Posts in Category: Texas Army National Guard

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."

Community interacts with Texas Military Forces

Story by: Sgt. Praxedis Pineda

Posted: April 19, 2015

Courtesy Photo A Soldier with the 36th Infantry Division fights against enemy German Soldiers during a WWII reenactment at the Texas Military Forces Open House and Air Show at Camp Mabry April 18, 2015. Camp Mabry and its facilities are open to the public. Events like these help to form a better relationship and understanding between Texas Military Forces and the Austinites who live around the post.
A soldier with the 36th Infantry Division, Texas Army National Guard, fights against enemy soldiers during a WWII reenactment at the Texas Military Forces Open House and Air Show at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas, April 18, 2015. Events like these help to form a better relationship and understanding, of the Texas Guard mission, between Texas Military Forces and the community.

AUSTIN, TEXAS – Highlighting more than three decades of local, state and federal partnership, the Texas Military Forces and first responders demonstrate teamwork during the Texas Military Forces Open House and Air Show at Camp Mabry in Austin, April 18, 2015. The free two-day event welcomed the local community to view this partnership.

“We host this event to thank our friends and neighbors,” said Maj. Gen. John F. Nichols, the adjutant general of Texas.

Because of operational tempo and mission requirements, it’s not usually possible for visitors to interact with the service members and first responders. 

“We’re always in such a hurry,” said Patrick Phillips, flight paramedic with the Travis County Start Flight. “When we’re operational there’s not an opportunity to visit.”

The open house lets agencies slow down to demonstrate their capabilities. 

“People can see what we do in a friendly environment,” said Phillips. “It’s an opportunity for us to display our equipment.”

Displays included helicopters, trucks and boats used during combat and emergency operations. Some visitors touched and even operated some of the equipment.

“My kids can connect the things they see in the movies with reality,” said Jessie Metcalf, a community member that lives in the surrounding neighborhood.

Agencies clarified many myths and misconceptions visitors had in regards to their capabilities. 

“This is a great insight to different emergency services, and not just fire,” said Lt. Jarrett Jobes, member of the Austin Fire Department Special Operations rescue team. “The unit responds to hazardous material, cave rescues and water rescues.”

The event endorsed the “Partnerships That Matter” theme, and informed the community of the teamwork performed between agencies.

“We learned about the camaraderie and connections between the volunteers,” said Metcalf. 

Throughout the year, Texas Military Forces and first responders work together to strengthen their partnerships.

“We work pretty close with the Texas Military Forces and the police,” said Phillips. 


Modern equipment and weapons were the spotlight this weekend, but the show wasn’t complete without reminders of the past.

“To me it is very important because we’re also remembering those who came before us,” said Nichols.

Visitors traveled through time with activities like the WWII reenactment and multiple vintage weapons demonstrations.

“We learned how they shoot the big guns,” said Miguel Ornelas, Palm Elementary School student.

While some displays advertised history other events were dedicated to the future. A naturalization ceremony allowed veterans to receive their American citizenship.

“There are some that are Americans by birth, [these veterans] are Americans by choice,” said Mayor of Austin Steve Adler.

This opportunity allows new citizens other options and benefits.

“This was possible because I enlisted,” said Pvt. Carlos Hernandez Del Bosque, Texas Army National Guard. “Now I’m a U.S. citizen. Now I can finish school.”

The spirit of the event flows from veterans, to newly naturalized citizens, to children that want to share their experience with others.

“Try to come next year because it’s a lot of fun,” said Phillips.

Texas Military Forces honorarily enlists young boy battling rare disorder

Story by: Sgt. 1st Class Malcolm McClendon

Posted: April 2, 2015

Honorary enlistee Rowan Windham poses for a picture at his honorary enlistment ceremony held at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas, March 27, 2015. Windham is battling a rare disorder, Shwachmann-Diamond Syndrome, which affects the pancreas, gastro-intestinal tract, immune system, blood and bone marrow. During one of his stays at the Children's Hospital in San Antonio, Windham met Sgt. David Hixson, a medic with the Texas Army National Guard. There, Windham shared his dream of always wanting to be a Soldier and soon after, Hixson, with the help of fellow Texas National Guardsmen, made it all possible. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Malcolm McClendon).
Honorary enlistee Rowan Windham poses for a picture at his honorary enlistment ceremony held at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas, March 27, 2015. Windham is battling a rare disorder, Shwachman-Diamond Syndrome, which affects the pancreas, gastrointestinal tract, immune system, blood and bone marrow. During one of his stays at the Children's Hospital in San Antonio, Windham met Sgt. David Hixson, a medic with the Texas Army National Guard. There, Windham shared his dream of always wanting to be a Soldier and soon after, Hixson, with the help of fellow Texas National Guardsmen, made it all possible. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Malcolm McClendon).

