Posts in Category: Texas Army National Guard

Texas Guardsmen contribute to medical relief effort

Texas Guardsmen contribute medical relief effort

Story by: Staff Sgt. Kristina Overton

Posted: July 20, 2016

 

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Alexandra Denio, 136th Medical Group, Texas Air National Guard, medical technician, checks the current prescription on a patients classes during the Greater Chenango Cares Innovative Readiness Training mission in Norwich, N.Y., July 20, 2016. The mission is a 10-day real world training exercise, providing medical, dental, optometry, and veterinary services at no cost the community. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Kristina Overton)
U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Alexandra Denio, 136th Medical Group, Texas Air National Guard, medical technician, checks the current prescription on a patients classes during the Greater Chenango Cares Innovative Readiness Training mission in Norwich, N.Y., July 20, 2016. The mission is a 10-day real world training exercise, providing medical, dental, optometry, and veterinary services at no cost the community. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Kristina Overton)

In an effort to provide medical relief, nine members from the 136th Airlift Wing, Texas Air National Guard, at the Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base, deployed to Chenango County, New York, to support The Greater Chenango Cares Innovative Readiness Training mission July 20, 2016. The mission began July 15.

The 10-day real-world joint training exercise, ending July 24, allows for military service members to practice their skills in preparation for wartime operations while also providing a needed service to underserved communities.

“This is my first humanitarian mission and it has been such a great experience so far,” said Lt. Col. Harry Moore, 136th Medical Group public health preventative medicine officer. “Essentially, there aren't enough medical providers in the area and the population is greatly underserved. The services we provide are at no cost to the community and the patients have shown so much appreciation. We can really see the benefit that these services are having on the civilian population.”

Services are comprised of quality dental, optometry, veterinary, and medical services. In Chenango County, there is approximately one dentist to every 3,000 patients. With a population of more than 50,000, the understaffed medical field and lack of medical insurance have increased the overall need for assistance and is extremely beneficial to the community.

“We also provide health and nutrition education, as well as have a pharmacy to provide up to two weeks worth of medicine for patients in our care,” Moore said. “Our physicians can also give patients referrals for follow-up care and additional medication once their prescriptions run out. This ensures that they have the ability to maintain their health long-term.”

In 2015, the mission was able to help more than 4,000 residents in Chenango County. To better serve the community this year, the facilities have expanded to two locations, one in Norwich and one in Cortland. The separation will allow for an easier and more efficient method of dispersing medical services to individuals within the region. The goal for 2016 is to maintain or expand their patient outreach from 2015, continuing to offer necessary services. A huge contributor to the effort is the Chenango County United Way.

“I’ve been at the United Way for 17 years, and we’ve never done anything that’s as impactful as this project,” said Elizabeth Monaco, Chenango United Way executive director. “As chaotic as the process is to get to this point, I’m already sad about when it’s going to end. It’s life changing—for me too—as much as it is for the people we are serving. It does so much for the community.”

The United Way is the lead agency for the IRT and raised more than $40,000 to contribute to this effort. The organization’s mission is to assist with national income, education and health deficits, which tie in well with the overall project. Along with their executive committee, they recruited and trained more than 500 volunteers.

“There is something broken,” Monaco said. “There is a need that is not being fulfilled. Even with Obamacare and other programs that are set up, there are people who are unserved and it’s just not ok. If people don't have basic healthcare then they cannot accomplish other things. We have to do something to address it, and this effort is a step in that direction.”

Employment program connects Texas Guardsmen to job

Employment program connects Texas Guardsmen to jobs

Story by: Capt. Jessica Jackson

Posted: June 27, 2016

 

The Job Connection Education Program is offered by the National Guard, and provides dedicated training and development specialists, and a skilled business advisor to assist participants in making their job connections.
The Job Connection Education Program is offered by the National Guard, and provides dedicated training and development specialists, and a skilled business advisor to assist participants in making their job connections.

AUSTIN, Texas — Twenty-two percent of Texas Army National Guard service members returning from operations in support of the Global War on Terrorism were unemployed in 2010 — eclipsing the national average by 9 percent.

“Due to the high unemployment rate of veterans, the National Guard Bureau created the Job Connection Education Program to tackle this issue,” said Shandra Sponsler, deputy branch manager, Texas Military Department Family Support Services. “Texas’ size of force, large deployments and high population areas made us the ideal candidate for the pilot program.”

The Job Connection Education Program helps both Army and Air Guardsmen and their spouses, who are unemployed or burdened with financial problems, find careers.

The Family Support Services of the Texas Military Department currently oversees the program.

“Our staff is here to help,” Sponsler said. “We have training specialists and business advisors on-hand to offer catered services to best match participants with future employers.”

The program focuses on providing one-on-one counseling, employment and education assistance, resume review, workforce training and online job search assistance.

Six years after the launch of the Job Connection Education Program, Texas veteran unemployment is down to 4.3 percent.

“Soldiers should take advantage of the free resources offered through the program,” Sponsler said. “This fiscal year, we’ve had 630 requests for information and help with employment, last fiscal year we were able to place 780 people in jobs. We will continue to diligently work with those who need assistance.”

With offices located at Fort Worth Sandage and Shoreview Armories, Grand Prairie, Houston and Camp Mabry — a training specialist is within reach and available to help.

“It’s very difficult to be a National Guard soldier and the difficulties in balancing your civilian life and military life has its own challenges,” said 1st Lt. Alejandro Tejo, Texas Army National Guard.  “I would like other service members to know that there are a lot of tools our there to help…help make you successful.”

Since its inception, the Job Connection Education Program has placed 3,715 applicants in jobs.

