Posts in Category: Texas Army National Guard

Marksmen compete in annual pistol match

Story By: Staff Sgt. Mindy Bloem

Posted: Feb 6.2015

Staff Sgt. Mindy Bloem Second Lt. Brian Street, 147th Civil Engineer Squadron assigned to Ellington Field Joint Reserve Base in Houston, checks his target at the Governor's 20 Pistol Match Jan. 24, 2015, at Camp Swift, Texas
Staff Sgt. Mindy Bloem
Second Lt. Brian Street, 147th Civil Engineer Squadron assigned to Ellington Field Joint Reserve Base in Houston, checks his target at the Governor's 20 Pistol Match Jan. 24, 2015, at Camp Swift, Texas

CAMP SWIFT, Texas - Sharpshooting Airmen, Soldiers and Texas State Guardsmen competed for a chance to be dubbed “best shot in the state” during the annual Adjutant General Governor’s 20 Pistol Match Jan. 23-25 at Camp Swift, Texas.

The top shooters from four separate competitions go on to comprise the team for the Governor’s 20. These shooters include the top eight in pistol, the top eight in rifle, the top two in machine gun, and the top two in sniper – 20 marksmen in all.

Because each team needs a certain amount of new shooters, Ellington Fields’s base marksmanship co-founder, 2nd Lt. Brian Street, said he’s always looking for fresh faces.

Street, who has now received both the pistol and machine gun tabs for finishing in the top percentile and is planning to compete in this year’s sniper and rifle competitions, encourages newcomers not to get discouraged their first time out.

“I thought I was a pretty good shot because I was coming off of active duty, and I always made expert,” said Street, recalling his first rifle match. “I got out here, and I got the humility beat into me. I didn't even finish some courses of fire. It was a train wreck through the whole weekend.”

Street has come a long way since that first self-proclaimed debacle in 2007 and asks those wanting to try it out to contact him.

One of this year’s newest recruits, Staff Sgt. Michael Oberts, a combat arms instructor assigned to the 147th Security Forces Squadron, decided to take full advantage of the opportunity. Besides wanting to see how he fared among the best in Texas, Oberts said that military members wanting to try their hand at sharpshooting just makes sense.

“As a member of the Armed Forces, you should be somewhat proficient with a weapon, seeing as you may have to use it to protect yourself and others or government property.”

Same but different: Texas Air and Army National Guard compete for 'Best Warrior'

Courtesy Story

Posted: Feb 2, 2015

BASTROP, Texas – This year’s 2015 Texas Military Forces Best Warrior Competition brought out 35 guardsmen from both the Texas Army and Air National Guard who competed here to determine who would be the best of the best Feb. 5-7.

“The Best Warrior Competition is a big deal for Texas and the Texas Military Forces,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Mark Weedon, TXMF senior enlisted adviser. "It is one of the biggest joint events we have involving actual soldiers and airmen. This event allows the soldier and airman to compete with each other in both physical and mental challenges.”

The competition demonstrated the knowledge and skills of the guardsmen in seven events, spanning three days. The first day started with an essay, testing their aptitude, writing abilities and critical thinking and how well the soldiers and the airmen express their thoughts. Following the writing skills, the competitors met with a panel of senior enlisted leaders who barraged them with a series of questions pertaining to their military tasks.

“We are from the same Texas Military Forces,” said Command Chief Master Sgt. Kevin O’Gorman, state command chief for the Texas Air National Guard. “When we deploy in a joint environment, we work together side-by-side and we need to foster that early on. This competition brings camaraderie and jointness, even though soldiers and airmen do things differently.”

Day two started with a twilight land-navigation course, starting at 5 a.m. and finishing after daybreak. Once again, the soldiers and airmen battle-tested their skills in using a map and compass to plot the points and discover hidden flags throughout the course. 

Shortly after completing land navigation, the competitors went to the weapons-qualification range, then on to the 11 Army warrior task lanes, where both Army and Air Force participants demonstrated their ability to disassemble and reassemble weapons ranging from a 9 mm pistol to an M2 machine gun, as well as testing in combat-first-aid techniques.

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Steven Hein, 136th Security Forces Squadron, and member of the Richardson Police Department, finished first during the land navigation course, coming in at 1 hour and 29 minutes, finding three of four flags. 

“It’s been a privilege to come out here and contend with the best,” said Hein. “It’s definitely good to come out here to compete and learn from the other guys like the Army and other guys in the tactical control party.”

