Posts in Category: Texas Air National Guard

136th Medical Group treats underserved communities

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Master Sgt. Julie Brown and Staff Sgt. Michael Pate, both medical technicians from the Texas Air National Guard’s 136th Medical Group, test a patient's eye pressure June 21, 2018, at one of four health-care clinics in Eastern Kentucky. Members of the Air National Guard and U.S. Navy Reserve are conducting Operation Bobcat, which provides military health-care troops with critical training in logistics and field operations while providing lasting benefits to the civilian community. The clinics offer no-cost medical screenings; dental cleanings, fillings and extractions; vision exams and no-cost eyeglasses. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Lynn Means)

Story By: Tech. Sgt. Lynn M. Means

136th Airlift Wing

 

BEATTYVILLE, Ky. --
Members of the 136th Medical Group are part of a joint effort to provide no-cost health-care services to residents in Eastern Kentucky June 15-24, 2018. The operation allows units from the Air National Guard and U.S. Navy Reserve to provide members valuable expeditionary training while serving a community with limited access to health-care services.

 

Operation Bobcat provides patients with medical screenings and non-emergent medical care, as well as connections to local resources. Patients can also receive a dental examination, where any extractions and fillings can be done on the spot. Those seeking vision services receive an optical exam and a free pair of eyeglasses within 48 hours.

 

Four areas in Eastern Kentucky were chosen for this Innovative Readiness Training program due to their greater need of medical service, said Lt. Col. Patricia W. Adams, an optometrist with the 123rd Airlift Wing and the officer in charge of the Lee County site.

 

“A lot of people are coming in pain,” Adams said. “Even if they have medical insurance, a lot of them don’t have dental or vision insurance, so this area is underinsured and it’s underserved. There are not very many providers here. Access to care is an issue.”

 

Some patients arrived on foot, having walked several miles and hours to receive care. Others were given a ride by friends and neighbors. Many had not been able to receive this kind of care in years. The ability to serve these residents gives purpose to the mission.

 

“We had one gentleman that was confined to a wheelchair and has been for a long time,” said Maj. Brett Ringger, an optometrist with the 136th Medical Group. “He has so many physical limitations that he could not go to a regular optometrist’s office. He could not extend his legs at all, he had his knees up by his chin, his feet were actually on the seat of the wheelchair. So he couldn’t fit in the chair, and they didn’t have wheelchair-accessible equipment like we do. But with our portable, deployable kit, we were able to put that phoroptor right in front of him, behind his knees and in front of his face, and we were able to prescribe his glasses for the first time in forever. He was so excited he came and gave us a little pin. He was real excited.

 

“It’s great to be able to work with the deployable equipment,” said Ringger. “It’s a little different than the equipment in our clinic, so it’s nice to come into a situation, set up a clinic just like we would anywhere for a natural disaster, or something overseas, and it’s the same type of services that we can provide there. It’s great training, I love being able to train and take care of people as well.”

 

For some members, this is their first taste of a deployed environment.

 

“I have never been deployed or on an IRT before,” said Airman 1st Class Ashley Sharp, a bioenvironmental engineer with the 136th Medical Group. “I’ve got some training here that I don’t usually get back home. I’ve taken radiation surveys on the dental equipment to make sure personnel are not receiving high-radiation doses, I’ve learned several admin roles, run equipment and supplies to sites, and provided safety briefings. I like being able to help out with the communities here and I think it’s really cool that we’re getting training experience but also helping out humanitarian-wise.”

 

Operation Bobcat is part of the Innovative Readiness Training Program, which facilitates enhanced military skills training while also providing lasting benefits to a community in need. Part of that training include the logistics of getting materials and personnel set up in a remote environment. In the span of one day, 200 Air National Guardsmen and U.S. Navy Reservists set up four sites in Jackson, Irvine, Beattyville and Booneville.

 

“We’re in the mountains, none of our cell phones work,” said Adams. “It has created a great training opportunity all around. The training also includes military movement and then logistical movement. We had one day to put a clinic together, there was 30 tons of equipment that arrived.”

 

Through Operation Bobcat, the clinics were able to serve 2,662 residents with 11,275 medical, dental, and optometry procedures, including 1,457 pairs of prescription eyeglasses. The economic impact to the community was more than $1 million ($1,003,688).

Leading the Fleet: Texas Apaches First in Line to Receive New Strap Pack Meganut

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Photo By 2nd Lt. Caitlin Rourk | AH-64 Apache helicopters retrofitted with the new strap pack meganut sit in the flight facility at Ellington Field, Houston, Texas, on June 12, 2018.