For more information on this program visit https://tmd.texas.gov/family-support-service

War-games from the inside-out: Army journalists go behind the scenes in multinational training operations

War-games from the inside-out: Army journalists go behind the scenes in multinational training operations
 

Story by: Sgt. Michael Giles
 

Posted: June 22, 2016

Photo By Sgt. Praxedis Pineda | Sgt. Michael Giles, with the 100th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, interviews French Army Brigadier Gen. Eric des Minieres and British Army Col. Graham Livingston, commander and deputy commander of the Airborne Combined Joint Expeditionary Force, during Exercise Swift Response 16 at U.S. Army Garrison Hohenfels, Germany, June 21, 2016. The 100th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment from Austin, Texas, participated in Exercise Swift Response 16 at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center at U.S. Army Garrison Hohenfels, Germany, June 5 to June 26, 2016. The 100th MPAD's participation contributed public affairs assets to the JMRC public affairs mission as well as added training value to training units to enable them to rehearse their responses to the press. (U.S. Army National Guard Photo by Sgt. Michael Giles/Released)
Photo By Sgt. Praxedis Pineda | Sgt. Michael Giles, with the 100th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, interviews French Army Brigadier Gen. Eric des Minieres and British Army Col. Graham Livingston, commander and deputy commander of the Airborne Combined Joint Expeditionary Force, during Exercise Swift Response 16 at U.S. Army Garrison Hohenfels, Germany, June 21, 2016. The 100th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment from Austin, Texas, participated in Exercise Swift Response 16 at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center at U.S. Army Garrison Hohenfels, Germany, June 5 to June 26, 2016. The 100th MPAD's participation contributed public affairs assets to the JMRC public affairs mission as well as added training value to training units to enable them to rehearse their responses to the press. (U.S. Army National Guard Photo by Sgt. Michael Giles/Released)

HOHENFELS, Germany (June 22, 2016) -- We stood together, eight Army journalists in a dimly lit multimedia center. Here, the Joint Multinational Readiness Center’s operational environment team plans intricate training scenarios for massive multinational training exercises. The walls had posters and security notices, but no windows, like a vaulted basement. We were in Bavaria, near the German village of Hohenfels, but separated from the German public by two security checkpoints, a locked external gate and front door, and the reinforced door that prevented any trace of daylight from sneaking into this room.

The operational environment team is the beast of the JMRC, and we were in its belly, learning the role that we would play in the incredibly complex narrative ahead. “You’re getting a look at some things you would have never seen as a public affairs person working in this exercise,” says Doug Boyd, one of the minds behind this scenario. 
We are a team of journalists with the Texas Army National Guard’s 100th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, and the adventure we’re about to undertake will involve soldiers from the U.S. and all across Europe. This is Exercise Swift Response 2016.

WE CAME TO ACCOMPLISH TWO MISSIONS

We came here to contribute our skills to two distinct missions: one in the real world as Soldiers, and one in the scenario as fictional characters. Our real-world mission reflected what we normally do as public affairs soldiers in uniform: we told the stories of military service members through our news-writing, photography and videos. We accomplished this mission by capturing photos and footage as more than one thousand paratroopers from seven countries floated to the ground before our very eyes. We gave leaders a voice as they described the training, and gathered stories about female perspectives on the operation, medics in the field, Special Forces operators and multinational collaboration. Many members of my team, including print photographer Sgt. Praxedis Pineda and videographer Sgt. Marline Duncan, agree this exercise gave us opportunities to perform our craft at a higher level. “I created some of my best work during this exercise because it exposed me to types of military roles and situations that I’ve never seen before,” Duncan said.

Our scenario-based mission was to help JMRC teach training units how to interact with the press. To this end, we put on civilian clothes and civilian attitudes and entered the scenario as civilian journalists on the battlefield. 

“During these exercises, Army journalists simulate the immediate and nuanced effects of media on the modern battlefield,” said 1st Lt. Zach West, officer in charge of our detachment. “The most realistic and valuable role-playing force-on-force exercises attempt to replicate this aspect of contemporary warfare as closely as possible.”

Capt. Christopher B. Bradley, the JMRC public affairs officer, explained that the presence of civilian journalists makes the training more complex for the trainees. “The purpose of the Army journalists replicating civilians on the battlefield is to prepare the rotational training units for the media complexity of the modern battlefield, and to provide feedback to commanders, staffs and Soldiers about the effectiveness of their media engagement operations,” Bradley said.

We played our roles realistically and did our best to add complexity—a major theme of Swift Response—to the training environment. We cajoled our way into occupied towns. We promised easy interviews and then asked tough questions. We refused to go away, even when it led to us being physically—sometimes fiercely—handled by security forces. And we kept asking tough questions.

This was why the Army wanted us in the scenario: This multinational group of soldiers could learn a great deal by having reporters with agendas in their environment, and we witnessed their education progress.

Toward the start of the exercise, I interviewed a British leader in scenario who was evacuating civilians from a town. I asked the leader if he had a message for the civilians who were counting on his support. He said he didn’t. “I’m here to do my job, and I’ll do my very best at my job,” he said, declining to offer anything resembling what a civilian would want to hear from a military force that was supposed to be there to help. Toward the end of the exercise, however, we saw the British and French leaders begin to proactively reach out to us so we could help spread their message.

“With you being part of the scenario, it definitely helped them start understanding that they needed to allow more messaging to go out,” said Sgt. Andrew Reddy, a public affairs specialist with the British Army’s 16 Air Assault Brigade.

Despite the scenario's focus on training the rotational units--not us--we learned a great deal about our own craft from our in-scenario experience. We learned to generate products faster. We learned new tricks. And we gained perspective on the influence that media can have in war.