Many of the competitors felt that the first day of the competition was the most challenging and exhausting. It included the mile-long obstacle course, containing nine stations with rigorous calisthenics in between obstacles, a six-mile ruck march and finished with three mystery events. The total course spanned eight miles as each competitor attempted to conquer each event with a go or no-go while carrying a 35-pound ruck sack on their back.

“The BWC is tougher than all the races I’ve competed in,” said U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Candice Wade, a veteran competitor in the Warrior Dash, Tough Mudder and Spartan Races, about the Best Warrior Competition. “The Best Warrior Competition is in a much higher level ... dealing with a land navigation course, eight types of weapons, combat casualty care, an obstacle course, ruck march and various physical events. I can say that this is absolutely the most difficult thing I’ve ever done.”

Among the spectators present were Maj. Gen. John F. Nichols, the adjutant general for Texas, and Maj. Gen. Edmundo Villarroel Geissbuhler, Chilean army liaison officer, who were both here to observe the competing guardsmen.

“There are two competitions going on here,” said Nichols. “One is the competition between Army and Air Force. The other is between the soldiers so we can send forth the best soldier in a national competition and be the best in the U.S. Army. This is a big deal to us.”

Geissbuhler strolled though the courses, closely observing each station, cheering on the soldiers and airmen racing through the obstacles.

“We have a lot of contact with the Texas Military Forces, both in the Air Force and Army,” said Geissbuhler. “This state partnership began in 2008 and there are a lot of activities we do together. I received an invitation to come here today and I’m very glad to be here.”

Texas and Chile are part of the State Partnership Program, using military-to-military relationships between the U.S. and Chile to increase military capabilities and interoperability. 

When asked if the Chileans have this type of competition amongst their military forces, Geissbuhler said, “We do have this competition in Chile, it is part of our training. We have been approved to send four competitors here to the BWC next year and compete among the TXMF. We will be sending two soldiers and two airmen and hope to do well.”

By the end of the three-day event, the competitors seemed both mentally and physically exhausted. 

“I’m here to do my best, not just as a woman, but as a soldier,” said Sgt. Wendy Farris, 149th Aviation Battalion, one of the four female competitors. “This was really exciting. I’ve learned a lot and grown in the process. I’m devising my plan for next year’s competition.”

There were 22 Army and 13 Air Force competitors, coming from all parts of Texas. Most of the competing guardsmen were drill status guardsmen. They also serve Texas as police officers, firefighters, physical strength trainers and other professionals. 

The overall winners for the competition will be announced at an award ceremony April 11, 2015.

Guardsmen demonstrate new side of chemistry for students

 

Story by: Master Sgt. Daniel Griego

Posted: 15-Jan-15

Photo of Soldier and students
Master Sgt. Daniel Griego
Members of the Texas National Guard's 6th Civil Support Team provide demonstrations of their procedures and equipment for chemistry students from Hill Country Christian School of Austin at Camp Mabry Jan. 15, 2015. The intent of the visit was to provide high school students with real-world applications of chemistry in the areas of emergency response and special operations. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Daniel Griego/Released)

AUSTIN, Texas – For the members of the Texas National Guard’s 6th Civil Support Team, community outreach is a regular part of their mission. From showcasing their capabilities at the Texas Emergency Management Conference each year to setting up a fundraising booth at the Camp Mabry American Heroes Air Show, they have a long history of meeting their neighbors while serving the state. Recently, they made a new connection in the area by inviting chemistry students from a local high school to tour their facility and learn about the real-world applications of science in responding to hazardous material incidents.

“We’re providing an opportunity that we don’t often get, to interact with high school students, more importantly, high school chemistry students,” said Lt. Col. William Phillips, commander of the 6th CST. “Hopefully, they’re going to understand that chemistry is more than just a subject by seeing the professionals who they’ve have the opportunity to interact with today who apply chemistry on a daily basis.”

The event, held Jan. 15 at the CST’s headquarters on Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas, allowed students from Hill Country Christian School of Austin to learn about hazardous compounds, try on chemical suits, and simulate testing procedures used by the CST during response operations. 

“It has made me a lot more interested,” said 10th-grader Stephen Fritschle, “seeing how they do this stuff in real life and how it applies to real life. It’s actually given me a greater interest for chemistry in general and how cool it can actually be.”

The day was as much about demonstrating the value of a strong science background as it was communicating the mission of the unit. The CST, first organized in 1999, serves the state of Texas by supporting local first responders with detection, identification, and monitoring capabilities when an area is compromised by hazardous chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, or explosive contaminants. 

