KFOR 32 Transfer of Authority Ceremony

CAMP BONDSTEEL, Kosovo – NATO’s Kosovo Force officially welcomed the 32nd rotation of U.S. Soldiers taking responsibility for the Regional Command – East mission during a transfer of authority ceremony, June 30, 2023.

KFOR transferred authority between the outgoing RC-East team, 76th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Task Force Nighthawk from Indiana and the incoming 56th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Task Force Texans from Texas.

“We have been blessed and couldn’t have asked for a better team,” said Col. Chris Mabis, commander of the 76th. “You have all been tremendous teammates and I am forever grateful for your dedication to this mission.”

The ceremony started with the National Anthem, sung a cappella by Task Force Texans and Alabama National Guard 1st. Lt. Timothy Lett, a helicopter flyover and the changing of state flags, from Indiana to Texas. In front of the three flag poles, that prominently display the American flag, the state flag of the current Regional Commander and the NATO flag, leaders from the 76th cased their unit’s colors, officially signifying the conclusion of their nine-month mission in the region, followed by leaders from the 56th IBCT unfurling their unit’s colors, representing the beginning of their mission in Kosovo.

“The actions and contributions of Task Force Nighthawk have been invaluable and will have lasting impacts for years to come,” said Maj. Gen. Angelo Ristuccia, KFOR commander. “The U.S. has provided world-class Soldiers to the KFOR mission over the years.”

During the 76th’s tour, RC-East completed 219 air mission requests, more than 2,500 patrols and more than 3,000 soldier-leader engagements.

“I look forward to working with international organizations and the institutions in Kosovo to support peace and stability in the region,” said Col. Ross Walker, commander of the 56th IBCT and incoming commander of RC-East. “We’re here to maintain a safe and secure environment and freedom of movement for all people in Kosovo.”

Soldiers from Texas, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Alabama, and Illinois National Guard units join Soldiers from ten contributing partner nations, forming the Regional Command East team, all dedicated to maintaining a safe and secure environment and freedom of movement under the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244 of 1999.

State Partnership Program Bolsters Aliance

Santiago, Chile –Texas Air National Guard Capt. Phil Fountain and Texas Army National Guard Capt. Michael Ortiz refreshed valuable relationships and continued building bonds between the two countries through a successful Subject Matter Expert Exchange, July 12, 2023, in Chile as part of the National Guard’s State Partnership Program with the Chilean Joint Staff. 

The collaboration took place to increase awareness of the Chilean Army’s role of providing security and protection, build trust between the Chilean Army and citizens, and develop positive relationships between Texas National Guard and the Chilean military. 

“The State Partnership Program provides a unique opportunity to share best practices,” said Capt. Phil Fountain. “Being in Chile has been a great experience to understand how they conduct public affairs operations and community relations activities. I had the opportunity to be here last year and meet our public affairs counterparts, and this year we have further strengthened our relationship and mutual understanding.”

During their time in Chile, the Texas National Guard Public Affairs team joined the Chilean Army’s Public Affairs team's historic Route 77 initiative, which commemorated the Battle of La Concepción. The team visited the Museo Historial y Militar de Chile where they learned more about the Chilean Military’s history as part of the Student Day Program. The visit by students from Escuela Premilitary Heroes de la Concepción to the museum served to highlight the importance of educating the youth of Chile about their country's history.

The Texas National Guard was also part of a community outreach effort in the commune of La Pintana, where the Chilean Army showcased its military police K-9 unit, an Army band played music for the children, and local health organizations provided information on vaccines and other services for the community. The team was interviewed by Chilean journalists, and the success of the outreach demonstrated the positive impact of the multi-national efforts to connect with the local community. 

“The Chileans have been gracious, welcoming, and very supportive of the exchange,” said Fountain. “We went into local communities and learned how the Chilean army connects with the citizenry, from participating in public health events to engaging with local schools and connecting people together through their museums of history.”

The Texas National Guard’s participation in the SMEE supports the U.S. Southern Command’s strategic goal of strengthening partnerships with countries in the region. Through their participation, Texas National Guard personnel can share their expertise and best practices in public affairs with the Chilean military, underscoring the importance of communication and collaboration to successfully accomplish the mission.

