Posts in Category: Texas Army National Guard

Texas Guardsmen go back to the basics with base defense

Texas Guardsmen go back to the basics with base defense

Story by: Staff Sgt. Jennifer Atkinson

Posted: August 12, 2016

Soldiers from 636th Brigade Support Battion, 836th Engineer Co. (Sappers), and 136th Military Police Co. participate in base defense training during the 136th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade Exportable Combat Training Capability exercise at Ft. Hood, Texas, August 9-14. This exercise focuses on reinforcing and increasing proficiency in fundamental Soldier skills, such as shooting, moving, and communicating. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Jennifer D. Atkinson/Released)
Soldiers from 636th Brigade Support Battalion, 836th Engineer Co. (Sappers), and 136th Military Police Co. participate in base defense training during the 136th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade Exportable Combat Training Capability exercise at Ft. Hood, Texas, August 9-14. This exercise focuses on reinforcing and increasing proficiency in fundamental Soldier skills, such as shooting, moving, and communicating. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Jennifer D. Atkinson/Released)

Ft. Hood, Texas – Members of the 136th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, like all Soldiers in the Texas Army National Guard, have two primary missions: domestic support and overseas warfighting. During the brigade's  Exportable Combat Training Capability exercise at Ft. Hood, Texas, August 9-14, these experts in emergency response from the 636th Brigade Support Bn., the 836th Engineer Co. (Sappers), and the 136th Military Police Co., are getting back to the fundamental Soldiering skills they would use when deployed. 

“We're out here for two weeks, receiving training on route security, on base security, and on basic MP skills,” said Spc. Blake Davis, a military policeman stationed in the gunners hatch of a gun truck. “This training is more hands on, so I'm learning a lot.”

One of the primary “green” missions of the 636th BSB is the establishment and defense of the battalion staging area. The BSA serves as the central point for the battalion's tactical operations center, as well as communications services and basic sustainment functions, such as living quarters and field feeding operations for the entire brigade.

“Today we're doing a simulation of base defense,” said Maj. Kadett Derry, 636th BSB executive officer. “This is where we have the battalion staging area, where we have the basic elements that support the brigade. This is where we get attacked and at this point the enemy is coming in and we're trying to defend our position.”

One of the critical tasks in establishing a base defense plan is using the terrain to best advantage, establishing a defensible perimeter by placing Soldiers and vehicles in elevated positions with good visibility on any approaching enemy while offering cover and concealment to Guardsmen on the ground.

“We're protecting the base, making sure no one comes over [the perimeter],” said Blake. “After we receive positive confirmation, we're going to engage that target.” While on guard duty, Blake scanned the brush and scrub outside the concertina wire with binoculars, keeping a sharp eye out for unexpected movement or suspicious activity.

In addition to training to detect the enemy, the Soldiers also developed their ability to respond to an attack. To ensure a successful defense, the Guardsmen conducted “react to fire” drills and established response teams.

“Once the enemy hits, it's quite amazing what we do at that point,” said Derry. “We have a quick reaction force, they actually go out and engage the enemy. If anyone comes inside the line, we have a ready reserve force.”

Participating in the training allows younger or less experienced Soldiers the chance to increase their proficiency in these fundamental warfighting skills. 

“I'm learning from my NCOs,” said Blake. “I'm watching them and participating in other events so I can get practice.”

“We're getting ready for a different mission,” said Spc. Keith Hoffman, a wheeled vehicle mechanic from B. Co., 626th BSB. “This is different from our usual classes, and we get to learn what we're going to do overseas, so we can do both our jobs right.”

The Guardsmen will continue to train and refine these fundamental techniques until the drills become second nature.

“It's exciting to see our Soldiers out there on the line. It's a work in progress,” said Derry. “After every iteration, we're continuing to improve. It's amazing to see. We have some great soldiers.”

Beans and bullets - finding new ways to feed the force

Beans and bullets - finding new ways to feed the force

Story by: Staff Sgt. Jennifer Atkinson  

Posted: Aug 12, 2016

Soldiers from 636th Brigade Support Bn. and the 136th Military Police Bn. prepare meals and feed Soldiers in a proof-of-concept kitchen during the 136th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade's Exportable Combat Training Capability exercise at Ft. Hood, Texas, August 9-14. This exercise focuses on reinforcing and increasing proficiency in fundamental Soldier skills, such as shooting, moving, and communicating. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Jennifer D. Atkinson/Released)
Soldiers from 636th Brigade Support Bn. and the 136th Military Police Bn. prepare meals and feed Soldiers in a proof-of-concept kitchen during the 136th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade's Exportable Combat Training Capability exercise at Ft. Hood, Texas, August 9-14. This exercise focuses on reinforcing and increasing proficiency in fundamental Soldier skills, such as shooting, moving, and communicating. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Jennifer D. Atkinson/Released)

FORT HOOD, Texas --The adage “an army marches on its stomach” carries more than a kernel of truth. Not only are field rations critical in maintaining combat readiness by supplying the nutrition needed by Soldiers to perform well in the field, chow is often closely tied to troop morale. 

Field kitchens have evolved, from cramped tents to crowded truck beds, and most recently, the compact containerized kitchen, but the cooks of the 136th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade are getting a chance to test an entirely new concept kitchen.

