Posts in Category: Texas Air National Guard

Three countries compete for the title of best warrior at Camp Swift

Photo By Senior Airman DeJon Williams | Air Force Staff Sgt. Juan Nunez, a security forces specialist with the 136th Security Forces Squadron, Texas Air National Guard, Fort Worth, Texas, plots points on his map during the land navigation event during the 2017 Texas Military Department Best Warrior Competition, March 2, 2017 at Camp Swift, near Bastrop, Texas. Land navigation tests the competitors ability to read maps, use a compass and other skills to traverse through unfamiliar terrain to different points throughout the course. (Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman De'Jon Williams)
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BASTROP, Texas — Soldiers and Airmen from three nations gathered at Camp Swift, Texas last weekend for a three-day competition that tested each soldier's skill, strength and endurance, March 3, 2017. 
In the Texas Military Department's fifth annual Best Warrior Competition, members of the Texas Army National Guard, Texas Air National Guard and invitees from the Chilean and the Czech Republic militaries, squared off against each other for the title of Best Warrior.
27 Best Warrior candidates competed in one of two categories: Best Junior Enlisted and Best Noncommissioned Officer. Service members were rated in nine events, including a 12-mile road march and an obstacle course, that closely imitate real combat situations. Two additional events gauged the soldiers' military writing and their professional appearance.
Integrating three countries into one competition presented challenges for event organizers, but command senior enlisted leader, Command Sgt. Maj. Mark Weedon, said that every effort is made to offer a fair playing field for competitors from every contingent.
It took an almost year-long effort to bring the three nations together, but Weedon says the effort pays off because it offers more than just an opportunity for Soldiers to compete for the title; the real training value comes from learning to work with other nations in real-world operations.
"It gives them and us confidence that we've got partners around the world, so that if anything went bad in any of our countries, we've got some help we are accustomed to," Weedon said.
Both Texas components participating in the competition were comprised of citizen Soldiers and reflect the readiness of members of the Texas Military Department to don their uniforms and operate at the level necessary for high-tempo operations.
Sgt. Juan PonceDeleon with the Texas Army National Guard’s 112th Cavalry Regiment, 72 Infantry Brigade Combat Team, described his preparation for Best Warrior after winning his unit’s internal competition.
"The first thing I did was talk to people that have competed in the event before so that I could learn from them," PonceDeleon said. "After that, I had to make an honest assessment of where I was at with my warrior tasks and drills."
Competitors first participated in unit-level selections to earn their spot in the statewide competition. Chilean soldier Cpl. Camilo Leal says his unit’s competition helped prepare him for the weekend.
The Texas Military Department was the first state to open its Best Warrior Competition to all components—including the Texas Air National Guard and international partners — in 2013. Now, other states like Nebraska, hope to follow in Texas' footsteps by welcoming foreign militaries into their Best Warrior competitions. 
This year marked Chile's second appearance in Texas’ Best Warrior competition but was the Czech Republic’s first year to attend.
Although, the winner won't be officially announced until April 7, Leal said that no matter who wins, the friendships and comradery the competition fostered will endure.
"It's been a very wonderful experience. I have had a chance to talk to the other soldiers and hope to keep that communication going," Leal said. "If they come to Chile, I will welcome them with the same hospitality they have shown me."

TXANG Guardsman finds success despite challenges

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Orlando Duarte, an aerospace propulsion mechanic with the 149th Fighter Wing, Texas Air National Guard, headquartered at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, pulls a weighted sled during the 2017 Texas Military Department’s Best Warrior Competition, March 4, 2017, Camp Swift, Bastrop, Texas. The sled pull was an obstacle that was a part of the mystery event at the BWC. (Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman De’Jon Williams)


BASTROP, Texas -- BASTROP, Texas -- Members from the Texas Air and Army National Guard, Chile and the Czech Republic competed in a series of events March 2-4 to determine who would be among the year’s top contenders of the 2017 Texas Military Department Best Warrior Competition.

Prior to attending the three-day event, participants prepared themselves for the rigorous conditions, physical tests and mental challenges that awaited them during the competition.

For Senior Airman Orlando Duarte, Best Warrior wasn’t just a competition. It was also a testament to the obstacles he’d faced and overcame throughout his entire life and career.

Duarte, an aerospace propulsion mechanic with the 149th Fighter Wing, Texas Air National Guard, was born and raised in Mexico before moving to the United States to finish high school.

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Orlando Duarte, an aerospace propulsion mechanic with the 149th Fighter Wing, Texas Air National Guard, headquartered at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, inspects his M4 carbine shot grouping during the Texas Military Department’s Best Warrior Competition March 2, 2017 at Camp Swift, Bastrop, Texas. During the BWC competitors had the opportunity to zero their weapons before moving on to the M4 qualification course. (Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman De’Jon Williams)

Separated from his family, he had to conquer language and cultural barriers to reach his overall goals.

“I wanted to move here to become a pilot,” Duarte said. “My parents didn't think I was going to take it seriously, so they sent me to California by myself. When I got there, I was told by the school they were going to downgrade me to freshman because I wasn’t fluent in English. So I was required to do ninth, tenth and eleventh grade English before I could graduate.”

