Posts in Category: Texas Army National Guard

WWII Purple Heart Medals return home

Story by: Maj. Randall Stillinger

Posted: July 28, 2015

Maj. Randall Stillinger The Purple Heart Medal of Pfc. James T. Hull is embraced by his brother, retired Command Sgt. Maj. Cecil Hull during a ceremony on July 24, 2015. Pfc. Hull was killed in action during the 36th Infantry Division’s Salerno Beach Landing during World War II and was awarded the medal posthumously. After receiving his brother’s medal, Hull donated it to the 36th Infantry Division where it will be displayed on the wall of its headquarters building in Austin. (36th Infantry Division photo by Maj. Randall Stillinger)
Maj. Randall Stillinger
The Purple Heart Medal of Pfc. James T. Hull is embraced by his brother, retired Command Sgt. Maj. Cecil Hull during a ceremony on July 24, 2015. Pfc. Hull was killed in action during the 36th Infantry Division’s Salerno Beach Landing during World War II and was awarded the medal posthumously. After receiving his brother’s medal, Hull donated it to the 36th Infantry Division where it will be displayed on the wall of its headquarters building in Austin. (36th Infantry Division photo by Maj. Randall Stillinger)

SAN ANTONIO - The Purple Hearts of two fallen World War II Soldiers were returned during a patriotic ceremony on July 24 at a local health care and rehabilitation center.

The lost medals, which were recovered by the non-profit organization Purple Hearts Reunited (PHR), were presented to the family of one of the fallen, and then turned over to the commanding general of the 36th Infantry Division.

The first medal, which was posthumously awarded to Pfc. James Thomas Hull, was presented to retired Army Command Sgt. Maj. Cecil Hull, his last surviving brother and a recipient of the Purple Heart himself.

Pfc. Hull was born Jan. 24, 1919, to Rufus and Pocahontas “Honto” Johnson Hull in Moulton, Texas. He enlisted on November 25, 1940 and served with Company L, 3rd Battalion, 141st Infantry Regiment, 36th Infantry Division. 

After months of final preparation in North Africa, the 36th conducted the first amphibious assault by an American division in the European theater near Salerno, Italy on Sept. 9, 1943. The 3-141st sustained heavy casualties during the beach assault and landing. Among those killed in action that day was a young Pfc. Hull.

Reuniting the Purple Heart

Several years ago, a Highland, Calif. resident discovered the medal while cleaning out a home and contacted retired Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Paul C. Pfeifer, a member of the local American Legion post. In June the post reached out to PHR, and within a few hours they had located the Hull family in San Antonio.

Retired U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Col. Mitchell Bell and retired Air Force Lt. Col. Dennis Hensley, members of the PHR Valor Guard, traveled to San Antonio to present the medal during the emotional ceremony. Hull’s wife of 69 years, Sophie, spoke on behalf of her ailing husband.

“I can’t express my feelings for all that you’ve done,” she said. “This means so much to us and I know what it means to him. Thank you for all of this.”

To preserve the medal, the family donated it to the 36th Infantry Division of the Texas Army National Guard. Division Commander, Maj. Gen. Lester Simpson, received the medal from Hull and will display it at the division headquarters in Austin, where it will be honored and protected by current and future Soldiers. 

“I’m happy to be here to accept the medal that represents your brother’s service and sacrifice, and appreciate the work that Purple Hearts Reunited does to get these back to the families,” Simpson said. “We’re certainly happy to have these medals back home.” 

A Second Medal Comes Home

Bell also presented a second Purple Heart to Simpson during the ceremony at the Pecan Valley Rehabilitation and Health Care Center. The medal belonged to Pvt. Joseph Eugene "Gene" Bone, who was born August 19, 1920 in Taylor County, Georgia to Joseph Jackson and Eva Fannie Mott Bone. 

Pvt. Bone enlisted on April 28, 1943 and served with the 143rd Infantry Regiment, another unit within the 36th Infantry Division. He had survived the amphibious landing at Salerno and fought to capture the village of San Pietro despite strong enemy resistance and severe winter weather. He sacrificed his life on February 7, 1944 as the division attempted to secure a bridgehead across the Rapido River and is buried at the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery in Nettuno, Italy.

