship between the military and a diverse group of Native American tribes.

In the 1990s, the Texas military began consulting with Tribal representatives in order to identify artifacts and locations of significance.

Today, representatives from the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe, Caddo Tribe, Comanche Nation, Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana, Alabama-Quassarte Tribal Town, Thlopthlocco Tribal Town, Kiowa Tribe, Mescalero Apache Tribe, Tonkawa Tribe, Wichita and Affiliated Tribes and the Apache Tribe of Oklahoma regularly meet with Texas military officials to discuss efforts being made to preserve both their heritage and ancient Texas history.

It’s a partnership that has forged a mutual respect and friendship.

“When they come to visit the tribes, they learn tribal traditions and tribal customs – this makes the relationship good,” said Charles Coleman, Thlopthlocco tribal representative and a recognized elder amongst the group, speaking of the guardsmen and Texas Military Forces representatives he works with one on one. “It all boils down to the personal relationships – them learning from us, us learning from them.”

This year’s conference opened when Nichols welcomed tribal representatives back to Austin and Coleman presented Nichols with a gift from his tribe, thanking Nichols for the efforts the Texas military takes in understanding Texan tribal history.

“It’s important to us, because it’s important to you,” said Nichols.

The conference continued with presentations from both the military and the tribal representatives present, focusing on upcoming renovations scheduled for training sites, current archaeological projects, improving access to artifacts and records from the military for tribal representatives and addressing any concerns on ways to improve the partnership and the preservation process.

During this time, training site commanders were recognized for their dedication to each training area.

“That’s their little piece of heaven and they want to take care of it,” said Lt. Col. Jamey Creek, commander, Training Centers Garrison Command, Texas Military Forces. “We want our training sites sustainable for many years.”

Cultural sensitivity training is a part of what all service members using the training grounds must go through said Creek. This is to help ensure that historical artifacts and sites found on military training grounds are taken care of appropriately.

As this topic continued, Nichols recommended that future training plans incorporate tribal partners in the planning and development of these classes. This idea was met with enthusiasm from both groups as a possibility for the future.

“It’s nice to be able to pick up the phone and speak to someone who you know cares about your concerns,” said Coleman. “We can use our resources and the National Guard can use their resources. It’s important that we look at the same thing.”

As the conference drew to a close, old friends and new friends said their goodbyes and reflected on the ties that bind – preserving a shared history for future generations to learn from.

“Artifacts need to come out of the shed,” said Coleman, “And into the head of the youth of America."

Texas guardsmen pay tribute to soldier killed saving drowning son

Story by: Capt. Maria Mengrone, 176th Engineer Brigade

Posted: May 28, 2015

Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Ros, 386th Engineer Battalion, Texas Army National Guard, with his children. Ros, while saving his son from drowning, lost his life on Memorial Day, May 25, 2015. (Photo Courtesy of the Ros family)
Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Ros, 386th Engineer Battalion, Texas Army National Guard, with his children. Ros, while saving his son from drowning, lost his life on Memorial Day, May 25, 2015. (Photo Courtesy of the Ros family)

A Memorial Day celebration turned tragic for a Texas Army National Guard family at Matagorda Beach, May 25, 2015. 

Van Vleck resident, Sgt. 1st Class Joseph T. Ros’ son was pulled under water by a strong riptide. Ros immediately went in to the water to pull his son out, and was able to get his son to safety, but was then pulled under by the same riptide, losing his life.
 
News of his passing quickly spread and invoked a wave of grief and disbelief among guardsmen who served alongside Ros, known to most as simply “Joe,” throughout Ros’ more than 20 years of military service.
  
“All his former soldiers were saying ‘not sergeant Ros, it can’t be him’,” said long-time friend of Ros, Texas Army National Guard Warrant Officer Joey Rodriguez, 237th Engineer Co., 386th Engineer Battalion, 176th Engineer Brigade. “For many of us, he was more than a mentor. He was more like a brother to me.  He pushed me to do better for myself - he is the main reason I became a warrant officer.”

Ros entered service on April 17, 1989 as a combat engineer and served in various engineer units across Texas.  He deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in late 2004 to 2005.