Despite the setback, Duarte excelled, finishing the classes and graduating in just one year.

“On my graduation day my dad came from Mexico to pick me up,” Durante said. “He and I then drove to San Antonio, looked for a house, and a week later my two sisters, my little brother and my mom came.”

After moving to Texas, Duarte joined the Air National Guard. The language barrier continued to be an obstacle but with the support of his family and leadership, he continued to achieve his goals. Now, having earned his private pilot’s license flying Cessna 150 and 172 model aircraft.

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Orlando Duarte, an aerospace propulsion mechanic with the 149th Fighter Wing, Texas Air National Guard, headquartered at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, writes an essay for the Texas Military Department’s Best Warrior Competition, March 2, 2017 at Camp Swift, Bastrop, Texas. Duarte was graded on his essay question as well as an appearance board on the first day of the competition. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Marline Duncan)

Training for the competition was not an easy feat for Durante. With only three weeks to prepare and a heavy work schedule, Duarte had to push himself to be performance ready. But for Duarte, opportunities like the Best Warrior Competition, keep him from getting complacent.

“I’m a full-time technician,” he said. “I would train from 6:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and then had to work 2 p.m. to midnight Monday through Thursday. It’s been tough for me, but it’s something I wanted to do and I wanted to do my best. I’m representing my unit and my family. I feel like a lot of people are counting on me. Every time I was tired and wanted to give up, I just kept pushing.”

Duarte won first place for three of the nine junior enlisted categories.

The power of Motivation

Story by: Senior Airman DeJon Williams, 136th Airlift Wing, Texas Air National Guard

Posted On: Feb. 06, 2017

Senior Airman Benjamin Le, a services apprentice, 136th Force Support Squadron, Texas Air National Guard, poses for a photo at Metroflex Gym-Plano, Plano, Texas Jan. 4, 2017. Le trains at Metroflex-Plano where his powerlifting coach works. (Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman De'Jon Williams)

FORT WORTH, TX – For many Airmen, the New Year is about new beginnings. This can be an opportunity to start fresh and a chance to begin working toward new fitness goals.

For Senior Airman Benjamin Le, 136th Force Support Squadron services apprentice, Texas Air National Guard, Fort Worth, Texas, 2017 will be just another year and opportunity to continue to improve in what he loves. His love for the sport of power lifting gives him new goals to strive for every day.

“Lifting weights is not only my passion, but it shows who I am,” said Le. “It’s something I’ve been into since high school, but I was never serious about until I got to my first base.”

Le was introduced to powerlifting in 2012 at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo. While there, he was convinced by his supervisor to continue pursuing his fitness goals. Under his mentor’s guidance, Le trained and prepared for his first bodybuilding competition just four months later.

“My first supervisor and powerlifting coach was First Sergeant Lorenzo Peterson, whom I met at my first base,” Le said. “He was like my Jedi master; he showed me the ways of powerlifting. We trained together and he saw my lifts were pretty good. He told me he wanted me to get into powerlifting more seriously, and through a lot of hard work I could see my numbers starting to rise up. I’ve been competing in it ever since.”

Le has continued training as a powerlifter for the last four years, and now represents the Air Force powerlifting team.

“Every year there are military powerlifting nationals, where all branches compete against each other,” Le said. “Since its Air Force related, my wing commanders have always really liked that. Depending on where you are, you may be able to represent your unit, your base, and also yourself in the competition.”

During his last meet, he competed at the 148 pound weight class. He squatted 452 pounds, benched 308 pounds and deadlifted 490 pounds, which was a personal goal for him.

Being able to represent the Air Force at a national event like this was an honor for Le, and the ability to exceed his own expectations has been a highlight in his career.

“When you get back from a meet, everyone compliments and recognizes you,” Le said. “It’s an amazing feeling, having my peers take interest in powerlifting and fitness. It’s helped my Air Force career too. The fact I can also compete with the team is another reason why I’m still in the Air Force.”

Outside of the Air Force, Le continues to exemplify fitness as a personal trainer. He uses his skills to better others in the Air Force and assists his peers in exceeding their own personal standards. He is very adamant about encouraging anyone he trains to be better than their best.

“I conduct fitness tests also,” Le said. “People ask me how to do more pushups or run faster, and I give them advice on routines to help them get stronger, or to run faster; squatting, getting on a treadmill, stuff like that.”

Looking back, Senior Airman Le uses his passion for powerlifting to stay fit to fight, as well as to help and inspire others around him.

“Whether someone is really into fitness or not, it’s important to go to the gym. Not a lot of people realize it’s one of the greatest stress relievers ever. It helps you be really productive, changes your lifestyle and helps with your nutrition. It’s a great way to better yourself, and to discipline yourself.”

ANG member represents as AF ambassador for third straight year

Story by: Tech. Sgt. Mindy Bloem, 149th Fighter Wing, Texas Air National Guard

Posted On: Feb. 02, 2017

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO - LACKLAND, Texas – A member of the Texas Air National Guard will once again represent the Air Force in an official capacity for Joint Base San Antonio's 2017 Military Ambassadors program.

