Posts in Category: Texas Military Department

Equal to the Task

Preparing for the Army Combat Fitness Test

Story and Photos by Charles E. Spirtos, TMD Public Affairs

ACFTWhen a force is fit, it is more lethal and more agile in the face of threats. Whether the call is on the battlefield, or during the heat of a natural disaster like a hurricane, the men and women of the Texas Military Department maintain constant preparedness to maintain a force ready to support federal authorities home and abroad.

Part of maintaining a professional force is maintaining maximum physical fitness. A recent Army-wide innovation that will allow the force to maintain relevance and increased lethality is the introduction of the Army Combat Fitness Test as the test of record for assessing Soldier fitness.

The ACFT will be a superior metric in determining a Soldier’s readiness for the battlefield by evaluating complex actions that have direct parallels to motions frequently encountered in the battlefield, according to TMD Command Senior Enlisted Leader CMSgt Michael E. Cornitius. Cornitius also believes that the collaborative nature of the ACFT will increase camaraderie within the force: “You can encourage each other through the course of the test. You’re going to have at least four battle buddies to walk you through it--so that’s what I like about it.

The Army Combat Fitness Test may be a challenge for Soldiers who are used to the older physical fitness test. However, SSG Anthony Delagarza believes that training in support of the ACFT will allow the Texas Military Department to become the fittest, most lethal force in the country. The Army Combat Fitness Test is not easy. In fact, many seasoned Soldiers have described it as extremely daunting. This doesn’t scare us off however, this motivates us. After all, when have Texans ever backed down to a challenge?

Guard members reflect on 2019, prepare for new decade

By Tech. Sgt. Erich B. Smith, National Guard Bureau

ARLINGTON, Va. – From cyber missions to training with international partners, supporting the war fight and responding to natural disasters, 2019 was a busy year for the National Guard.

The year began with Guard members helping out during numerous winter storms.

More than 450 New York National Guard members were on duty in January responding to a snowstorm that blanketed most of New York, including New York City. Many of those same troops were back at it when gusting windstorms in February meant clearing debris from roadways and conducting traffic control operations.

In March, massive flooding affected thousands of people in Nebraska, Missouri, Iowa and other Midwest states, prompting governors to activate more than 340 Guard members. Airmen from the Missouri Air National Guard's 139th Airlift Wing used sandbags to stem the flow of running water, while Soldiers with the Nebraska Army National Guard's Company B, 2nd Battalion, 135th Aviation Regiment, used CH-47 Chinook helicopters to drop bales of hay for displaced livestock.

"We pushed hay out of the back of one of our helicopters in order to feed cows that were stranded," said Air Force Maj. Gen. Daryl Bohac, the adjutant general of the Nebraska National Guard. "The floodwaters have trapped the cattle and isolated them."

In Colorado, winter storms came as late as April, and the Colorado National Guard activated 50 members to help first responders with transportation needs, using Humvees to get to hard-to-reach places.

"The [Colorado National Guard] is always ready, always there to assist our neighbors [and] to save lives, prevent suffering and mitigate great property damage," said Army Col. Scott Sherman, commander of Joint Task Force Centennial, which leads the Colorado Guard's response to domestic events.

As winter storms subsided, many Guard units shifted their attention to wildfires.

In May, Alaska Army National Guard fire suppression efforts included water bucket drops from UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters while ground troops provided traffic management and evacuation support using Humvees.

"Soldiers are manning traffic control positions 24/7," said Army Capt. Ralph Harris, commander of the Alaska Army National Guard's 297th Military Police Company. "Some folks were asked to leave their homes, but had to return to their homes first to prepare, so our MPs check them in and out for accountability and to ensure people are aware of the unsafe roads for travel."

More than 100 Soldiers and Airmen with the California National Guard's Task Force Rattlesnake cleared out potential fuels, such as dead trees, dry vegetation and other flammable material, throughout the state.

"Everyone's really motivated and excited to be a part of this project," said Army 2nd Lt. Jonathan Green, the officer in charge of a firefighting team with the California Army National Guard's 115th Regional Support Group. "We're excited to hit the ground, make progress and hopefully prevent future fires from happening."

But wildfires and snowstorms weren't the only natural disasters that tested the Guard's readiness. As the active hurricane season arrived, Guard members were primed to respond.

After Hurricane Dorian ravaged the Bahamas, Airmen from the Tennessee Air National Guard's 118th Wing provided imagery analysis, including damage assessments, infrastructure reports and identification of potentially hazardous material.

"I am proud of our Airmen for their tireless efforts to respond in the affected areas and from right here in Nashville, Tennessee," said Air Force Lt. Col. Aaron Wilson, commander of the 118th Intelligence Group. "This is what we train for. This is why America has a National Guard: to save lives at home, to fight our nation's wars and to build partnerships."

More than 5,500 Guard members were on duty, positioned to respond in the aftermath of Dorian.

Air Force Gen. Joseph Lengyel, chief of the National Guard Bureau, highlighted how Guard members were ahead of the storm as it made its way toward landfall.

"[Guard members] will be poised to work and ready for their communities and states – from the inception of preparation, through the response, through the recovery – until the [local first] responders can handle this without any military assistance," said Lengyel.

