Posts in Category: Texas Air National Guard

Mother's Day

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

FORT WORTH, TX, UNITED STATES

05.09.2018

Story by Senior Airman DeJon Williams

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DALLAS, TX, UNITED STATES

05.04.2018

Story by Staff Sgt. Kristina Overton

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Airman fulfills long-held dream of military service

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

TX, UNITED STATES

04.29.2018

Story by Airman 1st Class Katie Schultz

149th Fighter Wing (Texas Air National Guard)

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rodriguez said she periodically checks in on Vittori.

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

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

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

Joint Effort for Mass Casualty Exercise

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

DJIBOUTI

04.24.2018

Story by Master Sgt. Sarah Mattison

Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sole female competitor battles for "best warrior"

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

BASTROP, TX, UNITED STATES

03.02.2018

Story by Staff Sgt. Kristina Overton

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

San Antonio, TX, United States

02.08.2018

Story by Tech. Sgt. Mindy Bloem

149th Fighter Wing (Texas Air National Guard)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The little armory atop a hill

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Nike Hercules missiles at bee caves Austin, TX

Story by: Mark Otte

 

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

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

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

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

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

So, where were they?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Soldiers from Texas and Maryland helping manage busy skies over Kuwait

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Sgt. Richard Bosquez, F Company, 2-149th General Support Aviation Battalion’s acting facility chief at Udairi Landing Zone, poses in front of the Radome, which houses the Air Traffic Navigation, Integration, Coordination System at Camp Buehring, Kuwait, Oct. 19, 2017. F Co. Soldiers provide air traffic services and airfield management at multiple locations in both Kuwait and Iraq. (Photo by Capt. Stephen James)

By Capt. Stephen James

29th Combat Aviation Brigade

November 03, 2017

 

CAMP BUEHRING, Kuwait – The Soldiers from Company F, 2-149th General Support Aviation Battalion, 29th Combat Aviation Brigade, manage multiple airfields and provide the technical expertise to manage the crowded skies above Kuwait and Iraq.

Soldiers from F Co. out of Camp Buehring, Kuwait, conduct air traffic services at Udairi Landing Zone and have already performed 300 ground-controlled approaches.

In order to maximize safety in all conditions, the Soldiers at Udairi are trained on the precision approach radar, which requires air traffic controllers on the ground to use radar to triangulate an aircraft's position when guiding it to land, even in situations of poor visibility.

"If an aircraft were to hit bad weather, we can guide them in," said Sgt. Richard Bosquez, acting facility chief at Udairi Landing Zone.

This capability is unique, as the PAR at Udairi Airfield is the only recovery system of its kind for CENTCOM, said Warrant Officer 1 Elaine Santiago, F Co.'s air traffic/airspace manager.

In addition to the ATS provided by F Co. at Camp Buehring, 29th CAB Soldiers also act as airfield managers. Airfield managers are responsible for coordinating operations on the airfield to ensure a vast array of tasks are complete so the airfield runs as efficiently and safely as possible.

Chief Warrant Officer 5 Gino Spescia, the 29th CAB's command chief warrant officer, sees all different aspects of the job as he performs duties both as an airfield manager as part of the airfield management element cell and as the primary contracting officer representative at Udairi Landing Zone, the heliport at Camp Buehring.

"The airfield management element cell is responsible for the day-to-day operations at Udairi Landing Zone, which can be anything from fuel to repair requests to vehicle usage, so it is never boring and never the same," said Spescia.

F Co. Soldiers also contribute to a variety of operations at Patton Army Airfield, Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, where they provide air traffic control services, passenger and aircrew transportation, airfield inspections, grounding point certifications and a central communications point for airfield security, the fire department and the refueling office, said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Barry Bertram, Patton Army Airfield manager.

Outside of Kuwait, a separate contingent of Soldiers from F Co. perform ATS services at a remote site where they also have responsibilities as the senior airfield authority and airfield management.

According to Capt. Brian Burgi, F Co. commander, his Soldiers have been responsible for the safe execution of over 5,500 individual aircraft movements, including 300 cargo air drops and over 4,000 movements across the theater since they arrived in April.

