Posts in Category: Texas Army National Guard

Putting Soldiers back to work

Story and photos by Staff Sgt. Michael Giles, 36th Infantry Division Public Affairs

AUSTIN, Texas—She was a hardworking server in a small-town Texas country store. Less than a year out of high school, she paid her bills and saved for the future by working double shifts whenever she could. 

Army National Guard Pfc. Tori Stricklin, a human resource specialist with the 176th Engineer Brigade, updates the Joint Task Force 176 personnel status roster at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas, April 17, 2020. Pfc. Stricklin is one of several service members who normally serve on a part-time basis, but were activated to full-time duty after the COVID-19 pandemic impacted their full-time employment. “In the chaos caused by this pandemic, some Texans are struggling to stay employed, and that includes many National Guard Soldiers,” said Col. Robert Crockem commander of Joint Task Force 176. “By activating unemployed Guardsmen to full-time status, we seized another opportunity to help Texans thrive.” (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Michael Giles, 36th Infantry Division Public Affairs)

Army National Guard Pfc. Tori Stricklin, a human resource specialist with the 176th Engineer Brigade, updates the Joint Task Force 176 personnel status roster at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas, April 17, 2020. Pfc. Stricklin is one of several service members who normally serve on a part-time basis, but were activated to full-time duty after the COVID-19 pandemic impacted their full-time employment. “In the chaos caused by this pandemic, some Texans are struggling to stay employed, and that includes many National Guard Soldiers,” said Col. Robert Crockem commander of Joint Task Force 176. “By activating unemployed Guardsmen to full-time status, we seized another opportunity to help Texans thrive.” (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Michael Giles, 36th Infantry Division Public Affairs)



“I like to make sure that I have all my ducks in a row,” said 18-year-old Tori Stricklin. “Even if I don’t necessarily need the extra hours, I’ll go ahead and do it. You never know what life is going to throw at you. For example, the coronavirus.”

As the COVID-19 pandemic started to threaten the economy, her ability to pay her bills suddenly seemed uncertain. The store initially stayed open, taking to-go orders, but the outlook wasn’t good.

“Because of the coronavirus, things started to head downhill pretty quickly, and I wasn’t quite sure where things were going to go,” Stricklin said.

“Without tips, there’s only so much you can make.”

Then she got a call asking her if she wanted to help out with the Texas Military Department’s COVID-19 response. Gov. Greg Abbott had mobilized several units of Army and Air National Guardsmen, as well as the Texas State Guard to support the basic needs of Texans through the pandemic. One of these units was Task Force 176, which included members of Stricklin’s unit, the176th Engineer Brigade.

Stricklin, now a private first class, enlisted in the Army National Guard when she was 17, and began working as a human resource specialist in the 176th’s personnel section as a traditional part time Guardsman. So when she received the offer to activate full-time for the COVID-19 response, she jumped at the chance knowing she could avoid being unemployed during a time of uncertainty.

“About two days after I got that call, my store had shut down, so I would have been without a job,” said Stricklin.

While the primary purpose of the activation is to protect Texans against the spread of COVID-19, it also created an opportunity for part-time service members to keep working, said Col. Robert Crockem, commander of the 176th Engineer Brigade.

“We’re in the business of taking care of Texans,” Crockem said. “Right now, we’re supporting Texans by distributing the medical supplies they need, and helping to provide increased hospital bed space and medical capabilities.”

“But in the chaos caused by this pandemic, some Texans are struggling to stay employed, and that includes many National Guard Soldiers,” Crockem continued. “By activating unemployed Guardsmen to full-time status, we seized another opportunity to help Texans thrive.”

One of the first teams of Texas Military Department personnel to activate following Gov. Greg Abbott’s order was Joint Task Force 176’s General Support Unit 4, a team of engineers with the 840th Engineer Mobility Augmentation Company.

“We had to mobilize and assemble at the armory within 12 hours with a 34-person unit,” said 1st Sgt. Denton Humphrey, first sergeant with the 840th, explaining that “after getting the call the evening of March 18, the team was assembled and fully mission-capable by 8 a.m. the following morning.”

With the majority of this first group being made up of college students, Humphrey said that it was a good opportunity for them to earn money and serve their state by building medical facilities and supporting food bank operations.

“Now we can provide them with some income and the availability to work on their online classes,” Humphrey said.

When additional personnel were needed, half of the next wave of activated individuals were struggling to stay employed due to the pandemic.

“Very specifically, we combed the unit for Soldiers who had lost a job due to the COVID-19 and those were our first choice,” Humphrey said.

Matthew Faulkenberry, a corporal in the Texas Army National Guard, is another hard working Texas whose livelihood was put in jeopardy by the pandemic. Over the last few years, he had established himself as the informal project manager for both the office and the warehouse at a construction company.

“I made a lot of connections through there,” Faulkenberry said. “It led me to accepting another job with my official title as project manager.”

