Posts in Category: Texas Military Department

Families serving together to help Texas

Story by Master Sgt. John Gately, Texas State Guard

Warrant Officer Hopper and his sons
Left: Pvt. Samuel Hopper, Center: Warrant Officer Hopper, Right: Cpl. Grant Hopper 

The military is no stranger to having many generations of family members serving, from great-grandparents to current service members.  The Texas State Guard is also part of this time-honored tradition.  However, due to the nature of the State Guard, it is more common to see families serving together at the same time than with other military organizations.

Although family members serving together is happening across the State Guard, today’s focus is the T6-Shop. Currently, the T6-shop has four families serving together to support a common goal for the Guard and for the State of Texas.

The Hopper family has three members currently serving in different roles within T6.  Warrant Officer Andy Hopper joined the State Guard on Oct 25, 2014, and is the father of two current troops, Cpl. Grant Hopper who serves on the Radio Operations, and Pvt. Samuel Hopper serves on the Software Testing team for the Readiness Management System (RMS).

When asked what it means to him to serve alongside his two sons, Warrant Officer Hopper stated, “Having the opportunity to serve with my boys in the greatest and most robust state military force in the country is a unique privilege and a pleasure. Throughout Texas history, the backbone of our state military has been families standing together for their rights and their homes. I am so proud to say that the Hoppers stand to serve Texas.”

Always looking for new members to serve in our ranks, one of our newest has hit the ground running with recruitment. Cpl. Tatiana Spence joined the State Guard a little over a month ago, and she has talked her brother, Orrin Spence, into joining the T6 shop as well.  Orrin just left the Texas Army National Guard as a Staff Sergeant after serving 12 years and is one of the Texas Military Department’s webmasters. He will be swearing-in next month. Once Orrin swears in, he will be joining Programming Operations alongside his sister.  She’s not stopping there; Cpl. Spence is now setting her focus on getting her husband to join our ranks.

Did you know that you could join the Texas State Guard at the age of 17? Warrant Officer John Turner did and is swearing in his son on his 17th

Warrant Officer Turner and his son
Left: Warrant Officer John Turner, Right: Luke Turner

birthday. This is not the only child that Warrant Officer Turner has serving in uniform. His second-oldest son was planning to join the State Guard until the United State Army made a better offer. When asked what it is like serving with his son, he replied, “It’s an honor to serve my state and help people when needs arise. It makes you feel good about what you do. As a father it makes me shine with gratitude that my children have that same desire to help others. I’m proud of my young men. It is even more special when we get to serve and build this legacy together.” Warrant Officer John Turner serves in Programming Operations.

Another example from the T6-Shop is Master Sgt. John Gately, who joined the State Guard on July 1, 2010. His son Warrant Officer Jacob Gately followed in his footsteps just a few years later, joining on January 26, 2013. Warrant Officer Gately currently serves in Programming Operations and Master Sgt. Gately is the NCOIC for T6 and the Product Manager of RMS.  
 
These four families have a combined service of well over 50 years in uniform. 
 

Cannot stop the fight: Texas Counterdrug helps take down drug networks in 2021

Story by Master Sgt. Michael Leslie, Texas Joint Counterdrug Task Force

Photo by Master Sgt. Michael Leslie | Texas National Guard Joint Counterdrug Task Force support Red Ribbon Week flying to schools across Texas to help spread the word about the dangers of drug use. 

AUSTIN, Texas – During the past two years, life as we had grown accustomed to has drastically changed. From a global pandemic to several calls for National Guard support, the members of the Texas National Guard Joint Counterdrug Task Force have adjusted and thrived.

When the COVID-19 virus shut the country down, law enforcement agencies had to come up with new ways to detect, interdict and disrupt drug trafficking in the state without operations slowing down.

“One of the first things I did was reach out to our law enforcement partners stating that we would continue to be by their side and assist,” said Lt. Col. Erika Besser, the Texas National Guard Joint Counterdrug Task Force Coordinator. “Continuity of our support is critical. If they are out there, we are out there.