AUSTIN, Texas - With his right hand raised, eight-year-old Rowan Windham took the Oath of Enlistment to become the newest member of the Texas Army National Guard. 

Rowan had the unique opportunity to be given an honorary enlistment into the organization during a ceremony held at its headquarters at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas, March 27, 2015.

After an emotional ceremony for friends and family, the young soldier looked out at the audience, cleared his throat and said, “Thank you. This is the best day of my whole entire life.”

Rowan is currently battling a rare disorder called Shwachman-Diamond Syndrome, which affects the pancreas, gastrointestinal tract, immune system, blood and bone marrow. Rowan has spent more than 900 days in the hospital, received dozens of blood transfusions and made 71 trips to the operating room.

During one of his stays at the Methodist Children’s Hospital of San Antonio, Rowan met nurse’s aide, David Hixson, who is also a combat medic in the Texas Army National Guard. There the two grew close.

“I met Rowan after my last deployment, and we immediately became friends,” Hixson said. “Even though it wasn't under the best circumstances, every time he came back it was like seeing an old buddy.” 

At a recent visit, Hixson informed Rowan that he would be deploying soon, and they would not be able to see each other for a while. This is where the eight-year-old expressed his life-long wish to his friend.

“When I told Rowan I was leaving, he told me he too wanted to be in the Army one day, Hixson said. “So after talking to his mom, I contacted a friend at Camp Mabry, who later contacted a lieutenant colonel in the public affairs office, and it kind of just snowballed from there. And here we are today.”

In front of family, friends and distinguished guests, Rowan swore to uphold the U.S. Constitution as many of his fellow guardsmen in attendance did before him. Rowan’s father, Brian Windham, described the event as overwhelming and shared his son’s interest in the military and strong will to survive.

“Rowan actually enlisted himself into the Army on a piece of paper a couple of years ago, so this is fantastic; he’s got to be way overwhelmed with joy,” Windham said. “He’s always looking to help other people. He has two feeding tubes, one goes to his heart the other to his stomach, and everyday he’ll tell you he has the best life ever.” 

Rowan’s resilient attitude earned him a spot in his new home unit as he was made an honorary member of the 124th Cavalry Regiment. 

“Because we know that you are such a trooper, we want to enlist you into the cavalry,” said Brig. Gen. Sean Ryan, commander of the 71st Troop Command and officiator at the enlistment. “A cavalry soldier always moves forward in battle, and we know that you, Rowan, are always moving forward in your own battles.”

Rowan will continue to combat his illness as he and his family travel to a specialized hospital in Seattle and look at a possible bone marrow transplant. As Ryan states, Rowan is on his way to his own deployment, but not alone, he now has more than 24,000 guardsmen by his side.............MORE PHOTOS

TXSG captures top honors in TXMF pistol competition

Story by: Capt. Esperanza Meza, 19th Regt. PAO

Posted: April 1, 2015

Soldiers TXSG Patch
Photo by: Tanya Lippincott

BASTROP, Texas – Texas State Guard Soldiers from 19th Regiment’s Pistol Team won top honors in the Texas Military Forces Adjutant General’s Combat Pistol competition, Jan. 23-25, 2015, at Camp Swift in Bastrop, Texas.

During the annual Adjutant General’s Pistol Competition, a total of 54 competitors from the Army, Air and State Guard competed for one of eight Governor’s Twenty tabs. Guardsmen competed in four individual matches and two team matches with individual scores configured into the team totals.

The 19th Regiment’s team placed first in the team completion. 2nd Lt. Scott Hunt, 2nd Lt. David Park, Sgt. Sean Mounger and Cpl. Jonathan Kelley made up team, with Mounger finishing first and Hunt finishing third overall during the individual competition. 

The Governor’s Twenty recognizes the top twenty marksmen in the TXMF, with eight tabs for pistol, eight for rifle, two for sniper and two for machine gun. 

Individual events included an anti-body armor match, a combat pistol barricade match and overall excellence in competition. The team competition included the “Patton” match, named after General George Patton, and a steel plate challenge utilizing all four team members, two on pistol and two on sub-machine gun. Shooters fired from 15-30 yards in the standing, kneeling, prone and barricade positions using both strong and weak hand.

Tabs from the pistol competition were awarded to Hunt, Mounger and Park.

“Keeping an open mind and your ego in check allows you to learn and improve from your teammates, that and the discipline to put the time in to practice your training,” said Mounger. “To sum it up, using my favorite quote from a past college professor of mine, ‘You cannot learn what you think you already know.’”