In his first year of service Ros met retired Sgt. Guadalupe Martinez Jr. of Brenham, Texas.

“We met in 1990 and ever since we have remained close friends,” said Martinez. “I remember sitting in the middle of Iraq and Joe asked me, ‘Why are you here in Iraq? Before I could answer, Joe said he was here because it was historical and it was something he wanted to be able to share with his children when they asked about this war.”

“We shared a common goal,” said Martinez. “To serve our country.”  

According to many of the guardsmen who served alongside him, being in the National Guard, for Ros, was about service – to his country and to his fellow Texans.

Just days before he passed, Ros was helping the Guard coordinate the engineer response to severe flooding across the state.

“I had just spoken to him a few days prior because he had volunteered for state active duty to assist in the flood missions,” said Staff Sgt. Nelson M. Zepeda, construction operations sergeant, 272nd Engineer Co. “That’s just the way he was, always wanted to help people.”

His love and dedication to his country and his state was big, but his devotion to his family was even bigger.

 “He loved his wife, three boys and little girl so much; nothing was going to come between his love for them,” said Zepeda. “I’m going to miss his calls and texts so much.”
 
Senior leaders also recognize the lasting impact of losing an important non-commissioned officer like Ros, particularly within the engineer community.

“I count him as one of my friends; I’ve known him for 20 years.  He was an outstanding individual both personally and professionally,“ said Maj. Mikel T. Sledge, battalion executive officer, 386th Engineer Bn.  “It will be a substantial loss to the unit, his friends and his family.”  
Leaders and peers saw him as both a friend and a good soldier.
“When I first met Joe I knew I had a high-speed soldier.  I told him my expectations and showed him the rules and regulations, he took off and excelled,” said retired Sgt. 1st Class McCord, former section sergeant to Ros.  “He was a good man, a good person.”

Ros, a traditional guardsman, also worked in education. He started out as a special education teacher in the Bay City school district. After several years in Bay City, he moved to the Van Vleck school district to work as a high school assistant principal and then the middle school principal. After his tenure as principal, Ros continued his service to the school district, and the children in Van Vleck, as Director of Maintenance and Transportation. 

Van Vleck ISD scheduled an early release day for faculty, staff and students so that they could have an opportunity to attend funeral services for Ros.

“I’m going to miss him greatly,” said McCord.  “I’m praying for his family, he loved them dearly.  Joe Ros is irreplaceable, one of a kind.  He is now an angel in heaven.” 

Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Ros, 386th Engineer Battalion, Texas Army National Guard, and his wife, after returning home from deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom 2004-2005. Ros, while saving his son from drowning, lost his life on Memorial Day, May 25, 2015. (Photo courtesy of the Ros family)
Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Ros, 386th Engineer Battalion, Texas Army National Guard, and his wife, after returning home from deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom 2004-2005. Ros, while saving his son from drowning, lost his life on Memorial Day, May 25, 2015. (Photo courtesy of the Ros family)

 

Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Ros, 386th Engineer Battalion, Texas Army National Guard, pictured here on a deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom 2004-2005. Ros, while saving his son from drowning, lost his life on Memorial Day, May 25, 2015. (Photo courtesy of the Ros family)
Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Ros, 386th Engineer Battalion, Texas Army National Guard, pictured here on a deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom 2004-2005. Ros, while saving his son from drowning, lost his life on Memorial Day, May 25, 2015. (Photo courtesy of the Ros family)

 

 

Texas Guardsmen rescue family from flooding waters

Story by: Capt. Martha Nigrelle

Posted: May 27, 2015

Texas Guardsmen rescue family from flooding watersGRANBURY, Texas - A team of Texas National Guard engineers rescued three people from flooding waters, May 26, 2015 in Granbury, Texas.

Working with local and state first responders, Texas Guardsmen spent the Memorial Day weekend responding to many such calls for help all over Texas.

“We got a call around midnight from the local sheriff’s department,” said 1st Lt. Max Perez, 236th Engineer Company, 111th Engineer Battalion, Texas Army National Guard. “They asked us to check a neighborhood near the Brazos River for flooded homes and anyone in need.”