In January 2014, veteran Gariel Burchett contacted the Military Order of the Purple Heart after finding the medal while cleaning out his mother-in-law’s home. Since Pvt. Bone's family is no longer living, the Burchett family requested that the medal be delivered to an appropriate place where it can be viewed by others. The medal will be placed on the wall in the division headquarters next to the one belonging to Pfc. Hull along with stories that tell of their service and sacrifice.

“We’re working very hard to get our young Soldiers interested in the history and legacy of the division,” Simpson said. “Our headquarters is a great place for these Purple Hearts so they can see and read about those who have sacrificed and died in defense of our country.”

“These men joined the same unit and fought in the battle of Salerno. Pfc. Hull gave his life on that beach while attacking the Germans. Pvt. Bone survived another four months and died while fighting to cross a river,” Bell said. “They sacrificed in the final act of their military career. They died in service to their country.”

Purple Hearts Reunited

Purple Hearts Reunited was created in 2012 by Army Capt. Zachariah Fike, who was wounded during combat in Afghanistan. The non-profit organization, which relies on grants and donations to continue the mission, has returned over 150 lost or stolen medals and artifacts to family members or museums. The return of these two medals was sponsored by a grant from the Military Order of the Purple Heart Service Foundation. Framing of the medals was generously donated by Village Frame Shoppe & Gallery in St. Albans, Vermont.

The return of these medals actually makes a total of three 36th Infantry Division Purple Hearts that have been delivered within a week. The medal belonging to Pvt. Berlin E. Small was also returned to his family in Brainbridge Island, Wash.

“The return of three medals to the same division within a week is definitely historic from a PHR perspective. I would like to think that these guys have been orchestrating these efforts together from up above,” Fike said. “I truly appreciate everyone's effort on this project.”

Houston Astros host deploying Signal guardsmen

Story by:  Sgt. Elizabeth Peña
 
 Posted: July 19, 2015

Sgt. Elizabeth Peña Warrant Officer Audrey M. Foushee speaks during the deployment ceremony for the Texas National Guard's 136th Expeditionary Signal Battalion, hosted by the Houston Astros, at Minute Maid Park in Houston, Texas, July 18, 2015. This marks the first time that the Texas National Guard has been supported by a Major League Association for a mobilization event. (Texas Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Elizabeth Pena/Released)
Sgt. Elizabeth Peña
Warrant Officer Audrey M. Foushee speaks during the deployment ceremony for the Texas National Guard's 136th Expeditionary Signal Battalion, hosted by the Houston Astros, at Minute Maid Park in Houston, Texas, July 18, 2015. This marks the first time that the Texas National Guard has been supported by a Major League Association for a mobilization event. (Texas Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Elizabeth Pena/Released)

HOUSTON — Friends and family of the Texas National Guard’s 136th Expeditionary Signal Battalion gathered at Minute Maid Park in Houston, Texas, July 18, 2015, to give their final blessings as the unit prepares to depart for Kuwait and surrounding areas for a nine-month deployment. The farewell ceremony, hosted by the Houston Astros, took place just before game two of their Lone Star Series against the Texas Rangers.

“This is the first time the Texas National Guard has been sponsored by a Major League association,” said Lt. Col. Tanya Trout, commander of the 136th ESB. “We have over a third of our Soldiers that have never been deployed before, so to be able to send them off like this is tremendous.”

The 136th ESB is a Houston-based signal battalion that belongs to Joint Task Force 136 (Maneuver Enhancement Brigade), headquartered in Round Rock, Texas. During their deployment, the unit will be responsible for providing voice and network capabilities to other military assets across seven countries, including Kuwait, Jordan, The United Arab Eremites, and Egypt. 

The battalion is made up of approximately 300 Soldiers from the Texas and Alabama National Guards and will fall under the regular Army’s 160th Strategic Signal Brigade while overseas.

The ceremony featured the casing of the battalion colors, an Army tradition that is used to demonstrate an organization moving to a new theater of operations. The colors, which represent the 136th ESB’s mission and lineage, are carried wherever the unit goes and are kept safe by the senior enlisted member. In this case, that responsibility falls to the battalion command sergeant major, Command Sgt. Maj. Jeffrey Collins. 

Although this is the first deployment for the 136th ESB, many of the Soldiers are experienced combat veterans. 

