Texas State Guard Welcomes New Air Component Commander

Brig. Gen. Johann “John” Kinsey,Story by: Laura Lopez

Texas Military Department Public Affairs Office

AUSTIN, Texas- Members of the Texas State Guard welcomed Brig. Gen. Johann “John” Kinsey, as the incoming Air Component Commander, during a promotion and change of command ceremony, at Camp Mabry, in Austin, July 23, 2016.

As commander of the Air Component Command for the Texas State Guard, he is responsible for maintaining the preparedness of highly trained guardsmen for State Active Duty and other missions in response to contingencies, incidents or emergencies in the State of Texas, as directed by the Governor and the Adjutant General. 

“I consider command an honor and a sacred trust that demands loyalty and dedication in all directions,” said Kinsey. “Consequently, it is my responsibility to uphold the highest standards of leadership and personal conduct by always doing the right thing.  I also firmly believe that by taking care of my people, they will take care of the mission."

Kinsey was commissioned a second lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force after graduating from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in 1977. As a career security forces officer, he worked at the installation, major command, Air Staff and joint theater staff levels in various positions to include serving as the chief of police and commanding several large nuclear security forces units like the 343rd Training Squadron (Air Force Security Forces Academy) and the 97th Mission Support Group.  

Since joining the Texas State Guard in 2010, he commanded the 449th Air Support Group, the 5th Air Wing and most recently served as the Vice Commander of the Air Component Command.

Kinsey holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Geography and a Master of Science degree in International Relations. His military education includes the Air Command and Staff College, Air War College, On Scene Commander Couse and Senior Office Protection Awareness Course.

Some of Kinsey’s awards and decorations include the Meritorious Service Medal with four oak leaf clusters, the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award with silver oak leaf cluster, the Air Force Organizational Excellence Award with two oak leaf clusters, the National Defense Service Medal with one device, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and the Nuclear Deterrence Operations Service Medal with “N” device.

Kinsey assumed command from Maj. Gen. Donald Prince, who served as the Air Component Commander for five years.

The Air Component Command is organized under a two air wing structure consisting of seven Air Support Groups located throughout the state. These air wings and their subordinate Air Support Groups provide regular direct support to the Texas Air National Guard and other components of the Texas State Guard and the Texas Military Department.

Georgetown resident retires after 27 years of service

Texas Guardsmen and family gathered to honor Lt. Col. Norbert Flores's serviceCommentary by Sgt. Elizabeth Peña

136th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade

Texas Guardsmen and family gathered to honor Lt. Col. Norbert Flores's service to the Texas National Guard, Oct. 1, 2016, during a retirement ceremony held at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas.

“Flores has always been known for his great common sense and his natural intelligence, but the bottom line is we are going to miss him,” said Col. Scott MacLeod, commander of the 136th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade. “This command will not be the same without him and Flores even though the line will close to fill your gap, we will miss your sword and shield.”

During the ceremony, Flores reflected back on his career and thanked his friends and family for their support throughout his 27 years in service.

“At the end family is what keeps me going,” said Flores. “To my wife and kids, no matter how long I was gone, whether it was a weekend or four months or two years, they always welcomed me home with open arms.”

Flores began his military career in 1988, in the Texas Army National Guard. His career spanned every echelon from platoon through division and every level of leadership.

Flores currently resides in Georgetown with his wife Priscilla and their two children.

Flores’ tireless efforts and devotion to the Texas Military Department and the state of Texas made a significant impact that will undoubtedly last far into the future.

“I always enjoyed serving the state of Texas, the citizens of this country serving with soldiers - I love that stuff,” said Flores as he closed out his speech. “God bless America, God bless Texas and the U.S. Army, but especially God bless the Texas Army National Guard. Gun smoke and let's roll. ”

 

Kristian S. Thiele

TagTalks

Kristian S. Thiele speaks about the importance to have a government affairs program and how to get the troops trained up by instituting a legislative fellowship program for the Texas Military Department.