Perez took his team of engineers and split into two groups to better search the neighborhood for citizens in need.

“The soldiers responded very quickly; they only took 10 or 15 minutes to get ready to go,” said Perez. “They were pretty motivated about the mission – eager to save lives.”

With the help of a local police officer and a local firefighter, the engineers combed through the neighborhood checking on residents.

“We found a stranded car that couldn’t move,” said Perez. “There was water up to the window of the car.”

The engineers immediately stopped and got out to help; each soldier securing themselves to a safety line attached to their military vehicle or another stationary object first. 

“We saw a family – a woman, her daughter, about three or four, and a man, stuck in the car,” said Perez.

Staff Sgt. Thomas Kennington, 111th Forward Support Company, 111th Engineer Battalion, along with several other soldiers, pulled the little girl and her mother from the car and brought them to safety, then returned for the man. Once all three people were safe, the team pulled the vehicle to dry land, to ensure that it wouldn’t wash away, said Perez.

“This is the first time I’ve ever done anything like this,” said Kennington. “When you’re in that moment with lights flashing, water rushing and soldiers around you whose safety you are concerned for – it’s an adrenaline flow.”

The engineers were grateful to have been able to help their fellow citizens in need that day.

“The little girl thanked me over and over for saving her and her Mama,” said Kennington. “That’s what this is all about.”

Perez said he was just thankful to have been asked to help and that he was proud of his soldiers.

“They showed me the reason why they put on the uniform that night,” said Perez. “Their bravery and dedication was amazing.”

Texas Guardsmen rescued more than 100 Texans in need during flooding across the state, mid-late May 2015.

Texas Army National Guard Soldiers stand ready to provide flood support

Story by:  Capt. Maria Mengrone

Posted: May 21, 2015

 Capt. Maria Mengrone Texas Army National Guard soldiers on state active duty, conduct critical water rescue rehearsals with first responders from Texas Task Force 1 (TXTF-1), while on standby to respond to flooding in the North Texas region, May 16, 2015. Guardsmen provided light medium tactical vehicles to emplace TXTF-1 inflatable boats in flood waters to simulate potential flood victim rescues in controlled conditions. Guardsmen often work side by side with local and state partners to help Texans in need during disaster situations. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Capt. Maria Mengrone)
Capt. Maria Mengrone
Texas Army National Guard soldiers on state active duty, conduct critical water rescue rehearsals with first responders from Texas Task Force 1 (TXTF-1), while on standby to respond to flooding in the North Texas region, May 16, 2015. Guardsmen provided light medium tactical vehicles to emplace TXTF-1 inflatable boats in flood waters to simulate potential flood victim rescues in controlled conditions. Guardsmen often work side by side with local and state partners to help Texans in need during disaster situations. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Capt. Maria Mengrone)

DENTON, Texas – Texas Army National Guard Soldiers on state active duty conducted critical water rescue training with first responders from Texas Task Force 1 in response to recent floods in the North Texas region, May 16, 2015.

“We want to practice utilizing inflatable rescue boats during the day, under controlled conditions, so that our National Guard counterparts can implement the necessary safety measures when we are called to go out,” said Jeff Novak, Battalion Chief and Water Group Manager, Texas Task Force 1. 

The training consisted of guardsmen loading Texas Task Force 1 inflatable boats onto the light medium tactical vehicles and backing the vehicles into high water to launch the boats. 

“My soldiers have never backed an LMTV into flood water and I could see their confidence build as they saw the full capabilities of our equipment,” said Sgt. Matthew T. Wallace, squad leader, 236th Engineer Company, 111th Engineer Battalion, 176th Engineer Brigade. 

“Having this preparation time is rare; we are running these evolutions and building a relationship with these soldiers. We’re going to respond together if we are called to move out,” said Ralph Diamond, Captain and Water Squad Leader, Texas Task Force 1. “We see how powerful working together can be and together improve the level of service to the state.”

Guardsmen took turns on the inflatable boats to simulate rescuing a potential flood victim. In addition, the guards’ use of high profile vehicles, such as the LMTV, is a unique asset to Texas Task Force 1. 

