Posts in Category: Texas Air National Guard

Security Forces Squadron is ready to support Texans

Security Forces Squadron is ready to support Texans (2 of 4)

Story by: Sgt. Elizabeth Pena

Posted: June 9, 2016

An Air Force medic searches mock patients for harmful objects as they are brough into from local medical facilities during a state-level Hurricane evacuation exercise June 09, 2016, at the Valley International Airport, Harlingen, Texas. Any weapons found are given over to the security forces officers from the 149th Security Forces Squadron. (Photo by: U.S. Army National Guard Sgt. Elizabeth Pena)
An Air Force medic searches mock patients for harmful objects as they are brought into from local medical facilities during a state-level Hurricane evacuation exercise June 09, 2016, at the Valley International Airport, Harlingen, Texas. Any weapons found are given over to the security forces officers from the 149th Security Forces Squadron. (Photo by: U.S. Army National Guard Sgt. Elizabeth Pena)

HARLINGEN, Texas – Providing safety and security during emergency situations is something the Security Forces Squadron takes with pride. The 149th Security Forces Squadron tested their battle skills during a support mission in Harlingen, Texas, June 2 – 9, 2016.

“In a real-world setting, when people are about to encounter a natural disaster, they are often in a state of panic and not always with a sound mind,” said Air Force Tech Sgt. Joseph Paulino, non-commissioned officer in charge of the 149th SFS, and head of training, based out of Lackland Air Base, San Antonio, Texas. “As law enforcement we are trained to help calm situations down and identify possible hostile individuals.”

Service members the Texas Army and Air National Guard, Texas State Guard and U.S. Air Force participated in the event. The exercise mirrored a Category 5 Hurricane that required emergency medevac and general population evacuations from the Lower Rio Grande Valley. The mock patients were transported from Valley International Airport through military and civilian aircraft.

Airmen from the security forces squadron worked with local law enforcement and helped pull security around the airfield, just as they would in a real world situation. Having the extra security allows medical personnel and key leaders the ability to run their operations with safety.

“We maintain the perimeter and help give them the assurance that we are here to protect them, as well as the patients, and anyone else that comes in and needs us,” said Air Force Staff Sgt. Christina Richards, a security forces officer with the 149th.

During the exercise, mock patients were brought in from local medical facilities; they were searched using a metal detector for any harmful objects. 

“We have two guys up front, medical will search the patients and if they do find an individual with a weapon they will let us know and provide that extra care,” said Paulino.

Being a hurricane veteran, gives Paulino the knowledge and experience to know how to lead his Airmen as well as build fostering relations with the local community.

“When I was in the Guam unit, I actually came out for hurricane Katrina and they were assisting disaster relief so it’s definitely a possibility,” said Paulino. “So being able to practice this as an exercise, helps build rapport with local agencies so they know what their role would be and can run a more fluid operation.”

Although this is Richards’ first mission as a security forces specialist, she is not new to the security world.

“I grew up around the fire department and cops so it was kind of destined growing up,” said Richards. “It’s like second nature because I’ve been around it all my life.”

Exercises like these give Texas guardsman and other service members the ability to practice their job skill and be prepared to help their fellow citizens when, and if, a real world disaster occurs.

“I’m happy to be down here to serve not only my country, but my state of Texas and provide a presence down here where military is not that prevalent, said Paulino. “I like engaging with the local populace and building that rapport around them.”

This is 2 of 4 Texas Hurricane Preparedness series.

Airmen beat Army peers in annual Best Warrior Competition

Story By: 1st Lt. Alicia Lacy

Posted on: May 19, 2016

Staff Sgt. Steven Hein, secruity forces airman 136th Airlift Wing, Senior Airmen Austin Kirwin, tactical air control party member, 147th Reconnaissance Wing, stand together after Hein and Kirwin are named the top junior enlisted and noncommissioned officer competitors at the Texas Army National Guard's Best Warrior Competition banquet May 13, 2016, at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas. The annual competition is an Army-wide competition that tests the physical and mentual endurance of soldiers. (Air National Guard photo by 1st Lt. Alicia M. Lacy/Released)
Staff Sgt. Steven Hein, secruity forces airman 136th Airlift Wing, Senior Airmen Austin Kirwin, tactical air control party member, 147th Reconnaissance Wing, stand together after Hein and Kirwin are named the top junior enlisted and noncommissioned officer competitors at the Texas Army National Guard's Best Warrior Competition banquet May 13, 2016, at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas. The annual competition is an Army-wide competition that tests the physical and mentual endurance of soldiers. (Air National Guard photo by 1st Lt. Alicia M. Lacy/Released)

AUSTIN, Texas -- The anticipation grew as the four airmen and soldiers stood at parade rest in front of a room filled with their peers, family members and leaders at the annual Best Warrior Competition banquet May 13, 2016, at Camp Mabry in Austin.

After the third drum roll and a few long pauses, the state’s Senior Enlisted Advisor Command Sgt. Maj. Mark Weedon announced this year’s top finishers for the Texas Military Department’s Best Warrior Competition. Senior Airman Austin Kirwin and Air Force Staff Sgt. Steven Hein earned the title best warrior and bragging rights for the next year.

“It’s an honor for our airmen to be recognized in the joint environment,” said Lt. Col. Timothy Pertuis, commander of the 147th Air Support Operations Squadron, 147th Reconnaissance Wing, Texas Air National Guard.

The Best Warrior Competition is traditionally an Army competition that tests soldiers’ physical and mental aptitude, but in 2013, the Texas Army National Guard integrated its Texas Air Guard counterparts. Since then, the Air guardsmen have competed with their Army comrades every year.

Kirwin, a tactical air control party member from the 147th ASOS, and Staff Sgt. Steven Hein, a security forces airman from the 136th Security Forces Squadron, 136th Airlift Wing, competed with about 60 other Texas Air and Army National Guardsmen, as well as Army reservists from the 75th Training Command and members from the Chilean armed forces during the four-day competition Feb. 4-7, 2016, at Camp Swift in Bastrop.

“Airmen are competing and accomplishing alongside their Army National Guard and Chilean counterparts, and once again, airmen take the title of best warrior in the state of Texas” Pertuis said. “Senior Airman Kirwin and Staff Sergeant Hein are great examples of the tough professionals that our Texas Air National Guard recruits and develops.”

Though this year was Kirwin’s first time competing, this is Hein’s second time competing for the title.

