Posts in Category: Texas Army National Guard

Supporting Guardsmen and Families from Deployment to Retirement

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

Soldiers and Airmen attached to guard and reserve elements constantly have to balance military service, a fulltime job, education and family life.  At times this combination of tasks may seem overwhelming.  Fortunately, services exist to assist these hard working service members and their families.  While most of these people know about benefits such as tax free shopping at the Post Exchange and the education benefits of the GI Bill, there exists an entire support system that offers services far beyond those.Citizen soldier for life logo.

The Family Support Services center offers everything from entertainment functions to education classes and benefits workshops so families will be well versed in what benefits they have and how to best use them. 

“Family Support Services offers cradle to grave assistance for guardsmen and civilian employees,” said Shandra Sponsler, Deputy Branch Manager of Family Support Servicer on Camp Mabry. “We offer pretty much everything but pay and MOS training for Soldiers. Even as Soldiers reach retirement age we have programs like resume writing and interviewing classes and the ‘Citizen-Soldier for Life’ program to guide them as they move past the military.”

Citizen-Soldier for Life is an Army National Guard program that offer career readiness support and financial training to National Guard members, their families, veterans and retirees.  They offer events to help those veterans find jobs in the civilian work force as well as professional networking.

The Soldier Support Service Center, located at Camp Mabry, in Austin, also offers services for retired persons, such as issuing new I.D. cards and copies of military records for retirees and dependents. 

Family Support Services also works with many local partners like Hero’s Night Out, Combat Combined Arms, Operation Homefront USA and the YMCA to put on local events to educate service members and families and provide services. Many of these events are aimed at entertaining and providing a sense of community for the children of deployed service members.

“Some of our most useful and most popular services are Tricare healthcare for service members and families, behavioral health counselors and assistance with Veterans Administration benefits,” said Staff Sgt. Jean-Pierre Sanders, noncommissioned officer in charge of Yellow Ribbon programs at the Family Support Services Center.

The Yellow Ribbon program is another major benefit available to veterans that assists with the cost of education at select universities and trade schools.

“One service I would suggest people take advantage of is our Yellow Ribbon events.  At these events we have information about all of our available resources.  Beyond the obvious ones, there some unseen benefits,” said Sanders. “I often see family members of deployed service members meet with other families, share stories and advice and network with one another.  The support they offer each other us something unique and valuable.”

Even organizations like the Army Air Force Exchange (AAFES) who run the Post Exchange (PX) is opened to all active and retired service members as well as 100 percent disabled veterans and families of all eligible groups. PX restraints are open to all. A portion of all AAFES profits go back to troops through donations to Morale and Welfare Recreation Programs.

Many of the support services such as the counseling are available over the phone 24-hours a day year round. Offices are located all over Texas in Austin, Dallas, Houston, Weslaco, Tyler and El Paso.

More information about these services can be found at https://tmd.texas.gov/family-support-service

New Year, New Goals: Total Force Wellness

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

Members of the Senior Enlisted Leader Conference learn new events to be included in the Army Combat Fitness Test during a training exercise held at Camp Mabry, Texas on October 25, 2019. (U.S. Army National Guard Photo by Staff Sgt. Mark Otte)
Members of the Senior Enlisted Leader Conference learn new events to be included in the Army Combat Fitness Test during a training exercise held at Camp Mabry, Texas on October 25, 2019. (U.S. Army National Guard Photo by Staff Sgt. Mark Otte)

With the start of the new fiscal year, agencies government-wide are re-evaluating goals and priorities in order to best answer the call of their missions. The Texas Military Department is no different, and moving into fiscal year 2020, TMD Senior Enlisted Leader Chief Master Sgt. Michael E. Cornitius has outlined his vision to improve total force wellness to increase resiliency for every Soldier, Airman and State Guardsman within the Texas Military Forces.

“Being healthy” isn’t just about eating right and getting exercise. Cornitius wants to ensure that the force is healthy mentally, spiritually and physically. All three of these building blocks are critical to maintaining a force that is lethal, resilient and ready to answer the call at any time. Maintaining this standard of total fitness is not an individual endeavor. Every Texas Guardsman is in the fight together as one force. 

“The Texas Guard operates like a family, and just as members of a family encourage each other to be the best version of themselves, each member needs to hold one another accountable,” said Cornitius.

Members of the Senior Enlisted Leaders Conference participate in a joint Army, Air Force, and State Guard physical training at Camp Mabry, TX on October 25, 2019. (U.S. Army National Guard Photo by Staff Sgt. Mark Otte)
Members of the Senior Enlisted Leaders Conference participate in a joint Army, Air Force, and State Guard physical training at Camp Mabry, TX on October 25, 2019. (U.S. Army National Guard Photo by Staff Sgt. Mark Otte)

As a military organization, TMD rightfully places a great deal of energy and effort in maintaining superior physical fitness. However, the importance of mental and emotional well-being is often overlooked. Emotional health is key to maintaining a resilient and lethal force, and ignoring this component of total force wellness can be just as detrimental as skipping PT. 

Balancing life as a citizen-Soldier within the Guard is not an easy task. Between family commitments, military requirements and the challenges of civilian employment, it is very easy to get overwhelmed. Cornitius believes that tackling the cause of these emotions can allow for increased wellness in the force by going back to the root and really helping people understand that they have a purpose, whether it’s in the military, in society, in their family or wherever else. Cornitius adds that it is his mission to be the support network for those people who have expressed a desire to improve their emotional health. 

