An enduring bond: NCO reinforces partnership with first-time Czech Republic competitors

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Photo By Sgt. Michael Giles | Czech Army Staff Sgt. Jakub Domeny receives a briefing with service members from the Texas Air and National Guard, as well as soldiers from Chile and the Czech Republic at the M4 qualification event as part of the fifth annual Texas Military Department Best Warrior Competition, at Camp Swift near Bastrop, Texas, March 3, 2017. This year's Best Warrior Competition was the second time Chilean soldiers participated and the first time for soldiers from the Czech Republic as part of Texas Military Department's initiative to develop relations with foreign partners. (U.S. Army National Guard Photo by Sgt. Michael Giles) 
TX, UNITED STATES
Story by: 1st Lt. Allegra Boutch
100th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

 

BASTROP, Texas — The Texas Military Department enjoys a valuable and enduring relationship with Chile and the Czech Republic. The State Partnership Program, or SPP, facilitates frequent, constructive engagement with foreign armies. 
The foreign soldiers who participate in SPP exchanges carry the responsibility of bringing lessons learned from these events with them back home. They also represent their respective countries, building a reputation wherever they go.
Staff Sgt. Jakub Domeny with the 41st Mechanized Battalion, 4th Rapid Deployment Brigade, understands this immense pressure. The Czech soldier, who decided to become a soldier after watching “Saving Private Ryan,” felt nervous as he prepared to compete alongside Texan and Chilean soldiers in the fifth annual TMD Best Warrior Competition at Camp Swift, near Bastrop, Texas. 
”I am here for the first time,” said Domeny. “I am here to compete, but my main goal is to get experience from here and then get it to Czech Republic so we can have our own competition and continue sending our soldiers here.” 
The TMD Best Warrior Competition brings together exemplary Soldiers across Texas to test their skills in board interviews, physical fitness tests, written exams and warfare simulations. 
Domeny trained during every spare moment before tests began. “This is people say the best Army in the world,” he said. “I thought that I was going to be average, but after being here for a week, I feel pretty relaxed.”
The greatest responsibility however may fall with the American service members assigned to each foreign soldier. Staff Sgt. Kevin Hannah,136th Maintenance Squadron, Airlift Wing, also sought to leave a good impression with his assigned soldiers.
“The main thing we are trying to do with the soldiers is take care of them,” said Hannah. “For any NCO, taking care of each other is the ultimate. So for the Czech soldiers, I can show how the American military takes care of our people by taking care of them. Hopefully they will go back to the Czech Republic and take those interactions with them.”
Hannah told his Czech counterparts jokes to help calm their nerves. Domeny then passed his board interview and went on to score a 29 of 40 on his marksmanship test. According to Domeny, Hannah’s efforts made him confident that he can return home and be a positive influence to his soldiers as well. 
“A good soldier is the results you have in the field, but it is also your behavior, your attitude and how you help,” Domeny said. “A good soldier will do the maximum they can do to serve.” 
After the competition, Domeny plans to return home and share the administrative and organizational techniques that made the Best Warrior run, in his words, flawlessly.

Texas Military Department Best Warrior Competition 2017

 

 

TX, UNITED STATES
Video by Staff Sgt. Luke Allen 
100th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment  

 

The Best Warrior Competition brings together the best junior enlisted and noncommissioned officers from the Texas Air and Army National Guards to compete for the prestigious title.

The BWC is intended to reflect real-life combat situations, stress, endurance and convey how important both intelligence and dedication are to being a National Guardsman. At the end of the grueling three-day competition one junior enlisted and one noncommissioned officer with the highest overall ranking is recognized as the Texas Best Warrior.

During the event, competitors will test their Warrior aptitude by conquering urban warfare simulations, board interviews, physical fitness tests, written exams and other tasks and battle drills relevant to today’s military operational environment.

Traditionally an Army event, the Texas National Guard opened this competition to the Texas Air National Guard in 2013 in order improve camaraderie in a joint environment. Finalists from the Texas Army National Guard, will move on to the National Guard Bureau’s Region V Best Warrior Competition. The competition will also include Chilean and Czech competitors this year as part of TMD’s SPP program.

Texas Military Department Best Warrior competitors push through mystery event

 
TX, UNITED STATES
Video by Spc. Zach Polka 
100th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment  

 

Best Warrior competitors work through unknown challenges during final "mystery event" of the 2017 Best Warrior Competition, March 4, 2017.