He gave his two weeks’ notice, and in two weeks, he was without a job. COVID-19 had struck, severely impacting employment in several industries, to include the construction sector. The company still wanted him as a member of their team in the future, but for the time being, they wouldn’t be able to keep him busy or give him a steady paycheck.

“The company called me and said, ‘you still have the job, but you don’t have a job,’” Faulkenberry said.

He immediately assessed his finances to determine how much he would need to earn to keep the bills paid, and then focused on getting back to work. What kind of work he did was less important to him than it was for him to fulfill his obligation to support his family.

“I started reaching out for jobs that I was overqualified for, but I needed to have income for my family,” said Faulkenberry. “I applied at Whataburger and McDonalds just because I needed something.”

Fortunately, the National Guard was able to put him to work. Faulkenberry previously served part-time as a reconnaissance sergeant in the 176th Engineer Brigade. He heard that his unit was looking for volunteers to help with the COVID-19 response, and he seized the opportunity.

“I’m thankful for that,” Faulkenberry said. “It’s very good for me because I have a family to take care of. I have a daughter and a wife, and the income I’m bringing from here helps me make sure they have a roof over their head.”

Since the Texas Military Department initiated the COVID-19 response, Soldiers with the Texas Army National Guard, Airmen with the Texas Air Guard and Texas State Guardsmen have been working to meet the basic needs of their fellow Texans. Their efforts have included construction in support of medical facilities, distribution of medical supplies and even preparing and distributing meals in support of food banks. Helping to meet these employment needs is just one more way the activation is about serving the common good in Texas, said Humphrey.

“As Guard members, it’s beneficial for them both ways, whether we’re protecting them and we’re working with the public to protect the public,” Humphrey said. “Texans supporting Texans--that’s what we do.”

National Guard engineers convert barracks into medical isolation support facilities

Story and photos by Staff Sgt. D. Michael Giles, 36th Infantry Division Public Affairs

CAMP MABRY, Texas—Army National Guard combat engineers completed the conversion of Camp Swift barracks into medical isolation support facilities on April 16, 2020, at Camp Swift in Bastrop, Texas. 

Texas Army Sgt. Keith Huffstuttler, a team leader with Task Force 176’s 840th Engineering Mobility Augmentation Company, installs curtains to separate beds in Camp Swift barracks to adapt them into medical isolation support facilities in Bastrop, Texas, on April 17, 2020. The TMD has established this isolation facility for Soldiers, Airmen and State Guardsmen suspected of having COVID-19 so that they may recover in a safe environment and prevent further spread of the virus. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Michael Giles)
Texas Army Sgt. Keith Huffstuttler, a team leader with Task Force 176’s 840th Engineering Mobility Augmentation Company, installs curtains to separate beds in Camp Swift barracks to adapt them into medical isolation support facilities in Bastrop, Texas, on April 17, 2020. The TMD has established this isolation facility for Soldiers, Airmen and State Guardsmen suspected of having COVID-19 so that they may recover in a safe environment and prevent further spread of the virus. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Michael Giles)



The 840th Engineer Mobility Augmentation Company, which operates within the Texas Military Department’s Task Force 176, mobilized in response to the COVID-19 pandemic to enhance medical infrastructure in Texas.

The Soldiers, in conjunction with other engineering units, adapted existing barracks into treatment facilities for any Guardsmen who become infected while serving during the COVID-19 response.

Spc. Javier Vega, an engineer with the 840th Engineer Mobility Augmentation Company, expressed pride and sense of duty in the work his team is doing.

“If everybody does their part, it’ll stop the spread and everything will go back to normal,” Vega said.

Members of the 840th were silent in response to being asked about who is concerned about contracting COVID-19 while on duty, implying a collective confidence that they will remain safe from the contagion through the pandemic response.

Sgt. Keith Huffstuttler, a team leader with the 840th, attributed their confidence to the discipline with which they are following infection control protocols.

“We’ve been following good safety precautions and practicing social distancing, not even intermingling with other squads in the same platoon,” Huffstuttler said.

Keeping squads separate from each other promotes unit effectiveness through the pandemic because it prevents an infection from spreading from a smaller team to members of the larger unit, said Staff Sgt. Thomas McCraven, a squad leader with the 840th.

“That way, if one squad gets infected, it reduces the chance of the whole platoon getting infected,” McCraven said. “Losing one squad is not as bad as losing the whole platoon.”

Capt. Dillon Horn, commander of the 840th, commended his Soldiers’ discipline and cohesion, promising their high-quality work through the remainder of the pandemic.

“This group of Soldiers really just want to help their fellow Texans in this difficult time,” Horn said. “They will do whatever it takes to get the job done, and they’ll get it done quickly and with expertise.”

“Together, the 840th Engineer MAC Soldiers are a well-oiled machine,” Horn said.

The Texas Army National Guard stays ready

Story and photos by Spc. Jason Archer, 100th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

AUSTIN, Texas – In 1636, the first members of the original thirteen colonies’ military gathered on an empty field and improvised new methods to conduct training crucial to their defense. In the more than 276 years since that first muster there have been many homes to National Guard units. Some met in empty schools, on private lands and in the late 1800’s more frequently in armories spread throughout communities.