In tandem with emotional health, Cornitius wants to enter the new fiscal year with an increased understanding of spiritual health and the resources available to the men and women of the Texas Military Department. All components of TMD have chaplains on staff who are equipped to talk through any spiritual challenges one might face. While speaking to a chaplain might appear to be intimidating at first, Cornitius reminds Guardsmen that chaplains are just normal people.

Physical wellbeing has been and always will be a critical component of total force wellness. Across the Department of Defense, all branches of service are looking towards the future and developing innovative methods to keep the force agile, healthy and lethal. These changes are very palpable within the Army given the transition to the Army Combat Fitness Test. However, all branches are undergoing a renewed interest in physical health. The ACFT will be a superior metric to determine a Soldier’s comprehensive physical fitness by evaluating complex actions that have direct parallels to skills required to succeed in the force. Cornitius understands that while at first the ACFT may seem daunting, the test will actually provide benefits beyond athleticsm by increasing camaraderie within the force. 

A U.S. Air Force chaplain's cover rests on a table as a service member discusses faith-related concerns during a religious service. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jacob B. Wrightsman)
A U.S. Air Force chaplain's cover rests on a table as a service member discusses faith-related concerns during a religious service. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jacob B. Wrightsman) 

“You can encourage each other, whether it be on the deadlift, whether it be on the leg tuck, no matter what it is,” said Cornitius. “You're going to have at least four people there that can help each other, so that's what I like about it.”

TMD is determined to provide the resources to ensure all of its members excel physically. Part of this initiative is introducing the Volt App, which utilizes artificial intelligence to customize workout routines to the needs of each individual. This app will allow troops to not only meet, but also to exceed fitness goals. TMD is also constructing a consolidated gym at Camp Mabry to allow for improved physical training. Finally, TMD is ensuring that units across the state of Texas have access to equipment that will prepare them for both fitness tests and the battlefield.

Life as a citizen-Solider within the Texas Military Department can be challenging. TMD is the premier military force in the country, and the demands of military service can push individuals to the limits of their physical and emotional abilities. However, with this great challenge comes a great reward in better preparing TMD members to be equal to the task, whether at home during a natural disaster or on the battlefield. Cornitius is certain that a refreshed interest in total force wellness will improve mental, spiritual and physical health, which will in turn allow TMD to be the most agile and resilient force of its kind. The most important point to remember, according to Cornitius, is that no one is in the fight alone. 

“TMD is dedicated to being built around taking care of our people,” said Cornitius. “You are heard, and we are there.”

 

Texas Guard Special Forces Soldiers awarded Medals by the Czech Republic

Story and Photos by Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Pena, Texas Military Department

A Czech Republic soldier prepares to present awards during a during a ceremony in Prostejov, Oct. 25, 2019, marking a successful six-month tour to Western Afghanistan. During the ceremony, Special Forces Soldiers from the Czech Republic and Texas Army National Guard received awards, distinctions and badges of honor as an appreciation for their successful service abroad and excellent representation of their homeland. The Texas Military Department and the Czech Republic have participated in the U.S. Department of State’s Partnership Program cooperation since 1993 with the Nebraska National Guard, in support of the U.S. European Command Theater Security Cooperation Strategy. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Pena)
A Czech Republic soldier prepares to present awards during a ceremony in Prostejov, Oct. 25, 2019, marking a successful six-month tour to Western Afghanistan. During the ceremony, Special Forces Soldiers from the Czech Republic and Texas Army National Guard received awards, distinctions and badges of honor as an appreciation for their successful service abroad and excellent representation of their homeland. The Texas Military Department and the Czech Republic have participated in the U.S. Department of State’s Partnership Program cooperation since 1993 with the Nebraska National Guard, in support of the U.S. European Command Theater Security Cooperation Strategy. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Pena)

Prostejov, Czech Republic -- Special Forces Soldiers assigned to the Texas Army National Guard were awarded the Medal of the Minister of Defense of Czech Republic, at a ceremony in Prostejov, Oct. 25, 2019, for their efforts supporting their Czech Allies during a recent combat deployment to Afghanistan as part of Operation Resolute Support.

Resolute Support is a NATO-led mission to train, advise and assist the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces. The Resolute Support mission is currently comprised of 17,000 personnel from 39 NATO Allies and partners.

"The ceremony was a dedication to the end of a successful mission that was conducted in Afghanistan,” said the deputy commander of the Czech Republic’s Special Operations Forces. “It is important for everyone to understand how special it is for us to have our U.S. brothers here with us. My Czech operators that served side-by-side with the [Texas] operators felt the cooperation was extraordinary and wanted to express gratitude."

During their deployment, the Texas Guardsmen, assigned to the Army's 19th Special Forces Group (Airborne), partnered directly with Czech SOF for six months in Afghanistan’s Western region where they worked hand-in-hand for one shared goal - protecting their homelands.

A Texas Guardsman assigned to the Army's 19th Special Forces Group (Airborne), presents a U.S. Army Combat Infantryman Badge to a Czech Republic Special Forces soldier during a during a ceremony in Prostejov, Oct. 25, 2019.
A Texas Guardsman assigned to the Army's 19th Special Forces Group (Airborne), presents a U.S. Army Combat Infantryman Badge to a Czech Republic Special Forces soldier during a ceremony in Prostejov, Oct. 25, 2019.  Army photo by SSG Elizabeth Pena.

"It is not common for Czech to give foreign service members this [Medal of the Minister of Defense of Czech Republic] decoration," said the Czech deputy commander. "They are here not because of me, or my boss, or my boss' boss. They are here because of the brotherhood that was born in the battlefield of Afghanistan. It is because of operators here in this unit that were deployed, had someone next to them from the United States that they could rely on."

