Texas guard engineer mission making history

Story by: Capt. Maria Mengrone, 176th Engineer Brigade, Texas Army National Guard

Posted On: Feb. 09, 2017

Soldiers from the 310th Multi-Role Bridge Company work alongside engineers from the British Army to dismantle an Acrow bridge they built together. The Acrow bridge built helped hone the skills of U.S. and British engineers in preparation to train Iraqi Army bridge engineers at Camp Taji, Iraq, Jan. 31, 2017. The 310th MRBC is assigned to the 153rd Engineer Battalion, 176th Engineer Brigade (Task Force Chaos). (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Capt. Maria Mengrone/Released)
Soldiers from the 310th Multi-Role Bridge Company work alongside engineers from the British Army to dismantle an Acrow bridge they built together. The Acrow bridge built helped hone the skills of U.S. and British engineers in preparation to train Iraqi Army bridge engineers at Camp Taji, Iraq, Jan. 31, 2017. The 310th MRBC is assigned to the 153rd Engineer Battalion, 176th Engineer Brigade (Task Force Chaos). (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Capt. Maria Mengrone/Released)

CAMP BUEHRING, Kuwait – Approximately 135 Soldiers of the 176th Engineer Brigade, Texas Army National Guard continue to provide command and control of more than 1,600 Active Duty, National Guard and Army Reserve engineer forces across the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility while deployed.

“This is a historic mission for the engineer brigade. This is the first time an engineer brigade headquarters has had this type of mission in a contingency environment,” said 176th Engineer Brigade Commander, Col. Charles Schoening, a resident of Georgetown, Texas.

Since arriving in theater, the brigade tackled many challenges in order to develop operational capability.

“The greatest challenge we initially faced was not having our network infrastructure and connectivity in place,” said Schoening. “We overcame these shortfalls and were able to become fully operationally capable within the first 30 days.”

The brigade is responsible for engineer forces spanning eight countries in 19 separate locations.

“Our primary focus is providing command and control for engineer missions in the CENTCOM area of responsibility. This includes providing support for our down trace battalions and companies. Since arriving in theater, we have made it possible for battalion and company commanders to conduct battlefield circulation, and we immediately started pushing our brigade resources, such as behavioral health, religious services support, and medical support to all the different locations,” said Schoening.

Many of the missions across the various countries are heavily focused on general engineer construction tasks.

“We are in charge of troop labor construction planning; we help the stakeholders plan the project all the way through execution,” said Lt. Col. Robert Crockem Jr., operations officer of the 176th Eng. Bde. and native of New Orleans, La.

To facilitate the execution of the engineer projects the brigade assigned portfolio managers to each area of operation.

“Our portfolio managers coordinate with stakeholders to understand their requirements and we help them build those requirements into construction projects. Once coordinated we push the project through the funding process to get materials and then start tasking our battalions against that,” said Crockem.

The brigade also touts a ready and equipped geospatial team that utilizes geographic data to compile maps which support military engineer operations.

“We provide geospatial products that enhance decision making,” said Warrant Officer 1 Steven Machado, geospatial technician and native of Hobbs, N.M.

“We have received positive feedback because we are able to provide perspective on the ground for the entire CENTCOM area of responsibility,” said Machado.

Allowing movements across the various regions is required to obtain critical data to assist in the planning process.

“We survey different base camps and use our instruments to map out what you see on the ground,” said Spc. Quincy Daniels, technical engineer, 176th En. Bde. and native of Dallas, Texas.

“We then get important to know information for things like drainage flow,” said Daniels.

The arrival of the engineer brigade also helped serve as a conduit to assist its two battalions in prioritizing its various missions.

Additionally, the brigade provides liaison officers to help support and build the various higher command relationships, and provide visibility of future construction requirements.

“There is a lot of pride in the work being done. Our Soldiers are motivated and there are a lot of eyes on the work that they are doing. They are doing everything they can to make Texas proud,” said Schoening.

The headquarters element of the 176th Engineer Brigade is a Texas Army National Guard unit based in Grand Prairie, Texas. The unit is serving a nine-month deployment to the Middle East in support of Operation Spartan Shield, Operation Inherent Resolve, and Operation Freedom’s Sentinel.

The power of Motivation

Story by: Senior Airman DeJon Williams, 136th Airlift Wing, Texas Air National Guard

Posted On: Feb. 06, 2017

Senior Airman Benjamin Le, a services apprentice, 136th Force Support Squadron, Texas Air National Guard, poses for a photo at Metroflex Gym-Plano, Plano, Texas Jan. 4, 2017. Le trains at Metroflex-Plano where his powerlifting coach works. (Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman De'Jon Williams)
Senior Airman Benjamin Le, a services apprentice, 136th Force Support Squadron, Texas Air National Guard, poses for a photo at Metroflex Gym-Plano, Plano, Texas Jan. 4, 2017. Le trains at Metroflex-Plano where his powerlifting coach works. (Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman De'Jon Williams)

FORT WORTH, TX – For many Airmen, the New Year is about new beginnings. This can be an opportunity to start fresh and a chance to begin working toward new fitness goals.

