Posts in Category: Texas Air National Guard

147th Attack Wing participates in weapon evaluation exercise

Story by Tech. Sgt Daniel Martinez, 147th Attack Wing

ELLINGTON FIELD JOINT RESERVE BASE, Texas – The 147th Attack Wing participated in a Weapon System Evaluation Program exercise conducted by the 86th Fighter Weapons Squadron from Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, Nov. 3.

Inspectors evaluated tactics, weapon effectiveness and airframe readiness. Members of the 147th Attack Wing armed MQ-9 Reapers with live ammunition for the first time at Ellington Field JRB, and completed launch and recoveries (LRE) by Mobile Dual Control Ground Control Station (GCS) and Ground Data Terminal (GDT).

Ellington Field, Joint Reserve Base, Texas - 147th Attack Wing Members participate in a Weapon System Evaluation Program exercise conducted by the 86th Fighter Weapons Squadron from Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, Nov. 3, 2019, at Ellington Field, Joint Reserve Base, Texas. (US Air Force National Guard Photo by Senior Master Sgt. Sean Cowher
Ellington Field, Joint Reserve Base, Texas - 147th Attack Wing Members participate in a Weapon System Evaluation Program exercise conducted by the 86th Fighter Weapons Squadron from Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, Nov. 3, 2019, at Ellington Field, Joint Reserve Base, Texas. (US Air Force National Guard Photo by Senior Master Sgt. Sean Cowher)

"It's an exciting time to be Reaper Keeper! We are flying from our ramp, exercising all specialties, and helping validate the effectiveness of munitions for the U. S. Air Force," said Lt. Col. Derek Weaver, the 147th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron commander. "Morale is at an all-time high and I am proud of the men and women that have worked hard every day to make this happen."

MQ-9 Reapers were flown out of Ellington Field JRB to an isolated training site in Florida and were evaluated during live-drop operations.

"Texans can be proud of what their Air National Guard has accomplished. Right down the road from where Houston CAPCOM launched our mission to the moon, we launched our first out-of-state weapons exercise with our aircraft beyond visual range," said Lt. Col. Christopher, an MQ-9 pilot assigned to the 111th Attack Squadron. "This is the first step in a new era of the way the Texas Air National Guard serves the state and country as a whole as our aircraft flies off into the sunrise of a cool Houston morning."

The MQ-9 Reaper is the 12th airframe to be flown out of Ellington Field JRB, Texas.

Supporting Guardsmen and Families from Deployment to Retirement

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

Soldiers and Airmen attached to guard and reserve elements constantly have to balance military service, a fulltime job, education and family life.  At times this combination of tasks may seem overwhelming.  Fortunately, services exist to assist these hard working service members and their families.  While most of these people know about benefits such as tax free shopping at the Post Exchange and the education benefits of the GI Bill, there exists an entire support system that offers services far beyond those.Citizen soldier for life logo.

The Family Support Services center offers everything from entertainment functions to education classes and benefits workshops so families will be well versed in what benefits they have and how to best use them. 

“Family Support Services offers cradle to grave assistance for guardsmen and civilian employees,” said Shandra Sponsler, Deputy Branch Manager of Family Support Servicer on Camp Mabry. “We offer pretty much everything but pay and MOS training for Soldiers. Even as Soldiers reach retirement age we have programs like resume writing and interviewing classes and the ‘Citizen-Soldier for Life’ program to guide them as they move past the military.”

Citizen-Soldier for Life is an Army National Guard program that offer career readiness support and financial training to National Guard members, their families, veterans and retirees.  They offer events to help those veterans find jobs in the civilian work force as well as professional networking.

The Soldier Support Service Center, located at Camp Mabry, in Austin, also offers services for retired persons, such as issuing new I.D. cards and copies of military records for retirees and dependents. 

Family Support Services also works with many local partners like Hero’s Night Out, Combat Combined Arms, Operation Homefront USA and the YMCA to put on local events to educate service members and families and provide services. Many of these events are aimed at entertaining and providing a sense of community for the children of deployed service members.

“Some of our most useful and most popular services are Tricare healthcare for service members and families, behavioral health counselors and assistance with Veterans Administration benefits,” said Staff Sgt. Jean-Pierre Sanders, noncommissioned officer in charge of Yellow Ribbon programs at the Family Support Services Center.

The Yellow Ribbon program is another major benefit available to veterans that assists with the cost of education at select universities and trade schools.

“One service I would suggest people take advantage of is our Yellow Ribbon events.  At these events we have information about all of our available resources.  Beyond the obvious ones, there some unseen benefits,” said Sanders. “I often see family members of deployed service members meet with other families, share stories and advice and network with one another.  The support they offer each other us something unique and valuable.”