Produced by the Texas Military Department Public Affairs Office.

Patricia A. Hull

TagTalks

Patricia A. Hull speaks about the importance of Manager’s Internal Control Program.

Produced by the Texas Military Department Public Affairs Office.

Patriot Brigade Soldiers partner with 36th Infantry Division

Patriot Brigade Soldiers partner with 36th Infantry Division
Courtesy story by
: Staff Sgt. Nathan Akridge
3rd Brigade Combat Team PAO NCOIC
Posted: Sept. 22, 2016

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Nathan Akridge) Command Sgt. Maj. Ronald Bly, senior enlisted adviser for 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (LI), places the 36th Infantry Division patch on a battalion command sergeant major during a ceremony Friday at Fort Polk, La. The 3rd Brigade Combat Team is the first active-duty brigade to wear a National Guard unit's patch and is currently the only active Army unit wearing a National Guard patch.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Nathan Akridge)
Command Sgt. Maj. Ronald Bly, senior enlisted adviser for 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (LI), places the 36th Infantry Division patch on a battalion command sergeant major during a ceremony Friday at Fort Polk, La. The 3rd Brigade Combat Team is the first active-duty brigade to wear a National Guard unit's patch and is currently the only active Army unit wearing a National Guard patch.

FORT POLK, La. – The 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (LI) "Patriots" have taken on a new challenge in the effort to elevate U.S. Army readiness. The brigade is now partnered with 36th Infantry Division, Texas Army National Guard, through the Associated Units program. 

"The Associated Units pilot allows us to leverage the capabilities and capacities of the active component, Army Reserve and the Army National Guard as One Army,” Gen. Mark A. Milley, Army chief of staff, said of the Total Force effort. 

The three-year pilot program pairs units from all U.S. Army components for training oversight. The goal is to build relationships, share knowledge and have a fully adaptable and ready force before mobilization. 

To solidify that partnership, Soldiers from the Patriot Brigade replaced their 10th Mountain Division (LI) patch with the 36th Infantry Division’s T patch during a ceremony Sept. 16 in front of Fort Polk’s headquarters building, 

Maj. Gen. Lester Simpson, 36th Infantry Division commanding general, said that although this is the Patriot Brigade’s first time wearing the 36th ID patch, this is not the first time the two units have worked together.

“I am excited about this next chapter in the Army’s Total Force policy that goes far beyond just wearing a patch,” Simpson said. “We will train together, we will fight together, and this will not be the first time. 

“More than 70 years ago, we fought Axis forces in Italy during World War II as part of 5th and 7th Army operations,” he continued. “More than 15 years ago, we exchanged commands during Operation Joint Forge in Bosnia, and over the last 10 years, we have served side by side fighting against terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Col. Brian Sullivan, commander of 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (LI), stressed to the Soldiers the positive changes this partnership brings. 

“Our Patriot Soldiers will gain the experience, insight and professionalism that a National Guard unit can bring to the fight,” Sullivan said. “By giving 3rd Brigade Soldiers access to National Guard facilities and giving the 36th Infantry Division Soldiers access to our facilities, this will be a mutually beneficial arrangement for all units involved. 

“In an era of reduced resources, we must train, deploy and fight as one team,” he added.

Sullivan also spoke about the storied history of the 36th Infantry Division, when Staff Sgt. Homer Wise, from Baton Rouge, La., was presented the Medal of Honor for his actions during World War II. After speaking about how Wise saved his fellow Soldiers lives and suppressed and killed the enemy fire, Sullivan made a connection with the troops on the field before him. 

“Patriots, no matter how many divisions, brigades or battalions the Army might have, it is a lone staff sergeant from Louisiana, wearing the 36th Infantry Division’s patch, that can shake the world.”

