Texas Guardsmen, local first responders exercise air and medical capabilities

Texas Guardsmen, local first responders exercise air and medical capabilities (1 of 4)

Story By: Sgt. Elizabeth Pena

Posted on: June 16, 2016

Photo By Sgt. Elizabeth Pena | An Air Guardsman evaluates Texas Guardsmen on their transport of mock patients to the military aircraft during an evacuation exercise at the Valley International Airport in Harlingen, Texas, June 9, 2016. The Texas Division of Emergency Management along with the support of Texas Military Department and other state and local authorities conduct a state level hurricane-preparedness exercise June 1-9, 2016 across various Texas cities. The Texas Military Department practiced both general population and medical evacuation through embarkation hubs in the Rio Grande Valley. (Photo by U.S. Army National Guard Sgt. Elizabeth Pena/Released)
Photo By Sgt. Elizabeth Pena | An Air Guardsman evaluates Texas Guardsmen on their transport of mock patients to the military aircraft during an evacuation exercise at the Valley International Airport in Harlingen, Texas, June 9, 2016. The Texas Division of Emergency Management along with the support of Texas Military Department and other state and local authorities conduct a state level hurricane-preparedness exercise June 1-9, 2016 across various Texas cities. The Texas Military Department practiced both general population and medical evacuation through embarkation hubs in the Rio Grande Valley. (Photo by U.S. Army National Guard Sgt. Elizabeth Pena/Released)

HARLINGEN, Texas -- Just in time for hurricane season to begin, guardsmen from the Texas Army National Guard, Texas Air National Guard and Texas State Guard supported the Texas Division of Emergency Management with air and medevac capabilities during a state level hurricane preparedness exercise June 1-9, 2016, in the Lower Rio Grande Valley and across various other Texas cities.

“This exercise is the first of its kind in all of Texas and the U.S., other than the real life occurrence with Katrina and Louisiana,” said Tony Pena, state coordinator for Texas Department of Public Safety Emergency Management, Region 3. “This is an exercise that has been long overdue for the Rio Grande Valley coastal area.”

The mock “Hurricane Tejas” mirrored the unforgettable 1980 “Hurricane Alan” which was the worst of its kind sweeping through the Rio Grande Valley coast at 190 mph. The scenario estimated 1.1 million people to be evacuated out of the Lower Rio Grande Valley.

“Allen is the only storm in the Atlantic basin in recorded history to achieve wind speeds of 190 mph,” said Col. Tom Suelzer, director of operations for the Texas Air National Guard, and for the state, he serves as the Air Operations Center director. “Allen is a great model for this exercise because it became a Category 5 two times in its life, and steered a direct path to the Rio Grande Valley from way out in the gulf."

The Texas Military Department practiced both general population and medical evacuation through embarkation hubs at the Valley International Airport in Harlingen, June 9, 2016.

“The reason that this exercise is so important is it validates the Texas Division of Emergency Managements’ plan to employ the Texas Military Department in assisting local authorities to ensure a safe evacuation of the Texas citizens from the potential harm.” said Col Williams, Air Expeditionary Group Commander.

During the mock hurricane evacuation, Texas Air National Guard, active duty Air Force, Oklahoma Air National Guard set up a Disaster Aeromedical Staging Facility for patients that are being transported to a higher level of care through military aircraft. These patients are brought in from local medical facilities and high school in Harlingen, Texas.

“The Disaster Aeromedical Staging Facility can process up to 140 patients in 24 hours,” said Col. Tami Rougeau, Individual Mobilization Augmentee to the assistant director of operations of Headquarters Air Mobility Command Scott Air force Base, Illinois. “We will run two C-130s for four missions. Each mission will have approximately 35 patients. All patients that are identified to be moved by the state are processed here into the DASF and registered nurses, medical technicians, critical care docs and flight surgeons care for them."

The Texas State Guard provided numerous service members to role play evacuees needing medical attention. Commercial aircraft carried members of the community role playing as general population evacuees out of the lower Rio Grande Valley to the shelter locations in Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, Dallas Love Field and also Austin Bergstrom International Airport.

“We have never had one where we do a full-scale evacuation of actual patients and/or general population,” said Pena. “So with the combination of military aircraft on one hand and civilian general population on the other hand, I personally believe it’s going very well.” 

