Posts in Category: Texas Air National Guard

Texas ANG welcomes new commander, salutes outgoing commander

Story by: 2nd Lt. Phil Fountain

Posted On: January 28, 2016

2nd Lt. Phil Fountain Brig. Gen. David M. McMinn (center), chief of staff of the Texas Air National Guard, prepares to receive the organization’s flag in a ceremony recognizing the change of command from Maj. Gen. Kenneth W. Wisian (left) to McMinn during a ceremony at Camp Mabry, in Austin, Texas, Jan. 23, 2016. Command Chief Master Sgt. Marlon Nation, the command chief master sergeant of the Texas Air National Guard, holds the flag prior to the change of command ceremony. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by 2nd Lt. Phil Fountain / Released)
2nd Lt. Phil Fountain
Brig. Gen. David M. McMinn (center), chief of staff of the Texas Air National Guard, prepares to receive the organization’s flag in a ceremony recognizing the change of command from Maj. Gen. Kenneth W. Wisian (left) to McMinn during a ceremony at Camp Mabry, in Austin, Texas, Jan. 23, 2016. Command Chief Master Sgt. Marlon Nation, the command chief master sergeant of the Texas Air National Guard, holds the flag prior to the change of command ceremony. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by 2nd Lt. Phil Fountain / Released)

AUSTIN, Texas – Members of the Texas Air National Guard gathered to welcome their new commander and salute their outgoing commander at Camp Mabry, in Austin, Texas, Jan. 23, 2016.

Maj. Gen. Kenneth W. Wisian ceremoniously relinquished command of the Texas Air National Guard to Brig. Gen. David M. McMinn, the organization’s chief of staff, immediately prior to his retirement.

“It’s a great time for Texas,” said Maj. Gen. John F. Nichols, the Adjutant General of Texas, who officiated the ceremonies. “We don’t need a change, but it’s a great thing to have a change and bring a new perspective in.”

McMinn brings three decades of experience to the role, according to his biography. He is a command pilot with more than 5,000 flight hours in numerous aircraft, including the C-130 Hercules assigned to the Texas Air National Guard’s 136th Airlift Wing, in Fort Worth.

“I charge you (McMinn) with taking care of the organization, taking care of those who serve Texas and the nation, as I do with everyone who’s in a command position,” Nichols said. “Ken did it honorably.” 

“We never failed Texas and we didn’t fail the nation in any of the missions we did,” Nichols said. “I charge you to continue that.”

McMinn was humbled to receive the appointment.

“Thank you, General Nichols,” McMinn said. “Thank you for the trust you put in me to take over this position, especially from him. Big shoes (to fill).”

In addition to the 136th Airlift Wing, the Texas Air National Guard’s largest operational units include the 147th Reconnaissance Wing, in Houston, and the 149th Fighter Wing, in San Antonio.

Moreover, the organization is made up of more than 3,200 airmen who operate and manage facilities and equipment valued in excess of $500 million to support state and federal missions.

The Texas ANG leadership transition began when Wisian announced his plan to retire from the military and join the staff of the Texas General Land Office, a Texas state agency, as a senior deputy director overseeing coastal protection and disaster recovery operations.

“I’ve known Dave a long, long time,” Wisian said. “I’m excited to pass the flag on to him. We’ve both came to the guard within about a year of each other, back in the ‘90s.”

“Dave’s the right person to take the helm now,” Wisian said. “I know you all will have fantastic future working with him, and I’m looking forward to it.”

Nichols and Wisian both discussed some the challenges McMinn will face as commander.

“We have a lot of challenges, with sequestration, as it is, and we have challenges with modernization,” Nichols said. “And we have challenges with force structure, having more missions than we have people to do it.”

But they expressed confidence in the future of the organization.

“It looks like there’s a significant corner turned,” Wisian said. “There’s good prospects now for some updated hardware, the Air Guard is being recognized by the Air Force – not nearly as well as it should be – but better than it has for a long time. Things are on an upward vector now.”