WE PRACTICED GETTING NEWS OUT FAST

Our in-scenario work was published within the fictitious training world and not in the real world, so we could comfortably make mistakes that we would forever regret if we made them in real world stories. This allowed us to experiment and develop our ability to produce stories quickly.

Speed is important for a journalist, especially a reserve-component journalist who works only one weekend a month, said 100th MPAD print journalist Sgt. Adrian Shelton. “It’s important for M-Day Soldiers before the end of their drill, and it’s really important to report on the news while it is still news,” Shelton said.

Sgt. Jacob Sawyer, the JMRC broadcast noncommissioned officer in charge who works with Bradley to facilitate reserve component PAO activities, says that developing speed is a key focus of in-scenario training. “The thing with roleplaying civilian media on the battlefield is that we want you to try to do it as fast as possible,” Sawyer said. “The civilian media gets the news out that day, that hour.”

Sgt. Duncan, who also participated in Exercise Saber Junction here in 2014, explained that both exercises have made her a more efficient journalist. “I came here with a goal of being a better videographer with faster turnaround time, and that mission is complete,” Duncan said. “I spent more time in the planning phase so that way I could be better prepared when I went out to the field. I spend a lot less time capturing out in the field, and it allows me to come back and have a faster post-production time.”

WE LEARNED HOW NEWS-REPORTING AFFECTS WAR

Here’s the scenario: An imaginary nation called Atropia is experiencing internal conflict. United States and NATO forces arrive in Atropia to stabilize the government, while a bordering nation named Ariana lends support to Atropian rebels. Soldiers with JMRC’s 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment play Arianan Special Forces who attempt to help rebels overthrow the Atropian government. Soldiers with NATO forces play themselves as they hone their abilities to intervene and support nations that find themselves in such a situation. Multinational actors play civilians on the battlefield, and reserve component journalists play civilian journalists on both sides of the conflict.

As we played the game, we learned how our reporting can influence the social and political challenges that the military faces. We discovered how we fit into the overall scheme: Military leaders give orders, soldiers execute, the media reports, and public opinion changes.

“As we operate in these roles and watch the exercise unfold, we learn crucial lessons about the complex ways that media on all sides of a conflict fundamentally affect the environment and even the outcome,” Lt. West said.

We took pictures, wrote stories and made news videos that represented various perspectives within the conflict. The civilian and military training participants were able to access these stories and incorporate responses into their role-playing.

“Every single one of these towns has civilians that are in play,” Sawyer explained. “They have access to the internet that has your stories on it. All the stories you do as media impact the rotations because the commanders of these units have to worry about how they're being perceived on the battlefield.”

Our role-playing affected how we regard our profession in the real world. “The opposing point of view is something that people rarely think about,” said MPAD broadcaster Sgt. Mark Decker. “As journalists, we have to try to understand both sides of a story so we can project an unbiased view of what the situation is.”

“I was allowed to witness how the different military work together to get a mission done,” Duncan said. “My role as a civilian journalist helps me understand that the media has a big influence on what people think on different issues in the world.”

Duncan also appreciated how interacting with the international participants enhanced her ability to connect with the people she interviews. “It’s easy to establish rapport with my fellow U.S. Soldiers, but now that we’re here in a foreign country, what do I need to do to gain their trust?” she said. "To get the story out of them, you have to gain their trust. You have to drink the coffee with them. You have to connect with them before you go in to get the quote. That was my biggest take away. I found myself engaging into their thinking.”

WE CHALLENGED SENIOR MILITARY LEADERS (RESPECTFULLY)

We huddled beneath fluorescent lighting inside our temporary office, surrounded by topographical maps, multinational flags and black-and-white posters of soldiers in action in the JMRC training areas. I heard the word "volunteer" and my arm went up. Then, I realized that Capt. Bradley was asking for a team to interview JMRC's new command sergeant major, and I'd just volunteered myself and MPAD broadcaster Spc. Zachary Polka for the job.

As a Texas National Guard journalist, I had only interviewed senior leaders within the familiar confines of our smaller community at Camp Mabry. Now my teammate and I had to represent that community to the highest-ranking senior enlisted service member at JMRC. We rehearsed our questions, got coached by our team’s leaders, interviewed the command sergeant major, and received additional pointers from Capt. Bradley afterwards.

Two weeks later, in another dimly lit room, we prepared to interview the commander and deputy commander of the British and French Airborne Combined Joint Expeditionary Force (ACJEF). This time, we were in a town built for the training scenario. We were filming inside; even though the light would have been much better outside, it wasn’t safe. Just minutes earlier, a series of explosions had French soldiers jumping on top of us to shield us from any danger. So the interview would happen inside.

Even though we were journalists friendly to the ACJEF, the scenario's operational team gave us some challenging questions to ask these seasoned military leaders. As we directed a French two-star general and a British colonel where to sit, the situation reminded me of my concern while interviewing the command sergeant major: We had to remain humble, deferring to their respective positions, while also giving them a training opportunity via some tough questions. Miles away from my own chain of command, in a notional environment, I had the opportunity to practice interviewing key leaders in a difficult situation. Thanks to this adventure, if ever I face such a situation in real life, I will--at least to a small degree--be prepared.

My colleague Sgt. Decker agrees. “I wish I had this training prior to deploying to Afghanistan with a public affairs mission,” he said. “I believe I would have been better equipped to handle key leader engagements before being sent off to interview someone who required an interpreter in order to complete a story.”

WE BECAME A STRONGER TEAM

MPAD members agree that the training functions as a giant team-building exercise where people develop in their ability to trust and collaborate with each other as they succeed together. “This type of training provides an invaluable boost to unit morale and cohesion because it imbues our Soldiers with a level of confidence and subject-matter expertise that typical exercises can't really achieve,” said Lt. West.

