Posts in Category: Texas Army National Guard

Partnering together to serve others

On Thursday, July 26, 2012, a volunteer with Remote Medical Access prepares a set of lenses to be cut into glasses.
On Thursday, July 26, 2012, a volunteer with Remote Medical Access prepares a set of lenses to be cut into glasses. One of the largest humanitarian missions of its kind, Operation Lone Star is an annual joint exercise involving the Texas Military Forces, several other military and civilian agencies that partner together to provide medical, dental and vision services to the under-served communities of south Texas, while taking part in a disaster preparedness exercise.

 

 Story by Laura Lopez

 
 BROWNSVILLE, Texas - As hundreds of volunteers from various local, state and federal agencies provide free medical  services to the under-served communities in south Texas, members of the Texas Military Forces spent Thursday, July 26,  2012, in Brownsville, Texas, receiving a first-hand look at everything from blood pressure checks and diabetes screenings  to dental care and prescription glasses, as part of Operation Lone Star VIP Day.

 A partnership that started 14 years ago is now the largest public health humanitarian mission of its kind in the United States  and includes the Texas Department of State Health Services, United States Public Health Services, international  representatives, as well as countless of volunteers from other local, state and federal agencies. For the man behind  Operation Lone Star, it is the memories of constantly being sick in the second grade that has made Dr. Brian Smith, Texas  Department of State Health Services Region 11 medical director come to appreciate medical care and those who continue  to help others.

 “Everyone involved in Operation Lone Star has been selfless over the years and been extremely dedicated to the mission,”  said Smith. “It has been an honor and privilege to work with all of you over the years.”

 A full-scale operation providing disaster recovery training and emergency preparedness, Operation Lone Star 2011 saw  nearly 10,000 people for more than 53,000 services that included immunizations, hearing and vision exams, sports  physicals for students, medical evaluations and exams, dental services and social services. 

 Also joining forces at this year’s exercise, members of the Remote Area Medical Foundation stated that while they have  completed over 674 missions across the United States in the last 20 years, this was their first time, and hopefully not their  last time, in Texas. Able to bring various medical, dental and vision services to the shorter one-week long Operation Lone Star, the message was clear.

“Some people may as well be on the moon in terms of the access they have to necessary medical care, that’s how essential this program is,” said Stan Brock, founder of Remote Area Medical Foundation.

Honored and thankful for the Texas Military Forces to be a part of Operation Lone Star for the last 14 years, Texas Adjutant General, Maj. Gen. John F. Nichols referenced Hurricane Dolly from 2008 as a situation where this very mission not only enabled our service members to deploy quickly, but also get much needed assistance to the citizens of Texas.

“When we go overseas to support our country we sometimes forget about what is going on back here at home and Operation Lone Star is just one example of how we can demonstrate ‘Texans serving Texas,’” said Nichols.

Despite Operation Lone Star being able to provide free medical care to more than 100,000 south Texas residents over the last 14 years and its ability to continue growing and strengthening to include international partners, many feel the mission is still a critical part in an on-going battle.

“It will never be enough, but it’s a great start,” said Cameron County Judge Carlos Cascos.

April is sexual assault awareness month

Maj. Gen. John F. Nichols, Texas' adjutant general, signing a proclamation recognizing April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month for the Texas Military Forces, at Camp Mabry, in Austin, Texas, April 3, 2012.
Photograph from event featuring Maj. Gen. John F. Nichols, Texas' adjutant general, signing a proclamation recognizing April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month for the Texas Military Forces, at Camp Mabry, in Austin, Texas, April 3, 2012.

 

Story by Maj. Paula Rodriguez and Staff Sgt. Phil Fountain
 

 CAMP MABRY, Texas – On April 3, Maj. Gen. John F. Nichols, the adjutant general of Texas, and Command Sgt. Maj.  Bradley C. Brandt, the state’s senior enlisted advisor, signed a proclamation designating this month as Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Throughout the month, the Texas Military Forces will hold numerous activities highlighting the  importance of preventing and responding to sexual violence and assault.

