The 36th Division holds Change of Command at Texas State Capitol

Photo By Sgt. Michael Giles | The Texas Army National Guard's 36th Infantry Division welcomed Maj. Gen. S. Lee Henry as their new commanding general while expressing praise and appreciation for Maj. Gen. Lester Simpson, who commanded the 36th since 2014, in a ceremony in front of the Texas state capitol building in Austin, Texas, July 15, 2017. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Michael Giles)
Photo By Sgt. Michael Giles | The Texas Army National Guard's 36th Infantry Division welcomed Maj. Gen. S. Lee Henry as their new commanding general while expressing praise and appreciation for Maj. Gen. Lester Simpson, who commanded the 36th since 2014, in a ceremony in front of the Texas state capitol building in Austin, Texas, July 15, 2017. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Michael Giles)

AUSTIN, TX, UNITED STATES

07.15.2017

Story by Spc. Christina Clardy

36th Infantry Division (TXARNG)

 

On the morning of July 15th, Texas' own 36th Infantry Division held a change of command ceremony on the Texas State Capitol steps as Maj. Gen. Lester Simpson, officially relinquished command to the new commander, Maj. Gen. S. Lee Henry. 

The ceremony has traditional significance as the division’s flag, or "colors," is passed from the outgoing commander, to their senior commander, who then passes the colors to the incoming commander. 

"This change of command is a great time for us," said Texas Adjutant General, Maj. Gen. John F. Nichols. "It allows the outgoing commander to leave their mark on the formation and the incoming commander to take that mark, improve it and make it even greater.

"I think the greatest compliment someone can get is, 'well-done soldier,'" said Nichols. "So, to you Lester [Simpson], well done Soldier." Thirteen rounds of cannon fire, which echoed across downtown, were fired in honor of the outgoing commander and his service to the nation and state.

Simpson, who received a commission as an officer in the Army National Guard in 1980 from the University of Texas at Arlington, retired after 37 years of service in a ceremony following the change of command. A native of Rowlett, Texas, he recently retired from the United Parcel Service (UPS) of North America after 33 years of dedicated service. He and his wife Antoinette have four children: Lester Jr., Solomon, Nathan, and Morgan.

Henry recently returned from Kandahar, Afghanistan, where he had commanded the Train, Advise, and Assist Command -- South (NATO) and represented the first time a National Guard Division Headquarters had commanded a Regional Command in Afghanistan.

"I am truly honored to command the 'Fighting 36th' Infantry Division who will celebrate it's 100th anniversary on Tuesday [July 18th]," said Henry. "Now more than ever, the Army is turning to the National Guard… [and] we will answer the call whether it comes from the governor or the president."

Maj. Gen. Henry, who was recently promoted to that rank, received his commission in 1983 as the Distinguished Military Graduate from the Texas A&M University in College Station, where he has Master degrees in Business Administration and Strategic Studies. As a civilian, he is employed by SAP, Inc. He currently lives in Austin with his wife Tricia, and together, they have three children and one grandchild.

"To the Soldiers of the 36th Infantry Division, our foundation will be individual and collective readiness," said Henry. "The 36th is recognized by both the National Guard and Active Duty Army for its excellence and consistently setting the standard for other divisions to follow."

The 36th Inf. Div. of the Texas Army National Guard, which is headquartered at Camp Mabry in Austin, is made up of five brigades and more than 14,000 soldiers. Since Sept. 11, 2001, the division has trained and mobilized a total of 30,000 soldiers in support of combat operations, natural disaster relief, and border security.