“This is my first time doing this type of training, said Air Force Staff Sgt. Alice Salazar-Sherman, a medical technician with the 88th Inpatients Operation Squadron, at the Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. “We are overcoming a lot of barriers. It has been fun to see what the Department of Defense can do. This training is extremely important to prepare for what the state expects and to see what the Disaster Aeromedical Staging Facility is prepared to handle.

Texas Guardsmen are trained and equipped with military capabilities to help stabilize and improve the situation in the wake of a natural and man-made disaster.

“Within the Texas Air National Guard and Texas Army National Guard our aviation and air mission skill sets are directly applicable to domestic air operations,” said Suelzer. “The mission of coordinating a large aviation response naturally falls onto the Texas Military Department.”

The Atlantic Hurricane season runs from June 1 – Nov. 31, 2016.

This is 1 of 4 Texas Hurricane Preparedness)

Texas guardsmen, first responders conduct aviation search and rescue exercise

Texas guardsmen, first responders conduct aviation search and rescue exercise

Story By: Capt. Jessica Jackson

Posted on: June 16, 2016

Photo By Capt. Jessica Jackson | Multiple state and local agencies participated in this year's SAREX 2016. The search and rescue exercise helps first responders better coordinate with partner agencies to provide efficient and life-saving resources when needed. ‪(U.S Army National Guard photo by Capt. Jessica Jackson/ Released)
Photo By Capt. Jessica Jackson | Multiple state and local agencies participated in this year's SAREX 2016. The search and rescue exercise helps first responders better coordinate with partner agencies to provide efficient and life-saving resources when needed. ‪(U.S Army National Guard photo by Capt. Jessica Jackson/ Released)

AUSTIN, Texas — Helicopters buzzing overhead, first responders descending to save stranded victims — that was the scene at Camp Mabry in Austin as guardsmen and five state and local partnering agencies conducted a large-scale aviation search and rescue exercise, June 8, 2016.

Texas Military Department, Travis County STAR flight, Texas Department of Public Safety, U.S. Coast Guards – Houston and Austin Police Department came together in a joint effort to complete the exercise said Brett Dixon, program manager for Texas Task Force 1.

Every year, a different catastrophic event is put into the training. Each exercise provides Texas Military Department and local and state authorities the opportunity to offer mutual assistance to mock stranded victims.

This year’s scenario focused around a hurricane that produced record rainfall in Austin — causing widespread flooding throughout the area.
Partnering agencies responded on scene, within hours, to run through mock evacuations in preparation for when severe weather occurs.

“This exercise is a planned partnership between Texas Task Force 1, and mimics past events to make the training as realistic as possible,” said Texas Army National Guard Lt. Col. Troy Meuth, search and rescue director for Air Operations Center.

Several months of preparation and planning went into conducting this complex event including reaching out to the interagency partners and using lessons learned to help develop real-world scenarios and create a plan.

Flight crews within the different organizations also played a significant role in the exercise. 

“During the exercise I was the Air Mission Commander and pilot in command,” said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Pedro Vargas-Lebron, Texas Army National Guard. “My main responsibilities are ensuring the flight is safe for the mission we are doing. The crew in the back will do the rescues and my role is to ensure we can accomplish that safely.”

Along with providing realistic training, the exercise centered around synchronization of the Air Operations Center on Camp Mabry and the Joint Air Ground Coordination team located at the STAR flight hangar.

“We are using this opportunity to make sure we can communicate between agencies, making sure that when 911 calls come in that we can direct the appropriate asset or resource out to where they need to be to do the most good,” Dixon said.

In addition to improving life-saving skills, Meuth said this was also an opportunity for participants to spend a day doing something that matters. 

“The people who do this, including our interagency partners, are very passionate about what they do,” Meuth said. “It’s a very high-risk, but high-reward job.”

The annual exercise is in its third year and is a smaller component of the statewide Lower Rio Grande Valley hurricane evacuation exercise.

“During previous hurricanes, we realized with all the aircraft on scene, there was some confusion of roles and responsibilities,” Meuth said. By conducting this exercise, we can work that out ahead of time and develop capabilities so we’re able to do more with less.”

Through preparation and practice, these cooperating entities can become more confident in their ability to be there when they are needed the most.

