Posts in Category: Operation Lone Star

Texas National Guard Expands Operations to West Texas

The Texas National Guard expanded Operation Lone Star to the far western city of El Paso. The movement of personnel, equipment and capabilities was in response to the unprecedented number of illegal border crossings in the area.

“I am so impressed with the OLS staff as well as the Soldiers from Task Force West,” said Maj. Gen. Ronald “Win” Burkett, Operation Lone Star Commanding Officer. “Over 400 personnel and 40 vehicles were repositioned in El Paso within a 72-hour time frame.”  

The Guard can flex capabilities, equipment, and personnel anywhere along the border within a 72-hour window. The Texas Air National Guard provided four C-130J Hercules aircraft to expedite travel of personnel and vehicles to the far western region, and tactical troop movements took place all over Texas. 

Proof of the Guard’s effectiveness against the numbers of illegal crossings is becoming more and more obvious with each passing day.

 Day 1: Military vehicles, Soldiers, and concertina wire rolled onto the Rio Grande River’s edge. Only a few onlookers stood on the other side watching the activity. It was early in the morning and bitter cold. Within four-hours the number of onlookers increased, but no one challenged the swift work of Soldiers uncoiling the concertina wire.

Near nightfall, almost 500 immigrants stood at the wire asking the seven armed Soldiers to let them in. The crowd was made up of immigrants from Argentina, Cuba, Nicaragua, Mexico, Russia, and Venezuela; men and women, both alone and with children, tried pleading, chanting, and singing. Law enforcement partners also explained the process for entering the United States legally and still the crowd stayed. 

Day 2: The immigrants dissipated, leaving in the direction of the next legal crossing area.  Soldiers stood behind the concertina wire with only occasional conversation across the river answering immigrants’ questions of where they go now. 

The Triple strand concertina wire, with armed personnel and military vehicles, and fast fencing has turned the once illegal fast-path into a ghost town. 

The Texas Department of Emergency Management also installed shipping containers to help deter illegal crossings. The Texas Department of Public Safety emplaced vehicle and officers, also working the line with the Soldiers. 

The National Guard’s El Paso operation is now an enduring mission, as part of Gov. Greg Abbott’s efforts to secure Texas’ southern border. The region will have over 600 troops and 100 military vehicles to support our law enforcement partners in this mission. 

The mission remains for the Guardsmen to assist law enforcement partners to block and repel illegal crossings, as well as to interdict trans-national criminal activity from spilling across the border.

Operation Lone Star Brings Medical Care to the Valley

Story and Photos by Staff Sgt. Eric Walden, Texas State Guard Public Affairs

BROWNSVILLE, Texas - This year marked the 20th anniversary of the Texas State Guard’s involvement in Operation Lone Star.  Operation Lone Star is a collaborative medical services project that unites state and county health and human service agencies, the Texas Military Department, local service groups and volunteers in the largest public health humanitarian effort in the country. OLS is a real-time, large-scale emergency preparedness exercise that provides medical service and disaster recovery training to state agencies and personnel while addressing the medical needs of thousands of underserved Texas residents.

Brig. Del Marco Coppola, DO, discusses a patient's case with members of the multi-agency staff, including a doctor from Mexico, nursing students and a provider form the U.S. Public Health Service during operation Lone Star 2019 at the Brownsville MPOD, Brownsville, Texas.
Brig. Del Marco Coppola, DO, discusses a patient's case with members of the multi-agency staff, including a doctor from Mexico, nursing students and a provider form the U.S. Public Health Service during operation Lone Star 2019 at the Brownsville MPOD, Brownsville, Texas.

Each summer since 1998, OLS provides medical care at no cost to residents of the Rio Grande Valley. For many residents, it is the only medical care they receive all year. For elements of the Texas State Guard and its Texas Medical Brigade/Medical Component Command, it is a vital training mission that offers hands-on experience in mass medical care in partnership with local public health authorities. For local residents, it is the gift of health–or of life itself.