HOUSTON, TX, UNITED STATES

06.15.2018

Story by 2nd Lt. Caitlin Rourk

Texas Military Department

After months of development, the Army’s Aviation and Missile Life Cycle Management Command has begun implementing the redesigned strap pack meganut on the Army’s full AH-64 Apache helicopter fleet. The Texas Army National Guard’s 1-149th Attack and Reconnaissance Battalion is the first unit in the Army to field the retrofit. Members of AMCOM and representatives from Boeing, which manufactures the Apache, visited Ellington Field, Houston, Texas, to brief the unit’s pilots, crew chiefs and mechanics, as well as Texas Army National Guard leaders Brig. Gen. Patrick Hamilton, Assistant Division Commander – Operations of the 36th Infantry Division, and Col. Ronald W. Burkett II, commander of the 36th Combat Aviation Brigade, on the retrofit on June 12, 2018.

The region’s severe coastal climate, which can accelerate corrosion, made Houston a natural first stop for AMCOM. But a tragic accident solidified the decision to place the 1-149th at the top of the list to receive the new component. Two of the unit’s pilots, Chief Warrant Officer 3 Dustin Mortenson and Chief Warrant Officer 2 Lucas Lowe, died after their aircraft crashed into Galveston Bay, Texas, in December 2016. The accident investigation determined that a stress corrosion crack in the strap pack assembly that connects the main rotor blade to the rotor caused the crash.

“I know that crash in the Apache fleet was inevitable. It just so happened that it was in Texas and took the lives of two of our aviators,” said Burkett. “But that event triggered a sense of urgency and a series of events to make that component stronger and healthier and prevented the loss of lives elsewhere in the fleet.”

Following the crash, the Army instituted more stringent inspection standards throughout its Apache fleet. Maintenance crews use high-resolution bore scopes to inspect the strap pack any time an aircraft flies, a standard that applies to all Apaches, whether deployed overseas or training stateside. The added maintenance requirement not only places operational strain on the force, but it also hampers training and limits the speed with which Apaches can deploy. While the solution worked in the interim, the Army’s 24 attack and reconnaissance battalions were eager for a more permanent fix; a fix the new meganut addresses.

“Anytime an aircraft picks up off the ground, there is an inherent risk. We mitigate that risk by having really superbly trained aviators and crew members,” Burkett explained. “Mechanical failures, part failures, especially the strap pack is something that you really can’t anticipate. The rebuild of this strap pack assembly and that nut in particular is a very important step forward to restoring the confidence and faith in the aircraft and allows pilots and maintainers to focus on the things they can predict to try to mitigate and focus on their mission.”

The Army now designates the strap pack assembly as a critical safety item, meaning it faces increased production oversight and quality control. Engineers enhanced the meganut’s design to minimize stress corrosion cracking and increase its lifespan. The nut’s new geometry shifts pressure points, its thicker walls make it more durable and upgraded sealant improves corrosion resistance compared to earlier nut designs. Burkett lauded AMCOM for being “all in” the moment the crash happened and steadfastly seeking a solution to keep aviators safe.

“Looking at the changes in the part and how much more substantial the new part is, the new materials it’s being made of and the coatings they’re putting on it, much less susceptible to any kinds of issues they’ve had,” said Hamilton. “We’re continuing to test it and make sure that our pilots’ safety is our number one concern.”

Hamilton called the retrofit a “great readiness enhancer for us” and noted that the follow-up process will be highly collaborative, continuing long after AMCOM personnel depart Ellington Field. AMCOM and Boeing representatives will work hand-in-hand with attack and reconnaissance battalions across the force to track and audit the meganut’s performance. The 1-149th will ship the meganuts back to AMCOM after logging flight hours so engineers can continuously study and improve the new component. AMCOM officials complimented the unit for its participation and hospitality, noting that the 1-149th leaned forward and made implementation an easy and seamless process.

Both Hamilton and Burkett underscored the most significant takeaway from the retrofit: the need to reassure aviators and their families that the Apache is safe to fly. The retrofit initiative has been a high priority at every level of the Army, and its implementation marks an important step toward increased safety within the close-knit aviation community.

“Regardless of what your MOS is or where you work within the National Guard, our family members are so important to what we do. And having their support based on faith that their service members have great equipment, receive great training, have solid leadership is so important to them,” said Burkett. “I do hope the families see this as a very concerted effort by the senior leadership, from the top of the Army chief of staff down to the unit level, that we’re all committed to making a safer environment for their soldiers.”

AMCOM officials noted it will take time before the new meganut makes it out into the entire force. The team’s next stop is Schofield Barracks in Hawaii, then Fort Lewis in Washington, locations whose climates—like Houston’s—warrant swift implementation. For Texas, receiving the new component ahead of any other unit is an encouraging development in the wake of heartbreaking loss, providing aviators and families with peace of mind, while enabling the battalion to more effectively fulfill its demanding training requirements.

“The Army was very wise in making this the first battalion to field the new strap pack for this Apache helicopter in the entire Army,” said Hamilton. “That shows that we are dedicated to you and the families, showing that we’ve fixed this problem and we’re going to go forward from here.”