Till the last drop; Texas Guardsmen deliver drinking water to state jail

Till the last drop; Texas Guardsmen deliver drinking water to state jail

Story by:
Capt. Jessica Jackson
Posted: Sept. 14, 2016
 

Guardsmen for 3rd battalion, 133 Field Artillery regiment use water buffalos to deliver drinking water to more than 1,400 correctional officers, staff and inmate at the Rogelio Sanchez State Jail in El Paso, Texas, Aug. 11, 2016.   After a main water break at the jail, administrators reached out to the unit to provide potable water to the site until water was restored to the facility.
Guardsmen for 3rd battalion, 133 Field Artillery regiment use water buffalos to deliver drinking water to more than 1,400 correctional officers, staff and inmate at the Rogelio Sanchez State Jail in El Paso, Texas, Aug. 11, 2016. 

After a main water break at the jail, administrators reached out to the unit to provide potable water to the site until water was restored to the facility. (Courtesy photo)

EL PASO, Texas—It’s the middle of summer, with temperatures in the triple digits and the water main breaks—leaving a jail full of inmates and staff without water. This was the situation at the Rogelio Sanchez State Jail in El Paso, Aug. 11, 2016. 

Jail administrators reached out to Texas Army National Guard 3rd Battalion, 133 Field Artillery Regiment based out of El Paso to see if the unit could assist in providing drinkable water for more than 1,400 correctional officers, staff and inmates onsite.

Understanding the severity of the problem, the unit quickly ramped up their water buffalos to provide assistance.

“The potable water was delivered the same day of the request,” said Capt. Charles Peters, 3rd Battalion, 133 Field Artillery Regiment S3 operations officer. “We were able to mount an initial response rapidly to provide the needed water within hours of notification.”

A quick response not lost on Garth Parker, Rogelio Sanchez State Jail warden.

“From the time they received the request it was only three hours until water was delivered,” said Parker. “This was a very impressive response time.  It shows the amount of commitment of the Guardsman and how very well-trained they are to be able to put together such a rapid response.”

The Guardsmen provided water to the jail for approximately 22 hours and delivered more than 30,000 gallons of potable water.

“It is awesome; the guard being able to provide this service to those in need,” Parker said. “It shows their high level of leadership, professionalism and organization to be able to gather the requested resources and deploy them in such a quick response.”  

The quick response not only helped those left without drinking water, but also gave Guardsmen a view into how their unique set of skills and equipment could help those locally in need.

“The soldiers were able to conduct a real-world DSCA mission, gaining valuable insight into supporting the community, and see how their actions can provide a positive impact within their own community,” said Peters.

Emergency situations are bound to occur, having these capabilities allow Texas National Guard units to provide much needed support throughout the state. 

“To me this displays superior readiness for any emergency or situation that arises, it’s great to know …we can make a call and receive assistance,” said Parker.

Yet another example of how Texas Guardsmen are always ready and always there.

Texas Military Department strengthens communication throughout the ranks

Texas Military Department strengthens communication throughout the ranks

Story by: Sgt. Elizabeth Peña

Posted: Sep. 10, 2016

Texas Guardsmen are broken into working groups to worke on separate mission sets. By combining the components, service members were able to discuss issues they saw simultaneously across the force. Eighteen handpicked service members from the Texas Army National Guard, Texas Air National Guard and State Guard, representing each brigade, wing and major command in the Texas Military Department, came together for an inaugural Junior Enlisted Advisory Council at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas, September 10-11, 2016 to discuss how to bridge gaps within the force. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Elizabeth Pena)
Texas Guardsmen are broken into working groups to work on separate mission sets. By combining the components, service members were able to discuss issues they saw simultaneously across the force. Eighteen handpicked service members from the Texas Army National Guard, Texas Air National Guard and State Guard, representing each brigade, wing and major command in the Texas Military Department, came together for an inaugural Junior Enlisted Advisory Council at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas, September 10-11, 2016 to discuss how to bridge gaps within the force. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Elizabeth Pena)

AUSTIN, Texas -- Basic military values teach service members to always put the mission first. As those missions are being fulfilled and new policies put in place, leaders must ensure their junior future leaders are not left behind. 