“There is another side of special operations that is highly trained and very specialized,” said Phillips, “and something that is not a traditional military unit’s task and purpose. That’s what the CST is, that’s what the CBRNE response enterprise is.These are Soldiers who have a very in-depth education requirement that they have to apply in hazardous environments and working in the unknown.”

Education was a recurring theme of the visit, as the Guardsmen of the CST imparted to the students the importance of academics and training in their career field. 

“One of the things that is challenging as a chemistry student is understanding how the concepts that you learn in the classroom are related to real-world experience,” said Meredith Wermel, the Hill Country Christian School of Austin chemistry teacher. “So getting them to actually be able to see how some of the compounds that they’re learning about in class could be analyzed by instruments and then actually be contained is a great opportunity.”

The members of the CST were especially enthusiastic about the chance to share their mission with the next generation of scientists and service members. For some, it was the field trip they would have wanted to take in high school.

“I wish I had this opportunity when I was at LBJ,” said Staff Sgt. Carolina Dilger, a survey team member with the 6th CST. “My military career absolutely would have started here.”

The CST plans to conduct more tours like this in the future as they continue their efforts to support and educate the community. 

“I feel like I have a deeper understanding. I love seeing how it is applied,” said 10th-grader Emma Astad. “I’m really happy I came.”

36th Infantry Division families board Snowball Express

Photo of Major General Lester Simpson and child
Maj. Gen. Lester Simpson, 36th Infantry Division commander, chats with Jason Thomas in the overhead baggage compartment during a charter flight from Fort Hood. Jason is the son of Staff Sgt. Ryan J. Thomas, who died while serving in the U.S. Air Force. The flight is part of the Snowball Express, a non-profit organization that brings the families of fallen members of the military to the Dallas/Fort Worth area each December. Each of the nine American Airlines charter aircraft were decorated for the mission and the standard in-flight rules were somewhat relaxed for the kids. (36th Infantry Division photo by Maj. Randy Stillinger/Released)

FORT WORTH, Texas – Family members of service members boarded a special flight Thursday with an important mission: provide hope and new happy memories to the children of military fallen heroes who have died on active duty since Sept. 11, 2001.

Several family members of 36th Infantry Division Soldiers were among the special “VIPs” that participated in this year’s Snowball Express, which brought over 1,600 to Fort Worth for this annual event.

Maj. Gen. Lester Simpson, commander of the 36th ID, boarded one of nine American Airlines charter planes at the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport. In San Antonio, the charter plane, which was decorated in Christmas lights and garland, picked up the family of Sgt. Christopher Loza, who died in 2009 while serving with the 1-124th Cavalry Regiment in Iraq.

Upon arrival in San Antonio, Simpson greeted Amelia Gonzalez, the mother of Sgt. Loza, and Iliana Loza, his daughter, in the airport terminal. They then boarded the flight as it continued on to Fort Hood/Killeen before the last leg back to the D/FW airport. 

Simpson, of Rowlett, said, “It’s important to show the kids that they are still part of our military family and ensure they know we haven’t forgotten about them.” 

“It’s an honor to board this flight and be a small part of the Snowball Express, an organization that gives special attention to our Gold Star families while honoring our fallen military heroes,” Simpson said.

During the weekend, the families were treated to a number of different events, including a visit to the Perot Museum of Nature and Science, a trip to the Sheriff’s Posse Ranch in Weatherford, the annual talent show featuring the kids themselves, a show by magician David Hira, and a performance by actor Gary Sinise and the Lt. Dan Band in a hangar at the Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base. Sinise, who is involved in several military causes, regularly supports the Snowball Express and its Gold Star families.

The highlight for many is the traditional Walk of Gratitude, which gives local residents the opportunity to come out, line the streets of Fort Worth, and show their appreciation for the sacrifices of the fallen and their families as the procession goes by. Red, white and blue balloons were then released into the sky by the families with messages to their loved ones. 

Melanie Mason brought three of her four daughters back to Fort Worth for the weekend of fun and remembrance. She is the wife of Staff Sgt. Luke Mason, who died when the helicopter he was on went down in Southern Iraq in September, 2008. 

Staff Sgt. Mason was deployed with 2nd Battalion, 149th Aviation Regiment, the division’s General Support Aviation Battalion, which is headquartered in Grand Prairie. The family has participated in the Snowball Express each year since the accident that took his life.

Mason, of Springtown, said that her family benefits from Snowball Express as they see that they are not alone in their loss. 

“The girls have made some very close friends over the past few years,” Mason said.