This combined effort stems from a 24-year relationship between the Texas Military Department, Nebraska National Guard and the Czech Republic as part of the U.S. State Department’s State Partnership Program, based on military-to-military engagements with all components from the Czech Republic and Texas.

"It was great for us to take that partnership that had been developed over the years and put it together in a mutual deployment," said the detachment commander of the Texas-based 19th SFG (A) Special Forces team. "The Czechs went on approximately 30 missions with us, so that is a lot of time spent on a daily-basis planning, rehearsing and executing and it just validated that our special operations brotherhood is more than just our regiment, it expands across our NATO partners."

Those who have participated in the State Partnership Program have seen the direct correlation between investing in the relationship with their Czech counterparts during peacetime and the effectiveness created between NATO Allies in combat.

"There's a plaque I have with pictures of the teams working together across all of those missions," said the American detachment commander. "This directly demonstrates the strength of the state partnership from each program, even in places as distant as Afghanistan, the U.S. Army, the Texas Army National Guard and the Czech Republic can work hand in hand for mutual goals and benefits."

Czech Republic Air Force Maj. Gen. Jiri Verner, Deputy Chief of the General Staff of Czech Armed Forces Command, presents the Medal of the Minister of Defense of Czech Republic to Texas Guardsmen assigned to the Army's 19th Special Forces Group (Airborne), during a ceremony in Prostejov, Oct. 25, 2019, hosted by their State Partner, Czech Republic. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Pena)
Czech Republic Air Force Maj. Gen. Jiri Verner, Deputy Chief of the General Staff of Czech Armed Forces Command, presents the Medal of the Minister of Defense of Czech Republic to Texas Guardsmen assigned to the Army's 19th Special Forces Group (Airborne), during a ceremony in Prostejov, Oct. 25, 2019, hosted by their State Partner, Czech Republic. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Pena)

This deployment was just one of many examples of how the Texas and Czech Republic’s partner-unit preparation, through U.S. support and engagement, is a strengthened capability and improves interoperability every day, whether it is training at home station or combat missions abroad.

"I am so proud of these Texas Guardsmen," said Texas Army National Guard Maj. Gen. Tracy Norris, the Adjutant General of Texas. "Their efforts to work in close collaboration with our Czech partners and go the extra mile exemplify the type of Soldier we all strive to be. Our long campaign in Afghanistan has required our troops to be highly adaptable professionals at all times. The 19th SFG (A) continues to stay true to our mission and values in this war fight, bringing honor to themselves and those of us back home."

 

This article was initially posted to DVIDS on October 28, 2019.

Saving a Life In a Moment's Notice

Story by Brandon Jones, Texas Military Department Public Affairs

It was just another hot summer night for Texas Army National Guardsman Spc. Matt Oldham as he worked his civilian job, the overnight shift as a security guard at the Dallas Holocaust Museum, when an out-of-control car careened into a nearby building and burst into flames as he watched. Oldham knew he had to help. He ran to the burning car.

It wasn't too long ago, though, that Oldham walked the halls of Wylie High School in Wylie, Texas, figuring out what to do next with his life. Oldham says life can be pretty tough in a small town. Between classes, social pressures and uncertainty about college, he found a passion that stuck with him for a lifetime and helped him navigate the crash that night, as he put his military training to use. Oldham's desire to serve his country has always been his number one priority. 

Oldham says that spirit of service comes from three generations of men in his family. Oldham's great grandfather, James Oldham, served in the U.S. Navy as a Seabee during World War II. His grandfather, Sgt. Bob Oldham, served multiple tours in Vietnam, receiving a Bronze Star for combat valor and a Purple Heart for wounds suffered in combat. Oldham's father, Sgt. Mark Oldham, spent time in Germany during the Cold War, in South Korea and at Dyess Air Force Base in Abilene, Texas. 

Spc. Matt Oldham and fiance Emma Sonck pose during a red carpet event hosted by Collin College. (Courtesy Photo: Army.com)
Spc. Matt Oldham and fiance Emma Sonck pose during a red carpet event hosted by Collin College. (Courtesy Photo: Army.com)

"The stories my family told me about serving were a life guide for me,” Oldham said. "I can't imagine a future without it."

It was just 20 days after his high school graduation in 2015 when Oldham joined that family tradition. He's now a SAW gunner in the 144th Infantry Regiment out of Seagoville, Texas, and his family couldn't be any prouder.

"When you realize the magnitude of the organization you have joined, it makes you want to grasp on to every piece of knowledge and apply it to your life," Oldham said.

Oldham deployed to the Horn of Africa from 2017-2018 after joining the National Guard. He describes the deployment as an opportunity to be a well-rounded Soldier. During his deployment, Oldham says he and other Soldiers learned airbase defense, patrols and general theater security.

"It's hard to imagine what you would do in a situation like that," Oldham said. “You try to push past it mentally, even though it's training because a real-life situation can be hard."

But Oldham had no idea he would put the skills learned during his deployment to the Horn of Africa to the test this past July. Oldham was three hours into his shift as a security guard for the Dallas Holocaust Museum when a loud sound forced him out of his seat. The sounds of glass breaking and tires screeching echoed in his ears as he made his way to see what was happening. As he got closer, Oldham noticed a man had crashed his vehicle into a downtown office building across the street from the museum, and the man's vehicle was now on fire.

Two Dallas Police Officers were already trying to do everything they could to save the man from the burning car. The entire front end of the man's SUV crunched against broken glass and bricks from the building, and the impact had trapped the man between the building and the car, according to Oldham. 

"I had to act and participate in the rescue anyway I could," Oldham said. "If that were my family member, I would want someone to do the same."