Texas Guard welcomes first female Sapper commander

Courtesy Photo | Texas Army National guardsmen Capt. Amanda Windle (left), the incoming commander of the 936th Engineer Company, receives the company guidon from Lt. Col. Matthew Calton (center), 111th Engineer Battalion Commander, 176th Engineer Brigade while outgoing commander Capt. Eric Burnett (right) and 1st. Sgt. Denton Humphery look on. Windle became the first female commander of a Sapper unit in the Texas Army National Guard the unit is based in San Angelo, Texas, June 11, 2017. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Courtesy Photo)
Courtesy Photo | Texas Army National guardsmen Capt. Amanda Windle (left), the incoming commander of the 936th Engineer Company, receives the company guidon from Lt. Col. Matthew Calton (center), 111th Engineer Battalion Commander, 176th Engineer Brigade while outgoing commander Capt. Eric Burnett (right) and 1st. Sgt. Denton Humphery look on. Windle became the first female commander of a Sapper unit in the Texas Army National Guard the unit is based in San Angelo, Texas, June 11, 2017. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Courtesy Photo)

SAN ANGELO, TX, UNITED STATES

07.11.2017

Story by Capt. Maria Mengrone 

176th Engineer Brigade (TXARNG)  

 

SAN ANGELO, Texas – The Texas Army National Guard welcomed Capt. Amanda Windle as its first female Sapper commander during a change of command ceremony for the 936th Engineer Company based in San Angelo, Texas, June 11, 2017.

The role of females serving in combat engineer positions opened on January 2016, that change allowed women, such as Windle, to serve in positions once available only to men.

“I am excited to see our Soldiers take pride in what they achieve, to ask questions, and challenge them to do their best,” said newly-appointed 936th Engineer Company Commander Capt. Amanda Windle. “It is an honor to both lead and serve alongside my Soldiers and leaders.”

A Sapper unit is a group of highly-skilled 12B combat engineers prepared to lay or clear minefields, field defenses, bridge-build, employ demolitions and perform other engineer tasks expertly. 

"Engineer leaders within Texas selected the best candidate to fulfill the 936th command slot, I am confident CPT Windle will exercise her duties and responsibilities in a proficient manner and professionally lead the unit towards achieving its mission and purpose," said Battalion Commander Lt. Col. Matthew Calton of the 111th Engineer Battalion headquarted in Abilene, Texas.

Windle commissioned through the Texas Tech University ROTC program in 2011. In her civilian employment, she is a project engineer for a real estate development firm. 

“We have quite a few new Soldiers coming into the unit and we look forward to safely training them to standard,” said Windle. 

Soldiers of the unit are moving forward and are prepared for any changes implemented by the new command team. 

“I hope that the leaders of the 936th understand their role to ensure the Soldiers now and in the future are taken care of,” said Sgt. 1st Class Stormy Barnum, Readiness Non-Commissioned Officer for the 936th Engineer Company. “If they train their Soldiers properly, through promotions and moves then Soldiers will infect the Texas Army National Guard and make it a better organization.”

There are several Soldiers that hold the coveted Sapper Tab within the unit. Windle looks forward to supporting her Soldiers attending this course in the near future. 

The Sapper Leader Course is a grueling 28-day course designed to train joint-service leaders in small unit tactics, leadership skills, and tactics required to perform as part of a combined arms team. Upon successfully completion the Soldier will earn the right to wear a left-shoulder Sapper Tab.

While looking ahead at her own professional growth Windle is also focused on her Soldiers and family. 

“I first want to get to know my Soldiers and their backgrounds. I also look forward to meeting their families as well,” said Windle. “My next steps are getting though my command successfully and representing the 111th Engineer Battalion and 176th Engineer Brigade with honor,” said Windle. “I also want to specially thank my family for their continued support.”

Air National Guard Band brings chords of the cosmos to Southwest

Photo By Staff Sgt. Kristina Overton | Master Sgt. Matt Wittman, Band of the Southwest instrumentalist, plays the tuba during an outdoor performance at Posse Ground Park June 29 in Sedona, AZ. The band performed at ten venues during its 14-day summer tour through Arizona and New Mexico. (Texas Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Kristina Overton)
Photo By Staff Sgt. Kristina Overton | Master Sgt. Matt Wittman, Band of the Southwest instrumentalist, plays the tuba during an outdoor performance at Posse Ground Park June 29 in Sedona, AZ. The band performed at ten venues during its 14-day summer tour through Arizona and New Mexico. (Texas Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Kristina Overton) 

RUIDOSO, NM, UNITED STATES

07.01.2017

Story by: Staff Sgt. Kristina Overton

136th Airlift Wing/Public Affairs (Texas Air National Guard)

 

The Air National Guard Band of the Southwest contributes its musical talents to maintaining the morale and esprit de corps of the military, fostering community relations, and supporting the recruiting effort.