“We’re able to respond to Texans when they’re in need,” Meuth said. “That’s what this is about; whenever there is a disaster or big event we’re able to quickly respond with the right assets to help our fellow Texans.”

Vargas-Lebron had a similar sentiment. “In the end it’s about supporting the local community. That is what makes the guard unique.”

36th Infantry Division headquarters conducts MIBT exercise

36th Infantry Division headquarters conducts MIBT exercise

Story by: Spc. Christina Clardy

Posted On: June 16, 2016

Photo By Maj. Randall Stillinger | Soldiers from the 36th Infantry Division, Texas Army National Guard, host a Multi-Echelon Integrated Brigade Training exercise scheduled for June 4-18 at Fort Hood, Texas. The MIBT is a training exercise designed to provide high-level combat training to Army National Guard brigade combat teams who are unable to attend a Combat Training Center rotation due to capacity and scheduling constraints of the center. Nearly ten units, across three states, participated in the two-week exercise to hone their battlefield skills and strategies. (U.S. Army Photo by Maj. Randall Stillinger, 36th Infantry Division Public Affairs)
Photo By Maj. Randall Stillinger | Soldiers from the 36th Infantry Division, Texas Army National Guard, host a Multi-Echelon Integrated Brigade Training exercise scheduled for June 4-18 at Fort Hood, Texas. The MIBT is a training exercise designed to provide high-level combat training to Army National Guard brigade combat teams who are unable to attend a Combat Training Center rotation due to capacity and scheduling constraints of the center. Nearly ten units, across three states, participated in the two-week exercise to hone their battlefield skills and strategies. (U.S. Army Photo by Maj. Randall Stillinger, 36th Infantry Division Public Affairs)

The Texas Army National Guard division serves as the higher headquarters during this Multi-Echelon Integrated Brigade Training (MIBT) exercise for a brigade and several specialized units as they train to meet requirements for their annual training cycle. The exercise will be focused on maneuver-based, decisive action and will include critical gunnery training on various weapons systems. 

The exercise is designed to provide high-level combat training to Army National Guard brigade combat teams who did not attend a Maneuver Combat Training Center (MCTC) rotation. The two centers are the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, California and the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk in Louisiana, and are specialized facilities that focus on strategic critical command processes and combat training prior to deployments. The MIBT is based on the same training methods in order to sustain readiness and maintain the capabilities of reserve and active-component forces. 

"The MIBT is designed to provide divisions and brigades the opportunity to train to specific training models when there are no Combat Training Centers available," said Maj. Gen. Lester Simpson, commanding general of the 36th Infantry Division. "Since Battle Command is a perishable skill, it requires frequent repetition, improvements and practice to maintain efficiency and capabilities."

The first MIBT was conducted in 2015 by Army National Guard units from New York, Vermont and Virginia, at Fort Drum, New York with the 42nd Infantry Division serving as the higher headquarters. Nine units and more than 5,000 Active and Reserve Component Soldiers from Mississippi, North Carolina and Texas will be participating during this year’s event. 

"For the division, our primary mission is to provide first class training opportunities for the brigade as they build and refine their staff processes and battle drills," said Simpson. "Many brigades are in states that do not have a division in it, so this exercise allows them to train directly with a higher headquarters."

Designed to maximize collective training and support increased unit readiness, the MIBT exercise is conducted during the standard two-week Annual Training period with minimal additional resources or funding. The use of localized training areas, in this case Fort Hood, allows for considerable cost savings.

"Both the 155th ABCT and our division have great separate working relationships with the 1st Cavalry Division," said Simpson. "So we are able to combine our organizations and build an even better relationship where we all work off each other's experiences."

As U.S. Army Forces Command's designated coordinating and implementation authority for the Army Total Force Policy, the First Army Division developed and sponsored the MIBT by integrating active and reserve component forces into a collective training event.

The policy sets the unit standards for total force unit readiness, focusing on leader development, integrating the Active and Reserve Components into collective unit training events, reducing post-mobilization training time and strengthening partnerships between active and reserve components commanders. 