Firefighters respond to a crash near the Dallas Holocaust Museum where Spc. Matt Oldham works as a security officer. (Courtesy Photo: Robert McMurrey, Twitter)
Firefighters respond to a crash near the Dallas Holocaust Museum where Spc. Matt Oldham works as a security officer. (Courtesy Photo: Robert McMurrey, Twitter)

Oldham reached for his tourniquet, something he learned to carry at a first aid course he took during Initial Entry Training at Fort Benning, Georgia. He also took a Combat Lifesaver course his battalion medics taught. As part of the CLS class, Soldiers learned to use tourniquets, Israeli bandages, litters, chest seals, nasopharyngeal airways and more. Oldham recalled all of his training as he examined the driver for injuries.

"I could see several broken bones mostly in his feet and arms," Oldham said. "There were injuries to his chest as well. We were aware that this was a hazardous situation, and we needed to act fast."

As flames from the car intensified, Oldham could feel the sweat drop from his face and heat radiate throughout his body. He says he didn't think for a second about how he and the officers were putting themselves in harm's way. Oldham applied a tourniquet to the man's right foot as he helped pull him from the car.

"He seemed to be conscious even though he didn't say much," Oldham said. "I wanted to make sure he knew we were going to do everything we could to try to save him."

Seconds turned into what seemed like minutes during the rescue. The man was taken to the hospital and treated for his injuries. Dallas Police arrested the man for driving under the influence after the crash. Oldham feels everyone involved is fortunate the situation turned out as well as it did. Oldham says he was at the right place at the right time.

While Oldham insists he was just doing his job, Oldham is receiving awards to honor his heroism. The Dallas Holocaust Museum awarded him with The Lifesaver Award, and he's also receiving an award from his unit.

"When people walk up to me now they're saying I don't know if I would have been able to do that," Oldham said. “Life is short. It could all be over in an instant. I'm grateful for everyone one involved that night."

As he walks by the office building where the crash happened, all Oldham sees now are repairs. He wonders if he could have done more that night.  

While some may consider Oldham a hero, he doesn’t see himself as one. Instead, he thinks of the generations of men in his family that served before him. 

"If I could hear the words ‘well done’ by any of them, that's all I need," Oldham said.

 

Spc. Matt Oldham assists a fellow member of the infantry in weapons training
during a deployment to Arta, Djibouti. (Courtesy Photo: Spc. Matt Oldham)

This article originally appeared in the October 2019 edition of The Dispatch on page 10.

The Nervous System of Texas Guard Operations

Story and Photos By: Caitlin Rourk, Texas Military Department Public Affairs

 
Sgt. Kory Colvin, left, and Maj. John Pearson, right, monitor real-time updates in the Texas Military Department Joint Operations Center, Camp Mabry, Austin, Texas. The JOC serves as a link between partner agencies and Texas' 24,000 Guardsmen and civilians.
Sgt. Kory Colvin, left, and Maj. John Pearson, right, monitor real-time updates in the Texas Military Department Joint Operations Center, Camp Mabry, Austin, Texas. The JOC serves as a link between partner agencies and Texas' 24,000 Guardsmen and civilians.

AUSTIN, Texas - Managing information flow for a part-time force, operating in an environment where incidents often occur with no advance warning, requires round the-clock monitoring and coordination. For the Texas Military Department, which has more than 24,000 service members and civilians in its ranks, dozens of agency partners and a dual federal and state mission, its Joint Operations Center plays that critical role.

The JOC is the hub of information flow during both steady state operations, where it oversees the daily battle rhythm of the nation’s largest state military organization, and major incidents to which the Texas Military Department responds, be it tropical or winter weather, floods, wildfires and other civil support and law enforcement operations.

“We are able to communicate with all the major commands and units. We should be able to very clearly tell anyone who walks in—most notably, the Texas Adjutant General—what is available,” Staff Sgt. Kimberly Eastburn, a JOC battle NCO, said. “If the TAG wants to send out a certain number of aviation assets, we know exactly where those are and what is possible since we get those fed to us. The JOC has all the information to handle anything the state needs.”

The JOC has four key charges. First, it ensures timely and accurate communications with TMD components, the National Guard Bureau and interagency partners. Second, the JOC maintains situational awareness, which aids leaders in decision-making, alerts leaders to take action and assists in appraising the effectiveness and efficiency of operations and activities. Third, the JOC provides mission command to TMD forces that are mobilized in support of Domestic Support of Civil Authorities. Finally, it maintains historical documentation.

Located at the Joint Force Headquarters building at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas, the JOC’s design maximizes accessibility of information and serves as a central collaborative gathering place for TMD personnel and interagency partners during incident responses. Large television screens stream cable news network feeds, screens project real-time numbers and information and Soldiers sit behind computer monitors and phones, acting as a switchboard to units in the field.

In July, TMD renamed the JOC for Sgt. Maj. Elwood H. Imken, a longtime figure in the agency who passed away in 2018. Imken was instrumental in creating TMD’s JOC, and TMD leaders recognized how fitting the dedication would be. Eastburn says she immediately saw the parallels between the JOC and Sgt. Maj. Imken, as both were—in their own unique ways—at the heart of the agency.

“The JOC is the hub of what’s happening in the Texas Military Department. Sgt. Maj. Imken was the hub of almost everything that was happening at Camp Mabry at one time or another in any capacity he served,” Eastburn said. 

Staff Sgt. Kimberly Eastburn, left, and Sgt. 1st Class Clinton Staha, right, discuss a potential unit mobilization in response to flooding at the Texas Military Department Joint Operations Center at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas.
Staff Sgt. Kimberly Eastburn, left, and Sgt. 1st Class Clinton Staha, right, discuss a potential unit mobilization in response to flooding at the Texas Military Department Joint Operations Center at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas.