“Sometimes that meant thinking of new and different ways to maintain our support, like working remotely. My preference will always be working side by side because collaboration and interaction are pivotal to successful partnerships, but we had to balance that with safety concerns.”

Members of the Texas Counterdrug Task Force have come up with new ways to stay relevant and fight the threat as they have for more than 30 years.

During 2021, although there were different challenges, service members still supported law enforcement in seizing more than $350 million in drugs, bulk cash, vehicles and property, as well as nearly 4,200 weapons. The increase from 2020 numbers of $290 million and 3,100 weapons, shows that as the environment adapts, so do the techniques of catching the bad guys.

“The last few years have challenged our normal collaboration process to support law enforcement agencies,” said Maj. Robert Anspaugh, Executive Officer for Texas Counterdrug. “But we are used to working across the entire state and found ways to stay engaged, utilizing new tools and skills harnessed by serving in the military, to continue providing excellent support to our partners.”

Another way of increasing the illicit revenue denial was to bring back a capability that had been used in other ways. The Air National Guard RC-26 fixed-wing aircraft had been supporting other missions in Texas and abroad, but in 2021, RC-26 came back home to Counterdrug.

The RC-26 program, along with the Counterdrug Aviation Element of LUH-72 Lakota helicopters, increased support from 570 flight hours in 2020 to 1,130 flight hours which directly supported law enforcement agencies.

“Having the RC-26 program back on Counterdrug orders has allowed us another aerial platform with similar capabilities but can be used in conjunction with each other or separately,” said Besser. “We have been able to expand our support all over the state, in multiple locations at once.”

The adjustments in tactics and capabilities have led to seizures that significantly impacted drug-trafficking organizations in Texas and Mexico.

In north Texas, Counterdrug analysts supported the Drug Enforcement Administration in taking down a methamphetamine ring helping seize nearly 1,600 pounds at a value of more than $16 million and arresting 13 drug-trafficking organization members. Another case resulted in seizing 1,000 pounds of methamphetamine and another seven arrests.

In west Texas, Counterdrug task force members assisted in a $5 million liquid methamphetamine seizure that linked suspects to a previous seizure in Oklahoma. Link chart analysis in a different case resulted in finding nearly 500 pounds of marijuana and 160 pounds of methamphetamine.

In east Texas, the Texas Counterdrug Ground Reconnaissance Detachment supported DEA for weeks as they conducted area observation to gather critical vehicle confirmations, patterns of life and helped identify suspected narcotics supplier locations resulting in the seizure of cocaine, cannabis, bulk cash and weapons.

“Changes in the operational environment affect how drug-trafficking organizations do business,” said Anspaugh. “Working with our law enforcement partners, we must anticipate these changes to stay a step ahead and continue disrupting the flow of drugs into our state and nation.”

Along with analysis, Texas Counterdrug increased their Drug Demand Reduction Outreach program placing personnel in each of the four High-intensity Drug Trafficking Area prevention initiatives leading to an increase of 40% in events. DDRO handed out 300,000 Red Ribbon bracelets in support of the DEA’s Red Ribbon Week honoring fallen agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena and spoke to 9,000 students across the state.

An enduring mission for the Texas Counterdrug Task Force is supporting two Texas ChalleNGe Academy classes each year. During the acclimation phase, service members mentor at-risk youth to get back on the right track.

Texas Counterdrug has a long history of helping law enforcement fight drug trafficking, manufacturing and distribution, and 2021 wasn’t any different. Now that 2022 is here, the program will continue to endure, coming up with innovative ways to face new challenges.

“We will continue to put effort into influencing at the national level, and into growing and evolving in order to have the most effective impact possible,” said Besser. “We have several initiatives in the works, which will benefit not only Counterdrug programs nationally, but also our law enforcement partners across Texas and other states, namely those facing specific challenges associated with the southern border.”