Tech. Sgt. Marie Sarabia, a recruiter with the 149th Fighter Wing, cements her place in wing history as the latest member to be chosen for the special designation three years running.

"I was honestly humbled to be selected because you're going up against the best of the best," she said. "(The board) is not just looking at the Air National Guard, they're looking at the Air Force Reserves and active duty Air Force - really sharp folks that truly believe in what the Air Force is and what JBSA is, so when I got it, I was truly shocked. It's definitely a humbling moment."

The Military Ambassador program is an annual tradition for the JBSA military community. Official representatives from every branch of service are chosen from the three administratively-combined installations -- Fort Sam Houston, Randolph and Lackland -- to engage with their community at local events, the majority of which involve Fiesta San Antonio.

Master Sgt. Jacqueline Crow, an intelligence analyst with the 149th FW and last year's female Air Force ambassador, said she was happy to see the Texas Air National Guard once again represented in this way.

"It's a good deal for the Guard," Crow said. "The Guard can come out and represent -- Total Force once again. It also shows how valid the Guard is in today's war fight, today's military and today's Air Force. The Guard is an essential part of that, and I thought it was an amazing thing that (Sarabia) got selected for the program.

As someone who's been through the selection process herself, Crow understands how intense it can be for Air Force candidates.

She said Air Force applicants must first submit an extensive paper package that includes military history, special achievements, community involvement and job skills, among other qualifications.

The applicants who make it past the paper process must then meet before a board made up of active duty chief master sergeants and the previous year's Air Force ambassadors.

"It was pretty nerve wracking. I'm not going to lie," said Sarabia, remembering what it was like to meet before the selection board. And although Sarabia's said she's had experience with boards in the past, she confessed it was still a little intimidating.

"I went in there and had a lot of nerves, but I just had to calm myself down and take it one step at a time," Sarabia said on how she managed to quell her unease.

Crow was one of the people seated on this year's panel and remarked on how well Sarabia presented herself and said she impressed everyone on the board.

"She's going to do well. I'm really proud of her," said Crow about her successor.

Crow even decided to carry on a tradition that was started by the 2015 female Air Force ambassador, Tech. Sgt. Stephanie Hall, another fellow 149th FW member.

When Crow was first selected as ambassador in 2016, Hall gave Crow a service cap she had worn to keep the sun out of her eyes at various Fiesta events. The hat fit Crow perfectly and seemed to serve as a positive symbol for what lay ahead.

"To me, it symbolizes the passing on of the torch but also shows how we take care of one another in the wing, and really the Air National Guard," said Sarabia. "Some people say, 'well, what's the difference between you and anyone else?' and I would say we're very family oriented. We take care of one another and we're very proud of where we come from and what we represent."

As for Crow, she sees nothing but good things ahead for Sarabia.

"She is going to meet some amazing people along the way that really care about the San Antonio community, and she's going to meet some remarkable Air Force leaders," Crow said. "My advice to her would be to represent the Guard and the 149th well and to just be herself and have fun with it."

A fellow co-worker and another former ambassador from the wing, Master Sgt. Juan Flores, expressed the utmost confidence in Sarabia's abilities.

"I'm very proud of her," he said. "Not only is it a big accomplishment to compete and be selected among so many top performers, but I know she'll have a great experience and represent the Air National Guard in a great fashion."

Sarabia said she feels some pressure to keep the legacy going because of the strong representation the wing has had in the past but is simply going to focus on what she does best.

"Being an Air Guard recruiter, I know a lot of people don't know about the Air Guard," she said. "They just know about the Air Force Reserves, and of course active duty. I want to let them know we're here in the community and tell them about our state mission -- that we have unique missions that involve going out and actually defending our local communities. I really want to bring awareness into what we do."

Candlelight Vigil for lost pilots of 1-149th Attack Reconnaissance Battalion

Story by: Sgt. Michael Fitzpatrick

Photo By Sgt. Michael Fitzpatrick | Hundreds gather on Jan. 14, at Ellington Field in Houston Texas, for a Candlelight Vigil in memory of CW3 Dustin Lee Mortenson and CW2 Lucas Lowe, pilots with the 1-149Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, who died when thier AH-64 Apache helicopter crashed Dec. 28, 2016 in Galveston Bay. 

January 14, hundreds of servicemen and women, friends and family and the soldiers of the 1-149 Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, gathered in a hanger at Ellington Field in Houston to mourn the loss of CW3 Dustin Lee Mortenson and CW2 Lucas Lowe, who died when their AH-64 helicopter crashed into Galveston Bay on Dec. 28, 2016.
Mortenson was a maintenance test pilot, and Lowe was an AH-64D pilot who graduated from Flight School weeks before the crash.
Though Mortenson and Lucas were unknown to many of those involved in the rescue and recovery efforts following the crash, they came to the vigil. Whether because of dedication, esprit de corps, or perhaps in solidarity for the loss of good people, they came. The Coast Guard, state and local police, strangers, friends and relatives; they all came to share grief, but also to celebrate the lives, service and sacrifices of Mortenson and Lucas – husbands, fathers and veterans.