But first responders weren't the only partners the Guard had in 2019.

The Guard saw continued growth and activity with the State Partnership Program, a Defense Department priority that pairs Guard elements with partner nations worldwide.

The Nebraska National Guard was paired with Rwanda's military, marking the 78th partnership in the SPP.

"I know that the training opportunities, cultural experiences and professional exchange of ideas that the SPP makes possible will benefit both the Nebraska National Guard and Rwanda for years to come," said Bohac, the adjutant general of the Nebraska Guard.

During the year, other Guard elements worked with their SPP partners.

New York Air National Guard members worked with South African firefighters near Cape Town, South Africa, honing their skills battling brush fires. The effort was part of the partnership between the New York National Guard and the South African National Defence Force.

"It was a great experience to be part of an international partnership and to be able to learn from other firefighters as well as show them what we are capable of," said Air Force Staff Sgt. Jodi Ruther, a firefighter with the New York Air Guard's 109th Airlift Wing.

She was pleased to see many women involved in the training.

"Hopefully, encouraging more women to join firefighting [teams] will show that we are just as capable as the men in the world of wildland firefighting," Ruther said.

In Estonia, military police and security forces from the Maryland National Guard participated in Spring Storm, an annual exercise conducted by Estonia's military that focused on convoy security, detainee operations and tactical patrols.

"This is not a typical training environment for the military police detachment," said Spc. Angelique Helkowski, with the Maryland Army National Guard's 290th Military Police Company. "When we train stateside, we do the same things repetitively. This gets us out into nature and relates more to a deployed environment."

For Tech. Sgt. Kevin Miner, a security forces specialist with the Maryland Air National Guard's 175th Wing, working with a mixed group of U.S. and Estonian soldiers meant his squad had to operate more efficiently and effectively.

"Although my squad had never trained together, we were able to mobilize as a team," Miner said. "It was a very easy transition, and we had unit cohesion immediately."

The year also had its share of milestones and anniversaries.

In early June, aircrews from the Kentucky Air National Guard's 123rd Airlift Wing, flying two C-130 Hercules aircraft, participated in the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion in Normandy, France. The aircrew performed seven flyovers in the C-130s and helped airdrop nearly 1,000 U.S. and Allied paratroopers as part of the commemoration.

"This was an incredible opportunity," said Chief Master Sgt. Jeff Brown, the loadmaster superintendent at the wing. "To be involved with something so significant – I never thought that in my career I would get to do something like this. We have some young guys with us, too, and it has been great for them to see what it takes to go into a large exercise like this."

In North Carolina, a Virginia Army National Guard artillery unit took part in a unique live-fire exercise: firing from a waterborne landing craft.

Though artillery crews employed their guns from landing craft during the D-Day invasion in World War II, the tactic has not often been used since that era. 

Spc. Jerrad Nicholson, with the Indiana Army National Guard's 1st Squadron, 152nd Cavalry Regiment, leads Soldiers into a room during Slovak Shield 2019, a training exercise in Lešt, Slovakia, Nov. 10, 2019, as part of the Defense Department's State Partnership Program. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Senior Airman Jonathan Padish)
Spc. Jerrad Nicholson, with the Indiana Army National Guard's 1st Squadron, 152nd Cavalry Regiment, leads Soldiers into a room during Slovak Shield 2019, a training exercise in Lešt, Slovakia, Nov. 10, 2019, as part of the Defense Department's State Partnership Program. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Senior Airman Jonathan Padish)

Army Staff Sgt. Ryan Turner, with the Virginia Army Guard's 1st Battalion, 111th Field Artillery Regiment, said the unusual setting for the artillery exercise presented challenges.

Every time a shell was fired, he said, the recoil from the shot would displace the howitzer on the landing craft.

"Being on the boat, we had to situate sandbags behind the tires [on the howitzer] as well as the spade," said Turner. "What we've rigged up seems to work."

The year also marked the 30th anniversary of the National Guard Counterdrug Program, which has Guard members working with law enforcement agencies to combat the flow of illegal drugs into the United States.

"This program allows the Citizen-Soldier [and Airman] to support law enforcement agencies down to our communities, making it a solid grassroots initiative," said Army Col. Miguel Torres, the head coordinator for the Texas National Guard Joint Counterdrug Task Force, one of the first units to conduct counter-narcotics support missions with law enforcement. "Guardsmen can help do the nuts and bolts of things and allow law enforcement agencies to put people behind bars."

In July, Army Lt. Gen. Daniel Hokanson took the reins of the Army National Guard.

Hokanson, previously the National Guard Bureau's vice chief, said it's the Soldiers who make leading the Army Guard worthwhile.

"With all the changes nearly four centuries have brought with them, what has made the National Guard great remains the same – that's our people," Hokanson said, adding that close to 30,000 Army Guard Soldiers are currently deployed worldwide.

Air National Guard members deployed as well, fulfilling a variety of roles, such as providing tactical airlift throughout the U.S. Central Command area of operations.

C-130 aircrews from the Montana Air National Guard executed nonstop missions flying personnel, equipment and supplies to established bases and austere locations.

