Posts in Category: Texas Air National Guard

Enlisted leadership regards 136AW Citizen Airmen's input

Story by A1C Laura Weaver, Texas Air National Guard

NAVAL AIR STATION JOINT RESERVE BASE FORT WORTH, Texas - Chief Master Sgt. Michael Cornitius, Texas Military Department Command Senior Enlisted Leader, visited 136th Airlift Wing, Texas Air National Guard Airmen Nov. 14-15, 2020.

During his visit, he met and engaged with Citizen Airmen directly about their role in the Air National Guard, listened to their feedback, and shared state leadership’s appreciation for their efforts. 

Chief Master Sgt. Michael Cornitius, Texas Military Department Command Senior Enlisted Leader, speaks to 136th Airlift Wing Citizen Airmen at Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth, Texas, Nov. 14, 2020. Cornitius visited the 136th and engaged with enlisted Airmen directly to provide information from state leadership and listen to feedback from unit level Airmen. (Texas Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. De’Jon Williams)
Chief Master Sgt. Michael Cornitius, Texas Military Department Command Senior Enlisted Leader, speaks to 136th Airlift Wing Citizen Airmen at Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth, Texas, Nov. 14, 2020. Cornitius visited the 136th and engaged with enlisted Airmen directly to provide information from state leadership and listen to feedback from unit level Airmen. (Texas Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. De’Jon Williams)


“The main goal for me is getting an opportunity to have that touchpoint with the wing, being able to really talk to the Airmen and understand how we can support them better in the decisions that we make,” said Cornitius.

Cornitius assists the Adjutant General in assuring the readiness, training and development of more than 19,000 enlisted Army and Air personnel in the Texas Guard and State Guard.

At the 136th, the chief visited with multiple units and attended a variety of meetings with junior and senior enlisted members where he recognized and coined standout Airmen for their exceptional performance.

“Texas has the largest and the best guard force in the nation,” said Cornitius. “We want to do more, we want to give more, and we want to help more. For us as an organization, and in particular at the 136th, we want to provide more opportunities for the wing to make sure that everyone has an opportunity to do the job that they want to do and that they’re happy with doing it.”

Cornitius says that by interfacing with Citizen Airmen in the field, he is able to verbalize state initiatives and provide a different perspective to help them understand how their roles support the force as a whole.

“Everyone at the 136th is doing a great job,” said Cornitius. “Keep doing what you’re doing. Continue to lead. Continue to think about tomorrow. Set your long-term goals, and then work toward them through your short-terms goals which will help you in your career.”

Cornitius originally hails from Galveston, Texas, and is in his 33rd year of military service.

Texas Guardsmen satisfy thirst for Lake Jackson

Story and photos by MSgt Lynn Means, 136th Airlift Wing, Texas Air National Guard

“We knew we were in a crisis.”

When the water supply of a southern Texas city became tainted and unsafe to drink, the Texas Military Department responded by sending Army National Guardsmen to ensure residents had the water they needed to sustain life.

“Back in September, a little boy lost his life due to a brain eating amoeba,” said Bryan Sidebottom, Lake Charles, Texas deputy emergency manager. “We were trying to figure out what happened, and posted a water advisory. We told everyone the water was not consumable, and to use it only to flush the toilet.”

City officials were faced with the dilemma of ensuring residents had water to drink. Without the free flow of clean water to houses, it was going to be an enormous task.

“We didn’t have enough manpower in the city to hand out water bottles while we continue to provide city services,” said Sidebottom. “It’s a big task, so we requested the Guard.


“Initially we had a do-not-use advisory for the water, then it became a boil water advisory. This meant you could drink it after you boil the water.”

But this still was not a good solution, said Sidebottom, as the elevated levels of chlorine used to disinfect the system caused great concern for the residents.

“We wanted to provide the water to ensure every citizen felt they were being taken care of,” said Sidebottom. “It’s been a very arduous task, but thankfully the Guard came to our aid.”

Texas Army National Guardsmen distribute water bottles to local residents October 8, 2020, at Lake Jackson, Texas. These jumped into action to supply water to residents when a deadly amoeba affected the water supply. (Texas Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Lynn M. Means)
Texas Army National Guardsmen distribute water bottles to local residents October 8, 2020, at Lake Jackson, Texas. These jumped into action to supply water to residents when a deadly amoeba affected the water supply. (Texas Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Lynn M. Means)


31 Army National Guardsmen arrived on the morning of September 27, 2020, bringing water to quench the thirst of Lake Jackson residents. Over a span of nearly two weeks, the team handed out cases of water, talked to residents, and expressed their joy at being able to serve.

“Today we handed out 4,400 cases, and we also hit a little over one million water bottles since we started,” said Private 1st Class Markel Locks, a Texas Army National Guardsman assigned to the team. “Seeing people smile when we gave them water, it meant the world to us.

“That’s the reason why I joined. I wanted to help people.”

Locks said he was struck with the depth of the situation when the team had to move hotels because they could not shower.

“We were a little scared,” said Locks. “Water is a part of life. It’s a part of our body.”

But the outpouring of gratitude from the residents had a positive reaction on all the members.