“They give us capabilities we do not have,” said Novak. “We are able to be more effective using these high profile vehicles; we can do more, and respond more quickly.” 

Guardsmen and Texas Task Force 1 first responders have been on stand by across the state, to respond to inclement weather and anticipated flooding, May 10-21, 2015. They are scheduled to remain on standby through the weekend, May 22-25, to respond to anticipated storms moving through Texas. 

The Texas Military Forces is made up of the Army and Air National Guard and the Texas State Guard who work for the Governor of Texas during domestic operations. The Texas Military Forces partners with local, state and federal agencies when called upon to support domestic operations and often partners with Texas Task Force 1. Texas Task Force 1 is comprised of various first-responder agencies from the State of Texas who provide search and rescue during domestic operations. Texas Task Force 1 is the most active urban search and rescue team in the country. Both teams are trained and skilled in responding to man-made and natural disasters.

Texas National Guard partners with Texas Task Force 1 during floodwater rescue

Story by: Senior Master Sgt. Elizabeth Gilbert

Posted: May 19, 2015

A meteorologist interviews members of Texas Task Force 1 and the Texas Army National Guard at the Army Natioanl Guard aviation support facility, in Grand Prairie, Texas, May 17, 2015. The combined team rescued a couple in distress early in the day and brought them to safety. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Elizabeth Gilbert/Released)
A meteorologist interviews members of Texas Task Force 1 and the Texas Army National Guard at the Army National Guard aviation support facility, in Grand Prairie, Texas, May 17, 2015. The combined team rescued a couple in distress early in the day and brought them to safety. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Elizabeth Gilbert/Released)

GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas — Members of Texas Task Force 1 and the Texas Military Forces positioned at the Army aviation support facility in Grand Prairie, received a call from a local agency early-morning May 17, 2015, to rescue a couple stranded in front of their mobile home in Johnson County.

“When we arrived on scene, we were looking around the area for hazards and for any situation that could arise to ensure we could safely hoist the stranded couple up,” said Army National Guard, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Blake Arrington, pilot of the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter, Texas Military Forces. “The house was next to the river and the river rose due to the heavy rainfall. Their home was surrounded by water while the current kept ground rescuers away.”

The ground rescue operation failed due to the strong current pushing the boat away from the mobile home. At one point the first responders used a drone to drop a line to the couple and anchor it to their trailer. The line was used to pull a rescue raft towards the couple and extract them from the flood waters. The attempt failed. The call came in to Texas Task Force 1 and the flight was generated.

“The biggest issue we had were wires,” said Arrington. “We had to position the Black Hawk in the best possible way for our swimmers and the victims. We worked together as a team - from the crew chief, to the pilots, to the swimmers.”

The rescue team comprised of two Texas National Guard pilots, two Texas Task Force 1 swimmers and a Texas National Guard crew chief, each skillfully trained to conduct search and rescue operations for distressed Texans. 

It is the swimmers’ job to rescue the stranded from the disaster area, while the crew chief’s job is to be the go-between for the pilots and swimmers.

“He is our main eyes between the pilots and the swimmers. He controls the cable for the swimmers and tells the pilot where to move the Black Hawk,” said Arrington. “The swimmers are a vital part of rescuing; they interact with the victims extracting them from the dangerous situation.”

Once the couple was hoisted into the Black Hawk and secured, they were flown to safety a half mile away, into the hands of local first responders where they were examined for any possible injuries. The couple, safely evacuated from the flood waters, was able to return to their home by nightfall.

“We are just Texans helping Texas, said Arrington. “Here to do a job.” 

The Texas Military Forces is made up of the Army and Air National Guard and the Texas State Guard who work for the Governor of Texas during domestic operations. The Texas Military Forces partners with local, state and federal agencies when called upon to support domestic operations and often partners with Texas Task Force 1. Texas Task Force 1 is comprised of various first-responder agencies from the State of Texas who provide search and rescue during domestic operations. Texas Task Force 1 is the most active urban search and rescue team in the country. Both teams are trained and skilled in responding to man-made and natural disasters.

