Posts in Category: Texas Military Department

The 149th Fighter Wing Gunfighters compete in TMD’s Best Warrior Competition

Story by Tech. Sgt. Augustin Salazar, 149th Fighter Winger Public Affairs, Texas Air National Guard

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO- LACKLAND, Texas -Three airmen assigned to The 149th Fighter Wing participated in the Texas Military Department 2020 Best Warrior Competition at Camp Swift in Bastrop, Texas March 4-8, 2020.

Staff Sgt. Juan Garcia, Staff Sgt. Derek Guedes and Senior Airman Shara Lewis, all assigned to the 149th Fighter Wing, all took on the annual four-day challenge designed to test tactical and technical expertise through scored events.

One of the events the competitors must complete is a water survival test. The water survival test is a 125 yard swim in full uniform, and then they must tread water for ten minutes.

“I would say the water survival test was the most challenging part," said Lewis. "It caught most people by surprise because we hear a 125 yard swim, and most people think, 'I can do that, I do that in the pool all the time. But when you’re in uniform and combat boots, the boots fill up with water, and they start sinking you real quick surprise water and sink you real quick.”

The purpose of the event is to build camaraderie and strengthen inter-agency relationships among Texas Guardsmen. With all of the members running the competition against one another, it may not seem like an excellent team-building event. Still, the competitors often help each other and cheer each other on during the challenges.

"I have learned a lot from my roommate," said Lewis. "Staff Sgt. Guevara, she has taught me a lot since I got here. She is awesome."

Bonds like the one between Lewis and Guevara are beneficial to the Texas Military Department as a whole during natural disasters like hurricane Harvey in 2017. During hurricane recovery missions, the Army and Air Guard often deploy together.

"The event is important because not only are they practicing their warrior skills, but they are also learning how to work with each other." Said Senior Master Sgt. Juan Flores, 149th Security Forces Squadron superintendent.
"We work hand in hand with the Army quite a bit, whether that be in natural disasters or the border mission. So it is important that we learn to work with them to learn how to do it well."

In total, 31 competitors participated in this year’s TMDBWC, including military members from the Czech Republic and Chile who are both partners of the Texas military under the State Partnership Program.
The competition gives all parties involved an opportunity to work with and learn from each other.

"The Chileans are great people," said Garcia. "I've been able to talk to them and become good friends with them. I was even able to help one of them learn how to disassemble and reassemble the Mark 19 Machine Gun because I speak Spanish. It felt really good to teach someone else and he was super appreciative."

The winners of this year’s Best Warrior Competition will be named and honored at a banquet in April. Winners from the Army National Guard will continue to represent Texas in the regional and national Best Warrior competitions later this year.

Governor Abbott Reappoints Norris As Adjutant General of Texas

Press Release Courtesy of the Office of Governor Greg Abbott

February 27, 2020

Governor Greg Abbott has reappointed Major General Tracy Norris as the Adjutant General of Texas. The adjutant general is commander of the Soldiers and Airmen of the Texas Military Department, and reports directly to the Governor in matters pertaining to the Texas Army National Guard, Texas Air National Guard and Texas State Guard. General Norris is the first female to be appointed Adjutant General of Texas.  Major General Tracy R. Norris

“It is a distinct honor to reappoint Major General Tracy Norris as Adjutant General of Texas,” said Governor Abbott. “General Norris has faithfully served the people of Texas and continues to make great strides in the modernization of the Army and Air Force, while increasing the capacities of the Texas State Guard. Her dedication and expertise has guided Texas’ response to challenges ranging from natural disasters to cybersecurity threats. I am grateful for General Norris’ partnership and I am confident she will continue to serve Texas with utmost integrity.”

Major General Tracy Norris of Austin, currently serves as the 52nd Adjutant General of Texas and previously served as the Deputy Adjutant General for Army and as Director of Construction and Facilities Management for the Texas Military Department. She also served as commander of the 176th Engineer Brigade and as Chief of Staff of the 36th Infantry Division; responsible for oversight of command and control throughout nine southern provinces of Iraq in 2010.