 These efforts will continue to promote education and training to create an environment where sexual assault is rejected,  and a culture of prevention, response and accountability flourishes.

 Not only does sexual assault irrevocably hurt, denigrate and violate the victim’s life, it can directly impact every member of our unit, and our mission. As a force, the National Guard must be ready to quickly and efficiently deploy, whether overseas for contingency operations or in response to state disasters, such as wildfires and hurricanes. Our readiness depends on our ability to act as a team and for each of us to be able to depend on one another.

The Sexual Assault Prevention and Response program is a Department of Defense initiative to “ensure the safety, dignity and well being of all members of the Armed Forces.”

“Denim Day” will be our most comprehensive SAAM initiative, and will take place on April 25, 2012. A rape prevention education program, “Denim Day” is held in honor of a woman who was forcibly raped by her driving instructor. The perpetrator’s conviction was overturned, according to the chief judge, “…because the victim wore very, very tight jeans, she had to help him remove them, and by removing the jeans it was no longer rape, but consensual sex.”

On Wednesday, April 25, TXMF personnel can wear jeans to work after they learn about the history of “Denim Day” and receive a “Jean Pocket” sticker from the SAPR office. The purpose of wearing the jeans is to make a public statement to combat misconceptions surrounding sexual violence.

Other state and unit level SAAM activities will include the distribution of posters and handouts, mobile training activities, a Fun Run and 5K, as well as candlelight vigil.

Additionally, a joint event with SafePlace, a local crisis center, will take place during the Texas Military Forces Open House & American Heroes Air Show at Camp Mabry, in Austin, Texas, April 21-22, 2012.

All sexual assault victims that contact a SAPR office are treated with dignity, fairness and respect. The office works to help restore victim's health and well-being, and ensure senior leaders understand that allegations of sexual assault must be thoroughly investigated and that appropriate administrative and disciplinary action be taken against perpetrators.

To learn more about the SAPR program, please visit www.sapr.mil or contact the state office at SARC@TX.NGB.Army.Mil. Additionally, you can get our latest updates on Facebook at www.facebook.com/TexasMilForceSARC.

Victims of sexual assault can call the 24/7 Safe Helpline at (877) 995-5547.

Staff Sgt. Phil Fountain contributed to this story.

Guard is cost-efficient way to defend America

 

Story by Sgt. Todd Boyles
 

AUSTIN, Texas - Members of the Texas Military Forces take part in the annual National Guard Association of Texas conference in Austin during March 23 through 25.

At the NGAT conference, service members share ideas and concerns about combat readiness and family issues.

"We get together to speak as to where we have been in the past year and where we are going in the future," said U.S. Army Maj. Justin Perryman, the president of the National Guard Association of Texas. 

The association assists in communicating the Texas Military Forces interests to the state and federal lawmakers. The NGAT's mission is to illustrate the value of the service members and the Texas Military Forces to Texans and the American people. 

As of Sept. 30, 2010, the National Guard has mobilized more than 650,000 service members in support of Department of Defense overseas contingency operations. 

According to the National Guard Bureau 2012 Posture Statement report, the Guard contributes 35 to 40 percent of all active Army and Air Force manpower at only 7 percent of the budget. 

"The Guard is the most effective way to defend America and the most cost-efficient," said Ray Linder, executive director of the National Guard Association of Texas. "You can keep four Guardsmen for what it will cost you to maintain one regular Army soldier."

In addition to supporting the "Big Army," the Guardsmen also respond to all domestic emergencies. 

Texas is one of few states that have a Homeland Response Force certified unit. The HRF units add capabilities that allow the Guard to rapidly respond to situations such as natural disasters, biomedical emergencies or riots, said Perryman.

To be an effective fighting force, the Guard needs to have stability on the home front. One place this stability comes from is the Texas State Family Programs.