To accomplish its mission, the Band of the Southwest, also known as the 531st Air Force Band, embarked on a 14-day summer tour to Arizona and New Mexico June 22. The tour will conclude in Las Cruces, NM, July 4, before returning to its home station at Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base. 

“With Independence Day around the corner, we wanted to feature the music of some American composers and Hollywood legends,” said Lt. Col. Eric Patterson, Band of the Southwest commander. “Our sponsors in Roswell, NM also asked us to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the closing of Walker Air Force Base and the 70th anniversary of the “alien landing” at Roswell, so we are performing music associated with space movies.”

The tour consists of ten performances and thus far, venues have included Northern Arizona University, playing for the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field, Sedona’s Posse Ground Park, and the New Mexico Military Institute. Highlighting a wide variety of music, the band incorporated selections from Star Trek, Star Wars, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Beauty and the Beast, as well as pieces from famous composers William Grant Still and John Phillip Sousa. The concerts end with a patriotic tribute to service members and their families from all branches of the Armed Forces. 

“The Band also features nationally-known stars whenever possible,” Patterson said. “For instance, in Flagstaff Mr. David Cripps, artistic director of Orchestra Northern Arizona, guest conducted. Cripps is world-famous as one of the principal French horn soloist of the London Symphony and performed the recordings of the original Star Wars and Superman movies. We were privileged to have Judith Anne Still, president of William Grant Still Music, attend a concert at the Northern Arizona University and the mayor and vice-mayor of Sedona, AZ serving as honorary conductors as well.”

The Band of the Southwest is one of five Air National Guard bands that perform within the continental United States. Through music, the group shares the Air National Guard story with civilian audiences, reminding them of the citizen airmen serving from Fort Worth, Texas to Afghanistan. 

The Band of the Southwest features 36 guardsmen consisting of part-time musicians with full-time civilian careers. They come with a variety of experience and expertise, including active duty service in the Air Force and other branches of the military. Among the performers are music educators, university administrators, business professionals, and public servants, all committed to serving their fellow citizens as fully-trained, always ready members of the Air National Guard.

“In my civilian career, I work as the director of information technology for a strategic marketing firm,” said Master Sgt. Matt Wittman, Band of the Southwest Public Affairs manager. “I served for 20 years in the Ohio Air National Guard, and almost four years in the Texas Air National Guard. I remain in the guard not only to continue serving our country, but also because I passionately believe in the importance of the overarching public outreach mission of military bands across the country and around the world. It provides the chance to interact with communities throughout the nation, inspire patriotism and support for the military and country.” 

The rest of the bands tour schedule will include:

July 1: Spencer Theater - Alto, NM
July 2: Ruidoso Downs - Ruidoso Downs, NM
Capitan Fairgrounds - Capitan, NM
July 3: Downtown Mall - Las Cruces, NM
July 4: New Mexico State University - Las Cruces, NM
Field of Dreams - Las Cruces, NM

To learn more about opportunities with the Air National Guard Band of the Southwest, or to view the upcoming tour schedule, visit their Facebook website or www.bandofthesouthwest.ang.af.mil.

Texas Guardsmen parachute into Canyon Lake

TX, UNITED STATES

06.28.2017

By Staff Sgt. Bethany Anderson

100th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

 

LAKE CANYON, Texas – Thirty six Texas Guardsmen from the Special Operations Detachment-Africa, dropped from a helicopter hovering above Lake Canyon Saturday, June, 24th 2017, as zodiac boats circled, waiting to recover the paratroopers and their chutes. 

Jumping from an aircraft into a lake 1500 feet below may seem extreme to some, but for the soldiers of SOD-A, it was just another day on the job – a job that requires extreme training and an extreme commitment.

Those elite soldiers, whom made the jump are part of Special Operations Command-Africa, headquartered in Stuttgart, Germany and are trained to rapidly establish, execute, and support all functions of a Special Operations Task Force anywhere in the world. But when the high-temp unit isn’t deployed, they are training in Texas said Texas Army National Guard Col. Timothy Ochsner, the detachment’s commander.