“We all love being here. Every four cars or so, we got cookies, candies, we got to look at all kinds of dogs - it was beautiful! I really love this town! I’ve been thinking about moving here.”

The mission was not without its risks. Several days into the mission, one of the Guardsmen began experiencing symptoms of COVID-19.

“We had a soldier experiencing symptoms and started asking about COVID,” said Juan Guerrero, officer in charge of the mission. “We took him to the hospital, then quarantined him at the hotel. Two days later, his test results came back positive.”

The team was taken off mission while they waited in isolation to see if they also would test positive. The state immediately mustered a Quick Response Force to fill the mission’s needs.

“Within six hours’ notice, the QRF was out here,” said Guerrero. “It was really awesome. Next morning at 7:00, they started doing our thing and they kept it up for two days until we got our tests back.

The rest of the team was relieved to receive a negative COVID test within a couple of days.

“We were ready to get back to work,” said Guerrero. “The city of Lake Jackson was a great host. They made sure we had hot meals and no need to eat MREs. They really boosted our morale.”

Sidebottom explained everyone was immensely grateful for the Citizen Soldiers who came to distribute water to their city.

“One resident wrote she could see everyone was happy to do what they were doing, and she could see that through their smiling eyes,” said Sidebottom, grinning.

Texas Army National Guardsmen distribute water bottles to local residents October 8, 2020, at Lake Jackson, Texas. These jumped into action to supply water to residents when a deadly amoeba affected the water supply. (Texas Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Lynn M. Means)His own eyes welled up and he stood a little taller.

“She said it brought tears to her eyes to see their service,” said Sidebottom. “I love that. It brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it.

Sidebottom said it takes a special person to serve.

“They’re very high spirited,” said Sidebottom. “They’re motivated. They understand the cause, and they’re always ready to serve.
 

They are Texans serving Texas.

Bent, but not broken: A breast cancer journey

Story by Airman 1st Class Laura Weaver, 136th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
 

NAVAL AIR STATION JOINT RESERVE BASE FORT WORTH, Texas - “Riddle me this: It feels as hard as a rock, but it can spread like jelly,” said Texas Air National Guard Maj. Adrienne Saint, Logistics Readiness Officer at the 136th Airlift Wing (136 AW). “It’s not edible, but it can eat you.”

The answer?

Saint has a five-year life-changing story to embody the answer: breast cancer.

Saint’s journey began in December 2015 when she went to a primary care physician at Fort Belvoir, Va., to get a routine mammogram. At the time, Saint, 45, was serving her 15th year in the Air Force on an Active Duty tour at the National Guard Bureau in Arlington, Va.

One month later, Saint completed her tour and was back to her normal routine at home in Fort Worth, Texas. She just started a new job at the 136 AW Inspector General’s (IG) office, bought a new house and was awaiting a promotion. She had all but forgotten her appointment until she received a voicemail from Fort Belvoir informing her that her images were “distorted” along with a letter suggesting she seek a follow-up appointment.

It was May 2016 before Saint reached out to make an appointment with her local primary care physician, just shortly before she discovered a lump herself for the first time. When her doctor referred her for another mammogram, Saint shared the message she had received from Fort Belvoir with the nurses.

“My original thought was they didn’t do the mammogram right and my images were just messed up,” said Saint. “And they said, ‘No, that means something is wrong with you… You’re distorted.’”

Texas Air National Guard Major Adrienne Saint, 136th Airlift Wing Logistics Readiness Squadron Officer, smiles in celebration of being cancer-free September 27, 2020, at Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth, Texas. Saint recently celebrated her fourth anniversary of being breast cancer-free after a full bilateral mastectomy in September 2016. Making an effort to fully understand the experiences and recognize the resilience of those who serve alongside helps build stronger Citizen Airmen. (Texas Air National Guard photo by Airman 1st Class Laura Weaver)
Texas Air National Guard Major Adrienne Saint, 136th Airlift Wing Logistics Readiness Squadron Officer, smiles in celebration of being cancer-free September 27, 2020, at Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth, Texas. Saint recently celebrated her fourth anniversary of being breast cancer-free after a full bilateral mastectomy in September 2016. Making an effort to fully understand the experiences and recognize the resilience of those who serve alongside helps build stronger Citizen Airmen. (Texas Air National Guard photo by Airman 1st Class Laura Weaver)



After the second mammogram came an ultrasound, and then finally the diagnosis: breast cancer.

“Time stood still for a minute,” said Saint. “Those are words you don’t expect to hear. When the doctor left, the nurse kept saying, ‘It’s okay. You can cry. You can breathe.’ But I was just frozen.”

“I had nobody,” continued Saint. “I didn’t know anybody that had ever had breast cancer. I had no support. Once I left the facility, I barely made it to my car. I felt so weak, and I just sat in my car because I couldn’t even drive home.”

Soon after the initial discussion, Saint’s biopsy came back positive confirming the doctor’s diagnosis. She had been keeping her struggle a secret, but she finally began to break the news to her friends and family in August 2016.

“I had my new house, my new job, my grandma passed, and I even had this massive promotion party at work,” said Saint. “So all of this was going on while I’m trying to face this, and nobody knew.”