"It's a very consistent flow here. But that's the beautiful thing about the C-130 – it can land on short runways," said Air Force Lt. Col. David Smith, commander of the 779th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron. "Our flying schedule is extremely busy."

Meanwhile, Soldiers with the North Carolina Army National Guard's 30th Armored Brigade Combat Team operated M2A2 Bradley Fighting Vehicles in the Middle East in support of Operation Inherent Resolve.

"We are here as American Soldiers, one team, to do what our nation needs us to do," said Army Col. Robert Bumgardner, commander of the 30th ABCT. "We didn't come here to sit and watch. We came here to be part of the fight."

While the Guard's support of the war fight continued, cybersecurity activities in Texas reflected a different battle.

"In May, one county – Jackson County – got hit with ransomware," said Army Maj. Gen. Tracy Norris, the adjutant general of the Texas National Guard. "It disrupted county services. People weren't able to transfer property, the police doing a background check weren't able to pull up that information."

Texas Guard cyber teams were called in.

"We had people out there within 12 hours to do an assessment on what had happened and to get that county back online," said Norris. "We helped them get to a recovery point where their IT professionals could come in and get the county back to where it could deliver services."

Later in the year, the Ohio National Guard forged ties with the University of Akron to open a "cyber range" – a virtual training ground and testing site to enhance cybersecurity.

"This cyber range for us is a big deal," said Army Col. Daniel Shank, the assistant adjutant general for the Ohio Army Guard. "The cyber threat is changing, and we have to change with it. The military understands the threat, and we've actually changed our doctrine."

Lengyel said the more than 3,900 troops that make up the Guard's cyber element include traditional part-time units and full-time units that work directly for U.S. Cyber Command.

"The Air National Guard always provides two [cyber protection teams], and on the Army side, the Army [National Guard] always provides one, that are continuously mobilized and doing duty for U.S. Cyber Command and the cyber mission force," said Lengyel.

He said the Guard must continue to meet the challenges the cyber domain presents.

"When I first joined the National Guard, cyber was not part of our vocabulary," he said. "Now, it's one of our daily battlegrounds."

The National Guard celebrated its 383rd birthday on Dec. 13, the same day two Army Guard members became the first female enlisted Soldiers to complete the challenging U.S. Army Ranger School.

Army Staff Sgt. Jessica Smiley, a military police officer with the South Carolina Army National Guard, and Army Sgt. Danielle Farber, a medical instructor with the Pennsylvania Army National Guard, joined a small group of other women who have successfully negotiated the iconic school.

Farber attributed her success to seeing herself as a Soldier first.

"Come into it knowing you're going to be doing things that every other male that comes through here has to do," said Farber. "Don't come through here and expect any sort of special treatment, because it won't happen."

For Smiley, putting on the Ranger tab meant never giving up.

"My mindset going into this was to leave 100 percent on the table and never have a regret or look back and say, 'I should have pushed harder or I should have done something different,'" said Smiley. "I gave 100 percent. I did everything that I could, and now here I am."

With specialized training options, multiple mission sets and continued deployments, the Guard is an important part of the joint force, said Lengyel.

"Right now, about 40,000 Guard members are serving (overseas) worldwide," he said. "I wish I could visit with and thank every single one. It's an extraordinary force that has contributed more than 1.1 million individual overseas deployments since 9/11."

The Guard continues to stand ready as a new decade approaches.

"It is imperative the National Guard remains an operational force, as part of our Army and Air Force, that helps protect and secure our interests at home and abroad," Lengyel said.

This article was originally published by the National Guard Bureau at: https://go.usa.gov/xpMKQ

From the Top December 2019

Words from Brigadier General Greg Chaney

Brigadier General Greg Chaney is the Deputy Adjutant General - Army for the Texas National Guard

As we enter into the holiday season, I want each of you to pause and take time to reflect on what brought you into the profession of arms to begin with. We get so caught up in day-to-day tasks that years can go by in a blink, and we look up in amazement at all that has transpired. This same phenomenon can often result in us getting off track and forgetting where we were going in the first place. Taking time away from work to connect with family and friends helps us reconnect to our roots. It is important to re-discover your motivation to get up and do the good work you do day in and day out. Brigadier General Greg Chaney is the Deputy Adjutant General - Army for the Texas National Guard

If you are a leader in this organization, I want you to encourage your Soldiers, Airmen, State Guardsmen, and civilian employees to reset, and take care of themselves and their families. By the very nature of the environment we operate in, there are no “slow” seasons, no set routine breaks in the tempo of effort. We therefore must create those for ourselves when and where we can. 

Here in Texas we have a deep heritage of military service. Many of us signed up to serve because of this legacy. Following in the tradition of duty to country that we have had demonstrated to us by family members and those we look up to, has led many of us to where we are today. Throughout our history, the Texas Military Forces have consistently remained the most capable and mission ready forces in the Nation.  This distinction is indicative of our hard work and neighborly attitude. When disaster strikes at home or abroad, the Nation turns to Texas for personnel, equipment, and expertise. Thank you for following in the footsteps of our veterans of the generations before us.  It is an honor to serve here with each of you. 

Stay safe out there, take care of each other, and have a happy and healthy holiday. 