"Family readiness is a crucial element to mission readiness," said Tara Gaspar, a Senior Family Readiness support assistant with the State Family Programs. "We are a force multiplier. If you do not have a ready family at home, that service member is not ready."

 

Agricultural development team trains for deployment

 Story by: Sgt. Josiah Pugh
 
 Posted: March 28, 2012
 

Sgt. Josiah Pugh Agribusiness Development Team Six soldiers work in groups on practice agricultural projects in College Station, Texas. The team is scheduled to deploy to the Ghazni province in Afghanistan this summer to help train Afghans in lost agricultural techniques.
Sgt. Josiah Pugh
Agribusiness Development Team Six soldiers work in groups on practice agricultural projects in College Station, Texas. The team is scheduled to deploy to the Ghazni province in Afghanistan this summer to help train Afghans in lost agricultural techniques.

COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Instructors from the Norman Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture of Texas A&M University trained 12 soldiers from the Texas National Guard Agribusiness Development Team Six to better prepare them for their upcoming deployment to the Ghazni province of Afghanistan later this year.

The team is comprised of troops specializing in agricultural fields such as animal, soil, irrigation and crop sciences. During the weeklong training, the Borlaug Institute instructors taught the soldiers how to manage future agricultural projects that will benefit the Afghan people. 

“You have an agricultural society that lives off of subsistence agriculture,” said Lt. Col. Jet Hays, commander of the Agribusiness Development Team Six.

Hays explained that at one time, the Afghan people had very complicated irrigation systems that were well engineered and had existed for thousands of years. They also had a very sophisticated way to move agricultural goods around. But with the Russian invasion in 1979, many of the farmers ended up in refugee camps in Pakistan. By the time the war was over, much of the knowledge about advanced agricultural practices was lost. 

“Basically you had a generation that forgot their techniques for storing food and farming methods,” said Hays. “We’ll be trying to help them regain some of that knowledge.”

“One of our projects we will be teaching them is how to preserve their food,” said Staff Sgt. Melissa Bright, an agriculture specialist with the team. “They currently sell 90 percent of their production to Pakistan and then rebuy it a couple of months later because they don’t remember how to can their goods.” 

With the help of the Borlaug Institute instructors, the team will be able to successfully accomplish their mission of improving the agricultural prosperity of the Ghazni province. But, the benefit of working together extends in both directions.

“They have be so wonderful and they are so diligent,” said Piya Abeygunawardena, Associate Director at the Borlaug Institute. “It has been one of the most pleasant and exciting experiences for me.”

“We have several individuals flown here just to talk with us,” said Bright. “The experience is amazing.”

Agribusiness Development Team Six is scheduled to depart this summer.

Texas State Guard Participates in 2012 Oral Rabies Vaccination Program 2-2

Brig. Gen. William L. Smith, director Joint Staff and commander, Domestic Operations for Joint Force Headquarters of Texas (second from left) met with members of the Texas State Guard and received an overview of the annual Texas Oral Rabies Vaccination Program in Zapata, Texas.
On Jan. 6, 2012, Brig. Gen. William L. Smith, director Joint Staff and commander, Domestic Operations for Joint Force Headquarters of Texas (second from left) met with members of the Texas State Guard and received an overview of the annual Texas Oral Rabies Vaccination Program in Zapata, Texas. Since the program's inception in 1995, more than 39 million doses of the oral rabies vaccine, Raboral V RG, have been distributed over approximately 540,000 square miles of Texas.

 

 Story by Laura Lopez
 
 ZAPATA, Texas – Members of the Texas State Guard joined forces with the Texas Department of State Health Services,  the United States Department of Agriculture, as well as other local, state and federal agencies, Jan. 3-18, to participate in  the 2012 Texas Oral Rabies Vaccination Program.
 