Texas airborne infantry unit conducts night airborne exercise

Story by: Sgt. Elizabeth Pena

Posted: Dec. 2, 2016
Texas Guardsmen from the 1st Battalion (Airborne) 143rd Infantry, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, conducted a simulated airfield seizure during Operation Aztec, Nov. 17-19, 2016, near San Antonio, Texas. Operation Aztec is one of the first major collective training events under the 173rd Airborne Brigade. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Elizabeth Pena)

HONDO, Texas – Texas Army National Guardsmen from the 1st Battalion (Airborne) 143rd Infantry, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, conducted a simulated airfield seizure during a major collective training from 17-19 November 2016, near San Antonio, TX.

The two units are partnered through the Associated Unit Pilots Program, which pairs Active-Duty units with those in the Army Reserve and Army National Guard for a multi-year period to meet increasing demands of the Total Army.  

“Our battalion is now a part of the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, which is forward based in Europe,” said Texas Army National Guardsman Lt. Col. Kurt J. Cyr, commander of the 143rd Airborne. “Our brigade has the responsibility to be the contingency response force for U.S. Army Europe. It’s important for us to do collective training exercises such as this to maintain our proficiency in joint forcible entry operations.”

The training exercise, known as Operation Aztec, highlights the programs’ intent to increase the readiness and responsiveness of the Army as a total force. This was one of the first major collective training events for the battalion as an Associated Unit of the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team. 
“This weekend took about two months of drill time and preparations,” said Texas Army National Guard Sgt. 1st Class Benjamin Johnson. “We are bringing a lot of guys that have never deployed before to see what it will look like, or similar to, and the types of engagements we would see.”

During Operation Aztec, Texas Guardsmen jumped onto South Texas Regional Airfield in Hondo to secure and control the airfield, worked through the night against opposing forces to seize key terrain from the enemy. 

“Our battalion only jumps at night,” said Cyr. “We always try to maximize surprise, security and protection of the force by jumping at night. The airborne relies on the element of surprise, and the cover of darkness gives that surprise. Hours of limited visibility allow us to utilize security to gain a tactical advantage over the enemy by parachuting under the cover of darkness.”

The partnership enables integration of formations from units prior to mobilization through collective training exercises such as Operation Aztec.

“Our airborne infantry battalion is no different than any other you’d find in the Active Component,” said Cyr. “We train to the same standards, and are required to be compatible with our Active Duty counterparts across all warfighting functions.”

“I have full confidence in our Paratroopers, their training, our unit’s leadership and the leadership of our brigade in Europe. If there is ever a call for us to mobilize and fight alongside of the Active Component, we will be ready” said Cyr.

Under the new program, units will see an increase in training.

“The training days are getting longer,” said Texas Army National Guard Private 1st Class Jeremy May, a Paratrooper with the 143rd Airborne. “But this is something bigger than ourselves so we are willing to make that sacrifice. My main motivation is protecting the people that I love. That is the whole reason that I joined.”

A total of 27 units have been selected to undergo the pilot; four of those units come from the Texas Army National Guard. These units will train, build readiness and ultimately fight as one Army. 

“There are three different Army components, but when you deploy, everyone wears U.S. Army,” said Capt. Aaron M. Lee, a Ranger Training Assessment Company Commander at Fort Benning, Georgia. “We have to work together and be on the same level as far as individual collective tasks.”

The 143rd Airborne is scheduled train with the Active Component during a major joint forcible entry exercise in Europe during the summer of 2017.

Texas TAG Encourages ANG Leaders to build partnerships

Texas TAG encourages ANG leaders to build partnerships

Story by: 2nd Lt. Phil Fountain

Posted: October 7, 2016

Maj. Gen. John F. Nichols, the adjutant general of Texas, addresses members of the Air National Guard Strategic Planning System Central Region during a meeting at Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base, Texas, April 4, 2016. Nichols, a gubernatorial appointee, is the senior National Guard officer in Texas. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by 2nd Lt. Phil Fountain)
Maj. Gen. John F. Nichols, the adjutant general of Texas, addresses members of the Air National Guard Strategic Planning System Central Region during a meeting at Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base, Texas, April 4, 2016. Nichols, a gubernatorial appointee, is the senior National Guard officer in Texas. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by 2nd Lt. Phil Fountain)

NAVAL AIR STATION FORT WORTH JOINT RESERVE BASE, Texas – The Texas Air National Guard hosted members of the Air National Guard’s Strategic Planning System Central Region for a workshop earlier this year at the 136th Airlift Wing, in Fort Worth, Texas.
The Strategic Planning System is composed of general officers who provide input on potential missions and personnel considerations to higher headquarters at the state and federal level.
“It’s a go-between between the two-stars, all the [adjutants general], and the three-star, being the director of the Air National Guard,” said Brig. Gen. Matthew P. Jamison, South Dakota’s assistant adjutant general for air and the immediate past chairman of the central region.