Duncan described the team-building as a gradual process that results from working and eating together for twenty-one days straight. “Day in and day out I am working with the same people, and trust gets stronger,” she said. “At first there is a hesitation among the group, but I start to notice that people let their guard down to work together and to have a successful mission.”

Spc. Polka, the newest member of the MPAD, said that this training event painted a picture of the unit’s camaraderie that he would not have seen from just one weekend at drill each month.

“We’ve been able to hone our skills and build new and possibly lasting workable relationships side by side, hand in metaphorical hand,” Polka said. “It was a blast working with our partners, one print and one video, to accomplish our overall mission.”

As Exercise Swift Response 2016 winds down and multinational participants say goodbye to new friends, the MPAD races to finish products. Today, final products are turned in. Tomorrow, we clean the vehicles that we have driven around in the mud for three weeks; then we enjoy a single day of sightseeing before we go home to our spouses, children and full-time civilian jobs. We also return to our drills with our unit, where we don’t photograph thousands of parachutes or interview leaders of occupation forces, but tell the Army’s story just the same. Now we’ll be telling the story with new insights and strengths that we gained in our adventure together: faster, more confident, and more in touch with what it’s all about.

Arrowhead Soldiers deploy to Afghanistan as trainers

Arrowhead Soldiers deploy to Afghanistan as trainers

Story by: Spc. Christina Clardy

Posted on: June 21, 2016

Photo By Maj. Randall Stillinger | Soldiers from the 36th Infantry Division, Texas Army National Guard, climb the gangway as they deploy to southern Afghanistan June 11, out of Fort Hood, Texas, in support of Operation Freedom's Sentinel. They will be joining Task Force Arrowhead as part of the Train, Advise and Assist (TAA) team whose mission is to work with Afghan National Defense and Security Forces at a corps level and higher. (U.S. Army photo by Maj. Randall Stillinger, 36th Infantry Division Public Affairs)
Photo By Maj. Randall Stillinger | Soldiers from the 36th Infantry Division, Texas Army National Guard, climb the gangway as they deploy to southern Afghanistan June 11, out of Fort Hood, Texas, in support of Operation Freedom's Sentinel. They will be joining Task Force Arrowhead as part of the Train, Advise and Assist (TAA) team whose mission is to work with Afghan National Defense and Security Forces at a corps level and higher. (U.S. Army photo by Maj. Randall Stillinger, 36th Infantry Division Public Affairs) 

Soldiers of the 36th Infantry Division boarded an aircraft at Fort Hood, Texas, on June 11, on their way to Afghanistan in support of Operation Freedom's Sentinel.

The 45 Soldiers from the Texas Army National Guard are headed to southern Afghanistan as part of the Train, Advise and Assist (TAA) team, and will join a component of senior leaders from the headquarters of the division who deployed the week prior.

"Our mission is to advise and assist the Afghan National Army and Uniformed Police at the corps level and above," said Lt. Col. Alba Melgar-C'de Baca, a plans officer from the 36th Inf. Div. and senior member of the team. "We will be breaking into three groups and are each going to different locations."

Each candidate for the mission was chosen from a list of volunteers, and were then assessed based on their civilian skills and military experience. More than half of the Soldiers are prior members of Security Forces Advisement Teams who have deployed to Afghanistan before.

"We have an amazing amount of talent in this group," said Melgar-C'de Baca. "We have police officers, coaches, teachers and border security agents, so our team run the gambit across the board with talented, motivated folks who all stepped forward and volunteered."

One of the team members is 2nd Lt. Jake Folgate, who works with at-risk teens at the Texas Challenge Academy in Eagle Lake, Texas. He’s excited to put his law enforcement education and experience into practice overseas. 

"I'm really enthusiastic and passionate about this mission," said Folgate, a 24-year-old graduate of Western Illinois University's Law Enforcement program. "I'm really looking forward to my first deployment and starting this mission with the Afghan Uniformed Police."

For many of the Soldiers, including Folgate, this will be their first deployment overseas. Although it's not necessarily a combat deployment, the team is excited and maybe a little nervous, said Melgar-C'de Baca. But they will have friends around them and no one is going alone, so I think that eases their minds a little bit.

"I know ya'll are the best trained, the best equipped, and are the finest Soldiers in the U.S. Army inventory, bar none, because you are all members of the 36th Inf. Div.," said the Assistant Division Commander for Support of the 36th Inf. Div., Brig. Gen. Rick Noriega, moments before the TAA members boarded the plane. "We wish you the best and salute you for who you are, and what you do. Make us proud.”

Communication Soldiers critical to MIBT success

Communication Soldiers critical to MIBT success

Story by: Spc. Christina Clardy

Posted on: June 21, 2016

Photo By Maj. Randall Stillinger | Sgt. 1st Class Juan Martinez, the Tactical Action Center Non-Commissioned Officer In Charge and Pvt. Gerardo Romano, a truck driver with 36th Inf. Div., monitor the communications systems at the Tactical Action Center during the Multi-Echelon Integrated Brigade Training exercise at Fort Hood, Texas. Communications Soldiers provided equipment and support for the higher headquarters division staff which communicated with several Active and reserve component units. (U.S. Army photo by Maj. Randall Stillinger, 36th Infantry Division Public Affairs)
Photo By Maj. Randall Stillinger | Sgt. 1st Class Juan Martinez, the Tactical Action Center Non-Commissioned Officer In Charge and Pvt. Gerardo Romano, a truck driver with 36th Inf. Div., monitor the communications systems at the Tactical Action Center during the Multi-Echelon Integrated Brigade Training exercise at Fort Hood, Texas. Communications Soldiers provided equipment and support for the higher headquarters division staff which communicated with several Active and reserve component units. (U.S. Army photo by Maj. Randall Stillinger, 36th Infantry Division Public Affairs) 

Soldiers from the 36th Infantry Division, Texas Army National Guard, set up and provided division-wide communication channels during a Multi-Echelon Integrated Brigade Training exercise, June 4-18 at Fort Hood, Texas.