Wisian’s retirement caps off a 34-year career he began as a cadet in the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps program at the University of Texas at Austin.

Wisian served in the active duty Air Force for ten years before transitioning to the Texas Air National Guard, where he held leadership positions at all levels, including combat service in the Balkans, Afghanistan and Iraq.

In addition to serving as a traditional Air National Guardsman, McMinn maintains a civilian career as a commercial airline pilot. He has deployed in support of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, where he commanded at the group level.

“It’s a big trust, and I don’t take that lightly,” McMinn said of his assignment. “I look forward to providing as much of me as I possibly can for Texas.”

“From the time I joined the Texas Air National Guard, in 1992,” McMinn said, “from that moment, I always felt I owed the Texas Air Guard more than it could ever owe me. I still feel that today. I’m as charged up and excited about doing great things for the people of Texas, and for the people within the National Guard of Texas than I ever have been.”

As the new commander, McMinn said his plan is to ensure the focus of the headquarters staff remains oriented toward serving the needs of the air wings.

“I’m excited about being your commander, excited about being value-added, and am excited that our staff here serves the wings,” McMinn said. “We’re going to take care of you guys (at the wings), that’s our job.”

McMinn also looked to the future.

“We’re going to do good things, and we’re going to grow and prosper and learn from each other,” McMinn said.

“We’re all going to leave this position, whether through retirement or promotion, or just move on to your next assignment,” he said. “Hopefully, we’ll all be better airmen and better people for having served in the state headquarters. That’s my goal.”

From slick sleeve to one star, Texas Air National Guard promotes first female general

Story by: 1st Lt. Alicia Lacy

Posted on: January 20, 2016

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott administers the oath of office to Brig. Gen. Dawn M. Ferrell during her promotion ceremony Jan. 15, 2016, in the Texas Capitol's Senate Chambers. Abbott appointed Ferrell as the Deputy Adjutant General - Air for the Texas Military Department's Texas Air National Guard. Ferrell is the first female to hold the rank of general officer in the TXANG. (Air National Guard photo by 1st Lt. Alicia Lacy/Released)
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott administers the oath of office to Brig. Gen. Dawn M. Ferrell during her promotion ceremony Jan. 15, 2016, in the Texas Capitol's Senate Chambers. Abbott appointed Ferrell as the Deputy Adjutant General - Air for the Texas Military Department's Texas Air National Guard. Ferrell is the first female to hold the rank of general officer in the TXANG. (Air National Guard photo by 1st Lt. Alicia Lacy/Released)

AUSTIN, Texas – In 1983, Dawn M. Ferrell enlisted in the Texas Air National Guard as a slick-sleeve airman basic.

Nearly 33 years later, now-Brig. Gen. Dawn M. Ferrell continues to serve the Texas Air National Guard and made history becoming its first female general officer.

To celebrate this milestone, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, Texas Military Department senior leaders and Ferrell’s family and friends attended her promotion ceremony Jan. 15, in the Texas Capitol’s Senate Chambers, with Abbott administering her oath of office.

“I’m humbled and I’m proud to have been chosen for this position, and I recognize that this is an important step for the Texas Air National Guard,” Ferrell said. “I honestly didn’t realized that there hadn’t been a female before, but I think it’s just another way of showing everybody that anybody can do anything in the Air Force.”

Abbott appointed Ferrell the Texas Military Department’s Deputy Adjutant General-Air in November 2015.

“Dawn Ferrell has earned the promotion she is being recognized for today,” Abbott said. “Texas is about advancement and in Texas, we believe you can achieve anything if you work hard and strive with ambition to achieve great things. Dawn Ferrell is the newest and greatest example of what we believe in Texas.”

Thinking back to the beginning of her career, Ferrell remembers only wanting to serve her initial commitment in the guard and later planned to pursue a college degree. However, once in the TXANG, Ferrell said she loved being in the military and a member of the guard, whose unique part-time structure allowed her to do both.