This year's participating MIBT units are:

  • Headquarters, 36th Infantry Division, Texas Army National Guard
  • 155th Armored Brigade Combat Team, Mississippi Army National Guard
  • 184th Sustainment Command, Mississippi Army National Guard
  • 980th Engineering Battalion, Texas Army National Guard
  • 75th Training Command, U.S. Army Reserve, Houston, Texas
  • U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command of the U.S. Army Reserve, Fort Bragg, North Carolina
  • 177th Combined Arms Training Brigade, U.S. Army's First Division East from Camp Shelby, Miss. 
  • 188th Combined Arms Training Brigade, U.S. Army's First Division East from Camp Shelby, Miss.
  • 2nd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, U.S. Army, Fort Hood, Texas

Larry J Werbiski

TagTalks

Personnel Package Process and New Hires

Larry J Werbiski Speaking about Personnel Package Process and New Hires. A short review of the process and the pit falls with in the process.
Produced by the Texas Military Department Public Affairs Office

Texas Guardsmen learn disaster response from the best

Texas Guardsmen learn disaster response from the best

Story by: Maj. Chol Chong

Posted: June 9, 2016

Photo By Lt. Col. William Phillips | Members of the Texas National Guard's 6th Civil Support Team, headquartered in Austin, conduct biological target lane training in Corpus Christi, Texas, with Dugway Proving Ground's Special Projects Division and the Corpus Christi Fire Department HAZMAT team, June 9, 2016. The training includes two days of scenario-based lanes and one day of classroom instruction. (Photo by U.S. Army National Guard Lt. Col. William Phillips/Released)
Photo By Lt. Col. William Phillips | Members of the Texas National Guard's 6th Civil Support Team, headquartered in Austin, conduct biological target lane training in Corpus Christi, Texas, with Dugway Proving Ground's Special Projects Division and the Corpus Christi Fire Department HAZMAT team, June 9, 2016. The training includes two days of scenario-based lanes and one day of classroom instruction. (Photo by U.S. Army National Guard Lt. Col. William Phillips/Released)  

The Texas National Guard’s 6th Civil Support Team is one of the first lines of defense following a chemical, biological, radioactive, or nuclear incident. This joint outfit of 22 full-time personnel is always on call, and always ready to react when disaster strikes. Such vigilance requires regular training and mission proficiency, especially with the agencies they’d most likely serve alongside. Most recently, they demonstrated this expertise in Corpus Christi, Texas, with the support of the Corpus Christi Fire Department and personnel from the U.S. Army Dugway Proving Ground out of Utah. From June 7-9, these experts in emergency response conducted specific target biological threat awareness training, engaging various scenarios to perfect their interoperability and processes.

“The members of the 6th CST increased their operating skills and further developed their understanding of the Tactics, Techniques & Procedures Development process by responding to multiple unknown threats using a progressive crawl-walk-run method of training,” said Jaromy D. Jessop, the Dugway Proving Ground Special Programs Division Program Manager.

The Proving Ground personnel were specifically requested by the 6th CST for their professionalism and experience in CBRN incidents. They contributed classroom instruction and scenario exercises to the team throughout the three days in Corpus Christi.

"Training with true subject matter experts is always of great benefit,” said Army Capt. Brandon M. Wells, a survey team leader with the 6th CST. Dugway Proving Ground is one of only a few facilities that really understands the science behind CBRN response considerations.”

Dugway Proving Ground set up a single training lane on day one at a storage facility that used to be a functional firefighter station house in Corpus Christi. The 6th CST was tasked to determine the threat, sample the findings, and provide mitigation recommendations to the incident commander, played by Jessop. The 6th CST conducted site reconnaissance, sampling, and threat mitigations, with feedback from their on-site partners.

“A critical mission for the 6th CST is to provide Defense Support to Civil Authorities,” said Jessop. “The no notice response training increased the unit's ability to assist civil authorities when asked to react to an unknown CBRN threat.”

The final day of training pitted the CST against two separate buildings at the firehouse station in order to solve multiple complex problems to the complete the satisfaction of the incident commander. Meanwhile, their civil partners from the local fire department learned about the resources their military counterparts could bring to an emergency situation.

“The event further strengthen relationships with Corpus Christi Fire Department personnel who observed portions of the event and provided the training facility,” said Jessop.

In addition to providing performance feedback, Dugway Proving Ground conducted a detailed class on Tactics, Techniques, and Procedure Developments, focusing on the fundamentals of microbiology, agents of bioterrorism, sampling biological threats, and biological decontamination.