The Texas Army National Guard division serves as the higher headquarters during this Multi-Echelon Integrated Brigade Training (MIBT) exercise for a brigade and several specialized units as they train to meet requirements for their annual training cycle. The exercise will be focused on maneuver-based, decisive action and will include critical gunnery training on various weapons systems. 

"The division's role in this exercise is to act as a higher headquarters for the [Brigade Combat Teams] and other units out in the field," said Maj. Gen. Lester Simpson, commander of the 36th Inf. Div. "Many BCTs are in states that do not have a higher headquarters, so here they can train and practice working with one."

Preparation began months in advance as network, signal and communications teams from the 36th Inf. Div., planned and organized equipment and systems to support the two-week exercise. Nearly 5,000 Soldiers and nine units from the U.S. Army, U.S. Army Reserve, and the Texas and Mississippi National Guard participated in the training.

"In February, we had a full server refresh and rebuild," said Master Sgt. Brandon Horta, the 36th Inf. Div. Communications Noncommissioned Officer in Charge. "So we did a lot of network reengineering and reconfiguring of the Tactical Mission Command server." 

The command staff from the participating units had concerns about the connectivity of the Army Battle Command Systems required to track and control the moving pieces in the simulated battlespace. 

"Due to the varying fielding schedules, not every unit participating in this exercise had the same versions of the many systems we use to communicate," said Simpson. "Without the same versions, the systems cannot cross talk."

The various U.S. Army, U.S. Army Reserve and National Guard units solved this by system tests, double-checking software consistencies and frequent conference calls with each other across six time zones for months in advance. According to Simpson, this early preparation was key for successfully setting up the MIBT and allowed the exercise to kick off with all the units on the same playing field communications-wise.

An advance party of mostly communications Soldiers arrived May 28, and began setting up more than ten types of transmitter and relay systems, the Army Battle Command System, a Tactical Mission Command server and various unit tracking systems.

"The biggest challenge when we got here was the unforgiving terrain [due to the recent severe flooding in and around Fort Hood]," said Horta. "Several units had to move locations and we had to adjust our communication relays and retransmissions sites to provide the best connections."

One site, manned by a dozen Soldiers in rotating shifts, maintained a FM radio retransmission antennae and a High Capacity Line-Of-Sight Radio dish. The dish is a tri-band antennae system that requires line of sight from dish to dish to provide faster data transfer for reconnaissance video and intelligence systems.

"It took us about a day to set up and sync the dish and the FM antenna," said Pfc. Stephen Lewis, a 24-year-old computer information specialist with Signal Company, Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 36th Inf. Div. "The hardest part was keeping the antennas up and linked. The first week, it rain more than half the time we were up there making the ground soft and muddy."

Despite the challenges, the communication Soldiers were able to successfully provide the necessary systems connectivity allowing the operations centers, headquarters units and ground troops to remain in contact throughout the division's portion of the exercise.

For the 36th Inf. Div. staff, the MIBT exercise is the first step in preparing for the division's Warfighter 2018 rotation in eighteen months. Warfighter is multi-year preparation training event culminating in a simulated exercise that allows units from brigade to division to corps, to integrate command systems, and execute large-scale missions and operations.

Texas Army National Guard Receives Excellence Award

Texas Army National Guard Receives Excellence Award

Story by: Laura Lopez

Posted: June 21, 2016

Courtesy Photo | Army Maj. Gen. Richard Gallant, Special Assistant to the Director of the Army National Guard, (left) presents Army Brig. Gen. Tracy Norris, Assistant Deputy Adjutant General of the Texas National Guard (center) and SFC Brenda Lopez, TXARNG G5 NCOIC (right), with the Army National Guard Communities of Excellence third place in the Bronze division at a ceremony held at the Army National Guard Readiness Center in Arlington, Virginia, May 23, 2016. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Michelle Gonzalez)
Courtesy Photo | Army Maj. Gen. Richard Gallant, Special Assistant to the Director of the Army National Guard, (left) presents Army Brig. Gen. Tracy Norris, Assistant Deputy Adjutant General of the Texas National Guard (center) and SFC Brenda Lopez, TXARNG G5 NCOIC (right), with the Army National Guard Communities of Excellence third place in the Bronze division at a ceremony held at the Army National Guard Readiness Center in Arlington, Virginia, May 23, 2016. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Michelle Gonzalez)

AUSTIN, Texas– The 2016 Army Community of Excellence winners were recently announced by the Department of the Army, with the Texas Army National Guard earning third place in the Bronze division. 

An awards ceremony was held at the Army National Guard Readiness Center in Arlington, Virginia, May 23, 2016.

“This is a tremendous honor for the Texas Army National Guard and is truly representative of the 18,000 citizen-soldiers who serve state of Texas and the U.S.,” said Brig. Gen. Tracy Norris, Assistant Deputy Adjutant General-Army. “This is definitely an award that encompasses a group effort and, as such, enables us to better serve our fellow Texans.”

The ACOE Award honors the top Army, National Guard and Army Reserve installations which have achieved the highest levels of excellence in building a quality environment, outstanding facilities and superior services.

“The Texas Army National Guard departments have learned that ACOE is more than just a competition; it is about providing a common vocabulary that facilitates an environment of excellence and a continuous process for improvement,” said Sgt. 1st Class Brenda Lopez, G5-Organizational Excellence noncommissioned officer in charge, Texas Army National Guard. “We have also learned the importance of integrating our customers, partners, and workforce into organizational change processes that will have lasting impacts to our organization.”