More closely resembling a “bounce house” than the squared-up design of the modern containerized kitchen, this prototype field kitchen is ahead of the standard in terms of safety, speed and efficiency.

“With this set up, we can knock out the food, move on, and find ourselves ahead of schedule, ” said Sgt. 1st Class Mark Shaw, Headquarters and Headquarter Co., 136th Military Police Battalion. “We would not have made mission today without it.”

This particular configuration of field kitchen is a totally new concept, said Ramiro Andrade, the engineering project manager with Babington Technology. The 636th BSB has been working with Babington and its partner company AAR Mobilizations Systems, over the past few years to develop a better field kitchen design, and will get the chance to demonstrate the improvements to the National Guard Bureau during an upcoming field visit.

Babington makes the heating elements used in the new kitchen, and they're a massive step up from the old burners. The burner units are modular, making maintenance and replacement less expensive, both in terms of money and time spent learning to repair or maintain six different types of burner.

“We cooked 600 of the 800 portions for breakfast in the new kitchen and 200 in the other kitchen,” said Shaw, “and the new one won, hands down.”

The powered multi-fuel burners are “incredibly efficient,” said Andrade, and work within the Army's mandate to eliminate gasoline from military fuel inventories. The PMB primarily uses JP-8 for fuel, as well as any other distillate fuel available, and improves safety by relocating the fuel tank outside of the kitchen itself.

As another safety measure, the combustion element of the test cookers are all completely enclosed, reducing the chance of accidental fires and burns. The hyper-efficient combustion method also means the burner produces no odors or CO2 gasses, and redirects the heat to the food instead of the air around the cooking area, leading to a more pleasant and safer work area. The two-tiered design helps keep cooks and customers cooler, taking advantage of thermodynamics to displace hot air into the top arch of the tent, reducing the temperature in the kitchen and on the serving line by more than 40 degrees. 

“The contractors have had a constant thermometer in here,” said Shaw. “During what I like to call full burn and turn, with the oven cabinet, warming table, and griddle going, it was 89 degrees in here. In the CK, during full turn and burn, it's 150 degrees on the wet bulb.”

The equipment efficiency isn't just a cost-saving measure, said Shaw. It also translates to Soldier efficiency, allowing cooks to better balance technical proficiency with tactical training. 

“More times than not, cooks have to be exempted from training,” said Shaw, “because you can't leave the kitchen with something cooking- it's a fire hazard, but what does that do for Joe when he's supposed to be at a range, or needs extra practice with primary marksmanship training or medical training? You can run 100 different training scenarios, but nothing exempts him from being there with the cooking food.”

Since this is the proof-of-concept run for the kitchen, only the cooks from the 136th MEB, which includes the 136th Military Police Battalion and the 636th Brigade Support Battalion, are getting to take this new design out for a tasty spin, but they're hopeful the feedback influences the choice of equipment, and the contractors are encouraging honest, practical feedback.

“While we're leaning on this, it's really an adjustment,” said Staff Sgt. Marcus Flakes, food operation sergeant with 712th Military Police Co. “We've been using the CK for a while, so it's what we're used to, and this feels like we've got great equipment, but it has to be functional for the cooks.” The cooks have noted several issues to address in the next design, such as floor drains, sump pit piping, and an interior hand-washing station.

“I'm retiring, so I'm not going to see any of this stuff in use,” said Shaw, “but my son is coming into the military. I've got a personal reason to want everything better, as well as professional reason. If I feel like I can look back and I actually did something that made a difference, hey, life's good.”

Texas Military continues to strengthen partnerships with Native Americans

Texas Military continues to strengthen partnerships with Native Americans

Story by: Sgt. Elizabeth Peña

Posted: August 9, 2016

Key leaders from the Texas Military Department and state agencies joined together with representatives from over 15 Native American tribes representing Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and New Mexico, during the annual tribal consultation, July 27, 2016 in Austin, Texas. The Texas Military has been working closely with Native Americans since the 1990’s to review plans that will allow for the preservation and protection of historic lands on Texas military training sites. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by: Sgt. Elizabeth Peña/Released)
Key leaders from the Texas Military Department and state agencies joined together with representatives from over 15 Native American tribes representing Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and New Mexico, during the annual tribal consultation, July 27, 2016 in Austin, Texas. The Texas Military has been working closely with Native Americans since the 1990’s to review plans that will allow for the preservation and protection of historic lands on Texas military training sites. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by: Sgt. Elizabeth Peña/Released)

AUSTIN, Texas – Key leaders from the Texas Military Department and state agencies gathered together at a table with representatives from over 15 Native American tribes representing Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and New Mexico, during the annual tribal consultation, July 27, 2016 in Austin, Texas.

The Texas Military has been working closely with Native Americans since the 1990’s to review plans that will allow for the preservation and protection of historic lands on Texas military training sites.

“The Army made a requirement for the Army installations to reach out to Native American nations,” said Brig. Gen. Tracy R. Norris, assistant deputy adjutant general of the Texas Military Department. “What you see at this last visit is all those years of work, things are really starting to grow now especially with other agencies wanting to come in to meet at the same time to save time for all of the different tribes.”