“Because of their wealth of knowledge,” said Wells, “Mr. Jessop and his team were able to facilitate an excellent training lane that not only challenged our team during site characterization and sample collection, but also with problem solving and the analysis of potential CBRN hazards."

Security Forces Squadron is ready to support Texans

Security Forces Squadron is ready to support Texans (2 of 4)

Story by: Sgt. Elizabeth Pena

Posted: June 9, 2016

An Air Force medic searches mock patients for harmful objects as they are brough into from local medical facilities during a state-level Hurricane evacuation exercise June 09, 2016, at the Valley International Airport, Harlingen, Texas. Any weapons found are given over to the security forces officers from the 149th Security Forces Squadron. (Photo by: U.S. Army National Guard Sgt. Elizabeth Pena)
An Air Force medic searches mock patients for harmful objects as they are brought into from local medical facilities during a state-level Hurricane evacuation exercise June 09, 2016, at the Valley International Airport, Harlingen, Texas. Any weapons found are given over to the security forces officers from the 149th Security Forces Squadron. (Photo by: U.S. Army National Guard Sgt. Elizabeth Pena)

HARLINGEN, Texas – Providing safety and security during emergency situations is something the Security Forces Squadron takes with pride. The 149th Security Forces Squadron tested their battle skills during a support mission in Harlingen, Texas, June 2 – 9, 2016.

“In a real-world setting, when people are about to encounter a natural disaster, they are often in a state of panic and not always with a sound mind,” said Air Force Tech Sgt. Joseph Paulino, non-commissioned officer in charge of the 149th SFS, and head of training, based out of Lackland Air Base, San Antonio, Texas. “As law enforcement we are trained to help calm situations down and identify possible hostile individuals.”

Service members the Texas Army and Air National Guard, Texas State Guard and U.S. Air Force participated in the event. The exercise mirrored a Category 5 Hurricane that required emergency medevac and general population evacuations from the Lower Rio Grande Valley. The mock patients were transported from Valley International Airport through military and civilian aircraft.

Airmen from the security forces squadron worked with local law enforcement and helped pull security around the airfield, just as they would in a real world situation. Having the extra security allows medical personnel and key leaders the ability to run their operations with safety.

“We maintain the perimeter and help give them the assurance that we are here to protect them, as well as the patients, and anyone else that comes in and needs us,” said Air Force Staff Sgt. Christina Richards, a security forces officer with the 149th.

During the exercise, mock patients were brought in from local medical facilities; they were searched using a metal detector for any harmful objects. 

“We have two guys up front, medical will search the patients and if they do find an individual with a weapon they will let us know and provide that extra care,” said Paulino.

Being a hurricane veteran, gives Paulino the knowledge and experience to know how to lead his Airmen as well as build fostering relations with the local community.

“When I was in the Guam unit, I actually came out for hurricane Katrina and they were assisting disaster relief so it’s definitely a possibility,” said Paulino. “So being able to practice this as an exercise, helps build rapport with local agencies so they know what their role would be and can run a more fluid operation.”

Although this is Richards’ first mission as a security forces specialist, she is not new to the security world.

“I grew up around the fire department and cops so it was kind of destined growing up,” said Richards. “It’s like second nature because I’ve been around it all my life.”

Exercises like these give Texas guardsman and other service members the ability to practice their job skill and be prepared to help their fellow citizens when, and if, a real world disaster occurs.

“I’m happy to be down here to serve not only my country, but my state of Texas and provide a presence down here where military is not that prevalent, said Paulino. “I like engaging with the local populace and building that rapport around them.”

This is 2 of 4 Texas Hurricane Preparedness series.

