Texas Counterdrug Guardsmen educate Burnet Middle School students at wellness fair

-A student of Burnet Middle School holds a Texas National Guard Counterdrug Task Force t-shirt BURNET, Texas---A student of Burnet Middle School holds a Texas National Guard Counterdrug Task Force t-shirt during Join the Journey’s Safe and Drug Free Wellness Fair in Burnet, Texas, February 7, 2019. Sgt. Irma Flores and Spc. Jacob Raygo of the Texas National Guard Joint Counterdrug Task Force supported the event. The Task Force members encouraged students to try on fatal vision goggles and try to catch a ball. The exercise is intended to educate them on the negative effects of drug and alcohol use. The Join the Journey fair began 6 years ago with the goal of addressing drug use in the community. Local law enforcement, coalitions and wellness organizations also attended the event. Counterdrug Task Force members routinely partner and participate in drug use awareness and prevention events to educate their local communities.

SERVICE ON THE HOMEFRONT - THE BIRTH OF THE TEXAS STATE GUARD AND WORLD WAR II

Story by Chief Warrant Officer 3 Janet Schmelzer, Texas State Guard

Texas Defense Guard (Texas State Guard files, Camp Mabry Museum, Austin, Texas)When World War II erupted in Europe in 1939, the National Guard was called into active service on September 16, 1940.  Once the National Guard was federalized, states felt unprotected and argued that they needed military units to serve within each state’s boundaries and protect their property and residents.
   
Congress responded by amending the National Defense Act of 1916.  The 1940 “State Guard Amendment” authorized states to create and maintain defense forces for protection and enforce territorial police power. The mission of state guards was to provide an adequately trained force for deployment within the boundaries and jurisdictions of their respective states as directed by the state executive or legislature, maintain laws, suppress disorders, protect the life and property of individuals within the state, vital industries, installations, and communication facilities, meet domestic emergencies including natural and war disasters, prevent and suppress activities of enemy agents, cooperate with federal military authorities in extreme emergencies and perform other duties as were assigned to the National Guard when not in federal service.

The types and numbers of each state guard was left to the decision of the states. The War Department would supervise and direct training, issuing weapons, jeeps, trucks, ambulances and other supplies as needed. State guards were to be demobilized or disbanded as National Guard units returned to home from the war.  The War Department also placed the supervision of state guard forces under the National Guard Bureau, ensuring rules and regulations that applied to the National Guard, including courts martial and punishments applied to state defense forces. 
 
Brig. Gen. L. F. Guerre, Director, Security and Intelligence Division, Eighth Service Command, Army Service Forces, stated that the Texas State Guard “was conceived as a wartime necessity and which serves a patriotic purpose to back the war effort with patriotic service on the home front.”

Following the passage of the “State Guard Amendment,” Texas Governor O’Daniel authorized the Adjutant General of Texas Brig. Gen. John Watt Page to formulate plans to organize the state defense force, including provisional appointment of commissioned officers and informal enlistment of personnel. By the end of 1940, Texas had 173 companies consisting of 500 officers and 6,000 enlisted men. Anticipating the passage of the Texas Defense Guard Act, O’Daniel named Page as the commander of the state defense force. The 47th Texas Legislature and O’Daniel quickly passed the requisite enabling law, the “Texas Defense Guard Act 1941,” which created and organized the Texas Defense Guard on February 10, 1941.  This act authorized the governor to organize and maintain a state guard when deemed necessary to defend the state and to prescribe rules and regulations governing enlistment, organization, administration, uniforms, equipment, maintenance, training and discipline. The act also permitted the ability to secure arms, equipment or other government property for its protection. The emergency appropriation for the state guard was $65,000.

The guard was composed of officers and able-bodied males who were citizens of the United States. To keep from interfering with Army recruiting efforts, state guard enlistment focused on older citizens, World War I veterans, non-prior service civilians, businessmen, defense workers, merchants, farmers and young men not eligible for federal service. They enlisted for three years without pay, except when on state active duty, and all had to meet U. S. Army physical training standards. Anyone dishonorably discharged from a federal service or civilian organization was barred from enlistment.

Under the act, the governor requisitioned arms and equipment from the War Department and made state armories available to the state guard. Other funds, armories, equipment, material and transportation were supplemented by county courts, cities, communities and civic and patriotic organizations. 

The state guard served only within the boundaries of Texas and could not be called or ordered into federal military service. The governor, however, had the authority to order the guard to assist military or police forces of another state in pursuit of insurrectionists, saboteurs, enemies or enemy forces into another state and to permit other states the right of pursuit into Texas by mutual agreement between the states.

The organization of the state guard quickly took shape.  The state guard uniforms and ranks were identical to the U. S. Army, and State Guardsmen wore the Texas Defense Guard patch on their left arms.  