For Senior Airman Benjamin Le, 136th Force Support Squadron services apprentice, Texas Air National Guard, Fort Worth, Texas, 2017 will be just another year and opportunity to continue to improve in what he loves. His love for the sport of power lifting gives him new goals to strive for every day.

“Lifting weights is not only my passion, but it shows who I am,” said Le. “It’s something I’ve been into since high school, but I was never serious about until I got to my first base.”

Le was introduced to powerlifting in 2012 at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo. While there, he was convinced by his supervisor to continue pursuing his fitness goals. Under his mentor’s guidance, Le trained and prepared for his first bodybuilding competition just four months later.

“My first supervisor and powerlifting coach was First Sergeant Lorenzo Peterson, whom I met at my first base,” Le said. “He was like my Jedi master; he showed me the ways of powerlifting. We trained together and he saw my lifts were pretty good. He told me he wanted me to get into powerlifting more seriously, and through a lot of hard work I could see my numbers starting to rise up. I’ve been competing in it ever since.”

Le has continued training as a powerlifter for the last four years, and now represents the Air Force powerlifting team.

“Every year there are military powerlifting nationals, where all branches compete against each other,” Le said. “Since its Air Force related, my wing commanders have always really liked that. Depending on where you are, you may be able to represent your unit, your base, and also yourself in the competition.”

During his last meet, he competed at the 148 pound weight class. He squatted 452 pounds, benched 308 pounds and deadlifted 490 pounds, which was a personal goal for him.

Being able to represent the Air Force at a national event like this was an honor for Le, and the ability to exceed his own expectations has been a highlight in his career.

“When you get back from a meet, everyone compliments and recognizes you,” Le said. “It’s an amazing feeling, having my peers take interest in powerlifting and fitness. It’s helped my Air Force career too. The fact I can also compete with the team is another reason why I’m still in the Air Force.”

Outside of the Air Force, Le continues to exemplify fitness as a personal trainer. He uses his skills to better others in the Air Force and assists his peers in exceeding their own personal standards. He is very adamant about encouraging anyone he trains to be better than their best.

“I conduct fitness tests also,” Le said. “People ask me how to do more pushups or run faster, and I give them advice on routines to help them get stronger, or to run faster; squatting, getting on a treadmill, stuff like that.”

Looking back, Senior Airman Le uses his passion for powerlifting to stay fit to fight, as well as to help and inspire others around him.

“Whether someone is really into fitness or not, it’s important to go to the gym. Not a lot of people realize it’s one of the greatest stress relievers ever. It helps you be really productive, changes your lifestyle and helps with your nutrition. It’s a great way to better yourself, and to discipline yourself.”

Texas National Guard conducts final roll call for 10-year-old Spc. Rowan Windham

Texas Military Department 

Posted: Jan. 24, 2016

Story by: Sgt. Elizabeth Pena

Carrie Windham, mother of deceased honorary Texas Army National Guard Spc. Rowan Jameson Windham, attends final roll call ceremony, Jan. 25, 2017, at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas. Windham was enlisted back in March of 2015, after telling his nurse his dream of becoming a soldier. Texas Military Department The roll call serves as a memorial ceremony to represent the permanent loss of a soldier. Windham, 10, spent the majority of his 10 years battling a rare genetic disorder called Shwachman-Diomand syndrome. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Elizabeth Pena)
Carrie Windham, mother of deceased honorary Texas Army National Guard Spc. Rowan Jameson Windham, attends final roll call ceremony, Jan. 25, 2017, at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas. Windham was enlisted back in March of 2015, after telling his nurse his dream of becoming a soldier. Texas Military Department The roll call serves as a memorial ceremony to represent the permanent loss of a soldier. Windham, 10, spent the majority of his 10 years battling a rare genetic disorder called Shwachman-Diamond syndrome. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Elizabeth Pena)

AUSTIN, Texas --There wasn't a dry eye in sight during the final Roll Call ceremony, for the honorary Texas Army National Guard Spc. Rowan Jameson Windham, Jan. 24, 2017, at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas. 

A final roll call ceremony is a military ritual designed to serve as a tribute paid by soldiers to their deceased comrade.

Each soldier sounds off, Here, first sergeant!‚ when their name is called. But on this day, the auditorium fell silent as Rowan's name was echoed throughout the packed room. Spc. Rowan Windham.

Traditionally, the ceremony includes a visible reminder of the deceased soldier. The head gear and identification tags signify the fallen. In most cases, an inverted rifle with bayonet, but this case a wooden cross and gear stand, signals a time for prayer, a break in action to pay tribute to their comrade.

