Posts in Category: Texas Army National Guard

19th Regiment combines Annual Training with North Texas Mass Casualty Exercise 2-2

Spc. Michael Ross, Texas State Guard, left, checks a "victim's"vital signs during a mock aviation disaster at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, Dallas, June 6, 2014.
Spc. Michael Ross, Texas State Guard, left, checks a "victim's"vital signs during a mock aviation disaster at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, Dallas, June 6, 2014. (Texas State Guard photo by Capt. Esperanza Mesa).

DALLAS -  The Troopers of the Dallas-based  19th Civil Affairs Regiment, Texas State Guard, joined more than a dozen North Texas emergency management agencies in a mass casualty exercise that tested the full-range of the Regiment's mission set.

Operation Thunderbolt, led by the Dallas County Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security, tested the Regiment's leaders and staffs at every level and provided Troopers unique and challenging training in readiness for this year's hurricane season.

The exercise took place in several communities across North Texas requiring the Regiment to operate simultaneously from numerous locations at the maximum range of its communications capabilities and to move everyday.

“We set out from the beginning to exercise each of our METL tasks in an interagency agency environment on the turf where we’re likely to be employed,” said Col. Robert Hastings, commander of the 19th Regiment. “Every year, our annual training cycle culminates in a hurricane readiness exercise at the beginning of hurricane season.” 

The training scenario revolved around a category 4 hurricane bearing down on the gulf coast triggering evacuations of Texas and Louisiana coastal communities and activation of the Dallas mass sheltering plan. 

It was further complicated by severe weather in North Texas with multiple tornadoes and severe flooding. In addition to thousands of evacuees, the scenario included mass casualties from an airplane crash and a hazardous chemical accident. 

The scenario enabled the Regiment to exercise its emergency response capabilities in communications, mass care, shelter management, evacuee tracking, wide area damage assessment and search and rescue. 

The exercise also contained a number leadership reaction scenarios designed to build teamwork and communication. 

In one scenario, teams conducted wide area damage assessment in Grapevine, following a simulated tornado strike, discovered civilians and another TXSG team trapped in a “collapsed” warehouse – in reality a Grapevine Fire Department rescue training facility. The teams had to rapidly assess the situation, determine a course of action and evacuate and treat the victims as the building “collapsed” around them. 

In another scenario, the Regiment responded to a request for assistance from the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport in Dallas, to help search for missing passengers from a plane crash in a heavily wooded area on the airport. 

“This AT tested both our basic and advanced skills in dealing with different real world scenarios and issues," said Sgt. Samantha Shipman, Civil Affairs team leader, Texas State Guard. "It built our teamwork and communications to a new level and gave us an opportunity to find things to improve on that we may have overlooked in previous AT experiences.” 

As thousands of "displaced citizens" began flooding into Dallas, the Regiment was redirected to the area of Balch Springs, Kaufman and Terrell to establish shelters and process evacuees. As evacuee “role players” streamed in by bus and carload, Troopers quickly established shelters, emergency tracking network stations and medical treatment stations for special needs patients. 

Each of the dozens of role players presented a unique and challenging problem for the shelter teams to deal with. Realism was further driven by injects provided by observer-controllers and civilian emergency management subject matter experts.

“I enjoyed getting the chance to set up and work with the emergency tracking network equipment and though there were some issues, it gave me the chance to practice coming up with a viable solution in real time with people actually waiting,” explained Texas State Guardsman Spc. John Hurst.

The sentiment was echoed by Pvt. Jonathan Miller, a new member of the 19th Regiment, who added that the exercise put all his previous training in context. 

“Having just completed my FEMA and Red Cross training, it allowed me to gain real world perspective and partake in multiple disaster scenarios,” said Miller.

The Regiment’s three battalions were augmented by a detachment from the Texas State Guard Medical Brigade, a signals team from the Texas State Guard Military Auxiliary Radio System Detachment and personnel from the Texas State Guard Maritime Regiment.

"When the citizens of the Texas need assistance, exercises like this ensure we'll be ready. It was an opportunity to prove to ourselves and our emergency management partners that we are in fact prepared to respond," said Hastings.

Texas National Guard kids make connections at Young Heroes Camp

Story by 2nd Lt. Alicia Lacy

BROWNWOOD, Texas - A little rain never hurt, and it most certainly did not kill their groove or dampen their moods.

Temporarily packed in a stuffed auditorium, about four dozen kids took a pause from the outdoor activities due to a sudden downpour, but the rain did not discourage them or end their fun. 
Music blasted on the speakers and they all hit the floor, showing off the new moves they’ve learned days before.

They were no longer strangers, but friends who only needed a little bit of music, but primarily just each other to have a good time.

To officially kick off summer, 106 Texas Air and Army National Guard kids swarmed the 78-acre conference and retreat center at Lake Brownwood for the annual, weeklong Young Heroes camp June 9-13, 2014.

Nearing the end of their stay at the camp, the kids were restless and eager to jump into the next activity with their new friends, some coming out of their shells and engaging with each other and camp staff. 

Though organizers packed the weeklong schedule with dancing, singing, hiking, shooting, zip-lining, swimming, and a flood of other activities that included a talent show and color run, the real message was to let parents and kids know that there is a support system available through the Texas Military Forces Family Support Services. 