The BWC brings together the best junior enlisted and noncommissioned officers from the Texas Air and Army National Guards to compete for the prestigious title.

The BWC is intended to reflect real-life combat situations, stress, endurance and convey how important both intelligence and dedication are to being a National Guardsman. At the end of the grueling three-day competition one junior enlisted and one noncommissioned officer with the highest overall ranking is recognized as the Texas Best Warrior.

Three countries compete for the title of best warrior at Camp Swift

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Photo By Senior Airman DeJon Williams | Air Force Staff Sgt. Juan Nunez, a security forces specialist with the 136th Security Forces Squadron, Texas Air National Guard, Fort Worth, Texas, plots points on his map during the land navigation event during the 2017 Texas Military Department Best Warrior Competition, March 2, 2017 at Camp Swift, near Bastrop, Texas. Land navigation tests the competitors ability to read maps, use a compass and other skills to traverse through unfamiliar terrain to different points throughout the course. (Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman De'Jon Williams)
TX, UNITED STATES
Courtesy Story
100th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

 

BASTROP, Texas — Soldiers and Airmen from three nations gathered at Camp Swift, Texas last weekend for a three-day competition that tested each soldier's skill, strength and endurance, March 3, 2017. 
In the Texas Military Department's fifth annual Best Warrior Competition, members of the Texas Army National Guard, Texas Air National Guard and invitees from the Chilean and the Czech Republic militaries, squared off against each other for the title of Best Warrior.
27 Best Warrior candidates competed in one of two categories: Best Junior Enlisted and Best Noncommissioned Officer. Service members were rated in nine events, including a 12-mile road march and an obstacle course, that closely imitate real combat situations. Two additional events gauged the soldiers' military writing and their professional appearance.
Integrating three countries into one competition presented challenges for event organizers, but command senior enlisted leader, Command Sgt. Maj. Mark Weedon, said that every effort is made to offer a fair playing field for competitors from every contingent.
It took an almost year-long effort to bring the three nations together, but Weedon says the effort pays off because it offers more than just an opportunity for Soldiers to compete for the title; the real training value comes from learning to work with other nations in real-world operations.
"It gives them and us confidence that we've got partners around the world, so that if anything went bad in any of our countries, we've got some help we are accustomed to," Weedon said.
Both Texas components participating in the competition were comprised of citizen Soldiers and reflect the readiness of members of the Texas Military Department to don their uniforms and operate at the level necessary for high-tempo operations.
Sgt. Juan PonceDeleon with the Texas Army National Guard’s 112th Cavalry Regiment, 72 Infantry Brigade Combat Team, described his preparation for Best Warrior after winning his unit’s internal competition.
"The first thing I did was talk to people that have competed in the event before so that I could learn from them," PonceDeleon said. "After that, I had to make an honest assessment of where I was at with my warrior tasks and drills."
Competitors first participated in unit-level selections to earn their spot in the statewide competition. Chilean soldier Cpl. Camilo Leal says his unit’s competition helped prepare him for the weekend.
The Texas Military Department was the first state to open its Best Warrior Competition to all components—including the Texas Air National Guard and international partners — in 2013. Now, other states like Nebraska, hope to follow in Texas' footsteps by welcoming foreign militaries into their Best Warrior competitions. 
This year marked Chile's second appearance in Texas’ Best Warrior competition but was the Czech Republic’s first year to attend.
Although, the winner won't be officially announced until April 7, Leal said that no matter who wins, the friendships and comradery the competition fostered will endure.
"It's been a very wonderful experience. I have had a chance to talk to the other soldiers and hope to keep that communication going," Leal said. "If they come to Chile, I will welcome them with the same hospitality they have shown me."

Connect, understand, motivate: Command Sgt. Maj. Weedon's life as a student of leadership

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Photo By Sgt. Mark Otte | Command Sgt. Maj. Mark A. Weedon speaks with Soldiers during the Texas Military Department's Best Warrior Competition at Camp Swift near Bastrop, Texas, March 3, 2017. The 2017 Best Warrior Competition is considered the final event that Command Sgt. Mark A. Weedon will spearhead before retiring March 25, 2017. (U.S. Army National Guard Photo by Sgt. Mark Otte/Released)
TX, UNITED STATES
Story by: Sgt. Michael Giles
100th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

 

BASTROP, Texas (March 3, 2017)—Long before serving the Texas Army National Guard as its senior enlisted leader, Mark Weedon ran a homeless shelter. This job presented him with a troubling question: why couldn’t he do more for the people he was trying to help?

