Posts in Category: Texas Army National Guard

Texas' 136th Regional Training Institute receives national recognition

Story by: Capt. Martha Nigrelle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Moving will maximize efficiency,” said Ueckert. 

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

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

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

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Texas Command Sergeant Major leaves joint legacy

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


 Story by: Sgt. 1st Class Malcolm McClendon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Texas Guard shares response mission with International visitors

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


Story by Master Sgt. Daniel Griego

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Guard service goes beyond disasters

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


 Story by Staff Sgt. Jennifer Atkinson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SALITRE participants bring smiles to Chilean children

Senior Master Sgt. Arellano gives a Chilean girl a gift ans a smile during a visit to the Children's ward at the Leonado Guzman Hospital
Senior Master Sgt. Mike Arellano from the 149th Fighter Wing, Texas Air National Guard, gives a Chilean girl a gift and a smile during a visit the children’s ward at the Leonardo Guzman Regional Hospital, Antofagasta, Chile, Oct. 11. Salitre is a Chilean-led exercise where the U.S., Chile, Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay, focus on increasing interoperability between allied nations. (Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Elizabeth Gilbert/released) 


 Story by Senior Master Sgt. Elizabeth Gilbert
 Texas Air National Guard Public Affairs

 10/16/2014 - ANTOFAGASTA, Chile -- More than 30 military members from five countries visited the Leonardo Guzman  Regional Hospital children's ward in Chile, Oct. 11, as part of a community outreach event for SALITRE 2014.
 The U.S., Chile, Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay are participating in this year's exercise, which is being hosted by Chile at  Cerro Moreno Air Force Base, Oct. 6-17. The military members brought gifts and spent time visiting with the hospitalized  children.
 "We did a good thing here. Hospitalized children can always use a little sunshine and a friendly smile to help their healing  process," said Col. (Dr.) Richard Vatt, flight medicine, 136th Medical Group, Texas Air National Guard, a traditional  guardsman, who is in Chile augmenting for the 149th Fighter Wing flight doctor during SALITRE 2014., "Parents all over  the world love their children, it's not any different here in Chile."
 The hospital visit is considered to be a social responsibility by the Chilean air force, who hosted the visit. It is a way to  establish community relations between the local residents and the military.
 "This visit [to Leonardo Guzman Regional Hospital] is to show our local community that SALITRE 2014 is not all about  combat missions, but a humanitarian mission as well," said Vilma Vega Berrios, internal communications, Chilean air  force. "It is our way of connecting with our communities."
Among the military members visiting the hospital was Maj. Andrew Davenport, F-16 pilot, 149th Fighter Wing, Texas Air National Guard, a traditional guardsman and a full time internal-medicine doctor in private practice, who speaks fluent Spanish. He comfortably communicated with the children, understanding their complaints and responding with a kind smile and words of encouragement.
The military members from each country went from room-to-room handing out gifts such as toys, balls, patches and hats, as each child eagerly waited to accept them. The parents were grateful for the early Christmas presents and they too had big smiles.
"The concern the parents have for the care of their child--it's universal," Vatt said. "It's an experience I will not forget."

Soldier saves roommate after accident

Pfc. Wil Ledford is credited with saving the life of his roommate after an accident in their apartment.
Pfc. Wil Ledford is credited with saving the life of his roommate after an accident in their apartment. Ledford, of Grapevine, Texas, is a newly trained Combat Medic in the 36th Infantry Division of the Texas Army National Guard. (Army National Guard photo by Capt. Mike Perry)


