Texas Guardsmen partner with Czech Republic engineers

Service members from the Texas National Guard's 386th Engineer Battalion, the 551st Multi Role Bridge Company, U.S. Army's 20th Engineer Battalion, and the Czech Republic 15th Engineer Regiment conduct a wet gap crossing during a operation rehearsal June 20, 2016, at Fort Hood, Texas, as part of a Multinational Lumberjack River Exercise. Through the States’ Partnership Program, the Texas Army National Guard currently works alongside the Czech Republic and Chile to conduct military operations in support of defense security goals. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Elizabeth Pena/Released)
Service members from the Texas National Guard's 386th Engineer Battalion, the 551st Multi Role Bridge Company, U.S. Army's 20th Engineer Battalion, and the Czech Republic 15th Engineer Regiment conduct a wet gap crossing June 20, 2016, at Fort Hood, Texas, as part of a Multinational Lumberjack River Exercise. Through the States’ Partnership Program, the Texas Army National Guard currently works alongside the Czech Republic and Chile to conduct military operations in support of defense security goals. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Elizabeth Pena/Released)

Texas Guardsmen partner with Czech Republic engineers

Story by: Sgt. Elizabeth Pena

Posted: June 21, 2016

FORT HOOD, Texas – Engineers from the Texas Army National Guard’s 386th Engineer Battalion, 551st Multi Role Bridge Company, Czech Republic’s 15th Engineer Regiment and U.S. Army’s 20th Engineer Battalion conducted a Multinational Lumberjack River Exercise, June 21, 2016.

“This is the first time we have worked with an active duty engineer battalion in order to conduct a gap crossing exercise along with the foreign national soldiers,” said Texas Guardsman Lt. Col. Anthony J. Miles, commander for the 386th Eng. Batt.

The Texas National Guard is currently partnered with the Czech Republic and Chile under the State Partnership Program. Through SPP, Guardsmen conduct military-to-military engagements with multinational allies in support of defense security goals.

“It’s an honor to see Czech soldiers exercising alongside American soldiers,” said Petr Gandalovic, Ambassador for Czech Republic, during his visit to Fort Hood. “This is important because we all keep the same values and we all have to be responsible for each other, and the responsibility translates into capability of doing something real.”

Service members coordinated with each other to conduct a wet gap crossing. When a large body of water is blocking ground transportation, this is used to transport military supplies, personnel and or vehicles across a lake or river.

“The concept of the operation was to conduct rafting operations and project combat power across the far shore,” said Capt. Jacob Patterson an operations planner for the 386th Eng. Batt. 

During the exercise, soldiers worked on ground to free-launch bays and bridges into the lake, and conducted air operations to sling load a bridge, several bays and ramps.

“The aircraft is doing airdrops,” said Sgt. Randall McMorris, with the 551st MRBC, non-commissioned officer in charge for the shore portion of the exercise. “We have a landing zone up the road, and they will attach a ramp and boat and drop it in the water.”

Once all the equipment was in the lake, service members connected the bays and ramps to form a floating bridge. Each bridge is made up of five interior bays and two ramps, referred to as a seven float. 

“With that seven float you can push the heaviest piece of army equipment across, said Patterson. “We pushed M113’s, M2A2 Bradley’s, Up-Armored Humvee’s, a buffalo and a husky, which is a route clearance piece of equipment,” said Patterson.

Soldiers built, two bridges to transport equipment across the lake and used real-world conditions as practice for maneuver operations. 

“This year the water levels are much higher than they were last year,” said Patterson. “It’s about 5 to 10 ft. higher than what we experienced last year, so that in itself is a challenge because we’ve had to change the operation multiple times based on Mother Nature and what we were given to work with.”

Last year the Texas National Guard’s 386th Eng. Batt., went to the Czech Republic to conduct a similar exercise using the Czechs’ equipment. This year, they came the U.S.

“It’s one of the greatest experiences I’ve had so far,” said 2nd Lt. Josef Kurfirt a platoon leader with the Czech Republic’s 15th Eng. Reg. “The most valuable thing for us is for us to see this bridge, work with their equipment and vehicles, and compare technologies and procedures with them.”