 With 1.8 million doses of the oral rabies vaccine expected to be dropped over portions of South and West Texas, Texas  State Guard soldiers with the 3rd Battalion, 1st Regiment provided both ground and air crew support that included navigational assistance, the operating and management of the bait drop and the loading of the baits onto the aircraft. A  program the Texas State Guard has actively taken part in since 2007, this is one of the many humanitarian missions they  are proud to be a part of.
 
 “The 2012 ORVP mission will be an experience I will not soon forget,” said Incident Commander 2nd Lt. Stephen Walker,  3rd Battalion, 1st Regiment. “I was honored to work alongside fellow members of the TXSG, members of federal and state  agencies and to serve the citizens of Texas. Such a mission truly gives the TXSG members a feeling of giving back to his  or her community for such a worthwhile cause.”
 
 Originally initiated in 1995, with the goal of creating zones of vaccinated coyotes and gray foxes along the leading edges  of the epizootics, statistics from the Texas Department of State Health Services show animal cases of the canine strain  of rabies in southern Texas fell from 122 in 1994 to zero in 2000 with single cases in 2001 and 2004. In addition the fox  strain, prevalent in western Texas, dropped from 244 animal cases in 1995 to zero in 2010 and 2011.
 A mission Brig. Gen. William L. Smith, Director Joint Staff and Commander, Domestic Operations for Joint Force Headquarters of Texas describes as important to the state of Texas, its citizens and to the Texas economy he and other representatives from the Texas Military Forces and Department of State Health Services visited the command post in Zapata, Texas, Jan. 6, for a first-hand look.
 
“This is another example of how we can effectively work together with our partnering agencies and benefit our citizens at a time when no disaster is present,” said Smith.
While the vaccine dose dropped is enclosed in a small packet dipped in fish oil and coated with fish meal crumbles, health services representatives say the baits do not pose any risk to humans and will not become established in the environment making the Texas Oral Rabies Vaccination Program an exceptionally safe method of controlling rabies.

Texas Military Forces perform during World Series in Arlington, Texas

Two CH-47 Chinooks, belonging to the Texas Army National Guard, perform a two ship flyover during Game 4 of the Major League Baseball World Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Texas Rangers, Oct. 23, in Arlington, Texas.
Two CH-47 Chinooks, belonging to the Texas Army National Guard, perform a two ship flyover during Game 4 of the Major League Baseball World Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Texas Rangers, Oct. 23, in Arlington, Texas. Other Game 4 participation from the Texas Military Forces included the singing of the national anthem during the seventh-inning stretch by Chief Warrant Officer 3 Darby Ledbetter.

 Texas Military Forces perform during World Series in Arlington, Texas

 Story by Laura Lopez
 
 ARLINGTON, Texas - With more than 50,000 people in attendance at Ballpark Stadium in Arlington, Texas and millions  more watching at home, members of the Texas Military Forces joined the Texas Rangers in their battle for the Major League Baseball World Series title, Saturday, Oct. 22 and Sunday, Oct. 23.
 
 Over the course of two games, soldiers and airmen performed on the field and two CH-47 Chinooks flew high above the  ballpark displaying both the American and Texas flags. In game three, Chief Warrant Officer 3 Darby Ledbetter, of the  Recruiting and Retention Battalion Headquarters, performed “God Bless America” during the seventh-inning stretch. Texas Air National Guard member Master Sgt. Erika Stevens, of the 531st Band of the Gulf Coast, performed the same song,  Sunday, Oct. 23, while the 36th Combat Aviation Brigade conducted a two ship CH-47 helicopter flyover following the  conclusion of the national anthem.
 
 “It was a huge honor to be given the opportunity to do this for the Texas Rangers organization and to get the opportunity to  represent all of our fellow brothers and sisters in the Texas Army National Guard,” said Lt. Col. James Hardy, Dallas Army  Aviation facility commander. 
 