“Parachute operations are a quarterly requirement for soldiers to maintain their airborne proficiency,” said Ochsner, who has been with the unit since its inception in 2012. “Planning this training event allows the unit to exercise logistical planning, execution, as well as command and control. It ensures that SOD-A is always ready to conduct any real-world mission it is called upon to execute.” 

Sgt. 1st Class Tim Kennedy, SOD-A assistant operations noncommissioned officer was the first soldier to jump out of the Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter during SOD-A’s parachute operations on Joint Base San Antonio Recreation Park Saturday morning. After the jump, Kennedy said a deep-rooted belief in selfless service and mission accomplishment is what fuels the Texas Army National Guard soldiers in SOD-A. 

“This is the only thing that’s actually important – selfless service,” said Kennedy. “Finding an idea that’s more important than you, and being there for the man on your left and right is what this unit is all about.” 

Many of the unit’s soldiers have more than 15 years of military service and some have as many as 30. With four deployments in eight months, and many more on the horizon, the soldiers of SOD-A make innumerable sacrifices to ensure that the people and the country they love are protected. 

Texas Guardsmen in the Special Operations Detachment appreciate and value the importance of the unit’s mission to promote regional stability within Africa and combat terrorism globally, but say what really adds meaning to their profession is the common goal of protecting their families, their United States, and each other. 

“Foreign internal defense missions are very relevant to our country. We’re training these armies in command and control,” said Texas Army National Guard Lt. Col. David Green, SOD-A Command Judge Advocate. 

“Terrorism is a global threat and if Africa can’t fight that threat, it affects the U.S.”

The jump into Canyon Lake is just another example the detachments level of readiness, something Kennedy says takes a special kind of soldier.

“We do the mission that no one else could,” said Kennedy. “We have the ability to adapt with any culture and any race in any country and have mission success.” 

HIMARS demonstration thrills visitors at Family Day

Photo By Maj. Randall Stillinger | Crews from the 4th Battalion of the 133rd Field Artillery Regiment (HIMARS), attached to the 71st Expeditionary Military Intelligence Brigade, 36th Infantry Division, Texas Army National Guard hosted a Family Day on Saturday, June 25, at Fort Hood, Texas. Families, friends, and civilian co-workers and employers were invited to Fort Hood to see their soldier in action and witness a demonstration of the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) as the unit is spending its two weeks of annual training running operations, fire missions, and completing their annual proficiency certifications. (U.S. Army Photo by Maj. Randall Stillinger, 36th Infantry Division Public Affairs)
Photo By Maj. Randall Stillinger | Crews from the 4th Battalion of the 133rd Field Artillery Regiment (HIMARS), attached to the 71st Expeditionary Military Intelligence Brigade, 36th Infantry Division, Texas Army National Guard hosted a Family Day on Saturday, June 25, at Fort Hood, Texas. Families, friends, and civilian co-workers and employers were invited to Fort Hood to see their soldier in action and witness a demonstration of the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) as the unit is spending its two weeks of annual training running operations, fire missions, and completing their annual proficiency certifications. (U.S. Army Photo by Maj. Randall Stillinger, 36th Infantry Division Public Affairs) 

FORT HOOD, TX, UNITED STATES

06.24.2017

Story by Spc. Christina Clardy 

36th Infantry Division (TXARNG)  

 

FORT HOOD, TEXAS - Soldiers of the 4th Battalion, 133rd Field Artillery Regiment (HIMARS), attached to the 71st Expeditionary Military Intelligence Brigade, 36th Infantry Division, Texas Army National Guard hosted a Family Day on Saturday, June 25, during their two-week annual training at Fort Hood, Texas.

Families, friends, and civilian co-workers and employers were invited to Fort Hood to see their soldier in action and witness a demonstration of the training they are currently undergoing.

The 4-133rd FAR is specifically designated a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System unit and is spending it's two weeks of annual training running operations, fire missions, and completing their annual proficiency certifications. 