"He was an incredible kid," said Command Sgt. Maj. Mark A. Weedon, senior enlisted advisor for the Texas Military Department. "He did more in his small 10 years of life, than some of us do in a lifetime."

Rowan's ever lasting impact on the Texas Military Department was evident during the emotional roll call ceremony, as hundreds of service members came to pay their respects with Kleenex in hand.  

Also present at the roll call ceremony were Windhams parents. 

"He would be crying happy tears as Rowan would say, said Brian Windham, father of Rowan. He would be skipping out of here with joy," said Carrie Windham, mother of Rowan, through her own tears of happiness.

Rowan was born with a rare disease, and spent the majority of his 10 years in a hospital battling a genetic disorder called Shwachman-Diamond syndrome. 

The young trooper became a member of the Texas Military Department, just two years prior, at the age of eight, during an honorary enlistment ceremony at Camp Mabry, where he was awarded the military occupation specialties of Cavalry Scout and Apache Pilot.

Thank you and this is the best day ever of my whole entire life, Rowan said in front of hundreds of people, following his enlistment ceremony in March of 2015.

On Dec. 15, 2016, Rowan took his final breath at the Seattle Children's Hospital, following complications from two consecutive bone marrow transplants.

A native Texan, Rowan was an avid, thespian, video gamer, Lego builder, chef, Bigfoot fan and philanthropist who touched the lives of thousands around the world. 

He is survived by his father Brian, his mother Carrie, his sister Zoe, his brother Ian, family members, friends and Texas Guardsmen across the force. 

To read more about Windham's story please visit: http://rowansstory.blogspot.com

ANG member represents as AF ambassador for third straight year

Story by: Tech. Sgt. Mindy Bloem, 149th Fighter Wing, Texas Air National Guard

Posted On: Feb. 02, 2017

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO - LACKLAND, Texas – A member of the Texas Air National Guard will once again represent the Air Force in an official capacity for Joint Base San Antonio's 2017 Military Ambassadors program.

Tech. Sgt. Marie Sarabia, a recruiter with the 149th Fighter Wing, cements her place in wing history as the latest member to be chosen for the special designation three years running.

"I was honestly humbled to be selected because you're going up against the best of the best," she said. "(The board) is not just looking at the Air National Guard, they're looking at the Air Force Reserves and active duty Air Force - really sharp folks that truly believe in what the Air Force is and what JBSA is, so when I got it, I was truly shocked. It's definitely a humbling moment."

The Military Ambassador program is an annual tradition for the JBSA military community. Official representatives from every branch of service are chosen from the three administratively-combined installations -- Fort Sam Houston, Randolph and Lackland -- to engage with their community at local events, the majority of which involve Fiesta San Antonio.

Master Sgt. Jacqueline Crow, an intelligence analyst with the 149th FW and last year's female Air Force ambassador, said she was happy to see the Texas Air National Guard once again represented in this way.

"It's a good deal for the Guard," Crow said. "The Guard can come out and represent -- Total Force once again. It also shows how valid the Guard is in today's war fight, today's military and today's Air Force. The Guard is an essential part of that, and I thought it was an amazing thing that (Sarabia) got selected for the program.

As someone who's been through the selection process herself, Crow understands how intense it can be for Air Force candidates.

She said Air Force applicants must first submit an extensive paper package that includes military history, special achievements, community involvement and job skills, among other qualifications.

The applicants who make it past the paper process must then meet before a board made up of active duty chief master sergeants and the previous year's Air Force ambassadors.

"It was pretty nerve wracking. I'm not going to lie," said Sarabia, remembering what it was like to meet before the selection board. And although Sarabia's said she's had experience with boards in the past, she confessed it was still a little intimidating.

"I went in there and had a lot of nerves, but I just had to calm myself down and take it one step at a time," Sarabia said on how she managed to quell her unease.

Crow was one of the people seated on this year's panel and remarked on how well Sarabia presented herself and said she impressed everyone on the board.

"She's going to do well. I'm really proud of her," said Crow about her successor.

Crow even decided to carry on a tradition that was started by the 2015 female Air Force ambassador, Tech. Sgt. Stephanie Hall, another fellow 149th FW member.

When Crow was first selected as ambassador in 2016, Hall gave Crow a service cap she had worn to keep the sun out of her eyes at various Fiesta events. The hat fit Crow perfectly and seemed to serve as a positive symbol for what lay ahead.

"To me, it symbolizes the passing on of the torch but also shows how we take care of one another in the wing, and really the Air National Guard," said Sarabia. "Some people say, 'well, what's the difference between you and anyone else?' and I would say we're very family oriented. We take care of one another and we're very proud of where we come from and what we represent."

As for Crow, she sees nothing but good things ahead for Sarabia.

"She is going to meet some amazing people along the way that really care about the San Antonio community, and she's going to meet some remarkable Air Force leaders," Crow said. "My advice to her would be to represent the Guard and the 149th well and to just be herself and have fun with it."

