Posts in Category: Texas Army National Guard

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, 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.”

Camp Mabry teams up with Austin Police Department to train for active shooter events

Camp Mabry security officer Gilbert Gonzalez, and members of the Austin Police Department's Counter Assualt Strike Team (CAST), secure work spaces during an active shooter training scenario at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas, March 19, 2014.
Camp Mabry security officer Gilbert Gonzalez, and members of the Austin Police Department's Counter Assault Strike Team (CAST), secure work spaces during an active shooter training scenario at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas, March 19, 2014. Base security officers and employees trained with the Austin Police Department to rehearse active shooter scenarios to better prepare for such an event. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Malcolm McClendon)

Story by: Sgt. 1st Class Malcolm McClendon


 CAMP MABRY, Texas – As the sound of blanks fired in the hallway, personnel ran out, jumped through windows or sought  cover from the active shooter coming through their workspace. Fortunately, this was only a training exercise held at Camp  Mabry in Austin, Texas, March 19, 2014.

 The training scenario was designed to help Camp Mabry’s security department better coordinate with the Austin Police  Department’s Counter Assault Strike Team (CAST), as well as prepare the base’s employees should anything like this ever  occur. 

 Sandi Valdespino, a civilian case manager with the Texas Medical Command, felt this was a great exercise not only to  prepare the personnel here, but also to make them aware of the realistic threat.

 “People always down play things like this, especially since we’re on a base working side by side with military members,”  Valdespino said. “It’s important for us to know what to do. The knowledge gained here will empower them greatly.”

 Valdespino also shared how a fellow employee took the training seriously and physically put planned escape measures to  the test.

 “When the exercise started, we all ran into my office and closed the door as previously planned,” Valdespino continued. “Right then, Sgt. Ahmad Ofogh began to actually drag a large filing cabinet to block the door. He said he wanted to see if he could actually physically do it if the time came.”

The exercise put Camp Mabry’s security officers to the test as well; they are the first response for any type of emergency on the installation. Officer Ian McPherson, day shift supervisor, knows training like this is crucial for his team.

“The realism of the training helped us identify our strengths and weaknesses,” McPherson said. “We know it’s just pretend, but it got our blood pumping and adrenaline up. Working with CAST added another level of reality, which also allowed us to have an outside organization critique our tactics so that we can either better them or reinforce what we were doing well.”

By days end, Austin Police Department’s CAST and Camp Mabry security officers and employees went through seven scenarios, each time discovering new ways to react to an active shooter event. Spc. Danielle Schrag, a case manager with Texas Medical Command, describes the value this has for everyone involved.

“To see the CAST and our security officers go through these scenarios together is comforting,” Schrag said. “It not only gives me confidence in their abilities to respond to an active shooter, but makes us, the employees, aware of something like this happening; and therefore better respond and help ourselves till they arrive.”


Texas National Guard engineers say farewell to loved ones

The 454th Engineer Company colors are cased during a mobilization ceremony at the McNease Convention Center in San Angelo, Texas, Feb. 19, 2014.
The 454th Engineer Company colors are cased during a mobilization ceremony at the McNease Convention Center in San Angelo, Texas, Feb. 19, 2014. The San Angelo based engineer company will be deploying to Afghanistan to perform route clearance mission patrols and is the only company of this type within the Texas Army National Guard. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Private 1st Class Shannon Gatta/Released)

Story by: Pfc. Shannon Gatta, 454th Engineer

Company Public Affairs

 SAN ANGELO, Texas - Leaders with the Texas Army National Guard, together with friends and family, said goodbye and  good luck to members of 454th Engineer Company during a mobilization ceremony at the McNease Convention Center, in  San Angelo, Texas, Feb. 19, 2014. 

 The approximately 100 soldiers deploying to Afghanistan, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, will provide route  clearance missions with convoys and dismounted patrols, in order to detect and interrogate buried roadside bombs and other  explosive devices. 

 Just one of a handful of route clearance mission teams within the entire National Guard and the only one within the Texas  Army National Guard, the company has a potentially dangerous mission to ensure the remainder of the forces can move  freely around the battlefield. 

 “Our mission stands out as unique and vital one for the stability and safety of the Afghani people,” said Staff Sgt. Melissa  Wofford, medic noncommissioned officer with the company. “We are one of very few route clearance units in the country and  the very first to deploy with females like myself. I’m here to do the job that is needed and to support and protect my [fellow]  soldiers as well as to carry out the mission at hand.” 

With hundreds of loved ones attending the deployment ceremony to wish their loved ones well, friends and family arrived to the Concho Valley from across the state and even as far away as another country. For the only son of retired Army veteran Sgt. 1st Class Steven Alsept and his wife, the trip from Yongsan, South Korea, not only showed support for their son, Lt. Raymond Alsept, but came with advice on the eve of his first deployment. 

"[He said] listen to my NCOs," Lt. Alsept explains. "I have the final decision in our platoon but it's the NCOs that sway the decision [for me] tremendously."