Like most Texas Guardsmen, Hurricane Harvey was the biggest mission of which Eastburn has ever been a part. She says working in the JOC when the governor mobilized the full Texas National Guard gave her greater appreciation for what an unprecedented undertaking it was and how much coordination was involved to accomplish it.

“The coordination and ability to respond and make that happen when it did is because the JOC is so heavily involved. We have the information, from what the State Operations Center needs, to what the Department of Public Safety needs,” said Eastburn. “Our partners know us, and we are the intermediary when a State of Texas Assistance Request, or STAR, goes out. We push the STAR and call out for mission-ready packages, and we know exactly how much it will cost because of all the past experience and events of what’s happened here.”

Capt. Jacob Schreyer, a JOC battle captain, explains that the JOC maintains an especially close relationship with full-time staff at units. Once the JOC receives the STAR, which allows Texas municipalities to request resources from TMD and other agencies for disaster and civil support responses, Schreyer and his team immediately make contact with units well before they are activated. The JOC explains the mission and helps leaders marshal their rosters, something that can be challenging for M-Day leaders who simply cannot be fully engaged on day-to-day unit operations. 

Facing the constraints of a largely part-time force, Eastburn says the JOC’s role in supporting readiness and ensuring accurate and timely information flow cannot be understated.

“As far as readiness, we know what we’ve got. We know where the people are. Overall readiness, without the JOC, it would be really hard,” Eastburn said. “We are the communication hub for everything the TAG wants, everything NGB wants, all the way down to the units. Without that, we just have so many different ways the information would flow down and potentially be miscommunicated.”

Battle captains and NCOs man the JOC every day of the year. While the JOC has set core hours, someone on staff is always on-call. More substantial incidents can prompt leaders to initiate the Adaptive Battle Staff, a construct that scales a staff size when responding to a natural or manmade disaster. The ABS has full-time personnel and traditional Guardsmen who come in on State Active Duty orders and different levels that dictate the number of SAD personnel and types of shifts and hours, ranging from Level IV, normal conditions, to Level I, maximum readiness.

“We are postured and ready to turn to 24-hour coverage, with 12-hour shifts and daily shift change briefs, if the agency is in an event response that requires increased manning,” Schreyer said. “We can flip back at a moment’s notice.”

In the months ahead, the JOC will modify how it displays information to maximize impact. Schreyer adds that the JOC is also working toward even greater integration with all three TMD components, including implementing a new system that better synchronizes with the Texas Air National Guard and having liaison officers more regularly present at the JOC.

This article originally appeared in the October 2019 edition of The Dispatch on page 6. 

Sgt. Maj. Elwood H. Imken-A Life Well Lived

Story by: Brandon Jones
Texas Military Department Public Affairs

Sgt. Maj. Imken Photo

AUSTIN, Texas- Once in a while, you’ll cross paths with someone who will make you smile, laugh, and push you to the best of your abilities. It is almost impossible to forget someone like that.  If you ask family and friends of retired Sgt. Maj. Elwood H. Imken he fits the description in every way.  Imken passed away last year, but, his story is one people will tell for generations. To commemorate his service, the Texas Military Department will honor him again during a special dedication ceremony.

Growing up in Pflugerville and attending college at Southwest Texas State Teachers College (now known as Texas State University), Imken is a homegrown Texan. In March 1967, he boldly stood up for God and country and joined the Texas Army National Guard.

Imken's five decades-long service to the military would take him to places some Soldiers could only dream of. His career reached every echelon from platoon to division and every level of leadership, culminating as the Division Operations Sergeant Major for the 49th Armored Division and the 36th Infantry Division. From directing the mobilization of Texas Soldiers in state active duty missions to overseeing all four division warfighter exercises, Imken's work showed a love for his job. Retired Command Sgt. Maj. Bob Marshall knows a thing or two about Imken's service.  They met in 1980 when Imken was with the 124th Cavalry Regiment. The two remained friends until Imken's death. "E.H. had a way of looking out for people regardless of your command level. It really made you humble yourself and get the job done," said Marshall. " He was also one heck of a hunter and fisher. I'm going to miss that tenacity he had."

Community outreach was another important value for Imken. He worked for outreach missions like Operation Blue Santa and Food for Families. Imken said he learned early in his career that planning and program management were important for taking care of Soldiers. His efforts didn't go unnoticed especially from the organization he signed up to serve with so many years ago. 

On May 14, 2016, The Texas Military Department inducted Imken into its Hall of Honor. The Hall of Honor, which was established in 1980, recognizes outstanding service and leadership of individuals serving as members of the Texas Military Department in a state or federal status. A room in the Texas Military Forces Museum at Camp Mabry, in Austin, Texas, displays portraits and histories of military members inducted into the Hall of Honor.  His desire to serve others and give back on a much larger scale, characterized his career. It was this induction that allowed the organization to give back to him.

One Soldier who knows Imken's compassion for the men and women in uniform is retired Texas Army National Guard Col. Guy Schultz.  Col. Schultz is a close friend of Imken and coordinator with the Military Funeral Honors Team so he is happy to see his friend get this kind of recognition. "His work and life will have an impact for generations to come,” said Schultz. “However, when he took the time to know you, it was easy to recognize him as a great mentor who always strived for the best.”