One thing has not changed over all of this time—the need for Guardsmen to train for national defense. The COVID-19 pandemic has again changed the way citizen-Soldiers assemble, as this month units across Texas experienced their first digital muster. 

Texas Army National Guard Spc. Jason Archer, attached to the 100th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, 71st Troop Command, logs on to a video conference at his home in Leander, Texas, April 6, 2020. Archer’s unit continued training remotely during the state ordered shelter-in-place in order to be ready to serve the people of Texas. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Jason Archer)
Texas Army National Guard Spc. Jason Archer, attached to the 100th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, 71st Troop Command, logs on to a video conference at his home in Leander, Texas, April 6, 2020. Archer’s unit continued training remotely during the state ordered shelter-in-place in order to be ready to serve the people of Texas. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Jason Archer) 



As the pandemic continues across Texas Soldiers will be relying on the use of telework and virtual training to allow both full-time and traditional Texas Guardsmen to stay at home and maintain their health but not lose access to vital information.

Lt. Col. Rita Holton, 36th Special Troops Battalion Commander, said the Texas Military Department is continuing business as usual.

“The current health crisis has not changed the mission, just the focus,” Holton said. “The National Guard as a whole, is a trained, ready force and prepared for all types of contingencies, however difficult.”

The Texas Army National Guard has more than 23,000 members who have been standing by waiting to serve the state. These service members are ready to faithfully carry out the mission to serve Texans in their time of need.

Army 1st Sgt. Crystal Barton, with the 100th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, 71st Troop Command, said there were adjustments to the way work was being done, but the same objectives were being met.

“The MPAD did some classes and formations online over Zoom,” Barton said. “I’ve heard of other units using WhatsApp, not to send sensitive information, but to keep everyone abreast of any safety concerns.”
Everyone was ready to get on calls and complete online administrative tasks,” Barton added. “Even our commanders that work one weekend a month are used to having meetings online.”

Holton also said the service had systems in place for operational security whenever conducting telework.

“Telework is authorized for non-essential Soldiers, Airmen and civilian employees during the current crisis,” said Holton. “Having telework policies in place is an important element which preserves steady state operations, while taking care of our service members. This keeps them healthy by supporting their families’ needs.”

Texas Army National Guard leaders and Soldiers continue to meet routinely through virtual means in order to remain a relevant fighting force, ready to take-on COVID-19 and any other mission wherever else they are needed.
“COVID-19 has impacted how we are conducting our steady state operations,” Holton said. “However, the number one concern is to keep our Soldiers, Airmen and employees safe and healthy. We have several action plans in place to ensure that daily operations are not interrupted while simultaneously supporting the response effort.”

The effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19 has been witnessed at all levels of the Texas Military Department, in the Texas Army National Guard and the Texas Air Guard, and at all levels of command.

“This response is a true team effort,” said Maj. Gen. Tracy R. Norris, The Adjutant General of Texas. “Community by community, state by state, our nation is coming together, showing tenacity and grit of the human spirit as we work together to beat back COVID-19.”

Morale is high in National Guard COVID-19 response

Story and Photos by Staff Sgt. Michael Giles, Texas Military Department Public Affairs

"We’re always looking on the bright side,” said Spc. Dakota Goode, a National Guard infantryman who’s helping distribute needed medical supplies during the COVID-19 response.

Army National Guard Command Sgt. Maj. Toby Mendoza,the Joint Task Force 176 command sergeant major, recognizes Soldiers with General Support Unit 10 for their contributions to the COVID-19 response efforts. Sgt. Antonio Maldonado, a team leader with General Support Unit 10, received a coin for his willingness to accept responsibility beyond his position without hesitation. Spc. Dakota Goode, an infantryman with General Support Unit 10, received a coin in acknowledgement of his relentless dedication to maintaining a positive attitude during challenging times. Joint Task Force 176’s General Support Unit 10 is one of several Texas Military Department elements that mobilized to augment medical capabilities and support supply distribution in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Michael Giles, 36th Infantry Division Public Affairs)
Joint Task Force 176’s General Support Unit 10 is one of several Texas Military Department elements that mobilized to augment medical capabilities and support supply distribution in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Michael Giles, 36th Infantry Division Public Affairs)


“We look forward to getting up every day and doing our part to serve the community and the great state of Texas!”


Goode is a member of General Support Unit 10, which includes Soldiers assigned to the 1st Battalion of the 141st Infantry Regiment as well as Texas State Guardsmen. General Support Unit 10 is one of many teams that operates within the Texas Military Department’s Joint Task Force 176, which assembled in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

While other teams of service members are helping to mitigate the effects of the pandemic by supporting food banks or building medical infrastructure, General Support Group 10 is operating a regional staging area where supplies are distributed out to disaster districts.

