Posts in Category: Texas Military Department

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. 

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

Story by: Brandon Jones
Texas Military Department Public Affairs

Sgt. Maj. Imken Photo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

136 SF gains operational experience at Ramstein

Story by: Senior Airman Bryan Swink

Posted: 06-20-2019

Photo By Senior Airman Bryan Swink | Tech. Sgt. Ashley Davin, 136th Security Forces Squadron defender, conducts a random vehicle search on Ramstein Air Base, Germany just before midnight June, 18, 2019. Davin and 33 other Airmen from the Texas Air National Guard are embedded with the local security forces units and German polizei to gain first-hand experience performing security forces duties while on an active duty installation. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Bryan Swink)
Photo By Senior Airman Bryan Swink | Tech. Sgt. Ashley Davin, 136th Security Forces Squadron defender, conducts a random vehicle search on Ramstein Air Base, Germany just before midnight June 18, 2019. Davin and 33 other Airmen from the Texas Air National Guard are embedded with the local security forces units and German Polizei to gain first-hand experience performing security forces duties while on an active-duty installation. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Bryan Swink) 

Training is the focus for 34 Airmen from the 136th Security Forces Squadron who embedded with the local security forces units at Ramstein Air Base, Germany June 15, 2019.

The Texas Air National Guard Airmen will be in-country working hand-in-hand with their active-duty counterparts and local German polizei gaining real-world experience at one of the largest and busiest U.S. Air Force installations in the world.

“This is an incredible opportunity we have for the Airmen to get a chance to put into practice many aspects of our career field we aren’t able to do on a constant basis while at home station,” said Senior Master Sgt. Craig Alonzo, 136 SFS operations superintendent. “There is only so much we can do at (Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth) since it is a Navy-led installation. This gives our Airmen an opportunity to gain first-hand experience with the host nation and active-duty Air Force to put their training into practice.”

Security Forces personnel are the Air Force's first line of defense and it is their job to maintain the rule of law on all Air Force bases and installations, according to af.mil.

The Guardsmen will be conducting various duties within the security forces career field, such as working sentry at installation gates, performing patrols and perimeter checks around the installation and conducting law enforcement practices around the base and local community.

Operating in a real-world environment is a first for many of the security forces Airmen who have only been in the career field for a short time.

“We occasionally assist with the Navy at our gate at (NAS JRB Fort Worth), but I’ve done that twice in the three years I’ve been with the unit,” said Senior Airman Preston Tipton, 136 SFS defender. “This is first time I’ve actually put my training and knowledge to the test in a true operational environment.”

The group is divided between two security forces units, the 86 SFS which services RAB and the 569th U.S. Forces Police Squadron which services the military housing community at Vogelweh Military Complex. Each Airmen is assigned to one of three eight-hour shifts at his or her specific location.

RAB serves as headquarters for U.S. Air Forces in Europe and is also a North Atlantic Treaty Organization installation. It’s in the German state of Rheinland-Palatinate and is part of the Kaiserslautern Military Community. In total, the KMC is comprised of 13,000 military members, 9,000 Department of Defense civilians, and their more than 25,000 family members. The KMC also employs more than 6,000 host nationals. When combined with military retirees and their dependents, the KMC has a population of more than 54,000 American citizens, making it the largest concentration of Americans outside the United States.

36th Infantry Division completes Warfighter

Story by: Staff Sgt. Michael Giles

Posted: 06-19-2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Story by: Staff Sgt. Melisa Washington

Posted: 5-16-2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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