"I wanted to figure out why it is that there are people who come to this organization that I can't fix," Weedon said.

To better understand the problem, he took a leave of absence and spent two weeks hopping trains, deliberately living as a homeless person. His journey brought him closer to accepting and respecting people with a different mindset. 

"You can survive or thrive," Weedon said. His weeks on the trains helped him realize some people are not ready to let go of the survival mindset that inhibits them from thriving.

"Having spent that time out there living and surviving helped me to understand that you can't fix everything," Weedon said. "It's allowed me not to cast people aside as quickly who don't meet my expectations." 

Now, Weedon approaches the end of a 26-year National Guard career in which he made his mark by demonstrating the same commitment to serving and understanding people that he embraced when he served the homeless. He has gained a reputation as a selfless mentor, a leader who succeeds through building relationships, and an advisor who strives to understand what Soldiers need.

"He's definitely a people person," said Master Sgt. Ramon M. Ruiz with the 136th Regional Training Institute. "I felt comfortable knowing that I could seek guidance from him." 

Ruiz said that Weedon has the ability to see Soldiers' potential and give them good career direction. Weedon once called him into his office to advise against a transfer Ruiz was planning. "If you go to that unit, your skills will waste away," Weedon told him, encouraging him to instead pursue a more challenging position.

"He can just see people, inside and out," Ruiz said. "He can see what they’re capable of—their strengths, their weakness—and he puts the pieces in the right place." 

Weedon demonstrates selfless service to Soldiers and inspires others to take care of their Soldiers, said Sgt. Mitch R. Guile, a medic with the Texas Medical Command, remembering how Weedon came to the aid of a Soldier who had forgotten to bring some crucial gear to a training event. 

"Command Sgt. Maj. Weedon took off his gloves he had—since it was about 20 degrees outside—and gave them to him," Guile said. "When you see the top enlisted guy taking care of even the lowest ranking guy out there, you definitely have to take care of your guys, and make sure the guys below you are taking care of the guys below them."

While Weedon led junior-enlisted Soldiers through demonstrations of selflessness, he also led senior enlisted members by encouraging them to integrate their ideas, said Command Sgt. Maj. Murphy L. McCardell, 56th Infantry Brigade Combat Team.

"We all have a Type-A personality. He has the ability to get his agenda across while allowing other command sergeants major to have a say," McCardell said. “He has the ability to allow other leaders to bring their insights together to collectively come up with a way ahead." 

Improving collaboration was also Weedon's desired outcome for the Texas Military Department’s Best Warrior Competition, which he coordinated during the last month before his retirement. Weedon said the competition creates opportunities for members of both the Air National Guard and Army National Guard forces to adapt to joint force operations. 

"For me, this joint competition is about that," Weedon said. "It's about bringing us together."

Weedon said that one of primary goals of Maj. Gen. John F. Nichols, the adjutant general of the Texas Military Department, is to overcome obstacles that the two forces experience when working together. As Airmen and Soldiers compete together over three days, they develop relationships that will improve their ability to function in joint force missions. 

"By the time we get to Saturday night and we've been sharpening the edge together, now you're going to see some lifelong friends made," Weedon said. "They'll have a relationship, and we will become better at protecting Texas because of that."

Weedon does not attribute his strengths in working with people to any unique talent, but rather to the basics. 

"Part of that is human nature—we tend to want to help our fellow man," Weedon said.

He also credits the basic ideals of the Noncommissioned Officer Corps, which he said he received repeatedly during Army leadership courses. The most basic of these ideals: placing the welfare of one's Soldiers before one's own. 

"Putting that in practice and watching the level of influence rise, when you put other people first, it's incredible, so it stuck with me," Weedon said.

Simply embracing the tenets of Army leadership is how Weedon succeeded in strengthening the 136th Regional Training Institute when he served as commandant, Ruiz said. 

"He went back to the basics and instilled leadership and discipline into the NCO Corps," Ruiz said. "He really got us back on our azimuth of making sure we were doing what's right."

"He sets the example," Ruiz continued. "He sets the standard. He's the mold of what right looks like and gives us the inspiration to be like that."

TXANG Guardsman finds success despite challenges

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U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Orlando Duarte, an aerospace propulsion mechanic with the 149th Fighter Wing, Texas Air National Guard, headquartered at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, pulls a weighted sled during the 2017 Texas Military Department’s Best Warrior Competition, March 4, 2017, Camp Swift, Bastrop, Texas. The sled pull was an obstacle that was a part of the mystery event at the BWC. (Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman De’Jon Williams)

 

BASTROP, Texas -- BASTROP, Texas -- Members from the Texas Air and Army National Guard, Chile and the Czech Republic competed in a series of events March 2-4 to determine who would be among the year’s top contenders of the 2017 Texas Military Department Best Warrior Competition.

