Posts in Category: Texas Air National Guard

Civil Support Team trains with Texas airlift wing

Members of the National Guard's 6th Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Team, headquartered at Camp Mabry, in Austin, Texas, and members of the Texas Air National Guard's 136th Airlift Wing, headquartered at Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base, Texas, load a military vehicle onto a C-130 Hercules, assigned to the 136th Airlift Wing, at NAS Fort Worth JRB, Dec. 5, 2012.
Members of the National Guard's 6th Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support Team, headquartered at Camp Mabry, in Austin, Texas, and members of the Texas Air National Guard's 136th Airlift Wing, headquartered at Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base, Texas, load a military vehicle onto a C-130 Hercules, assigned to the 136th Airlift Wing, at NAS Fort Worth JRB, Dec. 5, 2012. (National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class William Gee / Released)

 Civil Support Team trains with Texas airlift wing

 Story by Staff Sgt. Phil Fountain
 

 CAMP MABRY, Texas - About 20 members of the National Guard's 6th Weapons of Mass Destruction Civil Support  Team (CST), headquartered here, conducted joint-service training involving C-130 Hercules aircraft and crews assigned  to the Texas Air National Guard's 136th Airlift Wing at Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base, Dec. 5, 2012.

 The aircraft loading operation was part of a three-day training mission for the 6th CST, which is responsible for  responding to disasters and catastrophic events, said Air Force Maj. Michael A. Torres, the unit's deputy commander.  When activated by civil authorities, the CST deploys an advance party to the site of the incident, within 90 minutes of  notification, and they must be self sustainable for a minimum of 72 hours.

 "The idea for the [C-130] training was to use organic assets within the state in a way that could help us quickly deploy  and integrate with our civilian partners," Torres said. "Ultimately, we work for the [civilian] incident commander."

 "The CST is different than other civilian counterparts, in that it possesses a mobile, analytical laboratory, which provides  on-scene, presumptive analysis, allowing incident commander's to quickly implement life saving actions," he said.

 The organization is comprised of full-time, Title 32, Army and Air National Guard Soldiers and Airmen, who have been  trained in: operations; administration and logistics; communications; medical science; and reconnaissance and survey  operations.

 "We're built up from many specialties, but we are all trained HAZMAT technicians and specialists," Torres said. "We train  all year in different scenarios and situations to support our first responders."

Torres said there are 57 CSTs located throughout the United States, with at least one in each state and territory, and that the concept was developed in 1999. National Guard assets, similar to CSTs, have assisted in the response to: the 9/11 terrorist attacks; the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster; Hurricane Katrina; and numerous high profile events at large population venues.

During the recent training, 6th CST members coordinated with 136th Airlift Wing personnel to load equipment and vehicles onto the tactical cargo aircraft.

In addition to the 6th CST, the Texas Air Guard benefited from the training activities, said Air Force Lt. Col. Tom Suelzer, the domestic operations officer for the Texas Air National Guard and chief of staff for Joint Task Force 71 (Maneuver Enhancement Brigade).

"The 136th Airlift Wing conducts training throughout the year to maintain a regional and national response capability across the full spectrum of domestic operations," Suelzer said, "from hurricane support to CBRN (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear) Consequence Management."

The 136th Airlift Wing's C-130s are available to the Texas governor for disaster relief efforts, and are the only such Air National Guard aircraft controlled by a state along the United States' Gulf Coast.

"The 136th, with its hard-working people and responsive airlift capability, is a state treasure and a key regional asset," said Suelzer.

Additional joint-training is likely to be developed for the 6th CST and the 136th Airlift Wing to conduct in the future, Torres and Suelzer said.

"Training with the 136th [Airlift Wing] provided the opportunity to validate planning, as well as identify future force packaging needs and priorities," Torres said, "depending on the number of aircraft available in an actual emergency response."

 

National Guard civilian's legacy, four decades of service honored

Ms. Gloria Sassman, the deputy human resources officer for the Texas Military Forces, greets a member of the Texas Air National Guard following Sassman's retirement ceremony on Camp Mabry, in Austin, Texas, Dec. 20, 2012.
Ms. Gloria Sassman, the deputy human resources officer for the Texas Military Forces, greets a member of the Texas Air National Guard following Sassman's retirement ceremony on Camp Mabry, in Austin, Texas, Dec. 20, 2012. Sassman served more than 44 years in the human resources field for the Texas Military Forces.