DANG visits the 136th Airlift Wing

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Photo By Tech. Sgt. Lynn Means | Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Efren Perez Jr., the propulsion supervisor for the 136th Maintenance Squadron, briefs Lt. Gen. Scott Rice, the director of the Air National Guard, and Chief Master Sgt. Ronald Anderson, the Command Chief Master Sgt. of the Air National Guard, on capabilities and processes of the propulsion shop May 20, 2017, at NAS Fort Worth JRB, TX. The visit allowed for an up-close inspection of unit assets and equipment. (Air National Guard photo by Tech Sgt. Lynn M. Means.)

FORT WORTH, TX, UNITED STATES

05.20.2018

Story by Tech. Sgt. Lynn Means, Senior Airman Bryan Swink and Senior Airman DeJon Williams

136th Airlift Wing/Public Affairs (Texas Air National Guard)

 

FORT WORTH, Texas – Air National Guard Senior leaders visited the 136th Airlift Wing on May 20 to meet with the men and women of the wing and tour the facilities.

Lt. Gen. L. Scott Rice, the Director of the Air National Guard and Chief Master Sgt. Ronald Anderson, the Command Chief of the Air National Guard, took a look at the 136 AW mission and spoke with hundreds of Airmen around the wing.

“There’s depth to this thing called patriotism and that’s what energizes me and drives me forward,” said Rice.

After arriving to the installation, the director and command chief received a mission brief by Col. Thomas M. Suelzer, the commander of the 136 AW, which highlighted key components of the wing’s mission.

Both Rice and Anderson were given the opportunity to meet with Airmen who will deploy overseas. They also spent time during lunch with outstanding performers of all ranks to discuss any concerns the Airmen may have and talk about the direction the ANG is headed.

“It was good to see someone so high in command like the DANG take time to come visit us. It’s really cool to have moments like these to remind us that we’re all in this together,” said Senior Airman Travis Garcia, a material handler with the 136th Logistics Readiness Squadron.

After lunch, the distinguished visitors spent time at the 136th Maintenance Squadron’s propulsion shop to receive an in-depth look at the turboprop engines which power the wing’s C-130 Hercules’ cargo aircraft. They also spent time getting a tour of the aircraft and discussing the C-130’s capabilities with aircrew members.

Rice and Anderson got a chance to witness 136 AW Airmen in action as they completed training in the Expeditionary Skills Rodeo, which focused on response to self-aid buddy care and chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear defense drills.

“It’s incredibly important, and we’re absolutely honored to be able to spend a little bit of time with the wing today,” said Anderson. “We want to understand a little bit of how you’re so incredibly successful and what we can do to make you more successful in the future. And ensure that your kids and grandkids have a wing and future here if they want to be a part of the Air National Guard family.”

The final stop on the visit was a commander’s all-call at the base theater where Rice spoke with Airmen and answered questions related to force structure, physical fitness testing and career development within the ANG.

“And frankly,” said Rice, “with all the things you’ve done, all the things you’re doing, and all the hope and pride and excitement for the future that you have, you’re making a difference in this world. And for that I thank you all.” (Senior Airman Bryan Swink, Senior Airman De’Jon P. Williams, and Tech. Sgt. Lynn M. Means contributed to this article.)

Mother's Day

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Photo By Senior Airman DeJon Williams | 180429-Z-XR025-1134 Tech. Sgt. Lisa Menken, a contract specialist with the 136th Mission Support Group, Texas Air National Guard, poses with her daughter Charrisa Menken April 29, 2018 in the 136th Airlift Wing Public Affairs studio at Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base, Texas. (Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman De’Jon Williams)

FORT WORTH, TX, UNITED STATES

05.09.2018

Story by Senior Airman DeJon Williams

136th Airlift Wing/Public Affairs (Texas Air National Guard)

 

FORT WORTH, Texas -- Mother’s Day is a holiday that is celebrated in one way or another in many countries around the world. On the second Sunday in May, Americans celebrate by giving their mothers flowers, cards and various other gifts.

While motherhood itself can be a full-time job, some mothers make the choice to also serve in the United States Air Force. These women juggle the trials of parenting with the responsibility of maintaining operations, coping with deployment tempos, and upholding the core values: integrity first, service before self, and excellence in all we do.

There are almost 2 million children around the world with military parents. Of those 2 million, Charissa Menken, a student flight trainee with the 136th Airlift Wing, grew up around the Texas Air National Guard and will soon be serving alongside her mother at the wing.

“As a family, we all supported her,” said Charissa Menken. “It is awesome to get to see a woman and my mom be all these different things and still be strong, beautiful and be able to accomplish so much. That was inspiring for me.”

Charissa Menken grew up as a “military brat” and developed an appreciation for service early on, thanks to the influence of her mother. When the opportunity arose to follow in her mother’s footsteps, pursuing a military career herself, the decision was an easy one.