During her tenure as the Adjutant General of Texas, the Texas Military Department has responded to multiple natural disasters both in Texas and other states, to include assisting in the recovery of several major cyberattacks. Additionally, under her command the state has continued to prepare and execute an aggressive mobilization schedule while maintaining positive relationships across the state. She continues to focus on the modernization of the Army and Air Force while increasing the capacities of the Texas State Guard. As the largest National Guard in the country, General Norris' Texas Army National Guard's Recruiting and Retention Battalion was recognized as being the leader in the nation for Guard recruiting efforts.

Additionally, General Norris has had the privilege of serving the Army National Guard (ARNG) in Georgia, Florida, Massachusetts, and at the National Guard Bureau in Washington D.C. She served the NGB as a program manager and executive officer, overseeing the Environmental Division; National Guard Range & Training Lands Division; and as Chief of the Training Facilities Team under the Training Support Branch of the ARNG.

During her almost 35-year career, she has earned several decorations and awards including the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal (with four oak leaf clusters), the Army Commendation Medal (with four oak leaf clusters), Iraq Campaign Medal (with 2 oak leaf clusters), and Humanitarian Service Medal for service during Hurricane Katrina and Rita. General Norris is also a recipient of the Department of State Franklin Award as well as the Army Engineer Association Bronze order of the de Fleury Medal.

General Norris earned a commission after completing the Reserve Officer Training Corps program at Florida State University, graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Anthropology and a Master of Science in Urban and Regional Planning. Additionally, General Norris received a Master in Strategic Studies from the United States Army War College and a Master of Business Administration from the McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin.

Sgt. Alvarado’s Journey to becoming a Non-Commissioned Officer

Story by Captain Leyda Ocasio-Kanzler, Public Affairs Officer,  Joint Task Force - Guardian Support

Sgt. Jeffrey Alvarado, intelligence analyst with Team Laredo has his specialist rank removed by Capt. Yihte Ban, Alpha Company 636 Military Intelligence Company Commander in Laredo, Texas, Dec 16, 2019. Entering into the NCO Corps is a memorable promotion as it marks the era of a new beginning of responsibility. (Texas Army National Guard photo by Capt. Leyda Ocasio-Kanzler)
Sgt. Jeffrey Alvarado, an intelligence analyst with Team Laredo has his specialist rank removed by Capt. Yihte Ban, Alpha Company 636 Military Intelligence Company Commander in Laredo, Texas, Dec 16, 2019. Entering into the NCO Corps is a memorable promotion as it marks the era of a new beginning of responsibility. (Texas Army National Guard photo by Capt. Leyda Ocasio-Kanzler)

LAREDO, Texas- Sgt. Jeffrey Alvarado joined the Texas Army National Guard at the rank of Specialist, having completed his Basic Leadership Course while on active duty. The journey to become a Non-Commissioned Officer is a distinguished honor to take. For Alvarado, it was one that he aspired to complete. Alvarado started his journey by signing an eight-year contract with the active duty component. Later, he decided to switch over to the National Guard to finish out his contract with the military. However, since the National Guard offers incentives such as extra college money for his children and a signing bonus, he offered to sign an additional six-year contract with the National Guard to extend his military service.

Within four months of integration into the Texas Army National Guard, Alvarado was offered an opportunity to join Joint Task Force-Guardian Support as an intelligence analyst supporting U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s operations in Laredo, Texas. Alvarado decided to accept the position and relocated to Laredo, Texas. “Now I’m happy, because I actually enjoy it here,” said Alvarado. “I like my job, I enjoy what I’m doing, I like the town, I like the people, I like everything about it.” Alvarado’s previous experience with military intelligence during his active duty service has made him an incredible asset to Team Laredo.

Marshall Taylor, an intelligence research specialist for CBP, said “Sgt. Alvarado has been crucial in identifying multiple persons and places of interest which are suspected of belonging to criminal organizations that have ties to major drug cartels.” Being on this mission has allowed Alvarado to not only expand his knowledge within his military career, but to put his skills into action. His collaboration with CBP has further developed the mission of securing our southwest border.

Marshall goes on to give recognition to the countless hours that Alvarado has dedicated to assisting Customs and Border Protection in combating the Transnational Criminal Organizations operating within the 177 miles of the Laredo sector area of operations. He states that “Sgt. Alvarado’s go-getting attitude and ability to solve complex problems makes him an intelligence analyst any unit would be proud to showcase.” Laredo has become a place of new beginnings for Alvarado, who upon completion of his military contract is aiming to pursue a career within the Laredo Police Department.

