Posts in Category: Texas Army 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.”

Texas Guard Soldier takes home top honors during Task Force Sinai quarterly competition

Story by: Sgt. Thomas Duval

Posted: March 19, 2015

Story courtesy of: Task Force Sinai

Sgt. Thomas Duval Spc. Ricardo Gonzales, a combat medic from the Minnesota National Guard, currently serving in the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt with Task Force Sinai, performs first aid on a simulated casualty during the unit's Best Warrior Competition held March 18, 2015. During the competition Soldiers underwent a number of mental and physical tests that included trauma lanes, physical fitness test, weapons qualification and a formal board, among others. (U.S. Army Photo By: Sgt. Thomas Duval, Task Force Sinai Public Affairs)
Sgt. Thomas Duval
Spc. Ricardo Gonzales, a combat medic from the Minnesota National Guard, currently serving in the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt with Task Force Sinai, performs first aid on a simulated casualty during the unit's Best Warrior Competition held March 18, 2015. During the competition Soldiers underwent a number of mental and physical tests that included trauma lanes, physical fitness test, weapons qualification and a formal board, among others. (U.S. Army Photo By: Sgt. Thomas Duval, Task Force Sinai Public Affairs)

EL GORAH, Egypt — After being in the Sinai Desert supporting peace with the Multinational Force and Observers for less than a month, Spc. Tommy Ly has already taken the reins and set the standard for his peers.

Ly, a financial management technician assigned to the 1st Squadron, 112th Cavalry Regiment- currently operating as the Army’s U.S. Security Battalion in Sinai Egypt- won the Task Force Sinai Soldier of the Quarter Competition held here March 18, 2015. 

“I have always set high standards to push myself to be better and to win this is just a relief,” Ly, a Channelview, Texas, native said.

For Ly and the other hopefuls, the two-day event kicked off March 17th as Soldiers were tested on their Army knowledge with a written exam. 

Day Two of the competition began by testing each Soldier’s physical prowess during the Army Physical Fitness Test and continued as each competitor completed a number of situational training lanes. The lanes included weapons qualification, treating a casualty, calling in a nine-line medevac, and communications lane. Each participant was graded on their proficiency in each warrior task and given an overall score. 

That score was carried with the Soldiers as they entered the final obstacle- a formal board in front of their leaders. During the board, senior leaders from Task Force Sinai tested the nominees on their overall knowledge on more than 12 Army categories ranging from regulations to leader values. 

“I really learned a lot about myself throughout this competition,” Ly added. “Studying the different topics taught me what Army leadership is and I was able to pick up different leadership traits.” 

To make the situation more challenging, Ly only arrived to the Sinai three weeks prior to the competition and was told while unpacking that he would be selected to represent his unit. 

Ly, a four-year Army veteran who serves as part of the North Camp Response Team for the MFO, immediately started to study on his limited amount of off-time. Although the amount of dedication each Soldier put into preparing for the competition cannot accurately be measured Ly said he didn’t do it alone and instead attributes his success to his leaders who mentored him along the way.

His platoon leader, Sgt. 1st Class Dustin Harris, ensured Ly stayed motivated by challenging him on a daily basis. 

“I told him you better score a 270 or higher on your PT test or else you’re not going,” Harris said. “I even made him run with someone who I knew would push him.” 

Harris also challenged Ly with by reminding him of the unspoken rivalry between National Guard and active duty Soldiers. 

“There’s always been a rivalry between the guard and active duty,” Ly said. “It’s nice for us to win something like this.” 

At the end of the day, all of Ly’s sacrifices paid off but as he walked away with the title of ‘Best Soldier in the Desert’, for this quarter, he didn’t have time to celebrate. Instead he did what a true Soldier does and got right back to work.

TXMF Day at the Capitol

Story by: Capt. Martha Nigrelle

Posted: March 19, 2015

Picture of EventAUSTIN, Texas – The Texas legislature recognized the members of the Texas Military for their service to the state and nation, March 19, 2015, during Texas Military Forces Day at the Capitol in Austin.

As part of the day, legislators and their staff members spent time visiting with numerous guardsmen to discuss the roles and capabilities of the guard in Texas.