This year local agencies such as the Texas Department of Transportation, the Texas Historical Commission, the Texas Archaeological Research Lab, and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department joined the table.

“It is beneficial to our relationship with the tribe because they were pretty excited to be able to visit with TxDot,” said Kristen Mt. Joy, the cultural resources manager for the Texas Military Department. “They are building roads all over the place so there are a lot of issues that the tribes want to know what they're doing, where they're putting those roads and to make sure they're protecting cultural sites.”

The Texas Military Department currently has seven training installations across Texas covering over 30,000 acres of land. 

“With us, we have training lands and they are kind of contiguous large pieces of land,” said Mt. Joy. “We go out and we’ve identified all the archeological buried sites at those training facilities, and we look at the things that are most important and, we do that with the tribes.” 

For Texas, this was the biggest conference since the program was established. 

“As it gets stronger every year, there’s more substance coming in and more collaboration, said Norris. 

There are currently only three active tribes in Texas; the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas in Livingston, the Kickapoo Traditional Tribe of Texas, in Eagle Pass and the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo, in El Paso.
“So those were the only tribes that got to stay here in their ancestral territories, everyone else got relocated,” said Mt. Joy. “It’s an opportunity for them to reconnect with their heritage here in Texas and to know that things are being protected and respected on lands that we manage.”

During military trainings, Texas Guardsmen are given cards to identify plants and wildlife that need to be preserved.

Holly Houghton, of the Tribal Historic Preservation Office says educating Soldiers helps them understand why preserving and protecting historic land is so important to the tribes.

“It's like there’s a cactus, who wants a cactus, it’s got prickers. Well it produces a fruit that we use but also if you roast it and peel it then the flesh inside can be used for wounds or all sorts of different uses. When they realize that plant has something important, well then they won’t just destroy it,” said Houghton. 

Meetings like this give the Texas Military Department and Tribal leaders a lasting relationship based on our core values. 

“It’s the right thing to do,” said Norris. “It keeps our credibility with the Native Americans in the areas that we train in. They become advocates for us because we take good care of the things they care about.”

Texas Guard engineers poised to make history on Middle East deployment

Texas guard engineers poised to make history on Middle East deployment

Story by: Capt. Maria Mengrone

Posted: Aug. 8, 2016
 

The 176th Engineer Brigade Commander, Colonel Charles M. Schoening and Command Sergeant Major Anthony Simms furl the brigade colors in preparation for deployment during the mobilization ceremony held for the brigade headquarters at Cowtown Coliseum in Fort Worth, Texas, June 4, 2016. The 176th Engineer Brigade headquarters boarded a flight in late July and set off on an historic mission to the Middle East to provide engineer support and capabilities to maneuver units across the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility. (Photo by U.S. National Guard Capt. Maria Mengrone)
The 176th Engineer Brigade Commander, Colonel Charles M. Schoening and Command Sergeant Major Anthony Simms furl the brigade colors in preparation for deployment during the mobilization ceremony held for the brigade headquarters at Cowtown Coliseum in Fort Worth, Texas, June 4, 2016. The 176th Engineer Brigade headquarters boarded a flight in late July and set off on an historic mission to the Middle East to provide engineer support and capabilities to maneuver units across the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility. (Photo by U.S. National Guard Capt. Maria Mengrone)

GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas – A group of 135 Texas Army National Soldiers of the 176th Engineer Brigade headquarters boarded a flight in late July and set off on an historic mission to the Middle East to provide engineer support and capabilities to maneuver units across the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility.

“It’s the first time that an engineer brigade headquarters has had this type of mission within the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility,” said 176th Engineer Brigade Commander, Col. Charles M. Schoening a resident of Georgetown, Texas.

“We have had other engineer brigades in Iraq and Afghanistan other times but they have had different types of missions,” said Schoening. “This mission will be a pure engineer brigade headquarters mission where we will be overseeing and providing command and control for specific engineer missions throughout the theater.”

The vast region that encompasses the U.S. Central Command spans four million square miles and includes some 18 nations.

“Our greatest challenge will be movement throughout the theater; how do we get to those places where the work needs to be done with our manpower and our equipment,” said Schoening.

The brigade headquarters will track movement of approximately 1,700 Soldiers from a variety of Active Duty, National Guard and Army Reserve engineer elements.

Engineer forces under operational control of the 176th Engineer Brigade are set to provide design and survey, horizontal and vertical construction, fixed bridging, general combat engineer capabilities and heavy dive team under water inspections.

“Our mission is so diverse and covers such a wide variety of sovereign countries, with each having its own set of rules, it will require us to stay on top of it and we have a process that will ensure we get to where we need to go,” said Schoening.

The various skill sets of engineer Soldiers will be put to the test during the projected nine-month deployment.

“The mission we have is exactly the mission we have been preparing for; this is what an engineer brigade headquarters does,” said Schoening.

The brigade has been preparing for this type of mission since its completion of the III Corps Warfighter Exercise 13-2 in February 2015.

A month leading up to mobilization the brigade headquarters spent three-weeks conducting pre-mobilization training at Camp Swift, Texas, May 2016, that focused on warrior tasks and engineer specific staff training.

Most recently, the 176th Engineer Brigade wrapped up mobilization training with a culminating mission readiness exercise at Fort Bliss, in July 2016, in which the brigade was successfully validated for deployment.

