Texas Guard mobilizes to respond to COVID-19

Story by Charles E. Spirtos, Texas Military Department Public Affairs

AUSTIN, Texas – The Texas National Guard is mobilized throughout the state to help expand health care capacity during the COVID-19 threat.

Gov. Greg Abbott activated the Texas National Guard March 17 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The activation included three joint task force brigades, the 56th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 72nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, and 176th Engineer Brigade, which will lead 10 general support units positioned across Texas. 

Texas Army National Guard troops set up a field hospital in response to COVID-19 April 1, 2020, at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas, Texas. Service members across Texas worked to set up Geographically Separated Units (GSU) to support local communities. (Texas Air National Guard Photo by A1C Charissa A. Menken)
Texas Army National Guard troops set up a field hospital in response to COVID-19 April 1, 2020, at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas, Texas. Service members across Texas worked to set up Geographically Separated Units (GSU) to support local communities. (Texas Air National Guard Photo by A1C Charissa A. Menken)

Abbott held a news conference with Maj. Gen. Tracy R. Norris, the adjutant general of Texas, at the Texas State Capitol and said the Guard would provide medical, logistics, transportation and communication support for health care.

The Guard's primary role is expanding health care capacity in Texas. This includes increasing access to supplies and equipment, as well as staffing capacity and the number of available hospital beds.

Members of the 6th Civil Support Team headquartered at Camp Mabry in Austin examined donated personal protective equipment like N95 respirator masks and latex gloves to make sure the material was undamaged and effective.

Maj. Sean M. Thurmer, deputy commander of the 6th Civil Support Team, said the trust the state put in the team was earned during years of working alongside the Texas Department of Emergency Management.

"The 6th Civil Support Team has responded to many incidents in Texas and has developed relationships with response partners with whom they work," said Thurmer.

Effective equipment will be distributed to medical facilities and hospitals treating patients with COVID-19. By maintaining the adequate supply of this equipment, the Texas Military Department is ensuring medical providers can continue serving the public while also protecting themselves.

The Guard's 176th Engineer Brigade is also finding and equipping non-medical sites where patients can be treated if hospitals run out of room.

"While hospitals will remain the primary location to treat and care for those in need, we are ensuring that Texas is prepared for any possible scenario in which current hospital capacity is exhausted. This joint initiative with the Texas Military Department and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will expand the care capacity in communities across Texas," said Abbott.

The first of these sites will be the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas, which can accept up to 250 patients with room to expand if needed.

Norris said members of the Guard are also working with local agencies to establish drive-through COVID-19 test sites throughout the state, equipped and staffed by local medical staff and logistics experts in the Guard.

"We are Citizen-Soldiers and Airmen, we truly are your neighbors and are deeply invested in keeping our friends and fellow Texans safe," said Norris. "This is our home, too, and together we will get through this difficult time."

Texas Air Guard F-16 students take on Coronet Cactus

Story by Staff Sgt. Derek Davis, 149th Fighter Wing Public Affairs, Texas Air National Guard

LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. -- Soon-to-be F-16 pilots, currently assigned to the Texas Air National Guard’s 149th Fighter Wing, arrived in Phoenix Feb 25 to begin Coronet Cactus, the culminating event in their journey to becoming F-16 fighter pilots for the United States Air Force.

First Lt. James Demkowicz, a student pilot assigned to the 149th Fighter Wing, Texas Air National Guard, conducts preflight checks prior to launch during Coronet Cactus, Feb. 28, 2020, at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz. The annual training event deploys members of the 149th Fighter Wing, headquartered at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, to another environment in order to familiarize them with accomplishing mission objectives in an unfamiliar location. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Derek Davis)
First Lt. James Demkowicz, a student pilot assigned to the 149th Fighter Wing, Texas Air National Guard, conducts preflight checks prior to launch during Coronet Cactus, Feb. 28, 2020, at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz. The annual training event deploys members of the 149th Fighter Wing, headquartered at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, to another environment in order to familiarize them with accomplishing mission objectives in an unfamiliar location. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Derek Davis)


Coronet Cactus is a 14-day training exercise where student pilots fly hundreds of missions, each simulating a different task that they may see later in their Air Force careers.

For many of these fighter pilots-in-training, this exercise brings them even closer to a dream they’ve held since childhood.

“I have always wanted to be a pilot since I was young,” said 1st Lt. Paul Vasta, an F-16 student pilot currently participating in Cactus. “Dad was an Army aviator who got me into aviation. Since then, I have always wanted to fly something fast.”

With more than eight months of intense studying and hundreds of hours of flight time behind them, the students comprising class 19-ABK of the F-16 Initial Qualification Basic Course use Cactus as an opportunity to show their instructors what they’ve learned during their training.