The medical services OLS provides include immunizations, blood pressure checks, diabetes screenings, hearing and vision exams, physicals for students, medical evaluations and dental services.

Each year approximately 200 military staff members, more than 200 state and county employees and countless volunteers give their time and talents to make OLS a reality. Annually, OLS provides some 60,000 medical services to more than 12,000 Texas residents.

For the Texas Medical Brigade, OLS is its primary Annual Training event where these highly trained, licensed and certified health care professionals dedicate more than a week of their time. During the intensive training exercise, they set up Medical Points of Distribution and prepare for state and local emergencies, while providing an enormous humanitarian service to the people of Texas. 

The TMB/MCC is one of the four components of the Texas State Guard. It was established in March 2003 as the Texas State Guard Medical Reserve Corps, a component of the Texas Military Department under the Adjutant General of Texas and at the direction of the Governor of Texas. It was reorganized as the TMB/MCC in May 2007 and has an authorized end strength of 350 medical and support personnel statewide. The TMB/MCC remains a Medical Reserve Corps unit designated by the U.S. Surgeon General.

The TMB/MCC serves as a regional medical response team to assist in Texas public health emergencies, including biological terrorism, epidemics and disasters. The mission is to provide licensed medical personnel and technical support expertise in response to large-scale disasters, supplementing public health authorities of the Texas Department of State Health Services. The TMB/MCC also provides medical care to military personnel of the Texas Military Department and first aid support to select community events.

Many of these medical military staff return year after year to provide services to communities that always welcome assistance with basic healthcare services. Since there are multiple locations in the Rio Grande Valley where MPODs are located, such as Brownsville, Mission, Laredo and other Rio Grande Valley locations, military healthcare providers may be assigned to new locations each year. Despite this movement, OLS has forged relationships between many physicians and clientele, relationships deep enough for clients to track down physicians they have seen before in order to see them at their new locations. 

CPT Adrian Cano, a Texas State Guard physician, gives a nine-year old boy a much-needed basic health care examination during Operation Lone Star at the Mission MPOD, Mission, Texas.
CPT Adrian Cano, a Texas State Guard physician, gives a nine-year-old boy a much-needed basic health care examination during Operation Lone Star at the Mission MPOD, Mission, Texas.

Brig. Gen. Marco Coppola, DO, the Chief Medical Officer for OLS 2019 relayed a story where he saw the same client for three years in a row. The man, who was initially diagnosed as obese and suffering from high blood pressure, sought out Dr. Coppola each year to update his medications and receive an update on his progress. In the third year, the man had lost so much weight he was no longer obese, and his blood pressure had returned to normal. This relationship between the client and his OLS healthcare provider has turned the man's life around.

Col. Jonathan MacClements, MD, Surgeon General of the Texas State Guard, had one of the most unusual cases. Last year at OLS, a man presented a disfiguring skin disorder. Dr. MacClements was able to diagnose the skin disease as leprosy and worked to ensure follow-up care of the man during the year. This resulted in the man returning to see him again this year and evaluate his progress in alleviating the debilitating disease. 

Col. Robert McBroom, MD, an infectious disease specialist out of Wichita Falls, Texas, recalls a young student client who initially came in for a sports physical, which is a common need for students participating in sports in their local schools. Her experience at OLS led her to return for the last three years not only for continued care under Dr. McBroom, but also as a volunteer herself, providing translation services to clients and forging new relationships between clients and their OLS healthcare experience. 

Texas State Guard providers create much more than a single healthcare experience; they create relationships where clients return year after year to follow up on their healthcare needs. These relationships exemplify a trust between the Texas State Guard medical providers not only with the local community, but also with individual clients. 

“This speaks volumes for the importance of OLS and why the efforts of the Texas Medical Brigade are instrumental for the health and well-being of the citizens of Texas,” Brig. Gen. Coppola said.

Dr. Voss and a young patient

This article originally appeared in the October 2019 edition of The Dispatch, on page 14.