“I want the Soldiers to know that we are a highly trained force that is capable of successfully completing every task within our mission,” said Schoening.

Many brigade Soldiers are eager to put their training into action.

“I’m ready to deal with the challenges,” said Sgt. Torrance Bowman, 23, technical engineer, 176th Engineer Brigade, a native of DeBerry, Texas. “I am excited to have the opportunity to travel and conduct surveys at potential construction sites and just do my job.”

Operation Lone Star returns to Rio Grande Valley

Operation Lone Star returns to Rio Grande Valley

Story by: Col. Robert Morecook

Posted: Aug. 4, 2016

A Soldier from the 804th Medical Brigade, U.S. Army Reserves provides dental services to a patient in need during an annual medical disaster preparedness exercise in Pharr, Texas, July 27, 2016. Service members from the Texas State Guard worked alongside Soldiers from the 804th Medical Brigade, U.S. Army Reserves, the Texas Department of Public Safety, the Department of State Health Services, Remote Area Medical volunteers, Cameron County Department of Human Health Services (DHHS), City of Laredo Health Department, Hidalgo County DHHS and U.S. Public Health Services during Operation Lone Star (OLS), a week long real-time, large-scale emergency preparedness exercise in La Joya, Pharr, Brownsville, Rio Grande City and Laredo, Texas, July 25-29, 2016. OLS is an annual medical disaster preparedness training exercise, uniting federal, state and local health and human service providers, that addresses the medical needs of thousands of underserved Texas residents every year. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Malcolm McClendon)
A Soldier from the 804th Medical Brigade, U.S. Army Reserves provides dental services to a patient in need during an annual medical disaster preparedness exercise in Pharr, Texas, July 27, 2016. Service members from the Texas State Guard worked alongside Soldiers from the 804th Medical Brigade, U.S. Army Reserves, the Texas Department of Public Safety, the Department of State Health Services, Remote Area Medical volunteers, Cameron County Department of Human Health Services (DHHS), City of Laredo Health Department, Hidalgo County DHHS and U.S. Public Health Services during Operation Lone Star (OLS), a week long real-time, large-scale emergency preparedness exercise in La Joya, Pharr, Brownsville, Rio Grande City and Laredo, Texas, July 25-29, 2016. OLS is an annual medical disaster preparedness training exercise, uniting federal, state and local health and human service providers, that addresses the medical needs of thousands of underserved Texas residents every year. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Malcolm McClendon)

AUSTIN, Texas -- For the 18th consecutive year, Operation Lone Star took place in the Rio Grande Valley, July 25 – 29, 2016. Also known as OLS, the operation is an annual public health training event brought together by a large team of health organizations to train for public health emergencies and disasters.

Led by the Texas Department of State Health Services, the team included military personnel from the Texas State Guard’s Medical Brigade and the 804th Medical Brigade, U.S. Army Reserve, who provided much of the medical care to underserved communities in South Texas.

The military units worked closely together to provide much of the health care needs to the thousands of people who came through the doors of the five designated sites during OLS.

Their contributions were augmented by city and county public health services, public school districts, volunteer agencies such as Remote Area Medical, and medical training schools.

While providing care to underserved Texans, the large team practiced the coordination needed to set up and run large-scale public health clinics in case of natural or man-made disasters.

“We truly believe we made a great difference in the lives of people in South Texas,” said Lt. Col. Claud Cameron, Medical Brigade, Texas State Guard and OLS officer in charge at Juarez-Lincoln High School. “One fine lady said in tears that the glasses we provided at no cost to her made it possible for her to get a driver’s license and a job, totally changing her life.”

Services were provided at no cost to patients and included: immunizations for children; screenings for diabetes, high blood pressure and hearing and vision; sports physicals; physician visits; dental cleanings, fillings and extractions; optometric exams with free glasses; and mental health screenings, treatment and referrals.

“It’s a privilege to work with the Texas State Guard here in South Texas,” said Lt. Col. William Greene, RN, 804th Medical Brigade, U.S. Army Reserve, officer in charge of Army Reserve soldiers serving at Juarez Lincoln High School in Mission, Texas. “There has been good cohesion among all the troops from both Texas State Guard and Army Reserve, and it has been great to see how well all the pieces have come together.”

Research by the Texas State Guard during previous years indicates a substantial need for mental health services.

“Mental health has been really big this year,” said 1st Lt. Diann Mills, R.N., of the Medical Brigade, Texas State Guard, speaking about the Juarez Lincoln site.  “Lots of time what brings people in to the clinic is a physical health problem but the underlying mental health problem or stressful life situation may be the real cause.

During OLS, clinics were also run in Brownsville, San Juan, Rio Grande City and Laredo, Texas. “Our plan is to be ready to help Texans in case of disaster or emergency,” said Cameron.  “Missions like Operation Lone Star help make this possible.”