She also knew it was time to say something to her coworkers. The task, however, wasn’t so simple for her. The 136 IG was a team of all males.

“They were shocked when they found out, but they were understanding,” said Saint. “They all have wives, and some of them have daughters, so I think they had a lot of compassion. But I think as long as I put it out of sight and out of mind, it was out of sight and out of mind for others too.”

The stage-2 cancer was a mutated estrogen hormone that had developed into a slow-growing mass called an Invasive Ductal Carcinoma (IDC). After exploring her options with her doctor, Saint opted to have a full bilateral mastectomy that September, followed by four reconstructive surgeries spanning over the next 18 months.

“After five major surgeries in 18 months, I can truly say I’m a rebuilt 1974 Ford Pinto made in Texas,” said Saint.

After her first surgery — the mastectomy — Saint found comfort in simply getting back into a sense of normalcy.

“When I left the hospital that day, I wore a new pair of heels,” said Saint. “Ironically, I don’t like the color pink, but to celebrate, I bought a pair of burgundy-colored heels with a t-shirt that said ’drunk off my t**s,’ and that’s what I wore out of the hospital with my hair and makeup done. And every day after that during my recovery, I got up, I brushed my hair, and I put on my makeup before I left my room. My mom kind of laughed at me and said, ‘What are you doing?’ and I said, ‘Why not? This is my normalcy. I can’t do anything else, but if I look in the mirror and look good, then that makes me feel good.’”

While the mastectomy was successful, a complete recovery didn’t happen overnight. It was a lengthy process for the new Air Force major as she worked to overcome not only the obvious physical challenges, but also her internal struggles as she progressed through the reconstructive surgeries.

“The pain doesn’t stop,” said Saint. “It’s a long term thing: the numbness from the lymph nodes being removed, the swelling that comes along with it, the loss of my body parts, and having something foreign put in my body that’s not natural or real. I felt like my womanhood was taken away from me, and it felt like a loss of control of a lot of things. The recovery was hard because of the pain, but I think what was harder was not being able to do anything for myself. I couldn’t move, and I couldn’t even lift. I’ve lived on my own for 20 years, and it was hard to come to terms with the fact that I couldn’t even get my own glass of water.”

In between her surgeries, Saint pushed herself by immersing herself in her job. Though her male coworkers in IG were supportive, she was determined not to fall behind and tried to keep a heavy workload as much as she could.

“I was working with all males, and I felt like I had something to prove,” said Saint. “I was trying to prove to everyone that just because this happened, I could still work harder. There was the guilt of leaving work and the fear of getting behind. So I buried myself in my work. I was on leave for so long in between every surgery, and I kept telling myself, ‘I’m in the military and I have to get back to my job.’ Instead of healing, I was trying to rush back to work. But it’s a mourning process, and those are things I didn’t realize at first.”

Saint’s friends and coworkers at the 136 AW recognized her struggle and made efforts to be there for her as much as they could. Several of them were able to bring her lunch during her recovery and check on her at home. The wing commander and Saint’s supervisor visited her at the hospital during one of her surgeries. The Force Support Squadron Airmen even brought over Long John Silver’s because she was craving it.

Saint’s network of friends across the country also found ways to help from afar.

“A lot of my friends are in different states, partly because I’m in the military and partly because I’m originally from California. There are a lot of connections I’ve made throughout the years, and we’ve all stayed in touch. One of my girlfriends in California was able to contact my closest friends through an email I sent previously, and she set up a meal plan for me. I had no idea, but when I got home from the hospital, everyone had signed up to cover two weeks of my meals. My friends from other states ordered from a delivery service, and my local friends brought something over.”

Saint’s last surgery was in March 2018. She just hit her four-year mark of being cancer-free in September of this year. The most emotional part for Saint now is reflecting on how far she’s come since the beginning of her journey. As her bright eyes welled up with tears, Saint had a piece of advice for the past version of herself who felt so alone and exhausted in her battle.
 

Texas Air National Guard Major Adrienne Saint, 136th Airlift Wing Logistics Readiness Squadron Officer, takes a moment to celebrate four years of being breast cancer-free September 27, 2020, at Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth, Texas. After her diagnosis in 2016, Saint had five major surgeries over the span of 18 months. Understanding Citizen Airmen and their personal struggles boosts the resiliency of military and civilian Air Force members. (Texas Air National Guard photo by Airman 1st Class Laura Weaver)
Texas Air National Guard Major Adrienne Saint, 136th Airlift Wing Logistics Readiness Squadron Officer, takes a moment to celebrate four years of being breast cancer-free September 27, 2020, at Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth, Texas. After her diagnosis in 2016, Saint had five major surgeries over the span of 18 months. Understanding Citizen Airmen and their personal struggles boosts the resiliency of military and civilian Air Force members. (Texas Air National Guard photo by Airman 1st Class Laura Weaver)

“I would tell her it’s okay to take time off and heal,” she said. “Everybody kept telling me, ‘You’ve got this’ and ‘You’re strong.’ I felt like I couldn’t feel, and I harbored so many emotions because I was trying to be strong. But it’s okay to feel, and it’s okay to be weak.”

