Texas Guard engineer battalion leans forward in training MDMP to new lieutenants

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Photo By Capt. Aaron Moshier | 1st Lt. Tiffany Finch, logistics officer, 386th Engineer Battalion presents her brief after receiving military decision making process training during annual training, 9-14 July 2017, Camp Swift, Texas. The MDMP training is offered through experienced trainers of the Army National Guard’s Mission Command Training Group based in Ft. Leavenworth, Kan. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Courtesy photo)

TX, UNITED STATES

07.20.2017

Story by Capt. Maria Mengrone

176th Engineer Brigade (TXARNG)

 

CAMP SWIFT, Texas – Newly assigned lieutenants and staff of the 386th Engineer Battalion, 176th Engineer Brigade received critical training in the military decision making process during annual training, 9-14 July, 2017, Camp Swift, Texas. 

The military decision making process (MDMP) is an Army seven-step method used to guide decision-making on and off the battlefield. 

“Since we have so many new lieutenants added to the staff it seemed like a fantastic training opportunity,” said Battalion Commander Lt. Col. Tony Miles of the 386th Engineer Battalion and resident of Lincoln, Neb. “I want to introduce them to the mindset and the mechanism that they’re going to utilize throughout their careers.”

The group of approximately 12 staff officers worked in their respective sections with close oversight from experienced trainers of the Army National Guard’s Mission Command Training Support Program (MCTSP) based in Ft. Leavenworth, Kan.

“We make sure they understand not only the "how" of mission command and the military decision making process but the "why" of each step, input and output,” said Doctrinal Training Team Leader John C. White resident of Austin, Texas. 

The six-day training consists of hypothetical scenarios designed to challenge and promote communication across staff sections. 

“It’s a complex process that requires us to work with each other regardless of section; you have to work with others to get help,” said 1st Lt. Cory Ferguson, administrative officer, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 386th Engineer Battalion, 176th Engineer Brigade resident of Corpus Christi, Texas.

The staff exercise training is structured to enable commanders to train their staff to perform essential battle command planning, coordination, integration, synchronization, and control function.

“The more they see and apply MDMP the better officers they’re going to be,” said Miles.

The MDMP training is designed to meet the needs of the units requesting the training. 

“Even many captain’s that haven't served on a staff long may not be familiar or proficient in the operations process,” said White. “We simply tailor our instruction to the staff's experience level. We may have to take some steps slower, explain more or reduce the complexity of the mission or problem they are facing.”

The end goal is to ensure new lieutenants and staff can convert vast amounts of data into meaningful information allowing commanders to make well-informed decisions. 

“I’m excited to be able to get feedback during this training so as a staff we can give a better presentation and product to the commander,” said Ferguson.

Although this training was primarily geared toward new lieutenants of the 386th Engineer Battalion the MDMP training offered through MCTSP is open and available to other units.

“It’s a really good program for units to use and improve their staffs. It’s a one stop shop where we bring all the products and training material that’s designed with the commander's intent for training in mind. It doesn't cost the unit any money and they just need to commit the right personnel and time to make it effective,” said White.

Texas Guard transitions border mission to training operation

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Texas Army National Guard Soldier observes a section of the Rio Grande River, along the Texas-Mexico border. The Texas Military Department's mission in support of Operation Strong Texas transitioned from an operational state active duty mission to a federal Title 32 training mission, July 2017. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Maj. Randall Stillinger)

07.18.2017

Story by: Capt. Martha Nigrelle

 

RIO GRANDE VALLEY, Texas - Operation Secure Texas, a once State Active Duty operational mission for the Texas Guard, will transition to a federally funded Title 32 training mission, late July 2017. 

The transition will allow service members to conduct hands-on training and improve unit readiness, while still providing partner agencies their unique capabilities along the Texas-Mexico border.

On July 17, 2017, Gov. Greg Abbott announced Texas will receive funding from the federal government in support of Operation Secure Texas and transition the Texas Guardsmen supporting this operation to a federal status.

“The National Guard Bureau has allocated $19 million, appropriated by the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense for FY17, for the four border states, California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas, to plan, coordinate, manage and conduct additional training missions along the border to increase readiness,” said Lt. Col. Travis Walters, Texas Military Department State Public Affairs Officer. “The benefit of this transition is our ability to conduct realistic, hands-on training on many of our mission essential tasks, work alongside our partner agencies and provide an incidental benefit to the Texas Department of Public Safety’s efforts to prevent pervasive criminal elements from crossing into the U.S.”

The transition will not impact the mission of the Texas National Guard or its role in protecting and serving the citizens of Texas, said Walters. But it may improve their readiness.

The transition to a training mission will enable service members to train on more than 30 required tasks in a realistic environment, while also working in a joint environment.

“Our mission in supporting both the state and nation, whenever we are called, almost always puts us in a joint environment, working alongside partner local, state and federal agencies or partner militaries,” said Walters. “Successful synchronization of operations with partner agencies and communication across a joint network are absolutely essential skills for our Guardsmen to have whether we are responding to a hurricane here in Texas or supporting combat operations overseas.”

