Posts in Category: Texas Army National Guard

Texas Guard shares disaster lessons with Chileans

Brigade Commander Col. Lee Schnell (left) discusses observations made during the Volcano VI emergency exercise with Chliean Army Brig. Gen. Miguel Alfonso Bellet (right), commander of the 1st Brigade "Coraceros," in Arica, Chile, Aug. 20, 2014.
In this image released by Joint Task Force 136 (Maneuver Enhancement Brigade), Brigade Commander Col. Lee Schnell (left) discusses observations made during the Volcano VI emergency exercise with Chilean Army Brig. Gen. Miguel Alfonso Bellet (right), commander of the 1st Brigade "Coraceros," in Arica, Chile, Aug. 20, 2014. This training event, which included a simulated earthquake and volcanic eruption, offered members of the Chilean emergency response community an opportunity to share best practices with representatives of the Texas Military Forces and the Texas Department of Public Safety. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Alfonso Garcia)


 Story by Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Griego

 ARICA, Chile - Natural disasters are a constant global threat, and response measures can vary wildly from nation to  nation.  The emergency preparedness communities of Chile and Texas are looking to bridge that gap in consequence  management  with long-term exchanges of best practices and training events. The most recent of which, Chile's Volcano VI  exercise,  brought together representatives of the Texas Military Forces, the Texas Department of Public Safety, the  Chilean Army,  and Chilean civilians in a robust, simulated incident in Arica, Chile. The scenario, held Aug. 18-22, featured  a simulated  earthquake and volcanic eruption that stressed the capabilities and cooperation of the Chilean Army, the  Chilean Office of  National Emergency Management, Ministry of Interior, the Carabineros de Chile (Federal Police), the  Regional Fire  Department, and many local civilian agencies.

 "It was very interesting to see how another country took on disaster preparedness and some of the things that they do that  are different from us, but are very effective," said Texas National Guard Col. Lee Schnell. As the commander of Joint Task  Force 136 (Maneuver Enhancement Brigade), the Guard unit responsible for the FEMA Region VI Homeland Response  Force mission, Col. Schnell has a vested interest in disaster response, having participated in and observed dozens of  exercises during the last four years.

 "Volcano VI took place in Arica this year," said Chilean Army Col. Edmundo Villarroel Geissbuhler, "and its purpose was to  provide the civilian authorities a training opportunity, in order to verify and update their disaster relief contingency plans. It  also allow them to check their communications flows, and interagency coordination, determining the needs of personnel,  materiel, equipment, and other resources, to successfully face an emergency or disaster caused by nature or human  influence."

 Not unlike our response plans and interagency agreements here in the United States, the disaster operations in Chile must  be tested and certified in accordance with high standards of efficiency.

"The purpose of the exercise was to validate the current emergency plans incorporated by the various participating agencies in attendance," said Sgt. 1st Class Alfonso Garcia, the International Affairs NCO for the Texas Military Forces. "The exercise players used a computer system that controlled and monitored the development of events during the disaster exercise."

The exercise primarily took place at the University of Tarapaca. Members of the Texas Military Forces and Texas Department of Public Safety were invited in order to provide feedback and share best practices from their own disaster management experience. 

"Here was an exercise and you had elected officials, their staffs, all engaged in this exercise, and that's difficult to do anywhere," said Schnell. "They really immersed themselves in the exercise. That was probably the thing that most impressed me, how everybody came to the table, it wasn't just the military and first responders."

Throughout the week, Chilean authorities met with the U.S. delegation to discuss not only the ongoing exercise, but also previous encounters with disaster response, such as this past April's magnitude 8.2 earthquake that hit Chile's coast and created a seven-foot tsunami. This background in natural incidents was instrumental in their successful validation at the university and in effectively discussing large-scale response measures. Other topics of discussion included logistical hurdles created by natural disasters and how to reach geographically isolated areas within their respective areas of responsibility. 