Texas Joint Counterdrug Task force begins largest Operation Crackdown in Dallas

Texas Joint Counterdrug Task force begins largest Operation Crackdown in Dallas

Story by: 1st Lt. Alicia Lacy

Posted: Wednesday, August 3, 2016

 

Photo By 1st Lt. Alicia Lacy | A Texas National Guard engineer watches as another Guardsman operates an excavator to demolish a house in that was known to be used by drug users and dealers, Aug. 3, 2016, in Dallas, Texas, as part of the Texas Joint Counterdrug Taskforce's Operation Crackdown. The operation, unique to the Texas National Guard's Counterdrug program, partners the taskforce with a Texas city to demolish structures connected with the use or distribution of drugs. This Crackdown mission is the taskforce's fifth time in Dallas and its longest Crackdown mission since the operation's inception in 1993. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by 1st Lt. Alicia Lacy/Released)
Photo By 1st Lt. Alicia Lacy | A Texas National Guard engineer watches as another Guardsman operates an excavator to demolish a house in that was known to be used by drug users and dealers, Aug. 3, 2016, in Dallas, Texas, as part of the Texas Joint Counterdrug Task force's Operation Crackdown. The operation, unique to the Texas National Guard's Counterdrug program, partners the task force with a Texas city to demolish structures connected with the use or distribution of drugs. This Crackdown mission is the task force's fifth time in Dallas and its longest Crackdown mission since the operation's inception in 1993. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by 1st Lt. Alicia Lacy) 

DALLAS – The Texas Joint Counterdrug Task force is ending its summer with its largest Operation Crackdown to date, set to raze more than 60 structures at more than 50 locations.

The Dallas Crackdown mission, which is the task force’s sixth mission in the city, began July 25 and will continue through the end of August.

Operation Crackdown is a program unique to the Texas National Guard that provides National Guard engineers to a community to demolish structures linked to the use and/or distribution of drugs. 

The partnership between the taskforce and the city of Dallas has resulted in about 120 structures demolished over the past five years.

The difference between the city of Dallas’ mission and a typical mission is that Crackdown personnel will spend nearly six weeks demolishing structures, whereas the typical Crackdown mission is two weeks and includes about 30 structures.

“We’ve been given an opportunity to expand the program and the city of Dallas has taken advantage of that to aggressively pursue the demolition of these drug houses,” said Army Col. Suzanne Adkinson, Texas Joint Counterdrug Task force Commander. 

To start the process on this behemoth operation, city of Dallas officials made a request. After a request is made, agreements between the Texas National Guard and the requesting city are made using Military and City Lawyers. For a structure to be selected, it must have a connection with the drug trade. Once the site has been approved, the city must receive approval from the homeowner to demolish the structure on his or her property. Then the structure is inspected for hazardous materials. Law enforcement officials then secure the site before the Guard’s arrival.

“We are excited that Operation Crackdown is demolishing structures in our city that have been havens for drugs and other criminal activity,” said Community Prosecutor Jill Haning, in a statement. “The demolitions are a positive development and an essential part of the fight against blight in our neighborhoods.”

The Community Prosecution section of the Dallas City Attorney’s Office has been tasked with coordinating the operation, with more than one dozen city departments involved in this mission. 

 “Our goal is more structures and removing more safe havens that foster drug activity,” said Air Force 1st Lt. Bruce Robison, Crackdown officer in charge.

The program is made possible through asset forfeiture funds that represent the proceeds of, or were used to facilitate drug-related crimes.

“It’s the opportunity to take drug money off the street and reuse it to demolish drug houses, making it a little safer for the people in the community,” Adkinson said.

On average, each two-week mission costs the task force about $30,000, which includes personnel and equipment costs.

The operation not only provides a service to the community in its war against drugs, but also enhances military readiness for the Texas Guardsmen, who utilize the engineering skill set in their real-world mission, and allows the Texas National Guard to partner with communities within the state.

"We're excited to be able to give back to the community in this way," Adkinson said. "It ties in to our state and our TAG's mission to partner with our community, as well as staying ready and relevant to being the force of choice, while providing the right forces at the right time to execute the mission."

Texas Guard, reservists and civilians partner at Operation Lone Star

Texas Guard, reservists and civilian partner at Operation Lone Star

Story by: Capt. Martha Nigrelle

Posted: July 28, 2016 

Lt. Col. John Hsu, a dentist in the 804th Medical Brigade, U.S. Army Reserves, Operations Chief for Dental Services, prepares to treat a patient at an Operation Lone Star site in Pharr, Texas, July 27, 2016. Service members from the Texas State Guard worked alongside Soldiers from the 804th Medical Brigade, U.S. Army Reserves, the Texas Department of Public Safety, the Department of State Health Services, Remote Area Medical volunteers, Cameron County Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), City of Laredo Health Department, Hidalgo County DHHS and U.S. Public Health Services during Operation Lone Star (OLS), a week long real-time, large-scale emergency preparedness exercise in La Joya, Pharr, Brownsville, Rio Grande City and Laredo, Texas, July 25-29, 2016. OLS is an annual medical disaster preparedness training exercise, uniting federal, state and local health and human service providers, that addresses the medical needs of thousands of underserved Texas residents every year. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Malcolm McClendon)
Lt. Col. John Hsu, a dentist in the 804th Medical Brigade, U.S. Army Reserves, Operations Chief for Dental Services, prepares to treat a patient at an Operation Lone Star site in Pharr, Texas, July 27, 2016. Service members from the Texas State Guard worked alongside Soldiers from the 804th Medical Brigade, U.S. Army Reserves, the Texas Department of Public Safety, the Department of State Health Services, Remote Area Medical volunteers, Cameron County Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), City of Laredo Health Department, Hidalgo County DHHS and U.S. Public Health Services during Operation Lone Star (OLS), a week long real-time, large-scale emergency preparedness exercise in La Joya, Pharr, Brownsville, Rio Grande City and Laredo, Texas, July 25-29, 2016. OLS is an annual medical disaster preparedness training exercise, uniting federal, state and local health and human service providers, that addresses the medical needs of thousands of underserved Texas residents every year. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Malcolm McClendon)