The ACOE program is an Army Chief of Staff program that uses the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Program Criteria for Performance Excellence – an internationally recognized integrated management system – to evaluate installations. The criteria ensures the leadership considers all stakeholders, tailors the post’s processes and resources accordingly, and employs visionary thinking through the application of proven business principles in six distinct, but integrated categories. Those categories include leadership, strategy, customer focus, measurement, analysis and knowledge management, workforce focus and operations focus. 

The TXARNG has competed in the annual ACOE competition since 1996. Since 2006, the TXARNG has placed in the rankings and been named a gold winner, nationally, six times.

Texas Guardsmen partner with Czech Republic engineers

Service members from the Texas National Guard's 386th Engineer Battalion, the 551st Multi Role Bridge Company, U.S. Army's 20th Engineer Battalion, and the Czech Republic 15th Engineer Regiment conduct a wet gap crossing during a operation rehearsal June 20, 2016, at Fort Hood, Texas, as part of a Multinational Lumberjack River Exercise. Through the States’ Partnership Program, the Texas Army National Guard currently works alongside the Czech Republic and Chile to conduct military operations in support of defense security goals. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Elizabeth Pena/Released)
Service members from the Texas National Guard's 386th Engineer Battalion, the 551st Multi Role Bridge Company, U.S. Army's 20th Engineer Battalion, and the Czech Republic 15th Engineer Regiment conduct a wet gap crossing June 20, 2016, at Fort Hood, Texas, as part of a Multinational Lumberjack River Exercise. Through the States’ Partnership Program, the Texas Army National Guard currently works alongside the Czech Republic and Chile to conduct military operations in support of defense security goals. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Elizabeth Pena/Released)

Texas Guardsmen partner with Czech Republic engineers

Story by: Sgt. Elizabeth Pena

Posted: June 21, 2016

FORT HOOD, Texas – Engineers from the Texas Army National Guard’s 386th Engineer Battalion, 551st Multi Role Bridge Company, Czech Republic’s 15th Engineer Regiment and U.S. Army’s 20th Engineer Battalion conducted a Multinational Lumberjack River Exercise, June 21, 2016.

“This is the first time we have worked with an active duty engineer battalion in order to conduct a gap crossing exercise along with the foreign national soldiers,” said Texas Guardsman Lt. Col. Anthony J. Miles, commander for the 386th Eng. Batt.

The Texas National Guard is currently partnered with the Czech Republic and Chile under the State Partnership Program. Through SPP, Guardsmen conduct military-to-military engagements with multinational allies in support of defense security goals.

“It’s an honor to see Czech soldiers exercising alongside American soldiers,” said Petr Gandalovic, Ambassador for Czech Republic, during his visit to Fort Hood. “This is important because we all keep the same values and we all have to be responsible for each other, and the responsibility translates into capability of doing something real.”

Service members coordinated with each other to conduct a wet gap crossing. When a large body of water is blocking ground transportation, this is used to transport military supplies, personnel and or vehicles across a lake or river.

“The concept of the operation was to conduct rafting operations and project combat power across the far shore,” said Capt. Jacob Patterson an operations planner for the 386th Eng. Batt. 

During the exercise, soldiers worked on ground to free-launch bays and bridges into the lake, and conducted air operations to sling load a bridge, several bays and ramps.

“The aircraft is doing airdrops,” said Sgt. Randall McMorris, with the 551st MRBC, non-commissioned officer in charge for the shore portion of the exercise. “We have a landing zone up the road, and they will attach a ramp and boat and drop it in the water.”

Once all the equipment was in the lake, service members connected the bays and ramps to form a floating bridge. Each bridge is made up of five interior bays and two ramps, referred to as a seven float. 

“With that seven float you can push the heaviest piece of army equipment across, said Patterson. “We pushed M113’s, M2A2 Bradley’s, Up-Armored Humvee’s, a buffalo and a husky, which is a route clearance piece of equipment,” said Patterson.

Soldiers built, two bridges to transport equipment across the lake and used real-world conditions as practice for maneuver operations. 

“This year the water levels are much higher than they were last year,” said Patterson. “It’s about 5 to 10 ft. higher than what we experienced last year, so that in itself is a challenge because we’ve had to change the operation multiple times based on Mother Nature and what we were given to work with.”

Last year the Texas National Guard’s 386th Eng. Batt., went to the Czech Republic to conduct a similar exercise using the Czechs’ equipment. This year, they came the U.S.

“It’s one of the greatest experiences I’ve had so far,” said 2nd Lt. Josef Kurfirt a platoon leader with the Czech Republic’s 15th Eng. Reg. “The most valuable thing for us is for us to see this bridge, work with their equipment and vehicles, and compare technologies and procedures with them.”

The State Partnership Program has been successfully building relationships for over 20 years. The U.S. currently works with 76 nations around the globe.

“This is extremely important in today’s environment to be able to work with interagency and non-governmental organizations with multinational forces, to include our own,” said Miles. “It’s an excellent training opportunity because that’s how we fight overseas. We get rolled up and assigned to other active duty units so if we can practice that in a peacetime situation it makes it that much easier in a wartime situation.”