However, the biggest takeaway is for the kids to form camaraderie among each other and build confidence, said Robert Hankins, the lead child and youth coordinator with TXMF FSS.

“[This is for] kids who have gone through, are going through or will go through a deployment or any military situation,” Hankins said. “[Annual Training] throws a lot of kids off, but here they can share, figure it out, and link together with other kids, and they learn that they’re not alone.”

Campers learned information pertaining to child and youth services available that they can take home to their parents, as well as a better understanding of the word “brat.”

Army brat and Air Force brat are terms often used to describe military dependents; however, Hankins put a twist on the old expression and formed an acronym to mean brave, responsible, adapt/attitude, and tough/terrific/tenacious.

He urged all campers to be proud of their service member and to be brave, responsible, adaptable with a good attitude, tough, terrific and tenacious.

Bailey Wehrman, 11, of Dallas, said she made many friends at the camp.

“It was fun and it’s a good experience,” said Wehrman, whose dad serves in the Air National Guard.

Alysa Touchett, 11, of Pflugerville, and daughter of a Texas Army National Guard member echoed those sentiments, telling participants to just “have fun.” 

For many of the kids, they’ve had very little contact with other Texas National Guard kids and families and have also experienced several mobilizations of their parent or parents.

“We want them to establish camaraderie by breaking the routing and bringing the parents together,” Hankins said. “With Guard kids, there may be another Guard family four blocks down the street and they don’t know.”

The kids ranged in age from about 9-years-old to 13-years-old, who were entering the fourth through the ninth grades. Each attended the camp at no cost thanks to the Army National Guard, the National Guard Association of Texas and the State Family Program.

This camp is not the only program offered by the TXMF Child and Youth program. The program offers events and programs geared toward TXMF children ages six through 18 throughout the year.
“It’s all about serving the kids,” Hankins said.

For more information on TXMF Child and Youth programs, call 512-782-1231 or visit www.facebook.com/TXMFChildAndYouthProgram.

Texas Guardsmen share response lessons with Brazilians

members of the Exercito Brasileiro or Brazilian Army, conduct a tour of the Round Rock Armed Forces Reserve Center, home of the Joint Task Force 136 (Maneuver Enhancement Brigade) April 8, 2014.
Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Griego
In this image, members of the Exercito Brasileiro or Brazilian Army, conduct a tour of the Round Rock Armed Forces Reserve Center, home of the Joint Task Force 136 (Maneuver Enhancement Brigade) April 8, 2014. The delegation, which included Maj. Anaditalia Pinheiro Viana Araujo, 1st Lt. Aline Campos Dia, and Sgt. 1st Class Jao Batista Junior, conduct the vist to learn about the brigade's Homeland Response Force Mission, which bridges the gap between civilian first responders and National Guard support efforts. Photo by National Guard Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Griego.

Story by Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Griego

 

ROUND ROCK, Texas - The Texas National Guard is no stranger to international partnerships, sharing long working relationships with both Chile and the Czech Republic. Recently, though, members of Joint Task Force 136 (Maneuver Enhancement Brigade), a Round Rock-based National Guard unit, enjoyed a visit from a new foreign partner: the Exército Brasieiro, the Brazilian Army. The visit, conducted May 8th at the Round Rock Armed Forces Reserve Center, focused on sharing best practices during emergency response operations.

"The main objective is to learn about the program," said Maj. Anaditália Pinheiro Viana Araújo. "We are beginning our  program in Brazil. We are looking for knowledge from different sources."

 Araújo, a medical officer within the Exército Brasieiro, was joined by 1st Lt. Aline Campos Dias, who serves as a military  doctor, and Sgt. 1st Class João Batista Júnior, a combat medic. With their specialty in patient care, learning how the  National Guard approaches mass casualty incidents was a natural fit. Prior to meeting with JTF-136 (MEB), they toured  the San Antonio Army Medical Center and the San Antonio Fire & EMS Department. 

 "It was wonderful," said Júnior. "You showed us how the military and the civilians can work together. That is fantastic for  us. It would be nice if in the future, we could have the same structure. 

 JTF-136 (MEB), as custodian of the FEMA Region VI Homeland Response Force Mission, is uniquely qualified to  discuss the role of interagency cooperation during emergency response operations. Their mission is, at the request of  civil authorities, to directly support and reinforce the life-saving efforts of local first responders in a disaster engagement.  Unlike the United States, Brazil's military forces serve as their first responders in combating natural and man-made  threats.

 "There, we are the first responder," said Júnior. "In Brazil, we are the only response that we have. We need to teach our people to do the same, to be prepared for some kind of threat and divide the responsibility with us."

On hand to share the National Guard support perspective was the 6th CBRNE Enhanced Response Force Package, the life-saving element of JTF-136 (MEB)'s HRF mission. CBRNE refers to the increased threat of chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and high-yield explosive hazards during a mass-casualty incident that would require the specialized capabilities of military assets in supporting civilian first responders.

"As an element of the CBRNE mission, the 6th CERFP was delighted to entertain members of the Exército Brasieiro," said Lt. Col. Les Edwards, commander for the 6th CERFP. "Their visit allowed us an opportunity to positively influence our international partners as they develop their own emergency response management team."

