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.    
 

Give Gratitude a Shot

By: Tiffanie Hampton, LCSW

Gratitude is a topic that often comes up when Thanksgiving rolls around, but it’s a worthwhile topic to talk about all year round. I want gratitude to be part of who I am rather than something I just conjure up during the holidays or whenever something good happens in my life.  Why do I want to practice gratitude?  Well, there is a ton of research that shows it can improve our physical health, increase our mental strength, and can help us sleep better.   Don’t we all want to be stronger, smarter, faster, and well rested?  

Physical Health
Grateful people experience fewer aches and pains and they report feeling healthier than other people, according to a 2012 study published in Personality and Individual Differences. Not surprisingly, grateful people are also more likely to take care of their health.  They exercise more often and are more likely to attend regular check-ups with their doctors, which is likely to contribute to further longevity.

Increase Mental Strength
A 2006 study published in Behavior Research and Therapy found that Vietnam War Veterans with higher levels of gratitude experienced lower rates of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.  A 2003 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that gratitude was a major contributor to resilience following the terrorist attacks on September 11.  Recognizing all you have to be thankful for – even during the worst times of your life – fosters resilience.

Sleep Better 
Writing in a gratitude journal improves sleep, according to a 2011 study published in Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being. Spend just 15 minutes jotting down a few grateful sentiments before bed, and you will fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.

We all have the ability and opportunity to cultivate gratitude. Confession: Practicing gratitude used to sound like a bunch of psychobabble to me.  But hey, what did I have to lose?  Simply take a few moments to focus on all that you have – rather than complain about all the things you think you deserve.  Developing an “attitude of gratitude” is one of the simplest ways to improve your satisfaction with life.  So how do you do this?  Here are some practical ideas.

  1. Share gratitude each day by posting a tweet, Facebook post or Pinterest.
  2. Make a gratitude collage, cut out pictures of all the things that you are grateful for
  3. Reward effort, if someone does something nice for you, do something nice for them.  Try to take note when people do a good job and give recognition when it’s due at work.
  4. Post quotes and images that remind you to be grateful around your house.  You can make it fun and buy dry erase markers to write on your mirrors or fridge!
  5. Say thank you at least once a day. You can do this text message, e-mail, or face to face.  Saying thank you to the barista who makes your coffee can help you both have a better day.
  6. Pause and savor something once a day.  Stop eating while standing up and really taste your food.  Literally stop and smell the flowers outside your office.  Take time to drink your coffee and reflect on the present. 
  7. Write down 3 good things about your day every day for 21 days and keep a gratitude journal. You can journal every day after your gratitude practice of noticing and savoring things.   There is something about writing it down that helps me to consciously think about what is positive in my life.
  8. Volunteer-giving back to others helps us to appreciate what we have.
  9. Spend time with loved ones- Not only will it help you grow closer to them and strengthen your relationship, but it will also give you a chance to practice your acts of gratitude on people that you care about. 
  10. Call your Mom every Sunday and call your grandparents to tell them you love them and express gratitude for a positive memory you have!

Practicing gratitude may not have turned me into some happy-go-lucky person I was never meant to be (or, frankly, wanted to be). But I developed a fundamentally different way of thinking and moving through life, one in which I stopped taking for granted all the tiny good moments that were already part of it. I stopped looking for happiness out there and learned to find it right here. I felt more connected to friends, family, and my colleagues, and even on the toughest days, I managed my stress better (which research shows is a long-lasting effect of practicing gratitude).

My advice? Give gratitude a shot.
 

Building Healthy Habits

When it comes to taking care of ourselves, we often focus more on our physical body.  However, maintaining your mind is just as important, and there are habits we can do every day to improve our mental health.  Just like our body needs to get into a routine, so does our brain.  Focusing on your mental health can build confidence and hope, improve your immune system, increase productivity, and even help you live longer.  What better way than to start off small and add in little activities each day?  To boost your overall happiness, lower stress, and even improve your physical health, do these things daily.

Sustaining hope and well-being takes work.  Listed below are exercises that, when practiced frequently, can build genuine and lasting happiness.