Texas National Guard hosts Egyptian Armed Forces for state partnership summit

Egyptian Delegation
Photo By Sgt. 1st Class Melisa Washington | The Texas National Guard hosted a delegation of senior officers from the Egyptian Armed Forces for the Egypt-Texas International Summit (ETIS) in Texas this past week at the invitation of Texas Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Tracy Norris. The weeklong summit provided a collaborative environment for Texas and Egypt’s senior military leaders to discuss the future of the Egypt-Texas partnership and learn more about each other's respective organizations. The Texas National Guard formally established a partnership with the Arab Republic of Egypt through the National Guard State Partnership Program (SPP) at a signing ceremony in Cairo this past June. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Melisa Washington) 

10.04.2021
Story by Sgt. 1st Class Melisa Washington 
Texas Military Department  

AUSTIN, Texas - The Texas National Guard hosted a delegation of senior officers from the Egyptian Armed Forces for the Egypt-Texas International Summit (ETIS) in Texas this past week at the invitation of Texas Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Tracy Norris.

Texas formally established a partnership with the Arab Republic of Egypt through the National Guard State Partnership Program (SPP) at a signing ceremony in Cairo this past June. The ETIS is the first senior leader summit between the two organizations since the partnership began.

“This weeklong summit provides a collaborative environment for Texas and Egypt’s senior military leaders to discuss the future of the partnership,” said William Duff, Senior Advisor for Political-Military and International Affairs for the Texas Military Department.

During the summit, attendees participated in a two-day conference in Austin, discussing their respective organizations, security challenges, areas of cooperation, and future subject matter expert exchanges.

Areas of emphasis for future exchanges will include the C-130J Super Hercules airlift and F-16 Fighting Falcon multirole fighter operations, AH-64 Apache helicopter flight maneuver and maintenance, cyber defense, logistics, special forces, homeland security response, military support to civilian authorities, and humanitarian and disaster assistance response.

“The exchanges between our militaries will make both our forces stronger, build our interoperability, and diversify our formations,” said Norris. “And these exchanges don’t just benefit Egypt and Texas. They benefit CENTCOM’s strategic objectives and the overall U.S.-Egypt relationship.”

Since June’s signing ceremony, as part of the SPP, Texas And Egypt have already facilitated five subject matter expert exchanges focused on the commanders’ resilience program, cavalry scout tactics, civil disturbance operations, explosive ordnance operations, and marksmanship.

“Conducting five training events in a relatively short time is concrete evidence that the partnership is developing really quick,” said Maj. Gen. Mohamed Fekry, Deputy Education and Training Commander, Egyptian Training Authority.

The summit also provided the opportunity to build upon the longstanding relationship Texas and Egypt already have.

Since 2006, the Texas National Guard has contributed troops to five rotations of the Multinational Force and Observers, an international peacekeeping force in the Sinai peninsula that oversees the terms of the 1979 Camp David peace treaty between Egypt and Israel.

More recently, Texas Guardsmen participated for the second time in Exercise Bright Star, a multilateral Egyptian and U.S.-led multinational exercise designed to enhance regional security and stability by responding to present-day security scenarios.

“Partnership with Texas is an expansion to the strategic partnership with the U.S., a great partnership that lasts over four decades where military and security cooperation are the milestone of the relation between the two countries” said Fekry.

The summit also familiarized Egyptian partners with the TXNG’s facilities and capabilities. The visit included an orientation flight on the Texas National Guard’s newest aircraft, the C-130J and tours of the Texas Air National Guard’s 149th Fighter Wing, the Inter-American Air Forces Academy, and the Texas National Guard Regional Training Institute.

“Texas owns great potentials in all fields and excels in some areas such as [unmanned aerial vehicles], intelligence, education, and supporting their civil community,” said Fekry. “Texas and Egypt have great capabilities and expertise that may help both sides achieve mutual benefits.”

The Texas National Guard has state partnerships with the Czech Republic and Chile, routinely conducting exchanges and joint operations.

“Texas has the most experienced troops we’ve ever seen. In the last several years we’ve contributed to numerous overseas deployments, multilateral training, civil disturbance operations, COVID-19 response, natural disasters, and border support.” said Norris. “The timing is perfect for this partnership, Egypt is getting the best skills we have to offer.”

