Posts in Category: Texas Air National Guard

Texas Military Forces Museum Honors Vietnam Veterans with Annual Program

Story: Courtesy of the Texas Military Forces Museum Staff

Posted: June 1, 2015

Volunteers from the Texas Military Forces Museum's Living History Detachment conduct a Vietnam War-era reenactment portraying U.S. service members engaged in battle with elements of the Viet Cong, May 3, 2015, during the Central Texas Air Show in Temple, Texas. The Living History Detachment conducts living history programs across the state and nation, in an effort to educate the public on the service and sacrifices made by veterans from the Civil War to present day. (Photo courtesy of Chris Hunt, Texas Military Forces Museum)
Volunteers from the Texas Military Forces Museum's Living History Detachment conduct a Vietnam War-era reenactment portraying U.S. service members engaged in battle with elements of the Viet Cong, May 3, 2015, during the Central Texas Air Show in Temple, Texas. The Living History Detachment conducts living history programs across the state and nation, in an effort to educate the public on the service and sacrifices made by veterans from the War of 1812 to present day. (Photo courtesy of Chris Hunt, Texas Military Forces Museum)

TEMPLE, Texas - The Texas Military Forces Museum’s Living History Detachment deployed 21 of its members to Temple to take part in the annual Central Texas Air Show, May 2-3, 2015.  

Although the museum’s reenactors usually focus on the history of Texas Volunteer Regiments in the Civil War or the 36th Infantry Division in World War II, every year at the air show they turn their focus to the war in Vietnam.  

For the Detachment, this was an opportunity to honor the men and women who served in Vietnam.

“We want to give ourselves and the public the chance to say thank you to all of those who answered their nation’s call and did their duty in Southeast Asia fifty years ago,” said Jeff Hunt, director of the Texas Military Forces Museum and commander of its living history detachment.  

After setting up an authentic Vietnam-era military encampment, the museum’s volunteers helped the thousands of people, attending the air show, better understand the service American troops had in Southeast Asia during the 1960s.  

Displays of weapons, equipment, period magazines, manuals, radios and even tape recorders are big attractions. Among the most popular items on exhibit are the M60 Machine Gun and M79 Grenade Launcher.  

“Veterans love to see the weaponry they carried during that war,” said Hunt. “You can see the excitement on their faces and the thrill when we let them hold one of the firearms. Certainly, the sights, sounds and feel of these historic objects bring back a flood of memories.”

Some of these memories are good and some are painful.  

“It isn’t uncommon to see a vet tear up as he interacts with us,” Hunt said.  “A few become so emotional they can only shake their head and smile at us before they walk away.  Many more take the time to tell stories of their time ‘in country’ or combat. As historians, we love hearing those stories.  We take what the veterans tell us and incorporate it into what we tell the general public.  Those stories make us better and more accurate interpreters of this important piece of our past.”

John Eli is the resident expert on the Vietnam War for the museum’s living history detachment. He served as an infantryman in the 25th Infantry Division in 1968 – at the height of the Tet Offensive.  Wounded in action and awarded the Purple Heart, Eli saw a lot of combat and often acted as a “tunnel rat” for his unit.  

A part of the museum’s living history team for more than 5 years, Mr. Eli shared his personnel history – including photos and mementoes he brought home from his service – with those who stop by the museum’s living history encampment.  Very often he finds himself speaking to a fellow Vietnam veteran. 

“You can certainly see the bond all the men who served in Vietnam have,” said Hunt.  “It doesn’t matter if they weren’t in the same unit or even if they weren’t in the country at the same time, they are brothers.” 

Having an authentic Vietnam veteran in their ranks is a special thing for the museum’s volunteers. 

“John is a great guy and a great historian,” said Hunt. “We are so incredibly lucky and honored to have him as part of our unit.  He has taught all of us more about the war than we could learn from reading 1,000 books.”

The most popular event of the detachment’s events at the air show was the Vietnam War-era air assault reenactment.  

Wearing the correct uniforms and equipment from the era and carrying actual weapons modified to fire blanks, the volunteers boarded a Huey helicopter and flew into “battle.” The scenario is the rescue of a downed helicopter crew being pursued by a group of Viet Cong guerrillas. 

With air show caliber pyrotechnics going off in the background, a Cobra gunship and an observation aircraft zooming overhead, the reenactors raced out of the helicopter as it touched the ground. A second “lift” brought in reinforcements as the rival forces exchanged fire.  At the end of the scenario a “wounded” crewman is carried on a stretcher to the Huey as it lands to conduct a medical aerial evacuation. 

The action only lasted for a handful of minutes.  It is all very dramatic, but the reenactors know that it is a mere shadow of the real thing. 

“There are no real bullets zipping through the air, little real danger,” said Hunt. “We know that we are all coming out of the scenario in one piece and that at the end of the weekend we are going home to the comforts of our daily lives and families.  That is certainly something the real combat veterans could not say or even count on.”  

That reality didn’t make the demonstration any less interesting or educational for the public. But reflecting on how truly dangerous what they just reenacted was in real life gives the museum’s living historians a deeper understanding and affinity for the men who did it on the actual battlegrounds of fifty years ago.  