Gratitude:  Write down three things for which you are grateful for every day.  Don’t worry if they seem simple or mundane- just get something down on paper. This simple exercise will help you identify positive aspects of even the worst days, and develop and more hopeful perspective.

Acts of Kindness: Make a conscious effort to do something nice for no reason other than to help.  You might be surprised how a simple act of kindness can turn around the day for both you and the kindness recipient.  

Exercise:  The positive effects of exercise are astounding.  Physically active people have increased energy, superior immune systems, and a frequent sense of accomplishment.  Exercise can reduce insomnia, stimulate brain growth, and even act as an anti-depressant.  Beginning an exercise plan doesn’t have to be difficult.  Walking for as little as 30 minutes, 3 times a week, has been found to be beneficial.  If you’re crunched for time, two 15 minute walks work just as well as one 30 minute walk. Don’t worry too much about what exercise you choose.  Aerobic and anaerobic exercises are both effective at improving mental health.
 
Here are some more tips to help:

  • Need to make a phone call?  Walk and talk.
  • Get an exercise partner to hold you accountable.
  • Park at the back of the parking lot and walk.
  • Do an activity you enjoy, and it won’t be a chore.
  • Skip the elevator and take the stairs.
  • Head outside for 10 minutes during lunch.
  • Set an alarm to remind you when to exercise.  If you’re using your phone alarm, set it to automatically repeat every day at the same time.
  • Get into a routine by exercising at the same time every day.  
  • Reward yourself for a job well done.  Treat yourself to something you enjoy when you exercise.  

Sleep: Establish a regular sleep schedule every day of the week. Don’t sleep in more than an hour, even on your days off.  If you haven’t fallen asleep after 20 minutes, get up and do something calming.  Read a book, draw, or write in a journal.  Avoid computer, TV, and phone screens, or anything else that’s stimulating and could lead to becoming more awake.  Consuming caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine can affect your ability to fall asleep and the quality of your sleep, even if they’re used earlier in the day.  Remember caffeine can stay in your body for up to 12 hours, and even decaf coffee has some caffeine.  Napping during the day will make sleep more difficult at night.  Naps that are over an hour long, or those that are later in the day, are especially harmful to sleep hygiene.
 
Meditation:  Research has linked meditation with reduced anxiety and more positive emotions.  Those who meditate regularly may even permanently restructure their brains to create sustained happiness. For some, meditation might be doing yoga.  For others, it is the stillness that comes through prayer.  Whatever your practice, find what works for you to get still, and begin raising the volume of your own inner voice.

Positive journaling: Take some time to write about positive events in your life.  Write about a fun day spent with friends, a good movie, or an activity you enjoyed.  Positive journaling will get you into the habit of focusing on the positive and maintain hope.

Fostering relationships: Strong social connections are thought to be one of the most powerful influences on our mood.  Those who are dedicated to spending time with friends and family show the highest levels of happiness.  If you can’t see your loved ones every day you can still send an email or make a phone call.

Spend time outside: Even just spending 10 minutes in nature can boost not only your mood, but your self-esteem as well.  Sun exposure helps your brain release the hormone serotonin, which is a natural mood enhancer.  

Sit up straight: If you’re someone who slouches, you may want to work on your posture.  A study published in the Journal of Health Psychology found that sitting in a slumped position makes you feel more sluggish, fearful, quiet, and hostile than sitting up straight, which instead elicits more happy and powerful emotions.

Learn something new: Keep your mind fresh by picking up a new hobby or reading about a topic you don’t know about.  As we age, we narrow down our learning based on career choices, but it is essential to expand our knowledge to keep a positive outlook on life and continue to grow.  People who spend their time learning new things show greater overall wellbeing and better abilities coping with stress.

Smile:  Smiling can trick your brain into happiness and boost your health.  A smile spurs a powerful chemical reaction in the brain that can make you feel happier.  The physical act of smiling can make a difference in building your immunity.  When you smile, the brain sees the muscle activity and assumes that humor is happening.  The brain doesn’t bother to sort out whether you’re smiling because you’re genuinely joyous, or because you’re just pretending. Even forcing a fake smile can reduce stress and lower your heart rate.  One study found that people who could not frown due to Botox injections were happier on average that those who could frown.  