This is also the advice Saint gives to those who reach out to her when their loved ones are going through similar situations.

“The words of advice I give to those people are to let them feel,” said Saint. “If they’re angry, if they’re sad … just support whatever they are feeling and let them feel that. It’s human nature that when someone comes to you with a problem, you want to relate. But it’s important to be a good listener and to let that person talk.”

Though Saint initially kept her struggle a secret, she is now outspoken about her battle with breast cancer in an effort to be a voice of encouragement and support for others who need it.

“The reason I’m willing to share my story is not because I’m asking for sympathy or attention, but because maybe, if I can be brave enough to speak out, this might be my blessing to the next person,” said Saint. “I believe my breast cancer was to be part of some greater good.”

The answer to Saint’s initial riddle is just two small words that don’t express with justice the war stories of Saint and thousands of other women who have or are currently struggling with breast cancer. But her story illustrates a counter to the riddle of breast cancer with two other powerful words: hope and resiliency.

“We’re stronger for it in the end,” said Saint. “It’s our story. Embrace the scars because we have to live with it, and we can beautify it because everyone’s a little bit bent. We’re not broken — we’re all just a little bit bent.”

Texas Guardsman and 28th Chief of the National Guard Bureau retires to Texas

By Charles E. Spirtos, Texas Military Department Public Affairs

SAN ANTONIO, Texas- On Friday, August 28, 2020 Maj. Gen. Tracy R. Norris, the adjutant general of Texas hosted the retirement ceremony for Gen. Joseph L. Lengyel, Texas Guardsman and the 28th Chief of the National Guard Bureau.

The Texas Military Department hosted a retirement ceremony for Texas Guardsman and the 28th Chief of the National Guard Bureau, General Joseph L. Lengyel at the Alamo in San Antonio on August 28, 2020. The ceremony was officiated by Maj. Gen. Tracy R. Norris, the Adjutant General of Texas, and Gen. Daniel Hokanson, the 29th and current Chief of the National Guard Bureau. (U.S. Army photos by Charles E. Spirtos)
The Texas Military Department hosted a retirement ceremony for Texas Guardsman and the 28th Chief of the National Guard Bureau, General Joseph L. Lengyel at the Alamo in San Antonio on August 28, 2020. The ceremony was officiated by Maj. Gen. Tracy R. Norris, the Adjutant General of Texas, and Gen. Daniel Hokanson, the 29th and current Chief of the National Guard Bureau. (U.S. Army photos by Charles E. Spirtos)


The ceremony was conducted outdoors at historic site of the Alamo in San Antonio, Texas. COVID-19 mitigation efforts were in effect at the ceremony, but despite the limitation in audience size, there was no limitation of gratitude and respect for Lengyel’s service.

Speaking at the ceremony, Lengyel expressed admiration and pride in the service and dedication of all men and women in the National Guard.

“One of the most impressive things about all of the men and women who serve in our military and who put on this uniform, is that none of us knows what the uniform will ask of them. You may deploy multiple times, you may serve domestically, but that is what we signed up for.”

Lengyel sought to focus additional attention onto the service members of the National Guard: “Let’s take a moment to acknowledge what we all have done together as Soldiers and Airmen in service of our country. As Guardsmen though, we not only serve our country, but we also have served in our states and our communities.”

Lengyel exits the military after nearly four decades of service to the Air Force and the Air National Guard. He served in various operational and staff assignments, primarily as an F-16 Instructor Pilot and Weapons Officer. His experience in the F-16 includes tours in Air Combat Command, Pacific Air Forces, United States Air Forces in Europe and the Texas Air National Guard.

He has commanded a fighter squadron, operations group, air expeditionary group and the Air National Guard Readiness Center.

Lengyel is a command pilot with more than 3,000 flying hours primarily in the F-16. Additionally, Lengyel served as the Senior United States Defense Official; Chief, Office of Military Cooperation; and Defense Attaché, Cairo, United States Central Command, Cairo, Egypt.

Prior to his assumption of command as the Chief of the National Guard Bureau, Lengyel was the vice commander of the Texas Air National Guard’s 149th Fighter Wing, the “Gunfighters,” who performed an fly-over above the Alamo in honor of Lengyel’s service to the Wing and to the United States Military.

Throughout his command, Lengyel dedicated his service to improving the quality of life for all the service members under his responsibility, as well as focusing on maintaining readiness and agility within the Guard.The Texas Military Department hosted a retirement ceremony for Texas Guardsman and the 28th Chief of the National Guard Bureau, General Joseph L. Lengyel at the Alamo in San Antonio on August 28, 2020. The ceremony was officiated by Maj. Gen. Tracy R. Norris, the Adjutant General of Texas, and Gen. Daniel Hokanson, the 29th and current Chief of the National Guard Bureau. (U.S. Army photos by Charles E. Spirtos)

Lengyel’s command has seen the Guard usher in a new era as a strategic reserve force, which is relied upon by both federal and state partners for a variety of mission sets.

Under his tenure, Lengyel has seen National Guard Soldiers and Airmen deployed in support of every United States Geographic Combatant Command.