As the Snowball Express travels around the Dallas/Fort Worth area during the weekend, they are escorted by local police and the ever-present Patriot Guard Riders. Citizens line the streets with signs and cheer in a show of support. American flags fly from overpasses and veterans stand at attention to salute the convoy of buses as they pass. 

“I really like when we go places and see people standing along the road waving,” Mason said. “I like knowing they are there for us, and that they are there to honor our heroes.”

Mason’s daughter, Sarah, age 10, said that her favorite experience of the weekend was seeing all the animals at the Fort Worth Zoo. 

American Airlines is the lead sponsor of the Snowball Express as it donates the charter airplanes and airline tickets that bring all the families together. Other sponsors include Neiman Marcus, the Airpower Foundation, Dallas Fan Fares and Armed Forces Insurance, among many others. 

For more information on the Snowball Express, go to www.snowballexpress.org .

Read more: 36th infantry division families board snowball express

 

Texas State Guard makes hospital holiday happier


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

Guardsmen from the19th Regiment, Texas State Guard (TXSG), provide toys to children during the holidays at Medical City Children's Hospital in Dallas, Dec. 13, 2014. The toy donation was a part of the TXSG’s Young Heroes of the Guard toy drive. Thanks to generous donations from Texas guardsmen and members of the community, over 3,500 toys were delivered to three different hospitals in Dallas during the holidays: Children’s Medical Center of Dallas, Medical City Children’s Hospital, and Our Children’s House of Baylor. (Texas State Guard photo by Capt. Esperanza Meza/Released)
Guardsmen from the19th Regiment, Texas State Guard (TXSG), provide toys to children during the holidays at Medical City Children's Hospital in Dallas, Dec. 13, 2014. The toy donation was a part of the TXSG’s Young Heroes of the Guard toy drive. Thanks to generous donations from Texas guardsmen and members of the community, over 3,500 toys were delivered to three different hospitals in Dallas during the holidays: Children’s Medical Center of Dallas, Medical City Children’s Hospital, and Our Children’s House of Baylor. (Texas State Guard photo by Capt. Esperanza Meza/Released)

DALLAS - Santa’s helpers paid an early visit to three Dallas-area children’s hospitals Dec. 13, 2014, bringing a special delivery from the Texas State Guard, 19th Regiment of Dallas, as part of the TXSG’s Young Heroes of the Guard toy drive.
 
“We have the opportunity to serve Texans during disasters, but this gives us a great opportunity to serve little Texans when they need us most,” said TXSG Chaplain Lt. Col. Douglas Sewell. 

Texas State Guard volunteers rolled in a variety of toys, art projects and games to patients at Children’s Medical Center of Dallas, Medical City Children’s Hospital and Our Children’s House of Baylor. With the generous donation of more than 3,500 toys from local businesses and communities across North Texas, children were able to pick and choose their favorite toys with the help of their family.

A number of guardsmen said it was very humbling and rewarding. 

“You think you are worse off, but when you see what the kids and families are going through each day, financially and emotionally, it’s humbling and brings joy in doing what you are doing,” said Capt. Joe Jones, 19th Regiment, logistics officer.

Two fathers said they were thankful to the TXSG since they didn’t have time to buy toys for their other children. Others observed a mom in the hallway, overwhelmed with tears in her eyes, as she watched the activity from the hallway into the children’s toy room, as her child couldn’t join the other kids due to his illness. She said it meant so much to her that people cared enough to give, collect and bring the array of toys, also sharing that her child had a big smile when a volunteer brought him a toy.   

 “I have four kids and one of mine was in the hospital so I stayed in the hospital many days,” said Spc. John Turner, TXSG. “Coming back, I know what the parents are thinking. There are so many things to worry about and getting toys for their children at home and their child in the hospital, that’s one less thing to worry about.” 

The TXSG Young Heroes of the Guard program was initiated by a couple of chaplains in 2009 and has grown tremendously, surpassing last year’s record of about 6,600 toys to more than 20,000 this year, helping provide toys to hospitalized children in 14 hospitals throughout the state.  
 
“You don’t know what to say as you don’t know how it feels as a parent being there,” said Cpl. Leonard Deonarine, TXSG. 

To summarize his feelings, Deonarine quoted something he heard once, “I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I served and I saw that service is joy.”

The TXSG delivered not just toys, but joy and smiles that day to the children and families that needed it most thanks to the churches, organizations, businesses, private citizens and families and friends of the Guard. 