“What’s special about our relationship is that we get this little moment where we’re working in the same wing together,” Charissa Menken said. “I get to learn from her and not only be with her at home but be with her at the start of my military journey.”

Tech. Sgt. Lisa Menken, a contract specialist with the 136th Mission Support Group, Texas Air National Guard, and mother of Charissa Menken, has had many opportunities to share the responsibilities, joy, and hardships of military service with her daughter.

Sometimes, as military members, the cost of service may involve missing important holidays or events. While deployed to assist with the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, Lisa Menken wasn’t able to physically attend her daughter’s enlistment ceremony, but with advances in technology and the support of her fellow Airmen, she was there via video chat.

“I was in a van coming back from Beaumont, Texas, while the ceremony was taking place,” said Lisa Menken. “It wasn’t something we could control, but I was just really proud of her making that decision to get in. Being a good citizen, being respectful, trustworthy, and having strong values are things we hope and wish our kids take on. I was proud.”

As unique as having a mother and daughter serving together at the same unit may be, many mothers across the wing are faced with leaving their families and even young children behind to ensure their state and nation’s safety. Senior Airman Briana Boggs, a public affairs administrator with the 136th Airlift Wing, Texas Air National Guard, maintains this selfless perspective though she understands the gravity of a mother’s sacrifice.

“It is all a part of putting service before self and getting the job done,” said Boggs. “My daughter is turning two this year and luckily I haven’t missed any major milestones like her walking, her first words, or anything like that. It’s something other mothers have to deal with as well, but being a mother is great. It’s stressful, exciting and every emotion you could think of combined, but knowing that I serve my country to not only keep my daughter safe, but also the rest of the nation too, makes all my sacrifices worth it.”

During the Texas Air National Guard’s response to Hurricane Harvey, Boggs worked tirelessly for many long days through her civilian job to assist with evacuation and rescue operations in areas where victims could not access medical facilities. Her response, as well as that of many other Airmen moms, shows the heart of a mother and the character of an Airman transcends the uniform.

Moms like these show the true meaning of what it is to be a Citizen Airmen, and we wanted to take this moment to wish all our moms a very Happy Mother’s Day.

Supporting hidden warriors: Second Lady Karen Pence visits DFW military spouses

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Photo By Tech. Sgt. Melissa Harvey | Second Lady Karen Pence speaks with military spouses from all branches about experiences and challenges they face as wives and husbands of service members, Friday, May 4, 2018, at the George W. Bush Presidential Center, Dallas, Texas. Pence has visited other locations to speak with military spouses, including Luke Air Force Base, Arizona and Yokota Air Base, Japan. (U.S. Air Force photos by Tech. Sgt. Melissa Harvey)

DALLAS, TX, UNITED STATES

05.04.2018

Story by Staff Sgt. Kristina Overton

136th Airlift Wing/Public Affairs (Texas Air National Guard)

 

When considering the sacrifices of military members across the Armed Forces, many think of the various deployments, relocations and the physical tolls that are consistently associated with the cost of service.

One aspect that is often overlooked are the families that support service members across the globe. Millions of men, women and children willingly give up their stability, their careers, and their homes among many other things every few years in order to support the nation by being the backbone of those who fight to protect freedoms.

To offer support and gain insight on the challenges that military families face, Second Lady Karen Pence, wife of Vice President Mike Pence, arranged a listening session to hear from military spouses during her visit to Dallas, Texas, May 4. During the meeting at the George W. Bush Presidential Center, the Second Lady was introduced to eleven spouses from all branches of the Armed Forces to hear about the benefits and struggles of military life, and improvements that could be made to aid transitions in the future.

"I think frequently the servicemember is the one in the limelight or there's more attention on our servicemembers when really behind the scenes we have these hidden warriors, who are the spouses and the children, and they make a lot of sacrifices as well," said Pence. "So sometimes it's needed just raising a little bit of awareness and letting them know 'we are grateful and we appreciate you,' and we hope they hear us."

The listening session ran for 45-minutes, allowing for every military spouse present to emphasize particular challenges and elevate issues that have potential to improve the lives and illuminate the problems of "hidden warriors."

"There are several challenges that have been brought to our attention," Pence said. "[Spouses] having a sense of identity, if they have to change jobs all the time or can't get a job in their chosen career, something they've trained for. It's difficult. [Having] a sense of community is difficult. Anytime they move, making new friends, finding a bank, stores, housing, education. There are a lot of issues they face just because they are such a mobile society."

Two military spouses from the 136th Airlift Wing were selected to attend the session with the Second Lady: Tech. Sgt. Dan Ledesma, 136th Airlift Wing production recruiter and Mrs. Heidi Bearden, 136th Force Support Squadron Airmen and Family Readiness program manager.