MG Federico Lopez III Story

MG Frederico


HARLINGEN, Texas – Retired Maj. Gen. Federico Lopez III, the first Hispanic commander-general of the 49th Armored Division, passed away Tuesday, July 6, 2021. Texas Guardsmen came together to honor their brother in arms with full military honors.  Lopez was laid to rest at the Rio Grande Valley State Veterans Cemetery on Wednesday, July 14, 2021. Lopez served with the Texas National Guard for more than 38 years, beginning as a platoon leader with the 4-144th Infantry Regiment starting in February 1963 and retiring in 1998.

Lopez is survived by his wife, Enriqueta "Keta" Lopez, and two daughters, Laura and Melissa.

"My uncle was extremely influential on our family," a member of the Lopez family said. "He taught us to work hard and value service to the nation."

MG Frederico Lopez IIILopez assumed command of the 2nd Brigade of the 49th Armored Division in 1990 and led the division in 1995. Lopez focused his efforts on increasing the quality of training in the force. In a 1997 report with Armor Magazine on the state of the 49th Armored Division, Lopez explained his philosophy:

"Do less better." said Lopez. "Stop trying to do more with less."

This philosophy led to relocating weekend drills away from Texas armories to Fort Knox, Kentucky, where infantry units and armor units would participate in combined drills to take advantage of top-of-the-line simulation technology.

Lopez helped modernize the division by upgrading the division with M2 Bradley Fighting Vehicles and M1A1 Abrams Main Battle Tanks. In addition, thousands of Texas Soldiers deployed under Lopez's command supported peacekeeping efforts in Bosnia and supported efforts in Germany and Australia.

Lopez also mentored partner military leaders through the State Partnership Program. The program was established to developed relationships between state national Guards and allied nations. Texas leaders like Lopez worked together helping prepare the nation to enter the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which occurred in 1999, shortly after Lopez retired.

"Major General Lopez had a monumental impact on the Texas National Guard, said Maj. Gen. Tracy Norris, the Adjutant General of Texas. "His leadership and innovation helped shape our force for the future. We are where we are today because of people like him."

Texas Counterdrug leads the way in the technical field, assists HSI succeed in its mission

Story by Master Sgt. Michael Leslie 
Texas Joint Counterdrug Task Force 

Texas National Guard Joint Counterdrug Task Force communications support member, Staff Sgt. Daniel Pando, works on cutting-edge electronic equipment to support the Homeland Security Investigations Technical Operations Unit catch drug trafficking organizations in El Paso, Texas. Texas Counterdrug has supported federal, state and local law enforcement throughout the state for more than 30 years in the war on drugs.
Texas National Guard Joint Counterdrug Task Force communications support member, Staff Sgt. Daniel Pando, works on cutting-edge electronic equipment to support the Homeland Security Investigations Technical Operations Unit catch drug trafficking organizations in El Paso, Texas. Texas Counterdrug has supported federal, state and local law enforcement throughout the state for more than 30 years in the war on drugs.

EL PASO, Texas – In a world where technological advances have become a part of many people’s everyday life, these Texas National Guard Joint Counterdrug Task Force members must ensure they are ahead of the game, or they will fall behind to the drug trafficking organizations they are trying to help dismantle.

For the past four years, Texas Counterdrug has supported the Technical Operations Unit of Homeland Security Investigations in El Paso and its contribution has paid high dividends.

“The Technical Operations Unit provides HSI components with the most innovative, cutting-edge electronic surveillance equipment and support in furtherance of criminal investigations and national security operations,” said HSI El Paso Group Supervisor Efren Aguilera, who oversees Tech Ops.

The support that Texas Counterdrug members, Army Staff Sgt. Jose Pena and Air Staff Sgt. Daniel Pando, provide for the Tech Ops Unit has no limits.

“They assist with the everyday functions of the Tech Shop that includes fabricating enclosures, function testing and issuing electronic equipment to special agents,” said Aguilera. “They support the office with radio operability functions and assist with surveillance operations. In a nutshell, they provide a wide spectrum of support.”