Lengyel has also presided over one of the Guard’s most active periods of domestic support operations. From large scale hurricane response efforts like those seen after Hurricane Harvey, to the broad and varied mission sets in the response to COVID-19, to protection of liberty, life and property during the June 2020 civil disturbance, Lengyel has ensured that the Guard was ready to meet the call. As of his retirement, 180,000 Guardsmen were on some form of active duty order.

Because of Lengyel’s tireless dedication, and his advocacy of Guard issues to both the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Secretary of Defense, the National Guard has seen respect and admiration unlike any other era. True to the National Guard motto, Lengyel’s leadership truly has established a force that is always ready and always there.
Norris praised Lengyel’s lifetime of leadership and service:

“The same fighting Texas spirit that was displayed here at the Alamo centuries ago lives on throughout the entire Lengyel family, and especially through Gen. Lengyel’s decades of service to Texas and the United States.”

At the ceremony, Lengyel received numerous accolades from state and federal leaders, including Texas Governor Greg Abbott, who praised all that Lengyel has accomplished for the State of Texas. Lengyel also received the Texas Superior Service Medal from Norris, as well as the Defense Superior Service Medal.

These awards add to Lengyel’s numerous decorations over the years, including: Defense Distinguished Service Medal, Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit with two oak leaf clusters, Bronze Star Medal, Air Force Meritorious Service Medal with oak leaf cluster, and many more.

Reflecting on the totality of his service within the National Guard, Lengyel said: “I never intended to be Chief of the National Guard Bureau, but I will never trade in my experience for anything in the world.”

Communication is key with Task Force Texas

Story and photo by Staff Sgt. Sean Kornegay, 136th Airlift Wing, Texas Air National Guard

AUSTIN, Texas - Captain Michael McCann, Joint Task Force 136 Maneuver Enhancement Brigade Telecommunications Officer, is currently mobilized with the Texas National Guard's Task Force Texas in Austin, Texas. The Task Force Texas mission is to provide personnel support and supplies to hospitals located in Houston, San Antonio, Del Rio, and the Rio Grande Valley during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. CPT McCann’s role is to assure the continuation of support by keeping communication strong between military and civilian personnel.

CPT McCann and his team are responsible for support of the command, control, communications, cyber requirements and development processes that ensure joint interoperability.

"Our job is to make sure our people can reach the outside world," said McCann. "We handle communications and control through phones, internet, and computers. We have a team here that monitors the networks that allows information to flow from top to bottom and vice versa.” 

Captain Michael McCann, Joint Task Force 136 Maneuver Enhancement Brigade Telecommunications Officer, is currently mobilized with the Texas National Guard's Task Force Texas in Austin, Texas. The Task Force Texas mission is to provide personnel support and supplies to hospitals located in Houston, San Antonio, Del Rio, and the Rio Grande Valley during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. CPT McCann’s role is to assure the continuation of support by keeping communication strong between military and civilian personnel.
Captain Michael McCann, Joint Task Force 136 Maneuver Enhancement Brigade Telecommunications Officer, is currently mobilized with the Texas National Guard's Task Force Texas in Austin, Texas. The Task Force Texas mission is to provide personnel support and supplies to hospitals located in Houston, San Antonio, Del Rio, and the Rio Grande Valley during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. CPT McCann’s role is to assure the continuation of support by keeping communication strong between military and civilian personnel. 



CPT McCann’s 24 years of commitment to the Signal Corps, a U.S. Army branch dedicated to communication and information systems management, instilled within him the significance of clear communication.

"Proper information flow allows our commanders to make the best decisions,” McCann said. "It allows them to put soldiers where they need to be to support the civilians who need them right now.”

McCann appreciates the opportunity to serve his fellow Texans.

"I’m proud,” said McCann. “I’ve been doing this a long time and it gives me a great sense of purpose. It’s a different type of mission versus deploying somewhere. But this is very important to the nation and to the state of Texas. I’m honored to be able to step in and support.”

CPT McCann and his team accepted the challenge to keep Task Force Texas connected with multiple state agencies for the COVID-19 response.

“There’s always an uncertainty when it comes to working with new agencies,” said McCann. “It’s about how best to make things fit and putting the puzzle pieces together correctly. In no time at all, things began to work very smoothly.”

His prior experience with TMD’s Hurricane Harvey response afforded McCann with the necessary wisdom to better serve the citizens of Texas and the United States.

"While they’re both large, they are two very different operations. Both missions share the same goal and that is to mitigate suffering. That’s what we’re going to do here however we can.”

Texans serving Texas.

Texas Medical Provider Mission highlights partnership between National Guard and Active Duty

Story by Mr. Robert Seyller, Texas Military Department Public Affairs

AUSTIN, Texas – More than 1200 service members are partnering together from the Texas National Guard and the Active and Reserve components of the U.S. Army, U.S. Navy and U.S. Air Force to support Texas hospitals during the COVID-19 pandemic.

With a request to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Gov. Greg Abbot has secured a partnership between the Texas National Guard and U.S. Army North that will provide local hospitals with medical professionals from the U.S. Armed Forces. 