From the outside, the Texas Military Department’s role in supporting Operation Secure Texas really won’t change.

They will still serve under the command and control of the Governor and they will still work alongside and in support of DPS.

The unique, dual mission of the National Guard allows Guardsmen to act as a bridge between our civilian agencies and the Department of Defense.

Federal law provides the Governor with the ability to place a Soldier in a full-time duty status under the command and control of the state but be directly funded with federal dollars.

For example, U.S. Code Title 32 states that the Secretary of Defense may provide funds to a Governor to employ National Guard units or members to conduct homeland defense activities that the Secretary determines necessary and appropriate for participation by the National Guard.

When it comes to support of Operation Secure Texas, service members will conduct diverse joint training operations ranging from command post operations, to convoy operations and communicating in a joint environment.

“Our mission in the Texas National Guard is to provide the Governor and the President with ready forces in support of state and federal authorities at home and abroad and this transition to a training mission, will only increase our ability to do so,” said Walters. “We are committed to serving our state and nation whenever we are called.”

36th Infantry Division Celebrates 100th Anniversary

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Photo By Spc. Christina Clardy | AUSTIN, Texas -- The 36th Infantry Division marched over the Congress Avenue Bridge to the Texas State Capitol in Austin on July 16. The division marched in to commemorate the unit's 100th anniversary [July 18] and to lay a wreath at the 36th Infantry Division Monument on the west side of the Capitol building to honor those who have served in the division and those who gave thier lives in support and defense of the United States and the state of Texas. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Christina Clardy, 36th Infantry Division Public Affairs)

AUSTIN, TX, UNITED STATES

07.18.2017

Story by Sgt. Michael Giles

36th Infantry Division (TXARNG)

 

The 36th Infantry Division celebrates its 100th anniversary July 18, 2017 and soldiers from the division honored their 100-year legacy of service during their July drill, with sweat, reverence and festivities.

The celebration began as several hundred soldiers marched along Congress Avenue from across Lady Bird Lake and up to the Texas State Capitol. When they arrived, they stood in formation behind unit colors, as Maj. Gen. S. Lee Henry, the division commander, and division Command Sgt. Maj. Mark J. Horn, ceremoniously placed a wreath at the base of the granite T-patch monument on the west side of the Capitol.

As the formation of soldiers solemnly saluted the monument, Henry spoke to them about the symbolism of the wreath and the granite.

“The Texas sunset red granite monument honors the soldiers of the 36th Infantry Division, both past and present,” Henry said. “The laying of the wreath today honors those 36th Infantry Division soldiers who have gone before us, and the sacrifices that both they and their families made for our freedom and security.”

As soldiers listened silently, Henry related the symbolism to the 36th’s history of answering the call to serve. He referred to the division’s service in war abroad, in response to disasters at home, and in support of domestic security.

“It represents those who answered the call in July of 1917, as the nation ramped up for war, to form a new division made of soldiers from both Texas and Oklahoma,” Henry said. “It represents those who answered the call when nature wreaks havoc in the form of floods, fire or tornados. It represents those who are currently deployed overseas, and those who stand watch on our southern border.”

Spc. Josh Strickland, an all-source intelligence analyst with the 36th Infantry Division, said participating in this celebration strengthens his esprit de corps and reminds him of his own military heritage.

“It makes you proud to be part of a unit with such a great legacy,” Strickland said. “Both of my grandfathers served in World War II. Participating in this celebration adds meaning to my time in the Guard.”

The 100-year history of the 36th Infantry Division began July 18, 1917. It was formed to fight in the first world war, and decades later it was the first U.S. division to land on the European continent to fight in World War II. Since then, the division has supported the War on Terror with deployments to Afghanistan, Iraq and several other countries around the world. At home, the 36th sent soldiers to responded to Hurricane Katrina and the Bastrop, Texas wildfires, and has played key roles both in border security and efforts to reduce drug trafficking.

During his speech, Henry also mentioned World War II veteran Sgt. Jim Niederer, living evidence of the 36th Infantry Division’s legacy. Niederer, who received six Bronze Star Medals for his service in Europe, expressed a belief that the 36th always has been, and always will be, a unit to be proud of.

“It’s a good outfit, and I’m sure it will get better,” Niederer said. “I’m just proud to have been one of the members of the 36th.”

During his more than two years in Europe, he explained, he landed in four invasions: in Sicily, Salerno, Anzio and in Southern France. 

“All those things I still remember,” Niederer said. “So many things I just can’t forget. I was fortunate to be able to serve my country. Thank God I made it.”

Those soldiers wounded in action or killed in action were also appreciated during Henry’s speech about the granite T-patch memorial.

“It recognizes the sacrifice made by those who are wounded and come back different people, both physically and mentally,” Henry said. “It memorializes and honors those who have made the ultimate sacrifice while wearing the famous T-patch on their shoulders.”

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.