“It truly dives home the risks they faced,” said Hunt. “The courage, skill and professionalism they embodied - it makes it unquestionably certain that all of the men and women who fought in that war are real heroes.”

As the nation moves through the coming years of the fiftieth anniversary of the Vietnam War, the Texas Military Forces Museum plans on doing more programs focused on that time period.  

“We want to help our fellow citizens learn the true history – not the mythology – of the Vietnam War,” Hunt said. “We want to help the veterans reflect and perhaps heal some of their lingering, painful, memories.  We want them to understand that their war was just one battle in the much bigger Cold War and that what they did helped us win that bigger war.  We want to let the veterans of Indo China know that they are our heroes every bit as much as the veterans of World War II or Korea of the War on Terror are our heroes.”  

The Texas Military Forces Museum is the official museum of the Texas Army and Air National Guard.  The museum’s Living History Detachment routinely puts on programs for visitors highlighting the role of The United States Armed Forces in American history from the War of 1812 through the Vietnam War.  

 

Multi Agency Task Force stands by for possible swift water rescues

Story by:  Sgt. 1st Class Malcolm McClendon

Posted: May 21, 2015

Sgt. 1st Class Malcolm McClendon National Guardsmen and members from Task Force 1 practice water rescues in preparation for possible floods in the Houston area, May 15-18, 2015. Guardsmen work side by side with local and state partners to help Texans in need during disaster situations. (Photo Courtesy of the Texas Military Forces)
Sgt. 1st Class Malcolm McClendon
National Guardsmen and members from Task Force 1 practice water rescues in preparation for possible floods in the Houston area, May 15-18, 2015. Guardsmen work side by side with local and state partners to help Texans in need during disaster situations. (Photo Courtesy of the Texas Military Forces)

HOUSTON – Rescue crews from three organizations geared up, flew into Ellington Field in Houston, and have been awaiting orders to launch over the weekend, May 15 – 18, 2015.

Due to the recent rainstorms, Texas has been on alert for floods and has put several rescue organizations on call, to include the Texas National Guard, Texas Task Force 1 and even the Louisiana National Guard for additional resources.

While most of the recent flooding and rescues took place in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, crews here are taking advantage of the down time to train with and build relationships with their counterparts. 

Joshua Powell, Helicopter Search and Rescue Technician with Task Force 1, likes the face time this provides with long time rescue partners from the Texas National Guard, as well as, new ones from the Louisiana National Guard.

“We try to train with the Texas National Guard about once a month, and it’s nice to have that connection, especially in the aircraft,” Powell said. “This weekend when we met the Louisiana guys we were a little nervous, but as soon as we did a little training here, it went really great. They showed us some of their techniques and we showed them ours.”

The Texas UH-60 Black Hawks the team flies in are scheduled to change hoist systems in the near future; a hoist system that the Louisiana aircraft already have, said Powell. 

“This weekend we have not only trained on and had a firsthand look at these new hoist systems we are getting, but doors have been opened for possible future rescue missions,” Powell said. “One day if Louisiana asks Texas to assist with a disaster, we already know their systems and their guys, so it’ll be a quicker and more effective response.”

UH-60 Black Hawk flight medic, Staff Sgt. Michael Hamilton, an experienced rescuer with the Louisiana National Guard, also believes this time meeting and training with new partners is valuable, but added that he is continually impressed by how state officials are able to come together and utilize each others’ assets in times like these. 

“It’s great that governors, adjutant generals and state aviation officers are able to coordinate and call upon each other to provide available resources to assist one another,” Hamilton said. “We’re here to help Texas out this time, and in turn, one day, they will come to help us out when we’re in need.”

Luckily, this time in southeast Texas, there was no need for any of the rescuers to be called out. They will be called home to rest for a day or two, then will reset and get ready for the next round of storms reported to come later in the week. 

Texas National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk pilot Maj. Edward Greber, has been on many missions like these before and stands ready with his crew,

“Wherever and whenever there is a need we will be prepared to provide assistance to rescue operations.”

Operation Crackdown returns to Laredo

Story by: Master Sgt. Ken Walker

Posted: April 16, 2015

Master Sgt. Ken Walker A heavy 45,000 pound Deere excavator tears down a house in Laredo, Texas, April 9, 2015. The house, identified by local law enforcement as being used for illicit drug activity was recently set ablaze and burned. Texas Joint Counterdrug Task Force's Operation Crackdown destroys drug havens in partnership with city officials and law enforcement agencies. The Texas Joint Counterdrug Task Force partnered with The City of Laredo, the Laredo Police Department and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection to clean up the city and rid the community of crime associated with a drug nexus. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Ken Walker/ Released)
Master Sgt. Ken Walker
A heavy 45,000 pound Deere excavator tears down a house in Laredo, Texas, April 9, 2015. The house, identified by local law enforcement as being used for illicit drug activity was recently set ablaze and burned. Texas Joint Counterdrug Task Force's Operation Crackdown destroys drug havens in partnership with city officials and law enforcement agencies. The Texas Joint Counterdrug Task Force partnered with The City of Laredo, the Laredo Police Department and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection to clean up the city and rid the community of crime associated with a drug nexus. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Ken Walker/ Released)

LAREDO, Texas — Operation Crackdown, a Texas Joint Counterdrug Task Force program, known for demolishing houses connected with illegal drug trade, making neighborhoods safer and helping prepare students to make good decisions, returned to Laredo, April 9, 2015. 