 

 Story by Staff Sgt. Phil Fountain

 CAMP MABRY, Texas - Current and former members of the Texas Military Forces honored the four decades of service of  the organization's deputy human resources officer, during a recognition ceremony on Camp Mabry, in Austin, Texas, Dec.  20, 2012.

 Gloria M. Sassman, a non-dual status civilian employee, began her civil service career with the National Guard in 1968,  during the federal administration of President Lyndon B. Johnson and the state tenure of Texas Gov. John B. Connally.  She was initially assigned to the Texas Air National Guard headquarters and then worked her way through various  assignments, culminating in her position at the state Joint Force Headquarters' human resources office, all at Camp Mabry, where she officially retired from on Jan. 1, 2013.

 "There is not a more helpful, more knowledgeable person, in personnel and technician programs, than Gloria," said  Army Col. Patrick M. Hamilton, The Adjutant General's chief of staff. "She has been one of those key staff people in this  agency that is a 'go-to person,' that everybody can count on to get a right answer and will work tirelessly to help people  and help this agency be better."

 Sassman was recently the focus of a National Guard Bureau "Technician Spotlight," which reported that she "served in  all but one of the Human Resources specialties" during her career. The story further stated, "Gloria's expert advice  always ensured the proper blend of NGB policy and state-level program execution and served to strengthen partnerships  between the State HRO and NGB."

During the ceremony, Sassman received the Superior Civilian Service Award and the Certificate of Retirement from The Adjutant General of Texas, Air Force Maj. Gen. John F. Nichols. Additionally, the TAG presented Sassman with the state's "Yellow Rose of Texas" award, on behalf of Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

Sassman's previous honors include the National Guard Bureau's Minuteman Award, which she was presented in 2010. The award is approved by the chief of the National Guard Bureau and is given to outstanding personnel who have had a nationwide impact on the oldest component of the armed forces of the United States.

During her career, the Texas Military Forces has been involved with major personnel actions, base realignments and force structure adjustments, Nichols said. Additionally, Sassman was instrumental in policy development, formulation and implementation at the highest levels of National Guard decision-making in Austin and Washington.

Nichols said Gloria would always try to figure out, "What's the best thing that we can do for this person?"

"She was always worried about not impacting people," Nichols said. "Even though she's got it in black and white, Gloria knows what gray looks like, she does, and she would make things gray to benefit the person. She's left us a legacy of how we take care of our people, and to do it the right way."

Sassman is expected to keep busy in retirement. She said that she is looking forward to traveling, spending time with her daughter in California, and remaining actively involved with her church.

"It's been a wonderful, wonderful career," Sassman said. "I've absolutely enjoyed every minute of it. .... My heart will be here at Camp Mabry, no matter where I am."

Texas Military Forces demonstrates strength at State Response Activation Exercise

Texas Governor Rick Perry visits with Senior Master Sgt. Jonathan Karlin of Joint Force Headquarters J6, Friday, June 1, 2012 during the Texas Department of Emergency Management State Response Activation Exercise at the South Terminal of Austin Bergstrom International Airport. The Texas Military Forces was just one of the many state agencies and partners showcasing their capabilities to the Governor and other statewide leaders in preparation of the 2012 Hurricane Season.
Texas Governor Rick Perry visits with Senior Master Sgt. Jonathan Karlin of Joint Force Headquarters J6, Friday, June 1, 2012 during the Texas Department of Emergency Management State Response Activation Exercise at the South Terminal of Austin Bergstrom International Airport. The Texas Military Forces was just one of the many state agencies and partners showcasing their capabilities to the Governor and other statewide leaders in preparation of the 2012 Hurricane Season.

 

 Story by Laura Lopez

 AUSTIN, Texas - As the official first day of the Atlantic Hurricane Season kicked off on Friday, June 1, 2012, members of  the Texas Military Forces participated in the Texas Division of Emergency Management State Response Activation  Exercise and Showcase at the South Terminal of Austin-Bergstrom International Airport in Austin, Texas. 

 “This is critical. A lot of the state agencies don’t often get a chance to work together,” said Lt. Col. Peyton Randolph,  Operations Officers, 2nd Reg., Texas State Guard. “You’ll see on the terminal ramp they are all integrating their  communication and emergency operations and actually getting to know each other and work together before the  emergency happens.”