A fellow co-worker and another former ambassador from the wing, Master Sgt. Juan Flores, expressed the utmost confidence in Sarabia's abilities.

"I'm very proud of her," he said. "Not only is it a big accomplishment to compete and be selected among so many top performers, but I know she'll have a great experience and represent the Air National Guard in a great fashion."

Sarabia said she feels some pressure to keep the legacy going because of the strong representation the wing has had in the past but is simply going to focus on what she does best.

"Being an Air Guard recruiter, I know a lot of people don't know about the Air Guard," she said. "They just know about the Air Force Reserves, and of course active duty. I want to let them know we're here in the community and tell them about our state mission -- that we have unique missions that involve going out and actually defending our local communities. I really want to bring awareness into what we do."

36th Inf. Div. Soldiers from Texas deploy to Afghanistan

Story by: Spc. Christina Clardy

Posted On: Feb. 02, 2017

FORT HOOD, Texas - Soldiers from the 36th Infantry Division, Texas Army National Guard, say farewell to friends, family and colleagues at a deployment ceremony Jan 28, at Cameron Field on Fort Hood, Texas. This second group of Task Force Arrowhead advisors is headed to southern Afghanistan to take responsibility of the Train, Advise and Assist Command -- South and relieve the first Task Force Arrowhead TAAC-S team who deployed last year. The new TF Arrowhead Guardsmen will be advising Afghan National Defense and Security Forces to promote the long-term success of these institutions and the sovereignty of the Afghan government. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Christina Clardy)
FORT HOOD, Texas - Soldiers from the 36th Infantry Division, Texas Army National Guard, say farewell to friends, family and colleagues at a deployment ceremony Jan 28, at Cameron Field on Fort Hood, Texas. This second group of Task Force Arrowhead advisors is headed to southern Afghanistan to take responsibility of the Train, Advise and Assist Command -- South and relieve the first Task Force Arrowhead TAAC-S team who deployed last year. The new TF Arrowhead Guardsmen will be advising Afghan National Defense and Security Forces to promote the long-term success of these institutions and the sovereignty of the Afghan government. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Christina Clardy)

AUSTIN, Texas – Soldiers of the 36th Infantry Division, their families, and their friends gathered for a ceremony at Cameron Field at Fort Hood, Texas, on Jan. 28, to send off “Task Force Arrowhead” as they deploy to Afghanistan in support of Operation Freedom's Sentinel.  The Austin-based unit is part of the Texas Army National Guard and is headquartered at Camp Mabry.

The detachment of over 50 experienced officers, warrant officers and senior enlisted T-Patchers will be replacing the current Train Assist and Advise Command group, also from the 36th Inf. Div., who deployed last year.

"We will be taking over responsibility for the Train, Advise and Assist Command-South mission, which includes 4 Afghan provinces and 42 districts," said the incoming TAAC-S Commander, Brig. Gen. Chuck Aris, a native of Waxahachie. "We will assume command of Australian, Bulgarian, and Romanian Troops, and U.S. Army Soldiers from the 101st and 82nd Airborne Divisions. All Soldiers will be working under a NATO-led mission to help the Afghan people."

In 2014, the regional commands transitioned to a Train, Advise and Assist Command (TAAC) structure, advising Afghan National Defense and Security Forces to promote the long-term success of these institutions and the sovereignty of the Afghan government. Two-thirds of the Soldiers will be deploying to Afghanistan; the rest of the service members will mobilize but remain stateside. Those remaining in Austin will serve as intelligence analysts and advisors to those deployed. The remote capability is made possible by the advances in today's modern combat technology and communications systems.

"We are a team of teams," said Aris. "We have selected our best to ensure that we will excel at this mission… and we have trained for more than a year and a half to build a world-class team. This group has already shown amazing skill, expertise, training and a deep commitment to what they do."

Chief Warrant Officer 4 Kirk A. Burns, who is deploying with the task force, explained that the group is comprised of experienced service members who have been chosen from across the whole division. They are both civilian and military experts in their fields: law enforcement; legal advisors; medical staff; aviation operations; and computer systems.

As a civilian, Burns works for the Texas Department of Public Safety's Cyber Security division and as a computer science professor at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville. In the Army National Guard he is a UH-60 Blackhawk pilot and tactical operations aviation officer. This will be his fourth overseas deployment, having served in Desert Storm, Operation Iraqi Freedom, Kuwait, and now Afghanistan.

"I'm looking forward to advising our Afghan counterparts and sharing some of my experience in aviation with the Afghan military," said Burns. "The more we have talked with our counterparts, the more I have realized that the Afghan government and military truly wants our assistance. They want to protect their country from the outside influences that are keeping it so unstable. They really seem to want to partner with us and learn from us."