For the instructors, it allows ample time to gauge how the students will perform in an environment that is away from their typical airspace.

“It is a two-week deployment for the basic course students to come out and fly at a different base, in an unfamiliar field, to employ tactics and deploy both heavy and live bombs in different ranges before they graduate," said Lt. Col. Patrick Bridges, one of the course’s instructor pilots assigned to the 149th Fighter Wing.

Bridges has been instructing F-16 students for 16 years now, and his experience tells him that this capstone exercise can cause a little anxiety because the students are not exactly sure what to expect during the event.

First Lt. Jared Wesemann and 1st Lt. Ian Bonner, two F-16 student pilots assigned to the 149th Fighter Wing, Texas Air National Guard, pose for a photo before take-off during Coronet Bronco, Feb. 24, 2020, at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz. The annual training event deploys members of the 149th Fighter Wing, headquartered at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, to another environment in order to familiarize them with accomplishing mission objectives in an unfamiliar location. (Air National Guard photo by Airman 1st Class Kaliea Green)
First Lt. Jared Wesemann and 1st Lt. Ian Bonner, two F-16 student pilots assigned to the 149th Fighter Wing, Texas Air National Guard, pose for a photo before take-off during Coronet Bronco, Feb. 24, 2020, at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz. The annual training event deploys members of the 149th Fighter Wing, headquartered at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, to another environment in order to familiarize them with accomplishing mission objectives in an unfamiliar location. (Air National Guard photo by Airman 1st Class Kaliea Green)


“We get together on our lessons learned and provide them with a road map to success,” Bridges said. “A successful Cactus is all the students and jets coming back in one piece, and the students getting a taste of what it's like to operate from a different base.”

As Cactus draws to a close, and these students begin to find their rhythm and understand expectations, they cannot help but express hope about that next step in their careers.

"I feel like my dream has been somewhat fulfilled, and it’s exciting to be able to continue to push [myself] and make improvements,” Vasta said. “I will continue flying jets as long as I can and am excited to see what the future brings.”

This article originally appeared on the Air National Guard website.

Competition and Camaraderie: A Best Warrior Partnership

Story by Sgt. Daryl Bradford, 100th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, Texas Army National Guard

Service members arrived at Camp Swift on a rainy morning in March, ready to compete in the Texas Military Department 2020 Best Warrior Competition. The sky was overcast, bringing a shadow upon the day, but they had come to prove to themselves and their fellow countrymen that they had what it took to earn the title of “Best Warrior.” Soon, however, the soldiers would realize that competition was only half of the experience. 

Army Spc. Jacob D. Arndt performs 25 burpees as part of the obstacle course during the Texas Military Department’s 2020 Best Warrior Competition March 5, 2020 at Camp Swift near Bastrop, Texas. Arndt, part of the 176th Engineers Brigade, is currently attending college and plans to commission as an officer through Reserve Officer Training Course (ROTC).
Army Spc. Jacob D. Arndt performs 25 burpees as part of the obstacle course during the Texas Military Department’s 2020 Best Warrior Competition March 5, 2020 at Camp Swift near Bastrop, Texas. Arndt, part of the 176th Engineers Brigade, is currently attending college and plans to commission as an officer through Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC). (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Jason Archer, 100th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)

The Best Warrior Competition is a demanding challenge that brings together service members from the Texas Army and Air National Guard and Texas’ foreign partners, Chile and Czech Republic, in friendly, four-day competition.

“That’s the biggest benefit of the competition, the type of soldiers and leaders that we develop into in the process of this,” said Sgt. Jonathan David Huwe, an Infantry Team Leader from 3rd Battalion, 141st Infantry Regiment, when speaking on training with and against the Chilean soldiers.

Texas Guardsmen and their foreign counterparts work together to sharpen their warrior skills and leadership qualities during the competition process, ensuring that they are ready to respond in times of crisis or when their home nations need them. The competition furthers relevance and readiness by inspiring training that is tailored to increase the soldier’s ability to defend and serve.
Serving the nation and Texas are both equally important, and he takes pride when supporting the large-scale operations or back at home, said Huwe.

Having served the United States twice on overseas deployments as a Texas Guardsman, Huwe knows the importance of being ready, of being relevant, and maintaining strong partnerships.
“Again, it relates back to that competitive spirit,” said Huwe when talking of the Texas National Guard’s Chilean partners. “They’re going out there to give their best and we’re going out there to push ourselves to meet that. That builds strong bonds. Training together builds respect at the lowest level.”

Partnerships like the ones described inspire others to succeed through competition and increase professional skills among service members. Mutually beneficial relationships are born that positively affects foreign working relations and the United States defense goals.