"It was a huge opportunity because we had the ability to represent not only our spouses but also the other members of the 136th Airlift Wing and their families," said Bearden. "From a spouse standpoint, being able to talk about some of the issues our Airmen face and being able to verbalize the stresses and strain that requirements cost our families is important. I was also able to bring up some key issues from a programmatic standpoint, and by listening to the spouses, learned ways we can improve our communication to make sure that information regarding programs and opportunities actually reach our military families."

The Second Lady will be continuing to participate in several listening sessions at military installations in the coming months. In the fall, her team aspires to gather the information presented, and focus on one or two issues they may be able to remedy to assist military families.

"There is something about military spouses, when you sit in a room with them, they are so resilient and so strong," Pence said. "They are amazing people in their own right, and their attitudes are so positive. I'm glad that so many of them are willing to be vulnerable and say if this were fixed, it would help a lot of other issues. They are amazing men and women and we appreciate them taking the time to help us get a better understanding. We don't know it all, and we really want to hear from them and what they want us to bring awareness to."

Airman fulfills long-held dream of military service

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Photo By Airman 1st Class Katie Schultz | Airman 1st Class Rosa Vittori, a personnelist with the 149th Fighter Wing, Air National Guard, processes paperwork for Zach Pratka, a member of the 149th FW's student flight, April 28, 2018, at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas. (Air National Guard photo by Airman 1st Class Katie Schultz) 

TX, UNITED STATES

04.29.2018

Story by Airman 1st Class Katie Schultz

149th Fighter Wing (Texas Air National Guard)

 

During her freshman year of high school, Airman 1st Class Rosa Vittori, a personnelist with the 149th Fighter Wing, was inspired to join the Air Force after watching her school’s ROTC drill team perform.

Her dream was cut short, however, when she became pregnant at 15 years old.

“It was hard being pregnant in high school, and I just wanted to get out of there,” said Vittori.  “I dropped out of ROTC, took senior classes, and finished in three years. After graduating, I felt like I couldn’t go join the Air Force because I had a young kid.”

Many years and two more children later, Vittori was set in a routine of working eight to five as an office manager, going to school and raising her daughters when a thought occurred to her.

“There came a point where I asked myself, ‘what are you doing with your life? What do you have to show for yourself?’” said Vittori. “My sister-in- law told me about the Guard and said it might be a good option for me so I wouldn’t have to move my kids all around, but I could still serve.”

After hearing that advice, Vittori contacted a recruiter at the 149th FW then took the ASVAB, an aptitude test used to determine enlistment qualification for military service. Since it had been so many years since Vittori had seen the material being tested, she did not pass.

“After I failed, I thought maybe it wasn’t meant to be,” said Vittori. “It didn’t happen after high school, and it’s not happening now. I kind of got down about that, but I thought ‘let’s just go ahead and do it again.’”

While balancing work and motherhood, she took the ASVAB again and passed, enlisting into the wing in 2016. She then completed her job training in personnel and earned a technician position at the wing shortly thereafter.

“Serving in the Guard has given me so many more opportunities than I thought possible,” Vittori said. “I also feel like I’m setting a good example for my kids. My youngest and my middle one talk about joining the Air Force now, and honestly that’s the main goal – to be a good role model for them. I want my kids to remember me for going after my dreams even though I had a hard start. That’s what I want to show them.”

Trying to be that positive role model is not always easy.

“When I was at tech school, I missed two of my daughters’ birthdays,” Vittori said. “I also missed my oldest daughter’s cheerleading competitions which was hard because we have a routine where I do her make-up and get her ready. But with me gone, she had to have other
moms help her, so it was tough to know that she was alone on important days.”

According to Airman 1st Class Rubie Rodriguez, a close friend of Vittori and an aviation resource management specialist with the 149th FW, challenges don’t keep her friend from her goals.

“She’s open-minded and has a positive outlook even when she’s faced with obstacles,” said Rodriguez. “We always say ‘it gets better.’ And whenever anyone else is going through a hard time, she will drop everything at a moment’s notice to be there whether you just need to
vent or need an open ear. She’s an amazing friend and I’m happy to have her.”

Rodriguez said she periodically checks in on Vittori.

“Sometimes I call her in the morning as she’s going into work, either getting coffee or walking out the door, to see how she’s doing,” said Rodriguez. “We keep each other accountable, and she can always count on her second family at the Guard.”

And even though it took her longer to start her military career in the Guard, Vittori is glad she persevered and didn’t let fear of failure hold her back. She encourages others to do the same.

“I feel like a lot of people get caught up in the what-ifs and what could go wrong and they never think of what could go right,” Vittori said. “You just have to do it, if you want to do something, you have to do it without thinking. Don’t think about the things you’re going to miss, because sacrifices have to be made in order to reach your dreams. But once you reach that dream, it brings out another side you never knew was there, and it’s worth it.”