Texas' 136th Regional Training Institute receives national recognition

Story by: Capt. Martha Nigrelle

Photo of troops
The 136th Regional Training Institute (RTI), Texas Army National Guard gathers for a regimental photo at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas, Dec. 13, 2014. The 136th RTI was accredited by the U.S. Army Training Command in November 2014 as an Institution of Excellence, the highest accreditation an RTI can receive. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Daniel Griego/Released)

AUSTIN, Texas – The Texas Army National Guard’s 136th Regiment Regional Training Institute, headquartered at Camp Mabry in Austin, received national recognition as an Institution of Excellence, the highest accreditation a training institute can receive, from the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, November 2014.

There are 54 RTI units in the country, one for each state and territory. Their mission is to provide an alternate location for training to any service member in the U.S. Army, active, guard or reserve. Each RTI has a variety of courses that they specialize in, and each course must be certified by the Army Training and Doctrine Command before it can be taught. RTI instructors go through the same training all Army instructors go through prior to teaching any of the same courses at the Army’s traditional locations.

The benefit to this, said Sgt. 1st Class Eric Ueckert, 136th RTI, Texas Army National Guard, is that it is making the Army more fiscally responsible. For example, traditionally all infantry courses are taught in Fort Benning, Georgia. However, Texas’ RTI offers Infantry courses to soldiers wishing to transition to the Infantry occupation and the advanced leader course, a leadership course for junior non-commissioned officers. 

Army Training Command began accrediting RTIs in 2011. Per Training Command Regulation 350-18, RTIs across the country are evaluated every three years by numerous proponents. For each course offered, the traditional schoolhouse for that course must visit the RTI and evaluate the program, usually more than once. Training command also conducts a separate evaluation.

“During the last year of accreditation, we had more than 20 visits from different proponents,” said Ueckert.

Regulation 350-18 states the purpose of the accreditation process is to “assure the command that training institutions meet accepted standards and higher HQ guidance.”

In order to prepare for the accreditation process, and to continually improve themselves as a training institute, the RTI held annual self assessments, said Ueckert. Each year members of the unit reviewed the past year and looked for ways to improve and move forward. 

“I commend the 136th Regiment RTI for the dedication and hard work that contributed to this coveted distinction,” said Gen. David Perkins, commanding general Training and Doctrine Command, U.S. Army. “Your efforts to maintain strong doctrine, organization, training, material, leadership and education, personnel and facilities functions will ensure our leaders and soldiers possess the qualities and skills necessary to dominate across the spectrum of conflict.” 

The 136th RTI offers numerous courses to soldiers across the force including military occupational specialty producing courses, NCO professional development courses and officer commissioning courses. 

As the RTI looks to continue developing its programs and maintain its accreditation as an institute of excellence, they plan on making some minor changes.

“Our biggest challenge here is the geographic disbursement of training locations,” said Ueckert. 

Texas’ RTI currently works at several different locations in central Texas. The plan over the next two years is for the RTI to relocate to North Fort Hood providing more space and more accessibility to various training facilities said Ueckert.

“Moving will maximize efficiency,” said Ueckert. 

The mission of RTI is about training soldiers to a high standard in the most efficient and fiscally responsible way.

“This is excellent training that we offer to not only our Texas Guardsmen, but also our active duty and reserve counterparts,” said Maj. Gen. William Smith, the deputy adjutant general-Army and commander of the Texas Army National Guard. “This reduces travel, lodging, and training expenses while increasing our capabilities in central Texas. We are proud to be nationally designated as an Institution of Excellence.”

The 136th RTI offers the following accredited courses: 25U-Signal Support Systems Specialist 10-level advanced individual training; 68W-Army Combat Medic advanced individual training; 11B-Infantry transition course and advanced leader course; 19D-Cavalry Scout advanced individual training, transition course and advanced leader course; 13B, F, and R-cannon crew member, Fire Support Specialist and Field Artillery Firefinder Radar Operator advanced individual training, advanced leader course and senior leader course; Master Fitness Program; Officer Candidate School and Warrant Officer Candidate School.

Read more: texas 136th regional training institute receives national recognition

Texas Command Sergeant Major leaves joint legacy

Command Sergeant Major Brandt leaves joint legacy
Outgoing Texas Military Forces' Senior Enlisted Leader, Command Sgt. Maj. Bradley C. Brandt at his change of responsibility ceremony held at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas, Nov. 15, 2014. Brandt will retire with over 30 years serving in the Texas National Guard. (U.S. Army photo by Master Sgt. Kenneth Walker)

 

 Story by: Sgt. 1st Class Malcolm McClendon

 AUSTIN, Texas - With a ceremonial passing of the Non Commissioned Officer’s Sword, the Texas Military Forces’ Senior Enlisted Leader handed over responsibility to the incoming command sergeant major in a ceremony held at Camp Mabry  in Austin, Texas.