“I was just going to do my initial six-year enlistment,” Ferrell said. “I wanted to go to college and see what happens. I never thought that 32 and a half years later I’d still be here.”

Ferrell was able to pursue her education, earning a bachelor of arts, master of arts, and doctorate of philosophy degrees, as well as a successful civilian career in higher education while progressing through the ranks of the TXANG.

“I absolutely loved being in the military and being a part of the guard and the great thing about being in the guard is you get to experience both,” she said.

Ferrell has grown in her career at the 136th Airlift Wing from an aerial port specialist to an aerial port officer and group commander.

“No matter what the barrier is – perceived or not – you go around or you go over, but you don’t stop,” she said. 

Ferrell attributes her success to her will to succeed and never quit, regardless of the obstacle. That same attitude has taken her to serve in positions such as director of plans and logistics operations at International Security Assistance Force headquarters Afghanistan and to coordinating response efforts during Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in New Orleans and Houston.

And now as deputy adjutant general, she plans to ensure the TXANG is always ready to serve, whether it’s a federal or state mission, as well as seek new missions for the state. 

“Be ready for whatever opportunities come your way,” she said. “There may be different paths to get there, so do things you need to do to be prepared so that when opportunities come along, you won’t miss it.”

Guard leaders attend new cyber course

Story by: Staff Sgt. Mindy Bloem

Posted on: January 11, 2016

149th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

Brig. Gen. David McMinn, Texas Air National Guard commander, talks to Col. Michael Lovell, Air National Guard advisor to the 25th Air Force, while attending a newly implemented cyber course Dec. 10 in San Antonio. The course, which was the first of its kind, spanned four days and familiarized National Guard senior leaders with the threats and resources available in the cyber realm.
Brig. Gen. David McMinn, Texas Air National Guard commander, talks to Col. Michael Lovell, Air National Guard advisor to the 25th Air Force, while attending a newly implemented cyber course Dec. 10 in San Antonio. The course, which was the first of its kind, spanned four days and familiarized National Guard senior leaders with the threats and resources available in the cyber realm. 

SAN ANTONIO,Texas -- National Guard leaders attended a four-day cyber security familiarization course Dec. 7-10 in San Antonio.  The class was the first of its kind for the Air National Guard that previously had no cyber security training for its senior leaders or commanders not assigned to cyber career fields.

The training course relies on seasoned professionals with extensive information security experience from the Center for Infrastructure Assurance and Security at the University of Texas at San Antonio.   The course outlines various cyber threats and educates leaders on the resources available to neutralize those threats.

For Brig. Gen. David McMinn, commander of the Texas Air National Guard, this course came at just the right time.

"Everybody agrees that the next big Pearl Harbor for us will be in the cyber realm," McMinn said. "We need to be adept in this realm. This course is helping senior leaders assess capabilities of not only our adversaries but also those of our own cyber forces."

The National Guard Bureau also announced the placement of multiple cyber protection teams across the nation during the same week senior leaders were attending the course - aligning the teams with FEMA management regions - yet another indicator that the Department of Defense aims to increase cyber preparedness. Texas was one of the four states assigned with Air National Guard cyber teams.

During the training, senior leaders spent some time at the 273rd Information Operations Squadron, an Air National Guard unit with a reputation for being cyber savvy. Walking into an environment of experts in a field where many are still beginners, could feel intimidating, but Maj. Kristy Leasman, commander of the 273rd IOS, aims to dispel those feelings.

"I want to take the mystery out of cyber for them," Leasman said. "The course builds a significant foundation, and the big lesson at the end of the week is that cyber is not special. It's just operations.  Senior leaders should approach cyber operations the same way they approach any other operational task. This course just helps with the language translation."

According to McMinn, deciphering that language is crucial.