"For the past week our crews have been running 24-hour operations and each crew has completed dozens of day and night fire missions," said 2nd Lt. Ross Gilfillan, 2nd Platoon Leader for Battery A, 4-133rd FAR (HIMARS). "There is a lot of precision required for a successful crew, and these crews are truly proficient."

On Saturday, the families and visitors were bussed to the range over-watch tower where they could safely watch the HIMARS demonstration. The battalion set up static displays of the launchers, rocket tubes and the loading systems for the visitors to see, touch and take pictures in.

"Family day gives the soldiers a chance to show their families, friends and employers what they do when they leave home and come to their military jobs here in the National Guard," said Gilfillan. "They can show them how hard they are working, the jobs they are learning and the skills they are perfecting. It also gives the families an opportunity to see the equipment up close and the thrill of seeing the rockets shoot off."

The 4-133rd FAR (HIMARS) gathered small groups of children to give to the command “fire” into the radio to signal the soldiers to launch a rocket. The demonstration was met with cheers and “ooos” from the crowd as they watched the rockets launch in the air leaving plumes of white smoke and a thunderous concussion.

"This is my first time on a HIMARS crew and I've got to tell you -- it's a total blast!" said Private James Moore, a HIMARS crew driver from 2nd Platoon, Btry. A. "My family came out here for Family Day and I hope they think all of this is as cool as I do."

The HIMARS is a light multiple rocket launcher mounted on a medium-sized tactical truck. Each launcher is run by a crew of three personnel and can fire either six 227mm M270 rockets or one MGM-140 Army Tactical Missile System surface-to-surface missile. It has a range of approximately 100 miles and a 360 degree firing radius. This HIMARS is an improved upgrade from the launcher pod system originally mounted to Bradley tank frames. This upgrade makes the truck, frame and launcher pod much lighter, which allows the system to be more easily loaded and deployed off of a plane than its tank-track predecessor.

Texas Army National Guard Soldiers Support Exercise Saber Strike 17 in Lithuania

Texas Army National Guard SGT Mark DeLeon, center, 100th  Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, and SGT Amberlee Boverhuis, right, 100th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment interview U.S. and  Czech Soldiers supporting Operation Saber Strike 17, in Pabrade, Lithuania, June 9, 2017. Texas Guardsmen joined more than 11,000 Soldiers from 20 countries to support the U.S. Army Europe-led cooperative training exercise, designed to promote interoperability with allies and regional partners, while improving joint operational capability in a variety of missions. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Mark Otte)
Texas Army National Guard SGT Mark DeLeon, center, 100th  Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, and SGT Amberlee Boverhuis, right, 100th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment interview U.S. and  Czech Soldiers supporting Operation Saber Strike 17, in Pabrade, Lithuania, June 9, 2017. Texas Guardsmen joined more than 11,000 Soldiers from 20 countries to support the U.S. Army Europe-led cooperative training exercise, designed to promote interoperability with allies and regional partners, while improving joint operational capability in a variety of missions. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Mark Otte)

Building international friendships

Commentary by: 1st Lt Allegra Boutch

Dated: June 19, 2017

 

PABRADE, Lithuania — What started as a mission to provide Public Affairs support to an international exercise turned into a journey building friendships with partner militaries and an experience that would last a lifetime.

We left Texas on June 4, 2017; eight Texas Army National Guard soldiers from the 100th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, stationed in Austin, Texas and traveled to the Baltics to support a training exercise that spanned through four countries and brought together 11,000 soldiers from 20 nations.

Our mission? To provide Public Affairs support to the exercise in Pabrade and Vilnuis, Lithuania, June 5-19, 2017.

Saber Strike 17, an exercise designed to promote regional stability and security while strengthening partner capabilities and fostering trust, is the sixth iteration of the exercise, but the first, in the series, that Texas Guardsmen have provided public affairs support for.

The exercise series facilitates cooperation between the U.S., Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland and other Allied and partnered nations to improve joint operational capacity in a variety of capabilities.

While on the ground, we provided photo, video and print journalism coverage for training and field operations.

“I think the stories we put out are key to capturing what our multinational partnerships are all about,” said Sgt. Mark Otte, one of our newest soldiers to the unit. “We are sharing soldier stories for families back home and providing transparency. Public support is key, and I think our role will ultimately have a hand in the strength of next year’s exercise.”