The ideas that Huwe speaks about aren’t just one-sided either because Chilean soldiers hold the same values important.
“This competition generates friendships and relationships between Chilean and U.S. soldiers that pushes us to be the best,” said 2nd Cpl. Manuel Aroca Navarette, an infantry specialist with the Chilean 21st Marine Infantry Battalion. “That respect among each other causes us to fight to be better.”

Army Pfc. Maximilliano Estrada of the 71st Expeditionary Military Intelligence Brigade performs V-ups during the obstacle course portion of the Texas Military Department’s 2020 Best Warrior Competition March 5, 2020 at Camp Swift near Bastrop, Texas. Estrada, who began bleeding half-way through the event, refused to stop and completed the course.
Army Pfc. Maximilliano Estrada of the 71st Expeditionary Military Intelligence Brigade performs V-ups during the obstacle course portion of the Texas Military Department’s 2020 Best Warrior Competition March 5, 2020 at Camp Swift near Bastrop, Texas. Estrada, who began bleeding half-way through the event, refused to stop and completed the course (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Jason Archer)

Among other things, camaraderie built from competition is one of the main qualities the service members from the different countries have in common, said Navarette.

A camaraderie that builds strong bonds—bonds that far surpass geographic and language barriers. The Texas Military Department 2020 Best Warrior Competition fosters those type of friendships. Even more importantly it builds partnerships because even the service member crowned “Best Warrior” is nothing without the support of his brothers-in-arms.

The 149th Fighter Wing Gunfighters compete in TMD’s Best Warrior Competition

Story by Tech. Sgt. Augustin Salazar, 149th Fighter Winger Public Affairs, Texas Air National Guard

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO- LACKLAND, Texas -Three airmen assigned to The 149th Fighter Wing participated in the Texas Military Department 2020 Best Warrior Competition at Camp Swift in Bastrop, Texas March 4-8, 2020.

Staff Sgt. Juan Garcia, Staff Sgt. Derek Guedes and Senior Airman Shara Lewis, all assigned to the 149th Fighter Wing, all took on the annual four-day challenge designed to test tactical and technical expertise through scored events.

One of the events the competitors must complete is a water survival test. The water survival test is a 125 yard swim in full uniform, and then they must tread water for ten minutes.

“I would say the water survival test was the most challenging part," said Lewis. "It caught most people by surprise because we hear a 125 yard swim, and most people think, 'I can do that, I do that in the pool all the time. But when you’re in uniform and combat boots, the boots fill up with water, and they start sinking you real quick surprise water and sink you real quick.”

The purpose of the event is to build camaraderie and strengthen inter-agency relationships among Texas Guardsmen. With all of the members running the competition against one another, it may not seem like an excellent team-building event. Still, the competitors often help each other and cheer each other on during the challenges.

"I have learned a lot from my roommate," said Lewis. "Staff Sgt. Guevara, she has taught me a lot since I got here. She is awesome."

Bonds like the one between Lewis and Guevara are beneficial to the Texas Military Department as a whole during natural disasters like hurricane Harvey in 2017. During hurricane recovery missions, the Army and Air Guard often deploy together.

"The event is important because not only are they practicing their warrior skills, but they are also learning how to work with each other." Said Senior Master Sgt. Juan Flores, 149th Security Forces Squadron superintendent.
"We work hand in hand with the Army quite a bit, whether that be in natural disasters or the border mission. So it is important that we learn to work with them to learn how to do it well."

In total, 31 competitors participated in this year’s TMDBWC, including military members from the Czech Republic and Chile who are both partners of the Texas military under the State Partnership Program.
The competition gives all parties involved an opportunity to work with and learn from each other.

"The Chileans are great people," said Garcia. "I've been able to talk to them and become good friends with them. I was even able to help one of them learn how to disassemble and reassemble the Mark 19 Machine Gun because I speak Spanish. It felt really good to teach someone else and he was super appreciative."

The winners of this year’s Best Warrior Competition will be named and honored at a banquet in April. Winners from the Army National Guard will continue to represent Texas in the regional and national Best Warrior competitions later this year.

Governor Abbott Reappoints Norris As Adjutant General of Texas

Press Release Courtesy of the Office of Governor Greg Abbott

February 27, 2020

Governor Greg Abbott has reappointed Major General Tracy Norris as the Adjutant General of Texas. The adjutant general is commander of the Soldiers and Airmen of the Texas Military Department, and reports directly to the Governor in matters pertaining to the Texas Army National Guard, Texas Air National Guard and Texas State Guard. General Norris is the first female to be appointed Adjutant General of Texas.  Major General Tracy R. Norris

“It is a distinct honor to reappoint Major General Tracy Norris as Adjutant General of Texas,” said Governor Abbott. “General Norris has faithfully served the people of Texas and continues to make great strides in the modernization of the Army and Air Force, while increasing the capacities of the Texas State Guard. Her dedication and expertise has guided Texas’ response to challenges ranging from natural disasters to cybersecurity threats. I am grateful for General Norris’ partnership and I am confident she will continue to serve Texas with utmost integrity.”