Joint Effort for Mass Casualty Exercise

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Photo By Master Sgt. Sarah Mattison | U.S. Air Force Pararescuemen from the 82nd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron participate in a high altitude, low-opening tandem free-fall jump to bring in a medical doctor, in Djibouti City, Djibouti, April 24, 2018. The free-fall jump was conducted as part of a joint training exercise. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Sarah Mattison)

DJIBOUTI

04.24.2018

Story by Master Sgt. Sarah Mattison

Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa

 

DJIBOUTI, Africa - Service members assigned to Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) and Camp Lemonnier participated in a joint mass-casualty exercise, April 24. This exercise enabled multiple units to work together to tackle complex issues, while securing, treating, extricating and evacuating simulated casualties.

The exercise, which started with a simulated improvised explosive device (IED) blast on a convoy, included twenty-five volunteers that had been moulaged with various simulated injuries requiring triage and treatment. Guardsmen from the Texas Army National Guard’s 3rd Battalion, 144th Infantry Regiment arrived on scene as the quick-reaction force and secured the area. At the same time, pararescuemen (PJs) from the 82nd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron (82nd ERSQ) circled above in a C-130J Super Hercules operated by the 75th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron, preparing to jump to the site below.

“The overall goal is to demonstrate a capability to interoperate with all of these different partners as part of a mass-casualty exercise,” said 1st Lt. Jake, with the 82nd ERSQ. “We can jump the PJs in, establish site security with the site security team and then the PJs can treat and determine who needs the most critical care.”

The PJs also jumped with a couple of tandem passengers, including the tactical air control party (TACP) and a doctor. After hitting the ground, the doctor took over the casualty collection point and began triaging and treating patients, while the TACP maintained airspace deconfliction and surveyed helicopter landing zones to expedite evacuation of the simulated casualties. Simultaneously, the PJs began extricating individuals that were trapped inside of the crushed vehicles.

Staff Sgt. Matthew, who works in material management support for the 82nd ERSQ, volunteered to be one of the simulated casualties.

“I volunteered because I wanted to support an exercise that could potentially be a real world medevac response,” Matthew said. “I think this [training] is important because being in a deployed environment, this could potentially become a real world situation.”

While planning for the exercise was lengthy, it was training that was well worth the time and effort that it took to put together

“Doing this exercise, not only does it demonstrate that we have these capabilities, but it also means that we are training with these capabilities as we go along,” said Jake. “So if this were to happen real word, then we’ve already done training with these guys and agencies before, so it would be easy to put together different pieces of what we’ve already done today.”

Sole female competitor battles for "best warrior"

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Photo By Staff Sgt. Agustin Salazar | Tech. Sgt. Jennifer Brown, 273rd Cyber Operations Squadron education and training specialist, Texas Air National Guard, completes the running portion of a physical training test at the 2018 Best Warrior Competition at Camp Swift March 1, 2018, near Bastrop, Texas. Of the 28 participants who competed from the Texas Army and Air National guards, Brown was the only female competitor. (Texas Air National Guard photo/Staff Sgt. Agustin Salazar)

BASTROP, TX, UNITED STATES

03.02.2018

Story by Staff Sgt. Kristina Overton

136th Airlift Wing/Public Affairs (Texas Air National Guard)

 

Of the more than 3,200 Airmen currently serving in the Texas Air National Guard, only eight were selected to compete at Camp Swift as part of the 2018 Texas Military Department Best Warrior Competition. Among the selectees, Tech. Sgt. Jennifer Brown, 273rd Cyber Operations Squadron education and training specialist, Texas Air National Guard, stood out from her peers chosen to participate. Not just for her skill and abilities in qualifying to represent her unit, but also as the only female competitor overall.

“Competing seemed like a great opportunity,” said Brown. “For me, it wasn’t an imitation factor. I used to be a Marine and I remember every year my commander would send out an invite for individuals interested in the competition. When I saw the email for this year and saw the list of different knowledge responsibilities I went ahead and tried out.”

The Best Warrior Competition consists of several challenges over a period of four days. Competitors are expected to display proficiency in marksmanship, physical and written tests, land navigation, self-aid buddy care and combat-communications. Though not a part of her day-to-day operations, Brown trained for months prior to familiarize herself with competition requirements.

“The ruck has been the most challenging thus far,” Brown said. “I don't think I was as prepared for the last four miles of fatigue, but it’s something you have to learn and power through on your own. The obstacle course was the most fun. It was hard at points, but the competition is about challenging yourself. Getting over the fear factor.”

Brown has more than fifteen years of combined service between the Marines and Texas Air National Guard. Even with deployments to Iraq under her belt, she still lacked all of the experience needed to be successful to compete. After qualifying at the base-level, her unit was instrumental in making sure that she would be a strong contender.