Multinational forces make preparations for communications and safe operations

Multinational forces make preparations for communications and safe operations
Story by:
Sgt. Adrian Shelton
Posted: June 8, 2016

Photo By Sgt. Adrian Shelton | An instructor rushes to assist Soldiers in exiting a simulated rolled over vehicle during HMMWV Egress Assistance Training (HEAT) at the Observer Coach Trainer Academy, at Operation Swift Response at JMRC, Hohenfels Training Area in southeastern Germany, June 10, 2016. HEAT teaches Soldiers how to react and survive in the event of a vehicle rollover event. Exercise Swift Response is one of the premier military crisis response training events for multi-national airborne forces in the world. The exercise is designed to enhance the readiness of the combat core of the U.S. Global Response Force -- currently the 82nd Airborne Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team -- to conduct rapid response, joint-forcible entry and follow-on operations alongside Allied high-readiness forces in Europe. Swift Response 16 includes more than 5,000 Soldiers and Airmen from Belgium, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain and the United states and takes place in Poland and Germany, May 27-June 26, 2016. (Photo by U.S. Army National Guard Sgt. Adrian Shelton)
Photo By Sgt. Adrian Shelton | An instructor rushes to assist Soldiers in exiting a simulated rolled over vehicle during HMMWV Egress Assistance Training (HEAT) at the Observer Coach Trainer Academy, at Operation Swift Response at JMRC, Hohenfels Training Area in southeastern Germany, June 10, 2016. HEAT teaches Soldiers how to react and survive in the event of a vehicle rollover event. Exercise Swift Response is one of the premier military crisis response training events for multi-national airborne forces in the world. The exercise is designed to enhance the readiness of the combat core of the U.S. Global Response Force -- currently the 82nd Airborne Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team -- to conduct rapid response, joint-forcible entry and follow-on operations alongside Allied high-readiness forces in Europe. Swift Response 16 includes more than 5,000 Soldiers and Airmen from Belgium, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain and the United states and takes place in Poland and Germany, May 27-June 26, 2016. (Photo by U.S. Army National Guard Sgt. Adrian Shelton)

Joint Multinational Readiness Center (JMRC), US Army Garrison, Hohenfels, Germany - Service members from the Army active duty component, National Guard and Reserves, and US Army Europe, prepared for their roles in Swift Response 16 by attending observer/controller training here alongside multinational forces on Wednesday, June 8, 2016. 

Swift Response is a two-phased, premier military crisis response training event; it involves a multinational task force whose primary purpose is to evaluate and enhance the forces' readiness to rapidly deploy in response to conflicts anywhere in the world within less than 24 hours. The first phase began May 27 in Poland, during which paratroopers of several nations conducted multiple and simultaneous airborne jumps to demonstrate allied rapid response capabilities.

"Learning how to work together with the multinational members from all around NATO and the Unified Europe (UE) forces creates some difficult challenges," said Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael P. Perez, commandant of the Observer Coach Trainer Academy. "One of the biggest challenges is learning languages and having to work through the language barriers, having to use linguists to help facilitate the information critically that needs to get across to everybody."

During Swift Response's second phase, the OC-T teams gather at JMRC, during which the teams provide coaching, teaching, mentoring and after action reviews (AAR) to military units that are part of NATO. A primary focus for them, other than exercising control and adjudication of instrumentation systems, is assisting the chain of command in enforcing safety and mitigating risk. Their initial training involves pyrotechnics safety and what is known as HMMWV egress assistance training (HEAT) that teaches Soldiers the effects of rollover incidents and the skills to react and survive such incidents should they occur.

"The units give us what they want to train on, and whatever the training plan they have is our indicators that they're succeeding at the mission they're on," said Army Capt. Joshua A. Wright, 1st Battalion, 141st Infantry Brigade, San Antonio, Texas. He is also the mobilization officer in charge for Texas Army National Guard. Wright said that OC's ensure the units maneuver safely and that their actions are documented in order for units to maximize the quality of their training at JMRC.

One of America's allies, France, sent members of a newly established joint airborne brigade in the city of Marseille, to JMRC to learn ways to observe and coach their unit's training. They presented the challenge of language barriers but how that can be overcome during the integration efforts during an exercise such as Swift Response.

"The first thing we have to learn is to speak English," said French Army Maj. Fabrice Vasseur. "It is sometimes very difficult for us. Like Americans, French have many different accents and sometimes for us for example on the radios, there is misunderstanding, so it is important for us to hear people speaking."

The OC's agree that communications is their biggest challenge. The host nation for Swift Response 16, Germany, identifies its location as a key strength that enhances overall multinational operability. 