Religious Support Teams keep the faith abroad, at home

Story by: Staff Sgt. Jennifer Atkinson

Posted: April 26, 2015

Master Sgt. Daniel Griego Staff Sgt. Kelly Lee, Joint Task Force 136 (Maneuver Enhancement Brigade) chaplains' assistant, talks with 1st Lt. James McCann, 625th Network Support Company during annual training, April 19-25, 2015, at Camp Swift, near Bastrop, Texas. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Daniel Griego/Released)
Master Sgt. Daniel Griego
Staff Sgt. Kelly Lee, Joint Task Force 136 (Maneuver Enhancement Brigade) chaplains' assistant, talks with 1st Lt. James McCann, 625th Network Support Company during annual training, April 19-25, 2015, at Camp Swift, near Bastrop, Texas. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Daniel Griego/Released)

AUSTIN, Texas - It's no secret that war is hell, but the Texas Guardsmen of Joint Task Force 136 (Maneuver Enhancement Brigade) can face frightening and disturbing situations during disasters at home, too. After long days and nights spent helping communities after hurricanes or other disasters, even the most resilient personalities benefit from the cheerful smile and caring presence of Staff Sgt. Kelly Lee.

Lee is a key member of the Unit Ministry Team, ready to step in to help take a load off worried minds. Emotional support is absolutely critical in homeland missions, said Lee, the brigade chaplain's assistant. “We're trained to see military personnel put in harm's way,” she said, “but the defense support to civil authorities mission is working with American citizens and we train hard for America's worst day.”

Working a disaster scene can be different from training, said Lee, due to the intimate relationship between Texas citizen-Soldiers and their communities. 

“You can't train for Soldiers to have to deal with mom and dad, and grandma and grandpa and Fido,” she said, “and that can cause folks to break down.”

To help mitigate that stress, the brigade chaplain works a comprehensive religious support plan in to the overall standard operations guide. Ideally, that plan includes a chaplain and assistant who have worked together and know their Guardsmen, said Lee. Working and resting alongside those under their care makes sure the religious support teams, formerly called unit ministry teams, are positioned to be responsive and effective in times of need.

“Best case, we've got one cohesive UMT with the each part of the brigade,” said Lee, “including chaplains in the staging areas.” 

Multiple chaplains also help take care of each other, in case one chaplain is injured or needs support as well.

“This is spiritual care at the tactical level,” said Lee.

Even as other brigade members have “go-bags” ready, the UMT makes sure they're ready at a moment's notice too. A “go-box” with Bibles, religious books, communion supplies and prayer tokens is part of the field packing list.

“They're gestures to show we care, because our entire job is those troops,” she said.

RST care isn't just pastoral or religious, though.

“Being there for someone doesn’t mean you have to be a pastor, or chaplain,” she said.

Going over the events of the day can help Guardsmen put events in perspective.

“What did you do, what did your buddy do? What did you do right? What did you do wrong? What did you hear, or see or smell? That's all important too,” she said.

Learning skills to help other Guardsmen cope is an important part of the training. Traumatic event management courses allow RST members to help both individuals and groups in the field. Those skills, the “ministry of presence” is at least as important as overtly religious support, allowing Lee to be “just there, listening and comforting.”

The biggest challenge for Lee is logistical.

“There are whole lot more of them than there are of us, but we do everything we can to make sure we're out here for them,” she said, but that challenge doesn't deter Lee or any of the RST members.

“When I see a smile on their face,” said Lee, “that's all the reward I need, and they don't even know they're giving it to me half the time. I just don't need anything else.”