When Pena and Pando were assigned to the group 3 1/2 and 2 1/2 years ago respectively, they had interest in the mission but were not fully capable – yet.

“The way we were able to learn and become more proficient of the job was due to on-the-job training and exposure to the experience Technical Enforcement Officers have,” said Pena. “We had plenty of hands-on training.”

Now, Pena and Pando are providing essential instruction to agents on proper deployment, use and exploitation of various pieces of covert technical surveillance equipment.

“We pass on our experience to others by informing agents how to utilize equipment properly for their operations,” said Pena. “We also assist them in making key decisions on what specific device is the most adequate pertaining to the related case and environment.”

How they accomplish this support is even more intriguing.

“We have, several times, designed, fabricated and constructed fully customized enclosures utilizing various combinations of Plexiglas, fiberglass, metal, wood, 3D printed parts, customized decals, and paint to fully conceal,” said Pena. “All fabrications and constructions met and exceeded specifications for temperature and humidity.”

The Texas Counterdrug support not only provides HSI with additional technical support, but it allows for licensed HSI officers to return to the operational field.

“They're a force multiplier,” said Aguilera. “HSI El Paso is an extremely busy office and having National Guard support the Tech Ops Unit is a huge benefit. The Tech shop is a small unit with a big mission, so having Pena and Pando as part of the team, has been a relief.”

As an Air Force veteran, Aguilera knows what the service members bring to Tech Ops and beyond.

“In my experience, you can always count on National Guard personnel getting the job done in a timely manner and with minimal guidance,” said Aguilera. “The mission is in a better place with the partnership fostered with the National Guard, not only for Tech Ops, but for the other HSI programmatic areas for which they offer support.”

Tech Ops and Counterdrug must always improve; thinking outside the box to build new products and how they can implement them.

“They are hardworking task force members who go above and beyond, learning new ways to create new products to put in new devices,” said Sgt. 1st Class Gilberto Urbina, a Texas Counterdrug assistant team leader.

These capabilities support HSI, but also several law enforcement agencies in their area ranging from Deming, New Mexico, and reaching far into the Texas plains. They also provide support for nationwide cases.

“Our capabilities within Tech Ops would include support to the whole HSI El Paso area of responsibility with specialty technical equipment for HSI cases,” said Pando. “As well, we assist Border Patrol and the Texas Department of Public Safety with equipment.”

The task force members are not content where they are now, Pena and Pando want to keep training and moving forward to support HSI even more.

“We want more advanced training that benefits the members,” said Urbina. “For example, we’d like high-voltage training and media exploitation devices.”

Law enforcement agencies throughout the state have witnessed the expertise, commitment and dedication that the Counterdrug task force members have brought to their offices for more than 30 years.

“I respect the professionalism of the National Guard personnel,” said Aguilera. “I look forward to the continued partnership with Counterdrug.”

It is clear that the HSI Tech Ops Unit is one of the best in the country and Staff Sergeants Pena and Pando have had a crucial role in that success.

“Nationwide, HSI El Paso consistently ranks among the top in overall enforcement statistics,” said Aguilera. “These are the successes we share with our partner agencies to include the National Guard.”

TXSG Colonel retires after 45 years of service

By 1LT Johnathan Winston, Texas State Guard

AUSTIN, Texas –  Colonel John Adams has retired after 16 years of service to the Texas State Guard and 45 total years of uniformed service.  His retirement ceremony took place on October 24, 2020 at Camp Mabry. 

Adams most recently served as the Texas State Guard’s senior personnel officer from 2016 to 2020, and he is recognized as one of the most important figures in the Guard’s ongoing transformation and professionalization.

Maj. Gen. Robert Bodisch, Commanding General of the Texas State Guard, praised Adams’ service to Texas and the United States during his speech at the ceremony.  

Bodisch used the words “leadership, integrity, and dedication” to describe Adams, a man whom he said fits the definition of being a “real hero” after a lengthy and storied career.