“We are distributing PPE that includes latex gloves, masks, face shields and hand sanitizer,” said 2nd Lt. Cody Bodine, a platoon leader with General Support Unit 10. “We’re providing Texas communities with protective supplies so they can maintain their health and well-being.”

“We have a really good system in place in our shipping department,” said
Sgt. David Freitag, a squad leader with General Support Unit 10.

Freitag explained that supplies are organized according to their destinations, and when county representatives arrive to receive the materials, State Guardsmen scan the supplies out for inventory control. After that, the Soldiers and Airmen of the Texas National Guard get to work.

“Our hard working [personnel] bring everything, put it on the truck for the counties, and try to get them out of here in 5 minutes so they can go help the people who need the supplies,” Freitag said.

Goode’s level of motivation, as well as that of Sgt. Antonio Maldonado, a team leader with General Support Unit 10, was recognized by Command Sgt. Maj. Toby Mendoza, who awarded them with coins during a visit on April 14, 2020. Maldonado was recognized specifically for his willingness to step into a role of more responsibility without hesitation when asked to do so.

Mendoza said the motivation and dedication that Maldonado and Goode demonstrate is what being a Soldier in the Texas Army National Guard is about.

“That’s the nature of our soldiers,” Mendoza said. “They want to help. They want to help out” the citizens of their state. Whenever they’re asked to do something, they want to go do it. They give it all they’ve got.”

Texas Guard mobilizes to respond to COVID-19

Story by Charles E. Spirtos, Texas Military Department Public Affairs

AUSTIN, Texas – The Texas National Guard is mobilized throughout the state to help expand health care capacity during the COVID-19 threat.

Gov. Greg Abbott activated the Texas National Guard March 17 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The activation included three joint task force brigades, the 56th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 72nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, and 176th Engineer Brigade, which will lead 10 general support units positioned across Texas. 

Texas Army National Guard troops set up a field hospital in response to COVID-19 April 1, 2020, at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas, Texas. Service members across Texas worked to set up Geographically Separated Units (GSU) to support local communities. (Texas Air National Guard Photo by A1C Charissa A. Menken)
Texas Army National Guard troops set up a field hospital in response to COVID-19 April 1, 2020, at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas, Texas. Service members across Texas worked to set up Geographically Separated Units (GSU) to support local communities. (Texas Air National Guard Photo by A1C Charissa A. Menken)

Abbott held a news conference with Maj. Gen. Tracy R. Norris, the adjutant general of Texas, at the Texas State Capitol and said the Guard would provide medical, logistics, transportation and communication support for health care.

The Guard's primary role is expanding health care capacity in Texas. This includes increasing access to supplies and equipment, as well as staffing capacity and the number of available hospital beds.

Members of the 6th Civil Support Team headquartered at Camp Mabry in Austin examined donated personal protective equipment like N95 respirator masks and latex gloves to make sure the material was undamaged and effective.

Maj. Sean M. Thurmer, deputy commander of the 6th Civil Support Team, said the trust the state put in the team was earned during years of working alongside the Texas Department of Emergency Management.

"The 6th Civil Support Team has responded to many incidents in Texas and has developed relationships with response partners with whom they work," said Thurmer.

Effective equipment will be distributed to medical facilities and hospitals treating patients with COVID-19. By maintaining the adequate supply of this equipment, the Texas Military Department is ensuring medical providers can continue serving the public while also protecting themselves.

The Guard's 176th Engineer Brigade is also finding and equipping non-medical sites where patients can be treated if hospitals run out of room.

"While hospitals will remain the primary location to treat and care for those in need, we are ensuring that Texas is prepared for any possible scenario in which current hospital capacity is exhausted. This joint initiative with the Texas Military Department and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will expand the care capacity in communities across Texas," said Abbott.

The first of these sites will be the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas, which can accept up to 250 patients with room to expand if needed.

Norris said members of the Guard are also working with local agencies to establish drive-through COVID-19 test sites throughout the state, equipped and staffed by local medical staff and logistics experts in the Guard.

"We are Citizen-Soldiers and Airmen, we truly are your neighbors and are deeply invested in keeping our friends and fellow Texans safe," said Norris. "This is our home, too, and together we will get through this difficult time."

Competition and Camaraderie: A Best Warrior Partnership

Story by Sgt. Daryl Bradford, 100th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, Texas Army National Guard

Service members arrived at Camp Swift on a rainy morning in March, ready to compete in the Texas Military Department 2020 Best Warrior Competition. The sky was overcast, bringing a shadow upon the day, but they had come to prove to themselves and their fellow countrymen that they had what it took to earn the title of “Best Warrior.” Soon, however, the soldiers would realize that competition was only half of the experience. 