 An exercise designed to increase public awareness, identify agency capabilities and assets, improve resource and interagency familiarization, as well as identify space utilization for base camp operations, Texas Governor Rick Perry joined Chief Nim Kidd, Assistant Director of the Texas Department of Public Safety and Chief of the Texas Division of Emergency Management for a tour and briefing of the various agencies and equipment. With Perry proclaiming May 27- June 2, 2012 as Hurricane Preparedness Week in Texas, it was during his speech that he encouraged all Texans to prepare for an emergency or disaster.

“We are blessed to be coming off a relatively quiet hurricane season,” said Perry “[However], we know that its not a matter of if another major hurricane is going to hit us, it’s a matter of when.”

Members of the Texas State Guard viewed the exercise as an opportunity to employ the Texas Emergency Tracking Network; a State-directed evacuee and resource tracking system for emergency response operations that uses Radio Frequency Identification. Through the use of bar-coded wristbands and tags, the State Guard can monitor evacuees and his or her belongings from the time of their enrollment at transportation hubs through their sheltering and the return home, helping to keep families together and easily reconnect if separated. 

“It’s exercises like this that allow us to be able to handle what is going to be thrown in our path, whether it be a natural disaster or a man-made disaster,” said Kidd.

A common fixture in the skies, throughout the state, during the massive wildfire season of 2011, the Texas Army National Guard displayed a variety of different helicopters that included the UH-60 Black Hawk, CH-47 Chinook and UH-72 Lakota. Other equipment and personnel partaking in the showcase allowed the Army National Guard to highlight some of its communications capabilities and other specialized emergency resources.

One of eight C-130 Hercules aircraft owned by the Texas Air National Guard was on display at the showcase and has worked over 110 hurricane support missions coordinating movement of over 540 tons of cargo and over 870 passengers since Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

“Having the ability to move patients and ambulatory individuals very quickly can only be done by those aircraft [referring to the C-130 Hercules in his background] and having them right here in the state of Texas, which is where the vast majority of naturals disasters with broad impact, like a hurricane, are going to be is crucial,” said Perry. 

As Perry took the time to personally thank many of those emergency responders often in harms way, those hosting the exercise added that in the past five months there has been a State Operations Center exercise (not at the center), four regional hurricane workshops, a DPS and TxDot staged a full-scale exercise to contraflow I-37 stressing that a successful response is a three-legged stool.

“It has to be a first responder, a group of local emergency responders dedicated to making good decisions; it has to a media that gets that message to the public and it has to be a public that will trust the media and trust the elected and first responders,” said Kidd. 

Representatives from the American Red Cross, Texas Forest Service, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, Texas Animal Health Commission, Public Works Response Team, Texas Parks and Wildlife, Texas Department of State Health Services, Texas Engineering Extension Service, Texas Department of Transportation, Texas Task Force 1, the Salvation Army, the Civil Air Patrol and the Veterinary Emergency Team also participated in the exercise on June 1. 

The 2012 hurricane season officially runs from June 1- Nov. 30, 2012. For more information about disaster preparedness, visit the Texas Prepares website at www.texasprepares.org.

Texas recruiter named best in the Air Guard

Texas Recruiter named best in the Air Guard
Tech. Sgt. Jennifer A. Joubert of Lake Church, La., a production recruiter with the 149th Fighter Wing at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, was recently named the top recruiter in the Air National Guard for "Prior Service Qualified Accessions" and "Critical Accessions." (National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Miguel Arellano)

 Texas Recruiter named best in the Air Guard

 Story by Staff Sgt. Phil Fountain and Vince Madrid
 
 CAMP MABRY, Texas – Last month, Tech. Sgt. Jennifer A. Joubert of Lake Church, La., a production recruiter with the  149th Fighter Wing at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, was recognized by the Air National Guard as one of the nation’s  top recruiters during the 2012 Air National Guard Recruiting and Retention Workshop in New Orleans, in her native state.

 The Air National Guard annually recognizes its best performers nationally for recruiting and retention efforts. Joubert’s  performance at the San Antonio-based F-16 combat fighter training unit during Fiscal Year 2011 earned her the  distinction of being the nation’s top Air Guard recruiter in both “Prior Service Qualified Accessions” and “Critical  Accessions.”