"During the exercise, they had the chance to interact with the Chilean representatives involved in it," said Villarroel Geissbuhler, about the Texas visitors. "They met representatives of the Chilean National Police, Army, government, Air Force, Navy, NGOs, etc., discussing with them different topics of mutual interest. At the end of the exercise, Col. Schnell also provided input during the AAR, not only from his perspective, but also from the Texas Military Forces and the U.S. Army South perspective, allowing the Chilean authorities to hear a different point of view. That will certainly be used as part of the lessons learned."

Interagency cooperation was a recurring theme for the week, as the two nations shared with each other how their militaries worked alongside civilian authorities. By inviting both civilian and military members of Texas' consequence management community, the Chilean forces were able to gain a neighboring perspective on asset allocation and the need to include all stakeholders in support of the citizens.

"While we attended the exercise in the role of observers and not evaluators," said Texas Department of Public Safety Capt. Luis Najera, "I feel it was important for the Chilean military forces and civilian authorities to understand the roles between the Texas Military Forces and the Department of Public Safety in Texas' response to emergencies. The Chilean government clearly understands the need to have all their governmental resources working together to respond to emergencies and natural disasters."

With so much on the line, the priority throughout the exercise was how best to serve the citizens of Chile in the fight to save lives. By sharing best practices through long-term partnerships like this, service members, first responders, and civil servants ensure a state of constant improvement and cooperative relationships.

"There was no doubt," said Najera, "that there was a strong commitment by both civilian and military authorities to continue to improve their country's emergency management response."

National Guard Supports DPS Along Texas Border

Airmen from the Texas Air National Guard observe a section of the Rio Grande River. The airmen are serving at the Texas-Mexico border in support of Operation Strong Safety
Airmen from the Texas Air National Guard observe a section of the Rio Grande River. The airmen are serving at the Texas-Mexico border in support of Operation Strong Safety. (U.S. Army photo by Maj. Randall Stillinger


By Maj. Randall Stillinger
36th Infantry Division Public Affairs

WESLACO, Texas - The Texas National Guard began taking up their observation posts along the Rio Grande River last month in an effort to reduce the amount of criminal activity in the border region.

Members of the Texas National Guard were mobilized by Governor Rick Perry to support the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS). 

This group of soldiers and airmen were the first troops to occupy positions along the river in support of Operation Strong Safety.

Utilizing high-powered optical equipment to observe sectors along the river, the National Guard acts as a force multiplier and allows DPS to focus on their law enforcement role in the region.

One soldier, who lives in the Rio Grande Valley, said that he “volunteered for this mission to help his community.” His last mission was in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

The soldier, who asked not to be identified for security reasons, was one of over 2,200 that volunteered for the up to 1,000 positions on this task force. He was in the first group of service members to man observation posts along the river.

“I’m a little nervous as we get ready to go,” he said. “but we’ve been trained really well and I know that we’re ready for this mission.”

“We’re doing it for a good cause. It will definitely have an impact.”

Operation Lone Star provides health care

Story by: Sgt. Adrian Shelton

Posted: September 5, 2014

Sgt. Suzanne Carter School-required immunizations are just one of the services that are provided at Operation Lone Star at six sites throughout the Rio Grande Valley region of South Texas, Aug. 4-8, 2014. Immunizations are available for both adults and children and are critical for preventing the spread of contagious diseases in vulnerable populations, such as children and seniors. Other services such as diabetes and vision screenings, health assessments and dental services are also available for the duration of Operation Lone Star. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Suzanne Carter, 100th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, Texas Army National Guard/ Released)
Sgt. Suzanne Carter
School-required immunizations are just one of the services that are provided at Operation Lone Star at six sites throughout the Rio Grande Valley region of South Texas, Aug. 4-8, 2014. Immunizations are available for both adults and children and are critical for preventing the spread of contagious diseases in vulnerable populations, such as children and seniors. Other services such as diabetes and vision screenings, health assessments and dental services are also available for the duration of Operation Lone Star. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Suzanne Carter, 100th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, Texas Army National Guard/ Released)

LAREDO, Texas - Texas Military Forces service members provided medical services to Rio Grande Valley area residents during day one of Operation Lone Star at the Civic Center in Laredo, Texas, Aug. 4, 2014.