“It [training] exposed me to a different environment in the Guard,” Brown recalled. “To train, we ran tactical air control party obstacle courses, had weapons knowledge training and did 45-pound ruck marches, which was good because I got exposure. Then they had land navigation at the schoolhouse at Camp Bullis.”

The competition is meant to be grueling, with extreme stress and long testing hours. The simulations reflect real-world combat situations and test the tactical and technical skills of the members being evaluated. 

Competing alongside fellow Airmen, Soldiers and state partners provides a unique opportunity to experience completely different ways of accomplishing the mission, Brown said.

“We all serve.” Brown said. “It’s a humbling experience, and being here I hope is an example that will encourage others to participate. I don't back down from a challenge and I’m proud to have been a part of this event.”

Texas ANG member, Rockport police officer looks back on lessons learned from Harvey

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Photo By Tech. Sgt. Mindy Bloem | Staff Sgt. Nathan Ward (far right) poses for a group photo with his fellow 149th Fighter Wing members during a regularly scheduled drill weekend at his shop, headquartered at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas. when Ward is not working as a Guardsman during his drill weekends, he serves full time as police officer in Rockport, Texas. (courtesy photo)

San Antonio, TX, United States

02.08.2018

Story by Tech. Sgt. Mindy Bloem

149th Fighter Wing (Texas Air National Guard)

It’s been several months since Hurricane Harvey devastated Texans residing in the Rockport region. A local police officer there, Nathan Ward, is now reflecting on the days leading up to the hurricane and how his training in the National Guard made a noticeable impact on his first responder duties. 

“My wife will tell you I always stock up on food and water and am ready to go,” said Ward. That’s just the military part of me, I guess.”

Ward, now a staff sergeant assigned to the Air National Guard’s 149th Fighter Wing, located in San Antonio, said that mentality traces back to his 2003 enlistment in the Army National Guard.

“I had gone into the hurricane initially with the mindset of ‘hey, as long as we come out of this, we’ll be alright,’” Ward said. “I’d gone on hurricane missions with the Army Guard several years ago so I knew what this was going to look like.”

Ward tried to pass the benefits of those experiences to his co-workers.

“I said, ‘hey, heads up, just in case this happens, this is what you need to be prepared for,’ and everyone is just brushing me off,” he said. “A lot of them were making fun of me as I was bringing in food and water into the police station before it hit. They were like, ‘you’re taking this way too seriously and you’re packing too much.’ I was like ‘OK, whatever, at least I’ll be prepared.’”

When Ward thinks back on it now, he can’t help feeling vindicated.

“That first night about midnight – a lot of them realized they were hungry and wanted to eat, but no one had brought food and there was very little water,” he said with a laugh and with the benefit of hind sight. “They started realizing pretty quickly that my theory wasn’t so far-fetched. I mean relief came in – water came about a day and a half later, so they were OK.”

After the storm first struck and the eye was passing over their building, Ward and his fellow officers stepped out in pitch blackness in groups of four within a two-block radius to assess the damage. He described familiar smells he compared from deployments he’d rather forget and mist and smoke-filled air akin to what happens after a building is demolished.

“There is this junk that’s in the air – this dust and smoke and all kinds of stuff like that,” Ward said. “Stuff you don’t want to breathe. The air was filled with that. It was like it was hovering. It wasn’t even blowing around. It was just there.”

As the eye wall passed over them and the hurricane resumed, Ward and his team retreated back inside to ride out the second half. All through the night, calls poured into the station of people who had misjudged the situation, tried to leave in their vehicles and had gotten stuck.

“That’s why we tell people take the evacuation seriously,” Ward said. “You never know how bad it’s going to be.”

The next morning and many weeks thereafter, Ward worked extended and exhausting shifts responding to calls and assisting in the long game that is hurricane recovery.

It was during these numerous calls for help that Ward realized just how important all his core military training was in helping him respond to various situations.

“Something that’s echoed here for me is how all the military training has paid off, specifically with Air Force – the core training that’s due annually, like SABC [self-aid buddy care], CPR, PT [physical training], family care plan – everything has played into our situation here,” he said.

Ward elaborated on how physical conditioning especially helped him during intense shifts.

“Just the resiliency, staying in shape – it’s a big deal,” he said. “I can tell you when you’re doing 12 on and 12 off, and especially when you’re doing 14-hour shifts or during initial recovery efforts where we had no days off for several weeks, and all the other stresses that are involved – PT is a big deal.

Ward also praised SABC and CPR training as being “hugely helpful” during the response, and was even pleasantly surprised to see his flightline driver’s training play a part.

“We have an airport here, and there’s no airport police, so the city police actually have to cover the airport,” Ward said. “Other officers can be afraid to drive out on the airfield because they don’t know what they’re doing, so having flightline driver’s training has actually paid off in my job here. I can use that and help the airport respond in whatever they need out here including – and I hope it doesn’t happen – aircraft accidents or hazardous spills.