Along with the focused training that each individual has received for their military occupational specialty, all of the soldiers have been through various trainings to include gunnery, medical, combative, explosive and field training in the past few months to be well-prepared for any mission given. 

This deployment to Afghanistan will mark the first overseas mission for the San Angelo-based company and an opportunity to represent the state of Texas.

“This multifaceted mission allows the National Guard’s citizen-soldiers to prove how diverse it is and be a recognizable force alongside our active duty counterparts,” said Capt. Eric Leatherman, commander of the company. 

The traditional formation of soldiers, casing of the colors, and a final salute from leadership to the company commander signified their mission a-go and served as a reminder of the absence, from friends and family, which lies ahead. 

Guest speakers, such as U.S. House of Representatives Congressman Mike Conaway, Col. Patrick Hamilton, Domestic Operations commander, Texas Military Forces, Col. Tracey Norris, 176th Engineer Brigade commander, and Command Sgt. Maj. Jimmy Leonard, 111th Engineer Battalion command sergeant major, were among those who came to show their gratitude and encouragement for those soldiers and their families.

The company will undergo further training at Fort Bliss in El Paso before leaving for Afghanistan this spring.

Texas National Guard teams up with Austin’s National Charity League, Inc. to help women vets find jobs

Daniel Esquivel, a designer from Project Runway's Season 11, gives advice on a potential career outfit to Amanda Negrete at the Military Women in Transition event here at Camp Mabry Feb. 16, 2014.
Daniel Esquivel, a designer from Project Runway's Season 11, gives advice on a potential career outfit to Amanda Negrete at the Military Women in Transition event here at Camp Mabry Feb. 16, 2014. Esquivel donated his time and gave away a career outfit he designed to an attendee. Chapters from the Austin area National Charity League, LLC., Texas Military Forces and Austin Human Resources Management Association worked together to host the career event for military women and dependents.

Story by: 2nd Lt. Alicia Lacy


CAMP MABRY, Texas - Be proactive, be prepared and take advantage of all the resources available.

As a recruiter who works to help veterans find jobs, Leslie Goodman said that’s advice she wants all military members to know and practice when transitioning from the military to the civilian workforce.

Goodman was one of several employers, recruiters and organization representatives at the Texas National Guard and National Charity League, Inc.’s Military Women in Transition event Feb. 16, 2014, at Camp Mabry.

Organizers of the event touched on several aspects of the job search and career enhancement process, which included social media, resume reviews and mock interviews.

Goodman said one of the biggest challenges for military members transitioning to a civilian career is that there aren’t enough military occupational specialties that directly translate into a civilian occupation.

“They have the discipline and training, but not the job skills,” Goodman added. “It’s difficult to take a service member who worked with artillery to apply those skills to a career in the civilian sector.”

Although some career fields in the military don’t directly convert into a civilian career, the basic skills gained from military service can give veterans an advantage.

Lisa Young, Annie Worthen, and Jennifer Grier, all U.S. Army veterans, said they can capitalize on the foundational skills they learned in the military - discipline, attention to detail, how to remain focused on the task, and always completing the mission.

Those are all qualities employers look for, Goodman said.

Goodman also stressed that service members should always be prepared when interviewing.

Many job seekers don’t know to research the company, the company culture, or the interviewer prior to going to a job interview, Goodman said. By doing their homework, jobseekers can have an edge.

In addition to doing research and planning for the future, Goodman said it is important for service members to take advantage of the programs the military offers its members like the G.I. Bill and eArmyU.

Worthen had the opportunity to perform a mock interview with Goodman, where she said she learned helpful information that can aid in her own career search.

Worthen was pleased with the event and the honest feedback she received.

“This event is great because the information they’re giving us, we didn’t know,” Worthen said.

Members from the Austin chapters of the league, Texas Military Forces Family Support Services and Operation Homefront conceived the idea for the event after a brainstorming session. As a result, the group recognized a lack of transitioning services for military women.

“Our organization has a national initiative, Service from the Heart, focused on supporting military members and their families,” said Julie Ballard, Hills of Austin chapter president. “There were transition services for men, but none that focused on the unique needs of women.”

After spending 12 years in the Army, Young said she appreciated the clothing closet and the opportunity to speak with hair and makeup experts.

“We’re so used to wearing a uniform everyday, so they’re teaching us what to wear,” Young said.

The clothing closet allowed attendees to choose from new or gently-used business attire and receive advice from hair and makeup professionals, which featured Daniel Esquivel, a designer from season 11 of “Project Runway” and season 3 of “Project Runway All Stars.”

Esquivel, whose father served in the U.S. Air Force, said he was happy to give back to the community.

Esquivel gave fashion advice and raffled one of his designs to an attendee, which will be tailored to fit her.

Organizers said the event was successful because it presented options for women veterans and dependents, as well as providing an opportunity for teens in the league to engage with and serve military members - something that doesn't happen often.

“We can see this happening again,” Ballard said. “But we will always bend toward the greatest need.”