"The airfield manager from F Company was personally responsible for ensuring all construction activities, lighting installation and associated maintenance was performed in accordance with all Army, Air Force and Combine Federal Regulations," said Burgi.

Compounding the complexity of managing an airfield at this site is the fact that the ATS Company was still required to run full-time control tower operations in which they safely manage the skies above them.

The airfield manager was responsible for coordinating with rescue and construction teams from the U.S. Air Force working on the airfield while simultaneously de-conflicting aircraft, said Burgi.

The 29th CAB is an Army National Guard brigade comprising Texas and Maryland Army National Guard Soldiers that provides aviation assets, operational and logistical support for operations across the region.

F Co. Soldiers will provide ATS and airfield management across their area of operation for the remainder of the year.

Heroes of Harvey

HOUSTON, TX, UNITED STATES

10.01.2017

Story by Staff Sgt. Bethany Anderson

100th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

 

HOUSTON -- Hurricane Harvey carved a path of destruction through countless communities in southeastern Texas for days, after making landfall with an estimated 130 mile per hour winds near Rockport, Texas, August 25, 2017. While storm winds, rain and flood waters brought chaos and tragedy to the area, Texas Guardsmen partnered with local, state and federal first responders, bringing life-saving support and supplies to Texans in need.

Months before Hurricane Harvey struck the Texas coast, the Texas Military Department worked with state and federal partners to plan a concept operation to rehearse inter-agency coordination and joint training. All of the training for Texas National Guard units would be put to the test before, during and after Harvey left its mark on Texas.

“While we don’t want to have to put our training to the test during a tragedy, our citizen-guardsmen remain prepared to help save lives and property, when called,” said Texas Army National Guard Brig. Gen. Patrick M. Hamilton, Dual Status Commander for Hurricane Harvey recovery efforts.

The Texas Military Department began strategically mobilizing Texas Army, Air and State Guardsmen as Harvey entered the Gulf of Mexico and approached the Texas coast. While the storm raged on, they worked with state and federal agencies through a phased approach to put the appropriate military resources in the right place at the right time.

“We are here to help our communities,” said Hamilton. “Working alongside our partner agencies and local first responders, we focused on deploying Guardsmen and resources where they were needed to save lives.”

Within three days of Harvey’s landfall, 12,000 Texas Guardsmen were working around the clock to support Hurricane Harvey relief efforts. It was the first time in since World War I that the entire force was mobilized at once.

The first priority was search and rescue. Zodiac boats, high-profile vehicles, helicopters and fixed wing aircraft from Texas and across the country were deployed in response to emergency conditions in affected areas.

Guardsmen from across the United States, partner first responders and service members from both active and reserve components waded through waters with boats and high profile vehicles. Overhead helicopter crews worked to airlift Texans stranded on rooftops, while Airmen in C-130s evacuated numerous people to safety.

Texas State Guardsmen were waiting with dry blankets and a smile, for displaced Texans at shelters across the state where evacuees would be identified and reunited with loved ones. Integrating seamlessly into Harvey relief operations, Texas Guardsmen helped with everything from search and rescue to critical life support, logistics support and safety operations.

Texas Guardsmen conducted hundreds of air and ground missions, performing more than 16,000 rescues and evacuating more than 18,000 people and 1,200 animals. As part of the complex inter-agency and joint operation, state and federal partners performed thousands of additional evacuations and rescue operations.

“This is what we train for,” said Hamilton. “And we’re proud to stand by our civilian partners, first responders and volunteers to serve the citizens of Texas.”

The Texas State Guard, an all-volunteer force, supported Harvey relief efforts with 17 boat teams for search and rescue operations and eight Electronic Tracking Network teams to help evacuees locate loved ones checked into shelters. In addition, the 41 Texas State Guard shelter teams sheltered more than 26,000 evacuees and more than 700 animals in 15 shelters across the state.

On Sept. 1, The sun broke through clouds, stopping what seemed like Harvey’s never-ending stream of rain a, causing flood waters to recede. As the threat from severe flooding began to dissipate, Texas Guardsmen switched their focus to supporting recovery and stability operations.