 With a short lead time to execute the flyover mission for millions to see, it took nine crew members on the aircraft, two  soldiers coordinating from inside the stadium and five additional mechanics to prepare the aircraft back at the aviation  facility, eight miles away in Grand Prairie. Forced to sharpen their focus and create a plan for execution, this is one mission some Soldiers will soon not forget.
 
“To be chosen to conduct this mission was a once in a lifetime experience for myself and my crew members,” said Standardization Instructor Pilot with the Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2-149th General Support Aviation Battalion, Chief Warrant Officer 4 Doug Phillips. “It was an honor to represent the Dallas Army Aviation Support Facility, 2-149th GSAB (Rough Riders) and the Texas Army National Guard in front of the world!!!”
 
After months of firefighting support throughout the state of Texas, one soldier on board the trail aircraft was honored to take part in this terrific and rare experience that allowed her to hear the fans down below.
 
“When we are usually called for domestic support, it is helping our neighbors in their time of need. This was a great morale-building event for a GSAB that has been deployed, to which we were able to add our mark to a great World Series game,” said Capt. Carisa Kimbro, HHC 2-149th GSAB. 
 
While well below the height of the Chinooks’ mission, both Ledbetter and Stevens’ experience performing “God Bless America” near home plate was one that changed their lives. A member of the Texas Army National since 2000, Ledbetter jokingly feels he can now check one item off of his bucket list. 
 
“I was humbled to receive the opportunity to sing at the World Series knowing there are so many great performers out there,” said Ledbetter. “Being on that field was so surreal and an honor to stand in the uniform representing the soldiers, the National Guard and the United States.”
 
For Stevens, an elementary school teacher in Dallas, receiving the call 48 hours before the game and given the opportunity to perform for millions of people was not only an honor and a privilege, but allowed her to demonstrate how practice and perseverance can pay off. 
 
“It was a nervous and exciting experience all at the same time, but it helped that I did a sound check around noon on Sunday,” said Stevens. “It was an honor to represent the military, my family and all those rooting for me and I really wanted to conquer my nerves because this is the one performance you prepare years and years for.”
 
Other members of the Texas Military Forces assisted in the unfurling of the American flag on Saturday alongside members of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines.

Guard helps local community reclaim neighborhoods

 

Story by Sgt. Lamine Zarrad 

HARLINGEN, Texas -- Members of the Texas Military Forces participate in the Operation Crackdown, a joint effort of the Harlingen community and the military to reclaim neighborhoods from the influences of violence and illegal drugs.

A flotilla of construction machinery, illuminated by the strobe lights of several police cruisers, resembled a Mardi Gras parade rather than a military convoy. However, the adults and children of the Harlingen communities, greet the soldiers and airmen of the motorcade like wartime heroes.

The service members and their equipment are part of Operation Crackdown, the Texas Military Force's effort to reclaim neighborhoods from the influences of violence and illegal drugs.

Operation Crackdown, employs seized drug funds to rent machinery and equipment for the demolition of houses utilized in drug-affiliated activities, said Army Staff Sgt. Michael Leslie, the NCOIC of the operation. 

"The National Guard is a community organization," said Army Col. Randal E. Davis, the commander of the Texas Military Forces Joint Counterdrug Task Force. "We live in this community. We are here to help." 

"It's a joint operation," said Air Force Capt. Samantha A. Martinez, the OIC of Operation Crackdown. 

During Operation Crackdown missions, the Army and Air Force personnel operate jointly with the local authorities and federal agencies in demolishing houses with nexus to illicit activities.

"This project is fantastic," said Tom Whitten, Harlingen's police chief.

Successful community policing relies on continuous cooperation between various local, state and federal agencies, said Whitten. 

“The joint effort will especially benefit the children in the communities, as some of the decrepit houses are in near proximity to schools,” said Carlos Yerena, Harlingen city manager. 