Adams’ uniformed service began in 1966, when he enlisted in the U.S. Army. Adams served on a 19 month combat tour in Vietnam.   During his tour, he received a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart, among other awards.

Adams then returned to Texas, completed studies at Sam Houston State University, and resumed his Army service as a Second Lieutenant in 1973.  He went on to serve as an active duty helicopter pilot, followed by multiple senior level staff and leadership positions in the Army Reserve.  

In October 2000, Adams volunteered for service as the military assistant to the political advisor for the commander of Allied forces in Kosovo.

His dedication and thoroughness were evident throughout the assignment- culminating in successful negotiations to win the release of six Serbian hostages.

Adams brought his pedigree for excellence into the Texas State Guard, which he joined in 2004 after leaving the Army Reserve.  

Whether he was planning and coordinating deployments for hurricanes, or streamlining awards and promotions, Adams was known to members of the TXSG community as the consummate professional- and as an individual who inspired confidence and respect.

“You have served your state and your country well and we owe you a huge debt of gratitude,” Bodisch said in his closing remarks.  “You might retire, but you will always be part of the family.”

More information about joining the TXSG can be found at https://tmd.texas.gov/state-guard.

A Message to the Force from the Joint Chiefs of Staff

 
This message is sent on behalf of the Joint Chiefs of Staff:
 
The American people have trusted the Armed Forces of the United States to protect them and our Constitution for almost 250 years. As we have done throughout our history, the U.S. military will obey lawful orders from civilian leadership, support civil authorities to protect lives and property, ensure public safety in accordance with the law, and remain fully committed to protecting and defending the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.
 
The violent riot in Washington, D.C. on January 6, 2021 was a direct assault on the U.S. Congress, the Capitol building, and our Constitutional process. We mourn the deaths of the two Capitol policemen and others connected to these unprecedented events.
 
We witnessed actions inside the Capitol building that were inconsistent with the rule of law. The rights of freedom of speech and assembly do not give anyone the right to resort to violence, sedition and insurrection.
 
As Service Members, we must embody the values and ideals of the Nation. We support and defend the Constitution. Any act to disrupt the Constitutional process is not only against our traditions, values, and oath; it is against the law.
 
On January 20, 2021, in accordance with the Constitution, confirmed by the states and the courts, and certified by Congress, President-elect Biden will be inaugurated and will become our 46th Commander in Chief.
 
To our men and women deployed and at home, safeguarding our country—stay ready, keep your eyes on the horizon, and remain focused on the mission. We honor your continued service in defense of every American.
 
//original signed//

Texas Guardsmen serve as part of the 54th Security Forces Assistance Brigade

By Charles E. Spirtos, Texas Military Department Public Affairs

AUSTIN, Texas – The Texas National Guard remains the premier state fighting force, relevant to provide combat ready forces to the Department of Defense, in part because of its diversity in force strength. The Texas Guard contains units rarely found in other states, thus enhancing its war fighting assets.

The 4th battalion of the 54th Security Forces Assistance Brigade is one of these unique units. The 54th SFAB was constituted in March 2020 and is comprised of units from Texas, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Florida, and Georgia. While the other SFAB units in the Army are comprised of active component Soldiers, the 54th is exclusively made up of units from the National Guard.

Security Force Assistance Brigades are specialized units with the core mission to conduct training, advising, assisting, enabling and accompanying operations with allied and partner nations. These units provide advice and education to partner nations as they seek to combat security threats in their area of operation. SFABs are intended to reduce the burden of such advising-based missions on conventionally-organized Brigade Combat Teams, allowing BCTs to focus on fighting near-peer threats.

Soldiers in SFABs are highly trained, and among the top tactical leaders in the Army. Their work strengthens the defense infrastructures of allies and partners, while supporting American security objectives. SFABs are also leveraged to provide maximum support to the combatant commanders' warfighting needs.

“The whole intent of having a Security Forces Assistance Brigade is to provide assistance to our partner nations and to foreign security forces to free up Brigade Combat Teams to concentrate on multi-domain operations and large scale ground combat operations,” said Col. Jeff Hackett, commander of the 54th SFAB.