Duty Honor Texas 

 

Texas Ranger General

Story by Bob Seyller, Texas Military Department Public Affairs

In the early days of Texas, the Rangers provided security and rule of law. However, as Texas grew, the Rangers also grew in both size and mission. During the Texas Revolution, the force formalized from a security force for settlers to well-trained soldiers and finally into lawmen delivering justice to an untamed frontier. No matter their role, it was clear: they were a military force. Nearly 100 years after the Texas Revolution, this connection would lead to a Ranger’s first term as adjutant general when Brig. Gen. William Sterling took office.

Texas Adjutant General William Sterling
Texas Adjutant General William Sterling

Born in Belton, Texas, near the turn of the century, Sterling grew up on his family’s ranch. It was there where Sterling learned how to ride, forage and shoot, before enrolling in Texas A&M University for courses in animal husbandry. Studying for two years, Sterling never attained his degree. Instead, he left to put his knowledge to use on ranches throughout Hidalgo County. Sterling had worked toward a life of raising cattle and tending herds. However, Sterling’s career would soon change as violence from the revolution in Mexico spilled across the Rio Grande.

In 1915, as World War I raged across Europe, another war was being waged closer to Texas. Beyond the Rio Grande, violence spread throughout Mexico in a bloody civil war. At the height of the conflict, Mexican forces raided American cities and military outposts, incurring the wrath of the famous Gen. John J. Pershing and his 10,000-man punitive expedition.

As Pershing pushed deeper into the heart of Mexico, hunting Gen. Francisco Pancho Villa, violence continued along the Texas border. There, Sterling found his calling as a scout and reserve member of the United States 3rd Cavalry Regiment and Texas Rangers. Working closely with both groups, Sterling saw firsthand the slaughter of more than 500 Texans at the hands of Mexican troops. As the raids worsened, word spread of the “Plan of San Diego,” a plot that called for race riots between Anglos and Tejanos. These riots were to be ignited by bloody incursions from Mexican seditionists. Supporters of the plan believed the riots would eventually force America to return the Southwestern states to Mexican control. 

Fear of the Mexican reoccupation plot was growing as the Zimmerman Telegram arrived, both at the height of the U.S. march to World War I. The telegram offered Mexico help in conquering most of the Western United States in exchange for allying with Germany and possibly Japan. The plot called for the extermination of all Anglo men over 16 and any Latino that fought against Mexico. Texas’ response to this threat came from a combination of soldiers, rangers and deputized citizens who left nearly 1,000 of the Mexican seditionists dead.  

As the Texas border came under control, the United States prepared to join the European war effort. Sterling, like many Americans, joined this effort, commissioning with the Texas Infantry as a second lieutenant. Though he never served overseas, Sterling's time with cavalrymen on the border helped him prepare newly enlisted soldiers for the war.  

After the war, Sterling returned to law enforcement as the sheriff and justice of the peace of Mirando City, a border town near Laredo. He once again worked alongside the Texas Rangers, whose duties had shifted from fighting Mexican revolutionaries and seditionists to catching bootleggers smuggling liquor across the border. 

“Bill [Sterling] preserved order in an oil town by methods learned from the Texas Rangers and other border officers. On an unpainted pine shake we found a large sign bearing ‘W.W. Sterling, Justice of the Peace, The law of the Tex-Mex,’” described contemporary historian Walter Prescott Webb. “Nearby, stood a boxcar in which the judge held his prisoners by means of a generous length of chain and padlocks.” This method of restraint was called a “trotline.” 

Adjutant General William Sterling poses with his Texas Ranger Captains.
Adjutant General William Sterling poses with his Texas Ranger Captains. 

As crude oil gushed from derricks rising against the bright Texas sky, the call went out for roughnecks seeking “black gold” to move to Borger, a city centered in the Texas panhandle. Though every oil town had its share of card houses and lawlessness, a corrupt city government coupled with a population increase of more than 40,000 people in three months, allowed prostitutes, card sharks and bootleggers to become nearly as common as oil workers. Lawlessness in Borger reached a boiling point when murders and explosions within the city limits had become a way of life.

“Many persons have been killed including several officers and two or three women. Daylight robberies, hold-ups, explosions and bootlegging continued practically unabated,” according to a contemporary Associated Press report.

Sterling arrived under the command of Capt. Frank Hamer, who would later become famous for putting an end to Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow’s criminal careers in a hail of gunfire. Working with 10 other Rangers, Sterling and Hamer brought the town under control as Rangers arrested 124 men within the first day. Each lawbreaker found himself shackled to a trotline awaiting removal to trial in Stinnett, Texas.  Rangers also targeted vices throughout the city, issuing warnings to 1,200 prostitutes to leave town or face arrest. Liquor, gambling and corruption were additional focuses of the team as it sought to reign in the lawlessness of the city.

“The liquor traffic was broken up, many stills being seized and destroyed, and several thousand gallons of whiskey captured and poured out. 203 gambling slot machines were seized and destroyed,” said Brig. Gen Robert Robertson, the Adjutant General of Texas at the time. “As a result of the demand on the part of the citizens of Borger for administration of the law, the mayor, city commissioners and chief of police resigned, replaced by citizens pledged to uphold laws.”