"We are very happy that we came together to help clean up the city," said Lt. Miryam Anderson, an officer with the Harlingen police department. "A lot of entities came together and joined forces to demolish houses that had been somehow linked to the drug and crime activity."

The fifth graders of the James Bowie Elementary, situated directly across the street from a house riddled with gang-affiliated graffiti, indicated plenty of enthusiasm about the project.

The children are expecting newly planted trees in place of the decrepit building, said Kiara Trevino, a fifth grader at James Bowie Elementary who formerly resided next-door to the targeted structure.

Prior to demolishing the house, service members with the Drug Demand Reduction program provided anti-drug education to children attending JBE. 

Law enforcement agencies consistently reported reduced crime rates in the communities participating in Operation Crackdown, said Martinez. 

Counterdrug leadership anticipates maintaining the current annual tempo of approximately four to five, two week long missions every year in addition to expanding the area of the operation to north Texas. 

Since inception in 1993, Operation Crackdown has demolished nearly 1200 dilapidated houses in over 40 Texas communities, said Davis.

“We are working side by side with our law enforcement partners and local communities,” Davis said, “to interdict the flow of drugs, remove safe havens for their use, and reduce demand within the State to make our communities safer."

Texas National Guard marks decade of post-9/11 service

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst speaks at an event Sept. 10 at Camp Mabry, Austin, Texas, which commemorate a decade of Texas National Guard service in the global war on terrorism.
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst speaks at an event Sept. 10 at Camp Mabry, Austin, Texas, which commemorate a decade of Texas National Guard service in the global war on terrorism. Representatives from the Texas National Guard hosted a ceremony marking the opening of a new exhibit called "9-11 and Beyond: The Texas National Guard in the War on Terror" at the Texas Military Forces Museum at Camp Mabry. The exhibit highlights the extraordinary contributions of the 23,000 Texas Army and Air National Guard service members who have deployed in support of the global war on terror since Sept. 11, 2001.

 Texas National Guard marks decade of post-9/11 service 

 Story by Luke Elliot 
 
 AUSTIN, Texas - Texas National Guard soldiers and airmen, dignitaries and community members gathered at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas, Sept. 10 to commemorate a decade of Texas military support to the global war on terrorism with  the opening of a new historical exhibit.
 
 Texas Adjutant Gen. Maj. Gen. John F. Nichols hosted the ceremony, which celebrating a new exhibit called "9-11 and  Beyond: The Texas National Guard in the War on Terror" at the Texas Military Forces Museum at Camp Mabry.
 
 "The Texas National Guard has deployed more soldiers than any other national guard to this war," said Nichols, who noted  that the Texas National Guard has mobilized more than 29,000 soldiers and airmen since 2001, with about 23,000 of them  deploying overseas to Iraq and Afghanistan. "The Texas military forces have sacrificed greatly."
 
 The exhibit includes displays on the Texas National Guard's support to Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi  Freedom, major Texas National Guard deployments, and many interactive displays and presentations.
 
 "We're very proud of our troops, especially for all the sacrifices that the members of the guard and their families make on  behalf of our nation," said Texas State Sen. Jose Rodriguez, District 29, El Paso, Texas. "I believe that Texas has  always honored and supported its veterans. We're a proud state. We like to brag about our state, and we like to brag about  our troops."
 
 "I think it's extremely significant on the tenth anniversary to open up an exhibit like this at Camp Mabry because it is  important, as Gen. Nichols said, to make sure people remember this day, remember the people who gave their lives," said  Rodriguez.
 
Brig. Gen. William Smith, who returned from Iraq a few days before the ceremony, said he was surprised about the emotions the event brought him.
 
"It just makes me respect our soldiers and the abilities that they have and the things they are doing," said Smith. "It's always a good thing to see other people acknowledge what those soldiers are doing."
 
Smith, who served as the assistant division commander for maneuver, 36th Infantry Division, also deployed with the 49th Armor Division shortly after Sept. 11, 2001.
 