The plan for the state guard was to establish battalions across the state. If a town or county wanted a unit, local organizations, such as the city council and veterans’ groups, submitted an application describing the strategic importance of locating a unit there and submitted an incident command structure. Denver City and Yoakum County pointed out the importance to protect vital war industries and installations, oil well fields, pipeline stations, a Texas-New Mexico power plant and tank batteries for oil storage in their area. By 1942 50 battalions were established.

With enlistments skyrocketing to 17,497 in the first year, the Texas Defense Guard increased training to 150 hours in 1942.  The Eighth Army Service Command provided training materials and films, while Army instructors held schools for officers and non-commissioned officers at Camp Mabry and Camp Bullis. Training covered military conduct, discipline, camp sanitation, personal hygiene, first aid and the use of chemical masks against chemical attack and toxic gasses. Guardsmen learned the basics of march and bivouacs, dismounted drill, interior and special guard duty, sentinel on post, extended order (whistle, hand signals, arm signals) and orderly deployment. They practiced how to care for equipment, pitch a tent, build and dig field fortifications, trenches and foxholes, create camouflage, read a map, guard vital installations, conduct night operations, form the squad edge and squad diagonal tactical formations and identify German, Japanese and Italian aircraft.  

Weapons training for Guardsmen included an eight-hour course on the use of the Springfield .30-6 caliber M1903 five-round magazine-fed, bolt action repeating rifle and seven hours of M1928A1 Thompson .45 cartridge submachine gun, the famous “Tommy Gun,” which had a reputation for accuracy and high-volume fire.

Needing the Springfield rifles for the war in the Pacific, the War Department took back the rifles and distributed shotguns as replacements. In 1943 the shotgun became the principal State Guard weapon authorized for brush fighting, patrolling from cars or trucks during night, fog and rain operations and street fighting. Hand-grenade training included fake hairbrush grenades and potato mashers. At one point, the State Guard considered training with explosive devices made by a Boston fireworks factory but decided to use fake grenades instead for safety and economy.

Page stated that the importance of the Texas Defense Guard as a second line of American defense was “not be to underestimated. Our guard officers will be taught how to meet the same problems which beset the low countries of Europe preceding the Nazi invasion. Holland and France were taken unawares but we here in Texas will be prepared for any eventuality.”

The Texas Defense Guard, only months after being created and with many units still being organized, faced its first big test as a defense force during the Houston Gulf Coast Hurricane on September 22-23, 1941. Over 500 guardsmen rescued victims, transported people to safe locations, patrolled streets armed with rifles, prevented looting, directed traffic in flooded locations, provided first aid and assisted local authorities. The Texas Defense Guard was the sole agency to maintain radio communication with the public and local agencies throughout the storm.  Located at Palacios, Texas, 1st Lt. J. C. Johnson of Houston, Radio Division, Texas Defense Guard, was the only source of communication along the Texas coast throughout the night. Broadcasting on his portable radio, he reported on weather conditions every 15 minutes as the storm approached and stayed in contact with Houston and Austin. 

“If the Texas Defense Guard had not mobilized at 7 pm and contributed their services, we never would have been able to handle the situation alone,” stated the Houston police chief.

Once the storm had passed, the Texas Defense Guard Aviation Branch conducted an aerial survey of storm damage and flooding. On September 24, Texas State Guard Aviation Branch pilot, Capt. N. E. Meador, piloted the first airplane to leave any Houston airport. Meador, along with two additional Aviation Branch pilots, provided the first aerial photographs and damage reports from the hurricane strike area. This information was vital to how and where local emergency authorities responded.  
 
In 1943 the 48th Texas Legislature and Texas Governor Coke Stevenson amended the Texas Defense Guard Act. The Texas Defense Guard was renamed the Texas State Guard. The official shoulder patch was the “T-Patch,” still worn today by the State Guard. The Texas Adjutant General during the Stevenson administration, Brig. Gen. A. B. Knickerbocker, was named the commander of the Texas State Guard. At this point, the Texas State Guard had 48 battalions, a rifle company, headquarters, service and medical detachments.

The Texas State Guard continued to provide support to civilian authorities until the end of World War II. Guardsmen responded to hurricanes, civil disorder and riots such as the Beaumont Riot in 1943, tornadoes, such as the one that struck Crowell in 1942 and remained ready to protect Texans from harm. 

From the beginning of the Texas Defense Guard, Guardsmen volunteered as true citizen-Soldiers and served their fellow citizens in times of emergency. They were not seeking pay or glory but a sense of patriotism and service.
 

TEXAS STATE GUARD TOY DRIVE BRINGS JOY

Story by Chief Warrant Officer 3 Janet Schmelzer, Texas State Guard

Child getting a gift from a soldier In its 10th year, the Texas State Guard “Young Heroes of the Guard” Toy Drive 2018 brought joy and happiness to thousands of children across Texas by collecting and delivering 82,176 toys to pediatric hospitals, children’s homes, women’s shelters, schools, and Ronald McDonald Houses.  

Since the Texas State Guard launched the toy drive in 2009, guardsmen have delivered a total of 244,911 toys over the past ten years.  The toy drive has grown from the first collection that delivered 2,400 toys to children in hospitals in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex to delivering 82,176 toys to children across the state in 2018, which exceeded this year's goal of 75,000.