Major General Tracy Norris of Austin, currently serves as the 52nd Adjutant General of Texas and previously served as the Deputy Adjutant General for Army and as Director of Construction and Facilities Management for the Texas Military Department. She also served as commander of the 176th Engineer Brigade and as Chief of Staff of the 36th Infantry Division; responsible for oversight of command and control throughout nine southern provinces of Iraq in 2010.

During her tenure as the Adjutant General of Texas, the Texas Military Department has responded to multiple natural disasters both in Texas and other states, to include assisting in the recovery of several major cyberattacks. Additionally, under her command the state has continued to prepare and execute an aggressive mobilization schedule while maintaining positive relationships across the state. She continues to focus on the modernization of the Army and Air Force while increasing the capacities of the Texas State Guard. As the largest National Guard in the country, General Norris' Texas Army National Guard's Recruiting and Retention Battalion was recognized as being the leader in the nation for Guard recruiting efforts.

Additionally, General Norris has had the privilege of serving the Army National Guard (ARNG) in Georgia, Florida, Massachusetts, and at the National Guard Bureau in Washington D.C. She served the NGB as a program manager and executive officer, overseeing the Environmental Division; National Guard Range & Training Lands Division; and as Chief of the Training Facilities Team under the Training Support Branch of the ARNG.

During her almost 35-year career, she has earned several decorations and awards including the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal (with four oak leaf clusters), the Army Commendation Medal (with four oak leaf clusters), Iraq Campaign Medal (with 2 oak leaf clusters), and Humanitarian Service Medal for service during Hurricane Katrina and Rita. General Norris is also a recipient of the Department of State Franklin Award as well as the Army Engineer Association Bronze order of the de Fleury Medal.

General Norris earned a commission after completing the Reserve Officer Training Corps program at Florida State University, graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Anthropology and a Master of Science in Urban and Regional Planning. Additionally, General Norris received a Master in Strategic Studies from the United States Army War College and a Master of Business Administration from the McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin.

Sgt. Alvarado’s Journey to becoming a Non-Commissioned Officer

Story by Captain Leyda Ocasio-Kanzler, Public Affairs Officer,  Joint Task Force - Guardian Support

Sgt. Jeffrey Alvarado, intelligence analyst with Team Laredo has his specialist rank removed by Capt. Yihte Ban, Alpha Company 636 Military Intelligence Company Commander in Laredo, Texas, Dec 16, 2019. Entering into the NCO Corps is a memorable promotion as it marks the era of a new beginning of responsibility. (Texas Army National Guard photo by Capt. Leyda Ocasio-Kanzler)
Sgt. Jeffrey Alvarado, an intelligence analyst with Team Laredo has his specialist rank removed by Capt. Yihte Ban, Alpha Company 636 Military Intelligence Company Commander in Laredo, Texas, Dec 16, 2019. Entering into the NCO Corps is a memorable promotion as it marks the era of a new beginning of responsibility. (Texas Army National Guard photo by Capt. Leyda Ocasio-Kanzler)

LAREDO, Texas- Sgt. Jeffrey Alvarado joined the Texas Army National Guard at the rank of Specialist, having completed his Basic Leadership Course while on active duty. The journey to become a Non-Commissioned Officer is a distinguished honor to take. For Alvarado, it was one that he aspired to complete. Alvarado started his journey by signing an eight-year contract with the active duty component. Later, he decided to switch over to the National Guard to finish out his contract with the military. However, since the National Guard offers incentives such as extra college money for his children and a signing bonus, he offered to sign an additional six-year contract with the National Guard to extend his military service.

Within four months of integration into the Texas Army National Guard, Alvarado was offered an opportunity to join Joint Task Force-Guardian Support as an intelligence analyst supporting U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s operations in Laredo, Texas. Alvarado decided to accept the position and relocated to Laredo, Texas. “Now I’m happy, because I actually enjoy it here,” said Alvarado. “I like my job, I enjoy what I’m doing, I like the town, I like the people, I like everything about it.” Alvarado’s previous experience with military intelligence during his active duty service has made him an incredible asset to Team Laredo.

Marshall Taylor, an intelligence research specialist for CBP, said “Sgt. Alvarado has been crucial in identifying multiple persons and places of interest which are suspected of belonging to criminal organizations that have ties to major drug cartels.” Being on this mission has allowed Alvarado to not only expand his knowledge within his military career, but to put his skills into action. His collaboration with CBP has further developed the mission of securing our southwest border.