Army Spc. Jacob D. Arndt performs 25 burpees as part of the obstacle course during the Texas Military Department’s 2020 Best Warrior Competition March 5, 2020 at Camp Swift near Bastrop, Texas. Arndt, part of the 176th Engineers Brigade, is currently attending college and plans to commission as an officer through Reserve Officer Training Course (ROTC).
Army Spc. Jacob D. Arndt performs 25 burpees as part of the obstacle course during the Texas Military Department’s 2020 Best Warrior Competition March 5, 2020 at Camp Swift near Bastrop, Texas. Arndt, part of the 176th Engineers Brigade, is currently attending college and plans to commission as an officer through Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC). (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Jason Archer, 100th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)

The Best Warrior Competition is a demanding challenge that brings together service members from the Texas Army and Air National Guard and Texas’ foreign partners, Chile and Czech Republic, in friendly, four-day competition.

“That’s the biggest benefit of the competition, the type of soldiers and leaders that we develop into in the process of this,” said Sgt. Jonathan David Huwe, an Infantry Team Leader from 3rd Battalion, 141st Infantry Regiment, when speaking on training with and against the Chilean soldiers.

Texas Guardsmen and their foreign counterparts work together to sharpen their warrior skills and leadership qualities during the competition process, ensuring that they are ready to respond in times of crisis or when their home nations need them. The competition furthers relevance and readiness by inspiring training that is tailored to increase the soldier’s ability to defend and serve.
Serving the nation and Texas are both equally important, and he takes pride when supporting the large-scale operations or back at home, said Huwe.

Having served the United States twice on overseas deployments as a Texas Guardsman, Huwe knows the importance of being ready, of being relevant, and maintaining strong partnerships.
“Again, it relates back to that competitive spirit,” said Huwe when talking of the Texas National Guard’s Chilean partners. “They’re going out there to give their best and we’re going out there to push ourselves to meet that. That builds strong bonds. Training together builds respect at the lowest level.”

Partnerships like the ones described inspire others to succeed through competition and increase professional skills among service members. Mutually beneficial relationships are born that positively affects foreign working relations and the United States defense goals.

The ideas that Huwe speaks about aren’t just one-sided either because Chilean soldiers hold the same values important.
“This competition generates friendships and relationships between Chilean and U.S. soldiers that pushes us to be the best,” said 2nd Cpl. Manuel Aroca Navarette, an infantry specialist with the Chilean 21st Marine Infantry Battalion. “That respect among each other causes us to fight to be better.”

Army Pfc. Maximilliano Estrada of the 71st Expeditionary Military Intelligence Brigade performs V-ups during the obstacle course portion of the Texas Military Department’s 2020 Best Warrior Competition March 5, 2020 at Camp Swift near Bastrop, Texas. Estrada, who began bleeding half-way through the event, refused to stop and completed the course.
Army Pfc. Maximilliano Estrada of the 71st Expeditionary Military Intelligence Brigade performs V-ups during the obstacle course portion of the Texas Military Department’s 2020 Best Warrior Competition March 5, 2020 at Camp Swift near Bastrop, Texas. Estrada, who began bleeding half-way through the event, refused to stop and completed the course (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Jason Archer)

Among other things, camaraderie built from competition is one of the main qualities the service members from the different countries have in common, said Navarette.

A camaraderie that builds strong bonds—bonds that far surpass geographic and language barriers. The Texas Military Department 2020 Best Warrior Competition fosters those type of friendships. Even more importantly it builds partnerships because even the service member crowned “Best Warrior” is nothing without the support of his brothers-in-arms.

Governor Abbott Reappoints Norris As Adjutant General of Texas

Press Release Courtesy of the Office of Governor Greg Abbott

February 27, 2020

Governor Greg Abbott has reappointed Major General Tracy Norris as the Adjutant General of Texas. The adjutant general is commander of the Soldiers and Airmen of the Texas Military Department, and reports directly to the Governor in matters pertaining to the Texas Army National Guard, Texas Air National Guard and Texas State Guard. General Norris is the first female to be appointed Adjutant General of Texas.  Major General Tracy R. Norris

“It is a distinct honor to reappoint Major General Tracy Norris as Adjutant General of Texas,” said Governor Abbott. “General Norris has faithfully served the people of Texas and continues to make great strides in the modernization of the Army and Air Force, while increasing the capacities of the Texas State Guard. Her dedication and expertise has guided Texas’ response to challenges ranging from natural disasters to cybersecurity threats. I am grateful for General Norris’ partnership and I am confident she will continue to serve Texas with utmost integrity.”

Major General Tracy Norris of Austin, currently serves as the 52nd Adjutant General of Texas and previously served as the Deputy Adjutant General for Army and as Director of Construction and Facilities Management for the Texas Military Department. She also served as commander of the 176th Engineer Brigade and as Chief of Staff of the 36th Infantry Division; responsible for oversight of command and control throughout nine southern provinces of Iraq in 2010.