This year's successful drive meant more toys were delivered to more children in more cities and towns.  For the first time toys were delivered to children in the Rio Grande Valley. 
 
"Each year the Texas State Guard Young Heroes of the Guard Toy Drive collects more toys because of the generosity of our fellow Texans," said Sgt. 1st Class John Gately, Texas State Guard statewide coordinator. "The willingness of everyone to help make a child smile with a new toy is truly heartwarming.  We plan to continue to collect even more toys each year so that we can spread joy to more children in Texas."

The toy drive starts every November when guardsmen start placing toy drive collection boxes at stores, churches, and businesses. When the toy drive collection ends in early December, Texas State Guard units, at their local armories across the state, begin sorting toys by age groups and then start delivering toys throughout December and into early January.

For the last two years, Five Below has been a toy drive sponsor by making their stores available for collection boxes.  Walmart stores also had collection sites.  At these locations, store patrons can donate toys that they have just purchased at the stores.  Another corporate partner was Hess Corporation which has donated 7,000 Hess toy trucks to the Young Heroes of the Guard toy drive since 2017. 
 
The toy drive's success also meant that the hospitals, shelters, and other beneficiaries of the toy drive will have plenty of toys to surprise children with gifts for birthdays, holidays, and special occasions.  

"The toys that the Texas State Guard gives to children in the hospitals and shelters not only provide a happier holiday and Christmas, but the impact is also felt all through the year," Capt. Douglas Richardson, the chaplain for the 8th Regiment said.  "A toy lifts a child's spirit.  Parents and guardians see their children's faces brighten and the positive impact these toys have on the well-being of the children.   This is the finest mission of the Texas State Guard." 

For more information on the Texas State Guard “Young Heroes of the Guard” Toy Drive, please visit the toy drive website at http://www.txsgtoydrive.org/.  
 

Staff Sgt Gregory Illich and Sgt Miranda Leal are the Outstanding Enlisted Members of the Texas State Guard for 2018

Story by Chief Warrant Officer 3 Janet Schmelzer, Texas State Guard

Texas State Guard Staff Sgt. Gregory Illich, 8th Regiment, Army Component, was recognized as  the Texas State Guard Outstanding Non-Commissioned Officer of the Year 2018 and awarded the Texas Outstanding Service Medal by Texas State Guard Commander Maj. Gen. Robert Bodisch, and Command Sgt. Maj. Bryan Becknel during a ceremony held at the Texas State Guard holiday gala in San Marcos, Texas, December 8, 2018.  He was also recognized as the Texas State Guard Army Component Outstanding Non-Commissioned Officer of 2018 and received “Sgt. Maj. Hiram J. Williamson Award for Service Excellence.”  (Texas State Guard photo by Cpl. Shawn Dromgoole)
Texas State Guard Staff Sgt. Gregory Illich, 8th Regiment, Army Component, was recognized as  the Texas State Guard Outstanding Non-Commissioned Officer of the Year 2018 and awarded the Texas Outstanding Service Medal by Texas State Guard Commander Maj. Gen. Robert Bodisch, and Command Sgt. Maj. Bryan Becknel during a ceremony held at the Texas State Guard holiday gala in San Marcos, Texas, December 8, 2018.  He was also recognized as the Texas State Guard Army Component Outstanding Non-Commissioned Officer of 2018 and received “Sgt. Maj. Hiram J. Williamson Award for Service Excellence.”  (Texas State Guard photo by Cpl. Shawn Dromgoole)

AUSTIN, Texas—The Texas State Guard recognized Staff Sgt. Gregory Illich, 8th Regiment, and Sgt. Miranda Leal, 2nd Regiment, as the outstanding enlisted members of the Texas State Guard for 2018 during the Texas State Guard holiday gala in San Marcos, Texas, December 8, 2018.

Staff Sgt. Illich was recognized as the Texas State Guard Outstanding Non-Commissioned Officer of the Year for 2018 and received the Texas Outstanding Service Medal, which is awarded to a service member of the military forces of this state, another state, or the United States who has performed service in a superior and clearly outstanding manner. Illich was also recognized as the Texas State Guard Army Component’s Outstanding Non-commissioned Officer of 2018 and received the “Sgt. Maj. Hiram J. Williamson Award for Service Excellence.” 

“I am humbled and honored to be recognized as the Texas State Guard Outstanding Non-commissioned Officer for 2018 and as the Army Component’s Outstanding Non-commissioned Officer for 2018 and receive the Texas Outstanding Service Medal and the “Sgt. Maj. Hiram J. Williamson Award for Service Excellence. It is through the support and leadership of those around me that my achievements are possible.  It is a great honor to be recognized in this way. I am honored to serve Texas and I appreciate the opportunity given me by the Texas State Guard,” stated Staff Sgt. Illich.