This exchange was also part of an ongoing effort in the SPP, which seeks to improve each nation’s ability to remain highly adaptive to changing security and geopolitical conditions. The SPP provides professional military education and training opportunities that facilitate collaboration and foster enduring relationships. 

“The State Partnership exchanges are a high note of my career,” Capt. Phil Fountain said. “I look forward to the opportunity to return to Chile and to, someday, welcome our partners to Texas.”

The Texas National Guard personnel continues to work closely with their partners to maintain and strengthen relationships and the bond between the organizations. The SPP and the SMEE program are an important part of Texas National Guard’s mission to serve the citizens of Texas and the people of the world. 

Texas National Guard Continues to Secure Laredo

LAREDO, Texas – The City of Laredo is a high-traffic area for international crime and illegal border crossings. In recent months, Task Force Center, located in Laredo has experienced a significant uptick in criminal smuggling of illegal aliens and drugs. This increase leads to more vehicle and foot chases involving local and state law enforcement officials, often aided by Texas National Guard partners.

“The Soldiers of Task Force Center are flexible and highly motivated for mission success,” said 1st Sgt. Nate Warfield. “We will continue to prevent, deter, and interdict transnational criminal activity along Texas Mexico border with our law enforcement partners.”

In Laredo, Guardsmen use advanced night vision equipment to patrol known human and drug smuggling routes. Local and state law enforcement can directly communicate with the Guard to synchronize efforts to interdict the criminal activity. Unmanned aerial vehicles and other aviation assets provide all partner agencies with the bird’s eye information needed to safety and effectively conduct operations. Employing those skills and equipment has led to more than 210,000 apprehensions and referrals to law enforcement.

The partnership with law enforcement grows stronger with every apprehension in Laredo and across the entire border. Joint Task Force Lone Star will continue to hold the line against criminal activity and illegal border crossings to ensure Texans’ backyards are safe.

Texas National Guard continues to secure El Paso

EL PASO, Texas – The Texas National Guard has continued to hold the line between Texas and Mexico along the Rio Grande River, stopping any mass migration attempts like those seen earlier this year. Soldiers from the Texas Military Department patrol the roads and river and fortify concertina wire barriers.

Earlier this year, El Paso was the epicenter for thousands of immigrants trying to across the river illegally, going over walls and through tunnels to get into the US.

Joint Task Force Lone Star, El Paso Region commander, Maj. Sean Storrud said he has seen significant changes in the past few months.

“Operational changes already began occurring before the end of Title 42, significantly affecting illegal immigration into El Paso”, Storrud said. “We anticipate an increase in efforts to breach the C-Wire in an attempt to access the storm sewers that go under the border wall or in an attempt to go over the border wall with ropes and ladders.”

To reinforce border security, more engineer troops deployed to construct more than 17 miles of concertina-wire barrier along the Rio Grande River.

Soldiers from the Florida, Tennessee, and Arkansas National Guard have joined the effort in El Paso and other areas along the border areas.

The Leading Edge: 147th hosts third annual leadership development course

The 147th Attack Wing hosted its third annual Leadership Development Course at the Lone Star Museum in Houston, June 1-4, 2023.

The four-day course covers a variety of topics, to include communication skills, time management, conflict resolution, developing and demonstrating discipline, interpersonal skills and more. In addition to the course material, the LDC also offers members the opportunity to learn alongside their peers and foster stronger networks of leadership. Master Sgt. April Miller, 147th Operations Group), attended the LDC last year as a student, and decided to return this year as a course facilitator.

“Going through the course last year completely re-motivated me, to where I took the lessons I learned back to my unit and began taking on more of a leadership role,” said Miller. “What’s great about doing it this year is that I still learn so much as a facilitator in this course.”

The LDC facilitators collect and review feedback from students after each course to make changes and improvements to the curriculum. This year, they added the “5 Voices of Leadership” assessment, which helped students identify their unique leadership style.