While some in the Air Force may dislike the idea of computer-based training, Ward’s most recent experience with Harvey has given him fresh insight on the matter.

“Anything that you can think of that we view as CBTs for the Air Force has paid off in this job, including cyber awareness because we all have computers, and we have to deal with everyone’s personal information,” he said. “The state of Texas is pushing a lot of that down now for law enforcement but the Air Force in a lot of ways is ahead of the power curve on that.”

Besides all his military core training, Ward said knowing his Guard family not only had his back but was looking out for his family members made a lasting impression on him.

“Family readiness was a huge deal getting my wife out here and getting her help,” he said. “The Guard has absolutely helped us and stepped in to help her.”

Ms. Shanita Lanier, the 149th Airman and Family Readiness Center coordinator, explained how getting her members the family support is a team effort.

“The key element that is helpful for us is having our key volunteers appointed that the commanders trust to pass on information to and working with the first sergeants – that’s how information comes back to us so we know how to further support and meet the intent of the program for our families,” she said.

Lanier, along with Master Sgt. Eryn Ulmer, Ward’s first sergeant, collected donations from local area stores and other good Samaritans so they could replace items from Ward’s house that were ruined during the storm.

“Each family is important,” Lanier said. “Even if we don’t have a face or a name, if they are connected to you, we can navigate and see what’s out there to get them what they need.”

Ward took comfort in the concern he received from his fellow Gunfighters – a nickname for 149th FW members.

“On the basic level, I appreciate that accountability because it’s an extra set of eyes looking out for you, asking, hey, are you ok? And if you don’t respond, they’re willing to send someone to go look for you,” he said. “That’s really awesome – that they’re willing to fill the gap that much. It’s extra support you wouldn’t get anywhere else.”

Following his experience in Rockport, Ward has developed a newfound respect for the mission.

“At the drop of a hat you might have a natural disaster and have to leave the shop,” he said. “We might have to go help people, so it’s very important to keep up with your deadlines and timelines and mission mandates so we can be ready to go.”

For Ward, his military training complemented his responsibilities not only to his local community but also to the state. These days, he is quick to remind people of this point during his weekends on duty here at the wing.

“What I’ve been telling people is you don’t understand how much everything you do played into what happened here as far as relief - the Houston mission, this mission, all over Texas – you know it’s a big deal,” he said. “It’s very fulfilling to see all that training and all that work paying off.”

The little armory atop a hill

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Nike Hercules missiles at bee caves Austin, TX

Story by: Mark Otte

 

AUSTIN, Texas--The little armory atop a hill, in the now-upscale Austin Bee Caves neighborhood, is seldom talked about, and even often unknown to both military and civilians. While the aging facility’s story actually starts south of Austin, much of its roots are lost in a swirl of Cold-War mystery.

The 12.5-acre site just off Bee Caves road, often colloquially called the “hilltop,” now houses the 71st troop command, but started life providing the city, and more importantly at the time, Bergstrom Air Force Base with protection from aerial attacks.

When visitors arrive at the gate today, the giant Nike-Hercules missile pointing skyward pays homage to the armory’s beginnings as the site for the integrated fire control center for the 10,000-pound missiles capable of hitting targets up to 90 miles away.

In the 1960s, the suburban hilltop had all of the necessary equipment to track targets, fire the missiles and would even house the troops needed to run the air defense equipment.

Complete with radars and generators, Defense Site BG-80 was just missing one thing: Missiles.

So, where were they?

The exact location of the launch site isn’t known.   What is known is that the missiles were somewhere close.

Technical data on the launch capabilities suggest that the launch site and the integrated fire control needed to be separated by at least 0.56 miles but not more than 2.98 miles.

Pedro Garcia knows where they were, but he’s not saying.  Garcia was stationed at the armory in late 1962 and 1963.

“The launching area was surrounded by berms 20 feet high,” Garcia said.  “Every missile was inside what we called a globe tent, to hide it from the air and to protect them from the weather.”

To bring the missiles to “red status,” ready to launch, was as easy as pulling a rope.

“You just jerk the rope, the clips came off and the tent fell on both sides,” Garcia said. “Then the launcher started raising.”

Now at 74 years old, Garcia said that he thinks the surface to air missiles that were housed near the Bee Caves Armory were essential to the security of Bergstrom Air Force Base. What is now Austin Bergstrom International Airport, at the time was under Strategic Air Command and a prime target for Cold War foes.

“Back then, the Bee Caves Armory was instrumental, because of Bergstrom operating the way they did,” Garcia said.  “I think it could have been a target for Russian bombs.”

With the days of the cold war squarely in the rear-view mirror, the soldiers of 71st Troop Command spend their days at the hilltop armory looking forward and preparing to defend the United States in future conflicts, pausing only occasionally to ponder the Cold War secrets that still surround the little Armory.