At the ceremony, Maj. Gen. Lester Simpson, Commanding General of the 36th Inf. Div., thanked the citizen-Soldiers for their service to Texas and our nation. He also thanked their families for their support, and continued sacrifice as their loved ones are called upon to serve overseas.

"To the parents and children, husbands and wives, and brothers and sisters of those headed overseas - you are the unsung heroes of a nation at war," said Simpson. "You undoubtedly serve through your personal sacrifice and your commitment… and I want to personally thank you for your support and your strength. Because without you, we couldn't do what we do and are called upon to do."

To the Soldiers deploying, the division commander concluded with this encouragement:

"You'll be working hand-in-hand with our allies and our host nation to bring peace and stability to a complex region," Simpson said. "I have complete confidence that you will continue the legacy of exemplary performance that we've become known for, and will return at the end of your tour with pride knowing that you've achieved great things in the name of the 36th Infantry Division."

2nd Regiment Texas State Guard Has New Commander

Story by: Sgt. Stefan Wray, 2nd Regiment, Texas State Guard

Posted On: 1/28/2017

Col. John W. Muirhead assumed command of the 2nd Regiment, Texas State Guard, at a change of command ceremony held at Camp Mabry, Austin, Texas, Oct. 15, 2016. His wife, Sgt. Yvonne Muirhead and Brig. Gen. Howard N. Palmer, Jr., Commander, Army Component Command, Texas State Guard, congratulate Muirhead on his accomplishment. (Texas State Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Barry Branham).
Col. John W. Muirhead assumed command of the 2nd Regiment, Texas State Guard, at a change of command ceremony held at Camp Mabry, Austin, Texas, Oct. 15, 2016. His wife, Sgt. Yvonne Muirhead and Brig. Gen. Howard N. Palmer, Jr., Commander, Army Component Command, Texas State Guard, congratulate Muirhead on his accomplishment. (Texas State Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Barry Branham).

AUSTIN, Texas – Col. John W. Muirhead assumed command of the 2nd Regiment, Texas State Guard, at a change of command ceremony at Camp Mabry, Austin, Oct. 15, 2016. Prior to the change of the command, Muirhead was promoted to the rank of colonel in the Texas State Guard.

He will lead the regiment, which is headquartered in Gatesville, with battalions in Austin, Gatesville and Killeen.

“The 2nd Regiment has an outstanding history and outstanding soldiers,” said Muirhead. “It is an honor to be a part of it and to command is the greatest responsibility for an officer. I believe in leading from the front will not ask anyone to do what I have not already done. I will capitalize on our greatest asset – the soldier. We need to make sure that we are developing leaders at every level.”

Muirhead began his military career when he was commissioned into the U.S. Air Force after completing a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and the Air Force ROTC program at the University of Texas at Austin, in 1990. During his federal service, he served in the Strategic Air Command Missile Combat Crew Flight Command, as a jump-duty Special Operations Forces Intelligence Officer, the Chief of Research and Analysis for the Joint Psychological Operations Support Element and the Chief of Influence Operations on the Air Staff at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.

Brig. Gen. Howard N. Palmer, Jr., Commander, Army Component Command, passes the 2nd Regiment guidon to Col. John W. Muirhead at the change of command ceremony at Camp Mabry, Austin, Texas, Oct. 15, 2016. The guidon is the flag of the unit and symbolizes the authority to command the unit. (Texas State Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Barry Branham).
Brig. Gen. Howard N. Palmer, Jr., Commander, Army Component Command, passes the 2nd Regiment guidon to Col. John W. Muirhead at the change of command ceremony at Camp Mabry, Austin, Texas, Oct. 15, 2016. The guidon is the flag of the unit and symbolizes the authority to command the unit. (Texas State Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Barry Branham).

His other assignments have included commander, operations squadron, Defense Language Institute English Language Center and deputy commander for the 37th Mission Support Group, the largest support group in the United States, at Joint Base San Antonio- Lackland.

His ground combat tours include the U. S. Army 6th Psychological Operations in Kosovo during Operation Allied Force; the Allied Rapid Reaction Force in Macedonia during Operations Noble Anvil and Joint Guardian and the 18th Airborne Corps Chief of Current Operations for Information Operations in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Many of his assignments included duty as a behavioral scientist, psychological operations tools and technologies research, psychological profiling, strategic intelligence planning and counter-terrorism.

Retiring in 2011, Muirhead joined the Texas State Guard in December 2014. He previously served as the Executive Officer for the 1st Regiment and the Operations Officer for the Army Component Command.

"Col. John Muirhead is the best qualified with the experience, education and vision to lead the 2nd Regiment to even greater achievements," said Brig. Gen. Howard N. Palmer, Jr.,

Commander, Army Component Command, Texas State Guard. “He knows how the Texas State Guard fits into the Texas Military Forces and Texas Military Department. He understands that we are here to serve our fellow Texans as a mission ready force.”

