Posts in Category: Texas Air National Guard

TAG recognizes excellence in unit performance, family volunteers

Texas Adjutant General Air Force Maj. Gen. John Nichols addresses attendees at the National Guard Association of Texas Conference in Corpus Christi, March 25.
Texas Adjutant General Air Force Maj. Gen. John Nichols addresses attendees at the National Guard Association of Texas Conference in Corpus Christi, March 25. The TAG discussed his vision to put soldiers, airmen, families and civilians first in his remarks.

 

 Story by Spc. Suzanne Carter

 CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas - Plaques and engraved, Texas-shaped crystal awards neatly lined the table. Each one  represented the sacrifice, dedication, and hard work of service members and their families over the past year or longer.  They convey gratitude and respect from senior leadership, who are proud of the personnel without whom the military could never succeed.

 U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. John Nichols, the Texas adjutant general, presented the awards to Family Readiness  volunteers and the winners of the TAG Performance Excellence Competition, March 25, at the opening ceremony of the  52nd National Guard Association of Texas Conference in Corpus Christi. 

 Company through brigade-level commanders from across the state participated in the TAGPEC. Captains, majors,  lieutenant colonels and colonels wrote self-assessments that examined seven areas of their organizations such as  leadership and social responsibility; strategic planning; customer knowledge; measurement, analysis and  improvement; motivation and safety; emergency preparedness and results. 

 U.S. Army Maj. Tyra Swanson from the Office of Performance Optimization at Joint Forces Headquarters said the self-  assessments help commanders establish a baseline for their unit performance and point toward improvements they can make. 

"In an era like this with constrained resources," Swanson said, "using those resources and moneys effectively is really important. If we can get rid of mission creepers, then we can focus our efforts on what's important: defining our mission and getting the organization to accomplish that mission."

The TAGPEC highlights two categories of command level for award, from captain and major to lieutenant colonel and colonel.

At the captain and major level, Army Capt. Gregory Brown and Delta Forward Support Company earned 1st place. The TAG awarded Army Capt. Terrance Tysall and the 672 Engineer Detachment 2nd place. 

At the lieutenant colonel and colonel level, Army Lt. Col. Michelle Bryant and the 536 Brigade Support Battalion earned 1st place, Air Force Lt. Col Leslie Kurt and the 147th Maintenance Group earned 2nd and Air Force Col. Kevin Turnbo and the 254th Combat Communications Group earned 3rd.

Nichols also presented State Family Program Volunteer Awards for a variety of achievements. The awards recognized volunteers for five or ten years of volunteer service with Family Readiness Groups, outstanding FRG leadership and the consistent support they provide for troops at home and while deployed. 

Tammorrow Constantine, who received the Silver Service Award for ten years of volunteering, said she got her whole family involved in supporting the Texas Military Forces. 

"I found that it's easier to get through deployments if you stay involved," she said, "instead of sitting at home feeling sorry for yourself."

Nichols also recognized Katherine Boynton, Jason Cowan and Matthew Constantine as exemplary young volunteers for their service in support of Texas Military Forces Youth during the past year.

The recognition and prestige of these awards, from both the TAGPEC and the State Family Program, deliver a sense of appreciation and acknowledgement to the recipients. Though, even without the accolades, their work would continue as each contributor works toward a purpose greater than themselves. They work with and for an organization esteemed in history and accomplishment. 

"It feels good to support the troops," said Jason Cowan, Friendship Award recipient. "I don't really deserve an award for it because I'm just doing what I feel I should do."

Ceremony welcomes 51st Adjutant General in Texas

Story by Sgt. Josiah Pugh

CAMP MABRY, Texas – The Texas Military Forces welcomed its incoming commander Saturday during a change-of-command ceremony held at Camp Mabry in Austin.

Maj. Gen. Jose S. Mayorga relinquished command after nearly two years of dutiful service. Nichols assumed duties as the new adjutant general of Texas, following two years as the assistant adjutant general (Air) and commander, Texas Air Guard.

“I’m humbled by being able to serve people every day,” said Nichols, “and be able to devote my career to your careers, your lives and your families.”

U.S. Senator for Texas John Cornyn took part in the ceremony, passing the flag for the Texas Military Forces from the outgoing to the incoming commander. 

“You have my commitment to fight for whatever you need, and our men and women in uniform need, as well as their families,” said Cornyn, “so that you can continue to remain a great credit to our state and contributor to our nation’s security.”