The TXMF used the day to showcase the force, which featured representatives from across the force, as well as two different rifle and pistol simulators. Organizers from the TXMF Government Affairs team said their goal was to increase awareness and understanding of the TXMF’s dual state and federal mission to both state representatives and the general public.

Visitors remained engaged dueling on the simulators and learning more about their Texas Guard.  Ana Ramon, chief of staff for state Representative Joe Farias (San Antonio), said she found it fascinating how so many different components came together to serve as one.

 “Often, decision making is done on a very superficial level,” Ramon said. “When you have someone you are talking to who lives it, who sees it every day, it gives you the drive and the motivation to dig deeper and find not just the cause, but what the systemic root of an issue is and how we can help that.”

 Guardsmen set up informational booths focusing specifically on the Army, Air and State Guards, the facilities and maintenance office, the Texas Challenge Academy, the Civil Support Team, Domestic Operations and the unique skill sets and capabilities each of these components provides. 

 “We wanted to make sure as many divisions in the National Guard and State Guard could be represented as possible,” said Jordy Keith, TXMF government affairs deputy director-state. “We wanted the legislators and the general public to see what the Texas National Guard and Texas State Guard does for Texas.”

 Many of the service members working the event took a break to visit the Senate, in session, where they received a standing ovation in thanks, by all representatives and member of the public present, for the service TXMF gives to both the state and nation.

 “I thought today went extremely well,” said Maj. Gen. John F. Nichols, the adjutant general – Texas, “They got to meet you all, they didn’t just see Nichols. They got to see the National Guard.”

 Just before the Senate session began, Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick stopped by the event to visit with the troops and thank them for their service.

 “America depends on a strong Texas,” said Patrick. “And a strong Texas relies on all of you.”

Texas Army National Guard’s MFTC validates Army’s one-school concept

Story by: 1st Lt. Alicia Lacy

Posted: March 3, 2015

1st Lt. Alicia Lacy Staff Sgt. Anthony Delagarza, a Master Fitness Trainer Course instructor, gives directions to soldiers before a round of guerrilla drills March 3, 2015, at Fort Hood, Texas, as part of the Master Fitness Trainer Course. About 20 National Guard and active duty Army soldiers began the final two weeks of training to become master fitness trainers to act as special advisers to unit commanders to facilitate physical training. (Air National Guard photo by 1st Lt. Alicia M. Lacy/Released)
1st Lt. Alicia Lacy
Staff Sgt. Anthony Delagarza, a Master Fitness Trainer Course instructor, gives directions to soldiers before a round of guerrilla drills March 3, 2015, at Fort Hood, Texas, as part of the Master Fitness Trainer Course. About 20 National Guard and active duty Army soldiers began the final two weeks of training to become master fitness trainers to act as special advisers to unit commanders to facilitate physical training. (Air National Guard photo by 1st Lt. Alicia M. Lacy/Released)

FORT HOOD, Texas – Master Fitness Trainer Course instructors from the 2nd Battalion, 136th Regiment, Regional Training Institute, Texas Army National Guard, continue to support the one-Army-school system through their multi-component training class.

The instructors hosted the fourth iteration of the course Feb. 22 – March 6, 2015, at Fort Hood. 

“Right now, the Army is working toward a one-Army-school system, which basically means that any soldier from any component can go to a school being taught by a different component,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Robert Balderston, commandant for the Texas Army National Guard training institute. “This course validates the principle that it’s a joint effort between components.”

Traditionally, National Guard, active duty and Reserve soldiers attended the two-week, in-residence, Phase II portion of the training class at the Texas National Guard’s headquarters at Camp Mabry in Austin; however, for this iteration the course tested the Fort Hood location.

“Fort Hood’s III Corps is providing resources and we’re providing instructors, so it’s a win-win for everybody because they’re able to get their soldiers trained and we’re able to validate the one-Army-school system concept,” Balderston said about soldiers receiving training across components.

The course had a mix of five National Guard soldiers from Texas, Louisiana, Florida and Missouri, and 15 active duty soldiers from numerous bases in Texas and Colorado.

The multi-component mixture in the class supported the total force Army concept, allowing soldiers from all components to work and train together.

“I look at it as a one team, one fight,” said Sgt. Jose Hamilton, a nodal network systems operator-maintainer with the 86th Expeditionary Signal Battalion based at Fort Bliss. “The instructors are Guard and they still come in with that military bearing ... you would expect from someone being in the Army, period.” 