 Command Sgt. Maj. Bradley Brandt began his military career in June of 1975 as a U.S. Army UH-1 Huey helicopter  mechanic with the 2nd Armored Division at Fort Hood, Texas. After completing his active duty tour in 1978, Brandt took a  break before transitioning into his career with the Texas National Guard.

 “I came into the Guard on the ‘Trial One’ program back in 1983 and I never would have thought I’d be here this long,”  Brandt said. “ But look at me now, over 20 years as a Soldier and I’ve loved every minute of it.”

 During his career, Brandt worked in six different military occupational fields including two in army aviation, motor vehicle  mechanic, water purification, logistics and sergeant major of these, the one he has been doing the longest is also his  favorite.

 “I’ve been a command sergeant major for 15 years,” Brandt said. “I love to get out and visit with the Soldiers and see what  their concerns are.”

 Brandt says the number one request he gets from Soldiers is to find out what’s happening at the higher level.

 “They want to know what’s happening in the organization,” Brandt said. “Things like deployments and what the future  holds for the Texas National Guard are the most common things Soldiers ask me about.”

 During his three-year role as senior enlisted leader for the Texas Military Forces, Brandt worked to better unite the Texas  Air Guard and the Texas Army Guard. His efforts led to the first ever Joint-Best Warrior Competition in all of the National  Guard. Brandt enlisted the help of other senior enlisted leaders to open up the traditionally Army only competition to  Airmen.

 “I had been to several joint events where everything was Army centric, so I told myself that I wanted to change that  mentality,” Brandt said. “The way to do it was to integrate them more with our programs and so I asked for help, and  thankfully they saw how much this meant to me and therefore we all worked together and made it happen.”

Brandt remembers the Airmen’s reaction the first year they participated in the Joint Best Warrior competition.

“Every single Airmen that participated came up me to show their gratitude,” Brandt said. “They said, ‘thank you sergeant major for letting us compete and be a part of this,’ and that’s good stuff. So they are here now competing with Soldiers every year, and they’re in it for the long haul as long as someone keeps it going after me.”

As Brandt ends his time as senior enlisted leader for the Texas Military Forces, he hopes that his efforts to bring the Texas Army and Air Guard components closer will continue and grow as a model for other states.

 

 

Texas Guard shares response mission with International visitors

In this image released by Joint Task Force 136 (Maneuver Enhancement Brigade), Brigade Commander Col. Lee Schnell briefs delegates of the Swedish Armed Forces International Centre during their visit to the Round Rock Armed Forces Reserve Center Oct. 28, 2014. The group of service members from Sweden, Finland, and Norway toured various military and civil agency sites throughout central Texas to learn more about the National Guard approach to disaster response.
In this image released by Joint Task Force 136 (Maneuver Enhancement Brigade), Brigade Commander Col. Lee Schnell briefs delegates of the Swedish Armed Forces International Centre during their visit to the Round Rock Armed Forces Reserve Center Oct. 28, 2014. The group of service members from Sweden, Finland, and Norway toured various military and civil agency sites throughout central Texas to learn more about the National Guard approach to disaster response.

 

Story by Master Sgt. Daniel Griego

 ROUND ROCK, Texas - "We are only part of the solution," said Swedish Armed Forces Lt. Col. Conny Hansen. "We  have to learn more about how to interact with other agencies: civilian agencies, non-governmental organizations,  governmental organizations."

 When natural and man-made disasters test the response plans of a region, interagency cooperation is instrumental in  the success of rescue efforts. Militaries around the world, in order to mitigate suffering and save lives, are adopting  comprehensive plans that integrate the armed forces with local civilian departments. Such is the case with the Swedish  Armed Forces and surrounding militaries, as they enhanced their approach to disaster relief by learning from their  counterparts within the Texas National Guard.

 "This year we decided to have a look at civil-military cooperation as a focus," said Hansen, who serves as the officer in  charge of peace operations for the Swedish Armed Forces International Centre (SWEDINT), "and come here to Texas to  look at Domestic Operations."

 From Oct. 24-30, delegates from Sweden, Norway, and Finland toured central Texas military and civilian sites to learn  about our methods of consequence management. Location stops included Camp Mabry, the headquarters for the  Texas Military Forces; the Round Rock Armed Forces Reserve Center, home station for Joint Task Force 136  (Maneuver Enhancement Brigade); the Texas Department of Public Safety offices in Austin; the Texas State Capitol;  and Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas. 