"To all the nations that are not here, take a chance and join us," said German Army Capt. Sascha Duderstaedt, 3rd Company, 31st Airborne Regiment, also known as German Ranger Company, in Seedorf. "It's a great opportunity, especially how much effort and money the U.S. put in here, and to train here in the environment that is international, that is challenging, and hopefully more nations from the NATO side will join us here at Swift Response to get better within the NATO."

This year marks the 16th rotation of Operation Swift Response, and will conclude on June 26.

Texas Guardsmen stay mission ready to help fellow citizens

Texas Army National Guard Sgt. Joseph A. Fuentes, a crew chief with the 2-149th General Support Aviation Battalion, of the 36 Infantry Division, based out of San Antonio, Texas, stands ready for the next medevac emergency June 4, 2016. The State Operations Center requested more resources from the Texas Military Department due to the recent flooding across Texas. The 2-149th is equipped with medevac capabilities such as aircraft, to transport litter and ambulatory patients to a higher level of care. (Photo by: U.S. Army National Guard Sgt. Elizabeth Pena)
Texas Army National Guard Sgt. Joseph A. Fuentes, a crew chief with the 2-149th General Support Aviation Battalion, of the 36 Infantry Division, based out of San Antonio, Texas, stands ready for the next medevac emergency June 4, 2016. The State Operations Center requested more resources from the Texas Military Department due to the recent flooding across Texas. The 2-149th is equipped with medevac capabilities such as aircraft, to transport litter and ambulatory patients to a higher level of care. (Photo by: U.S. Army National Guard Sgt. Elizabeth Pena)

Texas Guardsmen stay mission ready to help fellow citizens

Story by: Sgt. Elizabeth Pena

Posted: June 4, 2016

SAN ANTONIO, Texas -- The results and lingering effects of El Nino continue to wreck havoc on the state of Texas, as severe flooding across the state is forcing hundreds of people to evacuate their homes. From May 29, 2016 through June 4, 2016, more than 250 members of the Texas Military Department mobilized to support its local and state partners with emergency operations. 

Disaster situations like these are exactly what part-time guardsmen like Sgt. Joseph A. Puente, crew chief for the Charlie Company, 2-149th General Support Aviation Battalion, 36th Infantry Division, Texas Army National Guard, are trained to be ready for. 

“They call us M-day guys, meaning that we have a civilian job by day and we do this on the weekends,” said Puente. “But we always know that state active duty missions could come up, so if we are watching a big rain event, we know the possibility is there.”

When not in uniform, Puente works as a field operations technician at one of the nations leading Telecommunications Company in San Antonio, Texas.

On May 30, 2016, the State Operations Center requested more resources. Guardsmen from the 2-149th General Support Aviation Battalion, to include Puente, and Texas Task Force 1 Search and Rescue Team, were activated and mobilized to the San Antonio Army Aviation Support Facility in San Antonio, Texas.

“I looked at my schedule and said – if the state needs me, if the guard needs me, if the unit, and if I can be an asset to the public, please give me a call,” said Puente. “The call was sent out on Saturday on Memorial weekend and we reported in Tuesday morning at 7 am.”

The 2-149th is equipped with medevac capabilities such as aircraft, to transport people and ambulatory patients to safety or a higher level of care. 

When paired with Texas Task Force 1, the unit is able to rescue citizens from life-threatening situations like trees, flooded creeks, or vehicles that have been swept away from high-rise water.

Guardsmen like Puente know that being mission ready is essential to saving lives. 

“I’ve always heard the medevac world runs real fast,” said Puente. “I was prior infantry so I had all my stuff laid just right. Everything moved really fast but it was kind of like a controlled chaos. That aircraft was up and running in the least amount of time to get to that victim.”

Crew chiefs must go through about 25-50 hours of monitored training as a crew member and pass basic tasks as well as perform mission tasks which consist of tactical flying, fire fighting, hoist operations, night missions using night vision goggles.

This was Puente’s’ first real-world disaster response mission as a crew chief, and having that practice gave him confidence in his abilities to perform when Texas made the call for help.

“You’re with them all the time, you train with them, you’re doing high strenuous tasks and so you push through it together and when the aircraft lands at the end of the day you feel a sense of accomplishment.”

Texas Guardsmen conducted more than 135 missions, rescuing more than 900 people and 310 pets following severe flooding across the state, May 29-June 12, 2016.