In Texas, the 4th battalion contains 39 Soldiers in 7 decentralized advisory teams. All Soldiers on this mission are either senior non-commissioned officers or commissioned officers who have received training in foreign weapon systems. The Texas Guardsmen attached to this mission maintain maximum flexibility to adapt to various missions at the request of the combatant commanders.

SFAB’s maintain a wide mission set in order to best advise foreign militaries. In terms of training, they provide education on basic Soldier skills, artillery proficiency and integration, and medical training. They also serve to prepare the partner nations on deployment of particular weapon systems, and help in the development of standard operating procedures to be enable maximum performance of the foreign militaries.

Lt. Col. Joshua J. Pritchett, commander of the 4-54th, said that Texas advisors are consummate professionals who exhibit discipline, maturity, discretion, empathy, and patience. These traits help the Soldiers to understand the human element in others, which enables the advising process.

“You have to be trusted to operate autonomously and to advise foreign military leaders,” said Maj. Robert Anspaugh. Through their dedication and professionalism, the Texas Guardsmen serving as part of the 54th SFAB are contributing to multilateral security cooperation efforts which promote peace throughout the world.

Enlisted leadership regards 136AW Citizen Airmen's input

Story by A1C Laura Weaver, Texas Air National Guard

NAVAL AIR STATION JOINT RESERVE BASE FORT WORTH, Texas - Chief Master Sgt. Michael Cornitius, Texas Military Department Command Senior Enlisted Leader, visited 136th Airlift Wing, Texas Air National Guard Airmen Nov. 14-15, 2020.

During his visit, he met and engaged with Citizen Airmen directly about their role in the Air National Guard, listened to their feedback, and shared state leadership’s appreciation for their efforts. 

Chief Master Sgt. Michael Cornitius, Texas Military Department Command Senior Enlisted Leader, speaks to 136th Airlift Wing Citizen Airmen at Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth, Texas, Nov. 14, 2020. Cornitius visited the 136th and engaged with enlisted Airmen directly to provide information from state leadership and listen to feedback from unit level Airmen. (Texas Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. De’Jon Williams)
Chief Master Sgt. Michael Cornitius, Texas Military Department Command Senior Enlisted Leader, speaks to 136th Airlift Wing Citizen Airmen at Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth, Texas, Nov. 14, 2020. Cornitius visited the 136th and engaged with enlisted Airmen directly to provide information from state leadership and listen to feedback from unit level Airmen. (Texas Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. De’Jon Williams)


“The main goal for me is getting an opportunity to have that touchpoint with the wing, being able to really talk to the Airmen and understand how we can support them better in the decisions that we make,” said Cornitius.

Cornitius assists the Adjutant General in assuring the readiness, training and development of more than 19,000 enlisted Army and Air personnel in the Texas Guard and State Guard.

At the 136th, the chief visited with multiple units and attended a variety of meetings with junior and senior enlisted members where he recognized and coined standout Airmen for their exceptional performance.

“Texas has the largest and the best guard force in the nation,” said Cornitius. “We want to do more, we want to give more, and we want to help more. For us as an organization, and in particular at the 136th, we want to provide more opportunities for the wing to make sure that everyone has an opportunity to do the job that they want to do and that they’re happy with doing it.”

Cornitius says that by interfacing with Citizen Airmen in the field, he is able to verbalize state initiatives and provide a different perspective to help them understand how their roles support the force as a whole.

“Everyone at the 136th is doing a great job,” said Cornitius. “Keep doing what you’re doing. Continue to lead. Continue to think about tomorrow. Set your long-term goals, and then work toward them through your short-terms goals which will help you in your career.”

Cornitius originally hails from Galveston, Texas, and is in his 33rd year of military service.

Texas Counterdrug and DEA kickoff Red Ribbon Week in highflying fashion

Story by MSG Michael Leslie, Texas Joint Counterdrug Task Force

AUSTIN, Texas – The Texas National Guard Joint Counterdrug Task Force is continuing to provide substance use awareness and prevention efforts to youth throughout the year, but during the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Red Ribbon Week, they raise the bar, literally.