 Story by Maj. Randall Stillinger


GRAPEVINE, Texas – A Texas Army National Guard soldier saved his roommate’s life after the accidental discharge of a weapon in July.
Private 1st Class Wil Ledford, 19, of Grapevine, used skills and techniques that he had just been taught two months prior while attending the Combat Medic School at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio.
Ledford, a 2013 graduate of Southlake Carroll High School and a member of Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 3-124th Cavalry Regiment in Wylie, was in his apartment when he heard a gunshot. He went in the next room, saw his roommate looking down at his leg, and asked, “Did you shoot yourself?”
The matter of fact response was a somewhat casual, “Yeah.”
Ledford’s military training instantly kicked in as the hollow point round had penetrated the femoral artery in the left leg and blood came out very fast. He described it as a “garden hose shooting red Kool Aid all over the place.” 
He went for his medical aid bag and proceeded to emplace a tourniquet as high as possible on the leg. The first tourniquet did not stop the bleeding so Ledford put on a second tourniquet, which worked. 
When asked what he did next, Ledford replied, “I just threw him over my shoulder and carried him to his truck.” He was referring to one of several carrying techniques that are taught to Combat Medics at Advanced Individual Training.
He then drove his roommate to an emergency room, which was less than five minutes away.
It wasn’t until about 20 minutes later that he fully realized what had just happened. “Wow. He shot himself,” Ledford said.
After several surgeries that included skin grafts and the removal of arteries from his other leg, Ledford’s roommate was released from the hospital earlier this month and is expected to be able to walk again in about seven to eight months. 
Although he had thought about the possibility of a career in medicine, it wasn’t really a goal. After scoring well on military entrance tests, he was given a few options and thought that “combat medics sounded the best.”
Ledford thought that he might get a chance to use his medical training in his National Guard unit, but never thought that he’d have to use it in his own apartment.
Capt. Matthew Colia, Ledford’s Company Commander, said that his actions are truly extraordinary. 
“This situation was one that required decisive action and Private Ledford answered the call of duty,” Colia said.
Ledford, who’s civilian job is a mechanic at a local auto repair shop, said that his “military training and this experience has prompted him to apply for schooling to become a paramedic.” 
Private 1st Class Ledford is the son of John and Colleen Ledford of Weatherford, Texas.

Texas RTI Trains New Cavalry Scouts on the Bradley

Soldiers from the Texas Army National Guard's Regional Training Institute (RTI) fire a 25mm round from a Bradly fighting vehicle at Fort Hood, Texas.
Soldiers from the Texas Army National Guard’s Regional Training Institute (RTI) fire a 25mm round from a Bradley fighting vehicle at Fort Hood, Texas, Sept. 25, 2014. Six soldiers completed the range for the final event of their transition to 19D cavalry scout military occupation specialty (MOS), one of several MOS certifying schools Texas’ RTI runs. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Capt. Martha Nigrelle/ Released)


 Story and photo by: Capt. Martha Nigrelle

 Fort Hood, Texas (Oct 1, 2014) - Many soldiers say going to the range is fun and a good chance to refine marksmanship  skills. For soldiers from the Texas Army National Guard’s Regional Training Institute, the Bradley live-fire range was also  an opportunity to shoot a 25mm chain gun from the Bradley, a lightly armored, tracked military vehicle and was the final  event standing between them and a new military occupational specialty. 

 Six soldiers, five from Texas and one from the Illinois Army National Guard, spent three weeks training with the Texas  RTI, and just two days after completing the Bradley live-fire range, earned the title of 19D or cavalry scout in a graduation  ceremony held at Camp Mabry, in Austin on Sept. 28, 2014. 

 During the Bradley range iteration, several Texas Military Forces’ leaders came out to visit the soldiers and observe the  training.

 There are approximately 1,000 cavalry scouts in the Texas Army National Guard, said Maj. Gen. William Smith, Deputy  Adjutant General – Army and Commander of the Texas Army National Guard. Training soldiers for this job in Texas is  financially beneficial.

 “It’s a huge advantage,” said Smith. “If we bring them to Camp Mabry or Camp Swift, we have quarters and rations and  it’s much cheaper. The other advantage is we don’t waste a lot of time sending them somewhere else.”

 Maj. Gen. Kenneth Wisian, Deputy Adjutant General – Air and Commander of the Texas Air National Guard, also visited soldiers on the range.  Wisian talked about the importance of understanding the capabilities of other components, outside the Air Force when working in a joint environment. For him, the visit wasn’t just an opportunity to see the troops, but also a chance to conduct joint training, by observing one of the Army’s capabilities up close. 

“This is the basic level joint training that they always try to teach you in school,” said Wisian. “There is nothing better than hands on training with the other components.”