The Texas Joint Counterdrug Task Force partnered with the city of Laredo, the Laredo Police Department and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection to clean up the city and rid the community of crime associated with drugs after thirty-three properties in Laredo were selected for demolition over the course of two weeks, through a carefully planned, legal process that identified, qualified and validated inclusion of each site. 

Following an anti-drug presentation at their school, about 20 fourth grade students from Santo Niño Elementary School walked to a demolition site, less than two blocks from their school playground, and participated at the demolition of the dilapidated and burned out house on South Louisiana Avenue, by screaming “knock it down, knock it down,” giving workers a loud and clear order to start the demolition.

“If we take down this house, and other houses like it that are being used for drug purposes or other illegal purposes, we could turn it into a home for people who really need it or we could turn it into recreational areas,” said local fourth grader Mia Ramirez, 10, before one building was demolished.

Anti-drug messaging programs like this one and a presentation made right before the demolition, afforded law enforcement agencies the opportunity to educate the local community on the seriousness and extent of illicit drug activity in the neighborhoods, explained Supervisory Border Patrol Agent Jose Monserrate.

“Educational programs such as this are essential for our school, said Marissa Quiroga, the head fourth grade teacher at Santo Nino Elementary. “When the law enforcement and the military communities come together, a strong message is being sent to our young students. Choices will impact them throughout their lives, so we as adults have a responsibility to guide our students to make good decisions.”

This operation is a program in which Texas Military Forces soldiers and airmen demolish structures that have been connected with illegal drugs and related criminal activities. These drug houses, open air drug markets and other neighborhood drug hubs pose serious threats to neighborhoods, largely because they often lead to spillover crimes – robberies, gang violence, homicides and other problems - that go hand-in-hand with drug addiction. The crimes make it hard to live and grow up in the neighborhoods, and they drive down property values.

Operation Crackdown also brings law enforcement partners and community members together for a common purpose and allows the service members to keep their military skill set honed. 

A two-week mission costs the task force about $30,000. The city pays for the debris removal, asbestos testing and abatement, landfill use and permit costs. The city must also clear the demolitions with the Texas Historical Commission.

“It’s ironic that we use drug money to knock down drug houses,” said Col. Suzanne Adkinson, task force commander.

“We use asset forfeiture funds from apprehensions of illegal activity,” said Brig. Gen. Patrick M. Hamilton, Domestic Operations commander, Texas Military Forces. “They have money, they have houses and they have cars that are forfeited. We get a portion of that money to rent the equipment, purchase the fuel, lodging and personnel to actually tear down the houses.”

According to a task force presentation to the City of Laredo, 83 percent of abandoned dwellings showed signs of drug abuse, prostitution or other criminal activity had taken place there. Crime rates are twice as high on blocks with abandoned or open buildings as on other blocks.

Police Chief Richard Palomo from the Laredo Independent School District Police Department reminded the young audience that those who wear a uniform – policemen, first responders and the military – are the guardians and gatekeepers of our community. He encouraged all students to reach out and thank them for keeping our communities safe.

Local resident Minerva Castillo said she was happy to have the ugly burned out house torn down because people in the neighborhood would feel much safer.

“There were people sleeping there at night, said Castillo. “We were worried because we didn’t know who they were or what kind of people they were.”

Neighbor Rosario Munoz agreed. She said that when she was about to buy her house, her family was scared to buy there because she heard that neighborhood drug addicts were sometimes in the house.

“Before today, residents did not want to walk their kids to school or walk to our neighborhood church on this street because everyone knew the drug people were sometimes there,” Munoz said. “Thank God the City of Laredo and the Operation Crackdown service members are tearing the house down. No more bad people around our neighborhood. It is now safer for our children.”


To date, Operation Crackdown has demolished 1,462 structures, varying from frame houses to an abandoned warehouse, in 25 communities across Texas.

For more information about Operation Crackdown, call the Texas Joint Counterdrug Task Force at 512-782-5670.

Community, military team up for Laredo air show

Story by: Sgt. Michael Vanpool

Posted: Feb 16, 2015

PHOTO: Sgt. Michael Vanpool Brig. Gen. Orlando Salinas, the deputy assistant adjutant general of the Texas Army National Guard, gives a thumbs up after being designated the air marshal of the 2015 Stars and Stripes Spectacular Air Show in Laredo, Texas, Feb. 15. The Washington’s Birthday Celebration Association Stars and Stripes Spectacular Air Show is one of many events for Laredo’s month-long celebration for America’s first president. (Texas Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Michael Vanpool, 36th Infantry Division Public Affairs)
Sgt. Michael Vanpool
Brig. Gen. Orlando Salinas, the deputy assistant adjutant general of the Texas Army National Guard, gives a thumbs up after being designated the air marshal of the 2015 Stars and Stripes Spectacular Air Show in Laredo, Texas, Feb. 15. The Washington’s Birthday Celebration Association Stars and Stripes Spectacular Air Show is one of many events for Laredo’s month-long celebration for America’s first president. (Texas Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Michael Vanpool, 36th Infantry Division Public Affairs)

LAREDO, Texas – Texas Guardsmen parachutists flew the American and Texan flags over Laredo to open the Washington’s Birthday Celebration Association’s Stars and Stripes Air Show Spectacular at Laredo International Airport, Feb. 15.