Working in the multi-national environment gave us an opportunity to both work alongside and talk to leaders from partner nations about our joint mission.

“NATO’s mission is not a standalone mission,” said Col. Jakob Larsen, commander of the Lithuanian NATO Force Integration Units. “We are not only working hand-in-hand with the Americans for Saber Strike but also with the host nation [Lithuania]. I think it is important that you are transparent and predictable so that your neighbors will not be concerned about what you do.”

During the 13 days spent in the Baltic state, our team published seven print stories, eight videos and over 150 photos shared by the Armed Forces Network, the National Guard Bureau and other publishing agencies.

The challenge of coming to an exercise where we’re covering operations for 20 participating nations across four different countries was absolutely logistical.

The benefit of bringing an MPAD to Saber Strike, however, wasn’t just that we are able to accomplish our mission with limited resources and information, but as we build our network, we were able to contribute to the multinational partnerships with every interaction and every interview we had.

While in the region we also partnered with Lithuanian and Croatian public affairs officers to collaborate, share information and learn what each of us could do to improve our own public affairs practices.

My hope is through the images we took our soldiers will never forget the friendships built here, and the world will see the strength of our convictions.

NATO Allies and partnered nations celebrate U.S. Army 242nd birthday with U.S. forces

Photo By Sgt. Samuel De Leon | Lt. Col. Jason Benson with the 2-136th Combined Arms Battalion receives a traditional Lithuanian cake from Col. Arturas Radvilas, commander of the Motorised Infantry Brigade Žemaitija, in honor of the U.S. Army 242nd birthday June 14, 2017 in Pabrade, Lithuania. Croatian, Norwegian, Lithuanian, German, Portuguese and Army National Guard forces from Pennsylvania and Minnesota also joined them during the celebration during Exercise Iron Wolf 17. (Texas Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Samuel De Leon, 100th
Photo By Sgt. Samuel De Leon | Lt. Col. Jason Benson with the 2-136th Combined Arms Battalion receives a traditional Lithuanian cake from Col. Arturas Radvilas, commander of the Motorised Infantry Brigade Žemaitija, in honor of the U.S. Army 242nd birthday June 14, 2017 in Pabrade, Lithuania. Croatian, Norwegian, Lithuanian, German, Portuguese and Army National Guard forces from Pennsylvania and Minnesota also joined them during the celebration during Exercise Iron Wolf 17. (Texas Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Samuel De Leon, 100th 

PABRADE, LITHUANIA

06.14.2017

Story by 1st Lt. Allegra Boutch

100th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

 

PABRADE, Lithuania—U.S. Army Soldiers from the Texas, Pennsylvania, and Minnesota National Guard celebrated the U.S. Army birthday, June 14, 2017, during Exercise Iron Wolf 17 in Pabrade, Lithuania. The celebration hosted by the 2-136 Combined Arms Battalion, and led by Lt. Col. Jason Benson, 2-136 CAB commander, was attended by soldiers from Croatian, Norwegian, Lithuanian and other allied forces. 

The celebration illustrated the bonds formed during participation in the multinational exercise, designed to enhance the U.S. force’s professional relationships and improve coordination with NATO Allies and partnered militaries during times of crisis. The exercise falls under the U.S. Army Europe-led theater exercise, Saber Strike 17, which involves 20 countries and over 11,000 soldiers. 

During the celebration, Benson thanked NATO Allies and was honored with a traditional Lithuanian cake, presented by Col. Arturas Radvilas, commander of the Motorised Infantry Brigade Žemaitija. 

“Thank you NATO Allies whom we consider dear friends for being here tonight,” Benson said. “Traditionally—regardless of location—Soldiers pause to observe our birthday by sharing a cake and usually, a holiday meal.”

Following U.S. Army tradition, the first piece of cake was cut by the oldest Soldier in the command, signifying the honor and respect accorded to experience and seniority. The oldest Soldier at the celebration was SSG Klee Smith, who served the first piece of cake to the youngest Soldier, PFC George Ongoro. 