“This is state representatives, it’s field-driven, it’s the ability to gain the pulse of what the issues are and to bring that into a strategic format where we can say, ‘in the future, we would like to fix or resolve some of the issues that are out there,’” Jamison said. “We take off our state hat and look at what’s best for the nation.”

During the workshop, the attendees heard from Maj. Gen. John F. Nichols, who serves as the adjutant general of Texas and is also the chairman of the national Air Reserve Forces Policy Committee.

He encouraged the attendees to continue to look at long-term modernization and recapitalization issues, but to also build partnerships wherever they can.
Disaster preparation and relationship-building is critical to develop early and maintain in advance of the potential emergency, Nichols said. This is something the National Guard is adept at doing.
“We have 254 counties (in Texas), and each county has a judge,” Nichols said. “He or she has to deal with the mayors within the county.”

“We have the Texas Division of Emergency Management, that’s not over them, but they’re resource holders,” Nichols said. “All disasters are local. They make their requests – there’s a lot of interchange and planning before things happen – and then we come in as an advisor or as part of a team. We’re not in charge of disaster response.”

Additionally, Nichols said some states may not be maximizing their international partnerships through the National Guard Bureau’s State Partnership Program.

“I’m on the steering committee for partnerships,” Nichols said. “I think it’s the golden treasure of the National Guard.”

“We go to a lot of SPP events – we have two countries, Czech Republic and Chile – everything we do is nested (with the combatant command’s security agreements).”

Nichols discussed a recent SPP trip to Chile and the importance of building those partnerships.

“The Secretary of the Air Force was there, (and) the 12th Air Force commander was there,” Nichols said. “Of course, the ambassador was there and he supports the partnership program.”

“They realize that the trust that we (National Guard) built up in our partnership is important to international security and cooperation,” Nichols said. “My tidbit to you is to go back to your state and go to your partner and determine what they might need” and work with the combatant commands and NGB’s Strategic Plans and Policy Directorate (J5).

While service on the system is an additional duty for the general officers, there is a full-time field grade officer designated to support the system’s activities and be a conduit of information.

Maj. Terri Prosperie, an air battle manager with the Georgia Air National Guard, serves as the SPS’ liaison officer between the director and the regional committees.

“There’s a steady stream of communication that goes between leadership and the SPS members and all of this information is to inform the Air National Guard decision-making process,” Prosperie said. “Everything that happens on the SPS steering committee shapes the future of the Air National Guard.”
The steering committee is composed of the chairs and vice chairs from each of the six regions, Prosperie said.
“We’re a community of 54 – 50 states, four territories – everybody’s got different needs and requirements,” Prosperie said. “Not everything can be the same, so things just really have to be vetted through everybody to make sure that it’s not affecting anybody the wrong way.”
There steering committee has a direct-line to the director of the Air National Guard, Prosperie said. Their inputs are used to inform his decision-making.

Jamison said this meeting was a success.

“This workshop was a great one, in terms of getting a lot of inputs from the field,” Jamison said. “We got exactly what we would like to have at one of these regional meetings.”

Jamison also said SPS is a great way for airmen to get involved in the future of the Air National Guard.

“What we look for in many cases is field inputs on a sub-group or sub-committee that is going to work on an effort and it might be in the A1 (Personnel) area, for instance, and we go back to states and ask for experts,” Jamison said.

“It’s a force development plan, if you will,” Jamison said. “It’s a way for states to develop their officers and enlisted in areas that are strategic in nature, but will give them a great perspective, and help them develop for the future.”

Texas, Singapore military celebrate 20-year partnership

Texas, Singapore military celebrate 20-year partnership 

Story by
: Capt. Jessica Jackson

Posted: Sept. 6, 2016

Members of the inaugural Peace Prairie partnership participate in a photo during the 20-year celebration of the working relationship, Aug. 16, 2016, in Flower Mound, Texas.   The Peace Prairie partnership includes the Republic of Singapore Air Force and Texas National Guard. Pilots and crewmen from the Singapore military live and train in Texas to become proficient pilots before returning home. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Capt. Jessica Jackson)
Members of the inaugural Peace Prairie partnership participate in a photo during the 20-year celebration of the working relationship, Aug. 16, 2016, in Flower Mound, Texas. 
The Peace Prairie partnership includes the Republic of Singapore Air Force and Texas National Guard. Pilots and crewmen from the Singapore military live and train in Texas to become proficient pilots before returning home. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Capt. Jessica Jackson)

AUSTIN, Texas – Dozens of Singaporean airmen along with their Texas military counterparts gathered to celebrate a partnership that started 20 years ago, during a ceremony at Circle Ranch in Flower Mound, Aug. 16, 2016.

After the Singapore military did a commercial buy on Chinooks, the next step was to get their pilots the best training available. Leading them to the Texas National Guard.

Once their initial meeting with the Texas National Guard concluded, the Singaporeans were encouraged to research other state programs, looking at Mississippi’s, Pennsylvania’s and Nevada’s National Guards.

“I told them, go look at those states and when they were done looking, to get back to Texas and get ready to work,” said retired Lt. Col. Craig Rushing, the first U.S. Army Flight Training Detachment commander.