Capt. Tim Hanrahan and Staff Sgt. Zachary Bowen lowered the flags onto the flight line. This was the fifth year for Hanrahan, who said he continues to jump because it’s an “opportunity to represent our country and the Texas Army National Guard.”

For those watching, seeing the flags drop down from the sky has a personal attachment.

“I no longer see red, white, and blue on our nation’s colors,” said Brig. Gen. Orlando Salinas, the air marshal for this year’s show. “What we see now is names and faces of friends and places.”

The air show was first included nearly 20 years ago in the Washington’s Birthday Celebration, a monthlong celebration for the Laredo area. That was when Carlos Garza took the position as the first sergeant for the Texas Army National Guard’s 436th Chemical Company. 

Garza knew the importance of the military in the history of the border town, not just from books but his family’s experience. Laredo is where his mother and family sought refuge during the Mexican Revolution of 1910. 

When Garza began to drill in Laredo, he felt that the city’s attachment to the military had waned. He said that he could grow the community’s patriotism by showcasing the aircraft that helped win World War II. So he helped put together the Stars and Stripes Air Show.

“It started small with war-birds,” Garza said, “but now it’s the biggest event for Laredo and Washington’s Birthday.” 

The spins and rolls captivated the audiences, making the show an integral event for the Washington’s Birthday Celebration Association (WBCA). Garza served as a WBCA board member and currently is its military liaison. 

This year brought in nearly 40,000 spectators to the airfield, with countless others looking up to the sky.

The air show now features civilian and stunt pilots from across the country, but the event still holds onto its military roots. Every year, one Soldier from the Texas Military Forces is chosen to preside over the show as the air marshal.

This year, Brig. Gen Orlando Salinas, the deputy assistant adjutant general for the Texas Army National Guard, was selected for the honor. Salinas grew up in San Diego, Texas and said that he had fond memories of visiting Laredo. 

“To me, personally, it is extremely important to say thank you on behalf of a native south Texan to be invited to be your air marshal,” Salinas said to the crowd. “With all the duties that I have and all the places I have visited there is no place in the world I would rather be than sharing this great day with you.”

This year’s show saw the return of the Lockheed P-38 Lightning, which was the only fighter plane produced in America during World War II. The particular plane flown was dug from its grave and completely restored to its original glory, said Garza.

For the city of Laredo, Washington’s Birthday is a month long celebration filled with pageants, parades, and so much more; many of which are reminiscent of the days of George and Martha Washington. 

The air show is one of the more grand departures from Washington’s times. However, the airplanes, helicopters and airborne Soldiers are very much a part of today’s military celebrated year after year here in Laredo.

Texas Army Aviators receive national award

Story by: Maj. Randall Stillinger

Posted: Feb 12, 2015

Maj. Randall Stillinger A C-12 aircraft from Operational Support Airlift Detachment 49 takes off from Dallas Executive Airport en route to Austin, Texas. The detachment, commanded by Chief Warrant Officer 5 Todd Moorehead, was selected as the best fixed-wing unit in its category by the Joint Operational Support Airlift Center. They had just returned from receiving their award at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois. (36th Infantry Division photo by Maj. Randy Stillinger)
Maj. Randall Stillinger
A C-12 aircraft from Operational Support Airlift Detachment 49 takes off from Dallas Executive Airport en route to Austin, Texas. The detachment, commanded by Chief Warrant Officer 5 Todd Moorehead, was selected as the best fixed-wing unit in its category by the Joint Operational Support Airlift Center. They had just returned from receiving their award at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois. (36th Infantry Division photo by Maj. Randy Stillinger)

SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. – An Austin-based fixed wing unit from the Texas Army National Guard received special honors from the Joint Operational Support Airlift Center (JOSAC) during a ceremony on Tuesday.

Operational Support Airlift (OSA) Detachment 49, which utilizes C-12 aircraft to transport passengers and cargo from across the military branches, received this special honor during a ceremony at the headquarters for United States Transportation Command.

The unit, which is commanded by Chief Warrant Officer 5 Todd Moorehead, is a detachment assigned to the 36th Combat Aviation Brigade, 36th Infantry Division, also headquartered in Austin.

Maj. Scott Messare, JOSAC’s Execution Operations officer, said, “These awards are a chance for us to publicly recognize units that are consistently performing at the top of their peer organization groups.”

Messare helps facilitate the awards program and praised the Texas aviators for their great work and willingness to support the Department of Defense mission.

“They are here for a reason,” Messare said. “They are definitely at the top of their group and a pleasure to work with.” 

The annual award is presented among various categories based on size, function and location. Detachment 49 was at the top of the 21 units in their category.

The primary selection criteria includes number of hours and missions flown, number of passengers carried and pounds of cargo hauled. The JOSAC branch chiefs also consider other aspects like aircraft and aircrew availability, flexibility in supporting missions, percentage of cancelled missions, and the accuracy of logistics flight records. 