“I figured I’d give it another try,” Hein said. “It was a good experience. It’s fun. You get to meet some new people, experience new things and learn some new stuff.”

“It’s pretty impressive to make it twice in a row because he’s competed against all the guys in his wing and beat them out a second time to get there,” said U.S. Army Master Sgt. Shane Ruppel, BWC noncommissioned officer in charge, about Hein’s second appearance at the annual competition.

The competition tests competitors through a series of events, including urban warfare simulations, board interviews, marksmanship, land navigation, physical fitness tests, a road march, an essay, an obstacle course, and other warrior tasks and battle drills.

“The state of Texas leads the way in joint and international integration with our SPP programs and through the Best Warrior Competition,” Pertuis said. “I’m grateful for the opportunity to serve with and lead these great airmen.”

Lone Star Gunfighters navigate challenges to produce F-16 pilots

Lone Star Gunfighters navigate challenges to produce F-16 pilots

Story by: 2nd Lt. Phil Fountain

Posted: May 5, 2016

2nd Lt. Phil Fountain  Lt. Col. Bryan Carlson (right), an F-16 Fighting Falcon instructor pilot and commander of the 149th Maintenance Group, visits with Chief Master Sgt. John D. Mead (left), the group’s maintenance operations flight superintendent, at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, April 15, 2016. Carlson and Mead are members of the Texas Air National Guard’s 149th Fighter Wing, headquartered at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, which is currently operating at Luke while San Antonio’s Kelly Field undergoes runway repairs. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by 2nd Lt. Phil Fountain) 160415-Z-DJ352-001
2nd Lt. Phil Fountain 
Lt. Col. Bryan Carlson (right), an F-16 Fighting Falcon instructor pilot and commander of the 149th Maintenance Group, visits with Chief Master Sgt. John D. Mead (left), the group’s maintenance operations flight superintendent, at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, April 15, 2016. Carlson and Mead are members of the Texas Air National Guard’s 149th Fighter Wing, headquartered at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, which is currently operating at Luke while San Antonio’s Kelly Field undergoes runway repairs. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by 2nd Lt. Phil Fountain) 160415-Z-DJ352-001

LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Arizona (April 15, 2016) – Each year, the 149th Fighter Wing, headquartered at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, trains F-16 Fighting Falcon student pilots for the Total Force – U.S. Air Force, Air National Guard and U.S. Air Force Reserve. Their courses include: initial qualification training, instructor pilot upgrade training and senior leader re-qualification training.

This year, the Texas Air National Guard unit, whose members are known as the Lone Star Gunfighters, is overcoming unusual adversity to achieve their Air Force objectives.

The current challenges include a temporary relocation of operations from San Antonio’s Kelly Field to Luke Air Force Base, near Phoenix, to numerous maintenance issues affecting their aircraft fleet.

“Each year, in April, we come to Arizona to allow the students to be able to participate in a large force employment exercises,” said Lt. Col. Bryan Carlson, an instructor pilot and commander of the 149th Maintenance Group.

“It allows them to fly with other airplanes from other services and to fly beyond just a four-ship, to employ as an eight-ship and beyond, and to fly against multiple targets,” Carlson said. “And it allows them to drop heavy weights and live bombs.”

The trip to Arizona is not new, but the length of the stay is, Carlson said. Typically, the trip is a two-week temporary duty that incorporates the ANG unit’s annual training requirements, but now they have been in-place for nearly two months.

The annual trip is normally dubbed Coronet Cactus, and serves as a capstone, training event for the student pilots before they graduate and head off to their active or reserve component units. This year, the Gunfighters are calling the trip Super Cactus, due to their extended visit to the Grand Canyon State.

The temporary relocation is a result of ongoing repairs to Kelly Field, which are expected to be complete in May.

As a result of the relocation, the unit has had to adjust its training syllabus and integrate themselves into a new environment.

“We’ve had to figure out the nuances of operating at a location like Luke,” said Lt. Col. Kristian Thiele, an instructor pilot and the assistant director of operations for the wing’s 182nd Fighter Squadron. “We are competing with not only six other flying squadrons for airspace and range time, but also the Marine customers at Yuma, as well as Davis-Monthan and Tucson (units).”

“At home, we are the only user, typically, of our airspace, so we can drive our own schedule,” Thiele said. “Here, we’ve been at the mercy of their range airspace scheduling, so we’ve had some pretty wild shifts in takeoff times and where our days are from week to week. That’s been a challenge.”

But the mission goes on and the pilot training remains underway. However, a more serious threat to the unit’s training mission involves the structural integrity of some of their F-16s.

“We’re at a unique time, because our home station planes are going through a repair process that we haven’t had to do before,” Carlson said. “We’re operating with significantly less airplanes right now and still trying to be able to keep the student timeline relatively close.”

This is an issue for the Total Force, but mostly impacts Air National Guard units, which operate aging Block-30 F-16s, Carlson said. All of the Gunfighters’ two-seat training model aircraft were grounded last fall.

“It’s mainly a Guard problem,” Carlson said. “Right now, it’s only a D-Model, or two-seat, problem. But it affects the longeron, which is a main frame of the plane. Last November, we found a crack in a position of that longeron at the aft end of the canopy. The repair process takes about 21 days.”

Gunfighter maintainers are working with an aircraft depot team from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, to work on the jets at Luke, Carlson said. After completing these repairs, the aircraft should be able to fly another 1,000 hours before further repair; afterward, they will have to undergo a yearlong repair process.

“We’re in historic times right now, we’ve never had to fly the airplanes that are still flyable at the rate that we’ve had to fly them,” Carlson said. “What ends up happening when you do that is: you compress the required maintenance that has to happen on those airplanes.”

To keep their training on pace, the unit reached out to other units to borrow available F-16s.

“We borrowed some jets from other Air National Guard units – from Vermont, Atlantic City and Alabama,” Thiele said. “We’ve just accepted some (active duty jets) from Hill (Air Force Base, Utah).” 

Unlike an agreement between active duty units, lending aircraft from the active component to the Air National Guard requires coordination between the Air Force major commands, the federal National Guard Bureau and the Texas Air National Guard’s leadership.

These borrowed aircraft are expected to allow the Gunfighters to get caught up on student production and get ahead going forward, Carlson said.

However, accepting the new aircraft is not as simple as it might seem.

“The front-end of accepting airplanes is a lot of work,” Carlson said.