Muirhead and his wife, Sgt. Yvonne Muirhead, reside in San Antonio. In his civilian role he is a lieutenant with the Bexar County Constable Office, Precinct 4.

Candlelight Vigil for lost pilots of 1-149th Attack Reconnaissance Battalion

Story by: Sgt. Michael Fitzpatrick

Photo By Sgt. Michael Fitzpatrick | Hundreds gather on Jan. 14, at Ellington Field in Houston Texas, for a Candlelight Vigil in memory of CW3 Dustin Lee Mortenson and CW2 Lucas Lowe, pilots with the 1-149Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, who died when thier AH-64 Apache helicopter crashed Dec. 28, 2016 in Galveston Bay.
Photo By Sgt. Michael Fitzpatrick | Hundreds gather on Jan. 14, at Ellington Field in Houston Texas, for a Candlelight Vigil in memory of CW3 Dustin Lee Mortenson and CW2 Lucas Lowe, pilots with the 1-149Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, who died when thier AH-64 Apache helicopter crashed Dec. 28, 2016 in Galveston Bay. 

January 14, hundreds of servicemen and women, friends and family and the soldiers of the 1-149 Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, gathered in a hanger at Ellington Field in Houston to mourn the loss of CW3 Dustin Lee Mortenson and CW2 Lucas Lowe, who died when their AH-64 helicopter crashed into Galveston Bay on Dec. 28, 2016.
Mortenson was a maintenance test pilot, and Lowe was an AH-64D pilot who graduated from Flight School weeks before the crash.
Though Mortenson and Lucas were unknown to many of those involved in the rescue and recovery efforts following the crash, they came to the vigil. Whether because of dedication, esprit de corps, or perhaps in solidarity for the loss of good people, they came. The Coast Guard, state and local police, strangers, friends and relatives; they all came to share grief, but also to celebrate the lives, service and sacrifices of Mortenson and Lucas – husbands, fathers and veterans.

389th Engineer Company Soldiers build new MEDEVAC facility

Courtesy Story by: Sgt. Courtney Champagne

Photo By Jet Fabara | Flight medics talk with their leadership following an awards ceremony held for the 389th Engineer Company, 368th Engineer Battalion, 176th Engineer Brigade, for the construction of a new MEDVAC facility in Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan. The facility will house members of Charlie Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Aviation Regiment (General Support Aviation Battalion) from Ft. Riley, Kan. (“Boomer Dust-off”). (DOD photo by Jet Fabara)
Photo By Jet Fabara | Flight medics talk with their leadership following an awards ceremony held for the 389th Engineer Company, 368th Engineer Battalion, 176th Engineer Brigade, for the construction of a new MEDVAC facility in Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan. The facility will house members of Charlie Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Aviation Regiment (General Support Aviation Battalion) from Ft. Riley, Kan. (“Boomer Dust-off”). (DOD photo by Jet Fabara)

BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan – The MEDEVAC facility at Bagram Air Field in northern Afghanistan has seen better days. Its shattered windows, leaning walls, and peeling paint serve as evidence of the building’s lengthy history. 

The old hangar was constructed in the 1950s for the Afghan people by the U.S. Government in an effort to impede the spread of communism in Asia. 

During the Invasion of the Soviet Union in Afghanistan in 1979, it was inhabited by Russian forces until they withdrew in 1989, after which the Taliban maintained domination of the location that the old hangar was built on. 

In 2002, Bagram Air Field became home to American forces as part of the US-led invasion of Afghanistan, and the hangar became the workspace for hundreds of medical evacuation (MEDEVAC) crews, providing them with administrative offices as well as break, maintenance, and storage spaces which are critical for successful MEDEVAC operations. 

The primary mission of Charlie Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Aviation Regiment (General Support Aviation Battalion) from Ft. Riley, Kansas (“Boomer Dust-off”) is to save lives by providing MEDEVAC from the frontlines of conflicts in Afghanistan to the medical facility at Bagram Air Field. 

The GSAB mission is vital to the overall success of operations in Afghanistan; ensuring Soldiers and Afghan Nationals are provided with swift medical attention after sustaining battlefield injuries.

In the spring of 2016, the 389th Engineer Company a U.S. Army Reserve unit from Middletown, Iowa teamed up with C. Co., 2-1 GSAB to coordinate the build-out of a new MEDEVAC facility. The aging hanger required replacement to address safety concerns and provide a new facility that met standard operating requirements. 

The Base Support Group Commander, Col. G. Shawn Wells Jr. ordered the hangar’s evacuation due to overall structural instability however it became an urgent necessity to figure out where MEDEVAC crews would now conduct operations. 

A large area maintenance (LAM) tent was placed nearby as a short-term solution. Although the LAM tent provided a covered space for the crew to operate in, it lacked space for administrative offices and break areas, as well as maintenance and equipment storage. It hardly met the crew’s needs as a sensible area of operation. 