Each of these habits are things you can start implementing daily.  At first, change takes focused attention to become a habit.  Once a habit is formed, it will give the budding change momentum and add a helpful inertia that makes it easier and easier to maintain the change.  Soon then, the change will take root, transforming into a healthy new habit and hopeful perspective.

Purpose and Motivation

Sustaining hope on the road of life can be extremely challenging.  When life presents curves, obstacles and road-blocks, it can be tempting to stop and give up hope.  Sometimes the way ahead seems mostly up hill and we’re not sure if we can continue the climb.  Who among us hasn’t taken a detour, short-cut or turned around completely rather than carry on?  And yet, we can move forward if we protect hope by maintaining our motivation.
Okay, one last road metaphor…What drives us when life gets challenging?  Here are a few effective tools for fostering confidence, a sense of purpose, and motivation:
1.    Stop for a moment and consider your vision.  What do you really want to accomplish?  What is your over-riding goal?  Write it down clearly and succinctly.  This step fits with the philosophy of Dr. Stephen Covey, “If you don't make a conscious effort to visualize who you are and what you want in life, then you empower other people and circumstances to shape you and your life by default.” Begin with the end in mind.  What’s your vision?

2.    Make a plan with SMART objectives.  To reap large rewards we often have to delay our gratification by taking small steps in the right direction.  For instance, if your vision is to obtain a master’s degree by 2022, you will need to accomplish a multitude of lesser objectives in order to accomplish the main goal. This is where SMART objectives can be really effective.  SMART objectives are: 

•    Specific – the objective is written in clear language and fully defines what you are going to do (who, what, where, how)
•    Measurable – the outcome is quantifiable, observable and defines how you will know you have achieved what you set out to accomplish
•    Attainable – the objective is challenging, but also practical and achievable
•    Relevant – the objective aligns well with your overall vision
•    Time limited – provides a reasonable target date for completion to create accountability
Using the master’s degree example above, some SMART objectives might be:
•    “Research relevant master’s programs available at 8 local colleges by December 31st.”
•    “Select 3 colleges and apply by February 28th.”
•    “Study for GRE exam 3 nights a week for the next month, utilizing Kaplan GRE Prep.”
For extra motivation, it can help to post your objectives where you can see them and/or share them with others for increased accountability.

3.     Remember to Ask for Help.  For some, asking for help can be difficult, but perhaps we can shift our perspective a bit?  Although we like to appear that we have everything entirely under control – parenting, relationships, career, etc., the truth is we need other people.  Asking for help often means reaching goals faster and can sometimes be the decisive factor in realizing a vision. 

According to Krista Rizzo of Forbes, changing our mindset means understanding that doing everything without help is an attempt to control and leads to frustration and burnout.  Allowing others to help fosters trust, appreciation, hope – and sanity for you!

4.    Be Flexible – Remember that while you may have set a brilliant plan in motion, the road of life is full of other drivers and unexpected turns (sorry, I couldn’t resist).   There are times when circumstances outside your control may delay or frustrate your progress.  In times like these, it can be helpful to sit down with your objective, consider what you can and can not control and revise accordingly.  One of the most important principles for success is persistence, you can change your approach without giving up your vision. 

5.    Consider how you define failure.  Nelson Mandela said it well, “Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.”  Failure is refusing to get up and keep striving, to give up.  While we may be thwarted in our objectives, often our vision is still entirely possible.  We have only to stop, regroup, learn and chart a new path.

6.    Reward yourself.  This is the best part!  Celebrate your accomplishments, even the small steps!  Why?  Rewarding yourself in the moment, elicits powerfully positive emotions in the brain.  This is a simple tenet of conditioned response.  We do more of what we find rewarding.  According to Tony Robbins, rewarding yourself for victories, even small ones, leads to increased productivity and success.  You can also increase motivation by simply acknowledging your hard work, dedication and for doing your best.  Additionally, having something to look forward to can also drive you to stick with an objective when motivation lags.