Texas guardsmen, first responders conduct aviation search and rescue exercise

Texas guardsmen, first responders conduct aviation search and rescue exercise

Story By: Capt. Jessica Jackson

Posted on: June 16, 2016

Photo By Capt. Jessica Jackson | Multiple state and local agencies participated in this year's SAREX 2016. The search and rescue exercise helps first responders better coordinate with partner agencies to provide efficient and life-saving resources when needed. ‪(U.S Army National Guard photo by Capt. Jessica Jackson/ Released)
Photo By Capt. Jessica Jackson | Multiple state and local agencies participated in this year's SAREX 2016. The search and rescue exercise helps first responders better coordinate with partner agencies to provide efficient and life-saving resources when needed. ‪(U.S Army National Guard photo by Capt. Jessica Jackson/ Released)

AUSTIN, Texas — Helicopters buzzing overhead, first responders descending to save stranded victims — that was the scene at Camp Mabry in Austin as guardsmen and five state and local partnering agencies conducted a large-scale aviation search and rescue exercise, June 8, 2016.

Texas Military Department, Travis County STAR flight, Texas Department of Public Safety, U.S. Coast Guards – Houston and Austin Police Department came together in a joint effort to complete the exercise said Brett Dixon, program manager for Texas Task Force 1.

Every year, a different catastrophic event is put into the training. Each exercise provides Texas Military Department and local and state authorities the opportunity to offer mutual assistance to mock stranded victims.

This year’s scenario focused around a hurricane that produced record rainfall in Austin — causing widespread flooding throughout the area.
Partnering agencies responded on scene, within hours, to run through mock evacuations in preparation for when severe weather occurs.

“This exercise is a planned partnership between Texas Task Force 1, and mimics past events to make the training as realistic as possible,” said Texas Army National Guard Lt. Col. Troy Meuth, search and rescue director for Air Operations Center.

Several months of preparation and planning went into conducting this complex event including reaching out to the interagency partners and using lessons learned to help develop real-world scenarios and create a plan.

Flight crews within the different organizations also played a significant role in the exercise. 

“During the exercise I was the Air Mission Commander and pilot in command,” said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Pedro Vargas-Lebron, Texas Army National Guard. “My main responsibilities are ensuring the flight is safe for the mission we are doing. The crew in the back will do the rescues and my role is to ensure we can accomplish that safely.”

Along with providing realistic training, the exercise centered around synchronization of the Air Operations Center on Camp Mabry and the Joint Air Ground Coordination team located at the STAR flight hangar.

“We are using this opportunity to make sure we can communicate between agencies, making sure that when 911 calls come in that we can direct the appropriate asset or resource out to where they need to be to do the most good,” Dixon said.

In addition to improving life-saving skills, Meuth said this was also an opportunity for participants to spend a day doing something that matters. 

“The people who do this, including our interagency partners, are very passionate about what they do,” Meuth said. “It’s a very high-risk, but high-reward job.”

The annual exercise is in its third year and is a smaller component of the statewide Lower Rio Grande Valley hurricane evacuation exercise.

“During previous hurricanes, we realized with all the aircraft on scene, there was some confusion of roles and responsibilities,” Meuth said. By conducting this exercise, we can work that out ahead of time and develop capabilities so we’re able to do more with less.”

Through preparation and practice, these cooperating entities can become more confident in their ability to be there when they are needed the most.

“We’re able to respond to Texans when they’re in need,” Meuth said. “That’s what this is about; whenever there is a disaster or big event we’re able to quickly respond with the right assets to help our fellow Texans.”

Vargas-Lebron had a similar sentiment. “In the end it’s about supporting the local community. That is what makes the guard unique.”

36th Infantry Division headquarters conducts MIBT exercise

36th Infantry Division headquarters conducts MIBT exercise

Story by: Spc. Christina Clardy

Posted On: June 16, 2016

Photo By Maj. Randall Stillinger | Soldiers from the 36th Infantry Division, Texas Army National Guard, host a Multi-Echelon Integrated Brigade Training exercise scheduled for June 4-18 at Fort Hood, Texas. The MIBT is a training exercise designed to provide high-level combat training to Army National Guard brigade combat teams who are unable to attend a Combat Training Center rotation due to capacity and scheduling constraints of the center. Nearly ten units, across three states, participated in the two-week exercise to hone their battlefield skills and strategies. (U.S. Army Photo by Maj. Randall Stillinger, 36th Infantry Division Public Affairs)
Photo By Maj. Randall Stillinger | Soldiers from the 36th Infantry Division, Texas Army National Guard, host a Multi-Echelon Integrated Brigade Training exercise scheduled for June 4-18 at Fort Hood, Texas. The MIBT is a training exercise designed to provide high-level combat training to Army National Guard brigade combat teams who are unable to attend a Combat Training Center rotation due to capacity and scheduling constraints of the center. Nearly ten units, across three states, participated in the two-week exercise to hone their battlefield skills and strategies. (U.S. Army Photo by Maj. Randall Stillinger, 36th Infantry Division Public Affairs)

The Texas Army National Guard division serves as the higher headquarters during this Multi-Echelon Integrated Brigade Training (MIBT) exercise for a brigade and several specialized units as they train to meet requirements for their annual training cycle. The exercise will be focused on maneuver-based, decisive action and will include critical gunnery training on various weapons systems. 

The exercise is designed to provide high-level combat training to Army National Guard brigade combat teams who did not attend a Maneuver Combat Training Center (MCTC) rotation. The two centers are the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, California and the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk in Louisiana, and are specialized facilities that focus on strategic critical command processes and combat training prior to deployments. The MIBT is based on the same training methods in order to sustain readiness and maintain the capabilities of reserve and active-component forces. 

"The MIBT is designed to provide divisions and brigades the opportunity to train to specific training models when there are no Combat Training Centers available," said Maj. Gen. Lester Simpson, commanding general of the 36th Infantry Division. "Since Battle Command is a perishable skill, it requires frequent repetition, improvements and practice to maintain efficiency and capabilities."