The National Guard Soldiers deployed to the border are an active force in working to alleviate the humanitarian crisis on our border while simultaneously ensuring it is more secure. The National Guard continues to be a support to CBP, developing a partnership with them in order to create a strong force that remains ready and willing to serve their state and nation.

Army Commissions New Physician Assistants

Story by Andrew R. Smith, Texas Military Department Public Affairs

Fort Hood, Texas – On January 31, 2020, Class 17-3 graduated the Army’s Interservice Physician Assistant program at the Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center, welcoming four new physician assistants into the Army.

January 31, 2020 Soldiers from Interservice Physician Assistant Program class I7-3 graduate during a ceremony held at the Caral R. Darnall Medical Center. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Andrew R. Smith/Released)
January 31, 2020 Soldiers from Interservice Physician Assistant Program class I7-3 graduate during a ceremony held at the Caral R. Darnall Medical Center. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Andrew R. Smith/Released)

The graduating Soldiers were recognized for completing their postgraduate studies and earning the title of physician assistant (PA).  Three of the four Soldiers also earned their commission as Army officers upon completing the course. Among the attendees were unit members and family members of the graduates, as well as medical professionals who had worked alongside the students to provide training and education.  

For one of the graduates this event was the culmination of years of work and the fulfillment of a long-term life goal. 

“I always wanted a medical career.  I was commissioned as an engineer but I had a great relationship with the battalion PA in my last unit,” said Capt. Adam Todd. “She helped the unit immensely by evaluating running related injuries and physical routines.  She made a suggestion to the battalion command that the intensity of runs be reduced and injuries in the unit decreased sharply.  That ability to have influence on the battalion commander and the ability to help Soldiers really inspired me.”

To become a physician assistant, students must pass classes in anatomy, physiology, pathology, diagnosis, treatment, disease processes, communication and patient assessment.  This rigorous coursework includes weekly tests and many hours of research and writing outside of class.  Fortunately, the students were in the hands of very capable instructors— some of who had taken the same path and gone through the same course of study.

Guest Speaker Teresa Walters, an Army veteran of 20 years, as well as a graduate of the Army’s Interservice Physician Assistant program provided the graduates a few words of wisdom and insight.

“I always tried to interject life lessons into what I was teaching, the method I use is humor.  It really opens the students up and I feel like it gets them to trust you more,” she said.  “I also tried to make myself as available as possible for any questions they had, be it classes or life in general. I let them know the importance of being approachable as a PA.”

When asked about how it felt to be remembered fondly by the students and asked to return and speak at their graduation Walters said, “I was honored when they asked me to come back and speak at their graduation.  I taught them almost two and a half years ago and it validated the work I did and what I taught them, and to me showed that I made a difference.  It meant a lot that they remembered all of that, and I can’t wait to see what they do.” 

With assignments in hand, the students will report to field units where they can begin to put their training and education to use by serving and safeguarding Soldiers.

The Army officially began its physician assistant program in 1971 at the Medical Field Services School in Fort Sam Houston, in San Antonio, Texas.  The roots of the program date back to World War II, when a fast-track training for medical doctors was implemented to assist in the war effort. In today’s Army, a physician assistant performs most of the duties of a healthcare provider on a battalion level, providing localized and immediate care to soldiers wherever they may be.

Congresswoman Kay Granger Visits Southern Border

Story by Texas Military Department Public Affairs Office

EL PASO, Texas- Members of the Texas Military Department hosted a congressional visit to the El Paso area of the Texas-Mexico border on November 22, 2019.  There, Congresswoman Kay Granger (TX-12) met with the Adjutant General of Texas, Maj. Gen. Tracy R. Norris, and received an overview of the Joint Task Force Guardian Support mission, currently led by the United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Congresswoman Granger also visited with troops currently assigned to Joint Task Force Guardian Support. 

The Texas Army National Guard began their partnership with CBP beginning in 1989, with the start of the Texas Joint Counter Drug Task Force.  Throughout the years, Texas Soldiers and Airmen have operated in support roles to enhance border security. A 30 year mission of continuous sustainment has evolved from the control of drug infiltration to the United States, to logistical and intelligence operations along the southwest border.    