 "We have this fact-finding trip to get the picture about the United States or the Texas Military Forces' comprehensive approach," said Finland Army Maj. Anssi Yrjölä, a course director with SWEDINT, "and how they work together with the civilian sector and the military. This is one good example how to conduct comprehensive approach."

The visiting officers coordinate trips like this specifically for the benefit of their centre instructors at SWEDINT, who are tasked with integrating military assets with local civilian agencies in their home countries.

"We teach individual staff officers, mainly officers and senior NCOs, and prepare them for international missions," said Hansen. "Today's contemporary operating environment forces you to have a comprehensive approach. You have to interact with different agencies, like you are here with Domestic Operations."

How the National Guard works alongside civil authorities during emergencies was a defining theme of the trip. As the Guard outfit responsible for the FEMA Region VI Homeland Response Force mission, Joint Task Force 136 (Maneuver Enhancement Brigade) was a perfect fit for what the SWEDINT delegates were looking to discuss. 

"I think this is a very unique and very professional unit," said Swedish Navy Lt. Cmdr. Harry Jaantola, a NATO expert with the Peace Support Operations Department. "It's a very, very solid, built-up system; the cooperation they do with the civilian local authorities concerning regular meetings and presentations and stuff like that." 

For the members of JTF-136 (MEB), the visit was an opportunity to highlight common goals and improve everyone's capabilities.

"Visits like this enhance the global response community," said Col. Lee Schnell, the commander for JTF-36 (MEB). "When we can share our best practices and develop international relationships, everybody wins."

The discussions were augmented by JTF-136 (MEB) displaying a mock deployment of select elements within its 6th Civil Support Team and the 6th CBRNE Enhanced Response Force Package.

"Visiting with delegates of the Swedish International Centre was a great learning experience," said Spc. Karla Sosawong, an administrative Soldier with the 6th CERFP. "We had the opportunity to share with them what our role is during Domestic Operations and listen to their techniques; it was a great way to integrate efforts."

These efforts will ultimately help to standardize global response operations, fostering collaboration when disaster strikes.

"It's worth it, definitely," said Jaantola. "This has been a great, excellent visit in all ways."

Guard skeet shooters support Texas Boys Scouts

In this image released by Joint Task Force 136 (Maneuver Enhancement Brigade), Col. Lee Schnell (left) and Brig. Gen. Patrick Hamilton (right) participate in the 2014 Sporting Clays Classic at the Texas Disposal Systems Exotic Game Ranch in Buda, Texas, Oct. 16, 2014. The annual event hosts teams of military veterans competing in clay shooting and raises money for the Boy Scouts of America. (Photo by Master Sgt. Daniel Griego)
In this image released by Joint Task Force 136 (Maneuver Enhancement Brigade), Col. Lee Schnell (left) and Brig. Gen. Patrick Hamilton (right) participate in the 2014 Sporting Clays Classic at the Texas Disposal Systems Exotic Game Ranch in Buda, Texas, Oct. 16, 2014. The annual event hosts teams of military veterans competing in clay shooting and raises money for the Boy Scouts of America. (Photo by Master Sgt. Daniel Griego)

 

Story by Master Sgt. Daniel Griego

AUSTIN, Texas - On Thursday, Oct. 16, the Boy Scouts of America, the Texas Army National Guard, and corporate sponsors all teamed up at the Texas Disposal Systems Exotic Game Ranch to support disadvantaged scouts throughout central Texas. The Sporting Clays Classic, held annually in Austin, Texas, is a fundraising effort wherein businesses sponsor "hero teams" to participate in a skeet shooting competition, with proceeds benefiting the Capitol Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America.

"We look for ways to make it possible for every boy to be in scouts," said Doug Cooper, the Development Director for the Austin Area Boy Scouts, "and this is one of the ways we do it. We've been doing it for 22 years; it's the oldest Sporting Clays tournament in Austin, and I think it's the best."

This year's event featured more than 200 shooters competing in five-person teams sponsored by local businesses such as Pinpoint Strategies and Sabre Commercial. Teams were made up of National Guardsmen from Joint Task Force 136 (Maneuver Enhancement Brigade) out of Round Rock, Texas, as well as other veterans and wounded warriors from throughout Texas. 

"[The sponsors] are very passionate about giving back and giving back to people who are important in giving to our country," said Ryan Leahy, the co-chair of the Boy Scouts Clay Shoot. "One of those ways is to sponsor a heroes team, which could include the National Guard or other veterans. That's what they do and that's what this is about. It allows the sponsor to give to a great cause while helping some of our national heroes."