The National Guard-led course is only one of five Master Fitness Trainer Course sites in the entire country, charged with training National Guard, active duty and Reserve soldiers to be master fitness trainers who can conduct physical readiness training for their units.


“The course is getting us ready to train our units on how to do the correct PRT to help our soldiers get better at fitness all around,” said Sgt. 1st Class Christi Stephens, the readiness noncommissioned officer for the 249th Transportation Company, Texas Army National Guard. “When we do PRT, we’ll do it the right way, so even if we have them for just one day and we do one hour, we can do it right and have that precision we’re supposed to have.”

Following the successful completion of the academically intense, two-week distance learning course and the two-week in-residence course, which is largely physical, the soldiers will be advisers to their unit commanders on all things PRT, as well as educating their peers on performance, nutrition, fitness and readiness.

While working through the training modules, soldiers learned about the principles of PRT – precision, progression and integration – that aid in reconditioning and reducing injuries.

“You’ve got to earn your precision before you can go to the progression phase of these movements,” said Sgt. 1st Class Shelley Horner, an MFTC instructor and the course’s noncommissioned officer in charge. “Injury prevention is one of the biggest things for MFTC. We are very specific. We make sure the students really know the standard and are able to take that back to their units and train the trainer.”

Master Fitness is part of the Army’s effort to increase soldier physical readiness, reduce injuries and standardize unit training by preparing soldiers for the physical challenges of fulfilling the mission in complex environments, while facing a range of threats, according to the Army Physical Readiness Training Field Manual 7-22. 

The MFTC is one of several courses offered by the RTI that is available to all soldiers regardless of component.

Texas National Guard’s 176th Engineer Brigade exercises total force concept with III Corps during warfighter exercise

 

Story By: 1st Lt. Alicia Lacy & Capt. Martha Nigrelle

Posted: March 2, 2015

Courtesy Photo Soldiers with the 176th Engineer Brigade, Texas Army National Guard, during a Warfighter exercise at Fort Hood. During the three-week exercise, brigade soldiers provided engineer support to III Corps at Fort Hood.
Courtesy Photo
Soldiers with the 176th Engineer Brigade, Texas Army National Guard, during a Warfighter exercise at Fort Hood. During the three-week exercise, brigade soldiers provided engineer support to III Corps at Fort Hood.

FORT HOOD, Texas – The Texas Army National Guard’s 176th Engineer Brigade worked alongside its active duty partners at III Corps during a war fighter exercise Feb. 2-11, 2015, at Fort Hood. 

The exercise, a large-scale simulated war zone, not only tested the brigade’s capabilities, but also provided an opportunity to identify any gaps that can potentially affect responsiveness while maintaining a ready force.

“We’re doing the full spectrum of operations – combat support, combat service support and combat engineering,” said Col. Tracy Norris, commander, 176th Engineer Brigade, Texas Army National Guard.

The brigade is traditionally a corps-level engineering asset, which means it can be attached to an Army corps and deployed in support of theater-level engineering operations. 

“This exercise has been really effective because the brigade is a corps-level asset and any opportunity to work side-by-side with an Army corps helps us to train on the skill sets we need in case we are called into action,” said Col. Charles Schoening, 176th Engineer Brigade deputy commander. 

The brigade’s integration with III Corps is part of the total force concept, integrating active, Reserve and National Guard components.

“It’s great having Colonel Norris and her team plugged in because it generates combat readiness for us,” said Col. Jim Markert, assistant chief of staff for Operations, III Corps. “It makes us better at III Corps and it makes them better, too.”

In the three-week exercise, the brigade trained on how to conduct operations from a headquarters level. This allowed the staff to do all the tasks they would need to do in a deployed environment.

The exercise took place at Fort Hood and Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland, and encompassed numerous brigades, as well as staffs from the 1st and 38th Infantry Divisions. The simulated warfare spread across a notional country the size of Afghanistan. 

Given the scope and fast-paced nature of the exercise, the brigade demonstrated its ability to succeed in any task or mission given to them, said Markert.

One unique capability of the brigade is their multi-role bridging company. With only two of these companies in the active duty component, training with this asset is a valuable opportunity for units like III Corps.