To one attendee, the celebration symbolized the importance of these long term partnerships standing shoulder to shoulder as they look forward to the future. 

“It’s nice seeing everyone come out,” said SSG John Michael with the Higher Headquarters Command 134 Brigade Support Battalion. “Having the other forces here is key to our multinational partnership.”

These partnerships unambiguously demonstrate the NATO Allies and partnered nations’ determination and ability to act as one in response to any potential and actual threats in the Baltic States. The time soldiers took to celebrate that partnership during the 242nd U.S. Army birthday, only strengthened the relationships which could play a critical role in the nations’ future battles.

State Employees at Texas Military Department Reach New High in Charitable Giving

AUSTIN, TX, UNITED STATES

06.01.2017

Story by Sgt. Mark Otte 

Texas Military Department

 

AUSTIN, Texas--The Texas Military Department was recognized at the annual State Employee Charitable Campaign awards banquet, February 16, 2017, in Austin, for its marked jump in giving. Contributions from individuals employed by the agency were up over 100 percent from the previous year with receipts that totaled just short of $20,000.

The two-month long campaign, which runs from September to October, has been providing state employees a safe, reliable way to make contributions to charities since 1994, and topped the $8 million mark in total giving for 2016. 

With approximately 500 state employees, the Texas Military Department set a goal to raise $12,000 in 2016, a goal that was almost doubled because of the hard work of campaign co-chairs, Emily Bell, and Tanya Kelly, said Bill Wilson, the Executive Director of the Texas Military Department.

“I have been so impressed with dedication of those two,” Wilson said. “This effort is not a duty assignment, it is beyond the scope of their daily work, but their passion for charity is infectious and has really energized the campaign.”

While the three were happy to be recognized at the awards banquet, they said that the energy spent on the campaign wasn’t focused on winning trophies or awards, but rather to share the opportunity to truly give back to those in need.

"It isn't necessarily about the amount of money we raise," said Bell. "It's about letting everyone know about the opportunity they have, and to grow participation in the program."

While the brunt of the work for the campaign was done by Kelly and Bell, Maj. Gen. John F. Nichols, the adjutant general for Texas, said that participation in the State Employee Charitable Campaign was a priority from the top down.

"Giving back to the communities where we live, work and serve is something that the Texas Military Department has always taken pride in," said Nichols. "The continued growth in participation in the SECC says a lot about the kind of people who serve day to day as employees of the Texas Military Department."

One faction of the Texas Military Department, the maintenance crew at Camp Mabry, continued its long-standing tradition of 100 percent participation among its employees, an effort that didn't go unnoticed at the front office.

"Peter Byers is a great asset to have on your team," said Kelly, of the head of that department. "He leads by example and encourages everyone around him to get involved, even if it is in a small way."

While Bell and Kelly will continue to take the point next year, they said that new members could expect to help organize and coordinate events that boost giving. Last year the duo hosted a myriad of events intended to amplify participation in the program, and with additional help, hope to expand those efforts. 

Waffle Wednesday was an instant hit and is sure to return this year, according to the organizers. A Hallowing costume contest--in which participates entry fee was participation in the SECC-- gave the largest boost in terms of dollars given last year.

The charities employees can choose from are vetted by the campaign so participants can feel secure when giving to organizations through this program. Contributions through the SECC are made via a payroll deduction to make giving convenient. The catalog of participating charities does vary from year to year, but anyone can submit a charity for addition to the list.

The SECC campaign was created by legislation in 1993 and is for state agency and higher education employees throughout Texas. Those on the federal side are able to participate in the Combined Federal Campaign each year. 

If a Texas Military Department state employee wants to join the team and help with the 2017 campaign, they are encouraged to contact Emily Bell at StarBase Austin.

"We need people to contact one of these two and let them know they want to get involved,” Wilson said. "Now is a great time to say, 'I want to be a part of this."