Marshall goes on to give recognition to the countless hours that Alvarado has dedicated to assisting Customs and Border Protection in combating the Transnational Criminal Organizations operating within the 177 miles of the Laredo sector area of operations. He states that “Sgt. Alvarado’s go-getting attitude and ability to solve complex problems makes him an intelligence analyst any unit would be proud to showcase.” Laredo has become a place of new beginnings for Alvarado, who upon completion of his military contract is aiming to pursue a career within the Laredo Police Department.

The National Guard Soldiers deployed to the border are an active force in working to alleviate the humanitarian crisis on our border while simultaneously ensuring it is more secure. The National Guard continues to be a support to CBP, developing a partnership with them in order to create a strong force that remains ready and willing to serve their state and nation.

Col. Shaunte Y. Cooper achieves high honor as first African American Colonel for 147th Attack Wing

Article and photographs courtesy of the Marshall News Messenger

In its 102-year history, no African American had been promoted to the rank of colonel in the 147th Attack Wing in the Air Force. At least not until Marshall’s own Lieutenant Colonel Shaunte Y. Cooper.Marshallite achieves high honor as first African American Colonel for 147th Attack Wing

Cooper got a leg up into the military with a bachelor of arts degree with a double major in history and business administration from Wiley College in 1992. In 2015, she received her master of arts degree in professional development, graduating Summa Cum Laude, from Amberton University in Garland.

Col. Cooper’s military career started in 1989 when she joined the Texas Army National Guard. Cooper said she mainly originally joined the military to receive assistance with college tuition at Wiley College. She transitioned to the Texas Air National Guard in 1993 as an enlisted Airmen. In 1994, she was commissioned and became a personnel officer at the 136th Airlift Wing in Fort Worth.

She also earned her teaching certificate for Texas elementary education and taught fourth grade at John Neely Bryan Elementary School in Dallas.

In 1999, Col. Cooper’s leadership skills were recognized when she served as an assistant to the relocation officer for the successful relocation of the 136th Airlift Wing from Dallas to its current location in Fort Worth. She was praised for her determination to schedule and plan the effort, and high recognition was received on this project.

She then transitioned to the 147th Attack Wing in Houston and served as the director of personnel for a year in 2003-04, then as the Commander of Mission Support Flight from April 2004 – Nov. 2006, and went on to serve as the interim Mission Support Group Commander from May 2006 – Dec. 2006.

Marshallite achieves high honor as first African American Colonel for 147th Attack Wing

During her time with the 147th attack wing, she participated in the overseas missions of Operation Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom after 9/11 occurred.

Her federal military awards include the Meritorious Service Medal, Air Force Commendation Medal, Air Force Achievement Medal, Air Force Outstanding Unit Award, National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Armed Forces Service Medal, Humanitarian Service Medal, Air Force Longevity, Armed Forces Reserves Medal, Army NCO Professional Development Ribbon, Small Arms Expert Marksmanship Ribbon, AF Training Ribbon and the Army Service Ribbon.

Col. Cooper’s state military awards include the Lone Star Distinguished Service Medal, Texas Outstanding Service Medal, Texas Medal of Merit, Texas Governor’s Unit Citation and the Texas Adjutant General Individual Award.

Col. Cooper is the daughter of Melba Jones and the granddaughter of the late Lorenza Washington and Warreen Washington of Marshall. She has been married to Ramsey Cooper for 28 years and they are the proud parents of one daughter, Sydnie.

“My husband Ramsey and daughter Sydnie Nicole have made many sacrifices over the years for my career. They have been very understanding of the demands of military life and are the reasons why I feel purposeful and accomplished,” she said.

Marshallite achieves high honor as first African American Colonel for 147th Attack Wing

She said her family is extremely proud of her and have always been supportive of her career. One of the reasons Cooper has made her way to the top is due to the perseverance her mom, Melba, taught her.

Her grandmother, Warreen, taught her about compassion, a characteristic Col. Cooper strives to emulate when it comes to mentoring others.

With her promotion, Col. Cooper is the Air National Guard Advisor to the Air Force Recruiting Service Commander at the Joint Base Randolph in San Antonio. She is responsible for directing the integrated Staff of the Air Force Recruiting Service. She represents the ANG on recruiting issues and is the primary point of contact for manpower and personnel actions.

 

This article first appeared in the Marshall News Messenger as "Marshallite achieves high honor as first African American Colonel for 147th Attack Wing" on February 9, 2020.