Sterling’s work in Borger did not go unnoticed. Among other changes, he would promote Sterling to captain, giving him command of the Laredo-based Company D. 

His previous experience on the border allowed Sterling to run an efficient unit far from the headline-grabbing troubles of the booming oil towns of northern Texas. He worked with his Rangers to respect the local population and to be sympathetic to Anglo and Tejano concerns, fairly administering justice. For a time, Sterling seemed to have settled into a job he had always wanted. This changed after the election of Ross Sterling to governor. 

Ross Sterling prepared to take office as the nation was entering the Great Depression in 1931. The economic collapse of the nation would ruin many of his initiatives in the legislature, but the one initiative in which he did find support was strengthening the Ranger corps. 

Ross Sterling had known Bill Sterling for years, having met through Bill’s father. Both men discussed their ancestry sufficiently to decide there was no kinship, a determination that would be important as Ross Sterling prepared to appoint his new adjutant general for the Texas Military.

“I called in William W. Sterling, a tall, colorful Ranger captain, and gave him the names of several men who had applied and asked ‘Whom would you suggest for adjutant general?’ Bill replied that he would like to see Torrance of Fort Worth get it, but he could get along very well with any of those mentioned” said Ross Sterling. “I told him you won’t have to get along with any of them. I’m going to appoint you.”

With that conversation and a state senate confirmation, Capt. Bill Sterling became known as Gen. Bill, the first adjutant general pulled from the Ranger corps since Texas became a republic. If anything signified the unique path of his ascension, it would be his choice in uniform. 

Though he served as a commissioned officer during WWI, Sterling left mandarin collars and olive drab to career Guardsmen. The 6-foot-3-inch Ranger instead donned his trademark gun belt with a revolver inscribed, “Captain Sterling,” on the handle. No stars adorned his uniform; instead he had “GENERAL BILL” stitched above the pocket of his western shirts along with western motifs of bucking broncos or lone cattle. 

Brigadier General William Sterlinlg posing with a rifle at Brooks Field, a former U.S. Army airfield located outside of San Antonio, Texas. Members of the Texas National Guard participated in pilot training for both fixed wing aircraft and blimps in the 1930's.
Brigadier General William Sterling posing with a rifle at Brooks Field, a former U.S. Army airfield located outside of San Antonio, Texas. Members of the Texas National Guard participated in pilot training for both fixed wing aircraft and blimps in the 1930's.

Sterling took office vowing to eliminate politics from the promotion system within the department.  Changes to the National Guard’s structure began with the 1903 Dick Act, giving the organization a standardized promotion system within the Guard. However, the Rangers still primarily promoted individuals under a system patronage and political influence.  Sterling issued regulations requiring all captains of Ranger companies to serve first for two years. He also directed promotions to occur on merit and the reputation of the candidate.

Trouble from oil towns mostly sprang from vices that followed oil booms and roughnecks from drill site to drill site, but July 1931 would see oil producers for the first time fall under the gaze of both the Rangers and the National Guard.

The railroad commission moved to regulate the oil market and implement production limits but found the task impossible without an enforcement arm. Ross Sterling, an oil man before his political election, knew the problems collapsed oil markets would add to the stagnant economy of the depression era. He called upon his adjutant general and informed him it was time to restore order to the oil fields. 

Ross Sterling declared martial law across the oil fields, deploying 1,200 National Guardsmen from the 56th Calvary Brigade to Southeast Texas, led by Brig. Gen. Jacob Wolter, an expert in population control. Gen. Sterling empowered the Rangers to arrest any producers defying orders from Guardsmen to shut down drilling operations.

The deployment of the Rangers was more than enough to enforce the newly issued production limits. Without a single shot fired, Guardsmen secured the largest-known reserve of petroleum in the world at the time. However, this would not last long. Court injunctions issued in response to lawsuits by oil producers found the occupation to be unconstitutional. Therefore, as quickly as they arrived, the National Guardsmen left the area. 

Oil towns would continue to plague Bill Sterling’s time as adjutant general. However, a new foe would soon emanate from Oklahoma. 

Bill Sterling saw his tenure as adjutant general come to a close in 1933. Ross Sterling lost his bid for the Democratic nomination to Miriam Ferguson, and, as a result, the governorship. Though the Rangers began an investigation into claims of ballot stuffing on the part of the Ferguson campaign, Ross Sterling called the investigation off in order to avoid the appearance that he was using the Rangers to influence an election. 

Bill Sterling knew Ferguson’s retaliation for the Ranger investigation into election tampering would be fierce, so he tendered his resignation before she took office. Upon his departure, Sterling’s biennial report to the governor offered some parting guidance about the Rangers’ role in the Texas Military.

“The Ranger service should be taken out of the hands of the adjutant general, who in almost every case is a military man. The military organization of the state has grown to such an extent that the adjutant general should devote his entire time to the military.”

It took another two years for Sterling’s vision for the Rangers to manifest as the force moved from the Texas Military’s control to their new home at the Department of Public Safety. Now part of an official state-sanctioned law enforcement agency, Rangers saw their department grow into a modern investigative force with tools and methodologies at their disposal that their predecessors could only imagine. 