Prior to attending the three-day event, participants prepared themselves for the rigorous conditions, physical tests and mental challenges that awaited them during the competition.

For Senior Airman Orlando Duarte, Best Warrior wasn’t just a competition. It was also a testament to the obstacles he’d faced and overcame throughout his entire life and career.

Duarte, an aerospace propulsion mechanic with the 149th Fighter Wing, Texas Air National Guard, was born and raised in Mexico before moving to the United States to finish high school.

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U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Orlando Duarte, an aerospace propulsion mechanic with the 149th Fighter Wing, Texas Air National Guard, headquartered at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, inspects his M4 carbine shot grouping during the Texas Military Department’s Best Warrior Competition March 2, 2017 at Camp Swift, Bastrop, Texas. During the BWC competitors had the opportunity to zero their weapons before moving on to the M4 qualification course. (Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman De’Jon Williams)


Separated from his family, he had to conquer language and cultural barriers to reach his overall goals.

“I wanted to move here to become a pilot,” Duarte said. “My parents didn't think I was going to take it seriously, so they sent me to California by myself. When I got there, I was told by the school they were going to downgrade me to freshman because I wasn’t fluent in English. So I was required to do ninth, tenth and eleventh grade English before I could graduate.”

Despite the setback, Duarte excelled, finishing the classes and graduating in just one year.

“On my graduation day my dad came from Mexico to pick me up,” Durante said. “He and I then drove to San Antonio, looked for a house, and a week later my two sisters, my little brother and my mom came.”

After moving to Texas, Duarte joined the Air National Guard. The language barrier continued to be an obstacle but with the support of his family and leadership, he continued to achieve his goals. Now, having earned his private pilot’s license flying Cessna 150 and 172 model aircraft.

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U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Orlando Duarte, an aerospace propulsion mechanic with the 149th Fighter Wing, Texas Air National Guard, headquartered at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, writes an essay for the Texas Military Department’s Best Warrior Competition, March 2, 2017 at Camp Swift, Bastrop, Texas. Duarte was graded on his essay question as well as an appearance board on the first day of the competition. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Marline Duncan)


Training for the competition was not an easy feat for Durante. With only three weeks to prepare and a heavy work schedule, Duarte had to push himself to be performance ready. But for Duarte, opportunities like the Best Warrior Competition, keep him from getting complacent.

“I’m a full-time technician,” he said. “I would train from 6:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and then had to work 2 p.m. to midnight Monday through Thursday. It’s been tough for me, but it’s something I wanted to do and I wanted to do my best. I’m representing my unit and my family. I feel like a lot of people are counting on me. Every time I was tired and wanted to give up, I just kept pushing.”

Duarte won first place for three of the nine junior enlisted categories.

Sergeant Major of the Army Dailey Visits Texas State Guard 8th Regiment

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Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel A. Dailey presented his Sergeant Major of the Army challenge coin to the 8th Regiment, Texas State Guard, during the regiment’s training drill at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8790 in Spring Branch, Texas, February 25, 2017.  The highest ranking non-commissioner officer of the U. S. Army, Dailey praised the selfless service of the 8th Regiment to the people of Texas.  Accepting the coin was Col. E. A. “Buddy” Grantham, commander, 8th Regiment, Texas State Guard.  (Photo by Warrant Officer One Malana Nall, Texas State Guard/Released) 

Story by: Warrant Officer Malana Nall, Texas State Guard

 

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Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel A. Dailey praised the selfless service of the 8th Regiment, Texas State Guard during the regiment’s training drill held at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8790 in Spring Branch, Texas, February 25, 2017.  The highest ranking non-commissioner officer of the U. S. Army, Dailey was in the Houston area to visit the 75th Army Reserves Training Command and meet with local and community leaders. (Photo by Warrant Officer One Malana Nall, Texas State Guard/Released)

SPRING BRANCH, Texas – Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel A. Dailey made a surprise visit to the  soldiers of the 8th Regiment, Texas State Guard, when he stopped by a training drill held at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8790 in Spring Branch, Texas, February 25, 2017.  Dailey was in the Houston area to visit the 75th Army Reserves Training Command and meet with local and community leaders regarding the United States Army mission and recruiting.  