Mayorga expressed his gratitude toward his troops, saying, “Thank you for your service to our state of Texas and to our United Sates. You represent a very small segment of our society and are truly a remarkable group of individuals. You are the very best our state and our nation have to offer.”

Mayorga leaves command after leading Texas service members in more than 160,000 man-days of defense and support through hurricane relief, flood response and emergency disaster missions.

“Without your dedication and devotion,” said Mayorga to his formation, “we could not be successful in providing ready-trained forces for homeland support of civil authorities, homeland security missions or overseas contingency operations to both of our commanders in chief, the governor of Texas and the president of the United States.”

As commander of the Texas Air National Guard, Nichols was responsible for almost 3,500 Air National Guardsmen through out the state of Texas. He served his country loyally as a pilot with the U.S. Air Force and continues to serve his community as a member of the Air Force Association, National Guard Association of the United States, National Guard Association of Texas and the Association of Graduates of the U.S. Air Force Academy. 

Nichols earned a bachelor's degree from the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo,, where he graduated from Squadron Officer School, Air Command and Staff College, Air War College, and U.S. Air Force Fighter Weapons Instructor School at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada.

As a command pilot with more than 3,000 hours in a fighter aircraft, he held a series of distinguished assignments. While on active duty, Nichols joined the Wisconsin Air National Guard in 1992. At Madison, he was the chief of Wing Weapons, the 176 FS Operations officer and the 115 FW Operations Group commander. Nichols joined the Texas Air National Guard in April of 2000. He served as the vice commander of the 149th Fighter Wing from April 2000 to March 2002.

Nichols was promoted to Maj. Gen. on Jan. 19, coinciding with his selection as successor to Mayorga.

Nichols highlighted his priority in taking care of his troops, saying, “our first task in the Texas Military Forces is going to be our soldiers, our airmen, our civilians and our families.”

Laredo community proud to celebrate first US president

Anheuser-Busch Washington's Birthday Parade participants prepare to march through Laredo, Texas, Feb. 19.
Anheuser-Busch Washington's Birthday Parade participants prepare to march through Laredo, Texas, Feb. 19. The parade is part of Laredo's 114th year celebrating the United States' first president. The Washington Birthday Celebration Association invites the Texas Military Forces to participate in the parade in recognition of the TXMF's support in the Laredo community and its celebration.

 

 Story by Spc. Suzanne Carter

 LAREDO, Texas - Most of the United States lets George Washington's birthday pass unceremoniously, observed as  President's Day on the third Monday in February. That doesn't fly in Laredo, Texas.

 "They've been celebrating George Washington's Birthday for 114 years," said Carlos Garza, a Washington's Birthday  Celebration Association of Laredo, Inc., volunteer and liaison for the Texas Military Forces. 

 The George Washington Birthday Celebration began in 1898 with a mock battle between Laredoans and Native  Americans, where Laredoans presented the local Great Chief Sachem with the key to the city. Laredoans and people in  the surrounding area saw George Washington as the Sachem of the United States according to the Association. 

 "George Washington was so revered in the United States and Mexico that we honor him," Garza said. In and around  Laredo, Washington is the people's symbol of freedom and the celebration demonstrates their love of American history,  he said. 

 Growing from a simple two-day fiesta to the current month-long extravaganza, the celebration features parades, parties,  a carnival, an air show, and many other events. In the months leading up to and during the celebration, citizens of  Laredo portray George and Martha Washington during visits to schools, re-enactments, parades, and parties.

 "The Washington Birthday Celebration is one of the oldest celebrations of George Washington's birthday," said Francis C. Averill, this year's Washington. "Throughout the United States, not many of them take place. In Laredo, Texas, yes, we do have a grand one. People come from all over."

The celebration, which attracts more than 400,000 people each year, came packed with public and invitation-only events during its fourth and final weekend, February 18-20. Each event highlighted a different piece of Laredo's traditions and community as it honored the country's first president.

"Many people basically say, 'Laredo, Texas? George Washington?'" said Javier Cabello, a member of the Laredo Knights of Columbus. "We're here. We're part of the United States. We're honored to be citizens of this great country. We're blessed to have a culture that is a mix of both American and Mexican heritage. It's a great honor and privilege to be part of these festivities."

The celebration allows Laredoans to honor prominent members of the community while celebrating American history. During a welcome luncheon on Friday, February 18, the WBCA and La Posada Hotel honored one of the U.S. military's first female pilots, Laredoan Barbara Fasken. 