During her tenure as the Adjutant General of Texas, the Texas Military Department has responded to multiple natural disasters both in Texas and other states, to include assisting in the recovery of several major cyberattacks. Additionally, under her command the state has continued to prepare and execute an aggressive mobilization schedule while maintaining positive relationships across the state. She continues to focus on the modernization of the Army and Air Force while increasing the capacities of the Texas State Guard. As the largest National Guard in the country, General Norris' Texas Army National Guard's Recruiting and Retention Battalion was recognized as being the leader in the nation for Guard recruiting efforts.

Additionally, General Norris has had the privilege of serving the Army National Guard (ARNG) in Georgia, Florida, Massachusetts, and at the National Guard Bureau in Washington D.C. She served the NGB as a program manager and executive officer, overseeing the Environmental Division; National Guard Range & Training Lands Division; and as Chief of the Training Facilities Team under the Training Support Branch of the ARNG.

During her almost 35-year career, she has earned several decorations and awards including the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal (with four oak leaf clusters), the Army Commendation Medal (with four oak leaf clusters), Iraq Campaign Medal (with 2 oak leaf clusters), and Humanitarian Service Medal for service during Hurricane Katrina and Rita. General Norris is also a recipient of the Department of State Franklin Award as well as the Army Engineer Association Bronze order of the de Fleury Medal.

General Norris earned a commission after completing the Reserve Officer Training Corps program at Florida State University, graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Anthropology and a Master of Science in Urban and Regional Planning. Additionally, General Norris received a Master in Strategic Studies from the United States Army War College and a Master of Business Administration from the McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin.

Sgt. Alvarado’s Journey to becoming a Non-Commissioned Officer

Story by Captain Leyda Ocasio-Kanzler, Public Affairs Officer,  Joint Task Force - Guardian Support

Sgt. Jeffrey Alvarado, intelligence analyst with Team Laredo has his specialist rank removed by Capt. Yihte Ban, Alpha Company 636 Military Intelligence Company Commander in Laredo, Texas, Dec 16, 2019. Entering into the NCO Corps is a memorable promotion as it marks the era of a new beginning of responsibility. (Texas Army National Guard photo by Capt. Leyda Ocasio-Kanzler)
Sgt. Jeffrey Alvarado, an intelligence analyst with Team Laredo has his specialist rank removed by Capt. Yihte Ban, Alpha Company 636 Military Intelligence Company Commander in Laredo, Texas, Dec 16, 2019. Entering into the NCO Corps is a memorable promotion as it marks the era of a new beginning of responsibility. (Texas Army National Guard photo by Capt. Leyda Ocasio-Kanzler)

LAREDO, Texas- Sgt. Jeffrey Alvarado joined the Texas Army National Guard at the rank of Specialist, having completed his Basic Leadership Course while on active duty. The journey to become a Non-Commissioned Officer is a distinguished honor to take. For Alvarado, it was one that he aspired to complete. Alvarado started his journey by signing an eight-year contract with the active duty component. Later, he decided to switch over to the National Guard to finish out his contract with the military. However, since the National Guard offers incentives such as extra college money for his children and a signing bonus, he offered to sign an additional six-year contract with the National Guard to extend his military service.

Within four months of integration into the Texas Army National Guard, Alvarado was offered an opportunity to join Joint Task Force-Guardian Support as an intelligence analyst supporting U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s operations in Laredo, Texas. Alvarado decided to accept the position and relocated to Laredo, Texas. “Now I’m happy, because I actually enjoy it here,” said Alvarado. “I like my job, I enjoy what I’m doing, I like the town, I like the people, I like everything about it.” Alvarado’s previous experience with military intelligence during his active duty service has made him an incredible asset to Team Laredo.

Marshall Taylor, an intelligence research specialist for CBP, said “Sgt. Alvarado has been crucial in identifying multiple persons and places of interest which are suspected of belonging to criminal organizations that have ties to major drug cartels.” Being on this mission has allowed Alvarado to not only expand his knowledge within his military career, but to put his skills into action. His collaboration with CBP has further developed the mission of securing our southwest border.

Marshall goes on to give recognition to the countless hours that Alvarado has dedicated to assisting Customs and Border Protection in combating the Transnational Criminal Organizations operating within the 177 miles of the Laredo sector area of operations. He states that “Sgt. Alvarado’s go-getting attitude and ability to solve complex problems makes him an intelligence analyst any unit would be proud to showcase.” Laredo has become a place of new beginnings for Alvarado, who upon completion of his military contract is aiming to pursue a career within the Laredo Police Department.

The National Guard Soldiers deployed to the border are an active force in working to alleviate the humanitarian crisis on our border while simultaneously ensuring it is more secure. The National Guard continues to be a support to CBP, developing a partnership with them in order to create a strong force that remains ready and willing to serve their state and nation.

Army Commissions New Physician Assistants

Story by Andrew R. Smith, Texas Military Department Public Affairs

Fort Hood, Texas – On January 31, 2020, Class 17-3 graduated the Army’s Interservice Physician Assistant program at the Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center, welcoming four new physician assistants into the Army.