Army Commissions New Physician Assistants

Story by Andrew R. Smith, Texas Military Department Public Affairs

Fort Hood, Texas – On January 31, 2020, Class 17-3 graduated the Army’s Interservice Physician Assistant program at the Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center, welcoming four new physician assistants into the Army.

January 31, 2020 Soldiers from Interservice Physician Assistant Program class I7-3 graduate during a ceremony held at the Caral R. Darnall Medical Center. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Andrew R. Smith/Released)
January 31, 2020 Soldiers from Interservice Physician Assistant Program class I7-3 graduate during a ceremony held at the Caral R. Darnall Medical Center. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Andrew R. Smith/Released)

The graduating Soldiers were recognized for completing their postgraduate studies and earning the title of physician assistant (PA).  Three of the four Soldiers also earned their commission as Army officers upon completing the course. Among the attendees were unit members and family members of the graduates, as well as medical professionals who had worked alongside the students to provide training and education.  

For one of the graduates this event was the culmination of years of work and the fulfillment of a long-term life goal. 

“I always wanted a medical career.  I was commissioned as an engineer but I had a great relationship with the battalion PA in my last unit,” said Capt. Adam Todd. “She helped the unit immensely by evaluating running related injuries and physical routines.  She made a suggestion to the battalion command that the intensity of runs be reduced and injuries in the unit decreased sharply.  That ability to have influence on the battalion commander and the ability to help Soldiers really inspired me.”

To become a physician assistant, students must pass classes in anatomy, physiology, pathology, diagnosis, treatment, disease processes, communication and patient assessment.  This rigorous coursework includes weekly tests and many hours of research and writing outside of class.  Fortunately, the students were in the hands of very capable instructors— some of who had taken the same path and gone through the same course of study.

Guest Speaker Teresa Walters, an Army veteran of 20 years, as well as a graduate of the Army’s Interservice Physician Assistant program provided the graduates a few words of wisdom and insight.

“I always tried to interject life lessons into what I was teaching, the method I use is humor.  It really opens the students up and I feel like it gets them to trust you more,” she said.  “I also tried to make myself as available as possible for any questions they had, be it classes or life in general. I let them know the importance of being approachable as a PA.”

When asked about how it felt to be remembered fondly by the students and asked to return and speak at their graduation Walters said, “I was honored when they asked me to come back and speak at their graduation.  I taught them almost two and a half years ago and it validated the work I did and what I taught them, and to me showed that I made a difference.  It meant a lot that they remembered all of that, and I can’t wait to see what they do.” 

With assignments in hand, the students will report to field units where they can begin to put their training and education to use by serving and safeguarding Soldiers.

The Army officially began its physician assistant program in 1971 at the Medical Field Services School in Fort Sam Houston, in San Antonio, Texas.  The roots of the program date back to World War II, when a fast-track training for medical doctors was implemented to assist in the war effort. In today’s Army, a physician assistant performs most of the duties of a healthcare provider on a battalion level, providing localized and immediate care to soldiers wherever they may be.

Congresswoman Kay Granger Visits Southern Border

Story by Texas Military Department Public Affairs Office

EL PASO, Texas- Members of the Texas Military Department hosted a congressional visit to the El Paso area of the Texas-Mexico border on November 22, 2019.  There, Congresswoman Kay Granger (TX-12) met with the Adjutant General of Texas, Maj. Gen. Tracy R. Norris, and received an overview of the Joint Task Force Guardian Support mission, currently led by the United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Congresswoman Granger also visited with troops currently assigned to Joint Task Force Guardian Support. 

The Texas Army National Guard began their partnership with CBP beginning in 1989, with the start of the Texas Joint Counter Drug Task Force.  Throughout the years, Texas Soldiers and Airmen have operated in support roles to enhance border security. A 30 year mission of continuous sustainment has evolved from the control of drug infiltration to the United States, to logistical and intelligence operations along the southwest border.    

Currently, Joint Task Force Guardian Support is comprised of Soldiers and Airmen from more than 12 states.  Their mission is to operate in a supportive role which allows CBP agents to return back to enforcement duties and the administration of immigration law. Operations performed by the National Guard include aerial support, motor vehicle maintenance, transportation, detection and intelligence analysis and logistical support, among other capabilities. 