“One, we have to gain it on the paperwork side, into the maintenance software system,” Carlson said, “and that takes several days to do that per airplane. Then, we physically go out and do inspections to make sure that it’s up to the standards.”

Further, the F-16s from Hill are a more advanced block than the Texas jets, Carlson said. This has required the aircraft maintainers, the avionics specialists in particular, to receive additional training to work on the Block 40 F-16s.

Even before receiving the aircraft, the Gunfighters have to send pilots and maintainers to the lending unit to pick up the aircraft for transport back to Luke.

This – in conjunction with the temporary relocation from Kelly Field to Luke – has created complexity for the Air National Guardsmen’s pay and benefits.

“I think anybody in this unit would say this is the most complex TDY that anybody has ever seen,” said Staff Sgt. John B. Solano, a military pay technician with the 149th Comptroller Flight. 

“Usually our mass TDYs are just two weeks,” Solano said. “Its two weeks there, two weeks back. There’s really not that extensive time for issues to happen, and if it did happen, it would get settled back home.”

Unlike their active duty counterparts, the Gunfighters have to manage through the complexity of a blended workforce of Active Guard Reservists, who are most similar to active duty airmen, dual-status, civilian technicians and traditional drill status Guardsmen.

“There’s a lot of ‘what ifs’ that we couldn’t answer until it happened,” Solano said. “We have individuals flying in and out of Luke to do other TDYs, which are also effecting their current TDY. We’re having to make multiple (travel) amendments to accommodate, to book plane tickets, rental cars, lodging at those duty locations, and in return, to get them back here.”

“Depending on where they’re lodging – whether they’re on or off-base – depends on how much per diem they get. So there’s also adjustments based on their status while they’re here,” Solano said.

Even with these challenges, Carlson said his maintainers are excited to accept the new aircraft.

“We pride ourselves on the cleanliness of our airplanes and the maintenance practices that we do,” Carlson said. “We are very fortunate in the Guard, we have continuity on airplanes. You have guys that have crewed the same airplane for 20 years. They know these airplanes, in-and-out.”

“There’s just a level of pride there that’s difficult to replicate,” Carlson said. “They’ll adopt these aircraft as if they were their own.”

Being away from home longer than expected can be a challenge, but the Gunfighter airmen have embraced the opportunities the trip presents.

“I think morale is really high,” Carlson said. “We’re able to focus on the mission. Another byproduct of that is, we’ve been able to get closer as a unit.”

“We spend a lot more time together, doing things together in the evenings and on the weekends, those are things we’re not able to do at home,” Carlson said. “Even though they miss being home for these months, I think that they cherish the time to build those bonds and to focus on the mission.”

In addition to the personal connections that are enhanced, there are professional benefits for the Gunfighters’ operation at Luke.

“We’re out of our comfort-zone,” Thiele said. “But I think that helps us, as pilots, not flying in our backyard all of the time. Not only for the student perspective, but also the instructors.”

Carlson said much the same from the maintenance standpoint.

“This gives us a great chance to get out of the comfort in our normal environment at home and act like we’re deployed,” Carlson said. “It also allows the maintenance personnel to pack up and operate out of a different location.”

The current student pilots are on track to graduate from their initial qualification course in June. Afterward, they are slated to go to units within the stateside Air Combat Command, U.S. Air Forces in Europe or Pacific Air Forces major commands.

“We continue to accomplish the 149th Fighter Wing’s federal mission,” Thiele said. “We’ve been able to – even with the aircraft issues we’ve had – continue the training role and get product out to the combat Air Force.” 

Texas Military honors fallen veteran

Texas Military honors fallen veteran

Story by: Capt. Martha Nigrelle

Posted: April 26, 2016

Capt. Martha Nigrelle Soldiers from the Texas National Guard’s Honor Guard recognize the service of Airman 1st Class James Beatty with full military honors, during a Missing in American Project ceremony held at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas, April 17, 2016. The ceremony was a part of the Texas Military Department's annual Open House, an event that serves to honor veterans, service members and partner first responders. The Missing in American Project locates, identifies and inters the unclaimed cremated remains of American veterans through the joint efforts of private, state and federal organizations. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Capt. Martha Nigrelle/ Released)
Capt. Martha Nigrelle
Soldiers from the Texas National Guard’s Honor Guard recognize the service of Airman 1st Class James Beatty with full military honors, during a Missing in American Project ceremony held at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas, April 17, 2016. The ceremony was a part of the Texas Military Department's annual Open House, an event that serves to honor veterans, service members and partner first responders. The Missing in American Project locates, identifies and inters the unclaimed cremated remains of American veterans through the joint efforts of private, state and federal organizations. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Capt. Martha Nigrelle/ Released)

AUSTIN, Texas - The Texas Military Department, along with Missing in America Project volunteers, American Heroes Air Show, first responders and American Legion representatives, honored a fallen Airmen during a ceremony held at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas, April 17, 2016.

Airman 1st Class James Beatty served honorably in the U.S. Air Force from 1975 to 1978. Shortly after being honorably discharged from the service, Beatty passed away. The events of his death are unknown and his body was never claimed. 

“There have been thousands of brothers and sisters in arms whose lives ended in a similar manner and were lost to any family or friends,” said retired Texas Military Department Chaplain, Col. John Price. “Not missing in action, but missing in America.”

According to their website, the Missing in America Project works with private, state and federal organizations to locate, identify and inter the unclaimed cremated remains of American veterans and provide honor and respect to those who served their country by securing them a final resting place.

The Texas Army National Guard’s Honor Guard rendered full military honors to Beatty, including a 21 gun salute. They presented a flag, on behalf of a grateful nation, to Javier Gonzalez, Post 83, American Legion Riders. Gonzalez received the flag on behalf of all veterans, since Beatty had no known next of kin.

“It’s so important for Camp Mabry to be hosting this and to share it with the public,” said Hunter Ellis. “It gives people a chance to honor those that have served and recognize the importance of serving. Hopefully we are fueling a new generation of freedom fighters for people who want to uphold those American values.”

Ellis understands firsthand the significance of honoring the missing. His father fought in Vietnam and never made it home, being listed as missing in action for more than 40 years. Ellis, a Navy veteran, said he recognizes the importance of ceremonies that return service members to families or provide a permanent resting place for American heroes.

“It’s important to be given full honors and return home,” said Ellis. “My Dad’s ID card is in a north Vietnamese museum. So I hope one day that it will be returned to American soil and at least I will have some part of him.