Texas Army and Air National Guardsmen immediately began constructing temporary hospitals and emergency clinics to aid medical first responders until hospitals regained power. Inside Texas Military Department medics worked side-by-side with civilian doctors to assess and treat those injured in the storm.

“There’s been some pretty serious injuries,” said Texas National Guard Spc. Sergio Villarreal, 1-143rd Infantry Regiment, “It’s great to see civilians and military working hand in hand.”

Thousands of families and individuals were stranded and without clean drinking water for days after Harvey passed over their cities. To provide Texas families in need of basic necessities, the Texas Military Department managed approximately 30 points of distribution in areas affected by Hurricane Harvey. Guardsmen, working with volunteers from all over the country, distributed food, clean water, hygiene, baby and pet products to more than 100,000 Texan families in cities from Corpus Christi to Beaumont as part of the relief operations.

Texas Military Department chaplains provided emotional and spiritual support to service members and first responders, while simultaneously coordinating with local churches to get much needed supplies to affected Texans. Soldiers from Texas and Ohio worked together to deliver and feed hay to stranded livestock, helping to preserve the local agriculture and economy.

“This is the way I serve my country. I’m here helping people out,” said Texas National Guard Pfc. Jonathan Galindo, 3-133rd Field Artillery, who worked as a member of a POD team in Orange. “You know, the water is high, they’re not able to get out of their homes. It’s great we’re able to provide for them here.”

The mission of the Texas Military Department is to provide the Governor and the President with ready forces in support of state and federal authorities at home and abroad. When they were called upon, the men and women from the Texas Guard were ready and answered that call with a passion to help people.

“Hurricane Harvey left great destruction in its path, and the recovery process will take many years,” said Maj. Gen. John F. Nichols, The Adjutant General of Texas. “However, the Texas Military Department’s response to Hurricane Harvey, alongside our partners, saved lives and helped many Texans take the first step towards rebuilding.”

Hybrid team rescues handicapped man from Hurricane Harvey flooding with water, ground and air assets

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Photo By Capt. Martha Nigrelle | Texas National Guard soldiers, service members from the U.S. Coast Guard and Texas Task Force 1 and Austin-Travis County Emergency Medical Service swift water rescue technicians work together to rescue a man with special medical needs from high-rising waters and medically evacuate him to a safe location, in Orange, Texas, August 30, 2017. Thousands of first responders from the military and local, state and federal agencies joined together to render aid to all those endangered by the high-rising floodwaters in south Texas following Hurricane Harvey. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Capt. Martha Nigrelle) 

ORANGE, TX, UNITED STATES

08.30.2017

Story by Capt. Martha Nigrelle

Texas Military Department

 

ORANGE, Texas – A team of National Guardsmen, Coast Guardsmen, swift-water rescue technicians and volunteers worked together to rescue and air-lift a patient needing special medical attention, from severe flooding to a safe, medical facility, in Orange, Texas, August 30, 2017.

Service members from the Texas National Guard and a swift-water rescue team from Texas Task Force 1 and the Austin-Travis County Emergency Medical Service arrived in a severely flooded neighborhood looking to help anyone in need, when due to special circumstances they ended up flagging down a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter and medically evacuating a patient, rescuing him from danger and potentially saving his life.

“When we first got the call the information we were given was that there was a request to evacuate two elderly individuals, one of whom was paralyzed,” said Roger Patterson, Texas Task Force 1 squad leader. “Our Texas National Guard team assisted us with their high-profile vehicles to get us as close to the house as possible.”

Texas Guardsmen staged their vehicles, while Patterson and his team maneuvered through deep waters, diverse terrain and numerous obstacles to get to the family in need.

“The water was pretty bad,” said Texas National Guard Pfc. Martin Davila, 386th Engineer Battalion. “It was everywhere - both sides of the roads. Whole houses were under water.”

Patterson’s team arrived at the house and determined they would need a litter to safely transport the handicapped gentleman to dry land. 