The goal of the awards program is to recognize the success of flight crews in meeting the goals of JOSAC, which include preventing fraud, waste and abuse of Department of Defense assets, conducting operations with efficiency, and completing assigned missions with the most amount of cost savings to government and the taxpayers.

The program also rewards an aspect of the mission that can’t necessarily be measured in statistics: Excellent customer service for the passengers who fly on their aircraft. 

Moorehead, of Austin, said that this award is a nice recognition of all the work that the Soldiers have done. 

“We threw the Army work ethic at the mission and we make ourselves as available as possible,” Moorehead said.

Col. Micheal Dye, commander of the Army Aviation Support Facility at Austin’s Bergstrom International Airport, said that he’s not surprised that the detachment received the award.

“These are a great group of guys that work hard to accomplish the mission with a tremendous level of professionalism,” Dye said.

Same but different: Texas Air and Army National Guard compete for 'Best Warrior'

Courtesy Story

Posted: Feb 2, 2015

BASTROP, Texas – This year’s 2015 Texas Military Forces Best Warrior Competition brought out 35 guardsmen from both the Texas Army and Air National Guard who competed here to determine who would be the best of the best Feb. 5-7.

“The Best Warrior Competition is a big deal for Texas and the Texas Military Forces,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Mark Weedon, TXMF senior enlisted adviser. "It is one of the biggest joint events we have involving actual soldiers and airmen. This event allows the soldier and airman to compete with each other in both physical and mental challenges.”

The competition demonstrated the knowledge and skills of the guardsmen in seven events, spanning three days. The first day started with an essay, testing their aptitude, writing abilities and critical thinking and how well the soldiers and the airmen express their thoughts. Following the writing skills, the competitors met with a panel of senior enlisted leaders who barraged them with a series of questions pertaining to their military tasks.

“We are from the same Texas Military Forces,” said Command Chief Master Sgt. Kevin O’Gorman, state command chief for the Texas Air National Guard. “When we deploy in a joint environment, we work together side-by-side and we need to foster that early on. This competition brings camaraderie and jointness, even though soldiers and airmen do things differently.”

Day two started with a twilight land-navigation course, starting at 5 a.m. and finishing after daybreak. Once again, the soldiers and airmen battle-tested their skills in using a map and compass to plot the points and discover hidden flags throughout the course. 

Shortly after completing land navigation, the competitors went to the weapons-qualification range, then on to the 11 Army warrior task lanes, where both Army and Air Force participants demonstrated their ability to disassemble and reassemble weapons ranging from a 9 mm pistol to an M2 machine gun, as well as testing in combat-first-aid techniques.

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Steven Hein, 136th Security Forces Squadron, and member of the Richardson Police Department, finished first during the land navigation course, coming in at 1 hour and 29 minutes, finding three of four flags. 

“It’s been a privilege to come out here and contend with the best,” said Hein. “It’s definitely good to come out here to compete and learn from the other guys like the Army and other guys in the tactical control party.”

Many of the competitors felt that the first day of the competition was the most challenging and exhausting. It included the mile-long obstacle course, containing nine stations with rigorous calisthenics in between obstacles, a six-mile ruck march and finished with three mystery events. The total course spanned eight miles as each competitor attempted to conquer each event with a go or no-go while carrying a 35-pound ruck sack on their back.

“The BWC is tougher than all the races I’ve competed in,” said U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Candice Wade, a veteran competitor in the Warrior Dash, Tough Mudder and Spartan Races, about the Best Warrior Competition. “The Best Warrior Competition is in a much higher level ... dealing with a land navigation course, eight types of weapons, combat casualty care, an obstacle course, ruck march and various physical events. I can say that this is absolutely the most difficult thing I’ve ever done.”

Among the spectators present were Maj. Gen. John F. Nichols, the adjutant general for Texas, and Maj. Gen. Edmundo Villarroel Geissbuhler, Chilean army liaison officer, who were both here to observe the competing guardsmen.

“There are two competitions going on here,” said Nichols. “One is the competition between Army and Air Force. The other is between the soldiers so we can send forth the best soldier in a national competition and be the best in the U.S. Army. This is a big deal to us.”

Geissbuhler strolled though the courses, closely observing each station, cheering on the soldiers and airmen racing through the obstacles.

“We have a lot of contact with the Texas Military Forces, both in the Air Force and Army,” said Geissbuhler. “This state partnership began in 2008 and there are a lot of activities we do together. I received an invitation to come here today and I’m very glad to be here.”

Texas and Chile are part of the State Partnership Program, using military-to-military relationships between the U.S. and Chile to increase military capabilities and interoperability. 

When asked if the Chileans have this type of competition amongst their military forces, Geissbuhler said, “We do have this competition in Chile, it is part of our training. We have been approved to send four competitors here to the BWC next year and compete among the TXMF. We will be sending two soldiers and two airmen and hope to do well.”

By the end of the three-day event, the competitors seemed both mentally and physically exhausted. 