January 31, 2020 Soldiers from Interservice Physician Assistant Program class I7-3 graduate during a ceremony held at the Caral R. Darnall Medical Center. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Andrew R. Smith/Released)
January 31, 2020 Soldiers from Interservice Physician Assistant Program class I7-3 graduate during a ceremony held at the Caral R. Darnall Medical Center. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Andrew R. Smith/Released)

The graduating Soldiers were recognized for completing their postgraduate studies and earning the title of physician assistant (PA).  Three of the four Soldiers also earned their commission as Army officers upon completing the course. Among the attendees were unit members and family members of the graduates, as well as medical professionals who had worked alongside the students to provide training and education.  

For one of the graduates this event was the culmination of years of work and the fulfillment of a long-term life goal. 

“I always wanted a medical career.  I was commissioned as an engineer but I had a great relationship with the battalion PA in my last unit,” said Capt. Adam Todd. “She helped the unit immensely by evaluating running related injuries and physical routines.  She made a suggestion to the battalion command that the intensity of runs be reduced and injuries in the unit decreased sharply.  That ability to have influence on the battalion commander and the ability to help Soldiers really inspired me.”

To become a physician assistant, students must pass classes in anatomy, physiology, pathology, diagnosis, treatment, disease processes, communication and patient assessment.  This rigorous coursework includes weekly tests and many hours of research and writing outside of class.  Fortunately, the students were in the hands of very capable instructors— some of who had taken the same path and gone through the same course of study.

Guest Speaker Teresa Walters, an Army veteran of 20 years, as well as a graduate of the Army’s Interservice Physician Assistant program provided the graduates a few words of wisdom and insight.

“I always tried to interject life lessons into what I was teaching, the method I use is humor.  It really opens the students up and I feel like it gets them to trust you more,” she said.  “I also tried to make myself as available as possible for any questions they had, be it classes or life in general. I let them know the importance of being approachable as a PA.”

When asked about how it felt to be remembered fondly by the students and asked to return and speak at their graduation Walters said, “I was honored when they asked me to come back and speak at their graduation.  I taught them almost two and a half years ago and it validated the work I did and what I taught them, and to me showed that I made a difference.  It meant a lot that they remembered all of that, and I can’t wait to see what they do.” 

With assignments in hand, the students will report to field units where they can begin to put their training and education to use by serving and safeguarding Soldiers.

The Army officially began its physician assistant program in 1971 at the Medical Field Services School in Fort Sam Houston, in San Antonio, Texas.  The roots of the program date back to World War II, when a fast-track training for medical doctors was implemented to assist in the war effort. In today’s Army, a physician assistant performs most of the duties of a healthcare provider on a battalion level, providing localized and immediate care to soldiers wherever they may be.

Congresswoman Kay Granger Visits Southern Border

Story by Texas Military Department Public Affairs Office

EL PASO, Texas- Members of the Texas Military Department hosted a congressional visit to the El Paso area of the Texas-Mexico border on November 22, 2019.  There, Congresswoman Kay Granger (TX-12) met with the Adjutant General of Texas, Maj. Gen. Tracy R. Norris, and received an overview of the Joint Task Force Guardian Support mission, currently led by the United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Congresswoman Granger also visited with troops currently assigned to Joint Task Force Guardian Support. 

The Texas Army National Guard began their partnership with CBP beginning in 1989, with the start of the Texas Joint Counter Drug Task Force.  Throughout the years, Texas Soldiers and Airmen have operated in support roles to enhance border security. A 30 year mission of continuous sustainment has evolved from the control of drug infiltration to the United States, to logistical and intelligence operations along the southwest border.    

Currently, Joint Task Force Guardian Support is comprised of Soldiers and Airmen from more than 12 states.  Their mission is to operate in a supportive role which allows CBP agents to return back to enforcement duties and the administration of immigration law. Operations performed by the National Guard include aerial support, motor vehicle maintenance, transportation, detection and intelligence analysis and logistical support, among other capabilities. 

EL PASO, Texas -- U.S. Border Patrol Agent in Charge Walter Slosar gives a guided aerial tour of the U.S. border to Rep. Kay Granger, the congresswoman from Texas District 12 and ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee, and the Adjutant General of Texas, Maj. Gen. Tracy Norris, during her congressional visit to the area, Nov. 22, 2019. The delegation traveled by a Texas Army National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk from El Paso through Monuments I and III to the U.S. Border Patrol's Santa Teresa Station in Sunland Park, New Mexico. At the station, Rep. Granger, Maj. Gen. Norris, U.S. Army Budget Liaison Maj. Mark Bedrin, House Appropriations Committee Professional Staff Homeland Minority Clerk Dena Baron and Communications Director Sarah Flaim, met with CBP personnel and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers representatives to further discuss the state of the border, specifically in their sector. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Christina Clardy)
EL PASO, Texas -- U.S. Border Patrol Agent in Charge Walter Slosar gives a guided aerial tour of the U.S. border to Rep. Kay Granger, the congresswoman from Texas District 12 and ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee, and the Adjutant General of Texas, Maj. Gen. Tracy Norris, during her congressional visit to the area, Nov. 22, 2019. The delegation traveled by a Texas Army National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk from El Paso through Monuments I and III to the U.S. Border Patrol's Santa Teresa Station in Sunland Park, New Mexico. At the station, Rep. Granger, Maj. Gen. Norris, U.S. Army Budget Liaison Maj. Mark Bedrin, House Appropriations Committee Professional Staff Homeland Minority Clerk Dena Baron and Communications Director Sarah Flaim, met with CBP personnel and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers representatives to further discuss the state of the border, specifically in their sector. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc.
Christina Clardy)