The Missing in America Project has interred 2,736 veterans’ remains in the last 10 years, said Price. 

“This was a memorable way for the community to finally identify and honor a long-lost hero that served our country,” said Wut Tantaksinanukij, Co-Event Director of Austin’s American Heroes Air Show. “It’s never too late to honor our American Heroes for their military service.”

Beatty’s remains were interred at the Central Texas State Veteran’s Cemetery in Killeen, April 18, 2016.

Texas and Chile, a partnership uniquely matched

Texas and Chile, a partnership uniquely matched

Story by: Senior Master Sgt. Elizabeth Gilbert

Posted: April 26, 2016

Senior Master Sgt. Elizabeth Gilbert Critical Care Air Transport teams from the U.S. Air Force and Aerea Fuerza de Chile, load a mock patient onboard a C-130H2 aircraft belonging to the 136th Airlift Wing, Texas Air National Guard, during a medical air-evacuation exercise at Santiago, Chile, April 5, 2016. The one day exercise involved Texas and Oklahoma Air National Guardsman, Active duty USAF and Chilean air force medical teams as they collaborate and exchange techniques for domestic operations during natural disasters. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Elizabeth Gilbert/released)
Senior Master Sgt. Elizabeth Gilbert
Critical Care Air Transport teams from the U.S. Air Force and Aerea Fuerza de Chile, load a mock patient onboard a C-130H2 aircraft belonging to the 136th Airlift Wing, Texas Air National Guard, during a medical air-evacuation exercise at Santiago, Chile, April 5, 2016. The one day exercise involved Texas and Oklahoma Air National Guardsman, Active duty USAF and Chilean air force medical teams as they collaborate and exchange techniques for domestic operations during natural disasters. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Elizabeth Gilbert/released)

SANTIAGO, Chile—The morning after the ending of FIDAE 2016, the flight line at Fuerza Aerea De Chile in Santiago, emptied except for the lone C-130H2 Hercules aircraft from the 136th Airlift Wing, Texas Air National Guard; as it prepared for its second mission, a medical air-evacuation exercise with Chilean airmen, April 4, 2016.

The morning was cool and foggy, barely noticing the majestic Andes mountain range in the far off distance behind the rows of medical tents. Chilean medical teams scurried alongside doctors and nurses from the 136th Medical Group and 147th Medical Group, Critical Care Air transport Team (CCATT), Texas Air National Guard, preparing to receive patients at a moment’s notice. Texans and Chileans collaborated with each other, working side-by-side and learning from each other, a partnership equally matched.

“Texas is one of the best State partners,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Kellie Williams, Chief Medical Operations and Plans Division, 12th Air Force, “because they are well equipped to respond to civilian domestic operations, same as Chile and uniquely matched to Texas with similar situations.”

In the distance, beyond the fog, one could hear the sounds of whirling blades approaching from the mock-crash site, bringing with it a helicopter full of mock casualties; a scene almost too familiar and reminiscent to the show ‘M.A.S.H.’ The moment the helicopter landed, corpsmen rushed to evacuate the helicopter and fill their gurneys with casualties. Seven patients were rushed into the medical tent for triage.

Doctors and nurses from both countries assessed the casualties and prepared them for an air-evacuation on board the C-130, where an aeromedical evacuation team from the 137th Medical Group, Oklahoma Air National Guard, waited for their embarkment. 

The most critical patients were passed on to the CCATT for stabilization prior to loading. The two countries worked seamlessly as if they had practiced together. This is the first time the Chilean medical team had worked side-by-side with the U.S. Airmen on a medical air-evacuation exercise in Chile. Language was only a slight barrier as medical terms were universally used.

The casualties were transported via litters onboard the C-130, which can carry up to 70 non-ambulatory patients, turning it into a high-capacity flying ambulance. 

Overall the exercise was a true success as each country took away valuable hands-on experiences from their time together. Future exercises are in the works to greater enhance the partnership between Texas and Chile.

“It was a wonderful experience being able to work with Chileans and exchange knowledge,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Jong Lee, 147 MDG, CCAT physician and a burn specialist in his civilian job. “They were very knowledgeable and competent. They were also very hospitable.”

Texas Air National Guard member continues military ambassador tradition

Texas Air National Guard member continues military ambassador tradition

Story by: Staff Sgt. Mindy Bloem

Posted: April 22, 2016

Staff Sgt. Mindy Bloem Tech. Sgt. Jacqueline Crow, an intelligence analyst with the 149th Fighter Wing, Texas Air National Guard, and fellow Air Force ambassador, Tech. Sgt. Steven Nowicki, 341st Training Squadron, both headquartered at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, talk to 2nd Lt. Phil Fountain, a 149th Public Affairs officer, during the Fiesta 2016 Media Day, March 16, 2016, in downtown San Antonio. Crow and Nowicki represent JBSA as Air Force ambassadors, a military community engagement program that annually selects the top two members, male and female respectively, from each service branch as representatives.
Staff Sgt. Mindy Bloem
Tech. Sgt. Jacqueline Crow, an intelligence analyst with the 149th Fighter Wing, Texas Air National Guard, and fellow Air Force ambassador, Tech. Sgt. Steven Nowicki, 341st Training Squadron, both headquartered at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, talk to 2nd Lt. Phil Fountain, a 149th Public Affairs officer, during the Fiesta 2016 Media Day, March 16, 2016, in downtown San Antonio. Crow and Nowicki represent JBSA as Air Force ambassadors, a military community engagement program that annually selects the top two members, male and female respectively, from each service branch as representatives.

For the second year in a row, a member of the 149th Fighter Wing, Texas Air National Guard, is representing the U.S. Air Force in an official capacity at local area events.

Tech. Sgt. Jacqueline Crow, an intelligence analyst with the 149th FW, and Tech. Sgt. Steven Nowicki, a military working dog instructor from the 341st Training Squadron, are this year's Air Force military ambassadors, selected out of Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas.

Every year, military ambassadors from each service branch are chosen in pairs, one male and one female, to act as appointed representatives and engage with the community at various events throughout the year.

Crow competed for the special designation against Air Force active duty, Guard and Reserve members from all three surrounding JBSA installations: Fort Sam Houston, Randolph and Lackland.

"It's an amazing opportunity to represent the Total Force, both Air National Guard and active duty, going out and putting on one team, one fight," she said.