Sharing their experiences and best practices helped bridge the gap between the two nations' armies, fostering trust and confidence as they discussed how best to approach their respective life-saving missions. 

"It is always interesting to discuss the civil-military relationship that exists in the United States with representatives from other countries, like Brazil, and compare and contrast the two systems," said Maj. Patrick Nolan, the training officer for JTF-136 (MEB). "Only by understanding such things can we communicate an understanding of how missions like the Homeland Response Force actually work."

Communication was a key theme throughout the tour, as Guard personnel shared with the Brazilian delegation the equipment and techniques that allow them to work fluidly with their civil partners. 

"The main equipment that we need is the communication equipment to integrate the people we have," said Dias. When asked what the best capability they could gain in Brazil would be after meeting their US counterparts, she responded, "the possibility to have communications with people who are in the hot zone and people who are in the cold or warm zone."

These zones refer to the varying levels of contamination that make up a CBRNE situation. The hot zone represents the greatest contamination threat when rescuers are already working to save lives from rubble and debris. The threat of such hazards is especially relevant for the Brazilian army as they prepare to host the World Cup later this year and the Olympics in 2016. Security and safety preparations will be tantamount during these high-profile events.

"These are the kind of events in the United States that the National Guard would be called on to support with capabilities like the Civil Support Team," said Nolan. "They are just now developing those capabilities in Brazil and today's visit is especially important for them."

The members of JTF-136 (MEB) look forward to continuing this relationship with their Brazilian counterparts and furthering their emergency response program. For them, it's not about the uniforms worn, it's about the lives saved when disaster strikes. 

"The more we share best practices," said Edwards, "the better equipped they will be to answer the call when it comes."

Texas 'Ready Brigade' to say farewell

Mortarmen from the 36th Infantry Division fire a round during the Rapido River Crossing in the  Liri Valley of Italy during World War II, January 1944.
Mortarmen from the 36th Infantry Division fire a round during the Rapido River Crossing in the  Liri Valley of Italy during World War II, January 1944. The 36th lost 1,681 soldiers in combat during this crossing, with more than 1,200 others wounded. (Courtesy photo Texas Military Forces Museum)

  Story by Capt. Martha Nigrelle

 

 AUSTIN, Texas - They were in France during World War I, they were in Europe and in the Pacific during World War II, they  have been to Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan and they have served their fellow Texans during hurricanes, fires, and floods. They  are the 72nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team or “Ready Brigade,” and soon, they could be gone.

 The 72nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, part of the Texas Military Forces’ 36th Infantry Division, located in Houston, could  be deactivated as part of a National Guard Bureau reduction of force structure. 

 The brigade was first organized as part of the 36th Infantry Division upon America’s entry into World War I. After arriving in  France July of 1918, the brigade fought on the front lines during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive where they saw continuous  combat for 23 days straight, said Jeff Hunt, director of the Texas Military Forces Museum at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas. 

 Many historians believe this victory led to the German defeat. German defeat, or not, the soldiers were commended for  bravery during the decisive battle.

“No braver men ever fought for liberty and right than those who so gloriously upheld the traditions of Texas and Oklahoma,” said, in 1918, Maj. Gen. William R. Smith, the then 36th Infantry Division commander, speaking of the men from both Texas and Oklahoma who fought with the 36th.

Although the headquarters was disbanded during World War II, the infantry regiments that fell under the 72nd Brigade were not, and deployed soldiers to both the Europe and Pacific theaters of operation. Again the soldiers from the brigade’s infantry regiments were recognized for bravery and valor – three of the unit’s soldiers were awarded the Medal of Honor and 38 received the Distinguished Service Cross for their actions in combat, said Hunt.

The Brigade has been reorganized and re-designated several times in order to meet the needs of the state and nation. Yet over the years, the soldiers of the brigade have continued to respond to both federal and state calls to service. 

In recent years, the 72nd deployed overseas in support of both Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. During their 2009 deployment to Iraq, the brigade’s approximately 2,800 troops were spread across the country in 11 different locations performing various force protection missions and working one-on-one with Iraqi troops to facilitate the transition of security to the Iraqi government. The unit was recognized for its work in Iraq with the Joint Meritorious Unit Award, the only ribbon award granted by the Department of Defense, said Hunt.

At home the 72nd Brigade has also stayed active.

“We’re nicknamed ‘The Hurricane Brigade,’” said Col. Gregory Barrow, Commander, 72nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team. “The brigade responds, on average, to a major tropical storm every other year.”

Being located in Houston makes the brigade the de facto headquarters for any Gulf Coast response missions that the Texas Army National Guard is asked to perform, explained Barrow.

In the last 10 years, the brigade mobilized more than 3,800 troops in response to every major hurricane in the southwestern region of the U.S. In 2005, the brigade sent more than 400 soldiers to support recovery operations in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and in 2008, they sent more than 1,000 in response to Hurricane Ike, said Barrow.

Besides hurricanes, the brigade has assisted civilian authorities during flood season, wildfires and recovery operations.

“We routinely provide high water mobility assets to the Trinity River Basin during the fall and winter rain season,” said Barrow. 