Even organizations like the Army Air Force Exchange (AAFES) who run the Post Exchange (PX) is opened to all active and retired service members as well as 100 percent disabled veterans and families of all eligible groups. PX restraints are open to all. A portion of all AAFES profits go back to troops through donations to Morale and Welfare Recreation Programs.

Many of the support services such as the counseling are available over the phone 24-hours a day year round. Offices are located all over Texas in Austin, Dallas, Houston, Weslaco, Tyler and El Paso.

More information about these services can be found at https://tmd.texas.gov/tmd-family-support-services

Failure is Not in my Mindset

Story and Photos by Capt. Nadine Wiley De Moura, Joint Counter Drug Taskforce/ 100th MPAD

AUSTIN, Texas— Frozen in what one can only describe as a nightmare, Staff Sgt. Kimberly Gaona clenched Kiyana, her 13 year-old daughter’s hand in a hospital room and held back tears as she faced the harrowing reality that no parent wishes to face.  

Staff Sgt. Kimberly Gaona, a Texas National Guard Joint Counterdrug Task Force Ground Reconnaisance Detachment operator and a medic with the 149th Medical Group, 6th Chemical Biological Radiological Nuclear and Explosives Enhanced Response Force Package, 149th Attack Wing, Texas Air National Guard stands in front of an Air Guard aircraft at Camp Mabry, Texas.
Staff Sgt. Kimberly Gaona, a Texas National Guard Joint Counterdrug Task Force Ground Reconnaisance Detachment operator and a medic with the 149th Medical Group, 6th Chemical Biological Radiological Nuclear and Explosives Enhanced Response Force Package, 149th Attack Wing, Texas Air National Guard stands in front of an Air Guard aircraft at Camp Mabry, Texas. 

The doctor and a nurse entered the room and delivered the news. “She has cancer.”

“It was like a freight train,” said Gaona. “It will just stop you in your tracks when you hear those words about your kid.”

Sitting behind her daughter, Gaona, a Texas National Guard Joint Counterdrug Task Force Ground Reconnaissance Detachment operator and a medic with the 149th Medical Group, 6th Chemical Biological Radiological Nuclear and Explosives Enhanced Response Force Package, 149th Airlift Wing, Texas Air National Guard, wouldn’t let her daughter see the emotion in her face. 

Instead, she collected herself, stepped out of the hospital room and notified her friend and mentor in the Counterdrug program of the news. 

Gaona, 43, a divorced and single mother of four, also notified Kiyana’s father of the news. 

“Acute Myeloid Leukemia is a cancer of the blood, is produced in the bone, which is everywhere in the body,” said Gaona. “So that was scary to hear about how to treat it if it is everywhere. 

“We were fortunate, only 20 percent of her body was consumed by cancer. She did great the first three months--the last chemo-therapy treatment was brutal.”

Kiyana, who turned 14 while being treated for AML in the hospital, fought for her life as she underwent several allergic reactions, fevers and pneumonia from the transfusions. 

“She didn’t see me cry and I did not let her,” said Gaona. “She wanted to understand, so from a medical standpoint I helped her understand what was happening and it helped her.”

Gaona used her medical training from the Airforce to decipher information about her daughter’s cancer and follow along with the charts.

“It was definitely a different world in oncology, I could hear the treatment plan and the x-rays every day,” said Gaona. “When it wasn’t good, I wouldn’t tell her, but it was peace of mind from my medical training to know what was going on.”

As Kiyana entered remission, Gaona reflected on her ability to remain resilient throughout such a distressful experience.

“I don’t know that I have had to use that level of fortitude before--someone had to do it,” said Gaona. “If you are strong for people who are not, it gives them hope and mentally I don’t think she ever thought about not fighting even though there were days where she just felt horrible.”

Kiyana, who trained and ruck marched with her mother just days before her cancer diagnosis, drew on her mother’s grit to overcome her circumstances as she battled the treatment. Even at her lowest moments, on an incubator, she refused to be sedated throughout the process. 

Staff Sgt. Kimberly Goana smiles next to her daughter, Kiyana. Gaona used her life experiences and military training to remain resilient during her daughter's fight against cancer. Texas National Guard Joint Counterdrug Task Force members came together to gift Kiyana with a prayer blanket made by a local church group, the Piece Makers.
Staff Sgt. Kimberly Goana smiles next to her daughter, Kiyana. Gaona used her life experiences and military training to remain resilient during her daughter's fight against cancer. Texas National Guard Joint Counterdrug Task Force members came together to gift Kiyana with a prayer blanket made by a local church group, the Piece Makers.  


“We don’t know when to stop,” said Gaona. “If you know how to stop or even think it, then you will. But if that’s not something in your mindset, then you won’t stop, you’ll just keep going. 