Before being chosen for the position, top-qualifying candidates go before a selection board. Crow's board was comprised of active duty chiefs and the previous year's Air Force ambassadors. Both of last year's ambassadors, Tech. Sgt. Stephanie Hall and Master Sgt. Juan Flores, are members of the 149th FW. But for Crow, that commonality didn't make the atmosphere any less intimidating.

"It was actually kind of more nerve-wracking with both of them on the board because they knew me - actually Juan didn't know me at that point," she said remembering the details of the panel. "They asked us questions in regards to Fiesta and what our involvement in the San Antonio community was."

Flores, one of last year's Air Force ambassadors, said the ambassador applicants get asked a lot of Fiesta San Antonio questions because the bulk of events that the ambassadors attend involve the annual event.

Every year, the city of San Antonio hosts Fiesta, which runs for ten days in April. This year marks its 125th anniversary.

Flores said that Crow had a lot of the characteristics the panel looks for when choosing its ambassadors.

"You want someone who has charisma," he said. "You don't want someone who is strictly all military, who doesn't show much emotion. You want someone who has good military bearing, yes, but you also want someone who is personable."

It took about a week for Crow to hear back about the board's decision. The then-wing executive, Maj. Cindy Storoy, who Crow credits as the driving force behind her decision to apply, called to congratulate her on being selected as an Air Force ambassador.

"I was excited," Crow said looking back on that moment. "I'm pretty sure there was some dancing around the living room. I don't think I realized just how extensive and how great of an opportunity this is to represent the Air Force."

Now having attended several events and gaining a little more insight into what the military ambassador program is all about, Crow said she better understands its significance.

"To be a member of the 149th [FW] that continues the tradition and to be a part of the ambassador program on this big of a stage feels amazing," she said.

In the spirit of continuing that tradition, Hall, last year's female Air Force ambassador, passed down her Air Force service cap for Crow to wear during this year's many outside events. "She said, 'you need this hat because the sun is going to be in your eyes a lot, so here's my hat. Does it fit?' And it fit perfectly, so we're already talking about next year, hopefully passing that hat onto somebody else that wins the ambassador program."

Hall said she was just glad it fit because she liked the idea of another Gunfighter continuing the tradition of the ambassador program, which she views as a "bond between the San Antonio community and the entire military community."

Like her military ambassadors before her have said, Crow remarked that one of the program's aspects she finds most rewarding is the interaction she gets with her fellow ambassadors from the other services.

"You don't really know that these other branches have a presence on these bases until you get to know these guys and they're like, 'yeah, we do this,' and I'm thinking I didn't know that was a mission here, so it's been eye opening to say the least," she said.

The learning experience seems to go both ways.

"I was familiar with the Guard because I had worked with them on deployments before, but I wasn't as familiar with the 149th FW, said Nowicki, who is Crow's Air Force ambassador male counterpart. "I didn't know it was a Guard unit. [Crow] has taught me a lot about its different roles and functions. I always joke that she's the brains and I'm the brawn in this operation. It really has been great getting to know her. I've just learned so much from her."

During the ambassador introductions, Crow states her job title and affiliation with the Air National Guard, which often generates interest from her military counterparts.

"They'll approach me afterwards and say, 'oh, you're Guard, that's awesome, Total Force. We're so happy to see the Guard representing this year.' It feels awesome to carry on the tradition," she said.

Having the responsibility of representing both her wing and her service could seem daunting, but Crow doesn't let it get to her.

"I'm just going to go out and have fun, and I'm going to be myself," she said. I'm going to do everything I can to represent not just the Air Force but the Air National Guard in a positive light. If I can just do that, then there shouldn't be any pressure."

Texas CERFP trains, learns at Operation Vigilant Guard in Louisiana

Texas CERFP trains, learns at Operation Vigilant Guard in Louisiana

Story by: Staff Sgt. Jennifer Atkinson

Posted: April 18, 2016

Staff Sgt. Jennifer Atkinson Soldiers with the Texas Natonal Guard's 836th Sapper Co., 6th CBRNE Enhanced Response Force Package – CERFP, part of the Joint Task Force 136th (Maneuver Enhancement Brigade), work to stabilize a casualty by flashlight in near pitch dark during a collapsed structure rescue mission, as part of exercise Operation Vigilant Guard 2016 near Baton Rouge, La. April 15-17, 2016. Vigilant Guard focused on testing many of the state's response plans by having a Category 3 or 4 hurricane make landfall somewhere along the coast of Louisiana. In addition to fostering relationships between military and civilian partner agencies, the exercise allowed the exchange of ideas and best practices between the Louisiana and Texas CERFP units. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Jennifer D. Atkinson/Released)
Staff Sgt. Jennifer Atkinson
Soldiers with the Texas National Guard's 836th Sapper Co., 6th CBRNE Enhanced Response Force Package – CERFP, part of the Joint Task Force 136th (Maneuver Enhancement Brigade), work to stabilize a casualty by flashlight in near pitch dark during a collapsed structure rescue mission, as part of exercise Operation Vigilant Guard 2016 near Baton Rouge, La. April 15-17, 2016. Vigilant Guard focused on testing many of the state's response plans by having a Category 3 or 4 hurricane make landfall somewhere along the coast of Louisiana. In addition to fostering relationships between military and civilian partner agencies, the exercise allowed the exchange of ideas and best practices between the Louisiana and Texas CERFP units. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Jennifer D. Atkinson/Released)

BATON ROUGE, La. (April 16, 2016) – Disaster response involves a plethora of military and civilian agencies, including the 6th CBRNE Enhanced Response Force Package – CERFP. Making sure those parts stay connected and moving in the same direction takes training and coordination across both military and civilian agencies.

During Operation Vigilant Guard, held near Baton Rouge, La., April 15-17, 2016, the Soldiers and Airmen of the 6th CERFP, part of the Texas National Guard's Joint Task Force 136 (Maneuver Enhancement Brigade), enjoyed a chance to train with the Louisiana CERFP, Louisiana Task Forces 1 and 2, and members of the Florida CERFP, as well as coordinating transportation and vehicle movement validation with the Mississippi and West Virginia Air National Guards. 

For CERFP Commander Lt. Col. Heather Flores, Vigilant Guard satisfied two main objectives for her troops- to train and be trained. 