Minuteman Brigade, inter-agency training at Disaster City

Story by: Staff Sgt. Jennifer Atkinson

Posted: April 26, 2015

Staff Sgt. Jennifer Atkinson As the start of the 2015 Atlantic hurricane season approaches, the Texas Guardsmen of Joint Task Force 136 (Maneuver Enhancement Brigade) capitalized on the chance to work with other military and civilian agencies during their annual training in Austin, Camp Swift and Disaster City, April 19-25. The nine-day training period was the latest in a long line of exercises to build partnerships and skills to help more Texas communities survive another hurricane season. Soldiers and Airmen transitioned from home station armories to a field environment, testing their response time and mobility capabilities. By responding to a full scale "disaster" and deploying their suite of lifesaving capabilities both civilian and military responders got the opportunity to truly see what each other agency was capable of. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Jennifer D. Atkinson/Released)
Staff Sgt. Jennifer Atkinson
As the start of the 2015 Atlantic hurricane season approaches, the Texas Guardsmen of Joint Task Force 136 (Maneuver Enhancement Brigade) capitalized on the chance to work with other military and civilian agencies during their annual training in Austin, Camp Swift and Disaster City, April 19-25. The nine-day training period was the latest in a long line of exercises to build partnerships and skills to help more Texas communities survive another hurricane season. Soldiers and Airmen transitioned from home station armories to a field environment, testing their response time and mobility capabilities. By responding to a full scale "disaster" and deploying their suite of lifesaving capabilities both civilian and military responders got the opportunity to truly see what each other agency was capable of. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Jennifer D. Atkinson/Released)

DISASTER CITY, Texas - The “Galveston Hurricane.” Celia. Rita. Katrina. Ike. All of them were large-scale, deadly Atlantic hurricanes that touched the lives of hundreds of thousands of Texans; many of them triggering disaster responses across multiple military and civilian agencies to care for the communities in harm's way.

As the start of the 2015 Atlantic hurricane season approaches, the Texas Guardsmen of Joint Task Force 136 (Maneuver Enhancement Brigade) capitalized on the chance to work with other military and civilian agencies during their annual training in Austin, Camp Swift, and Disaster City, April 19-25. The nine-day training period was the latest in a long line of exercises to build partnerships and skills to help more Texas communities survive another hurricane season.

Soldiers and Airmen transitioned from home station armories to a field environment, testing their response time and mobility capabilities. By responding to a full scale "disaster" and deploying their suite of life-saving capabilities both civilian and military responders got the opportunity to truly see what each other agency was capable of.

The National Guard outfit, also called the “Minuteman Brigade,” is the custodian of the Federal Emergency Management Agency homeland response force mission for FEMA Region VI, supporting local, state and federal assets throughout Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas. This mission means the Round Rock-based unit can, and does, partner with agencies from all over the region and country.

"This is great preparation for hurricane season. It really exercises the complex nature of a large-scale disaster," said Brig. Gen. Patrick Hamilton, commander for the Texas Military Forces’ Domestic Operations Task Force. "There are numerous inter-agency partners here. For some, it's the first time they've seen what we do."

“Mobilized” at the request of the governor and local civil authorities as “Hurricane Matthias” barreled down on Houston, the troops refined their life-saving techniques and improved inter-agency communication, ensuring that if disaster strikes, all support elements will be prepared to integrate seamlessly with units and personnel outside of the Texas Military Forces.

“It’s just so great for our Soldiers and our Airmen to get a chance to work with all of those different entities that they would see in a real world situation,” said Col. Lee Schnell, the commander for JTF-136 (MEB).

Saturday, April 25, was the day for the Guardsmen to truly stretch their legs. Some worked with Texas Urban Search and Rescue to search for and extract casualties, while others went deep under collapsing structures to share shoring and rigging techniques with the Texas Task Force 1 structures crew. Experts from Texas A&M Veterinary School passed along canine decontamination procedures while medical teams practiced triage and treatment on a variety of “wounds.”

According to Texas A&M Engineering Extension service, the agency in charge of Disaster City, more than 900 personnel took part in the exercise. These first responders were in turn supported by the 560 members of the Minuteman Brigade, bringing specialized military capabilities to the overall lifesaving efforts.

“In this particular scenario, really one of the highlights is working with our civilian first responder partners,” said Schnell. “Wednesday, we worked with Austin Fire Department, Williamson County Hazmat, Austin Hazmat, Austin Fire Department, Travis County Medical Examiner’s Office, and on Saturday, we got a chance to work with the Texas and Utah Urban Search and Rescue team.”