The first MIBT was conducted in 2015 by Army National Guard units from New York, Vermont and Virginia, at Fort Drum, New York with the 42nd Infantry Division serving as the higher headquarters. Nine units and more than 5,000 Active and Reserve Component Soldiers from Mississippi, North Carolina and Texas will be participating during this year’s event. 

"For the division, our primary mission is to provide first class training opportunities for the brigade as they build and refine their staff processes and battle drills," said Simpson. "Many brigades are in states that do not have a division in it, so this exercise allows them to train directly with a higher headquarters."

Designed to maximize collective training and support increased unit readiness, the MIBT exercise is conducted during the standard two-week Annual Training period with minimal additional resources or funding. The use of localized training areas, in this case Fort Hood, allows for considerable cost savings.

"Both the 155th ABCT and our division have great separate working relationships with the 1st Cavalry Division," said Simpson. "So we are able to combine our organizations and build an even better relationship where we all work off each other's experiences."

As U.S. Army Forces Command's designated coordinating and implementation authority for the Army Total Force Policy, the First Army Division developed and sponsored the MIBT by integrating active and reserve component forces into a collective training event.

The policy sets the unit standards for total force unit readiness, focusing on leader development, integrating the Active and Reserve Components into collective unit training events, reducing post-mobilization training time and strengthening partnerships between active and reserve components commanders. 

This year's participating MIBT units are:

  • Headquarters, 36th Infantry Division, Texas Army National Guard
  • 155th Armored Brigade Combat Team, Mississippi Army National Guard
  • 184th Sustainment Command, Mississippi Army National Guard
  • 980th Engineering Battalion, Texas Army National Guard
  • 75th Training Command, U.S. Army Reserve, Houston, Texas
  • U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command of the U.S. Army Reserve, Fort Bragg, North Carolina
  • 177th Combined Arms Training Brigade, U.S. Army's First Division East from Camp Shelby, Miss. 
  • 188th Combined Arms Training Brigade, U.S. Army's First Division East from Camp Shelby, Miss.
  • 2nd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, U.S. Army, Fort Hood, Texas

Texas Guardsmen learn disaster response from the best

Texas Guardsmen learn disaster response from the best

Story by: Maj. Chol Chong

Posted: June 9, 2016

Photo By Lt. Col. William Phillips | Members of the Texas National Guard's 6th Civil Support Team, headquartered in Austin, conduct biological target lane training in Corpus Christi, Texas, with Dugway Proving Ground's Special Projects Division and the Corpus Christi Fire Department HAZMAT team, June 9, 2016. The training includes two days of scenario-based lanes and one day of classroom instruction. (Photo by U.S. Army National Guard Lt. Col. William Phillips/Released)
Photo By Lt. Col. William Phillips | Members of the Texas National Guard's 6th Civil Support Team, headquartered in Austin, conduct biological target lane training in Corpus Christi, Texas, with Dugway Proving Ground's Special Projects Division and the Corpus Christi Fire Department HAZMAT team, June 9, 2016. The training includes two days of scenario-based lanes and one day of classroom instruction. (Photo by U.S. Army National Guard Lt. Col. William Phillips/Released)  

The Texas National Guard’s 6th Civil Support Team is one of the first lines of defense following a chemical, biological, radioactive, or nuclear incident. This joint outfit of 22 full-time personnel is always on call, and always ready to react when disaster strikes. Such vigilance requires regular training and mission proficiency, especially with the agencies they’d most likely serve alongside. Most recently, they demonstrated this expertise in Corpus Christi, Texas, with the support of the Corpus Christi Fire Department and personnel from the U.S. Army Dugway Proving Ground out of Utah. From June 7-9, these experts in emergency response conducted specific target biological threat awareness training, engaging various scenarios to perfect their interoperability and processes.

“The members of the 6th CST increased their operating skills and further developed their understanding of the Tactics, Techniques & Procedures Development process by responding to multiple unknown threats using a progressive crawl-walk-run method of training,” said Jaromy D. Jessop, the Dugway Proving Ground Special Programs Division Program Manager.

The Proving Ground personnel were specifically requested by the 6th CST for their professionalism and experience in CBRN incidents. They contributed classroom instruction and scenario exercises to the team throughout the three days in Corpus Christi.

"Training with true subject matter experts is always of great benefit,” said Army Capt. Brandon M. Wells, a survey team leader with the 6th CST. Dugway Proving Ground is one of only a few facilities that really understands the science behind CBRN response considerations.”

Dugway Proving Ground set up a single training lane on day one at a storage facility that used to be a functional firefighter station house in Corpus Christi. The 6th CST was tasked to determine the threat, sample the findings, and provide mitigation recommendations to the incident commander, played by Jessop. The 6th CST conducted site reconnaissance, sampling, and threat mitigations, with feedback from their on-site partners.

“A critical mission for the 6th CST is to provide Defense Support to Civil Authorities,” said Jessop. “The no notice response training increased the unit's ability to assist civil authorities when asked to react to an unknown CBRN threat.”

The final day of training pitted the CST against two separate buildings at the firehouse station in order to solve multiple complex problems to the complete the satisfaction of the incident commander. Meanwhile, their civil partners from the local fire department learned about the resources their military counterparts could bring to an emergency situation.

“The event further strengthen relationships with Corpus Christi Fire Department personnel who observed portions of the event and provided the training facility,” said Jessop.

In addition to providing performance feedback, Dugway Proving Ground conducted a detailed class on Tactics, Techniques, and Procedure Developments, focusing on the fundamentals of microbiology, agents of bioterrorism, sampling biological threats, and biological decontamination.

“Because of their wealth of knowledge,” said Wells, “Mr. Jessop and his team were able to facilitate an excellent training lane that not only challenged our team during site characterization and sample collection, but also with problem solving and the analysis of potential CBRN hazards."