“My biggest challenge is being back and forth from my son,” said Sgt. Darin Goodwin of C Company, 136th ESB. “He’s about a year old so he is kind of understanding but kind of upset that daddy keeps leaving and coming back. My wife is military so we have a good understanding of everything. This is what I love. It’s what we do.”

The unit recently completed training at Camp Swift, Texas, where they refreshed their basic Soldier fundamentals including land navigation, combat drills, and convoy operations. 

“Over the last few weeks when we did the pre-mobilization training we really got to bond on a more day to day, 24/7 basis, and I’m inspired by all of them,” said Trout. “Each and every individual sacrifice they make, how quick to learn and how motivated as you can see today.”

Next is the last stage of their training at Fort Hood, Texas, which focuses on their signal mission and ensures they have the latest equipment and skills for the modern battlefield. 

“We are always ready to be on the move, it’s a part of our training,” said Spc. Raven Lewis, a logistics coordinator for the 136th ESB. “We make sure that we remain proactive in case we have to go support someone else.”

This ceremony gives Soldiers one last opportunity to give their give their loved ones final hugs and kisses before stepping on the plane for the middle east.

“It’s pretty cool to have the support from back home,” said Lewis. “Not only do you have your family with you but you have your support from people that live in the general area that want to see you return safely with the troops.”

Texas Signal Guardsmen prepare for deployment

Story by: Master Sgt. Daniel Griego

Posted: July 2, 2015

 Master Sgt. Daniel Griego Soldiers with the Texas National Guard's 136th Expeditionary Signal Battalion conduct pre-mobilization training June 29 at Camp Swift in Bastrop, Texas. This training, which includes weapons familiarization, chemical training, land navigation, and other basic warrior skills, is in preparation for the unit's upcoming deployment to Kuwait and surrounding areas. The Houston-based outfit, part of Joint Task Force 136 (Maneuver Enhancement Brigade), trained from June 22 through July 11 at Camp Swift before conducting its farewell ceremony in Houston. (Photo by Master Sgt. Daniel Griego/Released)
Master Sgt. Daniel Griego
Soldiers with the Texas National Guard's 136th Expeditionary Signal Battalion conduct pre-mobilization training June 29 at Camp Swift in Bastrop, Texas. This training, which includes weapons familiarization, chemical training, land navigation, and other basic warrior skills, is in preparation for the unit's upcoming deployment to Kuwait and surrounding areas. The Houston-based outfit, part of Joint Task Force 136 (Maneuver Enhancement Brigade), trained from June 22 through July 11 at Camp Swift before conducting its farewell ceremony in Houston. (Photo by Master Sgt. Daniel Griego/Released)

CAMP SWIFT, Texas – For three weeks from June 21 to July 11, more than 200 men and women of the Texas Army National Guard’s 136th Expeditionary Signal Battalion conduct pre-mobilization training at Camp Swift in Bastrop, Texas. This training, which focuses on basic warrior skills common to all Soldiers, prepares the troops for their upcoming deployment to Kuwait and surrounding countries.

“It’s good to have a foundation; it’s good to sharpen up all our skills,” said Spc. Dilan Goodwin, a network operator with C Company, 136th ESB. “You never know when you’re going to need it in combat.”

This training period is the first of two preparatory rounds for the battalion, with the second happening later this month at Fort Hood where they’ll train on their signal mission. Once at Fort Hood, the headquarters company and C Company will be joined by A Company from the Alabama National Guard. 

“The ESB is a communications battalion, so what we’re going to be doing is providing backbone communications,” said Chief Warrant Officer Wade Vrtis, a network technician with HHC, 136th ESB. “We’re also going to be running help desks and technical control facilities.”

The organization’s primary objective overseas will be to provide network and voice capabilities to the main elements located throughout seven countries, including Kuwait, Jordan, The United Arab Emirates, and Egypt. 

“It’s a very big mission, very important,” said Vrtis. “It feels like we have something to give and something to provide.”

The training here at Camp Swift focuses on the Soldiers’ traditional Army skills, from weapons familiarization and land navigation to react to contact drills and decontamination.

“The training that we have is very important in case things happen out of your control,” said Vrtis. “But mostly the mission is going to be communication mission, and these guys are pretty good when it comes to communications.”

This will be the first deployment for the signal battalion, which has been around for about six years and falls under the Texas National Guard’s Joint Task Force 136 (Maneuver Enhancement Brigade). For the deployment, the battalion will fall under the 160th Strategic Signal Brigade, the outfit responsible for providing the United States Central Command and Third United State Army with enterprise communications capabilities. 