“Our primary objective during Vigilant Guard was to get our new trailers validated in an air load,” said Flores. “We received new trailers last year, and so we had to get all our equipment repacked and figure out how to load that into a military airframe.”

A C-17 crew from the West Virginia Air National Guard transported members of the CERFP, along with the new trailers for validation, instructing the Texas Guardsmen on how to properly install loading ramps as well as securing equipment, large and small, for air movement. The flight crew was “wonderful,” said Flores. “They did an amazing job training us and getting all our equipment loaded.”

After reaching Baton Rouge and unloading the trucks, trailers and baggage from the plane, the second part of the mission began. 

“Our other objective during Vigilant Guard was to help the Louisiana CERFP get their new Search and Extraction teams trained up,” said Flores. 

Search and Extraction Teams have a unique mission set, said 1st Lt. Jason Montalvo, 1st Platoon leader, 836th Sapper Co., part of the 6th CERFP.

“We go in to areas where there may be chemical or other hazards,” he said, “and we rescue people from collapsed structures or inaccessible places.”

After linking up with the incident commander, said Montalvo, there is a chain of events leading up to actually heading in to the “hot zone.” Determining the exact nature of the disaster, including any chemical hazards, setting up an operations center next to decontamination assets, and setting up a reconnaissance team all happen before anyone ever suits up to head into the hazardous area. “After all that, we suit up- in full protective gear if necessary- and we establish our priorities of work,” he said.

This kind of exercise with the support of an experienced unit is very helpful, said 1st Lt. Tolliver Washington, executive officer for the 927th Engineer Company, Louisiana CERFP's S&E element. 

Although Washington knows his Sappers are up to the challenge, it's still useful to look to what other units do. “Being a combat engineer relates to this mission,” he said, “since we do a lot of hands-on missions, and when something goes wrong we can fix it, but there's a difference between a unit with four years of experience and a unit with a few months of training. We've had this mission less than a year, so we're still in the early phases of our mission. We're working on getting all the training but this type of exercise is a huge benefit.” 

The Sappers in the 836th learn from each exercise, too, according to Montalvo. He stressed the exchange of ideas as a key element to the training. 

“We're here to help this S&E team get ready for their overall evaluation," he said, "but we want to trade ideas so we can all implement ideas and process that work better. It's important because we've all got really diverse thoughts.”

The Sapper Company stays proficient in their military mission, says Montalvo, and that helps with their civil support mission as well. “Obviously, we're not going to use explosives when trying to rescue people from a collapsed building, but that's not the only thing engineers do. We do other types of work, including vertical construction, and we work with our hands a lot. That gives us a broad knowledge base to draw on but hearing from other people is always good.”

The training benefits extend to another integral part of the S&E teams- the Air National Guard rig medics. The rig medics, highly trained Airmen, deploy with each S&E team to render medical care to casualties inside the hazard area. In order to do so safely, they must be trained to perform the same ascending and descending tasks as the Sappers.

“I really enjoy this part of being a medic,” said Airman 1st Class Juan Espinoza. “There's a lot of thinking on your feet because everything changes.” For Espinoza, the newest rig medic in the CERFP's 149th Medical Detachment, this exercise was his first true test. 

“I haven't gone through the full rig medic training,” he said, "so I had to learn everything on the fly.”

Although he was nervous at first, coming through the other side of a tough mission has been eye-opening. 

“I feel really confident in the team and what we can do,” Espinoza said. “We save people's lives. We get in, we get the patients and we get them out and to higher tier medical care.

“I am so proud of these guys,” said Flores. “They do amazing work for Texas and for all of FEMA Region 6. It tickles me to death to watch them do their jobs.”

Apart from the hands-on aspect of training, exercises like Vigilant Guard give agencies a great chance to test communications, said Flores. “In the military, we use a lot of acronyms, and a lot of our civilian counterparts have no idea what they mean, so it's good to practice communicating in plain terms.” 

Not all communication issues are between people, said Flores. “Our radios had to be reprogrammed so we could talk to the local first responders,” she said. 

Technical adjustments aside, the Louisiana CERFP “integrated us really well, and it was great to see our teams embedded into the local urban search and rescue teams and Louisiana Task Forces 1 and 2,” said Flores.

“No exercise every goes the way you expect,” said Flores. “This is a great chance to keep our folks flexible and thinking outside the box.”

Texas Military, Austin Police showcase partnership during annual Open House

Texas Military, Austin Police showcase partnership during annual Open House

Story by: Spc. Christina Clardy

Posted on: April 17, 2016

Spectators check out an Austin Police Department helicopter during the 10th annual Texas Military Department's Open House featuring the American Heroe’s Air Show. The event showcases the Texas Military Department and various state and local law enforcement agencies, first responders, volunteer services and veteran support organizations at Camp Mabry in Austin, Saturday, April 16, 2016. The free two day event featured the Traveling Vietnam Wall, a naturalization ceremony for members of all military branches, World War II and Vietnam reenactments, the Missing in America Project, local first responder demonstrations, a JROTC Drill competition and numerous vendors.(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Christina Clardy/Released)
Spectators check out an Austin Police Department helicopter during the 10th annual Texas Military Department's Open House featuring the American Heroe’s Air Show. The event showcases the Texas Military Department and various state and local law enforcement agencies, first responders, volunteer services and veteran support organizations at Camp Mabry in Austin, Saturday, April 16, 2016. The free two day event featured the Traveling Vietnam Wall, a naturalization ceremony for members of all military branches, World War II and Vietnam reenactments, the Missing in America Project, local first responder demonstrations, a JROTC Drill competition and numerous vendors.(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Christina Clardy/Released)

AUSTIN, Texas – Despite the heavy mist and scattered showers, members of the Texas Military Department, state and local law enforcement officers, first responders, volunteer services and veteran support organizations turned out for the Texas Military Department’s Open House weekend featuring the American Heroes Show at Camp Mabry, in Austin, April 16, 2016.

The free public event showcased a wide variety of demonstrations, reenactments, static displays, an 80 percent replica of the Vietnam War memorial, vendors and family fun events focused on the continued partnership between the various State and local civil services and the Texas Military Department.

“This is our 10th year to put on this event in partnership with the Texas Military Department,” said Austin Police Cpl. Wut Tantaksinanukij, this year’s American Heroes Show co-director. “It’s a great community event for the citizens here, who many don’t even realize that there is a military base in the center of Austin, and they don’t realize that it is open to the public.”