“A highlight for me was using their bridging assets,” said Markert. “In an offensive operation, we have to; we can’t do it without bridging assets. We are absolutely reliant on them if we go right into a big war.”

“This exercise was important because it demonstrates our capabilities of working shoulder-to-shoulder with the active duty,” said Maj. Gen. John F. Nichols, the adjutant general-Texas. “We owe a great big thank you to III Corps for taking us under their wing and look forward to continuing this partnership.”

Texas Air, Army and State Guard vie for Governor’s Twenty tab

Story By: 1st Lt. Alicia Lacy

Posted: Feb 26, 2015

1st Lt. Alicia Lacy Spc. Jordan Norkett, C Troop, 1-124 Cavalry Regiment, 56th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 36th Infantry Division, Texas Army National Guard, receives the second place novice award from Maj. John B. Conley following the Texas Military Forces' Governor's 20 Sniper competition Feb. 22, 2015, at Camp Swift near Bastrop, Texas. Only one team of two, a sniper and a spotter, can make up the Governor's 20.

1st Lt. Alicia Lacy
Spc. Jordan Norkett, C Troop, 1-124 Cavalry Regiment, 56th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 36th Infantry Division, Texas Army National Guard, receives the second place novice award from Maj. John B. Conley following the Texas Military Forces' Governor's 20 Sniper competition Feb. 22, 2015, at Camp Swift near Bastrop, Texas. Only one team of two, a sniper and a spotter, can make up the Governor's 20.

BASTROP, Texas – It was a show of joint camaraderie, but also friendly competition as Texas Air, Army and State Guardsmen shared the common interest of putting bullets down range. 

About two dozen Guardsmen converged at Camp Swift near Bastrop for the Governor’s Twenty sniper competition Feb. 20-22, 2015.

The three-day shooting event is one of four state-level marksmanship matches held throughout the year to determine the top 20 marksmen who comprise that year’s Governor’s Twenty and earning the coveted Governor’s Twenty tab.

The tab is a state-level marksmanship award for the top 20 shooters in the state. It is awarded to the top eight pistol marksmen, two snipers, eight riflemen, and two machine gunners.

In addition to providing a venue for Guardsmen to compete among their peers throughout the state, the marksmen competitions allow another avenue for them to receive valuable training.

“There’s no better training than going out,” said Air Force Staff Sgt. Christopher Brors, 204 Security Forces Squadron, Texas Air National Guard. “When we do unknown distance, it’s our ranges, so whether we put up the targets or not, I know what the different distances are, but coming out here I really have to use the training we’ve been taught.”

Most often, troops only shoot to qualify a few times a year, if that; however, the matches provide vital training and an opportunity for soldiers and airmen to hone their marksman skills, a critical portion of their job. 

“The sniper is growing in importance,” Sgt. Craig Feldschneider, C Troop, 1-124 Cavalry Regiment, 56th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 36th Infantry Division, Texas Army National Guard. “It’s one of the most important things we have on the battlefield.”

For Army snipers, their training ends when they complete the Army Sniper School with no opportunities for advanced training.

“We top out at sniper school,” said Sgt. Chase Smith, C Troop, 1-124 Cavalry Regiment, 56th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 36th Infantry Division, Texas Army National Guard. “The field is always changing. There are new formulas and new ways of doing things.”

During each competition, participants vie for the possibility to travel to the Winston P. Wilson rifle and pistol championships at the National Guard Marksmanship Training Center at Camp Joseph T. Robinson near Little Rock, Arkansas.

Following the competition in Arkansas, the chief of the National Guard Bureau awards the Chief’s Fifty Marksmanship badge to the top 35 in combat rifle, 10 in combat pistol, three machine gunners and two snipers.

“If we do good here, the Arkansas match is where your skillset gets pushed,” Smith said. “You have to pull every skill together to make it work. If you’re just a good shot, you won’t do good at all. You have to incorporate everything at the same time.”

Though pistol marksmen, riflemen and machine gunners can move on to compete for the President’s 100 tab, the competition for snipers ends at the WPW match.

“Snipers top out at Arkansas,” Smith said. “You can get the Chief’s 50, but you can’t get the President’s 100 tab.”

In addition to the Governor’s 20 tab, soldiers and airmen can earn points toward Excellence in Competition badges, ranging from a bronze and silver badge to the Distinguished Rifleman and Distinguished Pistol Shot badges.