Counterdrug flew a military LUH-72 Lakota helicopter with DEA agents and a brand new eagle mascot to two Central Texas schools to kickoff Red Ribbon Week to spread substance use awareness and prevention.

“It was an amazing event and it is so important for young students to receive drug free messages,” said Amber Newby a project coordinator for the Blanco Coalition of Awareness, Prevention and Treatment of Substance Use. “The earlier they learn and the more often they hear the message and get the education, the more likely that it will sink in.”

For some schools, relaying a drug free message to younger students can be a struggle, but with partnerships of the DEA, the National Guard Counterdrug Program, the Blanco CoAPT, and Blanco and Bowie Elementary schools, the message was high-impact and well received.

“We loved seeing all of our student's reactions to the helicopter, the unity in all of the forces, and the message of the presentation,” said Blanco Elementary counselor Mindy Lay. “As the school counselor, delivering appropriate and effective messages for Red Ribbon Week can sometimes be a struggle - but this year, I think our campus nailed it!”

Counterdrug even debuted their very own mascot, Enney the Eagle, named in honor of one of the program’s first leaders who worked to create the National Guard’s law enforcement support program more than 30 years ago.

“We thought the eagle mascot was one of the best parts of the Red Ribbon event,” said Selena Dillon, a student at Bowie Elementary School in San Marcos, Texas. “We really loved the eagle, and continued to talk about it afterwards.”

The whole purpose of the event was for DEA to explain how Red Ribbon Week began and highlight substance use awareness with the ultimate goal of prevention, as students get older and possibly subjected to drugs.

“The DEA talks about the history of how Red Ribbon was started,” said Sgt. Dillon, “but the students also learn about the wide variety of dangerous drugs, to include prescription drugs, alcohol and the dangers of underage drinking, and tobacco and vapes.”

The DEA began the Red Ribbon Week initiative to honor a fallen undercover agent, Enrique “Kiki” Camarena, when a drug cartel kidnapped, tortured and murdered him in Mexico in 1985.

“The DEA's substance abuse message was powerful and very age appropriate,” said Lay. “It was definitely an experience that many of us will not forget!”

Many students talked about wanting to join the military, so the Red Ribbon message showed how their choices could affect their futures.

“I want to be a Marine Corps pilot, study aerospace engineering at the University of Texas, and go on to be an astronaut,” said Dillon. “The DEA agents talked about how drugs will mess up children career goals.”

Reaching out to students at a young age is critical for developing better habits and teaching better decision making as they grow.

“I think that kids sometimes have a difficult time think ahead about how a bad decision now can have long term bad consequences down the road,” said Sgt. Blake Dillon, a Texas National Guard Joint Counterdrug Task Force Drug Demand Reduction Outreach operator. “This is where we were able to talk to the students about how important it is to remain drug free if they wish to pursue these careers.”

A key focus for the Texas Military Department is building partnerships between state, local and federal civil authorities to better serve the Texas community.

“This is where our program, DDRO, is able to have one of the biggest impacts, to facilitate and coordinate bring these partnerships together,” said Sgt. Dillon. “I think that the partnership between these organizations will have a lasting impact of drug prevention in the community.”

Being in a small city, word spreads fast and many were talking what they saw and what they heard, even if they were not there.

“The impact of this event was definitely greater than just with those present at Blanco Elementary School,” said Lay. “This surprise event has stirred some good discussions in our community.”

At Bowie Elementary in San Marcos, a special reunion happened when Sgt. Dillon arrived in style with his daughter, a student at the school, ready to greet him with open arms.

“I have been in the military for a while,” said Dillon, “and never in my wildest dreams did I ever think that I would have the type of influence that I would to have a helicopter go to my daughter’s school and have her watch me get off the helicopter.

“It has a positive influence on my daughter, which in turn allows her to grow into a leader among her pears and speak out and spread the message that drugs are not okay.”