Sponsors have the option of supporting an entire team or an individual service member. The day's activities included clay shoots, flurry shoots, Gnat shooting, social dinner, and an auction at the end of the night. 

"A company gets to do a good turn to both the Boy Scouts and the military," said Cooper. "And of course the Soldiers get to come out here and shoot and we're really happy to have them out here."

This is the second year for JTF-136 (MEB) to participate in the Sporting Clays Classic, having first competed last year after their deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

"Last year, the 136th MEB returned home from Afghanistan," said Lt. Col. John Crawson, the chief of staff for JTF-136 (MEB). "A couple of months after we returned back, I got a note from Col. (Ret.) Te Starr that there was a Boy Scout shooting clay event going on down at Texas Disposal Systems Exotic Ranch. Corporate Sponsorship had sponsored five hero teams. So we fielded five teams and brought them down and had a great time."

Crawson, who coordinated Guard participation again this year, has strong ties to the Boy Scouts of America and involving the National Guard in community events like this.

"I've been around scouting programs since I was a little boy and now I've got two sons in scouting. It's a great thing; it's a great way for us as Guardsmen to give back into our community. Proceeds that are raised in this event today go back into the capital area council specifically to sponsor some of our disadvantaged children that live inside our council."

The event raises $75 thousand to $100 thousand each year in service of more than 24,000 scouts across 15 counties. Proceeds target underprivileged Boy Scouts in hard-to-serve areas, allowing them to engage events they might otherwise miss.

"Next summer," said Cooper, "there's going to be boys climbing mountains in new Mexico or going to a Boy Scout camp down in lost pines near Bastrop. And they're going to be there because of this event."

Guard service goes beyond disasters

In this image, Round Rock youths enjoy the military tactical vehicles during the city's annual Touch a Truck event, held Oct. 25, 2014, at Old Settlers Park.
In this image, Round Rock youths enjoy the military tactical vehicles during the city's annual Touch a Truck event, held Oct. 25, 2014, at Old Settlers Park. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Jennifer Atkinson)

 

 Story by Staff Sgt. Jennifer Atkinson

 ROUND ROCK, Texas - During a hurricane or other natural disaster, National Guard vehicles are familiar sights in local  communities, giving aid to Texans in a time of need. It's not often those same trucks and equipment are standing still  long enough for community members to climb in, take a good look around and chat with Guardsmen from the Round  Rock-based Joint Task Force 136 (Maneuver Enhancement Brigade).

 At the Touch A Truck event, sponsored by the City of Round Rock and staged at Old Settlers Park, children of all ages  got a chance to get in an armored cargo truck and Humvee. With an eagle's eye view of the people on the ground, kids  and adults got a taste of what driving one of these vehicles might be like. 

 “These sure have changed from my day,” said Robert Gomez, laughing. “I barely recognize these as Army trucks! I'm  really glad I got a chance to bring my family out here to see something like what I used to drive.” Gomez, a Houston  native visiting family for the weekend, recalls lines of trucks moving supplies after Hurricane Ike. 

 “The kids remember that too,” he said. “They remember seeing the trucks lined up in our neighborhood, before we got  power back. We got a lot of ice from you guys then, off the back of trucks like these.”

 Honking the truck horn was an especially popular activity, as was climbing the rear steel ladder to reach the bed of the  track.

 On the same day, members of the brigade's 436th Chemical Detachment, also located at the Armed Forces Reserve  Center in Round Rock, supported the city's “Halloween at the Y" event, allowing visitors to explore a decontamination  trailer and chemical protection gear, such as gloves, suits, and a gas mask.

 "This weekend, the 136th MEB supported the citizens of Round Rock at two different events," said Capt. Stephen  Houck, commander of the headquarters company. "This allows us a great opportunity to give back to a community that  gives us so much."

 Although this is the first year for the National Guard to support Halloween at the Y, the unit has a long history of  providing vehicles and personnel to the Touch a Truck event, fostering a long-term working relationship with the city.  Next to the trailer at the Round Rock Dell Diamond parking lot, where "Halloween at the Y" took place, kids climbed in  and out of a green Humvee.

“This is a great thing to do,” said Spc. Joshua Doucet, a member of the 436th Chemical Company. “Even though we've never had to use the equipment in a real situation, it's important to be out here so people can see us and can see we're always working to make sure we're ready to help.”

Talking to families and children about the mobile showers in the trailer, and the varied pieces of gear on the tables, Doucet was all smiles.

"I love this,” he said. “We get out and meet people from the community and show them we're ready to do our jobs, that we're here for them if they need us.”