“This event is a great thing and we love doing it because it’s a chance to bring a lot of people together from the state that all have common interests and common occupations,” Feldschneider said. “We can come out here and put some rounds down range and everybody has fun. It’s competitive, but it’s friendly.”

The state hosted the pistol match in late January. The rifle competition is set for late March

36th Infantry Division honors Fort Hood 'Hug Lady'

Story by: Maj. Randall Stillinger

Posted: Feb 24, 2015

Maj. Randall Stillinger A Soldier from the 1-112th Cavalry Regiment, 72nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, receives a hug from Elizabeth Laird before boarding a plane at Robert Gray Army Airfield on Sep. 13, 2015. Laird is commonly known as “The Hug Lady” and is at Fort Hood for almost every arriving and departing flight. The 1-112th deployed to Egypt as part of the Multinational Force and Observers mission, which enforces the 1979 treaty between Israel and Egypt. (36th Infantry Division photo by Maj. Randy Stillinger)
Maj. Randall Stillinger
A Soldier from the 1-112th Cavalry Regiment, 72nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, receives a hug from Elizabeth Laird before boarding a plane at Robert Gray Army Airfield on Sep. 13, 2015. Laird is commonly known as “The Hug Lady” and is at Fort Hood for almost every arriving and departing flight. The 1-112th deployed to Egypt as part of the Multinational Force and Observers mission, which enforces the 1979 treaty between Israel and Egypt. (36th Infantry Division photo by Maj. Randy Stillinger)

FORT HOOD, Texas – The 36th Infantry Division Commander and Command Sgt. Maj. honored Elizabeth Laird at Fort Hood’s Robert Gray Army Airfield Feb. 13, 2015.

Soldiers of the 1st of the 112th Cavalry Regiment, Texas Army National Guard, were on hand as Maj. Gen. Les Simpson and Command Sgt. Maj. John Sampa presented a plaque and a dozen yellow roses to Laird, who is well known within the military community as “The Hug Lady.”

For almost 12 years Laird has been going out to hug Soldiers as they boarded flights bound for war zones. After checking in at the terminal, each Soldier receives a hug on their way into the waiting area.

Simpson told the departing 36th Infantry Division Soldiers that regardless of the weather, regardless of the circumstances, she comes out to see troops go, and then to see them return.

“She doesn’t get paid to do that. She really cares about you,” Simpson said.

The certificate presented by Simpson reads “Your unending love, support and care for our deploying soldiers means more than you will ever know. Your steadfast, faithful commitment, regardless of the time of day, does not go unnoticed. Thank you for always being there to send us off, and for being the first one to welcome us home.”

The 83-year old Laird has a long history of service and employment with the U.S. military. She enlisted in the Air Force in 1950 on her 18th birthday as a cook, but also played trumpet in a band. 

After military service, she was employed by the Army as a stenographer, secretary and then as a computer analyst. She’s been in the Fort Hood/Killeen area for the last 42 years. These days, when she’s not hugging troops, she’s helping others with their taxes.

During the early days of the global war on terrorism, Laird started volunteering at Fort Hood with the Salvation Army and was involved in the mobilization and deployment process. One day in 2003, she was invited to come over and shake the hands of deploying Soldiers as they boarded a bus.

Laird recalls the day that started it all: “This one Soldier hugged me. There was another Soldier behind him in line and I just had to hug him,” Laird said. “It just snowballed from there.” 

She is now personally notified of each departing and returning flight, and is given the opportunity to speak to each group of Soldiers before they board the plane. She even has her own “III Corps Hug Lady” business card. 

When asked what motivates her to come out for every flight, Laird said, “I just want to thank our Soldiers for what they do. Without our military, we wouldn’t be here.” 

“I just want to say ‘thanks, thanks, thanks,’” Laird said.

Even during this interview, a young 1st Cavalry Division Soldier politely interrupted so he wouldn’t miss his opportunity to hug the iconic Hug Lady. He was getting ready to board a flight to the National Training Center in California, but he had received his first hug on his way to Afghanistan a few years ago.

“You want a hug?” Laird asked him.

“Yes ma’am,” the Soldier replied enthusiastically. He received his hug and the interview continued.