“She is strong and driven. She is amazing, brilliant and beautiful.”

Although she said that nothing could have prepared her for this experience, this was not the first time in Gaona’s life that she persevered in the face of adversity. 

Gaona, an adoptee, forged a path of defying the odds when she enlisted in the Texas Air National Guard at the cut off age of 39.

Shortly after completing her initial trainings, she became the first female to complete the Texas National Guard Counterdrug Ground Reconnaissance Operators Training Course and work as an operator on a team.

The course is a test of physical and mental exertion, with 4 a.m. wake-ups and grueling workouts. All operators must pass the Army Physical Fitness Test adhering to the male age 17-21 bracket maximum scores, complete a 12-mile ruck march and run five miles in 40 minutes. 

“She is an operator and is exactly what I would expect of my team,” said Maj. Robert Cowart, Texas National Guard Ground Reconnaissance officer-in-charge. “We have high standards. Everybody’s character is good, and goes above and beyond. If they don’t, they can’t stay here---Gaona keeps up there with the team.”


Ground Reconnaissance operators are trained to work in stressful and highly sensitive environments employing bucket truck operations, tower climbing, and photography and radio skills to support law enforcement agents on highly sensitive missions. 

“We conduct the Operator Training Course because we are looking for resilient professional Soldiers and Airmen who can be trusted in autonomous situations and have the conditioning and trust to make necessary decisions,” said Cowart. 

The culminating exercise is a three day land navigation course across several thousand acres, carrying a rucksack with some food, water and a compass.

“I had to do a 72 hour course and find some points in 72 hours and we weren’t allowed to sleep,” said Gaona. “That alone, I think it was a big part of me being able to handle what happened afterwards. I had been doing my job as an operator for six months when Kiyana was diagnosed with cancer.”

Gaona said that the trust and relationships that she built while working on the Counterdrug program were coupled with invaluable support throughout Kiyana’s treatment.

“Change is always happening and those same people who were my support in the Counterdrug program, all of them, were huge supporters and showed up at the hospital within days,” said Gaona. 

Gaona continued to work between hospital visits and go into work early in the morning to complete necessary tasks and check up on her Counterdrug teammates.

“She is an endearing person,” said. Master Sgt. Ruben Hernandez, her Counterdrug and Air National Guard mentor. “Every time I was visiting her we would focus on Kiyana, then she would immediately ask how the team was. For me, that is a testament to her character--- she is adamant about helping others.”

Hernandez, who also assisted in recruiting Gaona into the Texas Air National Guard, reflected on Gaona as an asset to the Counterdrug team.

Staff Sgt. Kimberly Goana's training for a national body building competition includes two hours of cardio per day, one hour of weight lifting per day, and six to seven meals to build muscle.
Staff Sgt. Kimberly Goana's training for a national body building competition includes two hours of cardio per day, one hour of weight lifting per day, and six to seven meals to build muscle. 


“All of her charm that comes with her attributes, her knowledge of environmental considerations,” said Hernandez. “She offers a unique dichotomy to the team. As far as acclimation to the team, she has done well, she is a 40 plus-year-old mom of four. There is not a whole lot she has been through that she can’t offer or share light on.”

While her daughter’s cancer was the pinnacle of Gaona’s life challenges, there were many others.

“She has had some pretty significant life challenges,” said Hernandez. “She experienced death in the family pretty young, marriage, kids, owning a business and probably more life experiences than any adult woman that I have met in my life.”

Regardless of the hurdles she faced prior to joining the military, Gaona doesn’t back down and never stops giving. 

“She didn’t expect any exemptions, she showed and gave it all she got,” said Hernandez. “The biggest impact has been her being an outlier to the small community here--green berets and ranger guys--and proving herself as a female, as a Soldier and a person as a whole.

“She has had a huge impact and changed the dynamics in our community, and just a different respect for how we carry ourselves. It’s a great sense of pride that not only do we have a female working with us but she fell in with the team.”

Despite the hardships that Gaona faced during her lifetime, and more recently, Gaona continues to inspire her family, her military community and now the bodybuilding community.

With her daughter’s improving health, Gaona, true to her creed, will not stop pushing herself to be the best she can be.

For the past eight months, working around appointments, work commitments, and her motherly duties, Gaona has been preparing to compete in a national bodybuilding competition in October. 

“She is tough as nails, that’s the best way to describe her,” said Ivan Meraz, Founder of Team Hard Bodies Austin and Gaona’s competition coach. “She is mentally strong. That’s what body building is all about”.

Gaona’s current regime includes two hours of cardio a day, one hour of weights a day, and six to seven meals a day while juggling her personal and professional life.