This was the birth of the Peace Prairie partnership. “And here it is 20 years later,” Rushing said.

With varying levels of flight experience, partnering with the guard provided both fictional and real-world training for pilots.

"Being part of the Guard, the RSAF was able to ramp up our Chinook capability as we participate in exercises like JRTC and Red Flag," said Lt. Col. Howe Siong Sen, Republic of Singapore Air Force Peace Prairie Detachment commander.

In addition to those exercises, the nature of Texas also provided unique training opportunities.

“Here in Texas we have to deal with fires and hurricanes, so we got them trained up on all those kinds of things — Army stuff,” Rushing said. “They knew about flying, but they didn’t know about being in the field or facing large-scale emergencies — they were tougher than I thought and I had some of the best to work with.”

When the Singaporean crewmen begin their training in the U.S., one of their first stops was with Master Sgt. Derek Smith, senior flight engineer instructor.

“We took what they learned in Singapore and expanded on it,” Smith said.

Newly assigned airmen to the Peace Prairie Detachment must go through three phases of training while here in the U.S., which can take up to six months.

“There’s a 90-day window between the different phases, but it’s all proficiency based,” Smith said.

Adding to the knowledge the pilots bring to the partnership, Texas Guardsmen ensure their Singaporean counterparts are aware of and abide by U.S. Army and Federal Aviation Administration regulations while flying in country.

This partnership does more than help develop confident pilots and aircraft engineers, it allows those involved to learn and grow, providing a rare opportunity for the airmen.

“It opens up the relationship base; there aren’t a whole lot of units that get to work hand-in-hand with a foreign military outside of a deployment,” Smith said. “They’re different on how they do things; we come together, meet in the middle and there’s some give and take.”

The Peace Prairie partnership has made strides to help continue positive relations between the two countries.

“The close ties we’ve built over the last 20 years, post operations, is very important,” said Sen.

Lone Star Gunfighter soars at Pentagon

Lone Star Gunfighter soars at Pentagon

Story By: 2nd Lt. Phil Fountain

Posted on: August 23, 2016

Photo By 94th Airlift Wing | Air Force Gen. (then Maj.) Joseph L. Lengyel (second from left), the 28th Chief of the National Guard Bureau, stands alongside fellow F-16 Fighting Falcon pilots assigned to the 149th Fighter Wing, Texas Air National Guard, during an overseas deployment, circa 1996. Lengyel was a member of the wing from 1991-2004. Pictured left to right: Bryan Bailey (unknown rank), Lengyel, Mike Littrell (unknown rank), and Ray Segui (unknown rank). (Photo courtesy of Gen. Joseph L. Lengyel via
Photo By 94th Airlift Wing | Air Force Gen. (then Maj.) Joseph L. Lengyel (second from left), the 28th Chief of the National Guard Bureau, stands alongside fellow F-16 Fighting Falcon pilots assigned to the 149th Fighter Wing, Texas Air National Guard, during an overseas deployment, circa 1996. Lengyel was a member of the wing from 1991-2004. Pictured left to right: Bryan Bailey (unknown rank), Lengyel, Mike Littrell (unknown rank), and Ray Segui (unknown rank). (Photo courtesy of Gen. Joseph L. Lengyel via

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas – A former member of the 149th Fighter Wing, Texas Air National Guard was promoted to the rank of general and became the 28th Chief of the National Guard Bureau at the Department of Defense, in Washington, Aug. 3, 2016.

Air Force Gen. Joseph L. Lengyel of Bulverde, Texas, succeeds Army Gen. Frank J. Grass, as the Pentagon’s senior National Guard leader and member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Grass, a Missouri National Guardsman, is scheduled to retire later this month after four decades of military service.

Lengyel’s appointment follows his service as the first three-star, NGB vice chief.

“Gen. Lengyel is the right man for this critical position, and the depth and breadth of his experience make him exceptionally well-qualified,” said U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, the senior senator from Texas, during Lengyel’s Senate confirmation hearing, on June 22, 2016, in Washington.

“His 34 years of distinguished military service include an array of operational, staff, and command assignments,” Cornyn said, “as well as service in Operations Desert Storm, Provide Comfort, Southern Watch, and Enduring Freedom.”

In his new role, Lengyel will serve as a key military advisor to the president, secretary of defense and the National Security Council, as well as serve as the Pentagon’s official channel of communication to the state’s governors and adjutants general on all matters pertaining to the National Guard.

He is now responsible for ensuring that nearly 470,000 Army and Air National Guard personnel are accessible, capable and ready to protect the homeland and to provide combat resources to the Army and Air Force.

“I couldn’t be more pleased with what I see with the integration of the active force with the reserve components,” Lengyel said. “We have no other choice but to leverage the business model of the reserve components as we go forward.”

While he’s at the peak of National Guard leadership, the general’s military roots run deep through the state of Texas.

Lengyel earned his commission through the Air Force Reserve Officers' Training Corps program at the University of North Texas, in Denton, and earned his pilot’s wings at Laughlin Air Force Base, near Del Rio.