The 36th Infantry Division command team was at Fort Hood to send off the 1-112th Cavalry Regiment as they left for Egypt as part of the Multinational Force and Observers mission, which was created during the 1979 treaty between Egypt and Israel. 

First Lt. Josue Munoz of Grand Prairie, one of the Soldiers deploying with the 1-112th, had received a hug from Laird during a previous deployment and appreciated her being there once again.

“The fact that she’s still out here makes me feel good that there are people that support what we do,” Munoz said. “Having just one person do what she does makes a world of difference.”

Laird’s health has been a concern recently and is usually the only thing that prevents her from coming out for flights. She spent the ten days prior to the 1-112th Cavalry’s departure in the hospital, but immediately got right back to doing what she loves best. 

“As long as the Lord will allow me, I’ll keep doing this," Laird said. "Each of them are special.”

Texas general embraces international goodwill

Sgt. Michael Vanpool Isela Flores, a senior at Martin High School in Laredo, Texas, holds the Texas state flag at parade rest during the International Bridge Ceremony in Laredo, Texas, Feb. 21. The ceremony commemorates the bonds between the United States and Mexico and features a series of abrazos, or embraces, between representatives of the two countries in the center of the bridge. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Michael Vanpool, 36th Infantry Division Public Affairs/Released)
Sgt. Michael Vanpool
Isela Flores, a senior at Martin High School in Laredo, Texas, holds the Texas state flag at parade rest during the International Bridge Ceremony in Laredo, Texas, Feb. 21. The ceremony commemorates the bonds between the United States and Mexico and features a series of abrazos, or embraces, between representatives of the two countries in the center of the bridge. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Michael Vanpool, 36th Infantry Division Public Affairs/Released)

Story by: Sgt. Michael Vanpool

Posted: Feb 22, 2015

LAREDO, Texas – Standstill traffic is not uncommon on the Lincoln-Juarez International Bridge linking the United States and Mexico. On the morning of Feb. 21, there were no cars, but still scores of people still standing.

At the middle of the bridge, Americans and Mexicans waited together for the ceremony to begin. National anthems were sung. Prayers were said. Speeches were delivered. But the crowd was waiting for what came next.

Dignitaries from both countries walked to the center of the bridge to exchange abrazos, or embraces, with their counterparts and to show their neighborliness during the International Bridge Ceremony, part of the 118th George Washington Birthday Celebration in Laredo, Texas. 

Two children from each country, dressed in historical clothes, began the ceremony by meeting in the middle of the bridge, embracing (or abrazando), and exchanging each other’s flags. 

After the children, dignitaries begin exchanging their abrazos, including Brig. Gen. Orlando Salinas, the deputy assistant adjutant general for the Texas Army National Guard. At the middle of the bridge, Salinas met and exchanged an abrazo with Mexican General de Brigada Georges Andre Van Lissum Gomez.

“Having this opportunity to meet the general and being that military liaison between the two countries is always a good opportunity to learn from each other,” Salinas said.

Following the abrazo, Salinas escorted his counterpart to the American side. Tradition dictates that the Americans invite the Mexicans to the city of Laredo. For the past few decades, they have been treated to a parade that gathers thousands of people.

“Our ability to meet with and continue military relations with the Mexican army is of paramount importance as we work towards the safety of not just the nation, but also the state of Texas,” Salinas said.

The abrazo was a part of Salinas’s role as the honorary air marshal of this year’s Washington’s Birthday celebration. The prior week, he oversaw the Stars and Stripes Air Show Spectacular.

Salinas commanded the 3rd Battalion, 141st Infantry Regiment, 36th Infantry Division, based in the Rio Grande Valley. Many of his Soldiers were from Laredo, a city known for rallying around its service members throughout the years. This was especially true when they deployed to Afghanistan for Operation Enduring Freedom. 

“Laredo has always held a special place in my heart,” Salinas said. “Laredo’s support of the men and women in uniform is some of the best support I’ve ever seen.”

The tradition of abrazando, or embracing, on the bridge began in 1898. It started as a simple sign of goodwill between neighbors and now represents the shared heritage of the sister cities of Laredo, Texas, and Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas.

“For those of us who live on the border,” said Veronica Castillon, President of the Washington’s Birthday Celebration Association, “the International Bridge Ceremony is a reminder that Laredo and Nuevo Laredo share more than a river. We share family, business and a cultural heritage that bind us as one community.”