Illich joined the Texas State Guard in 2012.  He serves as the 8th Regiment Public Affairs Officer, the non-commissioned officer in charge of the 8th Regiment Honor Guard, a trainer for Texas State Guard shelter management, WEBEOC, and the Emergency Tracking Network mission skills, a Texas State Guard lead evaluator and instructor for the Ground Search and Rescue training and certification program of the National Association for Search and Rescue, a member of the Texas State Guard Band and a band recruiter in the Houston area.  He previously served as the non-commissioned officer for communications and information technology, 1st Battalion, 8th Regiment and a Unit Public Affairs Representative, providing superior support to recruiting and social media.  During Hurricane Harvey in 2017 he was a member of the Texas Military Department Public Affairs pool and was deployed in the disaster zone to cover the story. 
 
Illich is an Honor Graduate of the Texas State Guard Advanced Non-Commissioned Course and has earned the Basic Military Emergency Management Specialist Badge from the State Guard Association of the United States. 

Illich volunteers as a member of the Patriot Guard Riders to honor veterans at funerals and as a member of “Cos-Play for Kids,” where costumed superheroes visit children in Houston area hospitals and serves as the as the master of ceremonies for a Houston and Galveston literacy program. He is a Tai Chi Teacher and Massage Therapist.

Sgt. Miranda Leal was recognized as the Texas State Guard Outstanding Junior Enlisted of the Year for 2018 and received Texas State Guard Jonathan Clutts Award for Selfless Service for 2018, an award named for Texas State Guard Petty Officer 2 Jonathan Clutts for his selfless service during Hurricane Harvey in 2017.  She was also recognized as the Texas State Guard Army Component’s Outstanding Junior Enlisted of Year 2018 and received the “Sgt. Maj. Hiram J. Williamson Award for Service Excellence.”  

“I am honored to be recognized as the Texas State Guard Outstanding Junior Enlisted of the Year and receive the Sgt. Maj. Hiram J. Williamson Award for the Outstanding Junior Enlisted of the Year in the Army Component. I am very honored to receive the first Jonathan Clutts award and hope to live up to his example of selfless service.  I would like to thank those who believed in me and shaped me into the soldier that I am today. It is a great privilege to serve with such a great group of men and women who share a passion for giving back to their community and serving the Great State of Texas," stated Leal.

Leal joined the Texas State Guard in 2015.  She serves as a squad leader and assistant Platoon Sergeant for G Company, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Regiment, an Emergency Tracking Network trainer, and a member of the Texas State Guard Band.  She is certified in American Red Cross First Aid and Shelter Management, WEBEOC, and the Emergency Tracking Network operations. 
 
She has completed the Texas State Guard Professional Leadership Development Course and Federal Emergency Management Agency courses. 
 
Leal is a senior at Texas State University, San Marcos, Texas, majoring in Exercise and Sports Science and Pre-Rehabilitation Science.  She volunteers at Hays Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, San Marcos, Texas, and Guadalupe Regional Medical Center in Sequin, Texas.  

“These two Texas State Guard members represent the best of the enlisted in the guard. Staff Sgt. Illich has demonstrated the best qualities, skills, knowledge and service of a non-commissioned officer and exemplifies the meaning of volunteerism, selfless service, and giving back to his state and community. His superiors and subordinates recognize his unmatched depth of doctrinal knowledge and the ability to relay that knowledge to others.   Sgt. Miranda Leal exemplifies the highest attributes of a junior enlisted member.  She has assumed leadership positions and duties and performed at a level beyond what is required of her rank and is dedicated to encouraging her fellow members to exceed in their professional growth and development and to sharpen their skills and knowledge necessary to perform their duties,” stated Command Sgt. Maj. Barton Williams, Army Component, Texas State Guard.
 

Texas State Guard Gonzales Cup Challenges the Best of the Best of the Army Component

Texas State Guard Gonzales Cup Challenges the Best of the Best of the Army Component
Story by Chief Warrant Officer 3 Janet Schmelzer, Army Component, Texas State Guard

The 1st Regiment Army Component Texas State Guard team won the Gonzales Cup during the competition held in Stephenville, Texas, October 12-14, 2018.  Brig. Gen. Robert Hastings, Commander, Army Component, presented the Gonzales Cup to the team.  1st Regiment team members are Spc. Jorge Ramirez, Pvt. Alberto Sanchez, Pvt. Jason Perez, Pfc. Kevin Stepherson, Pvt. Ruben Garza, Pfc. Emilio Trevino, and Spc. Ruben Lopez. (Texas State Guard photo by Chief Warrant Officer 3 Janet Schmelzer)
The 1st Regiment Army Component Texas State Guard team won the Gonzales Cup during the competition held in Stephenville, Texas, October 12-14, 2018.  Brig. Gen. Robert Hastings, Commander, Army Component, presented the Gonzales Cup to the team.  1st Regiment team members are Spc. Jorge Ramirez, Pvt. Alberto Sanchez, Pvt. Jason Perez, Pfc. Kevin Stepherson, Pvt. Ruben Garza, Pfc. Emilio Trevino, and Spc. Ruben Lopez. (Texas State Guard photo by Chief Warrant Officer 3 Janet Schmelzer)

STEPHENVILLE, Texas - The Texas State Guard Army Component’s 1st Regiment won the Gonzales Cup and the 19th Regiment’s Pfc. Brandon McVean won the Top Individual Award following the three-day competition held Oct. 12-14, 2018.  Twenty-nine members representing the 1st, 4th, 8th, and 19th Regiments of the Texas State Guard accepted the challenge to become the Army Component's best of the best and take home the coveted Gonzales Cup.
 