EL PASO, Texas -- U.S. Border Patrol Agent in Charge Walter Slosar gives a guided aerial tour of the U.S. border to Rep. Kay Granger, the congresswoman from Texas District 12 and ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee, and the Adjutant General of Texas, Maj. Gen. Tracy Norris, during her congressional visit to the area, Nov. 22, 2019. The delegation traveled by a Texas Army National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk from El Paso through Monuments I and III to the U.S. Border Patrol's Santa Teresa Station in Sunland Park, New Mexico. At the station, Rep. Granger, Maj. Gen. Norris, U.S. Army Budget Liaison Maj. Mark Bedrin, House Appropriations Committee Professional Staff Homeland Minority Clerk Dena Baron and Communications Director Sarah Flaim, met with CBP personnel and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers representatives to further discuss the state of the border, specifically in their sector. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Christina Clardy)
EL PASO, Texas -- U.S. Border Patrol Agent in Charge Walter Slosar gives a guided aerial tour of the U.S. border to Rep. Kay Granger, the congresswoman from Texas District 12 and ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee, and the Adjutant General of Texas, Maj. Gen. Tracy Norris, during her congressional visit to the area, Nov. 22, 2019. The delegation traveled by a Texas Army National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk from El Paso through Monuments I and III to the U.S. Border Patrol's Santa Teresa Station in Sunland Park, New Mexico. At the station, Rep. Granger, Maj. Gen. Norris, U.S. Army Budget Liaison Maj. Mark Bedrin, House Appropriations Committee Professional Staff Homeland Minority Clerk Dena Baron and Communications Director Sarah Flaim, met with CBP personnel and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers representatives to further discuss the state of the border, specifically in their sector. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc.
Christina Clardy)

The National Guard aerial support function has been vital to assisting federal agents in the field with monitoring migrants. The National Guard also assists with aerial rescues. Due to the continuous support of the National Guard, CBP has been able to enhance its security efforts along the southwest border.  National Guard ground support is comprised of Soldiers and Airmen providing motor vehicle maintenance support, thus increasing the roadside capabilities within the CBP force.  With the support of Congresswoman Granger, returning agents to enforcement duties has become a more obtainable goal for CBP. 

Congresswoman Granger is no stranger to the Texas National Guard. Throughout her career, she has worked to prioritize federal funding for concurrent military modernization efforts in order to keep the National Guard at par with the active component.  In 2017, as the Chairwoman of the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee, Rep. Granger oversaw the appropriation of eight C-130J Super Hercules aircraft for the Air National Guard.  This marked the first time that the National Guard had received new C-130J models since 2005.

“Modernized air assets provide a stronger future for aerial delivery support and make the unit more competitive for additional missions,” said Maj. Gen. Dawn Ferrell, Deputy Adjutant General for Air, Texas Military Department. “If the 136th Airlift Wing receives C-130J models, it will extend the unit's aircraft lifespan significantly over the current C-130H model.  With its increased cargo capacity and improved performance characteristics, the C-130J would enhance the wing's operational capabilities to better serve Texas and the nation.”

Congresswoman Granger’s visit to the current border mission, Joint Task Force-Operation Guardian Support, was an opportunity to highlight her focus on domestic response strategy. It also allowed her to demonstrate her continuous bipartisan support of both the Guard and the citizens of Texas.

“Her support has ensured the UH-72 Lakota’s availability for domestic support missions, to include hurricane response, wildfire suppression and border operations,” said Brig. Gen. Thomas Suelzer, Director of Joint Staff, Texas Military Department.

As a voice for the National Guard, Ms. Granger was successful in the critical fight for maintaining AH-64 Apaches and Infantry Brigade Combat Teams within the National Guard, and has worked tirelessly to ensure the National Guard’s operational readiness is maintained.  When force structure conversations take place between the Active Duty and the Guard, the Texas Delegation looks to her for her leadership in defense related issues.  Ms. Granger has worked tirelessly to remain educated on the Guard issues that affect her district, the Texas Guard and the Guard’s 54 states and territories.

U.S. Border Patrol Agent in Charge Walter Slosar gives a guided aerial tour of the U.S. border to Rep. Kay Granger, the congresswoman from Texas District 12 and ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee, and the Adjutant General of Texas, Maj. Gen. Tracy Norris, during her congressional visit to the area, Nov. 22, 2019. The delegation traveled by a Texas Army National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk from El Paso through Monuments I and III to the U.S. Border Patrol's Santa Teresa Station in Sunland Park, New Mexico. At the station, Rep. Granger, Maj. Gen. Norris, U.S. Army Budget Liaison Maj. Mark Bedrin, House Appropriations Committee Professional Staff Homeland Minority Clerk Dena Baron and Communications Director Sarah Flaim, met with CBP personnel and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers representatives to further discuss the state of the border, specifically in their sector. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Christina Clardy)

Even now, as the ranking member of the powerful House Appropriations committee, Ms. Granger continues to support the mission of the National Guard. 

“The Congresswomen’s support of long-term sustainment of the RC-26B in the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act protects a manned platform at the 147th Attack Wing,” said Maj. Gen. Ferrell.  “This airframe is an integral asset used domestically in support of the southwest border mission and is unique to the Guard.” 