The cities also recognized their shared lineage as former members of the Republic of the Rio Grande, an independent nation that lasted 294 days in 1840. The sisterhood of the two cities remains, as does the short-lived country’s flag. Throughout the ceremony, the three-starred, red, white, and black flag joined the signature six flags of Texas in honor of their unique history.

R. Gil Kerlikowske, the commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, delivered the keynote speech at the event. He said that the goodwill exchanged between the sister cities has reinforced a strong neighborly bond, rich with patriotism.

For the city of Laredo, the George Washington Birthday Celebration is a month of festivities, with events ranging from parades and pageants to air shows and fireworks.

The celebration evolved over the years, from a patriotic memorial of America’s first president to a celebration that unites the sister cities. The meetings between civil and military officials from both sides of the bridge aim to honor their mutual histories.

Texas cavalrymen begin peacekeeping mission in the Sinai

Story by: Sgt. Thomas Duval

Posted: Feb 19, 2015

Sgt. Thomas Duval Maj. Gabe Simonds, commander for 1st Squadron, 112th Cavalry Regiment addresses an audience during a Transfer of Authority Ceremony held on the Multinational Force and Observer's South Camp in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt Feb. 19, 2015. The 1-112th Soldiers relinquished command of the U.S. Security Battalion to Soldiers from the 4th Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment.
Sgt. Thomas Duval
Maj. Gabe Simonds, commander for 1st Squadron, 112th Cavalry Regiment addresses an audience during a Transfer of Authority Ceremony held on the Multinational Force and Observer's South Camp in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt Feb. 19, 2015. The 1-112th Soldiers relinquished command of the U.S. Security Battalion to Soldiers from the 4th Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment.

EL GORAH, Egypt - The cavalry has arrived and as their unit motto suggests, they are "Rarin to Go." Texas Army National Guard Soldiers from the 1st Squadron, 112th Cavalry Regiment assumed command of the U.S. Army Security Battalion from the Fort-Hood based 4th Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment, during a transfer of authority ceremony held on the Multinational Force and Observer’s South Camp in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, Feb. 18, 2015.

The ceremony marks the 60th rotation of U.S. Soldiers to deploy in support of the MFO’s peacekeeping mission and comes during a time when much of the world’s focus has shifted to the region. The Army National Guardsmen from Bryan, Texas, will be responsible for the security of a number of remote out posts along the Sinai Peninsula and Red Sea and will look to build upon the success’ of their predecessors. 

The 4th Squadron, 3rdd CR will redeploy to Fort Hood having reached a number of milestones along the way. During their time in the Sinai, the 3d CR Soldiers brought the U.S. back to the podium in a number of physical competitions across the MFO to include taking home the Commander’s Cup in the coveted Force Skills Competition. The Soldiers from the "Longknife Squadron" also achieved success from an operational standpoint by patrolling more than 107,000 miles, conducting more than 375 sling-load missions across the Strait of Tiran and transporting almost a million pounds of cargo.

The Texas Army National Guard will pick up where their active-duty battle buddies left off.

Their experience as trained Cavalry Scouts will be required in the manning of multiple response teams on both of the MFO’s North and South camps while accomplishing the overarching mission of observing and reporting compliance of the Camp David Accords Peace Treaty. To accomplish their mission, the Soldiers will have a lot of help along the way as the 1-112th will work closely with service members from Australia, Canada, Colombia, Czech Republic, France, Hungary, Italy, New Zealand, Norway, United Kingdom, Uruguay and the Republic of the Fiji Islands.

Although grasping the reigns of the multi-echelon mission is a daunting task for many, Maj. Gabe Simonds, 1-112th commander, said he and his team are ready for the challenge. 

“The Multinational Forces and Observers have been quietly and professionally serving as welcomed guests for 32 years now,” said Simonds. “It is truly a privilege to be here in the Sinai and we look forward to working with our partners in the MFO…we are ready to stand our posts!”

--READERS NOTE--
The Multinational Force & Observers (MFO) is and independent peacekeeping organization which is headquartered in Rome and based in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. Created by agreement between the Arab Republic of Egypt and the State of Israel it is comprised of military members and from 13 nations. Australia, Canada, Colombia, the Czech Republic, the Republic of the Fiji Islands, France, Hungary, Italy, New Zealand, Norway, the United States and Uruguay contribute contingents to make up the MFO's Force.