“I’m here to do my best, not just as a woman, but as a soldier,” said Sgt. Wendy Farris, 149th Aviation Battalion, one of the four female competitors. “This was really exciting. I’ve learned a lot and grown in the process. I’m devising my plan for next year’s competition.”

There were 22 Army and 13 Air Force competitors, coming from all parts of Texas. Most of the competing guardsmen were drill status guardsmen. They also serve Texas as police officers, firefighters, physical strength trainers and other professionals. 

The overall winners for the competition will be announced at an award ceremony April 11, 2015.

Sibling rivalry adds edge during Best Warrior Competition

Story by: Spc. Michael Giles

Posted: Feb 7, 2015

Sibling rivalry adds edge during Best Warrior Competition

Spc. Michael Giles
Tech. Sgt. Matthew Renteria and Senior Airman Michael Pineda listen to a brief before the obstacle course portion of the Texas Military Forces Best Warrior Competition at Camp Swift near Bastrop, Texas, Feb. 5, 2015. The event tests the mental and physical proficiencies of the participants through various challenges. Winners will continue to compete at a multi-state regional level. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Michael Giles/Released)

BASTROP, Texas - When the Texas Air National Guard first joined the Texas Military Forces Best Warrior Competition in 2013, then Air Force Staff Sgt. Matthew Rentería proclaimed that he would "win it all." He did not end up winning "it all" in 2013, but he pulled a close second in the noncommissioned officer division of the competition.

Matthew returned to compete in the 2015 Best Warrior Competition at Camp Swift, this time bringing a lifelong friend who helped him forge his competitive spirit, Senior Airman Michael Rentería.

The fraternal twins are well known as highly motivated, with an intense drive to surpass each other in all pursuits.

"They are both outstanding individuals," said Master Sgt. Justin Tassin, a Tactical Air Control Party supervisor for the brothers in the 147th Air Support Operations Squadron. "But when you put the two together, you can see the sibling rivalry, and it pushes them harder to perform."

Competition between the brothers covered all aspects of growing up.

"Everything we were doing, we were doing at the same time," Senior Airman Rentería said. "We competed in getting the girls, school and sports. It keeps us going. It keeps us battling."
Matthew and Michael also credit their father and their role in the military for their drive to excel. 

"He's my hero," Michael said. "He did a lot for us growing up."

Matthew explained that their roles as tactical air control party Airmen require high standards of physical and mental readiness, and this also keeps them working to stay sharp.

"Primarily, my concern is the mission," Matthew said. "If something were to pop off, I want to be in combat shape to go and do my duties."

Matthew has served for 10 years in the Air Guard while Michael has served for eight. Matthew mentored his brother in preparation for the competition, giving him the benefit of his experience, but said that Michael has what it takes to do well on his own in his first Best Warrior Competition.

"He has learned a lot," Matthew said. "He has been through a lot of training, so he's squared away."

Both brothers earned bragging rights during this year's competition. Matthew and Michael each achieved the highest event score during the interview portion, and they both scored among the top three in the obstacle course. Matthew earned the highest score on land navigation and Michael succeeded in earning the highest overall score among the junior enlisted soldiers.

The 149th Fighter Wing Command Chief Master Sgt. George Longoria, evaluator chairman for the essay portion of the event, expressed that the brothers' competitiveness is a quality that strengthens Americans. "Competing and being the best is part of our make up."

Same but different: Texas Air and Army National Guard compete for 'Best Warrior'

Courtesy Story

Posted: Feb 2, 2015

BASTROP, Texas – This year’s 2015 Texas Military Forces Best Warrior Competition brought out 35 guardsmen from both the Texas Army and Air National Guard who competed here to determine who would be the best of the best Feb. 5-7.

“The Best Warrior Competition is a big deal for Texas and the Texas Military Forces,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Mark Weedon, TXMF senior enlisted adviser. "It is one of the biggest joint events we have involving actual soldiers and airmen. This event allows the soldier and airman to compete with each other in both physical and mental challenges.”

The competition demonstrated the knowledge and skills of the guardsmen in seven events, spanning three days. The first day started with an essay, testing their aptitude, writing abilities and critical thinking and how well the soldiers and the airmen express their thoughts. Following the writing skills, the competitors met with a panel of senior enlisted leaders who barraged them with a series of questions pertaining to their military tasks.

“We are from the same Texas Military Forces,” said Command Chief Master Sgt. Kevin O’Gorman, state command chief for the Texas Air National Guard. “When we deploy in a joint environment, we work together side-by-side and we need to foster that early on. This competition brings camaraderie and jointness, even though soldiers and airmen do things differently.”

Day two started with a twilight land-navigation course, starting at 5 a.m. and finishing after daybreak. Once again, the soldiers and airmen battle-tested their skills in using a map and compass to plot the points and discover hidden flags throughout the course. 

Shortly after completing land navigation, the competitors went to the weapons-qualification range, then on to the 11 Army warrior task lanes, where both Army and Air Force participants demonstrated their ability to disassemble and reassemble weapons ranging from a 9 mm pistol to an M2 machine gun, as well as testing in combat-first-aid techniques.

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Steven Hein, 136th Security Forces Squadron, and member of the Richardson Police Department, finished first during the land navigation course, coming in at 1 hour and 29 minutes, finding three of four flags. 