Maj. Gen. Tracy Norris, the Adjutant General of Texas (left), converses with U.S. Army North Commanding General, Lt. Gen. Laura Richardson (right), during a visit to the Texas State Operations Center in Austin, Texas, July 16, 2020. While there, military and civilian leaders strengthened their partnership and discussed the joint military COVID-19 operation in support of federal efforts and the state. U.S. Northern Command, through U.S. Army North, remains committed to providing flexible Department of Defense support to states in need as well as the Federal Emergency Management Agency in support of the whole-of-nation COVID-19 response. (U.S. Army photo by Col. Martin O'Donnell / U.S Army North Public Affairs)
Maj. Gen. Tracy Norris, the Adjutant General of Texas (left), converses with U.S. Army North Commanding General, Lt. Gen. Laura Richardson (right), during a visit to the Texas State Operations Center in Austin, Texas, July 16, 2020. While there, military and civilian leaders strengthened their partnership and discussed the joint military COVID-19 operation in support of federal efforts and the state. U.S. Northern Command, through U.S. Army North, remains committed to providing flexible Department of Defense support to states in need as well as the Federal Emergency Management Agency in support of the whole-of-nation COVID-19 response. (U.S. Army photo by Col. Martin O'Donnell / U.S Army North Public Affairs)

Maj. Gen. Tracy R. Norris, the adjutant general of Texas, welcomed the additional healthcare providers that will be joining a Texas Military Department response that began in March 2020.

“By partnering with the Active duty and Reserve components, we will be able to provide this much needed support and relief to the Texas civilian healthcare workers who have been working tirelessly to care for the people of our great state,” said Norris.

According to Norris, the Texas National Guard already shares a strong working relationship with U.S. Army North. The San Antonio based U.S. Army North also provides defense support of civil authorities in times of need.

Lt. Gen. Laura J. Richardson, commanding general of U.S. Army North (Fifth Army) and the Joint Force Land Component Command, also pointed to the long-standing relationship between the Guard, Active Duty, and the joint force.

“This is a total force effort,” said Lt. Gen. Richardson. “Our joint service members are working determinedly to relieve stress on hospitals and to deliver care to communities in need.”

Maj. Gen. Norris, serving as the first female adjutant general of the state, and Lt. Gen. Richardson, serving as the first female commander of U.S. Army North, have both spent months working to reduce the impact of COVID-19 on the nation.

“We are committed to assisting those in need as part of the ongoing whole-of-nation response to the COVID-19 pandemic and in support of FEMA,” said Lt. Gen. Richardson. “At the same time, we remain fully capable of conducting our primary mission of defending the homeland.”

Leading the effort on the ground will be Texas Air National Guard Brig. Gen. Thomas Suelzer. Appointed as the dual-status commander, Suelzer will provide direction to both Texas National Guard and federal service members.  The nomination and approval of the dual-status commander streamlines the process, ensuring a smoother and more effective collaboration of state and federal resources.

According to Suezler the dual status commander allows the governor to continue leading the response with both state and federal military assets. Under this structure, orders and guidance can simultaneously be received by the President.

“It is an incredible experience to work with our service members in this historic event. My position will allow for collaboration between orders directed by Governor Abbott and those by the President'” said Suelzer.  “I am proud to see how effortlessly our forces have integrated with each other.”

Among the medical staff is Maj. Tanya Island, of the 147th Medical Group, Texas Air National Guard. Island is serving as the Joint Task Force Lone Star Surgeon where she works to position personnel and resources across the state.

Island represents what makes the Guard such a valuable tool for state response as she leverages both her civilian career as a nurse anesthetist and her military training to help her fellow Texans.

“This operation really opened my eyes as to how critical a role the National Guard has in this response,” said Island. “Since COVID-19 began we have coordinated over 320,000 tests and now we are standing up teams of medical professionals to backfill civilian hospitals.”

The 12 initial teams will consist of 100 medical staff, including doctors, nurses, medics and healthcare administrators from the National Guard, Active Duty forces and Military Reservists.

Current focus areas are Houston, San Antonio, Del Rio, Eagle Pass, the Rio Grande Valley, and the Texas Coastal Bend. Suezler explained the mix of metropolitan and rural response areas highlight very different ways the Texas health system is strained. Cities like Houston and San Antonio are dealing with large populations that increase the communicability of the virus, while rural areas including the Rio Grande Valley and the Texas Coastal Bend struggle to find medical providers in the sparsely populated region. 

In addition to the medical personnel mission in support of COVID-19, Guardsmen across Texas continue to staff mobile testing sites and provide decontamination of critical facilities.

“Our Guardsmen continue to serve their neighbors and local communities’ months after activation,” said Norris. “I want every Soldier, Airman, and their family members, to know how much their dedication means to the people of Texas.”

 

Operation Guardian Support Soldiers Volunteer in the Laredo Community

Story and photos by Staff Sgt. De'Jon Williams, Texas Air National Guard

LAREDO, Texas – Along the south Texas border Guard Members put in many hours of their off time to serve the communities they now call home.

Although many of the soldiers and airmen assigned to the border mission are far from their homes, they have still found a way to give back the new communities they now call, home.

Texas National Guard members come together to volunteer their time in their new local community in Laredo, Texas.