TXMF Museum honored with Texas Star Award

Story By: Capt. Martha Nigrelle

Posted: Feb 12, 2015

Courtesy Photo The Texas Military Forces (TXMF) Museum’s living history detachment portrays Texas Civil War veterans during a reenactment commemorating the Battle of New Market Heights in Henrico County, Virginia, Sept. 26, 2014. The detachment, which covers numerous time periods and pays tribute to the Texas military and the service and sacrifices made by Texas veterans, received a Texas Star award from the Texas Living History Association for its living history program in a ceremony held in Dallas, Jan. 24, 2015. (Photo courtesy Jeff Cantrell, TXMF Museum)
Courtesy Photo
The Texas Military Forces (TXMF) Museum’s living history detachment portrays Texas Civil War veterans during a reenactment commemorating the Battle of New Market Heights in Henrico County, Virginia, Sept. 26, 2014. The detachment, which covers numerous time periods and pays tribute to the Texas military and the service and sacrifices made by Texas veterans, received a Texas Star award from the Texas Living History Association for its living history program in a ceremony held in Dallas, Jan. 24, 2015. (Photo courtesy Jeff Cantrell, TXMF Museum)

DALLAS – The Texas Living History Association awarded the Texas Military Forces Museum a Texas Star for outstanding contributions to the field of living history, in a ceremony held at the Dallas Heritage Park, Jan. 24, 2015.

The museum’s living history detachment, made up of more than 50 volunteers, participates in reenactments and living history programs spanning numerous time periods, from the War of 1812 to the Vietnam War. Each program or reenactment that the detachment participates in pays tribute to a piece of Texas Military Forces history.

“It’s a great way to reach out to the public,” said Jeff Hunt, the TXMF Museum curator.

The Texas Living History Association was founded in 2012 by living history enthusiasts and professional historians in Texas to help advocate for living history around the state and encourage participation and interaction between fellow enthusiasts and historic sites that have living history programs said Jim Lauderdale, president of the Texas Living History Association.

Steve Draper, director of the 1st Cavalry Museum, located at Fort Hood, and a member of the Texas Living History Association, nominated the TXMF Museum for this distinguished honor. 

“I nominated them because they are one of the few organizations in Texas that primarily do 20th and 21st century history,” said Draper. “The Texas Military Forces Museum has been doing it for a long time. The reviews are that they do an outstanding job – that warrants some recognition.”

There are hundreds of living history programs across the state, from the Alamo’s Texas Revolutionary living history program to groups portraying life in Texas during the 17th century. 

“The Texas Star Award is awarded to the best living history site or group nominated,” said Lauderdale. “The TXMF Museum was nominated based on the outstanding Muster Day event they put on every year and the many other interpretive programs they have done.”

The TXMF Museum hosts programs and reenactments at Camp Mabry in Austin several times a year, but also travels to numerous places across the country, to include the Battle of Gettysburg in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. 

“What’s different about us is that most places only focus on one time period,” said Hunt. “We’re the only museum program that I know of that deals with different time periods.”

The museum conducts approximately one living history program a month. They traditionally cover three separate events in May, their busiest month – a Vietnam display in Temple, the Close Assault reenactment and weapons display honoring the history of the 36th Infantry Division during World War II, at Camp Mabry in Austin and the reenactment of the Battle of Palmetto Ranch, the last battle of the Civil War in Brownwood. 

“I am exceptionally proud of this award because it speaks to the dedication of our volunteers,” said Hunt. “They are the backbone of the whole thing. They love history and want to support the men and women of the Texas guard today and our veterans.”

The TXMF Museum’s Muster Day is held annually during the TXMF Open House at Camp Mabry and traditionally hosts displays and presentations from every military campaign the Texas Military has participated in since the Texas Revolution through the Vietnam War, to include a World War II reenactment with World War II aircraft and several 1940’s Army tanks. 

This year’s TXMF Open House and Muster Day will be held at Camp Mabry, April 18-19. For more information on this event or other upcoming museum events please visit https://tmd.texas.gov/upcoming-events or http://texasmilitaryforcesmuseum.org/.