“It’s been a privilege to come out here and contend with the best,” said Hein. “It’s definitely good to come out here to compete and learn from the other guys like the Army and other guys in the tactical control party.”

Many of the competitors felt that the first day of the competition was the most challenging and exhausting. It included the mile-long obstacle course, containing nine stations with rigorous calisthenics in between obstacles, a six-mile ruck march and finished with three mystery events. The total course spanned eight miles as each competitor attempted to conquer each event with a go or no-go while carrying a 35-pound ruck sack on their back.

“The BWC is tougher than all the races I’ve competed in,” said U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Candice Wade, a veteran competitor in the Warrior Dash, Tough Mudder and Spartan Races, about the Best Warrior Competition. “The Best Warrior Competition is in a much higher level ... dealing with a land navigation course, eight types of weapons, combat casualty care, an obstacle course, ruck march and various physical events. I can say that this is absolutely the most difficult thing I’ve ever done.”

Among the spectators present were Maj. Gen. John F. Nichols, the adjutant general for Texas, and Maj. Gen. Edmundo Villarroel Geissbuhler, Chilean army liaison officer, who were both here to observe the competing guardsmen.

“There are two competitions going on here,” said Nichols. “One is the competition between Army and Air Force. The other is between the soldiers so we can send forth the best soldier in a national competition and be the best in the U.S. Army. This is a big deal to us.”

Geissbuhler strolled though the courses, closely observing each station, cheering on the soldiers and airmen racing through the obstacles.

“We have a lot of contact with the Texas Military Forces, both in the Air Force and Army,” said Geissbuhler. “This state partnership began in 2008 and there are a lot of activities we do together. I received an invitation to come here today and I’m very glad to be here.”

Texas and Chile are part of the State Partnership Program, using military-to-military relationships between the U.S. and Chile to increase military capabilities and interoperability. 

When asked if the Chileans have this type of competition amongst their military forces, Geissbuhler said, “We do have this competition in Chile, it is part of our training. We have been approved to send four competitors here to the BWC next year and compete among the TXMF. We will be sending two soldiers and two airmen and hope to do well.”

By the end of the three-day event, the competitors seemed both mentally and physically exhausted. 

“I’m here to do my best, not just as a woman, but as a soldier,” said Sgt. Wendy Farris, 149th Aviation Battalion, one of the four female competitors. “This was really exciting. I’ve learned a lot and grown in the process. I’m devising my plan for next year’s competition.”

There were 22 Army and 13 Air Force competitors, coming from all parts of Texas. Most of the competing guardsmen were drill status guardsmen. They also serve Texas as police officers, firefighters, physical strength trainers and other professionals. 

The overall winners for the competition will be announced at an award ceremony April 11, 2015.

Governor brevets Texas ANG officer to General, first female

Story by: 2nd Lt. Phil Fountain

Post: Jan 23, 2015

149th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
 
BG McNabbAUSTIN, Texas (Jan. 23, 2015) – In one of his last official acts, former Gov. Rick Perry commissioned the first female Texas Air National Guard officer as a brevet brigadier general, in Austin, Texas, effective Dec. 31, 2014.
 
Retired Col. Constance C. McNabb of Montgomery, Texas was presented with the general officer commission by Maj. Gen. Kenneth W. Wisian, Deputy Adjutant General for Air and Commander of the Texas Air National Guard, in a ceremony at Camp Mabry, in Austin, Texas, Jan. 23, 2015.

“This is a real thrill to recognize Connie with the brevet brigadier general,” said Wisian. “This is overdue recognition for under-heralded work.”

McNabb retired after more than 23 years of service as a member of the U.S. Air Force, Nebraska Air National Guard and Texas Air National Guard.
 
She was first commissioned as a captain in the U.S. Air Force’s Biomedical Science Corps. A “Citizen-Airman,” McNabb is also a Texas licensed, graduate veterinarian.

McNabb served a varied military career that included service as commander of the 149th Medical Group, a subordinate unit of the 149th Fighter Wing, based at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, TXMF Joint Surgeon then Chief of the Joint Staff for the Texas Military Forces, at Camp Mabry.

Her career culminated with her service as the Air National Guard Assistant to the Surgeon General at Headquarters, 25th Air Force at JBSA-Lackland.

“I look forward to seeing you around here more in the future and continuing to be a mover and shaker within Texas,” Wisian said. “Hopefully, broader than just within the Texas Military Forces.”

The Texas Government Code authorizes the governor, upon recommendation of the adjutant general, to confer a brevet commission “for gallant conduct or meritorious military service.” The code allows for the governor to commission the officer to the next higher grade.

In McNabb’s case, she was promoted from the rank of colonel to brigadier general in the National Guard of the State of Texas.

The military brevet is a significant state honor that's been bestowed upon only a few members of the Guard.

During his time in office, Perry issued only six brevets to active service members, according to the Texas Military Forces General Officer Management Office. McNabb is the first female from the Texas Air Guard.

The significance of her service was described in her recommendation for this honor.