The Rangers left the Texas Military Department, and along with it, they left behind a joint legacy of heroism and the story of Texas’ only Ranger-adjutant general.   

The tombstone of Adjutant General William Sterling

 

Guard cyber teams key asset in cyber defense

Story by Sgt. 1st Class Jon Soucy, National Guard Bureau

ARLINGTON, Va. - National Guard members continue to be an integral element in cyber defense, the Guard's top general said during a recent roundtable discussion at the Pentagon on the cyber mission set.

"When I first joined the National Guard cyber was not part of our vocabulary," said Air Force Gen. Joseph Lengyel, chief of the National Guard Bureau. "Now, it's one of our daily battlegrounds."

Pennsylvania Army National Guard cyber team members monitor computer networks during elections in the state Nov. 5, 2019. Cyber teams from throughout the National Guard have remained a key part of cyber defense, said Guard officials, and have responded to ransomware attacks in Texas and Louisiana and worked in direct support of U.S. Cyber Command. (Photo Credit: Staff Sgt. Zane Craig)
Pennsylvania Army National Guard cyber team members monitor computer networks during elections in the state Nov. 5, 2019. Cyber teams from throughout the National Guard have remained a key part of cyber defense, said Guard officials, and have responded to ransomware attacks in Texas and Louisiana and worked in direct support of U.S. Cyber Command. (Photo Credit: Staff Sgt. Zane Craig)


More than 3,900 troops make up the Guard's cyber element, said Lengyel, adding that includes traditional part-time units as well as full-time units that work directly for U.S. Cyber Command.

"The Air National Guard always provides two [cyber protection teams], and on the Army side, the Army [National Guard] always provides one, that are continuously mobilized and doing duty for U.S. Cyber Command and the cyber mission force," said Lengyel.

Guard cyber teams have also responded in support of local and state authorities, including earlier this year in Texas and Louisiana.

"In May, one county -- Jackson County -- got hit with ransomware," said Army Maj. Gen. Tracy Norris, the adjutant general of the Texas National Guard. "It disrupted county services. People weren't able to transfer property, the police doing a background check weren't able to pull up that information."

County officials realized that a response to the attack was beyond the scope of their information technology staff and looked to the Guard for assistance, said Norris.

"We had people out there within 12 hours to do an assessment on what had happened and to get that county back online," said Norris. "We helped them get to a recovery point where their IT professionals could come in and get the county back to where it could deliver services."

That, it turned out, was just a dress rehearsal. A month later 22 Texas counties were hit with ransomware attacks, and again the Texas Guard was called out.

"Immediately the [Texas] Department of Emergency Management called over to us and we got people on the phone to assess and figure out where to go to start [responding to the attack]," said Norris.

From there, a team of 50 or so Soldiers and Airmen responded to get the networks back online, said Norris, adding it took about two weeks to get everything back to normal.

Jackson County, the county hit in the May attack, was also one of the 22 counties hit in June, but the attackers were quickly stopped.

"They did not get past [the network] firewall," said Norris, adding that was in large part because of measures Guard members had put in place after the earlier attack.

Similar attacks occurred in Louisiana in July. Those attacks affected five parishes -- the Louisiana equivalent to a county -- and 54 schools.

"It was two weeks prior to school [starting for the year]," said Kenneth Donnelly, executive director of the Louisiana Cyber Security Commission. "Mainly it affected the parish school board systems for [grades] K through 12."

Louisiana National Guard cyber teams were called in.

"The governor declared a state of emergency, which allowed us to expand our [response] capability," said Donnelly. "We were able to use those [Guard] assets and were able to build the capability and capacity in Louisiana to get on the ground quickly and recover the parishes' school systems before school started."

The response also mitigated attacks in other parts of Louisiana.

"We were able to prevent seven other parishes from being severely impacted by the ransomware attack," said Donnelly.

That was, in part, because of assistance from the Louisiana Guard.

"This is the new norm," he said. "We currently have ongoing two additional cyberattacks that took place recently and we have the same resources on the ground right now."

Because of that "new norm," cyberattacks are often treated no differently than a hurricane or other large-scale disaster and the Guard is brought in to assist, said Lengyel.

"When they first developed cyber, people thought there really is no domestic mission for a governor to use a cyber force in state capacity," he said. "Now, we're seeing how wrong that could be."

But unlike a natural disaster, Guard cyber teams can be brought in ahead of time to mitigate possible attacks and were key to doing just that during recent elections.

"In 2018 the Guard was on duty in 27 states either monitoring the state.gov networks or on standby in case something happened," said Lengyel.

Plans are already underway for similar support during the 2020 elections.

As part of that, Guard teams would begin by assessing the network for any vulnerabilities, said Army Maj. Gen. Bret D. Daugherty, the adjutant general of the Washington National Guard, which has a large cyber element.

After that, said Daugherty, any vulnerabilities would be addressed.

"This is all side by side with Department of State IT people who do the keyboard entry," he said.

Finally, if needed, a team would then monitor the network.

"We [would] have that team on hand leading up to and during the election to monitor the network for any bad actors who may be trying to hack in, doing whatever we can to keep that from happening," said Daugherty.

If any hacking activity were to occur, it would then be turned over to law enforcement officials, said Lengyel.