"We started this course in Texas because we identified a huge need for our National Guard leaders -- both Army and Air -- to learn what's going on in the cyber realm, and to be able get this training in San Antonio, a center for cyber excellence -- to run portions of the course right here at the 24th and 25th Air Force -- makes us the ideal location to be trained up on these amazing capabilities." McMinn said.

Because the dangers of the cyber domain are different than those of the physical domain, McMinn believes the action must fit the danger.

"Any other threat you see coming -- the warning signs. You can see, 'hey, they just launched a missile,' but cyber attacks have no warning signs except for readiness, aptitude and the skills of those in the intel and cyber fields that see those things coming and protect us," he said.

During one of his lunch breaks, McMinn engaged in a conversation with some of his peers about how this class has helped them better understand the old adage of an ounce of prevention being weightier than a pound of cure.

"I had an idea about how big the problem was but after attending this course and learning what the full-scale threat is, I'm very much alarmed," McMinn said.  But this training has taught me how to protect my family and myself, how to protect an organization, and what our forces are doing to prevent those cyber threats.

But concern wasn't the only thing on the Texas leader's mind. Visiting with the cyber operatives bolstered his confidence.

"Not only am I more alarmed, but I also feel more secure in knowing what our amazing people our doing to protect us," McMinn said. "We can't always see what's going on behind the curtain, but there is a lot going on behind that curtain."

Airmen support Snowball Express 2015

Story by: Tech. Sgt. Vanessa Reed

Post: December 16, 2015

Tech. Sgt. Vanessa Reed U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Mark Mize, a squad leader from the 136th Security Forces Squadron, Texas Air National Guard, from Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base, Texas, and his therapy dog, Sully, welcome families arriving for Snowball Express 2015 at Dallas-Fort Worth Airport, Dec. 12, 2015. Snowball Express is an organization dedicated to the children of military members who have died while on active duty since Sept. 11. (Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Vanessa Reed/released)
Tech. Sgt. Vanessa Reed
U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Mark Mize, a squad leader from the 136th Security Forces Squadron, Texas Air National Guard, from Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base, Texas, and his therapy dog, Sully, welcome families arriving for Snowball Express 2015 at Dallas-Fort Worth Airport, Dec. 12, 2015. Snowball Express is an organization dedicated to the children of military members who have died while on active duty since Sept. 11. (Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Vanessa Reed/released)

NAVAL AIR STATION FORT WORTH JOINT RESERVE BASE, Texas - Texas Air National Guardsmen from the 136th Airlift Wing here, volunteered their time in support of Snowball Express 2015 at the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport on Dec. 12, 2015.

Snowball Express is an annual gathering for children of fallen military members who died while on active duty on or after Sept. 11, 2001. This year an estimated 1,700 family members traveled to the Dallas-Fort Worth area for the event.

“I am in charge of 18 volunteers but we have almost 400 helping this year,” said Fernando A. Ospina, the DFW Airport coordinator for Snowball Express. “Most of the volunteers do it out of a love for kids, a love of our military and a love of our nation.”

This is the sixth year that Airmen from the 136AW work alongside military and civilian volunteers to meet and greet children and their escorts as they exit the aircraft and assist with luggage handling.

“We’re one of the few units that still participate in our uniform because they enjoy seeing that,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Camille LaDrew, Texas Air National Guard, military volunteer coordinator for the 136AW. “It reminds them that they are still part of the military family.”

Military volunteers were also joined by family members. One family brought along a group of 10 trained therapy dogs and their handlers.

“We heard stories today about how the kids miss their dogs and are so glad our guys are here,” said Kate A. Mize, a military spouse and dog handler with A New Leash on Life. “They bring a sense of comfort, a sense of home.” 

Snowball Express was founded in 2006 with the primary goal of supporting the families of fallen military members by providing them with new memories and hope.