What are the best ways to reward yourself?  The best rewards bring you a sense of  joy, fulfillment, connection or relaxation. Visit www.developinggoodhabits.com for a list of “155 Ways to Reward Yourself for Completing a Goal or Task.” Examples include:  Visit a museum or art gallery, enjoy a night out with friends, get a massage, take a cooking/pottery/photography class, buy yourself a sweet treat, or perhaps take a break on the porch with a glass of iced tea.
No matter where you’re headed on the road of life, there are likely to be unexpected surprises.  Just yesterday it rained all the way home during my rush hour commute, but the four rainbows that lit up the sky lifted my spirit and motivated me to keep going.  There will be obstacles, sunshine, bumps, and wide open spaces, we have little control over many aspects of the journey.  We can set our vision in motion with reasonable objectives, be flexible, persist and stop at Buckee’s for a $.79 Sweet Tea along the way.  Your vision gives you purpose, and these tools can develop motivation and foster hope. Happy Trails!
 

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. 

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.”

Force-multiplying employer: Guard member's civilian employment helps medics stay certified

Story by: Staff Sgt. Michael Giles

Employer receives award for their support to National Guard employees.

Photo By Staff Sgt. Michael Giles | The 36th Infantry Division commanding general, Maj. Gen. S. Lee Henry, awarded Laura Mills, Ph.D., with the Austin Regional Clinic, for her support to her Arrowhead employee on June 9, 2018 during annual training at Fort Hood, Texas. Mills received the award for facilitating training for Capt. Judith Chedville, a medical provider with Company C, 949th Brigade Support Battalion of the 56th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, to become a certified CPR instructor. The certification allows Chedville to be a force multiplier utilizing her skills to train both civilian medical professionals and National Guard medics. The division's annual training ensures Soldiers remain ready and relevant for any assigned mission at home and abroad. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Michael Giles, 36th Infantry Division Public Affairs)

FORT HOOD, Texas - As Hurricane Harvey flooded Houston, Laura Wills felt the way many Texans felt: She wanted to help. 

"I knew the Guard was being deployed," Wills said. "On a personal level, I didn't know what I could do to help with any of it."

Then, a colleague's request turned out to be an opportunity for her to support the Texas Army National Guard's readiness to respond to state emergencies and federal mobilizations.

The colleague was Judith Chedville, a clinical nursing specialist at Austin Regional Clinic, where Wills works as Chief Operations Officer. The request was whether their company could help her get certified as a basic lifesaver instructor. 

Chedville, who also works as a captain and medical provider in the Texas Guard's 36th Infantry Division, was among the 12,000 Guard members Governor Abbott called up in response to the hurricane. As she waited to receive mission details, she found herself thinking forward about the challenge of recertifying her unit's combat medics. This is a crucial task for Army medics--also known as “68 Whiskeys” as 68W is the designation of their military occupational specialty --because if their CPR certification expires, they become temporarily unqualified to function in their lifesaving roles.

"If they lose their CPR certification, they completely lose their ability to be a 68 Whiskey," Chedville said. "How can we make sure we're getting their training taken care of?" 

Chedville knew she could be part of the solution. All she needed to take on the task of recertifying her medics in CPR was to get certified as an instructor. So she submitted a request to her company.

This request was the opportunity to help that Wills had been looking for.

"When this came up, I felt like, I can figure this out," Wills said. "I contacted our staff development folks in our company who had the contacts for CPR training, and it honestly was not that hard. The company paid for it, and she was willing to do the work."

The company not only paid for it, but also managed her schedule so that she could the take necessary time away from seeing patients to complete the course.

Chedville explained that it's unusual for her company to pay for providers such has herself to receive basic lifesaver instructor training; more often they encourage ancillary staff to gain such accreditation. But Wills said she saw this as a way to support the troops, who during the Harvey relief efforts, proved they do good things with their training.

"Being in the medical field, I know how important basic CPR is, and even more so with people in the military service," Wills said. "You're out sometimes in remote areas and you have to be ready to care for the people around you."

Chedville thanked Wills for her support by nominating her for the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve program's Patriot Award. According to the program's website, the award recognizes "efforts made to support citizen warriors through a wide-range of measures including flexible schedules, time off prior to and after deployment, caring for families, and granting leaves of absence if needed." 