Now three years after his Hall of Honor induction, the honors for Imken, and his legacy, continue even after his death. On July 12, 2019, the Texas Military Department will rename its Joint Operations Center as the Sergeant Major E.H. Imken Joint Force Headquarters-Texas Joint Operations Center. Imken was instrumental in the creation of the Joint Operations Center by using his extensive network to aid in disaster response efforts.  The Adjutant General of Texas, Maj. Gen. Tracy R. Norris, will speak at the dedication ceremony for her dear friend.
“I imagine that a few things surprised him, and it’s appropriate that we rename our JOC in honor of him,” said Norris.

Imken's family and friends will tell you his life of service shaped the Texas Military Department to always be ready to serve.  The recent JOC dedication is one more to note that ‘E.H. Imken had a life that was well lived! If you are visiting Austin and have the chance to stop by our museum to view the Hall of Honor, please do so. We are proud of our rich heritage at the Texas Military Department and honored to remember one of our own who crossed our path and lit the way for future generations. We also want to remember and honor all those who have had a lasting impact on us and who shaped who we are as “Texans Serving Texas.”
 

36th Infantry Division completes Warfighter

Story by: Staff Sgt. Michael Giles

Posted: 06-19-2019

Photo By Staff Sgt. Michael Giles | Maj. Gen. Patrick Hamilton, commander of the 36th Infantry Division, works with division Soldiers to load gear into a vehicle during Warfighter 19-05 at Fort Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania, June 8, 2019. The 36th Infantry Division's Headquarters and Headquarters Company travelled to Fort Indiantown Gap in May, 2019, to participate in Warfighter 19-05, an simulation designed to test command staff in decision-making and communication. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Michael Giles)
Photo By Staff Sgt. Michael Giles | Maj. Gen. Patrick Hamilton, commander of the 36th Infantry Division, works with division Soldiers to load gear into a vehicle during Warfighter 19-05 at Fort Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania, June 8, 2019. The 36th Infantry Division's Headquarters and Headquarters Company traveled to Fort Indiantown Gap in May 2019, to participate in Warfighter 19-05, a simulation designed to test command staff in decision-making and communication. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Michael Giles)

FORT INDIANTOWN GAP, Pa.— The Texas Army National Guard’s 36th Infantry Division completed a large-scale command training exercise on June 12, 2019.

The division’s command staff, Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, as well as units from five other states, Army Reserve and active U.S. Army completed Warfighter 19-5, a scenario-based exercise designed to test battlefield decision-making and communication. 

“Warfighter is a computer simulation,” said Col. Edward Dextraze, the division’s senior liaison officer. “It’s a training exercise used to assess a division’s ability to execute their wartime mission in a full-spectrum operation.”

According to Dextraze, Warfighter exercises provide awareness about how ready a unit is to handle the complexity of large-scale combat operations. Warfighter reflects an actual deployment, including the challenges that arise when various sections synthesize their efforts. 

“If you don’t take advantage of that compressed stress situation, when you have to do it for real for a mobilization, you’ve kind of cheated yourself,” Dextraze said. 

The virtual battleground for Warfighter 19-5 was a full-scale combat exercise, a change from previous scenarios. In this scenario, United States allies requested support after being attacked by rockets, chemical agents and an invading ground force. The 36th Infantry Division deployed its forces taking the fight to the enemy. Utilizing the military decision making process, leaders made tactical choices to cross rivers, overcome geological and other modern obstacles.

Col. Oliver Mintz, the 36th Infantry Division’s chief of staff, explained that Warfighter is an unparalleled opportunity for a unit to sharpen its skills and test their fighting readiness. 

“You will unequivocally come out of Warfighter better than when you went in,” Mintz said. “There’s quite simply no better training event for Army staff than Warfighter. I’ve done a number of them in my career and every single time, you learn a lot.” 

Staff Sgt. Neethu Cherian, a protection staff noncommissioned officer with the 36th Infantry Division Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, said Warfighter 19-5 was an opportunity to build on previous skills obtained while attending the Battle Staff Noncommissioned Officer course.

“You get to understand and visualize how the different Warfighter functions integrate with each other to get the job done,” Cherian said.

Cherian related a new experience she had during the exercise, when a senior leader asked her how she thought a course of action would impact the fight. Though she believed she knew the correct answer, she still experienced a moment of doubt because prior to that moment, it was an experience she had never had. 

“Doctrinally, if we are assuming they’re going to use a non-persistent chemical agent, then the forces should move in now, towards the objective, while the weather is at our advantage,” she responded. 

Later, she sighed a breath of relief as she double-checked the doctrinal answer. She had gotten the answer right. And now she feels more confident than ever in her role. 

“Getting tested like this builds my confidence because it confirms that my knowledge held up when it all comes together,” Cherian said.

Mintz explained that learning from failure is a significant part of Warfighter.

“This is not about turning in an A-plus answer on day one,” Mintz said. “You’re going to show up. You’re going to get it wrong. You’re going to have to fix it.”

“The enemy’s going to punch you in the mouth and you’ve just got to keep getting up and getting after it,” Mintz said. “If they approach it with that attitude and are willing to learn from their mistakes every day, they’ll be on their way to a successful event.” 

Maj. Gen. Patrick Hamilton, the 36th Infantry Division’s commanding general, said that although our performance during Warfighter was by no means perfect, they far exceeded expectations.

“I couldn’t be more proud of the progress we’ve made as a staff,” Hamilton said. “Our evaluators have told me that we’ve accomplished some things that other divisions haven’t been able to. That’s because of hard work and preparation.” 

Hamilton said the division’s success at Warfighter is worthy of its proud historical legacy.