Texas State Guard Chief of Staff Brig. Gen. Charlie Miller presented the Congressional Gold Medal to Fasken's grandson, Spc. Robert D. Dickson of the 124th Cavalry Regt., during the luncheon. Fasken received the medal posthumously in recognition for her service in the Women Airforce Service Pilots during World War II.

Los Caballeros de la Republica del Rio Grande hosted the Caballeros Cocktail Party at the Laredo Civic Center Friday, where former Texas Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Jose S. Mayorga, Brig. Gen. Miller, and other Texas Military Forces representatives were honored guests.

"It's good to see the military here," said Charlie Elizalde, a photographer from San Antonio. "It's great to meet and greet them and thank them for their service."

Later that evening, the civic center's auditorium sparkled during the Society of Martha Washington Colonial Pageant and Ball. 

Averill and his Martha Washington, portrayed by Betty Ann B. Moreno, received nine debutantes and their escorts during the pageant, which recreated an event the Washingtons would have attended during George's presidency. Each couple represented significant figures from the Colonial period, decked in elaborate costumes that glittered in the spotlight as they promenaded across the stage.

"Wow! Those look great," Sam N. Johnson, a Laredoan who played Washington in 1979, said about the hand-beaded ball gowns. Johnson said the gowns get more elaborate every year.

Meanwhile, the rest of Laredo prepared for the next day's Anheuser-Busch Washington's Birthday Parade. Folding chairs tethered to parked vehicles lined the parade route by 6 p.m. Friday evening. Spectators filled those spots long before the parade began around 9 a.m. Sunday.

More than 160 floats, bands, performance troupes, and other participants marched in the parade, a GWBC staple since the celebration began. Spectators waved at passing public officials such as the mayors of Laredo and Nuevo Laredo, Texas Speaker of the House and Mr. South Texas Joseph R. Strauss, and Maj. Gen. Mayorga. 

Cabello said that Laredoans from all walks of life have the opportunity to participate in the parade, whether they're walking with a float or waving from the sidelines. 

"They always take great joy in seeing all of the entries in the parade, all the military units, all the civic and religious organizations that participate," he said.

Cabello said Laredoans enjoy the opportunity to host such a unique celebration.

"Laredo, we are a very friendly people," he said. "We are honored and proud to be part of this celebration, and we welcome [the public] with open arms."

Conference Addresses Issues, Builds Guardsmen Camaraderie

Attendees of the Texas Adjutant General Dinner at the Driskill Hotel during the National Guard Association of the United States Conference pass the time through laughter with new friends.
Attendees of the Texas Adjutant General Dinner at the Driskill Hotel during the National Guard Association of the United States Conference pass the time through laughter with new friends.

 

 Story by Officer Candidate Micah Barnes

 AUSTIN, Texas - Army and Air National Guard officers from all 54 states and territories descended upon Austin, Texas,  Aug. 21-23, for the 132nd National Guard Association of the United States conference. The attendees ranged from  single bar officers to a four-star general, with many bringing their families to share the experience.

 The conference, designed to bring together officers of all grades to discuss the issues currently facing the Army and Air  National Guards, provides a meeting point for NGAUS to ensure their voices are heard on Capitol Hill in Washington. 

 "NGAUS is one of the 10 recognized military associations that the Department of Defense can participate in," said Army  Maj. Jeffrey Larrabee, a National Guard Bureau Strategic planner. "They're advocates for the guardsmen, who lobby in  Washington for their specific interests."

 The discussions and resolutions of the conference move up to the National Guard Bureau for review, ensuring that the  coming year's agendas reflect the intentions of NGAUS members. 

"These could be anything such as better equipment, better health care and retirement benefits, " said Air Force Maj. Gen. Tod S. Bunting, NGAUS chairman and adjutant general of the Kansas National Guard. 

Keynote speakers included Texas Governor Rick Perry, Gen. Craig R. McKinley, Chief of the National Guard Bureau, and Senator Leticia Van de Putte, District 26 state senator for Texas.

"One thing I learned in my time in the Air Force is that the squeaky wheel gets the grease," said Perry. "I'm going to keep calling for the Guard for any job because I know that it's going to be done right."

In addition to the business meetings, the conference also featured events aimed at further strengthening the camaraderie of the Guard community. The events, which brought together spouses and children to bond over common interests, included the exhibit hall, youth programs, a rodeo, the spouse luncheon, and several dinners and mixers. 