“I actually feel like I’m more a part of the community around me,” said Master Sgt. Brian Franck. “I’m constantly trying to recruit people to volunteer and give back to the community down here in Laredo.”

Franck started the mission August 2019 and quickly got to work, looking for opportunities to help the community.

September, he began volunteering at the Laredo Animal Protective Society (LAPS).

“I was informed about a volunteer opportunity at LAPS,” said Franck. “I talked to some other Soldiers I work with and we started walking dogs and volunteering. I then informed the Laredo Company and my platoon about this opportunity.”

Franck went on to say the Company sent out an email about two volunteer opportunities, he then pushed the email to his fellow soldiers and they then began volunteering at many other companies throughout the Laredo area.

November 2019 was the second volunteer opportunity he had, but first with the local Habitat for Humanity (H4H).

“I was told on Veteran’s Day they were going to start building a house for a Texas veteran,” said Franck. “So, I showed up, found out I was the only one representing the National Guard down here to help start building on the veteran’s home. From that day habitat started to coordinate with me on their build days and needing volunteers.”

Franck and his team helped H4H build two homes since he began volunteering.

“After this point, the company sort of appointed me as the volunteer point of contact,” Franck said. “I was informing them of events and being there if a Soldier said they would be there to introduce them to the organization staff.”

Franck has worked hard to recruit 36 other soldiers in his company to help in the Laredo community. Together they have logged more than 1,600 hours of volunteering.

“I got started through Master Sgt. Franck,” said Staff Sgt. Richard Frost. “I heard about the volunteer programs that we can get involved with here in Laredo. He was the man people said to go to. I’ve been working with LAPS and Habitat for Humanity whenever I can.”

Frost, who is a squad leader with Team Laredo went on to talk about how much he enjoys volunteering at LAPS and helping with the animals.

“I take Tyson out to North Park because they have a dog park there,” said Frost. “He’s a brindle Pit Bull with tiger like stripes. I picked him because pits have a bad rap and he’s done great with me in public.”

Even a pandemic has not stopped these soldiers from continuing to do their part. Despite COVID-19, soldiers in Laredo still do their part to help the community.

“COVID-19 has made it, first where we could not volunteer,” said Franck. “Then for habitat only five volunteers at a time, but for the past months if we are staying away from the general population and working on projects, a small group of us can be there to volunteer. COVID-19 has put a damper on volunteering, but it has not stopped our soldiers from being able to give back to the community of Laredo.”

Team Laredo Soldiers continue to work with these organizations despite the recent pandemic. COVID-19 has not lessened the spirit of Franck who continues to put in time with these organizations.

“Honestly, I wish people would go back to the way it used to be,” Franck said. “Where we were not so focused on ourselves, per se, but more focused on helping each other. When people come down on these missions, they can experience what’s going on in the communities and be a part of the communities because while you’re down here, this is your home.”

Franck went on to say that he’s thankful for the opportunity to work with these organizations, without them and their volunteer programs this would not be possible.

Texas Guard launches innovation unit

Story by Robert Seyller, Texas Military Department Public Affairs

After over a year of preparation, the Texas Guard is officially launching the Texas Military Department Joint Innovation Unit: TMDx.

Gen. Joseph L. Lengyel, chief of the National Guard Bureau, along with Maj. Gen. Tracy R. Norris, the adjutant general of Texas, visit Texas National Guard service members serving at the Tarrant Area Food Bank in Fort Worth, Texas, April 29, 2020.
Gen. Joseph L. Lengyel, chief of the National Guard Bureau, along with Maj. Gen. Tracy R. Norris, the adjutant general of Texas, visit Texas National Guard service members serving at the Tarrant Area Food Bank in Fort Worth, Texas, April 29, 2020.

The original plan called for a live event at the Capital Factory in Austin, home to the TMDx flagship innovation hub. However, recent concerns over COVID-19 forced the program to do exactly what it was designed for – partner, innovate and come up with a solution. That partnership came in the form of a livestreamed event, hosted by Capital Factory and simulcast across multiple social media platforms, July 15.

The launch, hosted by Sean Duffy, VP of partnerships at Capital Factory, featured appearances by Gen. Joseph Lengyel, chief of the National Guard Bureau; Maj. Gen. Tracy R. Norris, the adjutant general of Texas; and Maj. Alex Goldberg, TMDx managing director.

TMDx will utilize the Texas Guard’s position as the largest state military force in the country to leverage partnerships in industry and academia throughout the Texas innovation corridor to develop a new framework for military problem-solving.

Pilot Training Next, a technology-focused pilot preparation course founded in Austin, along with partnerships in construction, software programs and 3D printing technology, was just one of the TMDx noted successes highlighted during the event.

Lengyel focused on the 3D printing program during his remarks as he noted that Texas had won the National Guard Bureau’s national innovation competition. The program will allow F-16 maintainers to print replacement parts for the F-16 fighter aircraft, shortening logistical delays for parts and reducing costs.

“No one innovates like the National Guard and especially not like Texans,” said Lengyel. “This same technology was also able to print personal protective equipment and ventilator parts that we can use during our COVID-19 response.”

Speed and the ability to respond quickly to growing threats is imperative.