The Texas RTI is a U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command certified school and is open to any member of the active, National Guard or reserve element of the U.S. Army. RTI can train and certify soldiers in infantry, cavalry, field artillery, combat medic and a few signal specialties. Instructors are all members of the Texas Army National Guard and spend approximately three to five years training soldiers that come to RTI said Staff Sgt. Michael Dixon, an RTI instructor.

“The instruction is even better because it is more one-on-one,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Mark Weedon, RTI Command Sergeant Major, Texas Army National Guard. “We have really worked hard to get our instructors trained for these courses as opposed to bringing people in on a temporary basis.”

The Texas RTI primarily trains transition and noncommissioned officer professional development courses for each level of NCO. 

“I just love doing this,” said Dixon. “Training soldiers and making our force better for tomorrow.” 


High marks for CST

Sgt. 1st Class Kerry Goering slits Sgt. Jared Brook's hazmat suit open so he can exit at the technical decontamination station during an evaluation by Army North while Steve Wisiniwski watches.
Sgt. 1st Class Kerry Goering slits Sgt. Jared Brooks' hazmat suit open so he can exit at the technical decontamination station during an evaluation by Army North while Steve Wisniewski watches. The evaluation certifies the 6th CST with both the National Guard Bureau and the state of Texas as proficient in incident response procedures and protocols. (Photograph by Staff Sgt. Jennifer D. Atkinson, 56th Infantry Brigade Combat Team)


Story by Staff Sgt. Jennifer Atkinson

SAN ANTONIO, Texas (Sept. 25, 2014) - With long shadows cast across the blank theater screen and orange plastic hazmat suits glowing in the glare of portable halogen lights, two Soldiers from the 6th Civil Support Team, Texas Army National Guard, moved slowly through the dark building, searching for the device prompting this “incident response.”

Circling an out-of-place orange safety cone, Sgt. Jared Brooks radioed details back to the command post, confirming the target, while Staff Sgt. Jorge Hernandez stood at a safe distance. Both steadily ignored the shrill beeping of monitors nearby to concentrate on the cone.

Turning the cone over, Brooks uncovered a nest of wires, batteries and containers, taped together in a dangerous tangle - the source of the toxins causing alarm.

Nearby, evaluators from Army North watched every move, from the approach of the building, to the use of various monitoring devices, to the search to the contact with the command post. At each step, Brooks or Hernandez answered questions about proper procedures, such as marking the door to indicate the team had moved through it, or how to notate each cleared area.

For Brooks and Hernandez, this was more than training, this was an evaluation of all the hard work and training in the past year- not just theirs individually, but the Austin-based CST as a whole.

“Right now, we're watching to make sure they're doing it right,” said Anthony Elmore, an ARNORTH evaluator. With tightly-controlled doses of reactive chemicals to set off the detection equipment, the realism is increased, he said. The evaluation is to certify to the National Guard Bureau that the CST is proficient in standardized incident response procedures.

“The gases make it harder, gives them a time-constraint. These guys have to make real-time decisions, just like they would in real life. There's not a lot of time to sit and think about it” he said, as his fellow evaluator hooked up a detector to a clear bag containing reactive gas. “It's not going to hurt anyone, but it makes it a lot more real.”

Neutralizing the threat might seem like the biggest hurdle to clearing a site, but for Brooks, just finding the object can be daunting.  

“It's not always easy to find,” said Brooks. “There's a lot of room out there to hide in,” he said, gesturing to the theater and surroundings.

After finding and clearing the hazard, Brooks and Hernandez head outside to the technical decontamination area, manned by Sgt. 1st Class Kelly Goering, another CST member suited up in a tan plastic suit, a bright blue oxygen tank on her back. The technical decontamination area is for the responders, said Goering, rather than larger numbers who might have been affected.  

“We're trying to get the Soldiers out of the affected suits without contaminating them, or spreading any more contamination, as we do it,” she said.

In the entrance to the decontamination tent, Hernandez slipped his boots off, scrubbing down with water while standing in a large rubber catch basin. Coming out of the tent, Goering swabbed his suit, testing it for remaining residue. The suit was slit open and folded down on itself open so Hernandez could exit without contamination from the outside of the suit.  

Still wearing an oxygen tank and face mask, his clothing soaked with sweat from the heat inside his suit, Hernandez waited to one side while Brooks followed the same procedure, then both headed off to the medics to get a post mission checkup. Evaluators nearby watched each step closely, making sure Goering cleared each Soldier to proceed to the next step.