In 2003 the brigade mobilized approximately 800 soldiers to assist with Space Shuttle Columbia search and rescue operations, a recovery operation that covered more than 2,000 square miles after the space shuttle broke apart over Texas during its final descent to Earth.

Now the brigade’s service could be over. 

Due to the force structure drawdown proposed by the Department of the Army, the National Guard Bureau was directed to reduce their soldier strength by two brigade combat teams. Only two states in the nation have more than one brigade combat team – Pennsylvania and Texas. The proposal is to defund the brigade headquarters, explained a Texas Army National Guard representative. 

This would also impact all the subordinate units located throughout south Texas that fall under the 72nd Brigade headquarters. Based on further cuts, which have already been communicated to the states’ adjutant generals, this move could affect 2,400 Texas guardsmen over the next two years, said Lt. Col. Joanne MacGregor, the Texas Military Forces State public affairs officer.

Should the proposed force structure reduction be approved, the brigade would become a non-deployable unit without a federal mission and its subordinate units would no longer have a wartime higher headquarters. 

The proposed reductions also affect facilities funding said MacGregor. The proposal calls for a $1 billion cut to facilities funding across the country which will result in the closure of several National Guard facilities in southeast Texas. The equipment and service members currently located at these facilities would no longer be available to react to natural disasters, making a National Guard response to support this area much more difficult.

Some people believe these cuts are too hasty.

“Currently there is a bill in the House of Representatives, HR 3930, which calls for a commission to study the structure of the Army,” said MacGregor. “It would halt these changes until an independent commission can provide recommendation on the most cost effective way to restructure the Army and Air National Guard.”

This bill has a significant and bi-partisan following with more than 167 signatures on it so far, including more than half of the Texas delegation, according to Govtrack.us, a website that tracks congressional activity. Representatives Sheila Jackson Lee and Pete Olsen out of Houston are two of the many congressmen to sign this bill so far.

The important thing for the Texas Military Forces is ensuring they are able to continue defending the state and nation.

“We’ve got to find the best way to defend America,” said Maj. Gen. John F. Nichols, the Texas adjutant general.

HR 3930 states that the purpose of establishing a national commission to study the structure of the Army is to do just that.

The bill and the proposed soldier strength reductions are both realities for the Texas Military Forces. Either solution will be a solution that the organization will have to adjust to and work with in order to continue doing their job.

“As the Texas Military Forces continue to work through this process, every member of the Texas National Guard will continue to do the outstanding work that has become the hallmark of our organization,” said Maj. Gen. Nichols, speaking about the impending changes to the 72nd. “Our citizen-soldiers remain committed to supporting the state of Texas any time they are called into service by Gov. Perry.”

Texas National Guard and partner agencies orchestrate search and rescue exercise

rom left: Melchor Fernandez, Luke Schott and Jeff Keuper from Federal Emergency Management Agency's Texas Task Force 1, discuss a search and rescue mission with a joint terminal attack controller from the 147th Air Support Operations Squadron, 147th Reconnaissance Wing, based at Ellington Field Joint Reserve Base in Houston, Texas
From left: Melchor Fernandez, Luke Schott and Jeff Keuper from Federal Emergency Management Agency's Texas Task Force 1, discuss a search and rescue mission with a joint terminal attack controller from the 147th Air Support Operations Squadron, 147th Reconnaissance Wing, based at Ellington Field Joint Reserve Base in Houston, Texas, during an exercise at Canyon Lake, Texas, April 11, 2014. The joint, interagency exercise simulated emergency response following a hurricane, with members from the Texas Air National Guard, Texas Army National Guard, Texas Task Force 1 and Texas Department of Public Safety integrating to form a joint response team.

Story by 2nd Lt. Alicia Lacy

 

 CANYON LAKE, Texas – Canyon Lake was their stage.

 The joint team of the Texas National Guard, Texas Taskforce 1 and the Texas Department of Public Safety were the players. 

 The interagency team worked together in a search and rescue exercise April 11, 2014, at Canyon Lake, Texas, with each  entity taking charge of the roles they would play in a real-world emergency response situation.

 While members from the combined response element actively participated in the search and rescue exercise, representatives  from each component were at Camp Mabry, Texas, handling all command and control functions, viewing live feeds of the  action thanks to the set up of the communications Texas Air National Guardsmen from the 149th and 221st Combat  Communications Squadrons.

 This particular exercise was conducted over the course of a week, beginning April 9 and ending April 13, 2014, with Texas  National Guard units contributing their piece throughout the week, from aviation assets to communications capabilities. 

 When a natural disaster or an emergency situation arises, the governor calls all the involved agencies together to respond  and fall under the command of a lead agency.

 “You’ve got a lot of different agencies operating in the same area trying to complete the same mission and each agency  brings its own piece to the puzzle,” said Jeff Deane, a Texas Task Force 1 helicopter search and rescue technician and  Austin firefighter.

 “This is the first time we’ve put all these pieces together with a focus on the aviation side of things,” Deane said. “The piece  that the aviation brings to the search and rescue mission is very valuable. We can cover a lot of area in a short amount of  time, and we see a lot of things the ground crew may not see.”

In addition to linking all the aviation pieces together for the exercise, this was the first time all the interagency partners worked with Tactical Air Control Party members.