“The leadership assessment really helped drive home that whole team concept,” said Miller. “You get to see how you are as a person in a group, and why you think the way you do. That was the most involvement I have seen out of this course so far.”
In addition to new changes to course materials, the 147th was invited members of the 136th Airlift Wing and 149th Fighter Wing to the course to help facilitate professional development and networking across multiple wings.

“This is my first time here, and it’s been a great experience,” said Senior Master Sgt. Celeste Larouche, senior enlisted leader for the 149th Host Aviation Resource Management Office. “There were a lot of new leadership concepts I had not yet been exposed to and I truly appreciated learning about them; there’s a lot of new tools that have been offered to me through this course.”

Reflecting on her first visit to the event, Larouche expressed her appreciation for the opportunity to learn new leadership concepts, expand her tools of leadership, and build lasting relationships with peer-leaders.

“This event was well worth the time,” said Larouche. “I’ve truly gained a lot of experience, I’ve networked here, and I’ve accomplished a lot of personal and professional development here.”

Texas Army National Guard conducted its first HALO Operation

Texas Army National Guard conducted its first High Altitude Low Opening (HALO) operation at Camp Swift, near Bastrop Texas, June 27, 2023.
Soldiers from across the United States came together in the Texas locale to execute multiple HALO jumps as part of a mission validation exercise.
Although the Texas Army National Guard has HALO qualified Soldiers, this was the first time the Texas Guard has owned the operation and supplied the parachutes and aircraft.
The 197th Special Troops Support Company Special Operations Airborne from Camp Bullis, San Antonito Texas received the RA-1 Advanced RAM AIR Parachute System (ARAPS) in March of 2023, after four years of working with Force Management to update their Modification Tables of Organization and Equipment (MTOE).
The 197th STSC is one of only two units in the United States that are operationally controlled to the 528th Sustainment Brigade during wartime missions.
“The request for the MTOE change met the requirements of the United States Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) Regulation 350-2 Chapter 2” said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Michael Kanzler, senior airdrop systems technician. “It states that the command Parachute Riggers are utilized effectively, efficiently and those aerial delivery subject matter experts are qualified to meet the widest spectrum of aerial delivery requirements for the Army Special Operations and interoperability with USSACOM and coalition units.”
The overall mission of the 197th STSC (SO) (A) is to provide rapidly deployable sustainment support, which includes providing personnel parachutes to ARSOF elements.
“These parachutes are intended to improve the survivability of the airborne Soldier and preserve the commander’s available combat power when conducting military freefall operations, during both combat and training missions,” said Kanzler.
This new capability to perform these intricate operations will give the Texas National Guard a set of new opportunities in the future according to Sgt. Joseph Briseno an aerial delivery specialist.
“It opens up a gateway for Texas to conduct these types of operations with Special Forces, who primarily utilize this type of canopy,” Briseno said. “It allows us to integrate our capabilities and enhance our skills as it pertains to our mission essential tasks.”
Part of Briseno’s responsibility during the free fall event was ensuring the safety of the equipment as it was being placed into service for the first time, and as it was being used for the day’s operation.
“All the Riggers that participated in in-servicing the parachutes needed to pass the RA-1 Rigger new equipment training or NET prior to working with the parachutes,” Briseno said. “This course is crucial in ensuring the utmost safety for the jumpers today.”
Kanzler and Briseno are recent graduates of the MFF course and are employed at the Aerial Delivery Facility at Camp Mabry in Austin Texas, which oversaw the inventorying and in-servicing of the 36 new RA-1 parachutes for the operation.
“Now Texas can conduct infiltration techniques throughout the world through military freefall operations; something we weren’t able to do solely on our own.” Said an Alpha Company, 5th Battalion 19th Special Forces Group Soldier.

Operation Alcatraz effective stemming illegal

EAGLE PASS, Texas – Since the expiration of Title 42 in May of this year, Texas National Guard Soldiers have vastly changed operations. Texas Guard engineers physically altered the landscape to enable Guardsmen to carry out the mission more successfully. Also, additional National Guardsmen from other states have enabled nearly round-the-clock operations.

The engineers from Special Reaction Teams 2 and 3 were able to complete Operation Alcatraz, an operation that cleared dense brush from the edge of the Rio Grande River where illegal migrants used the bamboo and brambles to evade capture. The operation also included a more robust barrier of concertina wire the entire length of the area more than eight miles long.