The State Partnership Program has been successfully building relationships for over 20 years. The U.S. currently works with 76 nations around the globe.

“This is extremely important in today’s environment to be able to work with interagency and non-governmental organizations with multinational forces, to include our own,” said Miles. “It’s an excellent training opportunity because that’s how we fight overseas. We get rolled up and assigned to other active duty units so if we can practice that in a peacetime situation it makes it that much easier in a wartime situation.”

49 Texas youth receive fresh start through Texas National Guard's Texas ChalleNGe Academy

49 Texas youth receive fresh start through Texas National Guard's Texas ChalleNGe Academy

Story by: 1st Lt. Alicia Lacy

Posted: June 18, 2016

Photo By 1st Lt. Alicia Lacy | Cadets pose for a picture before graduating from the Texas ChalleNGe Academy-East June 18, 2016, in Altair, Texas. The graduates finished the 22-week residential phase of the alternative education program with some recovering high school credits, earning their high school diploma or GED or both. The ChalleNGe Academy is a Department of Defense-funded program through the National Guard and the Texas Joint Counterdrug Taskforce.
Photo By 1st Lt. Alicia Lacy | Cadets pose for a picture before graduating from the Texas ChalleNGe Academy-East June 18, 2016, in Altair, Texas. The graduates finished the 22-week residential phase of the alternative education program with some recovering high school credits, earning their high school diploma or GED or both. The ChalleNGe Academy is a Department of Defense-funded program through the National Guard and the Texas Joint Counterdrug Taskforce.

EAGLE LAKE, Texas (JUNE 18, 2016) – Their faces beamed with pride as the spotlights illuminated them. Some tried to maintain their bearing as they sat upright, but smiles emerged from others as cheers from their families, friends and staff who supported them throughout the residential phase of the Texas ChalleNGe Academy-East echoed in the auditorium.

The day had finally come. They were moments away from being Texas ChalleNGe Academy-East graduates during a ceremony June 18 at Rice Junior High School in Altair.
For the past 22 weeks, the cadets adhered to a strict, military lifestyle, waking up at 4:45 a.m. for physical training, attending classes during the day and turning in at 8:45 every night.

The 49 graduates have their own stories and different circumstances that brought them to the alternative education program, which is a Texas National Guard program under the Texas Joint Counterdrug Taskforce.

For some, it was a last option to reclaim their lives after a few bad decisions or life circumstances led them to dropout of high school or go down a wrong path and fall behind in their school work. 

But regardless of the reason for attending TCA, they all finished with a new lease on life, with several earning their GEDs or high school diplomas or both.

For Samantha Villarreal, 17, of Houston, it was a way for her to not give up on herself and accomplish something she said she thought wouldn’t happen.
Villarreal said she began smoking when she was in the ninth grade. At that time, she started to lose interest in school and wanted to dropout, but because her parents stressed the importance of receiving an education, she began to look for alternative ways to complete high school.

“Dropping out was never an option for me because my parents didn’t graduate,” she said, “so they wanted more for me.”

Into her 10th grade year, Villarreal said she continued to smoke and eventually began a home school program, which she attended for only about a month before quitting that, too.

“I realized I’m here doing nothing and I’m supposed to be doing my school work and I’m not,” she said about the home school.
After traditional high school and home school didn’t work, Villarreal said she began searching for military schools and found the Texas ChalleNGe Academy.
Villarreal went in to the academy missing credits from her sophomore, junior and senior years of high school, but due to her work in the program, she was able to earn her GED and recover most of her credits. Now she only needs three more credits to earn her diploma.

Even though she has a GED, Villarreal said she plans to go back to school and earn her diploma and eventually join the military and go to college.
Andres Martinez, 17, of Brownsville, has a similar story.

Martinez said he started doing drugs and his mom wanted to get him out of that environment.

Martinez said his mom and brother began looking for bootcamps to enroll him. When she found TCA, he said he was open to the idea of attending. 
“I was pretty nervous,” Martinez said, “ but I believed in myself and that I was ready for it.”

While at TCA, staff awarded Martinez the position cadet first sergeant. Staff holds the cadet first sergeant accountable for both student companies.
“I felt proud of myself to know that they were faithful in me to do that position,” he said.