Taking weather to new heights

Photo By Staff Sgt. Kristina Overton | Members of the 181st Weather Flight parachute into Lake Worth after jumping out of a C-130 Hercules during a deliberate water drop in Forth Worth, Texas, May 20, 2017. The training mission was scheduled for members to practice airborne covert water parachute infiltration and included a joint effort between the Texas Air National Guard, Army, Coast Guard Auxiliary, and local fire department. (Texas Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Kristina Overton)
Photo By Staff Sgt. Kristina Overton | Members of the 181st Weather Flight parachute into Lake Worth after jumping out of a C-130 Hercules during a deliberate water drop in Forth Worth, Texas, May 20, 2017. The training mission was scheduled for members to practice airborne covert water parachute infiltration and included a joint effort between the Texas Air National Guard, Army, Coast Guard Auxiliary, and local fire department. (Texas Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Kristina Overton)

FORT WORTH, TX, UNITED STATES

05.23.2017

Story by Staff Sgt. Kristina Overton

136th Airlift Wing (Texas Air National Guard)  

 

Among the most highly trained fleet of Airmen in the Texas Air National Guard are those from the Air Force Special Operations Weather Team. Far from the typical expectation of meteorologists, Air Force Special Operations Weather Team (SOWT) airmen undergo unique training to operate in hostile and denied territories to provide on-the-ground weather reporting to Air Force and joint service special operations units. SOWT members maintain weather and weapon system qualifications in addition to advanced special tactics skills which provide them with expertise needed to gather, assess, and interpret environmental data and forecast operational impacts in deployed locations.

To stay current in their capabilities, SOWT airmen from the 181st Weather Flight, 136th Airlift Wing, Texas Air National Guard, stationed at the Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base executed a deliberate water jump into Lake Worth in Fort Worth, Texas, May 20, 2017. The training mission was scheduled for members to practice airborne covert water parachute infiltration and included a joint effort between the Texas Air National Guard, Army, Coast Guard Auxiliary, and local fire department.

“This was a big tactical training day for us and the first time any unit has parachuted into Lake Worth,” said Senior Master Sgt. Andrew Hobbs, 181st Weather Flight superintendent. “An intentional water drop is done to put us offshore where we can quietly swim in to reach an objective and remain uncompromised. Typically due to logistics it is easier for us to go and train with a larger unit that has more support capability. So, for us to pull this off and be able to coordinate with internal and external state and federal agencies improved our relations and strengthened our overall capabilities as a force and unit."

The mission allowed 12 service members to parachute out of a C-130 Hercules from an altitude of 1000 feet into Lake Worth using MC-6 parachutes. Members of the local fire department and Coast Guard Auxiliary provided boat support to aid in parachute and jumper recovery, and provide medevac capabilities if necessary.

“This was the first time we were able to do something like this as far as recovery,” said Ralph Diamond, Fort Worth Fire Department battalion chief. “There are more than 900 firefighters in the city with a lot of diverse backgrounds and skills sets, and several of those guys also serve in the military. We were able to utilize those internal relationships to train on things that we don’t have the opportunity to do as often. We also get to improve our methods on-the- ground, as far as communication and working through these missions to make sure they run smoothly in the
future. It truly benefits both sides and it was very exciting to see some of our own jumping out of that aircraft.”

Master Sgt. James Henderson, 181st Weather Flight special operations weatherman, one of the six guardsmen who also serves as a fireman with the Fort Worth Fire Department said the jump was successful and enjoyed working with both agencies.

“It really went great,” Henderson said. “Everyone came together and worked really well to make the mission happen. Working with other branches of special operations and being able to integrate the local department was helpful because it connects different agencies and allows us to work side-by- side to provide response and recovery that could be used in the future. It helps to rehearse and go over any potential malfunctions or mishaps, that way we are always ready.”

Teamwork is an essential element for SOWT members, as they regularly work with different services and organizations. Sergeant Hobbs concluded that without the assistance of everyone involved, there could be no mission success.

“It’s really all thanks to the people who helped out," Hobbs said. "Without them -- the aircrew, operations group, Carswell Field senior leadership and the city of Fort Worth, it wouldn’t have happened. We are a small unit so we rely heavily on other people to help us out. Having the special operations detachment, the 294th Quartermaster unit from Austin, the Fort Worth Fire Department and Lake Rangers, and Coast Guard Auxiliary assist and be a part of this coordination and mission made all the difference.”