BROWNSVILLE, Texas -- Texas Guardsmen and U.S. Army Reservists worked alongside civilian partner agencies to provide necessary medical care to underserved Texas residents during Operation Lone Star, July 25-29, 2016 in La Joya, Pharr, Brownsville, Rio Grande City and Laredo.

Operation Lone Star is a large-scale emergency preparedness exercise that unites local, state and federal medical service and disaster response agencies.

“The hands on training has been great,” said Capt. Edith Cardwell, 804th Medical Brigade, U.S. Army Reserves. “Most of our training is notional. Here we have real-live patients instead of mannequins.”

Medical sites were set up in local schools providing immunizations, hearing and vision examinations, sports physicals, diabetic screening, blood pressure screening, dental services and behavioral health services.

The exercise first began in 1998, following an outbreak of tuberculosis in the Rio Grande Valley. Over the years, it has grown into one of the largest disaster preparedness exercises of its kind, in the country. As well as, providing annual training to disaster response agencies, Operation Lone Star ensures that thousands of Texas residents receive medical services, they may not receive otherwise.

“We are creating a ring of public health safety,” said Eduardo Olivarez, chief administrative officer for the Hidalgo County Department of Health and Human Services. “Because of this training, we are prepared for any future outbreaks. We know exactly how long it will take us to immunize a large number of people and what resources we will need to do that.”

For the first time, more than 100 soldiers from the 804th Medical Brigade joined experienced medical providers from the Texas Military Department, the Department of Public Safety, Department of State Health Services, Remote Area Medical, Cameron County Department of Health and Human Services, City of Laredo Health Department, Hidalgo County Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Public Health Services.

They weren’t the only ones new to the team. The inaugural class of the University of Texas – Rio Grande Valley medical school volunteered their time to assist patients, physicians and administrative specialists with the operation.

On only their third day of medical school, the students arrived at Operation Lone Star, ready to learn.

“They teach us the ‘see one, do one, teach one’ model,” said Sonya Rivera, one of the students. “So that’s what we are doing here.”

This year the students are observing and helping wherever they can, said Rivera. Each year, as they learn more, they hope to be able to ‘do one’ and provide hands-on medical care. Eventually, their goal is to be able to teach others.

“If you can do that, then you have mastered it,” said Rivera.

Side by side, Guardsmen worked with Reservists, civilian medical experts and students, a seemingly well-oiled team, after only a few days.

In the past three years, there were 119,683 services given at Operation Lone Star providing approximately $12 million of support to Texas residents in the Rio Grande Valley said Maj. Gen. Jake Betty, commanding general of the Texas State Guard.

“If a disaster ever occurs, it’s great to meet our colleagues in this environment; we can learn a lot from each other.” said Col. Jonathan MacClements, a physician in the Texas State Guard. “We are all on the same team.”

Texas Army National Guard Capt. Jessica Jackson contributed to this article.

STARBASE Houston hosts inaugural camp for students

STARBASE Houston hosts inaugural camp for students

Story by: 1st Lt. Alicia Lacy

Posted: July 22, 2016

STARBASE Houston students pose with instructors and 147th Reconnaissance Wing Commander Col. Stan Jones at the end of the location's weeklong STEM camp at Ellington Field July 22, 2016. About 20 students attend the STEM camp. Starbase is a Department of Defense program to motivate students to explore science, technology, engineering, and math. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by 1st Lt. Alicia Lacy)
STARBASE Houston students pose with instructors and 147th Reconnaissance Wing Commander Col. Stan Jones at the end of the location's weeklong STEM camp at Ellington Field July 22, 2016. About 20 students attend the STEM camp. Starbase is a Department of Defense program to motivate students to explore science, technology, engineering, and math. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by 1st Lt. Alicia Lacy)

HOUSTON – They constructed birdhouses and tested its strength, they designed their own unmanned aerial vehicles, they sent rockets flying through a tube in the classroom, they discovered the properties of materials created with nanotechnology and assessed the solubility of different materials and learned how global positioning systems worked.

For one week, 20 Houston-area students took a hands-on approach to science, technology, engineering and mathematics during the STARBASE Houston’s inaugural STEM camp July 19-22, 2016, at Ellington Field Joint Reserve Base in Houston.

“This is our first year doing this camp because we wanted to thank Ellington Field for all the support they provided to us for the 20 years we’ve been here,” said Loraine Guillen, STARBASE Houston program director, during the graduation July 22.

“Another reason is because I’ve bumped into people and they don’t know that STARBASE is here and that we exist.”

For five hours each day, the students engaged in various experiments to help them understand scientific principles, such as Newton’s Laws, Bernoulli’s principle, nanotechnology, navigation, aviation and mapping.