“When you think of TACP, you normally think of warheads on foreheads,” said a master sergeant with the 147th Air Support Operations Squadron, 147th Reconnaissance Wing. “Close air support is our bread and butter, but we’re broadening our horizons as a unit and really getting vested in the domestic operations.”

“(The ASOS element) was absolutely beneficial,” said Chief Master Sgt. Shawna Woods, Texas Air National Guard operations superintendent. “This was the first time Texas Task Force 1, Army aviation and ASOS had eyes on the same focus.”

Woods said the primary responsibility of the TACPs was to de-conflict the airspace, acting in the role of the Federal Aviation Administration. However, in addition to that, the incorporation of the TACPs was a way to integrate an added capability from the Guard.

The goal of the exercise was twofold: to exercise command, control and coordination of joint and interagency aviation capabilities in response to a hurricane in Texas, as well as conduct training in actual search and rescue, incident awareness and assessment, and air mobility response operations.

The search and rescue mission began with members from the 221st and the 149th Combat Communications Squadrons establishing communications that allowed for the delivery of incident awareness and assessment capabilities to the representatives in the air operations center at Camp Mabry, as well as facilitating communications amongst all the players involved to include the TACPs speaking to aircraft via radio communications. 

“We’ll provide the immediate situational awareness for the incident commander, and then we’ll also provide additional incident awareness for the senior military officials,” said Air Force Master Sgt. Sean Morrison, with the 221st Combat Communications Squadron. “Our package can be setup in 15 minutes or less and an additional 30 minutes for the (Texas Interoperable Communications Package) and from there, you’ll have a pretty robust communications system.”

The communications element was imperative to the seamless execution of the search and rescue exercise.
“(Communications) for command and control is very critical,” said Air Force Master Sgt. Juan Rodriguez, an RF transmission systems airman from the 149th Combat Communications Squadron. “The on-scene commander can communicate in a given area, but it also gives reach back.”

Network and radio communications set in motion the simultaneous command and control from the air operations center to the forces on the ground, as they were able to view a live feed of the action in real-time through visuals provided by the RC-26 aircraft flying overhead.

“Everybody has a part to play and what we do is we help them talk to each other,” Morrison said.

After communications were established, the TACPs setup the landing zone for the helicopters to load and unload personnel and “survivors,” and then members from Texas Task Force 1 and DPS set to the waters and geared up to launch the mission with players wading in the lake awaiting rescue.

This continued throughout the day, as rescuers hoisted survivors onto aircraft and delivered them back on land, rescuing 36 survivors total.

Ultimately, it was the scene of a well-executed mission to enable all agencies to communicate with each other as a piece flowed from group to group to create a synthesis of capabilities and collaboration, as each agency worked together to accomplish the mission. 

“The great thing about Texas is that we have a lot of partners, from the local partners to the state partners to the federal partners,” said Mike Miller, DPS Region VI Division of Emergency Management state coordinator. “We value the exercise for bringing everybody together for an event like this so in real world there is a coordination piece that has to go on…so it’s important to exercise and work through those issues today so in a real world event we can assist the citizens of Texas.”

“We value the partnership with the National Guard. They’re our neighbors, our community folks, our partners. They help us serve the citizens of Texas,” Miller added. 

“In hurricane events we look for our valuable partners in the Guard.”

Texas Airman named Air National Guard's 2013 Senior Noncommissioned Officer of the Year

Master Sgt. Joseph G. Ashwood, from the 111th Reconnaissance Squadron, 147th Reconnaissance at Ellington Field in Houston, receives an award from Maj. Gen. Kenneth Wisian, Texas Air National Guard commander, during the 2014 Outstanding Airman of the Year  event at Camp Mabry.
Master Sgt. Joseph G. Ashwood, from the 111th Reconnaissance Squadron, 147th Reconnaissance at Ellington Field in Houston, receives an award from Maj. Gen. Kenneth Wisian, Texas Air National Guard commander, during the 2014 Outstanding Airman of the Year  event at Camp Mabry. Ashwood was named the Air National Guard's Outstanding Senior Noncommissioned Officer of the Year and will compete against other nominees at the Air Force level.

Story by: 2nd Lt. Alicia Lacy

 

 CAMP MABRY, Texas – Doing the assigned job is one thing, but taking that a step further and going the extra mile is what  makes one outstanding.

 Superior leadership, job performance, community involvement and personal achievements are all part of the criteria  Outstanding Airman of the Year nominees must demonstrate.

 The work and contributions of Master Sgt. Joseph G. Ashwood, from the 111th Reconnaissance Squadron, 147th  Reconnaissance at Ellington Field in Houston, earned him a special honor: the Air National Guard’s 2013 Senior  Noncommissioned Officer of the Year.

 “The task of selecting these Airmen from the outstanding individuals nominated this year was a difficult one,” said Lt. Gen.  Stanley "Sid" E. Clarke, III, Air National Guard director. “All nominees should be extremely proud of their achievements, their  exemplary representation of their states and territories, and their service to the Air National Guard and the communities in  which they live. They are examples to all Guard Airmen.”