“When we first got there we noticed an inflatable kayak tied to a street sign,” said Matt Paul, swift-water rescue technician and boat operator for Patterson’s Texas Task Force 1 squad. “We decided to use the kayak as a litter and floatation device, which enabled us to transport him in the safest and fastest way we could think of.”

While Paul and the rest of the members of his team worked to safely evacuate their patient, Patterson split off to coordinate for medical transport to ensure that the patient’s medical needs could be taken care of during his evacuation.

Back at the trucks, Guardsmen waited for the swift-water rescue team to return, while volunteers showed up, seemingly out of nowhere, looking to assist in any way possible.

“One of the really cool things was that when we evacuated the patient, a volunteer came over with his boat and evacuated his wife,” said Paul. “Which enabled us to focus on the well-being of the patient and his evacuation.”

Patterson coordinated for ambulance transport after determining that this patient’s medical needs required more attention than might be possible in the military vehicle.

“Because of his medical conditions we couldn’t bring him to any of the shelters open at the time,” said Patterson. “Ambulance transportation was requested but was significantly delayed due to limited resources and an inundation of patients.”

While Patterson worked on coordinating transport, the Guardsmen and Task Force 1 team worked to protect the man as best possible.

“I was keeping a look out for any emergency vehicles so I could help get him out of danger as quick as possible so he could get the medical attention he needed,” said Davila.

Another man, there looking for a family member, had two umbrellas in his vehicle and used them to provide shelter from the rain, for the patient. 

The man needed medical attention for several reasons, one of which was the inability to regulate his own body temperature.

“We had covered him up with as many blankets as we had available, but it continued to rain and the temperature was dropping,” said Paul. “I was concerned with the rain and the temperature; I was worried he would become hypothermic.” 

Then a U.S. Coast Guard rescue helicopter flew by in what appeared to be a regular search pattern. 

Seeing an opportunity for a quicker medical evacuation, Paul placed his hands and arms out in a ‘Y’ signaling to the helicopter crew that he was asking them to land.

“They flew around showing us they would land,” said Paul. “So our Texas Guard partners helped us stop traffic and secure a landing zone for them, and they were able to land – right in the middle of I-10.”

Of course on that day I-10 traffic was a little sparse. 

“It was kind of exciting,” said Davilla. “It was the first time I have ever been a part of an evacuation by air, but it was also nerve-wracking because once we rescued him from the floods we weren’t sure how we would be able to safely evacuate him.”

The team that started out with just Texas soldiers and Task Force 1 swift-water rescue technicians had now doubled in size, adding volunteers and the U.S. Coast Guard, all with one mission, to get a patient in need to safety. 

“The rescue swimmers approached me and I told them the situation,” said Paul. “They agreed that it was a necessary transport given his medical conditions. Then the pilot confirmed that they would be able to evacuate the patient to a safe medical facility.”

As the hybrid team transported the patient from his inflatable kayak-litter to the Coast Guard litter, Patterson told the patient’s wife the plan.

“The wife was very thankful,” said Patterson. “She was extremely surprised with the helicopter, but very thankful.”

Once loaded on board the helicopter, Coast Guardsmen transported the patient and his wife to a medical facility where his condition could be attended to in safety.

“I’m glad we had all of the support we had,” said Davila. “It made me really proud to be a Texan to see how everyone came together to make sure everyone was okay and going somewhere safe.”

In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, first responders say that this type of joint-teamwork is what is helping save lives.

“This type of teamwork is very unique,” said Paul. “It’s the first time I have worked with so many different entities to include the vast number of volunteers. To me, a lot of those folks are out there with their own equipment and on their own time. They are heroes, out there making sacrifices to help their neighbors out.”

First responders may come from different organizations, but they seem to agree on one thing, working together to help someone in need has also changed them. 

“After the hurricane response is over, this situation will stick out, we all worked together and were able to do something really good for this man,” said Paul.

“I’m really proud to have been a part of this mission and help someone in need,” said Davilla. “I will continue to volunteer for any rescue missions or volunteer work needed in the future.”