Current technology has far surpassed the technology of 20 years ago and these factors present challenges in communicating across generations. 

“We are a generation removed from the junior enlisted, who are the bread and butter of our organization,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Mark A. Weedon, Command Senior Enlisted Leader for the Texas Military Department. “So we want to make sure that we have some circular communication from top to bottom.”

Eighteen handpicked service members from the Texas Army National Guard, Texas Air National Guard and State Guard, representing each brigade, wing and major command in the Texas Military Department, came together for an inaugural Junior Enlisted Advisory Council at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas, September 10-11, 2016 to discuss how to bridge gaps within the force.

“I was picked by my platoon sergeant because he thinks that I would be an asset to this council,” said Texas State Guard Petty Officer William Rogers, with the 3rd Battalion Maritime Regiment. “I feel like I’ve got experience in both federal and state and I can combine those experiences and give my input as someone that’s very senior in age as an E-4 that’s got my life experiences.”

During the council, service members were broken into sections.

“We split the council up into four groups and they each worked on separate mission sets,” said Weedon. “We will be presenting those problem set solutions to the Texas Adjutant General and to the executive council in a couple weeks.”

By combining the components, service members were able to discuss issues they saw simultaneously across the force.

“I saw tremendous similarities,” said Rogers. “Once we got in there and the boundaries came down, it wasn’t State Guard, it wasn’t National Guard, and it wasn’t Air National Guard we were just all soldiers and troops and airmen working together for a cause.” 


Through the use of meetings and by providing the opportunity to receive training, network with peers and participate in-group discussions, junior enlisted guardsmen can enhance and support the effective communication of the Texas Military Department strategic vision, mission, and goals. 

“I think it’s going to work great,” said Texas Army National Guard Spc. Robert Sanchez, combat engineer with the 836th Sapper Company of the 136th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade. “Command Sgt. Major Weedon has a strong opinion behind everything that we are saying. He is trying to understand what we are saying and put everything into his own words so when he presents it, its what we want but, it’s also at a good standpoint for Col. Chaney and the Texas Adjutant General.”

The guardsmen were directed to go back to their respective units and communicate with other junior service members to gather analysis for the next meeting.
 
“I got the ability to work with diversity and understand what we need to do to help new airmen or soldiers,” said Airman 1st Class LaChunda Gibbs, supply specialist with the 147th Reconnaissance Wing. “What I’m taking back is the info that we can use to resolve the issues within the military.” 

The council is scheduled to meet quarterly, with members rotating out approximately every two years. 

“Our Texas Adjutant General is a people person,” said Weedon. “He is probably the biggest advocate in this state for our junior enlisted so when they directly identify issues and make recommendations for solutions, he’s going to listen.”

1st Regiment Texas State Guard Welcomes New Commander

1st Regiment Texas State Guard Welcomes New Commander

Story by:  Chief Warrant Officer 2 Janet Schmelzer, Texas State Guard Public Affairs


Posted: Sept. 8, 2016

Col. Kris Krueger became the new commander of the 1st Regiment, Texas State Guard, in a change of command ceremony in front of the Alamo, in San Antonio, Texas, July 16, 2016.  Brig. Gen. Howard N. Palmer, Jr., Commander, Army Component Commander, Texas State Guard, presented the guidon of the 1st Regiment to Krueger.  The guidon or colors of the unit symbolizes the transfer of authority and responsibility to a new commander.   (Photo by Staff Sgt. Juan Trevino, Texas State Guard)
Col. Kris Krueger became the new commander of the 1st Regiment, Texas State Guard, in a change of command ceremony in front of the Alamo, in San Antonio, Texas, July 16, 2016.  Brig. Gen. Howard N. Palmer, Jr., Commander, Army Component Commander, Texas State Guard, presented the guidon of the 1st Regiment to Krueger.  The guidon or colors of the unit symbolizes the transfer of authority and responsibility to a new commander.   (Photo by Staff Sgt. Juan Trevino, Texas State Guard)
 

SAN ANTONIO - The 1st Regiment, Texas State Guard, welcomed a new commander, Col. Kristopher Krueger, during a change of command held at the Alamo, in San Antonio, Texas, July 16, 2016.  Krueger will lead the 1st Regiment headquartered in San Antonio and its subordinate battalions in both San Antonio and Donna.