 Besides his outstanding achievements at the squadron, Ashwood recently earned his bachelor’s degree, implemented a  workout regimen for the flight that increased the pass rate of members’ physical fitness assessment, and participated in a  wealth of community events, raising funds for the chief master sergeant of the Air Force’s scholarship fund, the Wounded  Warrior Project, and other groups, in addition to volunteering at the annual Wings Over Houston Air Show and being an active  member of the National Guard Association of Texas.

 Despite all his work at the wing and in the community, Ashwood credits his success to his leaders and his Airmen.

“I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude for leadership trusting me and putting me in positions to be successful,” Ashwood said, “my troops for working [hard] for me and to those who have mentored me along the way.”

As the ANG’s Senior NCO of the year, Ashwood will move on to compete against other nominees at the Air Force level.

Partners in Care program making its way to Texas National Guard

Story by: 2nd Lt. Alicia Lacy

 

CAMP MABRY, Texas - The goal is to help the Soldiers and Airmen of the Texas National Guard.

Through collaboration and partnerships with faith-based organizations in the state, the Texas Military Forces Chaplain Col. Joe Combs can achieve just that.

Since November 2013, Combs and his staff have been working to launch a Partners in Care program for the Texas Military Forces.

Partners in Care is a Department of Defense-approved program that establishes partnerships between the Texas National Guard and faith-based organizations that can provide resources to Soldiers and Airmen, and do so without regard to any religious affiliation.

The benefit of the initiative in Texas, given Texas’ vast geographical area and members living in communities across the state, often rural, is that it provides a linkage between service members who may be in need with groups that can provide resources to assist them at no charge. 

“In Dallas, or Houston or Austin, there are a lot of resources, but when you’re talking about Nocona, Texas, and Muleshoe, Texas, where we have Guardsmen and women, those resources aren’t as easily available,” Combs said. “But in each of those communities, there are faith-based organizations that are active and meeting the needs of those in the community.”

Though the partnerships are with faith-based organizations, the program allows service members to receive needed assistance from these organizations while maintaining their religious freedoms.

“It’s very clear in the [Memorandum of Understanding]. This initiative neither endorses the establishment of religion, nor requires any member of the Texas Military Forces to participate in any religious activity,” Combs said. “It respects each member’s right and each family member’s right to freedom of religion.”

Types of support includes, but isn’t limited to; counseling for individuals, couples, or families, childcare, household and automotive repairs, child and teen education, mentoring, reunion and reintegration support, single parent support, emergency food, clothing, and housing, transportation assistance, financial management classes and crisis and grief counseling.

A key benefit is that these groups provide assistance at no cost to the National Guard or the service member.

In early March 2014, Combs received the final approval to hit the ground running and begin establishing these partnerships with Texas congregations. Despite the green light, Combs is not in a rush to kick off the program.

“I want to make sure to proceed slowly and judiciously to make sure we do it right,” Combs said.

Combs plans to work with Air and Army National Guard chaplains throughout Texas Military Forces to identify possible congregations that would be willing to participate, in addition to getting commanders on board with the program.

Twenty-five other National Guards have already established a program in their respective state or territory, and Combs and his staff connected with chaplains from other states with established programs to gain insight on how to launch a program here.

“These faith-based organizations have a history of being willing, ready and able to help in the time of need,” Combs said. “As long as we ensure those religious freedoms are being upheld, this is a great resource to alleviate some of those needs out there.”

Texas Special Ops support US counterterrorism efforts in Africa

Maj. Sean Vieira, Special Operations Detachment planner, works to develop campaign plans with African counterparts during the 2014 FLINTLOCK exercise in Niger.
Maj. Sean Vieira, Special Operations Detachment planner, works to develop campaign plans with African counterparts during the 2014 FLINTLOCK exercise in Niger. The exercise allowed U.S. forces to work with partner nations to expand their capabilities to combat terrorism.

Story by: 2nd Lt. Alicia Lacy

 

NIAMEY, Niger - Texas Army National Guard Special Operators recently returned from a monthlong mission to Africa where they worked to bolster the counterterrorism capabilities in the northwest region of the continent. 

Special Operations Detachment – Africa (Airborne), one of the newest units in the Texas Army National Guard, deployed from mid-February to mid-March to Niger, Africa, serving as the overall command and control headquarters for the U.S. Africa Command’s FLINTLOCK exercise. 

This premier exercise is designed to help build the counterterrorism capacity of African partner countries. Special Operations forces from eight African countries and 11 Western European countries participated in the event that was performed in four locations across Niger. 

Building partner capacity is a key tenant in the war on terror. Special Operations forces, like SOD-A, routinely work to bolster abilities of partner countries so they are able to defend their borders from terrorist activity and attacks. 

To address the emerging and ongoing security threats in Africa, U.S. armed forces, other U.S. government agencies and international partners have been working closely together - training and fighting side-by-side - to thwart the spread of violent extremist groups.

Nowhere is this model more relevant than Niger, which has been described as the crossroads for African terrorism, said Col. Douglas O’Connell, SOD-A commander. 

Niger is adjacent to Mali, Nigeria, Libya and Algeria - all countries that are currently battling al-Qaida or affiliated terrorist groups. 

Proliferation of al-Qaida-linked extremist groups in the area presented real-world threats to troops who trained, mentored and advised partner nations in command and control, airborne operations and small unit tactics.