“The lady shows up, man,” said Meraz, a coach and competitor who has worked in the bodybuilding industry for more than 20 years. “She is a great person, she is very caregiving. She is always asking me how I am doing when she is the one going through the hard time. 

“What I love the most about her is that she shows up and she is tough as nails and I have basically done everything I have to build her and she has answered to that. No complaints, no whining, no questions.”
Staff Sgt. Kimberly Goana's training for a national body building competition includes two hours of cardio per day, one hour of weight lifting per day, and six to seven meals to build muscle.
If Gaona wins the first round of the competition she will go on to compete at the national professional level. 

“I wanted a challenge after I got through the Ground Reconnaissance Operators Training Course,” said Gaona. “I have to push for something better. Life has taught me that. I don’t want my kids to think mediocre is OK. If you have more to give, give it.”

While pushing through the final week of her preparation for the competition, Gaona’s energy levels plunge as her diet becomes more restrictive and now, she looks to her daughter and her kids for inspiration. 

“Look at Kiyana she has no idea what she accomplished last year,” said Gaona. “That kid fought for her life. She has no idea how strong she is. I hope that I was part of what pushed her through.”

All of her children are following after her example. Gaona’s oldest son enlisted in the Army. Her second oldest is at medical school in Ohio and the youngest two are still in high school. 

“I tell my kids ‘don’t be a victim. Don’t be a follower. Make your path’,” said Gaona. “Do what you want don’t let anyone tell you can’t do it unless you have tried.”

As for Gaona’s future, in typical Gaona fashion, there is no end in sight. 


Along with re-enlisting for another six years, she has enrolled in school to finish her Associate of Science in Nursing and plans to apply for the Interservice Physician Assistant Program at Fort Sam Houston to become a physician assistant.

“Always stay humble, because the world will make you humble,” said Gaona. “Never forget your dreams. You always have to have goals. There is always more.”

Airman weathers storm with resiliency

Story by SSgt Briana Larson and TSgt Lynn M. Means, 136th Airlift Wing, TXANG

Staff Sgt. Williams poses for a photo. (US Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Mark Otte)
Staff Sgt. Williams poses for a photo. (US Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Mark Otte)

NAVAL AIR STATION JOINT RESERVE BASE FORT WORTH, Texas -- “Say something.”

“I don’t know what made me make that call,” said Staff Sgt. De’Jon P. Williams, a 136th Airlift Wing photojournalist. “At that moment I told myself to say something. And I did, and I started to get help.”

Williams’ story shows the hope each of us can hold on to when we hit rock bottom, as he has come a long way from that day as a Senior Airman.

“Things had started to crumble,” said Williams. “My car got repossessed, I had just started my first day of school when everyone was called to support the Hurricane Harvey response, and it was then I learned some information in my personal life that tore me apart.”

It wasn’t right away that it all connected, said Williams. He had a mission to do and tried to stay focused. But when it finally hit him, it hit hard.

“It bothered me at the time, but the puzzle pieces hadn’t come together in my head just yet,” said Williams. “I went to cover a medical group that came to help us out in Houston. I don’t know what happened, but my mind just snapped. I lost it – I didn’t know what was going on.”

Williams immediately recognized something was not right, and he needed help.

“I remember flying with the medical group wondering what was going on with myself,” said Williams. “I was in autopilot the whole time, just trying to do my job taking photos. I wasn’t there in the moment – just doing my job with no context in my mind.”

As soon as he returned, he asked his supervisor for help.

“I reached out to Sgt. Overton, and told her I wasn’t doing so well,” said Williams. “I asked to talk to the First Sgt., who then reached out to Ms. Lynn, who was really helpful.”

Kathryn Lynn, the 136th Airlift Wing director of psychological health, was able to connect Williams with the first step in his road to recovery.

“The good thing was that I was proactive when I noticed something wasn’t right with me,” said Williams. “I spent that evening in the hospital. Sgt. Singletary drove me there himself. I knew I wasn’t going to hurt myself, but I couldn’t define this feeling – there were no words for it.”

It was after his initial breaking point when he began to notice small things would trigger him, said Williams. The tiniest things became the biggest stressors because of where he was mentally, as though every other day there was something to mess with him.

“For a couple of months, I only had my motorcycle,” said Williams. “When I was on my bike and it just started raining, those were some of my lowest times. I had to ride through torrential downpours just to get home, hiding under the overpass and waiting for the rain to stop. Sometimes I would sit there and think, ‘Well, if you think you can’t get no lower.’ That bike and I have literally been to hell and back together.”

Then another major event brought his world crashing down.