The heavy foliage near the river presented a hazard to those trying to enter Texas illegally, as they get tangled in the dense brush, and to the Guardsmen who patrol the area. Removing the foliage using heavy equipment has removed the hazard for all.

“So far, everything is moving along smoothly,” 1st Lt. Luis Cuellar said. “We’ve had some equipment go down, but thankfully we have Texas Department of Public Safety working with us to get maintenance out here, helping get all our equipment back up and running. My guys are out here 7 days a week working on not only Alcatraz, but everything going on at the Eagle Pass Port of Entry.”

The overall appearance has changed in Eagle Pass, and operations have changed as well. A continuous united presence with Soldiers and law enforcement partners from Texas DPS and other states run 24-hour operations, taking up points along the river to prevent, deter, and interdict criminal trespassers.

“We have seen apprehension numbers go down, yet greatly increased the number of turn backs that we are getting,” Maj. Michael Riley, the Operations Officer for Task Force Eagle said. “A turn back is when someone attempts to cross into the US illegally and then realizes that they don’t have easy access to cross and return to Mexico.”

147th Attack Wing MQ-Reaper completes first ACE movement in Europe

CASLAV AIR BASE, Czech Republic: The Texas Military Department’s 147th Attack Wing demonstrated an MQ-9 Reaper agile combat employment (ACE) movement from Caslav air base to Ostrava airport during Exercise Air Defender June 13, 2023 in Caslav AB, Czech Republic.
This ACE movement displayed the effectiveness of the MQ-9 Reaper in a remote location.

This training flight was the first MQ-9 Reaper ACE movement successfully completed in Europe that integrated a military air base and a civilian airport. This demonstrated a cross-functional force package ability to rapidly conduct remote split operations in austere environments.
The MQ-9 Reaper was launched via satellite using its integrated automatic takeoff and landing capability (ATLC) from Caslav AB, remotely piloted from Texas by 147th ATKW aircrew, and used ATLC to land in Ostrava Airport.

A C-17 Globemaster led by the 105th Air Wing, New York Air National Guard, preceded the MQ-9 Reaper at Ostrava Airport, carrying a small contingent of Multi-Capable Airmen specialized in rapid launch and recovery. The team consisted of 147th AKTW maintainers and 136th Airlift Wing logistics Airmen that prepared and secured the recovery site for the MQ-9 Reaper.

“Air Defender has been a great opportunity to show our capabilities as an Air National Guard MQ-9 Reaper organization,” said Maj. Karl McGarvey, the 147th Operations Support Squadron chief of launch and recover operations. “This exercise has given us the ability to strengthen our relationship and interoperability with our Czech Republic state partners.”

This training mission was coordinated between the 147th ATKW, Czech Republic military partners, the Czech Civilian aviation authority, and operations director at Ostrava Airport, Michal Holubec. The MQ-9 Reaper was able to enter civilian airspace through this coordination and was accomplished because of best practices from 147th ATKW leaders who previously navigated similar procedures through the Federal Aviation Administration in the United States.

This coordination between Texas and the Czech Republic comes at a pivotal moment between United States and Czech Republic relations because of the Defense Cooperation Agreement recently being signed by U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III and Czech Republic’s Minister of Defence Jana Cernochova.

“It has been rewarding to see the focused training of the 147th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron Multi-Capable Airmen program coming to fruition as they integrate with the 136th Contingency Response Force to successfully perform the first MQ-9 Reaper ACE movement in the U.S. European Command,” said 1st Lt. Mark Wilson, the 147th AMXS director of operations. “All direct learning objectives have been seamlessly achieved as we continue to develop and test our home station tactics, techniques, and procedures with our allies and partners.”

Exercise Air Defender gives the 147th ATKW a great opportunity to enhance their relationship through the State Partnership Program between Texas and the Czech Republic. This program has facilitated collaboration and exchange in various areas such as defense, education, and cultural understanding.