Guard set to activate additional cyber units

Story by: Sgt 1st Class Jon Soucy - National Guard Bureau  

Posted: Dec. 14, 2015

Photo of two soldiers working at computersARLINGTON, Va. (12/9/15) – As part of ongoing growth of cyber forces throughout the Department of Defense, the National Guard announced plans to activate 13 additional cyber units spread throughout 23 states by the end of fiscal year 2019.

“Our goal for cyber-defense is to train, equip and provide highly skilled forces responsive to the needs of the nation,” said Army Gen. Frank Grass, chief of the National Guard Bureau. “Working with the Army and Air Force our cyber squadrons and teams will provide trained and ready Soldiers and Airmen to support requirements established by the services and U.S. Cyber Command.”

Seven new Army Guard Cyber Protection Teams will be activated across Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Wisconsin. They join four previously announced Army Guard CPTs spread across California, Georgia, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan and Ohio.

In partnership with the Air Force, the Air Guard will activate four new Cyber Operations Squadrons in Idaho, Michigan, Texas and Virginia. In addition, a cyber Information Surveillance Reconnaissance squadron will stand up in California Photo of soldier on laptop and a cyber ISR group in Massachusetts.

The current roll out of Guard cyber units is part of laying out a larger foundation for future cyber forces scheduled for activation.

“This is the beginning,” said Air Force Col. Kelly Hughes, chief of the Space and Cyber Warfare Operations Division at the Air National Guard Readiness Center. “This is a massive amount of force structure the Guard has laid into this mission, but this is just the first layer.”

Activating cyber units in these states allows for the Guard to fulfill Army and Air Force cyber missions while positioning cyber protection units in each of the 10 Federal Emergency Management Agency response regions.

“The focus is to get that presence in as many states as possible and especially making sure we have all the FEMA regions covered,” added Hughes about the current activation plans.

Ensuring each FEMA region has coverage, ties into the Guard’s mission to respond to large-scale emergencies and disasters at home, said Air Force Col. Timothy T. Lunderman, director of joint cyber operations at the National Guard Bureau, adding that because the Guard is community based there are already relationships in place. Cyber teams and squadrons, he added, are another asset governors can use at the state level should they be needed.

“If we have never met before, and I come knocking on your door and say, ‘I’m here to help you with a cyber incident,’ you’d close the door,” said Lunderman. “The Guard is in all 50 states, three territories and the District of Columbia. We have the capability and relationships already established. If state and local officials need help they’re more likely to turn to the folks they know. The people they know are the Guard.”

And like other Guard assets, cyber protection units—whose members  only operate on DoD and government networks, including those of state governments—can be used in multi-state settings through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, said Lunderman.

While each state may not yet be home to a cyber protection team or squadron, Guard elements in each state, territory and the District of Columbia already have a computer network defense team or other cyber protection assets assigned, said Hughes.

“The Army National Guard has laid computer network defensive teams into every state,” he said. “Between the Army Guard and the Air Guard there is a level of cyber protection capability in each state.”

Armed with civilian experience in cyber security and network engineering, Hughes said, National Guard cyber specialists are able to provide robust capability.

“That’s the kind of thing you can get with the Guard,” he said. “Our longevity and knowledge is hard to match. That is what makes the Guard great.”

It’s also a mission that Guard members can easily transition from state status to federal status.

“We can do this mission from anywhere,” said Hughes. “We don’t have to physically relocate to do it. As long as we have the connectivity, we can operate from home station.”

Guard cyber protection units are part of larger service-specific requirements to provide cyber defense capabilities, explained Lunderman, adding those requirements have been spread throughout the active, Guard and reserve components. Each cyber team member, regardless of component, trains to the same service standard.

The future of cyber defense is open ended.

“When you look at the way the Internet was designed and built, nobody could even fathom what it has become today and it’s really even harder to think what it might become tomorrow,” said Lunderman.

The need for cyber defense assets is expected to increase.

“It’s only going to grow,” Hughes said. 