Currently, Joint Task Force Guardian Support is comprised of Soldiers and Airmen from more than 12 states.  Their mission is to operate in a supportive role which allows CBP agents to return back to enforcement duties and the administration of immigration law. Operations performed by the National Guard include aerial support, motor vehicle maintenance, transportation, detection and intelligence analysis and logistical support, among other capabilities. 

EL PASO, Texas -- U.S. Border Patrol Agent in Charge Walter Slosar gives a guided aerial tour of the U.S. border to Rep. Kay Granger, the congresswoman from Texas District 12 and ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee, and the Adjutant General of Texas, Maj. Gen. Tracy Norris, during her congressional visit to the area, Nov. 22, 2019. The delegation traveled by a Texas Army National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk from El Paso through Monuments I and III to the U.S. Border Patrol's Santa Teresa Station in Sunland Park, New Mexico. At the station, Rep. Granger, Maj. Gen. Norris, U.S. Army Budget Liaison Maj. Mark Bedrin, House Appropriations Committee Professional Staff Homeland Minority Clerk Dena Baron and Communications Director Sarah Flaim, met with CBP personnel and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers representatives to further discuss the state of the border, specifically in their sector. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Christina Clardy)
EL PASO, Texas -- U.S. Border Patrol Agent in Charge Walter Slosar gives a guided aerial tour of the U.S. border to Rep. Kay Granger, the congresswoman from Texas District 12 and ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee, and the Adjutant General of Texas, Maj. Gen. Tracy Norris, during her congressional visit to the area, Nov. 22, 2019. The delegation traveled by a Texas Army National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk from El Paso through Monuments I and III to the U.S. Border Patrol's Santa Teresa Station in Sunland Park, New Mexico. At the station, Rep. Granger, Maj. Gen. Norris, U.S. Army Budget Liaison Maj. Mark Bedrin, House Appropriations Committee Professional Staff Homeland Minority Clerk Dena Baron and Communications Director Sarah Flaim, met with CBP personnel and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers representatives to further discuss the state of the border, specifically in their sector. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc.
Christina Clardy)

The National Guard aerial support function has been vital to assisting federal agents in the field with monitoring migrants. The National Guard also assists with aerial rescues. Due to the continuous support of the National Guard, CBP has been able to enhance its security efforts along the southwest border.  National Guard ground support is comprised of Soldiers and Airmen providing motor vehicle maintenance support, thus increasing the roadside capabilities within the CBP force.  With the support of Congresswoman Granger, returning agents to enforcement duties has become a more obtainable goal for CBP. 

Congresswoman Granger is no stranger to the Texas National Guard. Throughout her career, she has worked to prioritize federal funding for concurrent military modernization efforts in order to keep the National Guard at par with the active component.  In 2017, as the Chairwoman of the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee, Rep. Granger oversaw the appropriation of eight C-130J Super Hercules aircraft for the Air National Guard.  This marked the first time that the National Guard had received new C-130J models since 2005.

“Modernized air assets provide a stronger future for aerial delivery support and make the unit more competitive for additional missions,” said Maj. Gen. Dawn Ferrell, Deputy Adjutant General for Air, Texas Military Department. “If the 136th Airlift Wing receives C-130J models, it will extend the unit's aircraft lifespan significantly over the current C-130H model.  With its increased cargo capacity and improved performance characteristics, the C-130J would enhance the wing's operational capabilities to better serve Texas and the nation.”

Congresswoman Granger’s visit to the current border mission, Joint Task Force-Operation Guardian Support, was an opportunity to highlight her focus on domestic response strategy. It also allowed her to demonstrate her continuous bipartisan support of both the Guard and the citizens of Texas.

“Her support has ensured the UH-72 Lakota’s availability for domestic support missions, to include hurricane response, wildfire suppression and border operations,” said Brig. Gen. Thomas Suelzer, Director of Joint Staff, Texas Military Department.

As a voice for the National Guard, Ms. Granger was successful in the critical fight for maintaining AH-64 Apaches and Infantry Brigade Combat Teams within the National Guard, and has worked tirelessly to ensure the National Guard’s operational readiness is maintained.  When force structure conversations take place between the Active Duty and the Guard, the Texas Delegation looks to her for her leadership in defense related issues.  Ms. Granger has worked tirelessly to remain educated on the Guard issues that affect her district, the Texas Guard and the Guard’s 54 states and territories.