"The Gonzales Cup competition is important as a meaningful and purposeful training for our members.  It builds comradery and teamwork, challenges perseverance in the most adverse conditions, tests skills that we need to be mission ready, and creates a spirit to achieve to be the best," commented Command Sgt. Maj. Barton Williams, senior enlisted advisor, Army Component, who organized this year's competition.

The first day's challenge was a written test which covered the Texas State Guard Army Component mission essential skills which included shelter management operations, emergency tracking network operations, military customs and history, and ground search and rescue.  

That evening in the midst of a torrential rainstorm, four teams went out on a search and rescue task to find missing persons who were lost following a simulated disaster at Hunewell Ranch in Erath County, Texas.  The darkness, bad weather, mud, and rain-soaked terrain added to the realism of what state guardsmen might face during search and rescue missions. 
 
Teams had to follow clues to find the missing persons within a time limit of three and a half hours.  Each team was scored on how proficient they were at finding the person, evaluating the condition of the person, providing first aid, fashioning a litter, and evacuating the person back to the starting point. 

Pfc. Laura Peck, 8th Regiment, was one of three female state guardsmen to participate in the competition.  “I never pictured myself doing things like slogging through mud and water on a six-kilometer hike with a 35-pound knapsack on my back,” said Peck who has been in the Texas State Guard 10 months.  “The search and rescue challenge was an awesome experience.”  

The second day opened with the Army Physical Fitness test of sit-ups, pushups, and a two-mile run.  This challenge supports the Texas State Guard Health and Fitness program which emphasizes exercise, strength and a healthy lifestyle.  

Teams then moved to the Leadership Challenge Course at Tarleton State University.   This challenge required each team to work together and make decisions on how to complete a series of rope course challenges.  

The afternoon mission was a land navigation challenge course back at Hunewell Ranch.   Teams had to locate 20 sites using maps, protractors, and compasses.

McVean found the Gonzales Cup challenge to be a “unique opportunity to demonstrate and sharpen my mission essential skills.  I liked the land navigation challenge as it strengthened my confidence to find a specific spot with maps, coordinates, protractor, and compass.  I am honored to have been a competitor and a member of a great 19th Regiment team.”

On the last day, the final challenge for each team was to create a team movement order for a simulated deployment to assist with the evacuation of 5,000 people from Lake Jackson as a category five hurricane approached the Texas coast.  Teams had to avoid crossing rivers, lakes, and contraflow evacuation routes, in addition to planning for rest stops and gas refueling.   

The Gonzales Cup is named for the famous 1835 Battle of Gonzales, near Gonzales, Texas, where brave and courageous Texians refused to return a cannon to the Mexican Army and told them to “Come and Take It,” which is the motto of the competition.    
 

Agents back to the border

National Guard Troops filling crucial support roles for U.S. Border Patrol

By Maj. Mike Perry, Operation Guardian Support Public Affairs

EDINBURG, Texas – U.S. Border Patrol agents in South Texas are returning to assigned patrol areas along the Mexico border thanks to Texas National Guard personnel assigned to Operation Guardian Support.

Since the Texas National Guard was mobilized to the Southwest border in April, the Rio Grande Valley sector Border Patrol has returned over 20 percent of its ground support law enforcement operations personnel back to patrol.

“Border Patrol operations are continually assessed in various ways to include apprehensions, seizures and turn backs,” said Casey Marchmont, Assistant Operations Officer, USBP Rio Grande Valley Sector. “The return of additional experienced agents to line-watch duties increases efficiency by placing the much-needed boots back on the ground.”

The operational payoff for Texas Guardsmen in supporting roles is not limited to returning agents back to patrol duties. In the early months of the operation, guardsmen monitoring USBP cameras in the RGV sector assisted in more than 2,600 apprehensions and the seizure of almost 6,500 pounds of marijuana. 

Guardsmen assigned to Operation Guardian Support have taken on various supporting roles such as maintaining and repairing infrastructure, clearing vegetation, unloading and loading trucks at ports of entry, repairing emergency beacons, conducting aerial detection and providing logistical support. This varied support, in turn, allows USBP to focus on patrolling the border and enforcing immigration law.