The National Guard aerial support function has been vital to assisting federal agents in the field with monitoring migrants. The National Guard also assists with aerial rescues. Due to the continuous support of the National Guard, CBP has been able to enhance its security efforts along the southwest border.  National Guard ground support is comprised of Soldiers and Airmen providing motor vehicle maintenance support, thus increasing the roadside capabilities within the CBP force.  With the support of Congresswoman Granger, returning agents to enforcement duties has become a more obtainable goal for CBP. 

Congresswoman Granger is no stranger to the Texas National Guard. Throughout her career, she has worked to prioritize federal funding for concurrent military modernization efforts in order to keep the National Guard at par with the active component.  In 2017, as the Chairwoman of the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee, Rep. Granger oversaw the appropriation of eight C-130J Super Hercules aircraft for the Air National Guard.  This marked the first time that the National Guard had received new C-130J models since 2005.

“Modernized air assets provide a stronger future for aerial delivery support and make the unit more competitive for additional missions,” said Maj. Gen. Dawn Ferrell, Deputy Adjutant General for Air, Texas Military Department. “If the 136th Airlift Wing receives C-130J models, it will extend the unit's aircraft lifespan significantly over the current C-130H model.  With its increased cargo capacity and improved performance characteristics, the C-130J would enhance the wing's operational capabilities to better serve Texas and the nation.”

Congresswoman Granger’s visit to the current border mission, Joint Task Force-Operation Guardian Support, was an opportunity to highlight her focus on domestic response strategy. It also allowed her to demonstrate her continuous bipartisan support of both the Guard and the citizens of Texas.

“Her support has ensured the UH-72 Lakota’s availability for domestic support missions, to include hurricane response, wildfire suppression and border operations,” said Brig. Gen. Thomas Suelzer, Director of Joint Staff, Texas Military Department.

As a voice for the National Guard, Ms. Granger was successful in the critical fight for maintaining AH-64 Apaches and Infantry Brigade Combat Teams within the National Guard, and has worked tirelessly to ensure the National Guard’s operational readiness is maintained.  When force structure conversations take place between the Active Duty and the Guard, the Texas Delegation looks to her for her leadership in defense related issues.  Ms. Granger has worked tirelessly to remain educated on the Guard issues that affect her district, the Texas Guard and the Guard’s 54 states and territories.

U.S. Border Patrol Agent in Charge Walter Slosar gives a guided aerial tour of the U.S. border to Rep. Kay Granger, the congresswoman from Texas District 12 and ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee, and the Adjutant General of Texas, Maj. Gen. Tracy Norris, during her congressional visit to the area, Nov. 22, 2019. The delegation traveled by a Texas Army National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk from El Paso through Monuments I and III to the U.S. Border Patrol's Santa Teresa Station in Sunland Park, New Mexico. At the station, Rep. Granger, Maj. Gen. Norris, U.S. Army Budget Liaison Maj. Mark Bedrin, House Appropriations Committee Professional Staff Homeland Minority Clerk Dena Baron and Communications Director Sarah Flaim, met with CBP personnel and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers representatives to further discuss the state of the border, specifically in their sector. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Christina Clardy)

Even now, as the ranking member of the powerful House Appropriations committee, Ms. Granger continues to support the mission of the National Guard. 

“The Congresswomen’s support of long-term sustainment of the RC-26B in the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act protects a manned platform at the 147th Attack Wing,” said Maj. Gen. Ferrell.  “This airframe is an integral asset used domestically in support of the southwest border mission and is unique to the Guard.” 

These improved capabilities within the Texas Military Department have amplified readiness levels, mirroring those of units on active duty. This allows Maj. Gen. Tracy R. Norris to heavily focus on the future of the organization and the growth of both manpower and resources for the Texas Army and Air National Guard. 

“The Texas Military Department is extremely thankful for the ongoing support of the Texas Congressional delegation and the leadership provided by Congresswoman Granger,” said Marcy Weldin, Director of Government Affairs, Texas Military Department. “Because of her support we are better equipped to serve the citizens of Texas and the nation when called upon. For that reason, Maj. Gen. Norris has nominated her for the National Guard Association of the United States’ distinguished Harry S. Truman award.”

Congressman Granger’s other awards include the Minuteman Award, Navy Distinguished Public Service Award, as well as the Great American Patriot Award.