Memorial Day 2016

Each year, on the last Monday in May, we remember and honor those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our country. On 30 May 2016, we again pay tribute to these men and women, remember their service, and renew our commitment to the nation. While I encourage each of you to take full advantage of the long weekend to relax and enjoy quality time with your family and friends, I want you to do so with safety in mind. Be aware of your surroundings; situational awareness is the key to avoiding hazardous situations. I thank you and your families for all you do in defense of our great state and nation.

-- Major General John F. Nichols, Adjutant General

Airmen beat Army peers in annual Best Warrior Competition

Story By: 1st Lt. Alicia Lacy

Posted on: May 19, 2016

Staff Sgt. Steven Hein, secruity forces airman 136th Airlift Wing, Senior Airmen Austin Kirwin, tactical air control party member, 147th Reconnaissance Wing, stand together after Hein and Kirwin are named the top junior enlisted and noncommissioned officer competitors at the Texas Army National Guard's Best Warrior Competition banquet May 13, 2016, at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas. The annual competition is an Army-wide competition that tests the physical and mentual endurance of soldiers. (Air National Guard photo by 1st Lt. Alicia M. Lacy/Released)
Staff Sgt. Steven Hein, secruity forces airman 136th Airlift Wing, Senior Airmen Austin Kirwin, tactical air control party member, 147th Reconnaissance Wing, stand together after Hein and Kirwin are named the top junior enlisted and noncommissioned officer competitors at the Texas Army National Guard's Best Warrior Competition banquet May 13, 2016, at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas. The annual competition is an Army-wide competition that tests the physical and mentual endurance of soldiers. (Air National Guard photo by 1st Lt. Alicia M. Lacy/Released)

AUSTIN, Texas -- The anticipation grew as the four airmen and soldiers stood at parade rest in front of a room filled with their peers, family members and leaders at the annual Best Warrior Competition banquet May 13, 2016, at Camp Mabry in Austin.

After the third drum roll and a few long pauses, the state’s Senior Enlisted Advisor Command Sgt. Maj. Mark Weedon announced this year’s top finishers for the Texas Military Department’s Best Warrior Competition. Senior Airman Austin Kirwin and Air Force Staff Sgt. Steven Hein earned the title best warrior and bragging rights for the next year.

“It’s an honor for our airmen to be recognized in the joint environment,” said Lt. Col. Timothy Pertuis, commander of the 147th Air Support Operations Squadron, 147th Reconnaissance Wing, Texas Air National Guard.

The Best Warrior Competition is traditionally an Army competition that tests soldiers’ physical and mental aptitude, but in 2013, the Texas Army National Guard integrated its Texas Air Guard counterparts. Since then, the Air guardsmen have competed with their Army comrades every year.

Kirwin, a tactical air control party member from the 147th ASOS, and Staff Sgt. Steven Hein, a security forces airman from the 136th Security Forces Squadron, 136th Airlift Wing, competed with about 60 other Texas Air and Army National Guardsmen, as well as Army reservists from the 75th Training Command and members from the Chilean armed forces during the four-day competition Feb. 4-7, 2016, at Camp Swift in Bastrop.

“Airmen are competing and accomplishing alongside their Army National Guard and Chilean counterparts, and once again, airmen take the title of best warrior in the state of Texas” Pertuis said. “Senior Airman Kirwin and Staff Sergeant Hein are great examples of the tough professionals that our Texas Air National Guard recruits and develops.”

Though this year was Kirwin’s first time competing, this is Hein’s second time competing for the title.

“I figured I’d give it another try,” Hein said. “It was a good experience. It’s fun. You get to meet some new people, experience new things and learn some new stuff.”

“It’s pretty impressive to make it twice in a row because he’s competed against all the guys in his wing and beat them out a second time to get there,” said U.S. Army Master Sgt. Shane Ruppel, BWC noncommissioned officer in charge, about Hein’s second appearance at the annual competition.

The competition tests competitors through a series of events, including urban warfare simulations, board interviews, marksmanship, land navigation, physical fitness tests, a road march, an essay, an obstacle course, and other warrior tasks and battle drills.

“The state of Texas leads the way in joint and international integration with our SPP programs and through the Best Warrior Competition,” Pertuis said. “I’m grateful for the opportunity to serve with and lead these great airmen.”