This deployment was the first large-scale mobilization of the National Guard since World War II. 
 
"It was a huge challenge," said Smith. "It's been an almost continuous cycle since. If you go back in time, you'll find that since Sept. 11, we have had somewhere between 3,000 and 5,000 Texas National Guardsmen deployed every year. That's a tribute to the sustainability of our system and more importantly to our soldiers."
 
Smith added that the Texas National Guard has changed significantly since 2001.
 
"We have had a couple of major events in the military that have changed the course of how we do business," said Smith. "For instance, if you find a regulation that was written before 1989, before the fall of the wall…it is probably not valid. If you find something that was written before 2001, it probably is suspect at least because everything has changed for us since 2001."
 
"This is not our fathers' National Guard," he added. "It's a marketable different organizations that we're in."
 
A common theme at the event was the display of gratitude toward soldiers and airmen for all they have accomplished during the past decade.
 
"What you do is inspirational. I appreciate you," said Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst. "God bless every one of you all in our Texas Army and Air National Guard. Thank you all the men and women that serve abroad, and may we never forget the 3,000 innocent men and women who lost their lives on 9/11."

UT football team supports Texas Guardsmen

Texas Military Forces, soldiers and their families from The Texas National Guard spent a special afternoon with the University of Texas football players and coaches at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas, Aug. 14, 2011.
In this image released by the Texas Military Forces, soldiers and their families from The Texas National Guard spent a special afternoon with the University of Texas football players and coaches at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas, Aug. 14, 2011. This unique afternoon allowed military members and their families to get close and personal with their favorite Longhorn. The football players gained a greater understanding of the sacrifice members of Texas Military Forces endure to serve their state and country. UT Coach Mack Brown is a strong supporter of Texas Military Forces and stressed his sincere gratitude to all in attendance. The opportunity to bring together two great organizations to share synergies and give thanks made for a memorable event.

 

 Story by Spc. Eric Love 

 CAMP MABRY, Texas – Following a long drill weekend, members of The Texas Military Forces didn't mind staying  around a bit longer as their families joined them to share a special afternoon with the University of Texas football team.  More than 30 players and five coaches took time away from their pre-season training at the UT 40-acre campus to show  their appreciation and support for local guardsmen.
 
 After their Aug. 14 afternoon workout, the team arrived at Camp Mabry, Texas and loyal Longhorn fans braved the  sweltering heat to get one-on-one time with their favorite players. 
 
 UT Head Coach Mack Brown emphasized the importance of making time in their regimented schedule to reach out to the  surrounding community. On this occasion, they met with members of the TXMF, signing autographs and taking photos  with their fans.
 
 "Thank you for giving your lives; your families for giving their time and allowing us to have a free country and play a game  like football," said Brown. "[Saying thank you] is really important to us."
 
 Brown then started the team off with a customary "roll call" where each positional player contributed their own special  chant to kick-start the activities. The crowd was overwhelmed by the enthusiasm of the team and responded with a loud  "Hook 'Em Horns." 
 
 The players took time to mingle and say thank you to the service members, signing t-shirts, hats, footballs and posters.  Fans, young and old, expressed great appreciation and excitement at having a chance to see the players relaxed in an  informal gathering.
 
 "This was so cool," said Spc. Richard Castillo of 100th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment. "It was great to meet the  coaching staff and players and I was surprised by how curious they were about what life is like in my uniform."
 
 Army Col. Patrick Hamilton, the joint chief of staff for the state adjutant general, discussed the vital role the UT football  players have in lifting a soldier's morale by giving a brief overview of activities members of The Texas Military Forces  engage as they are deployed oversees in places like Iraq and Afghanistan.
 
"After being out on a three day mission, soldiers look forward to waking up at 4:00am to turn on Armed Forces Network and watch a UT football game, allowing them to decompress," said Hamilton.
 