Krueger expressed how honored he was to be taking command of the 1st Regiment.

"I have to thank Brig. Gen. Howard Palmer for the opportunity to come back and lead the unit where I started my Texas State Guard service,” said Krueger. “I also want to thank Col. Vince Carag for an outstanding job as the regiment's previous commander. Vince’s work has added another chapter to the great history of 1st Regiment. I look forward to working with the best soldiers in the Texas State Guard as we continue to grow that history and serve this great state."

Krueger first enlisted in the Texas State Guard in 1994.  Upon graduating from Texas A&M University, he received his commission as a second lieutenant in the TXSG in 1998. 

During his twenty-two years in the guard, he has served in the 2nd Brigade, at Texas State Guard Headquarters, Deputy J-3 for Plans, Joint Staff, as well as commander of the 2nd Battalion, 8th Regiment. Most recently, he served as the G-3 operations, Army Component Command.

Other assignments include the Texas Military Academy, the Standing Joint Interagency Task Force and State Director for the Military Emergency Management Specialist Academy.

From October 2005 to October 2007, Krueger deployed as a civilian to Saudi Arabia with the Army’s Saudi Arabian National Guard Modernization Program working with the U.S. Army, U.S. Air Force, Department of State, the Saudi military and other foreign allies.

"I've been impressed with Kris Krueger since the first time I met him in 2008," commented Brig. Gen. Howard N. Palmer, Jr., Commander, Army Component Command, Texas State Guard. "What sets him apart is his drive to succeed regardless of the capacity in which he serves. He has the leadership traits to be successful.  I know that he will take the regiment to the next level of skill, training and preparedness to serve Texas." 

Krueger is a graduate of the Texas State Guard Command and General Staff College, where he was first in his class receiving the Colonel Stephen Springer Academic Excellence Award.

He has also completed training at the Emergency Management Institute in Emmitsburg, Maryland, the Texas Department of Public Safety Training Academy and the Governor’s Center for Management Development.

His awards and decorations include the Outstanding Service Medal (5 awards), Medal of Merit (2 awards), Adjutant General’s Individual Award (5 awards), Meritorious Service Ribbon, Commanding General’s Individual Award (4 awards), Texas Faithful Service Medal (4 awards), Texas State Guard Service Medal, SGAUS Commendation Medal, Texas State Guard Association Sam Houston Distinguished Service Medal, as well as the Master MEMS Badge

He is a Life Member of both the National Guard Association of Texas and the State Guard Association of the United States. He served on the National Guard Association of Texas Board of Directors from March 2013-March 2016.

Krueger is employed with the Department of Public Safety. He and his wife, Traci, have a daughter and a son.

Texas, Singapore military celebrate 20-year partnership

Texas, Singapore military celebrate 20-year partnership 

Story by
: Capt. Jessica Jackson

Posted: Sept. 6, 2016

Members of the inaugural Peace Prairie partnership participate in a photo during the 20-year celebration of the working relationship, Aug. 16, 2016, in Flower Mound, Texas.   The Peace Prairie partnership includes the Republic of Singapore Air Force and Texas National Guard. Pilots and crewmen from the Singapore military live and train in Texas to become proficient pilots before returning home. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Capt. Jessica Jackson)
Members of the inaugural Peace Prairie partnership participate in a photo during the 20-year celebration of the working relationship, Aug. 16, 2016, in Flower Mound, Texas. 
The Peace Prairie partnership includes the Republic of Singapore Air Force and Texas National Guard. Pilots and crewmen from the Singapore military live and train in Texas to become proficient pilots before returning home. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Capt. Jessica Jackson)

AUSTIN, Texas – Dozens of Singaporean airmen along with their Texas military counterparts gathered to celebrate a partnership that started 20 years ago, during a ceremony at Circle Ranch in Flower Mound, Aug. 16, 2016.