“This is a lot more hands on and it helped me learn better,” said Jaden Enloe, 12. “They told us how to do it and I learn best that way. I need to see it to visualize it, so it was cool to work with.

Enloe, who will enter the seventh grade this year, said the program also helped the students learn to work together.

During the graduation ceremony, former STARBASE student Tech. Sgt. Elizabeth Alicea delivered a few words to the students and guests.

“I was always grateful to the STARBASE program because I felt that it was one of the first pillars in my life and development,” she said.

Alicea attended the STARBASE program in Puerto Rico, which is sponsored by the Puerto Rico National Guard.

“Take all your STARBASE experiences and take it to school and share them,” she said. “Don’t forget them.”

The Texas National Guard sponsors STARBASE Houston, a Department of Defense program. The program hosts more than 50 classes throughout the school year, to include public schools, home schools and parochial schools, Guillen said.

The curriculum is based on science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, and is aligned with the state education standards.

The purpose of STARBASE to expose youth to the technological environments, while allowing them to engage with civilian and military role models on military bases and installations.

Texas Army National Guard welcomes first female combat engineer

Texas Army National Guard welcomes first female combat engineer

Story By: 1st Lt. Jolene Hinojosa

Posted on: July 22, 2016

Photo By 1st Lt. Jolene Hinojosa | The Texas Army National Guardsmen welcomed Spc. Rachel Mayhew into its ranks as the first female to be awarded the 12B combat engineer military occupational specialty. Mayhew graduated June 17, 2016, from Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, during a rigorous two-week MOS transition course that included the High Physical Demands Tests which includes a series of tasks geared toward combat engineers to ensure force capability and readiness. Mayhew is a native of Fort Worth and is assigned as a combat engineer with the 840th Mobility Augmentation Company, 111th Engineer Battalion, 176th Engineer Brigade. (Photo by U.S. National Guard 1st. Lt. Jolene Hinojosa)
Photo By 1st Lt. Jolene Hinojosa | The Texas Army National Guardsmen welcomed Spc. Rachel Mayhew into its ranks as the first female to be awarded the 12B combat engineer military occupational specialty. Mayhew graduated June 17, 2016, from Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, during a rigorous two-week MOS transition course that included the High Physical Demands Tests which includes a series of tasks geared toward combat engineers to ensure force capability and readiness. Mayhew is a native of Fort Worth and is assigned as a combat engineer with the 840th Mobility Augmentation Company, 111th Engineer Battalion, 176th Engineer Brigade. (Photo by U.S. National Guard 1st. Lt. Jolene Hinojosa)

AUSTIN, Texas – Spc. Rachel Mayhew, 26, native of Fort Worth, became the first female in the Texas Army National Guard awarded the 12B combat engineer military occupational specialty (MOS). 

“It was an absolute honor to serve with the Engineers,” said Mayhew. “The guidance and mentoring I received helped prepare me for a change. 
I wanted a career path with progression, promotion and growth. That is exactly what I found in becoming a combat engineer.” 

Mayhew graduated on June 17, 2016, from Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, during a rigorous two-week MOS transition course that included the High Physical Demands Tests (HPDT) and include a series of tasks geared toward combat engineers to ensure force capability and readiness. 

Prior to attending the reclassification course Mayhew served in the Texas National Guard for seven years as a 74D chemical biological radiological nuclear specialist. In 2011, she deployed to Afghanistan with the 236th Engineer Company.

Since the push to integrate the military into a gender neutral standard, the military has used HPDTs to collect data on newly-proposed MOS-specific standards.

“I've never been treated any differently for being a female in uniform or encountered a lower standard,” said Mayhew. The instructors worked very hard to keep things fair across the board. Every soldier was treated the same and we all knew what we had to do to accomplish the mission.” 

Mayhew successfully completed a 12-mile tactical foot march, prepared a fighting position, employed hand grenades and transported a casualty to immediate safety. All four tasks, plus eight others, are designed to paint a picture of the real-life conditions that could be encountered on the battlefield. 

“The timed road march is the most challenging task I've endured in my career. However, I've never been more proud of myself than when I reached that finish line,” said Mayhew.

Among the 25 students that attended the course, four fellow Texas Guardsmen attended the course alongside Mayhew. 

While Mayhew was the first female Texas Guardsmen to complete the course, she shared her journey with four other female soldiers from different states. 

“We had a strong group of female Soldiers in our class. They were able to pull their own weight and did everything alongside us,” said Fort Worth native Spc. Carlos Flores, 840 Mobility Augmentation Company, 111th Engineer Battalion, 176th Engineer Brigade. 

The two-week training was one of the first reserve component courses to integrate the HPDT standards into graduation requirements.

“We are among the first in gender-integration training. The instructors were very professional and did everything they could to make the training as realistic as possible and to minimize outside distractions,” said classmate and Brownwood native Sgt. 1st Class Stormy Barnum, readiness non-commissioned officer, 454th Engineer Company, 111th Engineer Battalion, 176th Engineer Brigade. 

Through HPDTs, gender integration and the mid-Missouri heat, Mayhew and her fellow classmates have proven they have what it takes to join the proud Corps of Engineers. 