The 389th Engineer Company rose to the occasion and immediately began the early design plans to create a work space worthy of Boomer Dust-off as well as future MEDEVAC crews and their missions.

The MEDEVAC crews must be prepared to respond to emergencies at any time, spending long hours in their work spaces on standby. Special considerations were taken into account when weighing the design options of the new structure within the LAM tent. 

The final design was a collective effort amongst Boomer Dust-off personnel, Joint Engineering (JENG) at Bagram Air Field, the Forward Engineer Support Team (FEST-A), the 368th Engineer Battalion’s Construction Management Section, and the 389th Engineer Company. 

A crew of 14 Soldiers were selected to complete the build-out based on their carpentry expertise. Their skills were immediately evident based on their productivity. Only three days into the job, they were an entire day ahead of schedule. 

“This is one project that is going to have a lasting impact here,” said Spc. Kevin R. Suzie, carpentry and masonry specialist with the 389th Engineer Company. 

The end result included crafted trimming, cut and placed balusters, and sections of spacious rooms. 

“Their attention to detail was remarkable”, said Lt. Col. Matthew J. Strub, Deputy Commander of Task Force Victory.

The completed project was executed in just under three weeks. It included creative design solutions to the customer’s specific conditions, including adequate space for storage of a UH-60 Blackhawk aircraft during maintenance and repair. 

“We got to test our skills. We got to make design changes and use creativity”, said Sgt. Kent A. Hortstman, carpentry and masonry specialist with the 389th Engineer Company.

The 1st Combat Aviation Brigade hosted a ribbon cutting ceremony on November 10, 2016 honoring both the critical service of the Soldiers of C Co., 2-1 GASB, and the key role of the 389th Engineer Company throughout the construction of the new facility. 

During the ceremony, 1st CAB Commander Col. John M. Cyrulik and Command Sgt. Maj. Roque R. Quichocho presented Soldiers of the 389th with impact awards for their indispensable contribution to current and future MEDEVAC missions. 

Afterwards, leaders conducted a field expedient ribbon cutting in the new facility, in true MEDEVAC style, using trauma shears to cut the ribbon. 

“No other force on the planet goes to the extent that we do to make sure no Soldier gets left behind. This collaboration provides the capability to save lives,” said Cyrulik. 

The highly-skilled and dedicated Soldiers of the 389th provided a site for hundreds of MEDEVAC crews to proudly call their own today, and for many years to come. 

“At the end of the day, nothing gets done without the nuclear fuel that is our Soldiers,” said Cyrulik.

The 389th is a U.S. Army Reserve unit on a nine-month deployment. The unit is assigned to the 368th Engineer Battalion, and the 176th Engineer Brigade, Task Force Chaos.

36th CAB Memorial Run for E-40

36th Combat Aviation Brigade, Col. Brian D. Allgood, 46, of Oklahoma; Col. Paul M. Kelly, 45, of Stafford, Virginia; Lt. Col. David C. Canegata III,

Courtesy Story by: Sgt. Michael Fitzpatrick

Posted On: Jan. 25, 2017

Members of the 36th Combat Aviation Brigade at the Armed Forces Reserve Center at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport in Austin Texas, gathered outside American Legion Post 79 for a memorial run around Austin’s Ladybird Lake to commemorate the loss of Capt. Sean E. Lyerly, 31, of Pflugerville, Texas, and nine other soldiers killed when the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter Lyerly flew was shot down in the Diyala province northeast of Baghdad on Jan. 20, 2007.

The following information is a report from the Multinational Corps Iraq news release published By American Forces Press Service and reprinted online January 26, 2007 on the website: www.nationalguard.mil/News/Article/572881/established-procedures-followed-after-black-hawk-crash.

The military statement said two coalition aircraft were flying on a routine mission when one of the aircraft crashed in a rural area northeast of Baghdad. Reports indicate a distress call from the trail aircraft. About 20 seconds later, the lead aircraft crew saw the trail aircraft go down.

The lead aircraft immediately circled back to provide security and assistance to the crew and passengers, the statement said. After determining the area was clear, the lead helicopter landed and quickly surveyed the scene for any survivors of the downed aircraft.

The crew observed that the aircraft was on fire and determined there were no survivors, officials said. They remained on the ground and secured the site until additional security arrived.

An aerial coalition quick-reaction force arrived on the scene to provide additional security about three minutes after the Black Hawk was reported down. This air support arrived quickly, officials explained, because the crews were already conducting patrols in the area. The lead aircraft involved in the initial incident stayed on the scene for an additional seven minutes before leaving the secured site to fly to Forward Operating Base Balad.

The lead aircraft crew, made up of soldiers from Company C, 1st Battalion, 131st Aviation Regiment, "performed heroically in protecting and safeguarding their comrades" in the downed Black Hawk under extremely adverse conditions, the Multinational Corps Iraq statement said. 