At the end of the day, the depth of knowledge gained by hands-on time with diverse partners allows everyone involved to better serve their communities and fellow Texans.

"Working with the Texas National Guard is one of the best parts of my job,” said Brett Dixon, TX-TF1, Helicopter Search and Rescue Program manager. “We all have a genuine shared interest in helping the citizens of Texas."

Texas Guardsmen double annual training value

Story by: Sgt. Suzanne Carter

Posted: April 24, 2015

Courtesy Photo Guardsmen with the Texas National Guard's 836th Chemical Company, 6th Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and High-Yield Explosives (CBRNE) Enhanced Response Force Package, Joint Task Force 136 (Maneuver Enhancement Brigade), move an injured civilian into a chemical decontamination line during a training exercise at Govalle Waste Water Treatment Plant in Austin, Texas, as part of their weeklong annual training period April 22, 2015. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Martha Guerrero/Released)
Courtesy Photo
Guardsmen with the Texas National Guard's 836th Chemical Company, 6th Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and High-Yield Explosives (CBRNE) Enhanced Response Force Package, Joint Task Force 136 (Maneuver Enhancement Brigade), move an injured civilian into a chemical decontamination line during a training exercise at Govalle Waste Water Treatment Plant in Austin, Texas, as part of their weeklong annual training period April 22, 2015. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Martha Guerrero/Released)

BASTROP, Texas - National Guard troops of the Joint Task Force 136 (Maneuver Enhancement Brigade) conducted dual mission training exercises at Camp Swift in Bastrop, Texas and other locations around the state during their weeklong annual training period April 19-26, 2015.

Service members practiced their Soldier skills while performing emergency response operations in order to build competence as the custodians of the FEMA Region VI Homeland Response Force mission.

“Any time that we’re training, we’re going to be doing both our Defense Support to Civil Authorities mission as well as our Army mission,” said Col. Lee Schnell, JTF 136 (MEB) commander. “It’s kind of just what we do.”

Training for the brigade’s DSCA mission provided opportunities for Soldiers to apply their warrior tasks and military occupational specialty skills. Members of the 436th Chemical Company, part of the 6th Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and high-yield Explosive (CBRNE) Enhanced Response Force Package, said that their experience with Army equipment supports their HRF mission readiness.

“We are conducting reconnaissance operations in buddy teams using a joint chemical agent detector,” Sgt. Cody Hammond said. “We use these to find a contaminated area so that we can mark the terrain and give the command element a picture of the area of operations. If necessary, we can use these during a [DSCA] mission.”

Soldiers and their leaders valued the chance to work with their military (green) equipment, getting back to the basics of their traditional Army role while still supporting their disaster response (white) mission.

“This year we are going to continue with more green training in combination with the white because we need to be ready for both missions,” said Capt. Marilu Wilkinson, commander of the 436th Chemical Company. “[The Soldiers are] getting some good training with the equipment. They’re very excited to do this green training.”

Maintaining their HRF mission means that the brigade must be prepared to react to natural disasters, terrorist attacks, or other devastating incidents that may occur in Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, or New Mexico. Covering such a diverse region means that Soldiers must be mobile and adaptable to any environment, which is why the troops trained at the Govalle Waste Water Treatment Plant in Austin and Disaster City in College Station, in addition to Camp Swift. Training for the HRF mission includes responding to notional scenarios with the full force of the brigade’s capabilities like chemical decontamination, search and rescue and medical triage. 

“We responded to a plane crash that involved a large number of personnel in a contaminated environment,” said Sgt. 1st Class Jason Sanchez, a platoon sergeant with 836th Engineer Company, also part of the 6th CERFP, about the Govalle scenario of their annual training. “During that exercise we allowed our junior members to go ahead and take charge while our senior leaders became the worker bees. The results were astounding.”

Sanchez said that giving junior Soldiers control of the situation allowed them to take ownership of their role in the response efforts and perform above expectations.

“They reacted well to the situation, called up reports, kept everybody informed, provided a good plan for their response, and then sent up a clear picture of the situation to the leadership in the [tactical operations center],” he said.