These improved capabilities within the Texas Military Department have amplified readiness levels, mirroring those of units on active duty. This allows Maj. Gen. Tracy R. Norris to heavily focus on the future of the organization and the growth of both manpower and resources for the Texas Army and Air National Guard. 

“The Texas Military Department is extremely thankful for the ongoing support of the Texas Congressional delegation and the leadership provided by Congresswoman Granger,” said Marcy Weldin, Director of Government Affairs, Texas Military Department. “Because of her support we are better equipped to serve the citizens of Texas and the nation when called upon. For that reason, Maj. Gen. Norris has nominated her for the National Guard Association of the United States’ distinguished Harry S. Truman award.”

Congressman Granger’s other awards include the Minuteman Award, Navy Distinguished Public Service Award, as well as the Great American Patriot Award.

 

2019 TMD Legislative Successes

Highlighting the Work of the TMD Government Affairs Office in 2019

Article by the Texas Military Department Government Affairs Office

During the Regular Session of the 86th Legislature, the Government Affairs Office (GAO) closely tracked 501 of the 7851 bills filed by the Texas Legislature. Additionally, GAO maintained situational awareness of and expertise on all issues relating to military and state agency topics. In addition to these monitoring responsibilities, GAO remained in constant contact with legislative offices to serve as a resource and knowledge base for both members and staff. A consistent presence in the Capitol allowed TMD to answer questions and engage with offices on a daily basis. Education for legislative staff and members was provided by Texas Military Department (TMD) General Officers, GAO and Office of Executive Director (OED) personnel through meetings with members, testimony provided at Committee Hearings and numerous staff-to-staff engagements. The Regular Session of the 86th Legislature gaveled in on 8 January 2019 and gaveled out on 27 May 2019. Of the 7851 bills filed, 1323 were passed by the Governor and 58 bills were vetoed. State capitol

Governor Abbott, in his State of the State address, laid out issues of particular importance and declared school finance reform, teacher pay raises and property tax relief as emergency items, allowing them to be taken up by the legislature in the first 60 days. These emergency items were in addition to other items of interest such as school safety, disaster response and mental health. 

This year the GAO added new team members to its staff. These team members were quick to adapt to their new roles and quickly established relationships with key legislative members and their staff. TAG, OED and GAO staff met with every Senator and Representative on the Finance and Appropriations committees. Moreover, GAO staff regularly met with members of the Defense and Veterans’ Affairs, and Veterans’ Affairs and Border Security committees. 

CPT Owen Williams along with the GAO team worked tirelessly on coordinating an Army Day event with members of the legislature. The intent of this event was to familiarize Texas legislators and their staff with the Texas Military Department, showcase our capabilities and engage in productive conversation. The intended outcome for was event was to recoup diminished funds from previous legislative sessions. The event’s success was so well received by the Adjutant General and Deputy Adjutant Generals, that CPT Williams was tasked with coordinating a second Army Day. This event was as successful as the first.

Throughout the interim, GAO will continue outreach to members and legislative staff, including but not limited to: armory visits, district engagements, change of command ceremonies, interim committee hearings, TMD legislative days and other engagements as appropriate.

Bills passed by 86th Legislature that directly benefit the TMD: 

- SB 1598/HB 2241 by Senator Hall and Rep. Tinderholt: Relating to hazardous duty pay for security officers employed by the Texas Military Department. 

This legislation amends the Government Code to allow a security officer employed by the Texas Military Department to receive hazardous duty pay, subject to applicable eligibility requirements.

- SB 1597/HB 3391 by Senator Hall and Rep. Shine: Relating to awarding certain medals for military service performed individually or as part of a crew. 

This legislation amends the Government Code to expand eligibility for the Lone Star Medal of Valor, Texas Outstanding Service Medal, and Texas Medal of Merit to include certain acts of military service performed as a member of a crew or team.

- SB 602/HB 1326 by Senator Hall and Rep. Flynn: Relating to the continuation and functions of the Texas Military Department. (SUNSET) 

Relates to the Sunset Review of TMD. This bill guarantees the continuation of the Texas Military Department as a state agency until September 1, 2031.

 

Successes in Budget: 

At the beginning of the 86th Legislative session, we requested funding for four exceptional items. This year, TMD was fortunate enough to receive funding in all four areas. 

Exceptional Item 1: State Guard Expansion – $2M 

Exceptional Item 2: Emergency Preparedness & Indirect Administration - $5M 

Exceptional Item 3: Facilities Management & Operations - $15.3M (STAR - $10M and Deferred Maintenance - $5.3M) 

Exceptional Item 4: Service Member Care $87K 

Overall agency FTE cap increased from 569 to 641.