After the Singapore military did a commercial buy on Chinooks, the next step was to get their pilots the best training available. Leading them to the Texas National Guard.

Once their initial meeting with the Texas National Guard concluded, the Singaporeans were encouraged to research other state programs, looking at Mississippi’s, Pennsylvania’s and Nevada’s National Guards.

“I told them, go look at those states and when they were done looking, to get back to Texas and get ready to work,” said retired Lt. Col. Craig Rushing, the first U.S. Army Flight Training Detachment commander.

This was the birth of the Peace Prairie partnership. “And here it is 20 years later,” Rushing said.

With varying levels of flight experience, partnering with the guard provided both fictional and real-world training for pilots.

"Being part of the Guard, the RSAF was able to ramp up our Chinook capability as we participate in exercises like JRTC and Red Flag," said Lt. Col. Howe Siong Sen, Republic of Singapore Air Force Peace Prairie Detachment commander.

In addition to those exercises, the nature of Texas also provided unique training opportunities.

“Here in Texas we have to deal with fires and hurricanes, so we got them trained up on all those kinds of things — Army stuff,” Rushing said. “They knew about flying, but they didn’t know about being in the field or facing large-scale emergencies — they were tougher than I thought and I had some of the best to work with.”

When the Singaporean crewmen begin their training in the U.S., one of their first stops was with Master Sgt. Derek Smith, senior flight engineer instructor.

“We took what they learned in Singapore and expanded on it,” Smith said.

Newly assigned airmen to the Peace Prairie Detachment must go through three phases of training while here in the U.S., which can take up to six months.

“There’s a 90-day window between the different phases, but it’s all proficiency based,” Smith said.

Adding to the knowledge the pilots bring to the partnership, Texas Guardsmen ensure their Singaporean counterparts are aware of and abide by U.S. Army and Federal Aviation Administration regulations while flying in country.

This partnership does more than help develop confident pilots and aircraft engineers, it allows those involved to learn and grow, providing a rare opportunity for the airmen.

“It opens up the relationship base; there aren’t a whole lot of units that get to work hand-in-hand with a foreign military outside of a deployment,” Smith said. “They’re different on how they do things; we come together, meet in the middle and there’s some give and take.”

The Peace Prairie partnership has made strides to help continue positive relations between the two countries.

“The close ties we’ve built over the last 20 years, post operations, is very important,” said Sen.

Texas Guardsmen partner with Chilean military during humanitarian relief effort

Texas Guardsmen partner with Chilean military during humanitarian relief effort

Story by: Sgt. Elizabeth Peña

Posted: Sept. 3, 2016

Texas National Guard Lt. Col. Mark Davis, an optometrist with the 147th Medical Group in Houston, Texas, gave medical aid during the humanitarian mission. Thousands of local citizens receive medical treatment from Texas Guardsmen and Chilean Airmen during the five-day XXI Operative Medico-Dental Rapa Nui, Aug. 25 - Sept. 3, 2016, on Isla de Pascua, more commonly known as Easter Island. The joint Ministry of Health and Chilean Air Force event is designed to deliver medical specialty care to patients they may not otherwise have access to such as ophthalmology, optometry, minor surgery, ear nose and throat, dentistry, cardiology, and pulmonary medicine. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Elizabeth Pena)
Texas National Guard Lt. Col. Mark Davis, an optometrist with the 147th Medical Group in Houston, Texas, gave medical aid during the humanitarian mission. Thousands of local citizens receive medical treatment from Texas Guardsmen and Chilean Airmen during the five-day XXI Operative Medico-Dental Rapa Nui, Aug. 25 - Sept. 3, 2016, on Isla de Pascua, more commonly known as Easter Island. The joint Ministry of Health and Chilean Air Force event is designed to deliver medical specialty care to patients they may not otherwise have access to such as ophthalmology, optometry, minor surgery, ear nose and throat, dentistry, cardiology, and pulmonary medicine. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Elizabeth Pena)