After serving nearly ten years in the Regular Air Force, Lengyel transitioned to the Texas Air National Guard, where he flew with the 182nd Fighter Squadron at San Antonio’s Kelly Field. The 182nd is a subordinate unit of the 149th Fighter Wing, headquartered at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, and the members of the unit are known as the Lone Star Gunfighters.

“I’m proud to serve alongside Gen. Lengyel,” said Maj. Gen. John F. Nichols, the 51st Adjutant General of Texas, who served with Lengyel at the 149th Fighter Wing when both were colonels. “He’s been a wingman for me, in the air and in life. He has the character to do what’s right and takes care of his people.”

Lengyel served in numerous roles at the 149th Fighter Wing, culminating as vice wing commander, before he was selected to serve as an expeditionary operations group commander at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan.

“He continues to make us proud,” Nichols said. “We stand behind him as he takes on this greater responsibility. Gen. Lengyel’s expertise, experience and dedicated service are a great asset to Texas and the United States.”

“As vice chief, and now chief, his charge is to look many years into the future and help guide and shape a National Guard force that meets our nation’s needs,” Nichols said. “I trust him to do what’s right for America. In addition to making the right decisions, I know he will continue to inspire those who follow him, just as he did here (in Texas).”

Throughout his time in the Lone Star State, Lengyel has touched the lives of those with whom he served.

“He genuinely cares about others,” said retired Lt. Col. Greg Whiting, a former Gunfighter and current chief of air operations for Headquarters, Texas Air National Guard, in Austin. “It’s who he is and it has always shaped everything he has done.”

Even as his military career has taken him away from the 149th Fighter Wing, Lengyel has remained connected with the Gunfighter community, taking time to interact with Gunfighters when their missions overlap.

Whiting said he first met Lengyel in 1990, at Diyarbakir Air Base, Turkey, prior to the start of the Gulf War. Later, they served together for several years at the 149th Fighter Wing.

“He’s always been approachable,” Whiting said. “Even as he moved up the leadership chain, his situational awareness was always there. He knew what was going on around him because he cared about the people around him - and still does.”

Whiting said he next served with Lengyel during the mid-‘90s, when they were both assigned to the 149th Fighter Wing. At the time, there was paradigm shift underway in the Air National Guard, leading to more professional operations.

“We started mirroring and employing active duty tactics,” Whiting said. “He was, without a doubt, the most foundational guy that brought the Gunfighters, and the 149th Fighter Wing, up to where we’re not just a sub for the active duty, but we’re on par with the active duty.”

Whiting said power and position have not changed Lengyel from the man he has known for 25 years.

“My first impression of him hasn’t changed as long as I’ve known him,” Whiting said. “He lived the Air Force Core Values (Integrity First – Service Before Self – Excellence in All We Do) long before they became officially embraced by the Air Force.”

Based on these innate values, Whiting said, Lengyel built trust with his fellow Gunfighters.

“He didn’t just do it, he excelled at it,” Whiting said. “Integrity is what builds trust, and trust is what you have to have in the fighter world. You have to be able to trust your wingman, those in your flight, and that’s what he did.”

Whiting attributes Lengyel’s success to leading by example and setting the standard for others to follow.

“If he says he’s going to do something, he’s going to do it, and if you say you’re going do something, he expects you to do it,” Whiting said. “It’s a great thing, especially when a leader holds people accountable. It was a professional thing; that’s what makes everyone function at a higher level than they’re used to.”

Whiting also discussed the new chief’s proficiency as an F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot, including how Lengyel remained a top performer as a traditional, citizen-airman of the National Guard while also working full-time as a commercial airline pilot.

“He could be on airline trips for a month or more, and come back and lead an 8-ship strike package to the tanker, fight his way into the target against red air, and somehow know that six miles behind him, ‘No. 8’ was out of position,” Whiting said. “Everybody wanted to be paired with him, because they trusted him, and well, the guy is one of the most gifted fighter pilots I’ve ever flown with.”

During his first remarks as chief, Lengyel discussed the challenges of balancing a military and civilian career.

“One of the most important partnerships that I want to mention is with our employers,” Lengyel said. “Our business model doesn’t work without them. I have been on extended military leave (from a commercial airline)."

Lengyel said the airline he flies for has more than 200 pilots currently on military leave, allowing them to serve in uniform.

“There are hundreds more that have to manipulate the schedules,” Lengyel said. The airline “has to work around to make their model work so that we’re not late and there’s pilots and aviators there” to serve their customers.

Lengyel thanked the work of civilian employers, like his, who work with their National Guard employees to ensure the employees never have to choose one profession over the other.

Praise for Lengyel’s character was also shared up the military chains of command.

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said, at the change of responsibility ceremony, “I know that the men and women of our National Guard, and the families that stand by them, will be well served by General Joe Lengyel who is not only an accomplished pilot and experienced commander, but is also a military son, husband, brother and a father.”

The general’s father, retired Lt. Col. Lauren R. Lengyel, was an RF-4 Phantom II reconnaissance pilot who was shot down over Vietnam and served six years as a prisoner of war. He returned to service and retired from the Air Force in 1990.