The annual five-day training exercise provides dual opportunities for cooperative efforts among Texas Military Forces, local civil authorities, and Department of State Health Services and access to health care for people of all ages in South Texas. 

“It is a disaster preparedness exercise in which joint federal, state and local forces, as well as different agencies with many volunteers, provide free medical services to underserved members of the community,” said Erika M. Juarez, the Department of State Health Services public information officer at the Laredo Civic Center’s Medical Point of Dispensing. “This is the one time of the year they can get these medical services.”

Operation Lone Star, now in its sixteenth year, provides free blood pressure checks, cholesterol and diabetes screenings, hearing and vision exams, sports physicals, immunizations and limited dental services. 

Due to the additional number of military personnel, “we are able to provide more immunizations than last year,” said Sgt. 1st Class David I. Soto, the non-commissioned officer in charge of approximately 58 Texas Army National Guard personnel at the Laredo Civic Center MPOD. Soto, who works as a paramedic and military leadership course instructor in San Antonio, and is in his second year of working at OLS, said that many of the service members have or are seeking medical degrees.

This year’s Operation Lone Star is being conducted in Laredo, Mission, Rio Grande City, Pharr-San Juan, and Brownsville, from Aug. 4-7, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Aug. 8 from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. 
Those who wish to receive services or want to know more information should contact their county health department or dial 2-1-1.

Governor Perry tasked us to increase our support

Photo of MG John F. NicholsJuly 21,2014 - Today, Governor Perry tasked us to increase our support to the Texas Department of Public Safety’s Operation Strong Safety. The Texas National Guard will work in full support of this state-led border security surge operation to deter criminal activity along the Texas-Mexico border.  Within the next 30 days we will send additional forces to the border who will act as force multipliers for the state.  

We are not strangers to this mission.  Our forces will enhance security efforts by amplifying the visible presence on the ground and along the river; working alongside commissioned law enforcement officers to detect and prevent criminals from infiltrating through the international border, and helping to ensure the safety of our fellow Texans.  We have performed similar roles in support of various state and federal operations along the border since 2006.  To our Texas Guardsmen already engaged in border support missions, thank you for your selfless service and dedication to this important effort.

To those whom we will send, the state and nation once again need you.  In times of crisis, our civilian leaders call upon us without hesitation.  For many, I know this is not the first call; you’ve been called in the past to serve our state and nation.  Now the Governor of Texas is calling you to help secure our homeland.  Times of great need are why we wear the uniform and serve.  Times like these are why the Texas Guard exists.   

The citizens of Texas continue to honor us with their absolute trust and confidence.  They do so because they understand what I see every day:  you stand ready and willing to serve, whatever the call may be.  And I couldn’t be more proud of you.

This is a critical moment in our state and nation.  I’m thankful that at moments like this, Texas can rely on you for its safety and security.  Texas Strong!    



John F. Nichols
Adjutant General



 Letter from the Adjutant General

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Texas National Guard kids make connections at Young Heroes Camp

Story by 2nd Lt. Alicia Lacy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more information on TXMF Child and Youth programs, call 512-782-1231 or visit

Texas Guardsmen share response lessons with Brazilians

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

Story by Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Griego


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Texas 'Ready Brigade' to say farewell

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

  Story by Capt. Martha Nigrelle


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At home the 72nd Brigade has also stayed active.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now the brigade’s service could be over. 

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

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

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

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

Some people believe these cuts are too hasty.

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

This bill has a significant and bi-partisan following with more than 167 signatures on it so far, including more than half of the Texas delegation, according to, 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.