 Earning two of the distinctions in one year is considered to be a unique accomplishment, as there are only four categories  of annual awards for production recruiters in the Air National Guard. The other categories are for top non-prior service  and overall accessions, or recruiting.

 “An accession happens when a person actually enlists and is successfully gained into the unit,” Joubert said. “Prior  service recruits can be from any branch [of the armed forces], and includes transfers from one [National] Guard unit to  another.”

 Joubert further explained that critical accessioning involves placing airmen into difficult to fill positions, which “are designated annually by NGB (National Guard Bureau) for the fiscal year.”

The ANG award categories highlight a production recruiter’s dynamic recruiting ability, exceptional technical expertise, and steadfast focus on mission accomplishment. Additionally, this particular recognition builds upon Joubert’s record as having been previously named the Texas Air National Guard’s Rookie Production Recruiter of the Year for 2011.

Although relatively new to the Lone Star State and the recruiting field, Joubert has extensive military experience she can share with potential recruits, including service in Masirah, Oman, while she was in the active-duty Air Force as a member of the Security Forces. Additionally, she has served in administrative positions within other units of the Air National Guard.

“None of the awesome capabilities provided by the Texas Air National Guard could exist without airmen,” said Senior Master Sgt. Michael E. Fruge, superintendent of recruiting and retention for the Texas Air National Guard. “We could not have airmen without outstanding recruiters like Tech. Sgt. Joubert.”

During FY11, Joubert was directly responsible for bringing in 62 new Lone Star Gunfighters, which members of the 149th Fighter Wing are known as, and “90 percent of her accessions were in critical vacancies,” according to the award nomination package.

Joubert credits her success with finding the best possible fit for each new airman. She said she’s most rewarded “when recruits go off to training and come back transformed and proud. I try to make sure I’m giving them what they’re looking for while fulfilling the mission of the unit.”

Reaching out and strengthening ties

Maj. Gen. Nichols speaks to members of the Central Texas Chapter of the military Officers association of America.
On Friday, March 16, 2012, Texas Adjutant General, Maj. Gen. John F. Nichols speaks to members of the Central Texas Chapter of the Military Officers Association of America, in Killeen, about the role of the Texas Military Forces in both federal and state missions. During the presentation, Nichols explained how members of the Texas Army National Guard, Texas Air National Guard and the Texas State Guard come together to serve the citizens of Texas through search and rescue missions, evacuation support and shelter management.

 Reaching out and strengthening ties

 Story by Laura Lopez 
 
 KILLEEN, Texas – Just an hour north of Austin, members of the Killeen Heights Rotary Club and the Central Texas  Chapter of the Military Officers Association of America received a special visit from Texas Adjutant General, Maj. Gen.  John F. Nichols on March 16, 2012.
 
 Nichols illustrated the role of the Texas Military Forces in both state and federal missions, and explained how the Texas  Army National Guard, Texas Air National Guard and the Texas State Guard operate as a joint force. From performing  search and rescue missions, evacuation and re-entry support and providing shelter and mass care management, one  message was prevalent.
 
 “We are citizen-soldiers from all over the state of Texas here to help our citizens in times of need or disasters,” said  Nichols. “When you get out there and help them get off their roof, get them out of the water; there is no greater feeling  than helping our citizens.” 
 
 With the wildfires in Bastrop and other counties throughout the state, more recent examples of circumstances in which  the Texas Military Forces was called in for support, Nichols emphasized that the organization is simply a small piece of  the puzzle providing assistance in conjunction with other interagency partners. While our aviators dropped more than  two million gallons of water out of helicopters in treacherous conditions, our role was secondary to that of the Texas  Parks and Wildlife organization.
 
 “During the Bastrop fires we had 600 firefighters from around the nation at Camp Swift, with members from our forces  helping to coordinate shelter” said Nichols.
 Jim Bondi, president elect for the Killeen Heights Rotary Club stated that, “This presentation reminds us all of the  contributions the National Guard provides the state, and us close to Fort Hood, and also shows how organizations  partner together and the importance of the citizens of Texas.” 
 Although the mission of the Texas Military Forces is to provide the governor and the president with ready and fully  trained forces, Nichols’ goal is to also build and strengthen relationships not only with the residents of Killeen and Fort Hood, but the communities across the state.

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."