“Commanding the 36th Infantry Division, because of its historic lineage in combat in World War I, in World War II, and in Iraq and Afghanistan, we have big shoes to fill,” Hamilton said. “The Soldiers of the 36th Infantry Division here are absolutely stepping up and are ready to conduct operations wherever our nation calls us to go.”

“I could not be more proud of the patriotic service, the competence, dedication and the effort of the Soldiers in this division,” Hamilton said.

U.S. Army South motto comes to life during Fuerzas Aliadas Humanitarias

Story by: Staff Sgt. Melisa Washington

Posted: 5-16-2019

Photo By Spc. Miguel Ruiz | Dominican Republic organizations participate in realistic disaster-relief exercises during media day of Fuerzas Aliadas Humanitarias 2019 at Campamento Militar 16 De Agosto in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, May 14, 2019. Local media and representatives from Dominican Republic governmental and non-governmental agencies and local media gathered at the military camp to witness live disaster-response exercises and answer questions from the media. FA-HUM 19 is a U.S. Army South-sponsored foreign humanitarian assistance and disaster relief exercise designed to build U.S. partner nation’s capacity for civil and military response to major disasters. More than 100 national experts from over 13 Latin American countries will operate jointly throughout FA-HUM 19 simulations and training events from May 6 - 17, 2019 in the Dominican Republic. (U.S. Army photo by Miguel Ruiz, 100th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)
Photo By Spc. Miguel Ruiz | Dominican Republic organizations participate in realistic disaster-relief exercises during media day of Fuerzas Aliadas Humanitarias 2019 at Campamento Militar 16 De Agosto in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, May 14, 2019. Local media and representatives from Dominican Republic governmental and non-governmental agencies and local media gathered at the military camp to witness live disaster-response exercises and answer questions from the media. FA-HUM 19 is a U.S. Army South-sponsored foreign humanitarian assistance and disaster relief exercise designed to build U.S. partner nation’s capacity for civil and military response to major disasters. More than 100 national experts from over 13 Latin American countries will operate jointly throughout FA-HUM 19 simulations and training events from May 6 - 17, 2019 in the Dominican Republic. (U.S. Army photo by Miguel Ruiz, 100th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic.--- U.S. Army South’s motto, ¡Juntos Podemos! - Together We Can! is a fitting representation of its partnership with over 10 Latin American nations. You'll see their motto along with their Spanish galleon insignia on the ARSOUTH website, water bottles and stationary. But the motto represents far more than a few words on a coin. ¡Juntos Podemos! represents the valuable relationships ARSOUTH has established to bring stability and security to the Latin American region.

¡Juntos Podemos! is 100 experts from 13 Latin American countries working together for Fuerzas Aliadas Humanitarias in an annual ARSOUTH-sponsored foreign humanitarian assistance and disaster relief exercise designed to build U.S. partner nation’s capacity for civil and military response to major disasters. 

¡Juntos Podemos! is over 20 national and international agencies collaborating during simulated natural disaster exercises to strengthen civil-military response and relief efforts in this year’s host nation, the Dominican Republic. 

"The meaning of cooperation, collaboration and solidarity is all about harnessing the power of one”, said Brig. Gen. Irene Zoppi, director for the Army Reserve engagement cell & Deputy Commanding General – Army Reserve for U.S. Army South.

¡Juntos Podemos! is the hundreds of residents from Los Contreras and other surrounding communities of Bajo Yuna participating in a flood evacuation simulation, going through the procedures of evacuating their homes to a shelter at Centro Educativo los Guaraguaos. 

¡Juntos Podemos! is preschool children from Escuela Republica de Chile crouching under their desks then evacuating their classrooms simultaneously with over 50 other businesses, schools and government agencies in Santo Domingo during an earthquake simulation.

"These types of exercise help us to visualize the evacuation plan. It helps the the general population”, said Carlos Richardson, physical fitness teacher and evacuation coordinator for Escuela Republica de Chile. “It helps the students and the community, as the students gain the knowledge that they can use at home."
¡Juntos Podemos! is the "Buen Día” we say to each other in the morning and the “cafe” we share together in the afternoon. It’s the continuous effort we make to build the trust and friendship with ARSOUTH partner nations. 

“We as a country are grateful,” said Brig. Gen. Juan Manuel Mendez Garcia, director of the Emergency Operations Center for the Dominican Republic. “My gratitude as a Dominican, as a service member and the gratitude that the President of the Republic feels, in respect to our allies, is that the people of North America and Army South, have always been at the forefront with us.”


 

71st Troop Command Qualifies on Weapons

Story by: Spc Jason Archer

Posted: 4-27-2019

Members of 71st Troop Command, Texas Army National Guard qualified on three different weapons May 3, 2019 at Camp Swift, near Bastrop, Texas. Soldiers from the 100th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, 71st Theater Information Operations Group and 71st Expeditionary Military Intelligence Brigade, qualified on pistols, rifles and machineguns.

Weapons qualification is a requirement of all soldiers in the Army and Army National Guard. The 71st Troop Command uses the annual qualification to keep soldiers ready to answer the call for any mission, stateside or federal.

Sgt. Maj. Jason Morrow, operations sergeant major for the 71st Troop Command, places high importance on the readiness of all Troop Command Soldiers.

“Soldiers’ physical and mental fitness is the foundation for the readiness and lethality of our force,” Morrow said. “It is important for soldiers to be proficient in their advanced individual skills, but they also have to stay relevant by maintaining their soldiering skills.”

To prepare for the shooting range, the 71st used the Integrated Weapons Training Strategy, U.S. Army Training Circular 3-20.0. The publication is a step-by-step manual to prepare soldiers for the shooting range and ultimately make a ready and lethal force. Chapter 4 of the manual includes a six-step process leading up to the range.