Gunfighters give back to local community

Gunfighters give back to local community

Story by Staff Sgt. Mindy Bloem

Post: November 25, 2015

Staff Sgt. Mindy Bloem Tech. Sgt. John Odum, 149th Operations Group, hams it up for the camera as he helps pack breakfast bags at a Meals on Wheels building located in San Antonio, Texas, Nov. 23, 2015. Odum is part of the 149th Fighter Wing at Joint Base San Antonio.
Staff Sgt. Mindy Bloem
Tech. Sgt. John Odum, 149th Operations Group, hams it up for the camera as he helps pack breakfast bags at a Meals on Wheels building located in San Antonio, Texas, Nov. 23, 2015. Odum is part of the 149th Fighter Wing at Joint Base San Antonio.

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO - LACKLAND, Texas – Texas Air National Guard members, assigned to the 149th Fighter Wing’s Operations Group, volunteered at a local Meals on Wheels organization, Nov. 23-24. 

Each weekday, Meals on Wheels of San Antonio prepares and delivers nearly 4,000 meals to homebound senior citizens of Bexar County, according to volunteer coordinator Kristin Rivera.

Rivera, who has been working there for the past three years, said the non-profit relies heavily on its volunteers who comprise about half of the workforce.

Master Sgt. Martha Vasquez-Medelez, volunteer and member of the 149th OG, called the organization this time last year to inquire about her family delivering Thanksgiving Day meals. This year she decided to recruit fellow members from her squadron to help with the high-volume food preparation that occurs each year during Thanksgiving week. 

“It’s been rewarding knowing that you’re helping seniors who can sometimes get forgotten, she said. “I also have a better appreciation for people who do food serving – now that’s work,” Medelez said after spending much of the morning serving food onto thousands of microwave-safe plates to be sealed and distributed later in the week. 

Fellow Meals on Wheels volunteer and 149th OG member Tech. Sgt. Tracy Potts agrees with his co-worker about it being a rewarding experience. Like Medelez, Potts is no stranger to volunteering. He and his family volunteer for various local churches and charity organizations. In addition to prepping and serving the food, he also volunteers to deliver the food to homebound residents on his days off. 

“There’s this one guy … we talk Spurs,” Potts said. “He loves Tim Duncan. He loves David Robinson. He’ll always be talking about how Robinson needs to suit up again, and I’m like, ‘I don’t know, man.’ He also loves the Cowboys, so we have that in common.”

Potts said he enjoys the delivery aspect because he’s able to strike up these types of conversations with seniors who don’t always get a lot of outside interaction. 

For the volunteer coordinator, going out on deliveries is something she enjoys as well. Because of the organization’s reliance on volunteers, Rivera said she sometimes has to balance her administration duties with going out into the field. 

“As soon as you get out there, you remember, this why I do this,” Rivera said about being called upon to deliver the meals when someone can’t make it. 

For Rivera, volunteers are one of her favorite parts of the job. “I love dealing with the volunteers,” she said. “I mean how many other jobs do you get where you get to deal with nice people all day?” she added. 

Both Medelez and Potts said they volunteer because they just enjoy making a difference in the places around them.

Potts recommends checking out the myriad of opportunities available on the Internet if unsure of where to get involved. “After that, you begin to network and hear about other opportunities from the people volunteering with you,” he said.

Volunteering, for Medelez, is mostly a matter of follow-through. “Once you get that thought, just do it,” she said. “Rather than letting it linger then leave your brain, actually make it happen.”