Through joint training exercises, workshops, and information sharing, the partnership has enhanced the capabilities of both Texas and Czech Republic in areas like military readiness, disaster response, and cybersecurity. The program has also encouraged cultural exchanges, allowing citizens from Texas and the Czech Republic to learn from each other's traditions, languages, and customs, thereby promoting a greater sense of understanding and friendship between the two communities.

The collaboration between the Texas National Guard and the Czech Armed Forces has resulted in improved interoperability, sharing of best practices, and enhanced peacekeeping operations. The State Partnership Program between Texas and the Czech Republic stands as a testament to the power of collaboration and diplomacy in building strong international relationships.

From National Guard Soldier to Social Media Star

Story by Sgt. Gauret Stearns 110th Public Affairs

When people think of social media influencers with over 280,000 followers they don’t normally think of National Guardsmen.

Texas Army National Guard Chief Warrant Officer 2 Eugene Hunyadi is a targeting officer for the 56th Infantry Brigade Combat Team and the 36th Infantry Division. But he is also a local celebrity within the unit and across the force, for making viral videos about his service in the Texas National Guard and the military as a whole.

“I had a video that went viral in 2021 which was about how discipline in the military is a little different and how we sometimes do things a lot differently from the way civilians do it and it struck a chord with people and went viral,” Hunyadi said. “It had millions of views within just a couple of days and I'd picked up tens of thousands of followers very quickly.”

Hunyadi started his path to stardom making short videos on one account and has grown his social media profile across several platforms.

“Most of my followers are veterans of active duty, National Guard and the reserves,” Hunyadi said. “The rest are just people interested in the military.”

Before he started making videos he had a blog where he talked about everything fitness related as well as his weightloss journey of losing 130 pounds to rejoin the military.

In the past few years the military has updated guidance on the use of social media for service members. The updated guidance can be found in ALARACT 073/2022.

“I've been asked by a number of Soldiers ‘what would happen if I was told by the brigade commander or somebody else that I can't post videos on one of my pages anymore?’ And my answer to them is, you know, I wouldn’t make videos on that platform anymore,” Hunyadi said. “I'm always going to follow the rules, regulations and directives that we're given and I do think that the military should make sure that what we're doing is safe and right.”

The rules and guidance of social media use with the DOD are stated in Official Use of Social Media for Public Affairs Purposes (DoD Instruction 5400.17).

“It's like when you hand a private a rifle, it's a dangerous weapon if it's not handled properly,” Hunyadi said. “If they don't have the right training they can hurt themselves or hurt others. When you have the proper training, the proper guidance and you've been shown how to use that weapon properly, it is a tool that you can use to accomplish your commander's mission. I think that the same is true of social media if we receive good guidance, if we receive good information, it is possible that it can be a tool for positive gains in morale in mentoring, coaching, in teaching and in showing that the military lifestyle, while not easy, is something that's fulfilling and rewarding.”

Texas National Guard improves public safety

Solder on the Border

SOUTH TEXAS— Recently, Texas National Guard Soldiers from Kilo Company assisted Texas Department of Public Safety Troopers apprehend a driver and three illegal aliens after a high-speed chase in a Laredo neighborhood that ended when the vehicle broke down, June 19, 2023.

The chase began when DPS brush team received a call about a group seen getting into, and speeding off in, what is known as a “load-up vehicle.”

The next day State Troopers and Soldiers apprehended one female migrant and witnessed four males swim back to Mexico after another vehicle crash. The high-speed pursuit occurred ended with the pursued vehicle crashing into the Rio Grande River as a last-ditch effort to evade capture.

Spc. Crumby, a Texas Guardsmen has seen the different ways illegal immigrants try to get across.

“We had a few that we turned back in raft early,” Crumby said. “Late, in the shift there was another group nearer to the bank and we were able to turn them back, too.”

Service members have also trained to use small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS), or drones to gain the upper hand in border-town neighborhoods. The drones provide a birds-eye view of the area, as well as adding the ability to see in the dark.

Guardsmen across the southern border have worked with the law enforcement partners to detect, deter, and interdict all criminals from coming across and either poisoning our neighborhoods with illicit drugs or trafficking people. The Texas National Guard remains dedicated to protecting our border and improving the safety of our neighborhoods.