Hamilton then opened up the floor for questions from the players about military life. The topics ranged from the weight of the combat vests to discussing the similarities between football players and soldiers on leadership challenges, morale, teamwork, dedication and hard work. 
 
The answers, geared toward quality of life issues, provided the players valuable insight on the sacrifices the TXMF members encounter on a daily basis when deployed.
"We are truly grateful for all you do and defending our freedom, thank you for allowing us to play the game of football," said Brown.
Hamilton concluded the session by addressing how grateful the Texas Military Forces are for the Austin community.
 
"We are a community-based organization and being able to connect with the [Austin] community and an organization like the University of Texas is important," said Hamilton. "We are extremely grateful for Coach Brown and his team for coming out to Camp Mabry and giving up their precious time during this busy training camp, it really means the world to the soldiers within The Texas Military Forces."

Texas Guard taps well of experience

Service members and former general officers attend the inaugural conference of the Council of Retired Executives in the Texas Military Forces Museum at Camp Mabry, Texas, Aug. 6.
Service members and former general officers attend the inaugural conference of the Council of Retired Executives in the Texas Military Forces Museum at Camp Mabry, Texas, Aug. 6. The adjutant general of Texas proposed the idea of the senior mentor team built of retired military leaders who will lend their experience and guidance for the benefit of the Texas National Guard. A long-term relationship with former general officers ensures that their years of knowledge will not be lost and will remain available to Texas Military Forces.

 Texas Guard taps well of experience

 Story by Spc. Praxedis Pineda

 AUSTIN, Texas -- Senior and former leaders of the Texas Military Forces gathered at Camp Mabry, Texas for the  inaugural Council of Retired Executives, Aug. 6, 2011.

 Maj. Gen. John Nichols, the adjutant general of Texas, initiated the council in order to make use of their knowledge and  influence for the benefit of the Texas Military Forces. It also serves as a mentorship program that builds a lasting brain  trust within the state.

 “We want to capitalize on their experience,” said Nichols. “With over 30 years of experience, they have seen trends come  and go, but they have also seen what works.”

 Government and corporations alike often invite retired senior leaders to meetings and conferences to gain their input.

 Through the councilmen’s feedback, the Texas Military Forces will gain the guidance to face issues that current leaders  have not yet encountered. This new resource will target issues including recruiting, budgeting, and family relations. 

 “We are moving toward a time when resources are going to be stressed,” said Maj. Gen. Mike Taylor, retired. “We have  been there before”

 With a weakened economy and a downgraded military force, this is the right time to conserve resources and elicit the aid  of experienced veterans. With this new council, Nichols can more efficiently engage the challenges that lay ahead.

“I don’t know of any other TAG that has done this,”  said Col. Suzanne Atkinson. “It is a great benefit to be able to bring all of these men in the same room”

With unique experiences and backgrounds, each member contributes something different. Many of these former general offices continue their service as civilians in other departments of the military.

“We have Gen. Owens (working for the National Guard Bureau) giving us the latest and greatest information,” said Atkinson
Many others maintained their leadership role in their communities as politicians, business owners, and heads of organizations.

“We have people here from all over the state,” said Taylor. “A lot of us are embedded in the community.

The councilmen all had equal input on the future of the Guard they once led. All members had the opportunity to voice their expert opinions.

“[Nichols] opened up the floor for discussion,” said Taylor. “No limits when he asked for feedback.”

The goals of this first meeting did not specifically include problem solving sessions or resolution of pending issues. Instead, the adjutant general and his stall briefed the council on current missions and discussed the new capabilities of the Texas Military Forces.

“It gave us a chance to showcase what we’re doing now,” said Atkinson. 

Nichols concluded the conference with one question: “If you had the opportunity to do it again, what would you change?” 

One by one, the councilmen gave their answer, leaving Nichols with invaluable notes. Nichols had tapped a well of experience.

“We don’t want to go down a road with no return that puts our structure at risk,” said Nichols. “I consider it a huge success”