“It all comes down to needing to move faster,” said Goldberg. “Our adversaries are moving faster – faster in space, faster in hypersonic and faster in fielding commercial technology.”

The growing presence of near-peer threats are considered to be outpacing the U.S. in innovation.

“The status quo is comfortable, but what works today to ensure our national security will not be good enough for the challenges on the horizon,” said Norris. “The military moves slower than we would like and are moving away from a ‘no because’ mindset to a mindset of, ‘How do we get to yes?’”

The program’s launch in Austin will be a first step, according to Goldberg, who shared plans for expansion to San Antonio, Houston, Dallas, Ft. Worth and El Paso.

Mobile Testing Command Center coordinates mobile COVID-19 testing in Texas

Story by Second Lieutenant Daniel Martinez, 147th Attack Wing, Texas Air National Guard

ELLINGTON FIELD JOINT RESERVE BASE, Texas -- Members of the Texas Military Department and other civilian agencies continue coordinating mobile COVID-19 testing throughout Texas from the Mobile Testing Command Center May 3, 2020, in Austin, Texas.

The MTCC is responsible for mobilizing missions to remote areas of Texas for COVID-19 testing by coordinating the logistics of each mobile testing team, while also ensuring all military members remain safe throughout the operation.

The MTCC was initiated on April 18, 2020, at the request of Gov. Greg Abbott’s goal to develop a plan for reopening the state. The TMD is collaborating with multiple civilian agencies to bring that mission to fruition.

Each mobile testing site tests between 40-200 individuals daily. There are currently 50 mobile testing site teams. Each team consists of 5 medics, 17 support members, as well as support from community leaders, such as EMS workers and government officials.

The TMD has conducted over 12,000 tests from every corner of the state.

“The data coming out has demonstrated that our medics are following proper testing protocols. Considering the nature of a field-testing site in Texas, weather conditions and the challenges of a mobile mission, this is a huge win for our teams and for our state,” said Maj. Tanya Island, the Mobile Testing Command Center Surgeon, 147th Attack Wing, Texas Air National Guard.

“We have been able to increase the volume of samples in a short amount of time while having the operational flexibility of being mobile. This directly supports the Governor’s efforts to plan for the future of our great state. ”


Mobile testing teams start and end their day at different locations throughout the state. They rely on guidance from the MTCC on where to go for testing each day.


“Traveling to each community has been a positive experience. The civilians we test, mayors and other public officials all greet us with kindness and thank us for serving,” said Senior Airman Tennelle Anderson, a 147th Medical Group Aerospace Medical Technician. “It is evident that we are impacting the great state of Texas as we have received the highest turnout numbers from our testing. It has encouraged me and strengthened my faith seeing our nation come together to help each other during this challenging time. I'm proud to be a part of history and will continue to do everything I can until we have defeated the invisible enemy.”


Inter-agency collaboration has been essential to completing the mission because there is currently a shortage of medical supplies. Mobile testing teams will arrive to a specific location and meet civilian agencies who coordinate with regional partners to meet any equipment shortfalls to ensure all Texans get the testing they need.


The components of the COVID-19 testing kit must be kept refrigerated. The inter-agency team has developed a distribution system that combines civilian and military personnel. It is one of the critical elements of the mission.


The agencies involved with the MTCC are the Texas Military Department, Department of State Health Services, Agrilife Extension Service, Texas Parks and Wildlife division, Department of Public Safety, Texas Engineering Extension Service, Texas Department of Emergency Management, and Federal Emergency Management Agency.

 

Members of the 147th Attack Wing provide assistance to the Montgomery County Food Bank

Story by Second Lieutenant Daniel Martinez, 147th Attack Wing, Texas Air National Guard

ELLINGTON FIELD JOINT RESERVE BASE, Texas -- Members of the 147th Attack Wing and Texas Army National Guard continue to assist the Montgomery County Food Bank May 3, 2020, in Montgomery, Texas.

The Montgomery County Food Bank provides food to the local community, but have been unable to do so due to their lack of volunteers since the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Texas Military Department has provided assistance to the Montgomery County Food Bank. TMD members have worked side by side with food bank employees to serve those in need.

“We’ve gotten along really well,” said Lt Col Mark Tacquard, the officer in charge. “We’ve been able to offer a lot of our abilities to help solve hurdles. We have 8 people from our 147th Logistic Readiness Squadron that have helped contribute their skills to overcome these hurdles.”

The TMD force consists of 34 Texas Air National Guard members from the 147th Attack Wing, and 10 Texas Army National Guard. Their daily duty is to break down pallets of food into smaller packages for the high demand from the local community that the food bank receives.

With the TMD’s assistance, the food bank has been able to keep up with the high demand from the local community. No family has been turned away to receive food.

“It’s very rewarding to fulfill the increased demands at the Montgomery County Food Bank,” said Technical Sgt. Matthew Baker, 111th Attack Squadron.

“They were previously not able to meet the demands, but now that the Texas Air National Guard and Army National Guard are here, we are able to do so.”

The TMD members arrived on April 23rd and will continue to serve the Montgomery County Food Bank as long as there is a need. Precautions are taken at the start of each work day by implementing health screens at the door by an on-site medic.