U.S. Border Patrol Agent in Charge Walter Slosar gives a guided aerial tour of the U.S. border to Rep. Kay Granger, the congresswoman from Texas District 12 and ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee, and the Adjutant General of Texas, Maj. Gen. Tracy Norris, during her congressional visit to the area, Nov. 22, 2019. The delegation traveled by a Texas Army National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk from El Paso through Monuments I and III to the U.S. Border Patrol's Santa Teresa Station in Sunland Park, New Mexico. At the station, Rep. Granger, Maj. Gen. Norris, U.S. Army Budget Liaison Maj. Mark Bedrin, House Appropriations Committee Professional Staff Homeland Minority Clerk Dena Baron and Communications Director Sarah Flaim, met with CBP personnel and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers representatives to further discuss the state of the border, specifically in their sector. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Christina Clardy)

Even now, as the ranking member of the powerful House Appropriations committee, Ms. Granger continues to support the mission of the National Guard. 

“The Congresswomen’s support of long-term sustainment of the RC-26B in the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act protects a manned platform at the 147th Attack Wing,” said Maj. Gen. Ferrell.  “This airframe is an integral asset used domestically in support of the southwest border mission and is unique to the Guard.” 

These improved capabilities within the Texas Military Department have amplified readiness levels, mirroring those of units on active duty. This allows Maj. Gen. Tracy R. Norris to heavily focus on the future of the organization and the growth of both manpower and resources for the Texas Army and Air National Guard. 

“The Texas Military Department is extremely thankful for the ongoing support of the Texas Congressional delegation and the leadership provided by Congresswoman Granger,” said Marcy Weldin, Director of Government Affairs, Texas Military Department. “Because of her support we are better equipped to serve the citizens of Texas and the nation when called upon. For that reason, Maj. Gen. Norris has nominated her for the National Guard Association of the United States’ distinguished Harry S. Truman award.”

Congressman Granger’s other awards include the Minuteman Award, Navy Distinguished Public Service Award, as well as the Great American Patriot Award.

 

2019 TMD Legislative Successes

Highlighting the Work of the TMD Government Affairs Office in 2019

Article by the Texas Military Department Government Affairs Office

During the Regular Session of the 86th Legislature, the Government Affairs Office (GAO) closely tracked 501 of the 7851 bills filed by the Texas Legislature. Additionally, GAO maintained situational awareness of and expertise on all issues relating to military and state agency topics. In addition to these monitoring responsibilities, GAO remained in constant contact with legislative offices to serve as a resource and knowledge base for both members and staff. A consistent presence in the Capitol allowed TMD to answer questions and engage with offices on a daily basis. Education for legislative staff and members was provided by Texas Military Department (TMD) General Officers, GAO and Office of Executive Director (OED) personnel through meetings with members, testimony provided at Committee Hearings and numerous staff-to-staff engagements. The Regular Session of the 86th Legislature gaveled in on 8 January 2019 and gaveled out on 27 May 2019. Of the 7851 bills filed, 1323 were passed by the Governor and 58 bills were vetoed. State capitol

Governor Abbott, in his State of the State address, laid out issues of particular importance and declared school finance reform, teacher pay raises and property tax relief as emergency items, allowing them to be taken up by the legislature in the first 60 days. These emergency items were in addition to other items of interest such as school safety, disaster response and mental health. 

This year the GAO added new team members to its staff. These team members were quick to adapt to their new roles and quickly established relationships with key legislative members and their staff. TAG, OED and GAO staff met with every Senator and Representative on the Finance and Appropriations committees. Moreover, GAO staff regularly met with members of the Defense and Veterans’ Affairs, and Veterans’ Affairs and Border Security committees. 

CPT Owen Williams along with the GAO team worked tirelessly on coordinating an Army Day event with members of the legislature. The intent of this event was to familiarize Texas legislators and their staff with the Texas Military Department, showcase our capabilities and engage in productive conversation. The intended outcome for was event was to recoup diminished funds from previous legislative sessions. The event’s success was so well received by the Adjutant General and Deputy Adjutant Generals, that CPT Williams was tasked with coordinating a second Army Day. This event was as successful as the first.