“Our guardsmen’s work in support of this mission is instrumental to the Department of Homeland Security’s goal of enhancing border security and increasing the physical presence of Border Patrol agents along the entire southwest border,” said Col. Rodrigo R. Gonzalez III, Operation Guardian Support Commander. “Our firsthand knowledge of the operating area and our long-standing relationships with federal, state and local law enforcement demonstrates to the nation that our force is ready and trained for any mission at hand.”

Operation Guardian Support consists of Task Forces Anzio, Salerno, Defender and Aviation, which also includes Operation Secure Texas, a separately funded border mission launched in 2014 to coordinate efforts between the Texas Department of Public Safety with Texas National Guard and federal law enforcement to secure Texas’ border with Mexico.
 

 

Texas National Guard conducts border mission Transfer of Authority

Story by Capt. Maria Mengrone, Texas Military Department

MCALLEN, Texas-- After a few weeks of training, Texas National Guard Soldiers began work in their sectors fulfilling administrative, surveillance and maintenance tasks in order to free up agents and assist in border mission efforts as part of Gov. Greg Abbott’s directive of “putting badges back to the border,” Tuesday, May 1, 2018.  (Photos by Army 1st. Lt. Nadine Wiley De Moura, 100th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment/Released)
MCALLEN, Texas-- After a few weeks of training, Texas National Guard Soldiers began work in their sectors fulfilling administrative, surveillance and maintenance tasks in order to free up agents and assist in border mission efforts as part of Gov. Greg Abbott’s directive of “putting badges back to the border,” Tuesday, May 1, 2018.  (Photos by Army 1st. Lt. Nadine Wiley De Moura, 100th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment/Released)

AUSTIN, Texas – The Texas National Guard conducted a transfer of authority on July 12, 2018, for Operation Guardian Support, the ongoing border mission prompted by the president’s call to enhance security along the U.S. southwestern border.

The 136th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, based in Round Rock, relinquished its authority of the border mission, as part of Operation Guardian Support, to the 72nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 36th Infantry Division based in Houston. 
 
The 136th MEB was the first headquarter element tasked to provide operational oversight and implementation of logistical and administrative support to Guardsmen deployed along the 1,254-mile Texas-Mexico border.
 
“As a standing Joint Task Force, the 136th MEB was able to respond to the rapid mobilization and deployment requirements,” said Texas Army National Guard Col. Scott M. MacLeod, commander of the136th MEB.  “Our authorities granted by the U.S. Constitution, combined with our unique military capabilities, make the National Guard the perfect force to bridge the gap between the military and law enforcement.” 
Operation Guardian Support officially kicked off on April 6, 2018, when Gov. Greg Abbott activated 250 Texas National Guardsmen.

Even in the face of challenges with manning, equipment and training Soldiers from across Texas, the 136th MEB was able to successfully establish requirements of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
    
“Our experience in the 2014 border mobilization and previous mobilizations enabled us to anticipate the requirements for the operational environment in which we’d be operating,” said MacLeod. “Both Hurricane Harvey, as well as this recent mobilization, have reminded us that we must be prepared to deploy with no notice in support of our state and nation.”

Guardsmen assigned to Operation Guardian Support are activated under Title 32 duty status, allowing the governor to maintain command and control of the Guard force.  

The troops are assigned to the five CBP sectors in El Paso, Big Bend, Del Rio, Laredo and the Rio Grande Valley.

The border mission has steadily grown to include 1,100 deployed troops, with personnel and aviation assets from other states, including South Carolina, Oklahoma, Georgia, Alabama, Florida and Mississippi. 
  
The 72nd IBCT leadership is prepared and committed to continue the success of the 136th MEB.

“I am truly looking forward to this great opportunity for myself and the 72nd IBCT along with all the units supporting OGS. Any time the 72nd IBCT is selected to conduct a challenging mission, it is a great honor which we will make happen,” said Texas Army National Guard Col. Rodrigo R. Gonzalez, Commander, 72nd IBCT, 36th Infantry Division.  

Guardsmen assigned to Operation Guardian Support have taken on various support roles maintaining and repairing infrastructure, clearing vegetation, unloading and loading trucks at ports of entry, fixing emergency beacons, conducting aerial detection and providing logistical support, while CBP focuses on enforcing immigration law.

The 72nd IBCT’s commander has set forth a clear vision for his Guardsmen as the unit assumes control of the OGS mission, which is currently funded until September 30, 2018.

“My three priorities are to conduct and accomplish the mission to support CBP throughout the Texas border areas, provide support to the three OGS Task Forces so they can execute the mission and improve Soldier readiness and collective training readiness while Soldiers and units are on mission,” said Gonzalez.

Operation Guardian Support consists of Task Force Anzio, Task Force Salerno, Task Force Defender and Task Force Aviation, which also includes Operation Secure Texas, a separately funded Title 32 border mission that launched in 2014 as a coordinated effort between the Texas Department of Public Safety, Texas National Guard and federal law enforcement to secure Texas’ border with Mexico.  
 