“You really felt a sense of accomplishment after completing the HPDT tasks,” said Mayhew. Even though the work days were long and exhausting, morale and soldier care remained at an all-time high, which I think are the two crucial parts to any mission.” 

Mayhew is currently assigned as a combat engineer with the 840th Mobility Augmentation Company based in Weatherford, Texas. Company Commander Capt. Aaron McConnell of the 840th Mobility Augmentation Company, says he is happy to welcome Mayhew into his company. 

“Spc. Mayhew is a good soldier and I am glad to retain her,” said McConnell. To me, it is more about what you can do as a soldier than what your gender is. We treat everyone on our team the same.” 

“These are my brothers, my family,” said Mayhew. “All my battle buddies are very accepting and encouraging of my decision to become a Combat Engineer. The knowledge these soldiers have of their job is impressive and inspiring. I want to soak up as much of it as I can so that I can be proficient as a 12B and lead my future Soldiers and peers in the right direction as well.”

Texas Communications Team is ready to save lives

Texas Communications Team is ready to save lives 

Story by: Sgt. Elizabeth Pena

Posted on: July 22, 2016

Left, Senior Airman Jeremy Vance, right, Tech Sgt. Christopher Dorriott, set up a mobile sattelite dish as part of the Texas Interoperability Communications Package, during a Hurricane evacuation exercise in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, June 7 -10, 2016. The TICP provides commincation capabilities for the command and control center during emergency disasters. (Photo by U.S. Army National Guard Sgt. Elizabeth Pena/Released)
Left, Senior Airman Jeremy Vance, right, Tech Sgt. Christopher Dorriott, set up a mobile satellite dish as part of the Texas Interoperability Communications Package, during a Hurricane evacuation exercise in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, June 7 -10, 2016. The TICP provides communication capabilities for the command and control center during emergency disasters. (Photo by U.S. Army National Guard Sgt. Elizabeth Pena/Released)

HARLINGEN, Texas -- Having the immediate communication assets during emergency situations gives military and first responders the ability coordinate and save the lives of local citizens. Texas Air National Guardsmen put their quick response skills action using the Texas Interoperability Communications Package, during a Hurricane evacuation exercise in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, June 7 -10, 2016.

“We have 14 TICPs and they could be sent to any type of scenario,” said Brian Attaway, director of J6. “They can support our own command and control purposes, or the state requests them to go support another agency. They’ve done fires and hurricanes; they’ve supported police departments and supported Texas Task Force 1. In this case, our TICP was assigned to the Air Guard that they needed to use in Harlingen.”

Texas Guardsmen and active duty Air Force worked with state and local first responders at the Valley International Airfield to transport mock patients through military and civilian aircraft. Within one hour of arrival, the four-man team set up the TICP to give key leaders the ability to coordinate those operations. 

“If you’re out in the middle of nowhere and a tornado touches down and you’ve got no cell phone, no power, no light, no anything we can roll up with our generator power and establish mobile satellite communications, and that’s pretty significant,” said Texas Air National Guard Staff Sgt. Lonnie Dunkin, a cyber transport specialist with the 149th Mission Support Group, out of Lackland Air Base, San Antonio.

For the exercise, the TICP provided satellite, Internet and phone services. Airmen also set up a mobile satellite dish to the portable network control center and extended services via cable router, said Dunkin. These services supported the tactical air control Party.

The tactical air control party is made up of Air Force personnel, who work alongside the Army on ground to provide airspace deconfliction and terminal control of close air support.

The TICP trailer comes equipped with many different assets.

“It has more than just phones and Internet,” said Attaway. “It has computers on board, WI-FI, a printer a fax, and it’s got an antenna tower, and radios, which are connected, to our network. All the radios are for our purposes and for interoperability with other agencies. We can also stream video.”

Additionally, the TICP can provide communication means for local citizens stuck in disaster situations.

“We can set up five or six terminals and that would allow for any user to come up and check their bank accounts or email, and send out a message to friends and family letting them know they’re okay,” said Dunkin. 

The TICP was first implemented during the 2008 hurricanes Ike and Gustav. Since then, the package has deployed to hurricanes, fires and various other support missions across the state,” said Attaway.

“During Hurricane Ike we got tasked by the state to go help the Pasadena Police Department, as it was completely down,” said Attaway. “They had no phones they had no radios, the hurricane had completely wiped them out. So we sent a TICP down and to PPD and the people had to call the TICP to reach the police. They were announcing on the radio ‘you cant call 911 you have to call this phone number.”

The command and control center, based out of Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas, currently maintains the TICPs for the state. 

“We hand receipt them out to Army Guard, Air Guard and even State Guard who have them throughout the year and then when we have a big exercise or state emergency we send the nearest one that’s available,” said Attaway.

Disaster response exercises like these give Texas Guardsmen and local and state authorities the experience to handle situations should a real-world emergency occur. 

“In my opinion, communications is the bread and butter of successful operations,” said Air Force Tech Sgt. Christopher Dorriott, noncommissioned officer in charge of the exercise training for the 149th Fighter Wing, based out of Lackland. “If they need to go on search-and-rescue missions, if they need to go medevac somebody out, or work with local law enforcement, there has to be somebody who can branch those organizations together so they can properly coordinate and get people where they need to go.”

This is four of the four Texas Hurricane Preparedness series.