“As Sgt. Mounger suggested, it is important to approach training with an open mind and a willingness to receive coaching regardless of skill level,” said Hunt. “I can’t tell you how many times something doesn’t feel right and I ask another team member to watch me and provide feedback on form and technique.”

Hunt is only the 7th TXMF soldier to earn a Governor’s Twenty tab in all four combat disciplines, since the program began in 1980, earning a total of thirteen tabs since he began competing in 2011. Both Hunt and Mounger were on the winning pistol and rifle teams in 2012. Mounger, a founding member of the 19th Regiment, TXSG Marksmanship Team, has earned a total of twelve tabs. Park, who participated in 2011 and 2014, has earned two previous Governor’s Twenty tabs in pistol and one in rifle.

 “I think our success is the result of mutual respect, healthy competitiveness, confidence and trust,” said Hunt. “While winning is nice and clearly the end goal, the camaraderie developed through months of training and competing is arguably the most satisfying aspect of being on the marksmanship team.”

The 19th Regiment team is comprised of volunteers who pay for their own ammunition, weapons and range-time. 

The competition is organized by the State Competitive Marksmanship (SCM) Program in the Texas National Guard. 

Texas signal leaders prepare for deployment

Story by: Master Sgt. Daniel Griego

Posted: March 29, 2015

Master Sgt. Daniel Griego Staff Sgt. Paul Rivera of the Texas National Guard's 136th Expeditionary Signal Battalion conducts grenade familiarization during the organization's Key Leader Pre-Mobilization Training March 25, 2015, at Camp Mabry in Bastrop, Texas. By conducting their training early, unit leaders will be able to help train and guide the battalion's main body personnel through the same lanes in June. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Daniel Griego/Released)
Master Sgt. Daniel Griego
Staff Sgt. Paul Rivera of the Texas National Guard's 136th Expeditionary Signal Battalion conducts grenade familiarization during the organization's Key Leader Pre-Mobilization Training March 25, 2015, at Camp Mabry in Bastrop, Texas. By conducting their training early, unit leaders will be able to help train and guide the battalion's main body personnel through the same lanes in June. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Daniel Griego/Released)

BASTROP, Texas - The road to deployment is a long one for National Guard units, with months of preparatory training and administrative tasks to fulfill before the Department of Defense approves them for overseas service. The officers and noncommissioned officers of the 136th Expeditionary Signal Battalion got a head start on this process March 21-29 at Camp Swift with a specialized pre-mobilization training for leaders.

Twenty-four members of the signal battalion, which falls under the Texas National Guard’s Joint Task Force 136 (Maneuver Enhancement Brigade), trained for more than a week on warriors skills like reacting to incoming fire, reacting to a vehicle rollover, grenade familiarization and others. 

“It’s a value to the unit,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Jeffrey Collins, command sergeant major for the 136th Expeditionary Signal Battalion, “that when the main body gets here, we can actually monitor what’s going on and we won’t have to be going through while they’re going through. We’re free to do all the administrative things we need to do and prep ourselves to go to the [mobilization] station.”

The leaders on site performing this training included the battalion commander, staff officers, senior noncommissioned officers, and mission-essential personnel who will be able to help guide the main body of the organization through the same drill lanes in June.

“We’ll be going to seven different countries across 32 different sites,” said 136th ESB Commander Lt. Col. Tanya Trout, “so we’re training on all the different areas of operation we could, from IED explosions to individual weapons training and individual movement techniques. We’ll have the big main body PMT in June and then we’ll hit the mobilization platform in July at Fort Hood.”

As a signal unit, the battalion’s primary mission will be to enable communications throughout the region, providing voice and network capabilities for their supported elements. The focus for the next few months, however, will be getting back to the basics of their warrior tasks and providing a tactically and physically fit team of Texas Guardsmen.

“A lot of us get stuck behind desks doing computer work,” said Trout. “It’s good to be out here and remember what it’s like to be a Soldier, to do your three to five second buddy rushes, individual weapons qualification, land navigation, all your basic Soldiering skills.”

The battalion will train through the end of the summer, finishing with a Culminating Training Exercise at Fort Hood to simulate their overseas mission prior to departing. This exercise will be the final certification of their hard work and preparations clearing them for combat service.

“Once we get to platform,” said WO1 Audrey Foushee, the battalion property book officer, “we’ll be validating equipment and personnel in preparation for and during the CTE.”

“The unit’s feeling good,” said Collins. “We know we’ve come a long way, but we still have a long way to go. I think we’re headed in the right direction.”