Throughout the interim, GAO will continue outreach to members and legislative staff, including but not limited to: armory visits, district engagements, change of command ceremonies, interim committee hearings, TMD legislative days and other engagements as appropriate.

Bills passed by 86th Legislature that directly benefit the TMD: 

- SB 1598/HB 2241 by Senator Hall and Rep. Tinderholt: Relating to hazardous duty pay for security officers employed by the Texas Military Department. 

This legislation amends the Government Code to allow a security officer employed by the Texas Military Department to receive hazardous duty pay, subject to applicable eligibility requirements.

- SB 1597/HB 3391 by Senator Hall and Rep. Shine: Relating to awarding certain medals for military service performed individually or as part of a crew. 

This legislation amends the Government Code to expand eligibility for the Lone Star Medal of Valor, Texas Outstanding Service Medal, and Texas Medal of Merit to include certain acts of military service performed as a member of a crew or team.

- SB 602/HB 1326 by Senator Hall and Rep. Flynn: Relating to the continuation and functions of the Texas Military Department. (SUNSET) 

Relates to the Sunset Review of TMD. This bill guarantees the continuation of the Texas Military Department as a state agency until September 1, 2031.

 

Successes in Budget: 

At the beginning of the 86th Legislative session, we requested funding for four exceptional items. This year, TMD was fortunate enough to receive funding in all four areas. 

Exceptional Item 1: State Guard Expansion – $2M 

Exceptional Item 2: Emergency Preparedness & Indirect Administration - $5M 

Exceptional Item 3: Facilities Management & Operations - $15.3M (STAR - $10M and Deferred Maintenance - $5.3M) 

Exceptional Item 4: Service Member Care $87K 

Overall agency FTE cap increased from 569 to 641.

From the Top January 2020

A Message from The Adjutant General

Happy New Year! I hope each of you had a relaxing and happy holiday season. As I enter this second year as your Adjutant General, I want to take a moment to pause and look back at 2019. As you know, it is by looking at our past that we can best prepare for our future, and so I want to take the lessons learned from both the wins and losses of last year to better prepare for a successful 2020. 

Major General Tracy R. Norris is the Adjutant General of Texas.
Major General Tracy R. Norris is the Adjutant General of Texas.

At the state level, we had one of our most successful State Legislative sessions ever. Our team worked hard to ensure that our elected officials were well informed of the good work of our TMD members and of the needs of the agency in our effort to keep our State and Nation safe. The Texas-Mexico border was of particular interest to our elected officials, and I am so proud of the professionalism and positive attitude of our Soldiers and Airmen who have gone to the border, many of whom were sent on short-notice orders. Nationally, we were able to secure support from the Texas Delegation in DC to coordinate with III Corps and Ft Hood to establish our RTI as a total Army school system. This is a huge win for the Texas National Guard and further secures our status as a national leader in readiness and training.

Looking forward, I am excited to see where we go and grow as an agency in the new year. Gaining additional force structure for Air and Army and modernizing all components will be a priority, so prepare for being a participant in this effort. This will include getting Armor back to Texas and growing the Air Guard force structure. Texas is already often in the spotlight, and as we grow this scrutiny will only increase. Each of you must take responsibility for your individual readiness. Be mentally and physically prepared. The new Army Combat Fitness Test is no joke, and I expect Texas to be a leader in showing other states how to train for this test, and how to pass it with ease. I also will be prioritizing succession planning. We must make sure that our future leaders, both officer and enlisted, are ready to take over one day. This means a focus on talent management, so be prepared for an increased prioritization of the future of this agency. It will be no surprise to any of you that maintenance will be a priority for the 2020 as well. It’s time we remember that maintenance is mission, and prioritize it because nothing is more important than the safety of our Soldiers and Airmen.

It has been an honor to be your Adjutant General this past year, and I am ready for another year of challenges and victories with ya’ll. Texas is strong, Texas is ready. We will continue to lead the nation and to fight for the good of our communities, keeping them safe here at home, and fighting for their safety abroad. Thank you for all you do. Your dedicated service is the heart of this organization. Thank you for your hard work and sacrifice.

Duty. Honor. Texas.

 

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