The Austin Police Department shares a long partnership with Camp Mabry and the service men and women of the Texas Military Department. Together, they share in numerous training and real-life reactionary situations that allow the two departments the opportunity to learn from one another and to gain a deep understanding of how their counterparts operate.

“We have a great working relationship with the folks here at Camp Mabry and the Texas Military Department, and have for a great many years,” said Tantaksinanukij. “There are all different types of emergency scenarios that could bring us together. With continued training and partnership, we will have a professional resolution to any situations that arise.”

The Texas Military Department, as part of the Defense Support to Civilian Authorities, has mobilized 24,000 guardsmen in support of federal, state and local law enforcement and first responders in more than 183 natural and man-made disasters since 2001. These include wildfires, flash floods, winter weather, hurricanes and law enforcement.

Many officers from the Austin Police Department, Austin Fire Department and Austin Emergency Medical Services train frequently with their counterparts from the Texas Military Department on the joint Texas Task Force-1. According to their mission statement, the task force is one of 28 federal teams under the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s National Urban Search and Rescue System and the Texas Division of Emergency Management.

“During natural disasters, state governments call on many federal and state response agencies to assist local first responders,” said Senior Lt. Kurt Rothert, Austin Police

Department Special Operations unit, during the police and military tactics demonstration. “In Texas, a specialized partnership exists between the Texas Military Department and the most active urban search and rescue team in the country, Texas Task Force 1.”

This Urban Search and Rescue Task Force has more than 600 members including doctors, first responders, military counterparts, structural engineers, canine handlers, professors and experts throughout many different fields. In addition, the Texas Military Department partners with Task Force-1 providing water response capabilities and aviation response teams.

“As part of Task Force 1, I work with the Texas Military Department on a monthly basis,” said Austin Fire Department Lt. Matt McElearney, Company Officer for Engine 32. “For example, we train with the National Guard’s helicopter units using their hoists for rescue missions, such as water rescue where people may be stuck in their houses, on a car or in a tree during a flood or emergency situation.”

Despite the weather, more than 5,900 people visited the Open House on Saturday.

“The weather didn’t cooperate with us this year but we are excited and already planning for next year,” said Tantaksinanukij. “It’s exciting for us to showcase what we do on a public side of the house through the Austin Police Department, the Austin Fire Department, the Austin EMS, and show some of our other skills sets that we have to offer to keep our community safe. But also to show how the Texas Military Department and the Austin Police Department play two different roles, and how we integrate those two components in our partnership.”

Texas ANG updates Congressman on cyber, readies for mission expansion

Texas ANG updates Congressman on cyber, readies for mission expansion

Story by: 2nd Lt. Phil Fountain

Posted: April 16, 2016 

94th Airlift Wing U.S. Rep. Will Hurd (TX-23) (left) visits with Brig. Gen. David M. McMinn, commander of the Texas Air National Guard, and Brig. Gen. Dawn M. Ferrell. Texas’ deputy adjutant general for air, in his Capitol Hill office in the Cannon House Office Building, in Washington, March 2, 2016. McMinn and Ferrell were requested to provide an update on the 273rd Information Operations Squadron, a subordinate unit of the 149th Fighter Wing, based at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, which has been selected to become an Air National Guard Cyber Protection Team and recently completed a site activation visit as they transition toward becoming a cyber operations squadron. (Photo courtesy of the Office of U.S. Rep. Will Hurd) 160302-Z-XX000-002
94th Airlift Wing
U.S. Rep. Will Hurd (TX-23) (left) visits with Brig. Gen. David M. McMinn, commander of the Texas Air National Guard, and Brig. Gen. Dawn M. Ferrell. Texas’ deputy adjutant general for air, in his Capitol Hill office in the Cannon House Office Building, in Washington, March 2, 2016. McMinn and Ferrell were requested to provide an update on the 273rd Information Operations Squadron, a subordinate unit of the 149th Fighter Wing, based at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, which has been selected to become an Air National Guard Cyber Protection Team and recently completed a site activation visit as they transition toward becoming a cyber operations squadron. (Photo courtesy of the Office of U.S. Rep. Will Hurd) 160302-Z-XX000-002

WASHINGTON – Senior leaders from the Texas Air National Guard were invited to provide U.S. Rep. Will Hurd (TX-23) an update on the 273rd Information Operations Squadron while visiting Washington, March 2, 2016.

The 273rd IOS is a subordinate unit of the 149th Fighter Wing, headquartered at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, and has been selected to become an Air National Guard Cyber Protection Team, which will expand the organization’s mission and designate them as a cyber operations squadron.

Last year, Hurd joined U.S. Reps. Joaquin Castro (TX-20), Henry Cuellar (TX-28) and Lamar Smith (TX-21), who all represent portions of San Antonio, in penning a letter to the National Guard Bureau and the Air National Guard in support of the 273rd IOS’ selection.

“The TXANG is a logical and cost-effective means to defend America in the cyber realm,” according to the letter. “The TXANG is unique in its diverse ability to perform cyber operations in State Active Duty, Title 32 and Title 10 status. The relationship with 24th Air Force and the TXANG has already been established by a signed agreement, which provides Texas Guard members secure and non-secure positions for current and further growth requirements…”

Brig. Gen. Dawn M. Ferrell, Texas’ deputy adjutant general for air, and Brig. Gen. David M. McMinn, commander of the Texas Air National Guard, were joined by Col. Kurt Leslie and Command Chief Master Sgt. George B. Longoria, both representing the 149th Fighter Wing.

“The activation of the cyber protection team will take Texas cyber to the next level,” Ferrell said. “We’re proud of what we’ve accomplished and the cyber mission we perform, but stand ready to give even more. As we say in Texas, ‘we’re open for business.’”

A big part of the Texas Air National Guard’s success has to do with the organization’s ability to retain and recruit cyber talent.

“We’ve been very successful at retaining this critical talent for the Air Force – bringing in those transitioning from the active duty to stay in the cyber fight,” McMinn said. “We have maximum cyber capacity for our current cyber mission and have to regularly turn away fully-qualified cyber warriors seeking to continue their service (in the guard).”

A planning team from the Air National Guard’s Readiness Center, headquartered at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, recently completed a site activation visit to determine the unit’s suitability to accept the new mission requirements as a cyber operations squadron.

“They looked at several areas to include: manpower, communications, Total Force Initiatives and logistics,” said Maj. Kristy Leasman, the squadron’s commander. “Our ability to recruit is exceptional and our communications support is ideal, with our active duty relationships.”