Since the bright orange suits are “level A” suits, rated for vapors, Goering's suit was a “level B” suit, rated for splashing hazards.  

“Ideally, the vapor would have dissipated between the buildings and here, so that's not really a threat to me,” she said. “But if it hasn't and it gets in the water, the level B suit protects me.”  

The CST isn't just about detecting threats, said Col. Lee D Schnell, commander of the 136th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade. 

“Their capabilities are as sophisticated as any out there, especially the mobile lab. It's as good as anything you'll find at a university or college.”

Although there were no civilian partner agencies on site for the evaluation,  the CST is closely integrated with the first responder community. 

“This team gives smaller communities a resource they might not have access to normally,” said Schnell.  “Larger cities have fire departments with the equipment, but little towns don't, so we can help them if they need it.”

The year-round training shows in the high level of skill throughout the CST, said Schnell.  

“If I had one thing to tell someone about the CST,” he said. “It's that they're professionals. Just absolute professionals.”

TXNG Soldiers help save life on border

A soldier from the 36th Infantry Division, Texas Army National Guard observes a section of the Rio Grande River at sunset.
A soldier from the 36th Infantry Division, Texas Army National Guard observes a section of the Rio Grande River at sunset. He is serving at the Texas-Mexico border in support of Operation Strong Safety. (U.S. Army photo by Maj. Randall Stillinger)


 Story By Maj. Randall Stillinger

 WESLACO, Texas – The quick response of three Texas Army National Guard soldiers on Sept. 11, 2014, helped save  the life of a local Texan.
The soldiers, who were manning an observation post as part of Operation Strong Safety, administered emergency first aid to an injured man after he accidentally cut himself while clearing brush along the river.
At one point during their shift, a pickup truck came speeding toward the soldiers’ observation post. 
“At first we thought they might be runners,” one soldier remarked. 
The driver then jumped out of the vehicle and started yelling, “He’s cut! He’s cut!” 
The soldiers, who asked not to be identified for the security of themselves and their families, thought this might be a training scenario. 
“I thought someone was testing us,” said one of the soldiers, “but then the driver opened the passenger door and we saw the blood. We knew it was real.” 
The shift leader for the observation post immediately jumped into action, grabbing a tourniquet from his first aid kit. He placed the tourniquet just below the arm pit, but it didn’t completely stop the bleeding. A second tourniquet was required lower down on the arm to completely stop the bleeding. 
The driver was also showing the initial signs of trauma shock, which prompted assistance from a second soldier.
As this was happening, a radio call went to the Texas Department of Public Safety for medical assistance. A medic from the Texas Army National Guard also arrived on
scene to provide additional help. 
While the others were providing care, one of the original three soldiers noticed a Mission Police Department vehicle nearby and ran to flag him down. An ambulance arrived not too long after that and the man was transferred to the nearest emergency room. 
Although none of the three soldiers were Combat Medics, each of them had received specialized training as Combat Life Savers and had trained specifically for similar scenarios. The three soldiers included an infantryman, a heavy vehicle repairer and a heavy vehicle operator. 
The shift leader, who had previously deployed to Afghanistan in 2012, said he didn’t think he would be doing something like this for a U.S. citizen. 
“I’m just glad we were there,” he said. “If not, he probably would have bled out due to the amount of blood he had lost.”
The shift supervisor said that he was proud of these soldiers “because they didn’t panic.” 
“They took care of the situation without senior leadership being there,” he said. “It feels good to know that I have soldiers like this on point.” 
When asked if he considered himself a hero, one soldier said, “I was just doing my job, sir.”
The injured man is doing well and is expected to make a full recovery. 