Staff Sgt. Williams poses for a photo. (US Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Mark Otte)
Staff Sgt. Williams poses for a photo. (US Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Mark Otte)

“My grandmother had two strokes, and without thinking it through, I tried to get as close to home as I can be, which was Phoenix,” said Williams. “But I still had a lease in Texas and had to pay for that lease. I worked and slept at the Phoenix airport and got support from the United Services Organization there. Then I’d make my cot in the corner of the airport and sleep until my shift started the next morning and fly back to Fort Worth for drill. I lived that way for maybe two months.”

But Williams’ support had not ended with that first hospital visit. His mentors include Maj. Theresa Chrystal, the 136th Airlift Wing executive officer, Tech. Sgt. Lynn Means, the non-commissioned officer in charge of Public Affairs, and Tech. Sgt. Kristina Overton, his supervisor.

Williams said a lot of people were aware of his situation and reached out a lot to help him. Because of this, he was able to get counseling sessions every week and had help getting a car. And Maj. Chrystal was there every step of the way with phone calls and text messages.

“Really everyone at some point played a role,” said Williams. “Maj. Chrystal, Sgt. Means, Sgt. Overton – sending encouraging texts and calling, pulling me to the side to see how I’m doing and how they can help. Sometimes I felt singled out, but looking back on it I feel thankful. It was the small things, just knowing that somebody cares.”

The Wingmen who stepped in to help Williams can look back on those days and see how far he has come, attesting to the value of reaching out for help.

“Sgt. Williams is a real-world example of how stepping in and taking care of an Airman can truly change their life,” said Chrystal. “I can’t even explain the joy in my heart when I see the difference in this young man. It’s evident in everything about him that by investing in him and ensuring he had the resources he needed, his life was turned around for the better. It’s what makes me proud to be a leader – to be there to help Airmen make it through those times.”

The struggle doesn’t always end, but Williams found ways to cope, and is once again thriving in his role with the Texas Air National Guard.

“I have my moments even today,” said Williams. “There are still things that I deal with, but I allow myself space to deal with it, and wake up tomorrow with a fresh start. I work out a lot more, I set rules for myself, and I try not to carry burdens and issues.”

Williams has since excelled in a deployed mission, trained the deployed Public Affairs team, and even earned a promotion into the Non-Commissioned Officer corps.

“I am so proud to see how strong and resilient he is,” said Chrystal. “I cannot wait to watch both his life and career as he continues to soar. He is definitely a rescue story in the making!”

Williams looks back at his journey with confidence, thankful for the ones who stepped up, and hoping his story will encourage others to reach out.

“I want other Airmen to know it’s worth it - say something,” said Williams. “Bottling it in isn’t going to do anything but make it worse and you don’t want to find yourself in a position where you feel like you can’t make it out. Just sit with someone, talk to them and let it out for 5 or 10 minutes. It will help. Just say something.”

From the Top October 2019

Effective Homeland Response

MAJOR GENERAL DAWN FERRELL, DEPUTY ADJUTANT GENERAL - AIR

     According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Texas leads all states in federal disaster declarations by a significant margin. It is therefore critical that our forces remain trained and ready at all times to respond any emergency or non-emergency situation for which we are asked to provide support. We do this through numerous mechanisms, including our Mission Ready Packages (MRPs), Civil Support Teams (CSTs), and Counter-Drug Task Force which recently celebrated its 30th Anniversary. The scalable nature of our responses is vital to our mission success, and we are often held up as a model to other states for how to best prepare for, and respond to, disasters and dangerous situations here at home. 

     TMD brings unique assets to the field in support of homeland response, and these are exemplified in our MRPs. In the event of a hurricane or other large-scale event, we can rapidly shift and mobilize personnel in numbers that no other agency can duplicate. When required to react to no notice Search and Rescue (SAR) missions, the SAR companies bring specialized skill sets that are not available elsewhere, saving lives. Our conduct during these missions has led Texans and Americans to feel safe and secure as soon as they see one of our people on the scene, ready to offer assistance.

     Homeland response efforts provide us with a crucial opportunity to enact our value of “communicate and partner”. Our teams work with a myriad of local, state, and federal agencies, and our ability to effectively combine efforts is mission critical. Our military expertise and training is central to both large and small response efforts; however our ability to effectively communicate with those we mobilize in support of is critical the effective use of those skill sets. During the Deer Park Fires of this past spring, our CST Soldiers and Airmen not only supported first responders operationally, but also worked closely with civilian agencies such as the school district, providing guidance on when it would be safe for students to return. 

     Our homeland focused interagency partnerships are not limited to Texas-specific groups and events. Last month, the TMD Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear (CBRN) Response Enterprise (CRE) elements participated in the Joint Task Force-Civil Support (JTF-CS) CBRN Summit at Fort Hood. This was a Title 10, 2 Star Command summit which involved interagency coordination between DOD (T32 and T10), FBI, DOE, DTRA, and private industry. Participants met to discuss the response efforts related to National Planning Scenario #1 – a 10 kiloton nuclear detonation in the homeland.