“We’re also expeditionary, so that means that we’re not afraid to be in a tactical environment,” said 1st Lt. Jouhee Han, the 136th ESB Battle Captain. “So we can set up just about anywhere.”

The Texas Guardsmen will serve for approximately nine months overseas for this deployment. 

“I’m really honored to work with the Soldiers I’m working with,” said Han, “and I’m really honored to be a part of the battalion. I feel that this mission is very important.”

The farewell ceremony for the 136th Expeditionary Signal Battalion will take place July 18th at Houston’s Minute Maid Park before the Houston Astros square off against the Texas Rangers. This event marks the first time for a deployment ceremony in Texas to take place at a major sporting event.

PSYOPS Reservists support Texas Guard exercise

PSYOP Reservists support Texas Guard exercise

Story by: Sgt. Elizabeth Pena

Posted: June 21, 2015

Sgt. Elizabeth Peña Soldiers from the Army Reserves' 341st Tactical Psychological Operations Company "Kiowa" supported the Texas National Guard's 36th Infantry Division in their two-week Warfighter exercise held at Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas, May 29 through June 12. Soldiers of the 341st developed and implemented different PSYOP products to use in support of the 36th Inf. Div.’s Warfighter. These training objectives increase the overall combat effectiveness of operations. (Texas Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Elizabeth Pena/Released)
Sgt. Elizabeth Peña
Soldiers from the Army Reserves' 341st Tactical Psychological Operations Company "Kiowa" supported the Texas National Guard's 36th Infantry Division in their two-week Warfighter exercise held at Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas, May 29 through June 12. Soldiers of the 341st developed and implemented different PSYOP products to use in support of the 36th Inf. Div.’s Warfighter. These training objectives increase the overall combat effectiveness of operations. (Texas Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Elizabeth Pena/Released)

FORT HOOD, Texas - Soldiers from throughout the Army’s three components came to Texas to support the 36th Infantry Division "Arrowhead" during their Warfighter exercise, held in Fort Hood, Texas, May 29 – June 12, 2015.

The controlled exercise, which also featured the regular Army and Army Reserves, was designed to test the battle skills and procedures of the Texas National Guard’s 36th Infantry Division through simulated deployment scenarios. 

"Warfighter is important because it's not just the 36th Infantry Division from Texas, but it is a multi-state, multi-organizational exercise,” said Maj. Gen. John Nichols, the Texas adjutant general.

Among the organizations that came to support the mission was the Army Reserves’ 341st Tactical Psychological Operations Company (TPC) from Camp Bullis in San Antonio, Texas. The unit, which handles the analysis, development, and distribution of intelligence, enables tactical commanders to communicate directly with the enemy and foreign civilians during combat operations. 

“PSYOP is marketing,” said Army Spc. Lindsey Hoffman, assistant team leader for the 341st TPC. “Our target is to persuade, influence, and change the behavior of a foreign target audience based upon the commander’s intent.”

The TPC is one of the main components that make up the psychological operations (PSYOP) element, which includes a headquarters section, a tactical PSYOP development detachment (TPDD), and a tactical PSYOP detachment (TPD).

During Warfighter, the 341st TPC replicated a headquarters capability with an organic Product Development Detachment (PPD).

“This kind of exercise is a great opportunity for the PDD to train and show the supported unit what they are able to accomplish,” said Army 1st Sgt. Benny Witt, the 341st TCP first sergeant.

Soldiers of the 341st developed and implemented different PSYOP products to use in support of the 36th Inf. Div.’s Warfighter. These training objectives increase the overall combat effectiveness of operations. 

“Other exercises are limited to a TPD supporting a maneuver commander,” said Maj. Roxana Pagan, company commander for the 341st TPC. “Only this high level of exercise can provide the same opportunity to not only the PDD, but also the company headquarters."

The two-week training gives units like the 341st TPC and the 36th Inf. Div. an opportunity to come together and train in their mission-specific roles so that they are prepared for real-life combat operations.

“When we deploy, this is the same set up that we operate,” said Staff Sgt. George Rodriquez, noncommissioned officer in charge of PDD. “We bring our equipment, and just like in real life we have to manage expectations because PSYOP is not something that can just happen at the drop of a hat.”

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.