Chedville's nomination enabled her chain of command to recognize Wills' support. First, her unit, the medical company of the 949th Brigade Support Battalion, invited Wills to witness a day in the life of a military medical provider. On June 9, 2018, Wills headed to Fort Hood, where the 949th and several other elements of the 36th Infantry Division were conducting their annual training. She observed field medical operations and weapons training up close before the division commander, Maj. Gen. S. Lee Henry, presented the award and spoke to her about the National Guard and reserve forces.

"You absolutely represent a critical component of the National Guard relationship between our families, our employers and the Soldiers themselves," Henry said to Wills. "You are instrumental and we couldn’t do what we do out here without the support of people like you."

Henry also lauded the specific contribution she made, emphasizing that a training gift to an Army medic is a contribution made to all Soldiers. 

"We also couldn’t do what we do without our medics, who are critical to the mission of the 36th Infantry Division. They know no danger and go wherever there is a fallen Soldier to render aid on the spot. I know that I’m in good hands with our medics and you have been instrumental in their training and certification. Thank you very much for what you do and will continue to do."

Thus far, Chedville's new credential enabled her to recertify six combat medics in CPR. Wills said she intends to continue supporting her in strengthening her ability to meet this need in the Guard.

"I really look forward to seeing more of her training," Wills said and turned to Chedville. "Now we need to get you to the next level so you can train others to be trainers as well."

Texas Guardsmen task force members respond to South Texas floods

Story and Photos by: Spc. Miguel Ruiz, 100th MPAD

Members of the Texas National Guard and Texas Task Force 1 prepositioned in Laredo, Texas, June 20, 2018, after heavy rains flooded portions of the Rio Grande Valley. The two agencies work together to conduct rescues when needed. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Miguel Ruiz)
Members of the Texas National Guard and Texas Task Force 1 prepositioned in Laredo, Texas, June 20, 2018, after heavy rains flooded portions of the Rio Grande Valley. The two agencies work together to conduct rescues when needed. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Miguel Ruiz)

Texas Army National Guardsmen and members of Texas Task Force 1 were deployed to South Texas May 20, 2018.

In response to recent flooding in the Texas Rio Grande Valley, rescue swimmers with Texas Task Force 1 (Urban Search and Rescue Team) and TXANG helicopter pilots were mobilized jointly.

Both organizations normally work independently of each other but combine their assets and expertise when flood disasters occur said Anthony Di Marco, a rescue swimmer with TTF1.

“There are not water-rescue components in the National Guard. That’s where we come in,” said Di Marco. “They fly us to where we need to be and help get us in the water or to where the people are who need rescue. It’s a great working relationship.”

The working relationships between the pilots and swimmers are not developed overnight but rather are orchestrated and fine-tuned regularly.

Di Marco said he sets aside his full-time civilian career being a firefighter in Plano, Texas, once a month to train with TXANG helicopter pilots and TTF1 swimmers.

“We rehearse day-time and night-time rescue missions with Lakota and Blackhawk pilots,” said Di Marco. “The back and forth dialogue is great, we work closely together to determine the most efficient and safest ways of conducting the missions.”

Thanks to consistent training and set-in-place contingency plans, mission-readiness is very high when disasters occur said Texas Army National Guard Chief Warrant Officer 4 Brandon Briggs, a Standardization Instructor Pilot of Bravo company, 1-114th Aviation Regiment – Security and Support.

Briggs said that at any given time he, his helicopter crew and TTF1 swimmers can be ready to fly to wherever they are needed within three hours of receiving the call to duty.

“We didn’t have these same capabilities over five years ago,” said Briggs. “Local governments now have in place very specific mission-ready packages put together by the Texas Military Department. Local officials now know exactly how many of what assets are available to them at any given time of need.”

Briggs said what sets the TXARNG apart from other components of the military is its ability to work more closely with Texas’ local governments and organizations such as TTF1 to establish disaster contingency plans.

“It’s our job to be able to respond to events as quickly as possible,” said Briggs. “We are always ready.”