     Our force continues to prove that we can sustain our warfighter missions abroad while simultaneously being the premier homeland response force. Thank you for all you do to maintain the trust and respect of our state and nation. 

DUTY, HONOR, TEXAS

Maj. Gen. Dawn M. Ferrell is the Deputy Adjutant General-Air for the Texas Military Department and also serves as Commander for the Texas Air National Guard. She is the principle advisor to the Adjutant General for all Texas Air National Guard issues. She is responsible for formulating, developing, and coordinating all programs, policies, and plans for three Wings and more than 3,200 Air National Guard personnel throughout the state of Texas.
Maj. Gen. Dawn M. Ferrell is the Deputy Adjutant General-Air for the Texas Military Department and also serves as Commander for the Texas Air National Guard. She is the principle advisor to the Adjutant General for all Texas Air National Guard issues. She is responsible for formulating, developing, and coordinating all programs, policies, and plans for three Wings and more than 3,200 Air National Guard personnel throughout the state of Texas. 

 

The Nervous System of Texas Guard Operations

Story and Photos By: Caitlin Rourk, Texas Military Department Public Affairs

 
Sgt. Kory Colvin, left, and Maj. John Pearson, right, monitor real-time updates in the Texas Military Department Joint Operations Center, Camp Mabry, Austin, Texas. The JOC serves as a link between partner agencies and Texas' 24,000 Guardsmen and civilians.
Sgt. Kory Colvin, left, and Maj. John Pearson, right, monitor real-time updates in the Texas Military Department Joint Operations Center, Camp Mabry, Austin, Texas. The JOC serves as a link between partner agencies and Texas' 24,000 Guardsmen and civilians.

AUSTIN, Texas - Managing information flow for a part-time force, operating in an environment where incidents often occur with no advance warning, requires round the-clock monitoring and coordination. For the Texas Military Department, which has more than 24,000 service members and civilians in its ranks, dozens of agency partners and a dual federal and state mission, its Joint Operations Center plays that critical role.

The JOC is the hub of information flow during both steady state operations, where it oversees the daily battle rhythm of the nation’s largest state military organization, and major incidents to which the Texas Military Department responds, be it tropical or winter weather, floods, wildfires and other civil support and law enforcement operations.

“We are able to communicate with all the major commands and units. We should be able to very clearly tell anyone who walks in—most notably, the Texas Adjutant General—what is available,” Staff Sgt. Kimberly Eastburn, a JOC battle NCO, said. “If the TAG wants to send out a certain number of aviation assets, we know exactly where those are and what is possible since we get those fed to us. The JOC has all the information to handle anything the state needs.”

The JOC has four key charges. First, it ensures timely and accurate communications with TMD components, the National Guard Bureau and interagency partners. Second, the JOC maintains situational awareness, which aids leaders in decision-making, alerts leaders to take action and assists in appraising the effectiveness and efficiency of operations and activities. Third, the JOC provides mission command to TMD forces that are mobilized in support of Domestic Support of Civil Authorities. Finally, it maintains historical documentation.

Located at the Joint Force Headquarters building at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas, the JOC’s design maximizes accessibility of information and serves as a central collaborative gathering place for TMD personnel and interagency partners during incident responses. Large television screens stream cable news network feeds, screens project real-time numbers and information and Soldiers sit behind computer monitors and phones, acting as a switchboard to units in the field.

In July, TMD renamed the JOC for Sgt. Maj. Elwood H. Imken, a longtime figure in the agency who passed away in 2018. Imken was instrumental in creating TMD’s JOC, and TMD leaders recognized how fitting the dedication would be. Eastburn says she immediately saw the parallels between the JOC and Sgt. Maj. Imken, as both were—in their own unique ways—at the heart of the agency.

“The JOC is the hub of what’s happening in the Texas Military Department. Sgt. Maj. Imken was the hub of almost everything that was happening at Camp Mabry at one time or another in any capacity he served,” Eastburn said. 

Staff Sgt. Kimberly Eastburn, left, and Sgt. 1st Class Clinton Staha, right, discuss a potential unit mobilization in response to flooding at the Texas Military Department Joint Operations Center at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas.
Staff Sgt. Kimberly Eastburn, left, and Sgt. 1st Class Clinton Staha, right, discuss a potential unit mobilization in response to flooding at the Texas Military Department Joint Operations Center at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas.

Like most Texas Guardsmen, Hurricane Harvey was the biggest mission of which Eastburn has ever been a part. She says working in the JOC when the governor mobilized the full Texas National Guard gave her greater appreciation for what an unprecedented undertaking it was and how much coordination was involved to accomplish it.