“This exercise is occurring at a time when our nations are faced with multiple obstacles within our region, which requires strong resolve to confront terrorism,” said Nigerien Chief of Staff M. Koridio Mahamadou. 

The annual, joint exercise, hosted by Special Operations Command-Africa since 2005, is a multifaceted, multinational training that consisted of airdrops of equipment and personnel, live-fire exercises, long range patrolling and support, mission planning and control at the operational level, and humanitarian relief operations that provided medical and dental care to the local populace. Interfacing with the other nations presented an opportunity for increased interoperability, counter-terrorism, and combat skills training for the African and Western nation partners.

Under SOD-A’s leadership, more than 1,000 troops from all four branches of the U.S. armed forces, Africa, Europe, and other Western partner nations played a role in the exercise, which was SOD-A’s new unit validation exercise.

“Your presence reflects your interest in our regional partnerships,” said Nigerien Col. Mahoamane Laminou Sani, FLINTLOCK country coordinator.

The goal of the exercise is to expand the partner nations’ capabilities to combat terrorism and enhance their tactical, operations and strategic capabilities.

SOD-A officers also mentored African officers, and the detachment conducted a unique airborne operation involving jumpers from all four U.S. military services, European parachutists and jumpmasters from Niger. At the conclusion of the parachute jump, SOD-A members were awarded Nigerien Jump Wings.

However, beyond the tactical and strategic operations, SOD-A operators understood the significance of building relationships.

“Relationships matter,” O’Connell said. “You can't attempt to influence any events or outcomes in Africa without first building a personal relationship with your host nation counterpart. Special operators understand this, which is why we are ideally suited for these types of missions.”

SOD-A is a unique reserve component comprised of highly experienced special operations soldiers and key enablers such as intelligence, logistics and communications. 

With the multinational flavor of FLINTLOCK combined with the very real threat, proved to be the ideal exercise to test the detachment’s readiness to conduct operations. The detachment’s mission is to deploy and provide command and control of joint and combined special operations forces 

“The soldiers who have joined SOD-A are looking for a chance to conduct real-world operations in challenging and extreme environments,” O’Connell said.

Yet, these highly-qualified service members did much more than execute realistic counterterrorism training. Without question, they contributed to the counterterrorism capabilities of America’s partners throughout Africa.

Texas Air Guard top leader transitions to Pentagon position

Story by: 2nd Lt. Alicia Lacy

CAMP MABRY, Texas - Two Texas Military Forces leaders stepped into new roles. 

Brig. Gen. Brian C. Newby is returning back to his legal roots as the guard adviser to the U.S. Air Force deputy judge advocate general at the Pentagon, and Col. David M. McMinn will step into the position left vacant by Newby.

“I will be the No. 2 lawyer in the Air National Guard to support the No. 2 lawyer in the United States Air Force,” Newby said. “It’s a fantastic job and one that I’m looking forward to.”

The position is newly created within the ANG structure that will allow the Guard to build a relationship with its active duty counterparts.

In his role as the Texas Air National Guard chief of staff and deputy commander, Newby served as the principle adviser to the commander of the Texas Air National Guard for all Air National Guard issues, in addition to assisting in the planning, direction and administration of more than 3,100 Texas ANG Airmen. His responsibilities also included recruiting, retention, labor relations, training, employee development and equal opportunity initiatives.

“I’m going to miss being the deputy commander, but my relationships with both the Army Guard and Air Guard are very strong,” Newby said. “I’m a Texan at heart. I’m a Texas Guardsman.” 

As Newby prepares to make his transition from Texas to Washington, D.C., this move is not new for him. Newby, a graduate of Texas Tech University and the University of Texas School of Law, has had two previous assignments in the nation’s capital, serving as the ANG assistant to the secretary of the Air Force inspector general and the ANG assistant to Headquarters U.S. Air Force Operations and International Law Division.

“We will dearly miss Brian’s leadership and judgment, but this position will bring even more benefit to the entire ANG,” said Maj. Gen. Kenneth Wisian, deputy adjutant general and commander of the Texas Air National Guard.

As McMinn begins to step into his position as the Texas ANG chief of staff and deputy commander, he will leave his current position as director of strategic planning with the TXMF. 

McMinn, a Clemson University graduate, was formerly the commander of the 136th Airlift Wing, Carswell Field, Fort Worth, Texas.

“If anyone if ready to fill Gen. Newby’s shoes without missing a beat, it’s Dave,” Wisian said.

The formal handoff was April 1, 2014.

Texas National Guard and Chilean Armed Forces leaders meet to discuss future of partnership

Chilean Air Force Capt. Javier Salinas, left, Commandos, 6th Squadron, 4th Aviation Brigade, Chilean Air Force, briefs U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Brian Newby, Chief of Staff and Vice Commander, Texas Air National Guard, and Command Chief Master Sgt. Oscar Tey, Senior Enlisted Leader, Texas Joint Domestic Operations Command, on the capabilities of his unit at the brigade's air base in southern Chile, March 27, 2014.
Chilean Air Force Capt. Javier Salinas, left, Commandos, 6th Squadron, 4th Aviation Brigade, Chilean Air Force, briefs U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Brian Newby, Chief of Staff and Vice Commander, Texas Air National Guard, and Command Chief Master Sgt. Oscar Tey, Senior Enlisted Leader, Texas Joint Domestic Operations Command, on the capabilities of his unit at the brigade's air base in southern Chile, March 27, 2014. The visit was part of the Annual State Partnership Program Planning Meeting, there the leaders discussed, planned and agreed on the security cooperation events that the two organizations will conduct in the next two years. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Malcolm McClendon).