Dailey thanked the 8th Regiment soldiers for their selfless service as volunteer citizen soldiers in the Texas State Guard.  Watching the regiment conduct a rehearsal of concept hurricane evacuation training exercise, he commented that Texas was most fortunate to have such a well-trained state defense force to assist the people of Texas in times of disaster or emergency.

Dailey then presented his challenge coin to the regiment.  

Col. E. A. “Buddy” Grantham, commander, 8th Regiment, returned the honor by presenting Dailey with the regiment’s challenge coin and made him an honorary member of the unit.  

Command Sergeant Major John Marshall, 8th Regiment, observed that “you can go your entire military career and never meet anyone above your unit.  Today we were honored to meet the Sergeant Major of the Army, the highest ranking non-commissioner officer of the U. S. Army.  He spoke to us as members of the Texas State Guard and as a force multiplier within the Texas Military Forces when called upon to assist our fellow Texans during an emergency or natural disaster.  This is something that I will always remember.”

Camp Buehring breaks ground on $3.7 million Essayons Village

Courtesy Story By: Capt. Maria Mengrone

Posted On: Feb. 22, 2017

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Photo By Capt. Maria Mengrone | On Feb. 14, 2017, Camp Buehring officials broke ground on the $3.7 million Essayons Village complex which will include a series of buildings for future engineer brigades and battalions supporting operations in the Middle East. Pictured (left to right) Mr. Raymond Soto, Program Operations Senior Director for Vectrus and resident of New York City, N.Y., Lt. Col. Carl W. Aufdenkampe, Director of DPW-North and hails from Fort Huachuca, Ariz., Lt. Col. Christopher M. Leung, Camp Commander of Camp Buehring and resident of Champaign, Ill., and Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Maurice D. Millican, representing Soldiers of the 176th Engineer Brigade (Task Force Chaos) and resident of Harker Heights, Texas. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Capt. Maria Mengrone/Released)

CAMP BUEHRING, Kuwait – Camp Buehring officials broke ground on the construction of the $3.7 million Essayons Village complex which will include a series of buildings for future engineer brigades and battalions supporting operations in the Middle East, Feb. 14, 2017, Camp Buehring.

The village will consist of seven pre-engineered buildings which will include workspace for one engineer brigade, two engineer battalions, and four company headquarters.

“Right now the brigade headquarters and a lot of their battalion headquarters are in tents; the environmental control isn’t as good and they work out of temporary partitions and cubicles,” said Camp Commander of Camp Buehring Lt. Col. Christopher M. Leung and resident of Champaign, Ill. 

Planning for the project began as early as February 2016 and final approval was granted in September 2016.

“Each building has its own scope of work so each building required its own development plans,” said Project Manager Capt. Joshua J. Flury, 308th Engineer Facilities Detachment, Brigade Support Troops Battalion, Directorate of Public Works-North (DPW-N).

The work for the project is contracted with an expected completion date of Sep. 12, 2017. 

“The brigade headquarters building will be able to support about 50 personnel. But some of the other buildings are roughly 100 square meters, they will include space for a company commander, company first sergeant and a common area where administrative tasks can be completed. Each building will have its own male and female latrine directly connected to the building,” said Flury.

Onlookers at the ceremony included currently serving Soldiers of the 176th Engineer Brigade, Task Force Chaos, of the Texas Army National Guard. 

“I know we won’t be able to enjoy the Essayons Village but it was important that we were able to be part of this ceremony. It’s always great to know that the follow on engineer units will have a more suitable work environment,” said Senior Enlisted Advisor of the 176th Engineer Brigade Command Sgt. Maj. Anthony Simms, a native of Copperas Cove,Texas. 

The ceremony for Essayons Village is the first of many projects expected for Camp Buehring.

“This is just another part of Camp Buehring’s continued progress. We are growing and continuing to look at new projects to improve things for the tenants who live and work here,” said Leung. 

“This investment in Essayons Village is evidence of the important role the Engineer Regiment is playing throughout the USCENTCOM Area of Responsibility,” said Task Force Chaos Commander, Col. Charles M. Schoening, a Georgetown, Texas resident. “Engineer operations in this theater will continue to be a primary focus and will require enduring facilities for headquarters elements to support mission command functions.”

“Essayons” is French for, “Let us try,” and the adopted motto of the U.S. Army Engineer Regiment.

Texas guard engineer mission making history

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

Posted On: Feb. 09, 2017

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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

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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.”