“The coordination and ability to respond and make that happen when it did is because the JOC is so heavily involved. We have the information, from what the State Operations Center needs, to what the Department of Public Safety needs,” said Eastburn. “Our partners know us, and we are the intermediary when a State of Texas Assistance Request, or STAR, goes out. We push the STAR and call out for mission-ready packages, and we know exactly how much it will cost because of all the past experience and events of what’s happened here.”

Capt. Jacob Schreyer, a JOC battle captain, explains that the JOC maintains an especially close relationship with full-time staff at units. Once the JOC receives the STAR, which allows Texas municipalities to request resources from TMD and other agencies for disaster and civil support responses, Schreyer and his team immediately make contact with units well before they are activated. The JOC explains the mission and helps leaders marshal their rosters, something that can be challenging for M-Day leaders who simply cannot be fully engaged on day-to-day unit operations. 

Facing the constraints of a largely part-time force, Eastburn says the JOC’s role in supporting readiness and ensuring accurate and timely information flow cannot be understated.

“As far as readiness, we know what we’ve got. We know where the people are. Overall readiness, without the JOC, it would be really hard,” Eastburn said. “We are the communication hub for everything the TAG wants, everything NGB wants, all the way down to the units. Without that, we just have so many different ways the information would flow down and potentially be miscommunicated.”

Battle captains and NCOs man the JOC every day of the year. While the JOC has set core hours, someone on staff is always on-call. More substantial incidents can prompt leaders to initiate the Adaptive Battle Staff, a construct that scales a staff size when responding to a natural or manmade disaster. The ABS has full-time personnel and traditional Guardsmen who come in on State Active Duty orders and different levels that dictate the number of SAD personnel and types of shifts and hours, ranging from Level IV, normal conditions, to Level I, maximum readiness.

“We are postured and ready to turn to 24-hour coverage, with 12-hour shifts and daily shift change briefs, if the agency is in an event response that requires increased manning,” Schreyer said. “We can flip back at a moment’s notice.”

In the months ahead, the JOC will modify how it displays information to maximize impact. Schreyer adds that the JOC is also working toward even greater integration with all three TMD components, including implementing a new system that better synchronizes with the Texas Air National Guard and having liaison officers more regularly present at the JOC.

This article originally appeared in the October 2019 edition of The Dispatch on page 6. 

136 SF gains operational experience at Ramstein

Story by: Senior Airman Bryan Swink

Posted: 06-20-2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Texas National Guard and Chilean Partners Celebrate 10 years of Partnership

Story by Brandon Jones

Texas military leaders and Chilean military leaders pose for a photo at the Texas State Capitol in Austin, Texas, April 12, 2019. The Texas National Guard and Chilean armed forces converged in Austin, Texas to discuss and celebrate their partnership that started one decade ago. As part of the annual State Partnership Program Planning meeting, the parties met to discuss, plan and establish agreed upon activities, in both countries, for the year ahead. The events, held throughout the year, focus on disaster/emergency response; aviation operations, maintenance and safety; military medical and engineer activities; as well as leadership, staff, officer and noncommissioned officer development.
Texas military leaders and Chilean military leaders pose for a photo at the Texas State Capitol in Austin, Texas, April 12, 2019. The Texas National Guard and Chilean armed forces converged in Austin, Texas to discuss and celebrate their partnership that started one decade ago. As part of the annual State Partnership Program Planning meeting, the parties met to discuss, plan and establish agreed upon activities, in both countries, for the year ahead. The events, held throughout the year, focus on disaster/emergency response; aviation operations, maintenance and safety; military medical and engineer activities; as well as leadership, staff, officer and noncommissioned officer development.

AUSTIN, Texas- It is a well-known fact the National Guard’s core mission includes fighting America’s wars and securing the homeland, but perhaps a lesser-known mission is that of building enduring partnerships. 

From April 10-13, 2019, members of the Texas National Guard and Chilean Armed Forces converged in Austin, Texas to discuss and celebrate their partnership that started one decade ago. As part of the Annual State Partnership Program Planning Meeting, the parties met to discuss, plan and establish agreed upon activities, in both countries, for the year ahead. The events, held throughout the year, focus on disaster/emergency response; aviation operations, maintenance, and safety; military medical and engineer activities; as well as leadership, staff, officer and noncommissioned officer development. 

“Both our state and their nation have significant responsibilities with regards to disaster response, and experience is often one of the best teachers so what better way to support one another than helping to share and improve upon best practices,” said Maj. Mark White, State Partnership Program Director, Texas Military Department. “An experience our Soldiers and Airmen value, a great secondary benefit to SPP is the exchanging of our cultures and what makes Chile and Texas special places respectively. We create lifelong friendships through every event together.”