Interagency training exercise benefits from Citizen Soldier presence

Story by: Sgt. Suzanna Carter

Posted: September 21, 2014

Sgt. Suzanne Carter Air Force Capt. Laura Lokey, an optometrist with 149th Medical Group, 149th Fighter Wing, checks Miguel Gomez's eyes on day four of Operation Lone Star at Manzano Middle School in Brownsville, Texas, Aug. 7, 2014. This was the first year that full vision services were available at the Brownsville medical point of distribution during this annual, five-day, medical and emergency preparedness exercise. More than 600 patients received eye exams and prescription glasses through Remote Area Medical, the Knoxville, Tenn.-based organization that provides the equipment for the exams and fills glasses prescriptions on-site, and Texas Military Forces during Operation Lone Star 2013. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Suzanne Carter/Released)
Sgt. Suzanne Carter
Air Force Capt. Laura Lokey, an optometrist with 149th Medical Group, 149th Fighter Wing, checks Miguel Gomez's eyes on day four of Operation Lone Star at Manzano Middle School in Brownsville, Texas, Aug. 7, 2014. This was the first year that full vision services were available at the Brownsville medical point of distribution during this annual, five-day, medical and emergency preparedness exercise. More than 600 patients received eye exams and prescription glasses through Remote Area Medical, the Knoxville, Tenn.-based organization that provides the equipment for the exams and fills glasses prescriptions on-site, and Texas Military Forces during Operation Lone Star 2013. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Suzanne Carter/Released)

BROWNSVILLE, Texas – Texas Military Forces, in partnership with state and local authorities, gained valuable training experience from the 16th iteration of Operation Lone Star in the Rio Grande Valley and Laredo, Texas, Aug. 4-8, 2014.

Texas State Guard, a component of the Texas Military Forces, in particular, put into practice the second step of its shelter, recover and return emergency response plan during this annual, medical and emergency preparedness exercise that covered five sites throughout South Texas.

"[Civil authorities] would have us come in, work with them, and we would run the operation of the shelter, managing the clients within it, meeting their needs, keeping them safe in a disaster situation," said Capt. Vicky Nunn, 39th Composite Regiment, 1st Battalion, Texas State Guard. "[Meeting client needs] is what you'll see here. It's recovery training."

The interagency collaboration necessary to activate Operation Lone Star, one of the largest medical and emergency preparedness missions in the country, benefits from the inherent value in utilizing the Texas Military Forces to serve the citizens of Texas.

"It's a good value for the State of Texas because as Citizen Soldiers, we're able to be activated, come down, provide the care, and then go back to our civilian jobs after that," said Army Capt. Adam Wood, a field surgeon with Texas Medical Command, Texas Army National Guard. "So the amount of resources and time and money it takes to use us in that tactical situation is significantly less than it would be to use the active duty side in that same tactical setup."

Brig. Gen. Sean A. Ryan, commander of the 71st Troop Command, Texas Army National Guard, also emphasized the role of the Texas State Guard in the planning and implementation of this collaborative training exercise.

"We have more relied on our Texas State Guard to the point where we're pretty much ready to turn it over to [them] to do all the planning, the preparation, the training" for Operation Lone Star, Ryan said. "I think it has really helped us to exercise … the Texas State Guard to really do their mission. They are a huge part of what we do during a natural disaster."

Texas Army, Air and State Guard involvement in Operation Lone Star also fosters vital relationships with state and local agencies that they would work with in an emergency situation.

"This is just another incident in a different county with different relationships with other authorities," Nunn said. "Because we may be deployed here at some point if they need us, I think it is very important to build those contacts."

Service members often form relationships with patients who return to Operation Lone Star every year for the critical health services that are provided.

"Some of our Soldiers look forward to coming back here year after year to see individuals who might be returning and to see the updates in those families and how their children have grown and how their lives have changed," said Army Maj. Jerri Gates, senior behavior health officer with Texas Medical Command, Texas Army National Guard. 

Spc. Marcus Fernandez, 39th Composite Regiment, 1st Battalion, Texas State Guard, said that interacting with patients was all part of the training experience that prepares him and other service members for future emergency response situations.

"We see, throughout the week, so many different things that if we have to open a shelter, anybody that comes to the door, we should be able to handle it because we have this experience," he said. 

Area residents who visited Operation Lone Star expressed appreciation for the services that were available through the collaborative training exercise.

"Seeing the men and women in uniform is an awesome blessing, because everyone is walking around with a smile, very happy," said Zulema Silva, a Brownsville resident. "It's just a happy feeling to see y'all here, helping us and providing us with services that we otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford. Again I appreciate everything that you all do for us in the community."