Spc. Kimberly Pena with the 236th Military Police Company, part of the CBRNE Assistance Support Element, appreciated the opportunity to be more responsible for her role in supporting emergency response efforts, which includes guiding civilians toward help.

“We have to be in communication with other elements on the ground to find out the information that we need,” she said. “It’s not up to the [noncommissioned officers] to always do that for us. It’s more individual responsibility to talk to civilians and get them where they need to go to get help.”

Pushing junior service members into leadership roles expands their capacity for overcoming obstacles and accomplishing any mission that comes their way.

“What Soldiers do best is solving problems creatively,” Schnell said. “This training puts leadership in the environment where they have to use the Soldiers to the best of their abilities and challenge everybody all the way up and down the chain of command. Our junior members are very smart when it comes to solving problems and our leaders are learning that if they give their Soldiers broad directions, they can count on the Soldiers to figure out a solution.”

Conducting dual trainings like this not only encourages Soldiers to take on more active roles in their training, but also brings them together as a team and builds morale.

“The teamwork, the adventure, the excitement, the communication,” said Pfc. Espinoza Mariano of the 836th Engineer Company, “everything about it has been awesome.”

Soldiers, employers bridge gap between military, civilian worlds

Story by: Staff Sgt. Amanda Zuniga

Posted: April 23, 2015

Staff Sgt. John Sands A civilian employer fires a machine gun at Camp Swift in Bastrop, Texas, during an Employer Support for Guard and Reserve event with the 636th Brigade Support Battalion, Joint Task Force 136 (Maneuver Enhancement Brigade), as part of the unit's weeklong annual training period April 21, 2015. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. John Sands/Released)
Staff Sgt. John Sands
A civilian employer fires a machine gun at Camp Swift in Bastrop, Texas, during an Employer Support for Guard and Reserve event with the 636th Brigade Support Battalion, Joint Task Force 136 (Maneuver Enhancement Brigade), as part of the unit's weeklong annual training period April 21, 2015. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. John Sands/Released)

BASTROP, Texas - Guardsmen of the 636th Brigade Support Battalion, Joint Task Force 136 (Maneuver Enhancement Brigade), welcomed their employers to spend a day in the life of a Soldier at Camp Swift in Bastrop, Texas, during the unit’s weeklong annual training period April 21, 2015.

The “Boss Lift” experience, coordinated through the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, allowed participants to gain a better perspective on what the National Guard can do in response to natural disasters and what training is like for their citizen-Soldiers.

“The military has other capabilities than just the combat role,” said City of Marshall Mayor Ed Smith. “Now I know how the military would fit into a city’s disaster plan.” 

Civil servants from Marshall, Texas, attended the event with employers because the city is home to the 636th BSB Headquarters.

“Even though they may not be a direct employer, constituents that live in that community are here in this formation,” said Lt. Col. John Crawson, 636th BSB commander. “Harrison County and the City of Marshall are extremely supportive of our National Guard units, and they never get a chance to see what we do. This is great community outreach."

The visitors had the opportunity to fire machine guns, enjoy a Meal, Ready-to-Eat, ride in a military helicopter, and visit a tactical operations center. Many of the employers only had a vague idea of what their employees do on training weekends. 

“I think that it’s one thing to regale [our bosses] with stories of the stuff that we do,” said Capt. Lucas Hamilton of the 636th BSB. “It’s a completely different thing when [they] can come out here and see what we do, the area that we’re in, some of the operations that we do and see some of the training that we do.”

Boss Lift participants got a first-hand look at what it takes to be a Soldier, whose job in the National Guard may be completely different from their civilian job. Soldiers train long and hard to be proficient in each of their military professions. 

“It made me respect the military more and appreciate the dedication you put into your training,” said Anthony Miller of Full Thrust Taekwondo, whose wife serves in the 636th BSB. “I will support the Guard more and the job my spouse does.”

This was not the first time that bosses have visited their Soldier employees, nor will it be the last.

“It’s really important that employers see why their soldiers are missing work,” Crawson said. “It’s almost like a family, and your employer is a part of that family."