In addition to planning events for the fiscal year 2020, this trip included multiple activities commemorating the tenth anniversary of the partnership. On April 12, 2019, the Chilean delegation was presented with a proclamation from the Deputy Secretary of State of Texas, Jose A. Esparza, recognizing and honoring the important partnership between the Texas National Guard and the Republic of Chile. This same group was furthered honored on the House floor of the Texas Capitol prior to signing the formal agreement on the steps of the Texas Capitol. 

“Today’s events, in which representatives from Texas and Chile were standing side-by-side, exemplify the solidarity of our commitment to the program and one another,” said White. “In 2020 we will jointly execute over 40 SPP events in both of our countries as we start our second decade of partnership which strives to be the model for SPP in SOUTHCOM.”

In a Strategic Studies Quarterly article published in 2018 Gen. Joseph L. Lengyel, Chief of the National Guard Bureau, stated SPP is future focused and adaptive to geopolitical changes. Lengyel says NGB has seen the program grow from assisting nations in developing more modern and professional militaries functioning under civilian control to partnerships that look to deepen interoperability with complementary capabilities and forces.

"Beyond the military benefits, we have witnessed the fruits of these relationships as they help the United States maintain and grow its alliances across the globe through enduring and personal relationships," said Lengyel. "What began as a program of 10 partnerships in Eastern Europe has spread across five continents and currently encompasses approximately one-third of the nations in the world."

As part of the program and in addition to Chile, the Texas and Nebraska National Guards share a partnership with the Czech Republic. In 2018, the Czech Armed Forces and its state partners commemorated the 25th anniversary of the union. Under the National Guard Bureau’s State Partnership Program there are currently 76 partnerships in place and support to 83 nations around the globe.

Texas Air Guard concludes Aviation Rotation 19 1 in Poland

Story by Tech. Sgt. Kristina Overton

1st Lt. Chad Douglass, 181st Airlift Squadron C-130H2 Hercules co-pilot, mans the controls above the Polish countryside during a formation flight with the Polish Air Force on March 13, 2019. 136th Airlift Wing members travelled to Poland in support of Aviation Rotation 19.1 in an effort to increase threat response capabilities with the Polish Air Force. (Air National Guard Photo by Staff Sgt. Sean Kornegay/released)
1st Lt. Chad Douglass, 181st Airlift Squadron C-130H2 Hercules co-pilot, mans the controls above the Polish countryside during a formation flight with the Polish Air Force on March 13, 2019. 136th Airlift Wing members traveled to Poland in support of Aviation Rotation 19.1 in an effort to increase threat response capabilities with the Polish Air Force. (Air National Guard Photo by Staff Sgt. Sean Kornegay/released)

The last aircraft touched down on the runway ramp, as pilots from the 136th Airlift Wing, Texas Air National Guard and Polish air force concluded training for Aviation Rotation 19.1, in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve. During the exercise, Airmen strengthened capabilities between U.S. and NATO allies through participation in strategic joint force operations and training to enhance partner interoperability and maintain combined readiness.

These rotations have proven vital in maintaining theater security by increasing overall presence and further enhancing the U.S.'s commitment to NATO partners such as Poland.

“The exercise was very successful," said Lt. Col. Jeffrey Mull, 136th Airlift Wing deployed squadron commander. "You have two countries that are very interested in bilateral training, and though the 136th Airlift Wing has never flown with the Polish Air Force before, their expertise merged seamlessly with ours as far as the execution of the tactical airlift mission goes. Typical to any of our operations, we overcame weather and maintenance, and were able to accomplish some excellent training together.”

Throughout the Aviation Rotation, the two air forces were able to engage in a number of combined training events: formation flights in C-130 Hercules aircraft, fighter engagements with Polish F-16 Fighting Falcons, combat offloads, and high velocity container delivery system drops. Training together facilitated a platform to build relationships, and formed a conduit for the exchange information and skills useful in future operations.

“We are happy that Airmen from the 136th Airlift Wing were here with us,” said Col. Grzegorz Kołodziejczyk, Powidz Air Base commander. “We are always happy to work with Texas. You have been flying the C-130 longer than us, and you gave us your knowledge. Thank you again for your visit — you are always welcome here at Powidz.”

During a ceremony, the Polish Air Force hosted a celebratory dinner for the entire team. Both air forces expressed their gratitude for the experience and presented each other with parting mementos.

“One of the Polish flight patches they gave us says 'Razem Silniejsi,' which translates to 'Stronger Together,'" Mull said. "The saying is 100 years old, and American Airmen have been flying alongside the Polish Air Force since 1919. We understand the importance of our mission here for both of our countries, and we look forward to continuing our work together in the future.”

136th Medical Group treats underserved communities

""
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).