Sgt. Matthew Wright, a public affairs specialist with the 100th MPAD, went through the entire process in the months leading up to the firing range. During the simulation portion of his training, his unit used a laser marksmanship training system.

“The laser pop-ups helped me raise my score significantly,” Wright said. “I was more prepared for the targets and controlled my weapon and breathing better.”

Wright qualified on the M-4 rifle and the M-249 machine gun. Going to the range is one of his favorite parts about being in the Texas Army National Guard.

“I really look forward to range day,” said Wright. “It is a break from my routine civilian job, and I get to fire expensive weapons for free. I find myself more excited to go to drill when I know I’m going to be shooting that weekend.”

Success on the range positively effects a soldier’s outlook on being a soldier. Good training is essential to achieve this success.

Soldiers from Troop Command were trained from Preliminary Marksmanship Instruction through the firing range with battle buddies in order to ensure their success.

Pfc. Gunnar Gransbury and Pfc. Clay Ayanna are paralegal assistants for the 71st TIOG’s HHC. Both were coaching each other while on the range. While they were shooting, the pair would help spot targets and check each other’s fundamentals.

“We are pretty new to the unit,” Gransbury said. “I thought it would be harder to qualify since it has been a while since I last shot, but I think I hit 34 out of 40 targets today.”

Morrow further explained the importance of following the training syllabus put out by the Regular Army.

“Any task in the National Guard has the added difficulty of time constraints,” Morrow said. “By following the doctrine and utilizing all the tools available to us, we can make sure our reserve-component soldiers are ready for weapon qualifications and fulfilling their missions.”

Texas National Guard and Chilean Partners Celebrate 10 years of Partnership

Story by Brandon Jones

Texas military leaders and Chilean military leaders pose for a photo at the Texas State Capitol in Austin, Texas, April 12, 2019. The Texas National Guard and Chilean armed forces converged in Austin, Texas to discuss and celebrate their partnership that started one decade ago. As part of the annual State Partnership Program Planning meeting, the parties met to discuss, plan and establish agreed upon activities, in both countries, for the year ahead. The events, held throughout the year, focus on disaster/emergency response; aviation operations, maintenance and safety; military medical and engineer activities; as well as leadership, staff, officer and noncommissioned officer development.
Texas military leaders and Chilean military leaders pose for a photo at the Texas State Capitol in Austin, Texas, April 12, 2019. The Texas National Guard and Chilean armed forces converged in Austin, Texas to discuss and celebrate their partnership that started one decade ago. As part of the annual State Partnership Program Planning meeting, the parties met to discuss, plan and establish agreed upon activities, in both countries, for the year ahead. The events, held throughout the year, focus on disaster/emergency response; aviation operations, maintenance and safety; military medical and engineer activities; as well as leadership, staff, officer and noncommissioned officer development.

AUSTIN, Texas- It is a well-known fact the National Guard’s core mission includes fighting America’s wars and securing the homeland, but perhaps a lesser-known mission is that of building enduring partnerships. 

From April 10-13, 2019, members of the Texas National Guard and Chilean Armed Forces converged in Austin, Texas to discuss and celebrate their partnership that started one decade ago. As part of the Annual State Partnership Program Planning Meeting, the parties met to discuss, plan and establish agreed upon activities, in both countries, for the year ahead. The events, held throughout the year, focus on disaster/emergency response; aviation operations, maintenance, and safety; military medical and engineer activities; as well as leadership, staff, officer and noncommissioned officer development. 

“Both our state and their nation have significant responsibilities with regards to disaster response, and experience is often one of the best teachers so what better way to support one another than helping to share and improve upon best practices,” said Maj. Mark White, State Partnership Program Director, Texas Military Department. “An experience our Soldiers and Airmen value, a great secondary benefit to SPP is the exchanging of our cultures and what makes Chile and Texas special places respectively. We create lifelong friendships through every event together.”

In addition to planning events for the fiscal year 2020, this trip included multiple activities commemorating the tenth anniversary of the partnership. On April 12, 2019, the Chilean delegation was presented with a proclamation from the Deputy Secretary of State of Texas, Jose A. Esparza, recognizing and honoring the important partnership between the Texas National Guard and the Republic of Chile. This same group was furthered honored on the House floor of the Texas Capitol prior to signing the formal agreement on the steps of the Texas Capitol. 

“Today’s events, in which representatives from Texas and Chile were standing side-by-side, exemplify the solidarity of our commitment to the program and one another,” said White. “In 2020 we will jointly execute over 40 SPP events in both of our countries as we start our second decade of partnership which strives to be the model for SPP in SOUTHCOM.”

In a Strategic Studies Quarterly article published in 2018 Gen. Joseph L. Lengyel, Chief of the National Guard Bureau, stated SPP is future focused and adaptive to geopolitical changes. Lengyel says NGB has seen the program grow from assisting nations in developing more modern and professional militaries functioning under civilian control to partnerships that look to deepen interoperability with complementary capabilities and forces.

"Beyond the military benefits, we have witnessed the fruits of these relationships as they help the United States maintain and grow its alliances across the globe through enduring and personal relationships," said Lengyel. "What began as a program of 10 partnerships in Eastern Europe has spread across five continents and currently encompasses approximately one-third of the nations in the world."

As part of the program and in addition to Chile, the Texas and Nebraska National Guards share a partnership with the Czech Republic. In 2018, the Czech Armed Forces and its state partners commemorated the 25th anniversary of the union. Under the National Guard Bureau’s State Partnership Program there are currently 76 partnerships in place and support to 83 nations around the globe.