ISLA DE PASCUA, Chile – Thousands of local citizens lined the halls of the cramped hospital to receive medical treatment from Texas Guardsmen and Chilean Airmen during the five-day XXI Operative Medico-Dental Rapa Nui, Aug. 25 - Sept. 3, 2016, on Isla de Pascua, more commonly known as Easter Island.

“Our principle reason for being in Chile, and particularly Easter Island, was to validate and demonstrate in real time a seamless interoperability with our Chilean Air force medical counterparts,” said Texas Air National Guard George Ivanovski, commander of the 136th Medical Group, in Austin, Texas. “We actually worked side-by-side with them seeing patients.”

The joint Ministry of Health and Chilean Air Force event is designed to deliver medical specialty care to patients they may not otherwise have access to such as ophthalmology, optometry, minor surgery, ear nose and throat, dentistry, cardiology, and pulmonary medicine.

“Easter Island is quite isolated,” said Ivanovski. “The island is about 2500 miles from the mainland and is probably one of the most remote places on earth. It's 63 square miles of landmass with about 6,000 people living there. 

Ivanovski acted as the Texas Air National Guard Liaison to the Chilean Air Force during the operation, and Lt. Col. Mark Davis, an optometrist with the 147th Medical Group in Houston, Texas, participated in aid during the humanitarian mission.

“I was working with six other ophthalmologist from Chile,” said Texas Air National Guard Mark K. Davis, optometrist for the 147th medical group, based in Ellington Field Joint Reserve Base, in Houston, Texas. “We were doing both routine eye care glasses and secondary care which would be medications, eye disease and also doing tertiary care which is some cataract surgery.”

Easter Island does have its own medical facility but at times it can be overwhelmed.

“Even though it’s a full service hospital most of the positions are one deep and these guys are working 24/7, 365,” said Ivanovski. “Beyond seeing the islanders, once the travel season starts and cruise ships start arriving, the small hospital tends to get overwhelmed with a lot of additional people that are sick.”

During the mission, medical officials saw double of their expected locals.

“The original estimated number of patients was about 2700, they saw about 5700,” said Ivanovski. “So you’re looking at about a 50 percent increase and when you think about it that’s pretty much the whole island. They all showed up.”

This year marked the 21st iteration for the Chilean Air Force and the sixth year for Texas to participate through the State Partnership Program.

“They are very appreciative of us being there, said Ivanovski. “Chile is our sister state and we have a lot of things in common not only recently with our military 
exchanges, but historically, so its important for us to keep up that relationship and continue to build on it.”

Davis has served in his career field for over 30 years but this mission gave him a new experience to take back home and share with his students.

“I teach at the University of Houston College of optometry,” said Davis. “You can teach your students about rudimentary eye care and taking care of people in areas of lower social economics but in the U.S. you still have equipment. This is an eye exam, I wouldn’t say in the jungle, but definitely in area with less equipment so it takes you back to the basics.”

The population on the Island is made up Chilean and Rapa Nui locals. 

“Ninety-five percent of the island is Roman Catholic so the priest came out and blessed us,” said Davis. “At the index, they had a party for us and the civilians came out and cooked for us and the mayor was grilling tuna. They were so gracious.”

The Texas National Guard and Chile have been working together for more than seven years through the national states’ partnership program. The program is managed by the National Guard Bureau, and is designed to link each state’s National Guard with a partner nations’ military forces and government agencies in a cooperative, mutually beneficial relationship.

“The Chileans and the patients thought it was great,” said Ivanovski. “This was not just a meet and greet event – this was a full up humanitarian operation, planned and executed much like you were rolling up into a disaster zone. It was truly awe inspiring to be a part of that.”