"Once we find a crime scene in the cyber domain, we turn it over to law enforcement or call in the FBI," he said.

The Guard's ability to operate in the cyber domain is just another skill set Guard members bring to the fight, whether overseas or at home, Lengyel said.
"It's the role of the men and women of the National Guard to be able to offer these kinds of services to our governors to respond to a domestic event," he said. "Whether it's a hurricane, a fire or a cyber event, it's just another military skill set we can transfer into use."

Airman weathers storm with resiliency

Story by SSgt Briana Larson and TSgt Lynn M. Means, 136th Airlift Wing, TXANG

Staff Sgt. Williams poses for a photo. (US Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Mark Otte)
Staff Sgt. Williams poses for a photo. (US Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Mark Otte)

NAVAL AIR STATION JOINT RESERVE BASE FORT WORTH, Texas -- “Say something.”

“I don’t know what made me make that call,” said Staff Sgt. De’Jon P. Williams, a 136th Airlift Wing photojournalist. “At that moment I told myself to say something. And I did, and I started to get help.”

Williams’ story shows the hope each of us can hold on to when we hit rock bottom, as he has come a long way from that day as a Senior Airman.

“Things had started to crumble,” said Williams. “My car got repossessed, I had just started my first day of school when everyone was called to support the Hurricane Harvey response, and it was then I learned some information in my personal life that tore me apart.”

It wasn’t right away that it all connected, said Williams. He had a mission to do and tried to stay focused. But when it finally hit him, it hit hard.

“It bothered me at the time, but the puzzle pieces hadn’t come together in my head just yet,” said Williams. “I went to cover a medical group that came to help us out in Houston. I don’t know what happened, but my mind just snapped. I lost it – I didn’t know what was going on.”

Williams immediately recognized something was not right, and he needed help.

“I remember flying with the medical group wondering what was going on with myself,” said Williams. “I was in autopilot the whole time, just trying to do my job taking photos. I wasn’t there in the moment – just doing my job with no context in my mind.”

As soon as he returned, he asked his supervisor for help.

“I reached out to Sgt. Overton, and told her I wasn’t doing so well,” said Williams. “I asked to talk to the First Sgt., who then reached out to Ms. Lynn, who was really helpful.”

Kathryn Lynn, the 136th Airlift Wing director of psychological health, was able to connect Williams with the first step in his road to recovery.

“The good thing was that I was proactive when I noticed something wasn’t right with me,” said Williams. “I spent that evening in the hospital. Sgt. Singletary drove me there himself. I knew I wasn’t going to hurt myself, but I couldn’t define this feeling – there were no words for it.”

It was after his initial breaking point when he began to notice small things would trigger him, said Williams. The tiniest things became the biggest stressors because of where he was mentally, as though every other day there was something to mess with him.

“For a couple of months, I only had my motorcycle,” said Williams. “When I was on my bike and it just started raining, those were some of my lowest times. I had to ride through torrential downpours just to get home, hiding under the overpass and waiting for the rain to stop. Sometimes I would sit there and think, ‘Well, if you think you can’t get no lower.’ That bike and I have literally been to hell and back together.”

Then another major event brought his world crashing down.

Staff Sgt. Williams poses for a photo. (US Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Mark Otte)
Staff Sgt. Williams poses for a photo. (US Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Mark Otte)

“My grandmother had two strokes, and without thinking it through, I tried to get as close to home as I can be, which was Phoenix,” said Williams. “But I still had a lease in Texas and had to pay for that lease. I worked and slept at the Phoenix airport and got support from the United Services Organization there. Then I’d make my cot in the corner of the airport and sleep until my shift started the next morning and fly back to Fort Worth for drill. I lived that way for maybe two months.”

But Williams’ support had not ended with that first hospital visit. His mentors include Maj. Theresa Chrystal, the 136th Airlift Wing executive officer, Tech. Sgt. Lynn Means, the non-commissioned officer in charge of Public Affairs, and Tech. Sgt. Kristina Overton, his supervisor.

Williams said a lot of people were aware of his situation and reached out a lot to help him. Because of this, he was able to get counseling sessions every week and had help getting a car. And Maj. Chrystal was there every step of the way with phone calls and text messages.

“Really everyone at some point played a role,” said Williams. “Maj. Chrystal, Sgt. Means, Sgt. Overton – sending encouraging texts and calling, pulling me to the side to see how I’m doing and how they can help. Sometimes I felt singled out, but looking back on it I feel thankful. It was the small things, just knowing that somebody cares.”

The Wingmen who stepped in to help Williams can look back on those days and see how far he has come, attesting to the value of reaching out for help.

“Sgt. Williams is a real-world example of how stepping in and taking care of an Airman can truly change their life,” said Chrystal. “I can’t even explain the joy in my heart when I see the difference in this young man. It’s evident in everything about him that by investing in him and ensuring he had the resources he needed, his life was turned around for the better. It’s what makes me proud to be a leader – to be there to help Airmen make it through those times.”

The struggle doesn’t always end, but Williams found ways to cope, and is once again thriving in his role with the Texas Air National Guard.