Transportation Company sets new National Guard gun crew record

Story by: Spc. Christina Clardy

National Guard soldier manning truck based mounted gun
Photo By Spc. Christina Clardy | The 249th Transportation Company, 372nd Combat Sustainment Support Battalion set a new National Guard record as of June 2018 for being the only sustainment unit to have 32 qualified mounted gun crews. The 36th Infantry Division, Texas Army National Guard transportation company set this new record during their annual training at Fort Hood, Texas. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Christina Clardy, 36th Infantry Division Public Affairs)

FORT HOOD, Texas -- The 249th Transportation Company, 372nd Combat Sustainment Support Battalion of the Texas Army National Guard set a new National Guard record as of June 2018 during their annual training. 

"As it stands right now, no sustainment unit has qualified 32 gun crews in the National Guard," said Capt. Aaron Sanders, commander of the 249th Trans. Co., out of Killeen, Texas. "We started the training in January moving through the process up to our blank fire exercises in February."

These 32 vehicle-mounted crew-served weapon crews are part of larger changes in the U.S. Army and the missions for each type of unit creating new training requirements for transportation units.

"Under the U.S. Army's new modular system, a combat arms unit will no longer be allocated to provide convoy security to logistics convoys," explained Sanders. "So the new unit requirements allot for logistics and sustainment units to be given their own crew-served weapons to provide their own security on convoys. This means that my 39 gun crews in my two transportation platoons will provide their own convoy security as they move people, containers and equipment from point A to point B."

The three-person crews completed their next two levels of exercises during their March, April and May drill weekends. These blocks of training consisted of day and night fire missions with live ammunition. 

"These crews have been putting in extra drill days and our annual training is 21 days this year when normally it's only 15 days," said 1st Sgt. Jason Coates, first sergeant of the 249th "Road Hogs" Trans. Co. "They've had to do a lot of work, and training in things they have never done before. These Soldiers have gone from zero: never doing anything like this, to qualified gun crews in under six months."

The sixth block of training is the qualification level. The minimum score to qualify is 700 points. A score over 800 is "Superior" and a score over 900 is "Distinguished." By June 22, the company had qualified 32 mounted gun crews and set a new record in the National Guard.

"For a bunch of the crews, day fire was really hard but we all still qualified," said Private 1st Class Daniel Hughes, a gun crew gunner in the 249th Trans. Co. "However, my gun crew specifically rocked the night fire. I love being on a gun crew and I love doing this kind of training." 

In February, the 249th was officially identified as a focused readiness unit and given a deadline of the end of June 2018 to meet the readiness standard. An FRU is a National Guard unit that has been placed at a higher state of readiness and will have a shorter time on the mobilization platform when called up. The unit must maintain this higher readiness level and status so that if called upon, the unit can mobilize and be deployed within 30 days. 

372nd CSSB hosts employer visit during annual training

Story by: Spc. Christina Clardy

372nd CSSB Hosts employer visit during annual training
Photo By Spc. Christina Clardy | Fort Hood, TEXAS -- Guardsmen with the 372nd Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 36th Infantry Division, Texas Army National Guard, hosted an employers visitation day during their three week annual training June 22, 2018 at Fort Hood, Texas. About 30 employers visited their employee Guardsmen out in the field for a day of range tours, weapons demonstrations and an airborne jump as part of the Department of Defense's Employer Support for Guard and Reserve program. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Christina Clardy, 36th Infantry Division Public Affairs)

FORT HOOD, Texas - Soldiers with the 372nd Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 36th Sustainment Brigade hosted an employer support of the guard and reserve visitation day during their annual training June 22, 2018.

About 30 employers visited their Texas Army National Guard employees out in the field for a day of range tours, weapons demonstrations and an airborne jump as part of the Department of Defense's ESGR program.

"I think it's great to bring the employers out to visit their employees and our Soldiers in the field," said Lt. Col. John Crawson, commander of the 36th Sustainment Brigade. "It’s important that they see that our Soldiers wear two hats - one as their civilian employee and one as a member of the National Guard serving their communities, their state and their country."

Some Soldiers invited not only employers, but peers from their civilian careers.

"I work for Liberty Mutual Insurance as a senior manager and today I invited other senior managers from different departments within my company," said Capt. Eric P. Amstutz, commander of the 112th Quartermaster Company, 372nd CSSB, out of Corsicana. "They wanted to come out because they have a strong interest in understanding what I do, seeing how we function in an army unit collectively, and how we task out Soldiers to do different events and how we conquer objectives."

Employer visits allow the Soldiers the opportunity to show their bosses and peers more of who they are and what they do when away for military duty.

"I'm also excited to get to show them the other side of me that they never get to see in our corporate world," said Amstutz. "So there is a corporate Eric and there is a Capt. Amstutz that's in the Army. I'm hoping they can see the differences and challenges of being an employee and Guardsmen, but I definitely hope they will be able to see the benefits that can come from both a civilian and a military career."

The employers were flown in by CH-47 Chinook helicopters from Grand Prairie and Austin, to the battalion’s tactical operations center, where they received a briefing about the unit, the Soldiers, the military equipment they use and an overview of recent past missions, such as the battalion's response and actions during Hurricane Harvey.