Honing spiritual fitness, Texas ANG chaplain grows chaplain's program in Fort Worth

Posted: November 25, 2015

Courtesy Photo Chaplain Brig. Gen. Steve Chisolm, Air National Guard Assistant to the U.S. Air Force Chief of Chaplains, preaches to Texas Air National Guardsmen and their families during a chapel service held at the 136th Airlift Wing headquarters, Nov. 15, 2015, Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth, Texas. Chisolm began his career as an Air Force chaplain at the 136th Airlift Wing where he helped build one of the largest chapel programs in the Air National Guard. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Seth Holderby/Released)
Courtesy Photo
Chaplain Brig. Gen. Steve Chisolm, Air National Guard Assistant to the U.S. Air Force Chief of Chaplains, preaches to Texas Air National Guardsmen and their families during a chapel service held at the 136th Airlift Wing headquarters, Nov. 15, 2015, Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth, Texas. Chisolm began his career as an Air Force chaplain at the 136th Airlift Wing where he helped build one of the largest chapel programs in the Air National Guard. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Seth Holderby/Released)

NAVAL AIR STATION JOINT RESERVE BASE FORT WORTH, Texas – Chaplain Brig. Gen. Steve Chisolm, Air National Guard assistant to the U.S. Air Force Chief of Chaplains, led a packed room of Texas Guardsmen from the 136th Airlift Wing, during a service, Nov. 15, 2015, at Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth.

For Chisolm, this visit was a chance to spend time with a program he helped build and the airmen he served.

“Then-Lieutenant Colonel Chisolm was my mentor. He influenced me even before I became a chaplain,” said Chaplain Capt. Nathan Tucker, 136th Maintenance Squadron, 136th Airlift Wing, remembering how Chisolm inspired him to become a chaplain. “He has never lost touch with me since the first time we met.”

During his service in the wing, Chisolm mentored chaplains like Tucker and devoted his efforts to building a support network where airmen could maintain their spiritual fitness.

“I think with almost 15 years of continual deployments, constant war has worn on all of us, from all the different components, physically, emotionally, but certainly spiritually,” said Chisolm. “You think about comprehensive airmen fitness and about those four components, the spiritual aspect is just as important, more important in my opinion.”

It was this vision that inspired the program so many service members in the wing know today.

“We have an excellent chaplain program,” said Staff Sgt. Patricia Johnson, noncommissioned officer in charge of chaplain operations and chaplain’s assistant to the wing chaplain. “It’s growing. When I came to this wing about six years ago, we had single digits numbers.”

The growth in the program Chisholm helped start was obvious, as more than 100 airmen packed the chapel for service. 

“He laid the foundation to build the program,” said Tucker. “He built it through three things – trust with the leadership, being a man of integrity and understanding pastoral care.”

The chaplains’ program offers service members a time to set aside during drill to focus on their spiritual fitness. Because of the trust Chisholm built with wing leadership, wing chaplains have been able to work closely with unit commanders to ensure guardsmen have the option to attend chapel services with minimal effects on unit training.

“Seeing how it evolved to this, it is really refreshing to my soul,” said Johnson. “I know it’s making a difference in the members’ lives.” 

Military chaplains are charged with the responsibility to provide spiritual care and the opportunity for service members, their families and other authorized personnel to practice their faith through religious observances, providing pastoral care and advising leadership on spiritual, ethical, moral, morale, core values and religious accommodation issues.

“My job as a chaplain is to provide for the free exercise of religion, as provided by the founding document,” said Tucker. 

Placing spiritual fitness and pastoral care first, Chisolm honed a program that appears to do just that.

“Our members feel like we really do care about them, not just their personal growth or professional growth, but their spiritual growth as well,” said Johnson. “It helps them and their productivity. It helps enhance the mission.” 

Chisolm continues mentoring others in his job at the Pentagon, serving as the liaison between the director of the Air National Guard and Headquarters United States Air Force Chief of Chaplains to ensure that the Air National Guard is providing airmen needs, as well as, making sure the Air force understands the needs of the Air National Guard. 

Once in a while, Chisolm is able to make a guest appearance at units within Texas to provide spiritual guidance.

“Thank you for letting me do something that I haven’t gotten to do in years,” said Chisolm. “Preach here in this room.”

Coming back to the wing, Chisolm was able to see his vision for the unit’s chaplaincy program fulfilled.

“This chapel is successful because Chaplain Chisolm wanted to have the best program in the National Guard,” said Tucker. “And he succeeded.”