“I have my moments even today,” said Williams. “There are still things that I deal with, but I allow myself space to deal with it, and wake up tomorrow with a fresh start. I work out a lot more, I set rules for myself, and I try not to carry burdens and issues.”

Williams has since excelled in a deployed mission, trained the deployed Public Affairs team, and even earned a promotion into the Non-Commissioned Officer corps.

“I am so proud to see how strong and resilient he is,” said Chrystal. “I cannot wait to watch both his life and career as he continues to soar. He is definitely a rescue story in the making!”

Williams looks back at his journey with confidence, thankful for the ones who stepped up, and hoping his story will encourage others to reach out.

“I want other Airmen to know it’s worth it - say something,” said Williams. “Bottling it in isn’t going to do anything but make it worse and you don’t want to find yourself in a position where you feel like you can’t make it out. Just sit with someone, talk to them and let it out for 5 or 10 minutes. It will help. Just say something.”

Texas National Guard veterans inducted into Hall of Honor

Story and Photos by Spc. Miguel Ruiz, 100th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, TXARNG

AUSTIN, Texas – The Texas Military Department inducted three retired veterans into the Hall of Honor, Oct. 27, 2019 at Camp Mabry.

Retired Maj. Gen. Joyce Stevens, retired Col. Timmy Hines and retired Chief Master Sgt. Kevin O’Gorman were recognized for their outstanding and exemplary service to the Texas Military Department during a formal ceremony. 

Mrs. Timmy L. Hines receives an award from Maj. Gen. Tracy Norris on behalf of retired Col. Timmy L. Hines at the Texas Military Department's Hall of Honor induction ceremony at Camp Mabry October 27, 2019. Hines, a Vietnam War veteran, served more than 33 years in the military. Hines also championed equality throughout his career, recruiting the Texas National Guard’s first female aviator and promoted the growth of female aviators at the 149th Aviation Brigade’s flight school. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Miguel Ruiz)
Mrs. Timmy L. Hines receives an award from Maj. Gen. Tracy Norris on behalf of retired Col. Timmy L. Hines at the Texas Military Department's Hall of Honor induction ceremony at Camp Mabry October 27, 2019. Hines, a Vietnam War veteran, served more than 33 years in the military. Hines also championed equality throughout his career, recruiting the Texas National Guard’s first female aviator and promoted the growth of female aviators at the 149th Aviation Brigade’s flight school. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Miguel Ruiz)

Several senior members of the Texas Military Department, including Maj. Gen. Tracy R. Norris, the Adjutant General of Texas, were in attendance.

“These individuals have records that are lengthy and remarkable,” said Norris during the ceremony. “They have spent their careers supporting their fellow service members and pushing the Texas Military Department forward into the future.”

Framed plaques, displaying a photo of each inductee along with a summary of his or her contributions to the Texas Military Department, were unveiled during the ceremony.

“I remember looking at the photos of the Hall of Honor inductees as a junior officer and, though I did not know them, I was inspired by the written accomplishments under each person’s photo,” said Stevens, former Texas Military Department assistant adjutant general. “I like to think that someday a junior leader will see my photo and be inspired to serve and lead our Soldiers well and faithfully.”

Stevens, who was the first female to reach the rank of brigadier general in the Texas Army National Guard in 2006, said that she recognized a responsibility for setting a competent and capable example of leadership to her Soldiers.

“With that promotion, came a knowledge that female Soldiers were looking up to me for inspiration,” said Stevens. “I would advise both female and male Soldiers who aspire to become senior leaders to learn the job you are in as well as the next job. Volunteer for hard work and boldly volunteer for leadership positions.”

The inductees' framed plaques and biographies are set to be permanently enshrined at the Texas Military Forces Museum at Camp Mabry for future generations to admire.

Three National Guard veterans are presented awards during a Texas Military Department Hall of Honor induction ceremony at Camp Mabry October 27, 2019. The TMD's Hall of Honor is an exclusive membership made up of former Texas military service members who positively influenced and brought great credit upon TMD during their tenure of service. Since the HOH was established in 1980, over 100 former service members have had their stories and contributions to TMD displayed permanently in the Texas Military Forces Museum at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Miguel Ruiz)
Three National Guard veterans are presented awards during a Texas Military Department Hall of Honor induction ceremony at Camp Mabry October 27, 2019. The TMD's Hall of Honor is an exclusive membership made up of former Texas military service members who positively influenced and brought great credit upon TMD during their tenure of service. Since the HOH was established in 1980, over 100 former service members have had their stories and contributions to TMD displayed permanently in the Texas Military Forces Museum at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Miguel Ruiz)


“To be remembered and recognized by leadership and my peers as someone that they feel made an impact in our force is a great honor,” said O’Gorman, the former state command chief master sergeant of the Texas Military Department.

The inductees will join over 100 Soldiers and Airmen who have been inducted into the Hall of Honor in the last 38 years.

“Each of these individuals has left a lasting impact on the Texas Military Department. Thank you for the job well done,” said Norris. “We all look forward to their continued service as a motivation for us to strive to be the best we can be, not only for ourselves, but for those that are following in our footsteps.”

Texas Guard Special Forces Soldiers awarded Medals by the Czech Republic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

The Nervous System of Texas Guard Operations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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