Story by: Sgt. 1st Class Malcolm McClendon

 

 SANTIAGO, Chile – Senior leaders of the Texas National Guard and the Chilean Armed Forces met for the Annual State  Partnership Program Planning Meeting in Santiago, Chile, March 26, 2014. There the leaders discussed, planned and  agreed on the security cooperation events that the two organizations will conduct in the next two years.

 The partnership between Texas and Chile is part of the State Partnership Program, or SPP, run by the National Guard  Bureau. It allows State National Guards to partner with nations around the world to strengthen relationships and i  interoperability, enhance military capabilities, and increase cultural awareness and professional skills among U.S. military  personnel and their counterparts.

 According to Brig. Gen. Patrick Hamilton, commander of the Joint Texas Domestic Operations Command, an informal  relationship with Chile started before the two were formally announced as partners, back when a former Texas Adjutant  General and the current Chilean President attended school together.

 “Maj. Gen. [Ret.] Charles Rodriguez went to the Inter-American Defense University with Michelle Bachelet,” Hamilton said.  “There they became friends; he became the Adjutant General of Texas and she became the President of Chile. So we  reached out to Chile to see if they’d be interested in forming State Partnership with us, they were very interested and so we  formally requested the partnership.”

 The TXNG and Chile have been partnered since 2008 and have conducted close to 80 exchanges, some of which include  airborne operations, artillery fire, C-130 and F-16 maintenance and flight maneuvers, special forces exchanges, combat  casualty care practices, homeland response capabilities and even environmentally responsible practices. 

 According to Hamilton the partnership is a success due a similar partnership with another nation the TXNG has had since  the early ‘90s. 

 “The SPP was started at the end of the Cold War with the intent to bring former Warsaw Pact nations into NATO. Those  showing a desire reached out; and in our case Czech Republic did and Texas was assigned to it,” Hamilton said. “Texas was one of the first states to be part of the SPP and we have become very effective since; therefore there were no growing pains with the Chilean partnership.”

Hamilton is optimistic about where the partnership is going and how the TXNG and Chile can help each other grow and participate in larger exchanges. 

“Because our relationship is as mature as it is and the Chileans are as advanced as they are, U.S. Southern Command has asked us to begin helping Chile pursue leadership roles within the region and in exercises with U.S. Army South and other countries,” Hamilton said. “They’ve done that and we want to continue supporting them in those roles.”

Col. Tim Hodge, Chief of Security Cooperation Division at U.S. Army South attended the meeting as an observer to see how the relationship and future subject matter expert exchanges can help his command achieve similar goals with the South American nation. Hodge believes the TXNG is a key partner not only with Chile, but with U.S. Army South as well.

“U.S. Army South has worked with the TXNG ever since we moved to San Antonio, over eight years ago,” Hodge said. “Throughout the years, Texas has helped us not only with Chile, but with other partner nations throughout our area of responsibility. Texas is our partner-of-choice whenever it comes to fielding engagements like this.”

Hodges also believes these exchanges are key for the future of both countries’ militaries.

“When a young sergeant or young captain comes to these exchanges they not only meet their counterparts and exchange technical knowledge, they develop friendships as well,” Hodges added. “As they both rise through the ranks as senior enlisted and officers and they now have someone they can reach out to when needed and keep the relationships going.”

Chilean Navy Captain Francisco Abrego, North America and Asian Pacific Area Section Chief, International Operations Directorate for the Chilean Armed Forces Joint Staff and SPP coordinator for the Chileans, believes the face-to-face interaction the exchanges bring to the Texan/Chilean partnership is important.

“The network created by these exchanges is valuable, because now you know a face on the other side,” Abrego said. “It’s not just a phone number and a name, it’s a friend and that makes things go smoother and faster.”

This year’s meeting included a visit to Chilean Army, Navy and Air Force bases located in the southern part of the country. There, Chilean component commanders briefed the TXNG delegation on their respective capabilities and structure.

“We visited the different organizations and this gave us insight into how they work,” Hamilton said. “This helps us understand how we can better support each other in these exchanges.” 

According to the ASPPPM delegation new opportunities did come to mind.

“We noticed through these visits there were some exchanges we can absolutely do that we didn’t plan for; some dealing with flood response,” Hamilton added. “Chile has plans in place to deal with tsunamis. And even though we don’t deal with tsunami type floods, we still have flooding due to storm surges or hurricanes, so we’re going to plan exchanges to share our procedures and experiences, so that we can both be better prepared.”

This years’ meeting wrapped up with both countries signing an agreement with more than 40 exchanges planned for fiscal years 2014 and 2015.

“We have come away from this meeting with a robust plan in place for both countries.” Abrego said. “The Texan culture is just like the Chilean culture, which is why it’s so easy to work with them; and because of that, our partnership grows stronger every year. We look forward to continue working with Texas for many years to come.”