U.S. Air National Guard Seth Holderby and U.S. Army National Guard Staff Sgt. William Gasch, Sgt. Jason Robertson, Sgt. Angela Melton, Sgt. Hector Valladares contributed to this article.

147th Reconnaissance Wing reaches 100K flight hours on MQ-1

Story by: 1st Lt. Alicia Lacy

Posted: November 9, 2015

Wing receives aircraft
Courtesy Photo
Members of the 147th Reconnaissance Wing Maintenance Group open the crate holding an MQ-1 Predator at Ellington Field Joint Reserve Base in Houston, Aug. 18, 2009. The wing is transitioning from the F-16 to the MQ-1 and this is the first of several Predators that the wing will receive.

HOUSTON, Texas – Achieving 100,000 flying hours takes years to realize.

But for the members of the 147th Reconnaissance Wing, Texas Air National Guard, conquering this incredible feat is just a testament to their hard work and dedication to the mission.

The wing accomplished the milestone Oct. 8, 2015, just seven short years after receiving its new mission to fly the MQ-1B Predator.

“I’ve witnessed the constant hard work and professionalism required by the 147th Reconnaissance Wing to accomplish this achievement,” said Col. Gary Jones, vice wing commander . 

In 2005, the Department of Defense recommended retiring the then-147th Fighter Wing’s F-16 Fighting Falcons and replacing them with the reconnaissance aircraft, with plans for the unit to be fully equipped and operational by 2009.

This change required airmen to adjust and re-train on a new aircraft that began its initial operational capability in the U.S. Air Force only a few years before the wing took its first flight July 2008.

“There have been many milestones along the way for the 111th (Reconnaissance Squadron) since Ellington took on this mission, and there will continue to be more, but this is a very significant accomplishment,” said Lt. Col. David Peck, 111th Reconnaissance Squadron commander. “To put 100,000 hours in context, that amount of time is equivalent to flying for 11.41 years non-stop, and we did it in just seven years.”

Due to the unique structure of the National Guard, pilots can fly in different statuses from domestic Title 32 missions and federal Title 10 hours to flight hours during training exercises; however, the 100,000-hour milestone was all done while on federal Title 10 status.
The accomplishment cannot only be attributed to the pilots who fly the mission, but to the entire wing, from the member charged with writing orders to the maintainers who keep the aircraft mission ready and the combatant commanders who use the aircraft in theater.

“We have had to forge and maintain working relationships with a host of organizations over the years,” Peck said. “Additionally, we count on support from our advocates at NGB to give us the funding, manpower and voice we need to enable these missions.
In addition to the one team, one fight mentality, guard members accumulate years of experience, acquiring the expertise to be proficient in their jobs.

“What is not to be overlooked is the substantial amount of experience the Guard, and the 111th in particular, brings to the MQ-1 community,” Peck said. “I first began to fly the Predator in 2005. Over a decade later, I am still doing the same mission.”

“Many other members of the 111th have employed this asset for roughly the same amount of time,” he added. “That is experience that active duty simply cannot match, and the squadron anticipated converting to the MQ-9 within the next 18-24 months, and when that happens, I’m confident that our squadron will continue to be an ‘Ace in the Hole’ for the combatant commanders.”

TX Guardsmen compete in first ever apache helicopter competition

Inaugural Gunfighter Fly-In

Rows of Apache AH-64D helicopters are silhouetted by an Arizona sunset with the Ragged Top Mountains in the background Nov. 3 at Silverbell Army Heliport in Marana, Ariz. The Gunfighter Fly-In pits some of the best AH-64D Apache attack helicopter crews from seven different Army National Guard units from across the nation in a competition to see who's best. Crews from Arizona, Utah, Idaho, South Carolina, North Carolina, Texas and Missouri competed for the top scores in various events such as a live fire scenario, unmanned aerial systems teaming, simulator test and a written evaluation.

Courtesy of Arizona National Guard Public Affairs Office