The exhibit hall housed more than 400 vendors showcasing everything from military equipment to coffee mugs designed for different branches, installations, and services. Some booths featured interactive activities, including the National Guard Formula racecar, a simulated combat environment wherein players cooperatively engage a mission, and several fixed and rotary wing simulations. 

"These groups span really the spectrum of companies that do everything from sustainability for the Guard, to helping the families of the Guard," said Richard Goldberg, senior vice-president of Public Affairs for DRS Technologies. 

The children of the attending officers had a chance to experience practical exercises in public affairs through the backpack journalist program. Throughout the conference, the kids attended many events, such as the opening ceremony where the MacArthur High School drill team performed in front of the more than 1,000 audience members, a visit to the Texas Army National Guard Airfield in Austin, Texas, and a press conference with Bunting and Texas Army National Guard Commander Brig. Gen. Joyce Stephens.

"I think this whole thing was awesome," said Gian Carlo Morales, 12, from Dallas, Texas. "I got to use everything from the video camera to the microphone that records everything."

The officers and their families enjoyed the nightlife offered by Austin, the live-music capital of the world. Evening events ranged from mixers for the warrant and company grade officers to a true Texas rodeo. 

"Some people don't know that we have rodeos in New Jersey, but it is not quite the same as being at a Texas rodeo, and I'm pretty jazzed to the be there for it," said Goldberg. 

The final night concluded with a cocktail reception and states dinner at the Austin Convention Center.

"Texas has been a wonderful host of this event," said Goldberg. "It's more about the people, building a relationships, and knowing what the needs are."

Following in their Footsteps

Aaron Black, an Austin native and father to Hal R. Black, watches as his son is assisted by living historian Lee R. Chesney in firing a rifle at the Texas Revolution and Civil War weapons demonstration at the 4th Annual American Heroes Celebration at Camp Mabry.
Aaron Black, an Austin native and father to Hal R. Black, watches as his son is assisted by living historian Lee R. Chesney in firing a rifle at the Texas Revolution and Civil War weapons demonstration at the 4th Annual American Heroes Celebration at Camp Mabry.

 

 Story by Officer Candidate Micah Barnes

 As the sky cleared from the dark and hazy morning to a bright and sunny afternoon, the air filled with the smell of fire  and a billowing cloud of smoke. Wind blew away the ominous cloud, revealing a single line of ancient single-shot rifles  used in the late 19th century, hoisted in the air by men young and old.

 Held during the American Heroes Celebration at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas, the Civil War and Texas Revolution  weapons demonstration showcased not only weapons of the times, but also post Reconstruction dress, lifestyles and  food of the era. 

 Throughout this event, authenticity was the key message conveyed to all the members of the audience and participants  in the demonstrations. 

 "I feel more or less this is a forgotten time period that is swept over in the history books," said Kevin M. Burke, a native of  League City, who wore his grandfather's uniform and shot a rifle used between 1906 and 1917. "This is my way of trying  to follow in my grandfather's footsteps and get a better understanding of the family history." 

 The weapon's demonstration became an educational piece at one point, once the audience started to become involved  with the "living history" group. They learned how to make some of the common foods that Confederate Soldiers ate such  as hard tack, a hard bread that had a high resistance to spoiling and was used for centuries for land and sea operations  by the military. 

 Another learning point for the on-lookers included how to properly load, aim, and fire the rifles and pistols of their  military heritage.

 "It was pretty intense, my heart was pounding because I knew that the rifles were loud and I did not realize how heavy  they were," said Blake A. Kirk, a sixteen-year-old native of Rockwall. "I almost dropped it after I loaded the rifle."

 The exhibits of the Civil War and the Texas Revolution offered families the opportunity to experience history hands-on.  Several of the audience members crowded to take pictures of their sons and daughters attempting to hold onto the  rifles, while the other adults looked at the living history Soldiers in amazement at how they moved around in the period  shoes and uniforms. 

 "I could never miss this even if I wanted to; my kids look forward to it all year, both days actually." said Austin native Aaron Blake.

Overall, the fun-filled demonstration assisted in boasting the American Heroes Celebration message of remembering and honoring American Soldiers from our past and present. This event educated and bolstered the curiosity for learning about the American past through the audience's hands-on participation.

"This weapons demonstration is amazing, just being able to see all the things people used back in the past is really cool." said Blake. "I'm really appreciative of history to the point I'm thinking of joining a reenactment group."