The unit is working toward hitting all of the benchmarks before Fiscal Year 2017.

“Going forward, we are refining our strategy to maintain our Total Force relationships, to continue our requirements through an updated agreement – a bigger agreement plan – and will implement new logistics processes for mobility,” Leasman said. “We are on a very fast track to meet all initial operation capability requirements. We expect to have them completed well before the FY17 target.”

Leasman is very proud of the squadron she leads and their role within the Department of Defense.

“We’re leading-edge cyber security professionals for the Air Force and DOD,” she said. “We’re extremely well-suited, a natural fit, to accept this mission.”

While the Air Guard cyber unit is located near the 23rd Congressional District of Texas, their mission is an area of personal and professional interest for Hurd, who is a former CIA officer and civilian cybersecurity professional.

“When both the public and private sectors take notice of a growing industry in a city, you know something real is happening,” Hurd said. 

A graduate of Texas A&M University, Hurd also chairs the Information Technology Subcommittee of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

“It was a pleasure to work with the Air National Guard to bring the 273rd Cyber Operations Squadron to San Antonio,” Hurd said. “I'm excited about the impact they will have on education opportunities and job growth in my hometown.”

The future looks bright for Texas airmen to continue defending America in the cyber realm.

“Texas – San Antonio, in particular – is perfectly situated to meet the long-term needs of any cyberspace mission,” Ferrell said. “We appreciate our congressional delegation’s strong support of the Texas Air National Guard.”

Texas ANG unit participates in Luke’s weapons loading competition

Texas ANG unit participates in Luke’s weapons loading competition

Story by: 2nd Lt. Phil Fountain

Posted: April 16, 2016

2nd Lt. Phil Fountain Tech. Sgt. Mark Nash (right), Tech. Sgt. Federico Barrios (center) and Senior Airman Robert Satter (left), aircraft armament systems technicians, load an inert AIM-120, advanced medium-range air-to-air missile onto the wingtip of an F-16 Fighting Falcon during the loading portion of the 56th Fighter Wing’s quarterly load crew of the quarter competition at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, April 8, 2016. Nash, Barrios and Satter are members of the Texas Air National Guard’s 149th Fighter Wing, headquartered at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, which is currently operating at Luke while San Antonio’s Kelly Field undergoes runway repairs. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by 2nd Lt. Phil Fountain) 160408-Z-DJ352-029
2nd Lt. Phil Fountain
Tech. Sgt. Mark Nash (right), Tech. Sgt. Federico Barrios (center) and Senior Airman Robert Satter (left), aircraft armament systems technicians, load an inert AIM-120, advanced medium-range air-to-air missile onto the wingtip of an F-16 Fighting Falcon during the loading portion of the 56th Fighter Wing’s quarterly load crew of the quarter competition at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, April 8, 2016. Nash, Barrios and Satter are members of the Texas Air National Guard’s 149th Fighter Wing, headquartered at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, which is currently operating at Luke while San Antonio’s Kelly Field undergoes runway repairs. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by 2nd Lt. Phil Fountain) 160408-Z-DJ352-029

LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Arizona (April 8, 2016) – A weapons loading team with the Texas Air National Guard participated in the Load Crew of the Quarter competition at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, April 8, 2016.

Tech. Sgts. Mark Nash and Federico Barrios and Senior Airman Robert Satter, aircraft armament systems technicians assigned to the 149th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, a subordinate unit of the 149th Fighter Wing, headquartered at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas participated in the first quarter competition.

In addition to the 149th team, the competition included U.S. Air Force weapons loading teams from the Luke-based 61st, 309th and 310th aircraft maintenance units, subordinate units of the 56th Fighter Wing.

“We were invited by the 56th Fighter Wing’s loading standardization section to perform in a ‘loadeo’ competition,” said Chief Master Sgt. Darin S. LaCour, the wing weapons manager for the 149th. “A three-member crew competed against the active duty weapons loaders for a load crew competition.”

“When we came here and introduced ourselves to them, they said, ‘hey, we have a competition, would you like to join?” LaCour said. “We jumped at the chance and said ‘absolutely, we’ll be ready.’”

The 149th is currently conducting their F-16 Fighting Falcon operations at Luke, near Phoenix, while San Antonio’s Kelly Field undergoes repairs, which has temporarily limited the fighter training unit’s flight operations in the Alamo City.

“It builds camaraderie between the crews, out there,” said Master Sgt. Ian Snowsill, the weapons standardization superintendent for the 56th Maintenance Group. “It’s a competition, its bragging rights.”

The timed competition required the teams to load two inert AIM-120, advanced medium-range air-to-air missiles onto on their unit’s aircraft, Snowsill said. Additionally, there was a tool kit inventory and inspection by quality assurance from the 56th. There was also an individual written examination.

The competition brought out the Texas unit’s pride, complete with the Lone Star State’s flag on display and members from across the wing cheering on the weapons load crew.

“You definitely saw the pride that was in our unit,” Barrios said. “Being in the competition, you’re so focused on the task at hand. But, when you’ve got people out there cheering that loud, you can’t help but hear.”

“It motivates you,” Barrios said. “You want to go faster, you want to be more proficient, because you know you’ve got people behind you rooting you on.”

In addition to fellow weapons loaders, the 149th had airmen from across the wing watching the loaders compete.

“It’s not only good for loaders, but for the wing, in general,” LaCour said. “From the crew chiefs – to show off their jets and how clean we keep them – to the loaders showing off their skillsets and their speed and accuracy, to the [aerospace ground equipment] guys showing off their equipment and how quickly and well they work, to the operations guys coming out and seeing what we do every day.”

“This machine wouldn’t work without everyone involved,” LaCour said. “The loaders were highlighted today, but it takes everybody.”

As a career field, weapons load crews are responsible for ensuring their unit’s primary assigned aircraft are properly loaded with munitions and countermeasures to meet the pilot’s mission and contingency requirements, LaCour said. Competitions like this reinforce the importance of the loader’s role in the Air Force mission.

“The time-standard they used is the standard across the U.S. Air Force,” LaCour said. “It shows the load crews where they’re at, as far as their time standards. It’s a big morale booster for everyone involved.”

LaCour was pleased with his weapons loaders’ performance.

“They did an outstanding job representing the Texas Air National Guard and the Air Force, in general,” LaCour said.