“Colonel Constance C. McNabb distinguished herself by exceptionally meritorious performance of duty in a succession of positions of increasing responsibility,” wrote Maj. Gen. John F. Nichols, the 51st Adjutant General of Texas, to the governor in his recommendation. “In each duty assignment, Colonel McNabb’s exceptional leadership skills, personal and professional relationships and dedication to mission accomplishment were apparent throughout her military career in the Texas Air National Guard.”

McNabb expressed humility to receive this honor.

“This is far more than I ever expected,” she said. “[It’s] an honor I never expected and for which I am most grateful.”

“Humbled, thankful and appreciating the leadership of Gov. Rick Perry, Maj. Gen. John Nichols and Maj. Gen. Kenneth Wisian,” McNabb said after receiving the commission.

Brevet Brig. Gen. McNabb is not resting on her laurels.

She said she is looking forward to continuing her service to the state of Texas as a member of the Texas State Guard, the volunteer component of the Texas Military Forces.

Additionally, McNabb said she is excited to be enrolled in a graduate program at Texas A&M University’s Bush School of Government and Public Service, where she is seeking a graduate certificate in non-profit management.

She said she’s not sure what else the future might bring, but she will seek opportunities to serve Texas and her fellow veterans.

“It’s been a wonderful ride,” McNabb said. “And I look forward to the opportunity to continuing to serve the Texas Military Forces.”

National Guard helicopters support Border Patrol

Photo: UH-72 Lakota helicopter
A National Guard UH-72 Lakota helicopter prepares to fly in support of Customs and Border Protection (CBP)-led Operation Phalanx. National Guardsmen from across the country assist CBP in disrupting transnational criminal organizations and drug trafficking organizations by conducting aerial detection and monitoring along the U.S.-Mexico border in support of Operation Phalanx and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Malcolm McClendon/Released)

LAREDO, Texas - Army National Guard members have served along the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas since 2012 providing aviation support to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, with plans to continue serving for the foreseeable future.

Soldiers, from numerous states across the country, collaborate in this unique mission, known as Operation Phalanx, to provide aviation assets in support of CBP alongside Office of Air and Marine, Texas Department of Public Safety, U.S. Department of Homeland Security and other local, state and federal agencies with operations along the international border. They are prepared to fly their UH-72 Lakota helicopters regardless of day or time, ready to deploy as requested by CBP. 

“These UH-72 helicopters, which are bought and paid for by our taxpayers, are the perfect platform to perform this mission,” said Brig. Gen. Patrick Hamilton, Domestic Operations commander, Texas National Guard. “They provide a tremendous operational flying experience for future state and federal missions.”

The standard crew consists of three Guardsmen, two pilots and a sensor operator, and one Border Patrol agent observer per aircraft. The ability to combine the agent with the advanced UH-72 helicopter helps provide effortless support to border patrol agents working on the ground. 

“This aircraft’s capabilities make it a unique asset in the Army aviation inventory and perfect for this mission,” said a pilot with the Texas National Guard, who has been on the mission for six months. “It has a communications package that none of the other Army aircraft have that allows us to communicate on secure Border Patrol and other law enforcement channels. This communication capability, along with a high-powered searchlight and cameras with infrared capabilities, make it the total package.”

On any given flight, these aircrews can support CBP and other agencies with the identification and observation of undocumented immigrants, the seizure of illegal narcotics, and in emergency situations, conduct search and rescue operations and casualty evacuation. They also assist law enforcement in vehicle pursuits in order to prevent dangerous high-speed pursuits in populated areas. 

“The amount of assistance is invaluable,” said assistant chief patrol agent Dan Ramos. “They have provided us an extra level of safety.”

The partnership helps strengthen the relationship between both agencies.

“We are proud to work with National Guardsmen across the nation to support Customs and Border Protection,” said Hamilton. “We have a great relationship with all of our partner agencies on the border, making Operation Phalanx the perfect mission for National Guard soldiers.”

While providing an invaluable asset to CBP, the soldiers assigned to Operation Phalanx also benefit in their military and professional careers while on mission. Pilots, sensor operators, maintenance personnel and operations support personnel gain valuable experience in the demanding and constantly changing environment on the international border, making them invaluable assets at their home units when they return to their respective states. 

“Pilots gain unprecedented flight hours flying relevant missions every day, sensor operators rapidly adapt and learn how to maximize the capabilities of our cameras to assist CBP, maintenance personnel become experienced at inspections most states wouldn’t see for years to come, and flight operations personnel successfully manage relationships with numerous agencies and accountability for flight crews,” said a Nebraska National Guard soldier, who has been on this mission for more than a year. “It’s a fantastic opportunity for soldiers to serve on a domestic mission with important implications, working alongside their counterparts from other states.”

Additionally, the soldiers are also proud to serve in positions that allow them to support the integrity of their country and its borders on a daily basis. 

“This mission is incredibly rewarding, because we know we’re making an important difference, specifically to the Border Patrol agents on the ground, but also to our country as a whole,” said the guardsman. “When we signed up to join the National Guard we wanted to make a positive impact on our country and in our communities, and this mission allows us to do that every day.”

The National Guard has provided support along the U.S.-Mexico border in various ways and on numerous occasions since 1917, most recently providing constant support to CBP since 2010. From 2010 to 2012, the National Guard provided CBP ground support, switching to an aviation based mission in 2012.