"We like to demonstrate some of our combat capabilities that we do in the field and showcase our ability to respond to a natural disaster here in the state to support our neighbors and our communities in Texas," said Crawson. "Our Soldiers and their employees are part of a bigger picture both in the national defense plan for the United States and how we support our neighbors and communities here in Texas.

After the briefing, the visitors went to a marksmanship rifle range. There they could climb inside gun-mounted trucks and talk to Soldiers about the static crew-served weapons that were on display. 

"I really appreciate getting to see service members show their expertise in their training and with all the equipment," said Kathleen Harman, a business and leadership professor at Norwich University and professional mediator in partnership with the ESGR. "I can really see now all the minutia that goes into every detail of all training for gunners and drivers inside the cabs of the military trucks."

Employers were allowed to go onto the rifle range to get a first-hand experience of what it takes to qualify with the weapons. Paired with an experienced Soldier, each visitor was given a lesson on safety and proper use of the M4 carbine, and then given the opportunity to fire the rifle in a mock weapons qualification scenario.

"Getting to fire the rifle on the range was fun, but what I really loved was getting to know some of the different Soldiers, hearing what they do and where they are from, and seeing what they do," said Harman. "You get to see and experience first-hand servant leadership through the ranks and through the different training aspects and missions. It's truly incredible."

The tour then moved to a range with an urban training town, nicknamed "shanty-towns," to watch a mounted gun-crew convoy exercise. In the exercise, the crews must react to contact with oppositional forces and respond to simulated crew injuries by calling in a casualty evacuation by helicopter. 

"I come from a really strong military family of three generations," said Harman. "It's really wonderful to see all the different layers of training and how things interplay together. The logistics, the team building, and all the activities in the training that have to happen, it just really makes me appreciate these Guardsmen and their service."

Following the exercise, the employers were taken to their final demonstration - an airborne jump by Soldiers from the 249th Quartermaster Company, 372nd CSSB, out of Fort Worth.

"I think every component of the whole program is really valuable," said Harman. "This experience has really given me a sense of appreciation for what service members go through and all their sacrifices for their training. I know I will be able to take back what I've seen and learned here today to be able to further assist and understand the National Guard and reserve Soldiers I work with."

Past Division Leaders Observe Annual Training Events

Story by: Spc. Christina Clardy

Past Division leaders observe annual training events
Photo By Staff Sgt. Michael Giles | The 36th Infantry Division hosted a former senior leaders reunion during annual training on June 10, 2018 at Fort Hood, Texas. The event allowed past leaders to see the advancements in technology within the military and talk with soldiers about their past experiences in the service. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Michael Giles, 36th Infantry Division)

The 36th Infantry Division hosted former senior leaders to showcase annual training events and brief them on current operations June 10, 2018.

The “Arrowhead Muster Day” allowed past division leaders the chance to meet with current Soldiers and observe the training being conducted during the summer months.

“It’s essential to invite the past leaders of the division out to see the current generation of citizen-Soldiers in action as they conduct collective training across Fort Hood,” said Maj. Gen. S. Lee Henry, the current commanding general of the 36th Inf. Div. “While these retired general officers and command sergeants major get the opportunity to see the transformations of training and technology, we get the benefit of learning from the tremendous wealth of experience and knowledge that they bring to the table.” 

Upon arriving at the division’s operation center, the visitors were flown by a CH-47 Chinook helicopter to watch the 156th Brigade Engineer Battalion train on crew-served weapons at a mounted gunnery range. They had the opportunity to see the new technological advances the military is adapting for use on the battlefield in an effort to better protect Soldiers.

The group then boarded the aircraft again and were flown to the 56th Infantry Brigade Combat Team’s training area, where they were given a tour of the brigade’s operations center and the tactical action center.

“It’s a great opportunity to get back and see the division,” said Brig. Gen. (Ret.) Jim Bisson, who had served in the 36th Infantry Division as an assistant division commander of maneuver.

The distinguished guests then returned to the division’s operations center for an overview briefing with the commanding general and staff officers on recent accomplishments, current changes within the organization, and the future of the division. Among other operations, the briefing showcased the tremendous success of the division during Hurricane Harvey and current missions along the Texas-Mexico border.

“I really enjoyed the briefing about the unit’s participation during Hurricane Harvey and the involvement in programs where Active Duty U.S. Army units are partnering with National Guard units,” said Bisson, referring to the Associated Unit Pilot program, or AUP, in which the division is actively partnered with several units to include the 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team of the 10th Mountain Division out of Fort Polk, La.

The guests also attended a meet and greet with current Soldiers in the division, where they were able to share stories of their experiences serving in the "Texas Division" and enjoy a meal, ready to eat lunch.

“I hope the division continues to do get-togethers like this,” said Bisson. “I think it’s great to be able to keep up with what the unit is doing and see where it is heading in the future.”