Lengyel’s wife, Sally, is an Air Force veteran, and their son, Capt. Michael J. Lengyel is following in his father’s footsteps as an F-16 pilot. Additionally, the new NGB leader’s brother, Maj. Gen. Gregory J. Lengyel, also an Air Force pilot, is the deputy commanding general of the Joint Special Operations Command, headquartered at Fort Bragg, N.C.

Lengyel is a “proven strategic thinker and citizen warrior,” Carter said. “Gen. Lengyel will lead this force with certainty, clarity, and the full confidence and trust of myself and the president.”

Lengyel, a reserve officer on active duty who retains membership in the Texas Air National Guard, has also been praised by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, the state’s commander-in-chief.

“Having defended our nation both at home and abroad, Gen. Lengyel brings a wealth of experience to the Joint Chiefs of Staff,” Abbott said. “Gen. Lengyel’s outstanding service at both the state and national levels has prepared him for this important role on our nation’s most critical body of military leaders.”

The new chief has remained humble and forward-looking throughout his transition.

“Although we are proud of our heritage and our past, I am more excited about our future,” Lengyel said after his nomination was announced. “The development of our most important assets, our people, will be our foremost task.”

Lengyel said his focus will be in three areas: supporting the Army and Air Force in any current or future warfight, defending the homeland, and building partnerships.

He also praised the soldiers and airmen of the National Guard in his first letter to the force, the day after he was sworn in.

“You serve with valor in combat,” Lengyel wrote. “Here at home, no matter the cause – natural disaster, crime, terrorism – you bring safety and resiliency to our communities. All the while, you partner with our allies around the world; with our federal, state, and territorial government partners; and with our fellow citizens throughout the country.”

“I look forward to working hard every day to tell your story,” Lengyel wrote.

Texas ChalleNGe Academy welcomes new candidates

Texas ChalleNGe Academy welcomes new candidates

Story by: 1st Lt. Alicia Lacy

Posted: July 18, 2016

Trey Rocha, Texas ChalleNGe Academy-East commandant, speaks to TCA-E candidates in formation at the TCA-E campus in Eagle Lake, Texas, July 18, 2016. TCA is a Department of Defense program through the Texas National Guard's Joint Counterdrug Taskforce. (Air National Guard photo by 1st Lt. Alicia Lacy)
Trey Rocha, Texas ChalleNGe Academy-East commandant, speaks to TCA-E candidates in formation at the TCA-E campus in Eagle Lake, Texas, July 18, 2016. TCA is a Department of Defense program through the Texas National Guard's Joint Counterdrug Task force. (Air National Guard photo by 1st Lt. Alicia Lacy)

EAGLE LAKE, Texas -- Lakesha Peterson can only describe the moment as bittersweet as tears streamed down her face while she watched her daughter board a bus to the Texas ChalleNGe Academy-East campus in Eagle Lake, Texas, July 17, 2016.

Peterson, like many other parents and family members said their goodbyes to their teens before the 16-18 year olds begin their 22-week journey in the military-style, education program at one of the two TCA campuses in either Eagle Lake or Sheffield.

For this iteration, collectively, the TCA campuses at Eagle Lake and Sheffield have an enrollment nearing 200 candidates, who, after completing the acclimation process, will become cadets and eventually graduates of the program.

Peterson, of Frisco, said she brought her daughter to the program to help her get her life back on tracks.

“She’s a good kid,” Peterson said. “She’s just bad.”

Peterson said she hopes her daughter is able to recover credits and earn enough credits to qualify to be a senior so she can finish her diploma.

Like Peterson, Kaylon Cole, from Fort Drum, New York, dropped his 18-year-old daughter to the program in hopes of her earning her high school diploma.
Cole said he looked up the program online and thought it would be a good fit for Asia Baker.

“(There’s a lot of stuff) that brings her here,” Cole said. “She was not making the grades in school and making poor choices. It’s only up from here.”

Cole said he hopes to see a change in his daughter when he sees her in 22 weeks and that she joins the Air Force.

“I hope to see a completely different person,” he said, “somebody who is respectful, obedient and follows instructions.”

While at the academy, cadets get exposure to the military training lifestyle, while engaging with Texas National Guard airmen and soldiers.

Texas Joint Counterdrug Taskforce airmen and soldiers work with the candidates during the process, mentoring them and assisting the cadre.

TCA is a Texas National Guard-sponsored educational program to help at-risk youth between 16 and 18 years old get their lives back on track. The program is completely voluntary and requires a 17 and a half-month commitment.

All cadets must not have any felony convictions and be drug free at the time of entry.

The academy is broken down into the 22-week residential phase and a 12-month, post-residential phase.

TCA focuses on eight core components – academic excellence, health and hygiene, job skills, leadership and followership, life-coping skills, physical fitness, responsible citizenship and service to the community.

In addition to their schoolwork, cadets have the opportunity to participate in other programs like archery, student council, student leadership positions and the Commandant’s Challenge. Students also perform community service every Saturday and have the option to attend church and participate in intramural sports on Sundays.

TCA is a Department of Defense-funded program and receives 25 percent funding from the state. The program is free to Texas residents.