The soldiers, who belonged to a number of active Army and Army National Guard units, are: Col. Brian D. Allgood, 46, of Oklahoma; Col. Paul M. Kelly, 45, of Stafford, Virginia; Lt. Col. David C. Canegata III, 50, of St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands; Capt. Michael V. Taylor, 40, of North Little Rock, Arkansas; Capt. Sean E. Lyerly, 31, of Pflugerville, Texas; CSM Marilyn L. Gabbard, 46, of Polk City, Iowa; CSM Roger W. Haller, 49, of Davidsonville, Maryland; First Sergeant William T. Warren, 48, of North Little Rock, Arkansas; SFC Floyd E. Lake Sr., 43, of St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands; SFC John G. Brown, 43, of Little Rock, Arkansas; Staff Sgt. Darryl D. Booker, 37, of Midlothian, Virginia; Cpl. Victor M. Langarica, 29, of Decatur, Georgia.

Texas Guardsman saves life of blind man seconds after he was struck by vehicle

Texas Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Aaron Dias, recruiting and retention officer for the Recruiting and Retention Battalion, Region II, Team VII, enjoys lunch with his six-year-old son Gavin, left, and 18-month-old Aeryn, right, at a local resturant Nov. 12, 2016, in Tyler, Texas. Dias is responsible for rendering aid and saving the life a blind pedestrian that was struck by a vehicle in East Texas. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Elizabeth Pena)
Texas Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Aaron Dias, recruiting and retention officer for the Recruiting and Retention Battalion, Region II, Team VII, enjoys lunch with his six-year-old son Gavin, left, and 18-month-old Aeryn, right, at a local resturant Nov. 12, 2016, in Tyler, Texas. Dias is responsible for rendering aid and saving the life a blind pedestrian that was struck by a vehicle in East Texas. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Elizabeth Pena)

Story by: Sgt. Elizabeth Pena

Posted: Monday, January 9, 2017

TYLER, Texas – Disaster can strike at anytime. Citizen-soldiers of the Texas Army National Guard are taught to always be prepared.

Texas Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Aaron Dias, recruiting and retention officer for the Recruiting and Retention Battalion, Region II, Team VII in Tyler, was driving back from the Military Entrance Processing Station in Shreveport, Louisiana, to his armory in Tyler with his recruit when disaster struck.

“The sun was starting to set,” said Dias. “It was to that point where you run into the sun it kind of casts a glare on you.”
 
Hiwatha Hudson, a legally blind 55-year-old man had just stepped off to cross the street with his cane.

“My applicant in the passenger seat hollered at me ‘there’s someone on the road!’ said Dias. “Sure enough, as soon as we cast over the hill, I saw a silhouette of a man and I swerved to miss him.”

At that moment Dias was thankful he avoided the man, but as he was pulling over, he saw something horrid.

“Then I looked back in my rearview mirror, I saw someone hit him so I turned around, jumped in the suicide lane and jumped to assist him,” said Dias.

Without hesitation, Dias immediately called 911 and took the situation into his own hands. 

“I jumped out, got my applicant to start blocking traffic. When I came up to the man he was face down and the blood was running down pretty heavy,” said Dias. “So I rolled him over on his side to the recovery position to kind of balance his head so the blood 
would drain out and I held him there and checked his pulse until the EMT arrived.”

The recovery position, one of the many skills learned in the military, is designed to prevent suffocation through obstruction of the airway. 

“We are taught over and over, repetition so that way when it comes to a situation like this, you don’t think you just react. I don’t think if I had that training or that repetition of training I don’t know if I would have done anything successfully like I did,” said Dias. 

Service members in the Texas Army National Guard must go through combat life saving courses throughout their military career and are taught to always be ready to help.

Dias, father of two, has been a member of the guard for over ten years.

“Every other generation of my family has served,” said Dias. “It’s a duty, it’s an honor and opportunity to put on this uniform everyday.”

Hudson has since been transferred to the Ocean Behavior Hospital in East Texas. 

“I am so glad he was there to render aid because if he hadn’t, I would not have my son today,” said Jerleane Hudson, mother of Henry. “I’m praying that God will forever bless him.”

Although he has not made a full recovery, it is Dias’s fast response that saved his life.

“People will drive past people in wrecks all the time they won’t stop and ask if they’re OK. Heck it could've been you, or me and I would pray that someone would stop and do what they could, whether it was helpful or not, at least they were trying. You know, just help," said Dias.

Thousands of fatalities every year in casualties where the cause of the unconscious was not fatal, but the airway was blocked, causing the patient to suffocate. Dias accredits the military with giving him the knowledge and experience to respond to this situation.

“It’s a part of being in the military but it’s also a part of just being raised in a small town. You help anyone that needs help. That also goes hand in hand with being in the guard. We are citizen soldiers we are supposed to help out wherever we can,” said Dias.