While at TCA, Martinez earned his GED and high school diploma and participated in the Commandant’s Challenge.

Martinez said he plans to join the National Guard and attend college with hopes of becoming a border patrol agent.
“I’m glad I took the opportunity to come here because it helped make me more responsible and take care of my stuff, myself and have discipline to not follow bad influences,” he said. 

Throughout the cycle, TCA cadets were able to meet with and work with Texas Joint Counterdrug Taskforce airmen and soldiers, who helped mentor them through the process.

TCA is a Texas National Guard-sponsored educational program to help at-risk youth between 16 and 18 years old get their lives back on track. The program is completely voluntary and requires a 17 and a half-month commitment.

All cadets must not have any felony convictions and be drug free at the time of entry.

The academy is broken down into the 22-week residential phase and a 12-month, post-residential phase.

TCA focuses on eight core components – academic excellence, health and hygiene, job skills, leadership and followership, life-coping skills, physical fitness, responsible citizenship and service to the community.

In addition to their schoolwork, cadets had the opportunity to participate in other programs like archery, student council, student leadership positions and the Commandant’s Challenge. Students also perform community service every Saturday and have the option to attend church and participate in intramural sports on Sundays.

TCA is a Department of Defense-funded program and receives 25 percent funding from the state. The program is free to Texas residents.
TCA’s West campus in Sheffield plans to graduate 57 cadets June 24 in Iraan.
Both TCAs will begin its fall cycle in July.

Chief of the National Guard Bureau Visits Texas National Guard

Chief of the National Guard Bureau Visits Texas National Guard

Story by: Sgt. Elizabeth Pena 

Posted: June 17, 2016

Photo By Sgt. Elizabeth Pena | Chief Master Sgt. Mitchell O. Brush, Senior Enlisted Advisor, right, talks with service members of the Texas Army and National Guard, left, during a town hall meeting at Camp Mabry, Austin, Texas, June 17, 2016. The meeting was part of the visit from General Frank J. Grass, Chief of the National Guard Bureau. Brush gave servicemembers words of advice on how to be good leaders for incoming soldiers and airmen. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Elizabeth Pena)
Photo By Sgt. Elizabeth Pena | Chief Master Sgt. Mitchell O. Brush, Senior Enlisted Advisor, right, talks with service members of the Texas Army and National Guard, left, during a town hall meeting at Camp Mabry, Austin, Texas, June 17, 2016. The meeting was part of the visit from General Frank J. Grass, Chief of the National Guard Bureau. Brush gave servicemembers words of advice on how to be good leaders for incoming soldiers and airmen. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Elizabeth Pena) 

AUSTIN, Texas – The Chief of the National Guard Bureau, Gen. Frank J. Grass visited the Texas National Guard headquarters at Camp Mabry, Austin, Texas, June 17, 2016, along with his senior enlisted advisor Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Mitchell O. Brush. 

During the visit, they met with key leaders from the Texas Air and Army National Guards to discuss operations within the Lone Star State.

“This is the best thing we get to do,” said Grass, “we love getting out and seeing what happens on the ground. The real world is out here and what you do every day. We are very happy to be here.”

Grass currently serves as a military adviser to the President, Secretary of Defense and National Security Council and is the Department of Defense's official channel of communication to the Governors and State Adjutants General on all matters pertaining to the National Guard.

“Just about every trip I take, I find out something that I didn’t know the National Guard was doing around the world,” said Grass.

After an operations brief from Texas National Guard leaders, it was Grass’ turn to brief Texas service members and thank them for their hard work and dedication to country. Grass expressed to Texas Soldiers and Airmen what a great opportunity it’s been to understand the different roles within the Guard and to actually share that information with people at the Capitol and people inside the Army and Air Force.

“You have two state partners, both Czech Republic, as well as Chile, and what you do there is so great. It has become so valuable all the way to the President of the U.S.”

Grass and Brush held a town hall meeting to talk with service members about past, present, and future operations within the National Guard as well as the Guards’ State Partnership Program, which currently includes 70 unique security partnerships with 76 nations globally. 

“It could be any one of our units that are building that mission whether it’s the war fight, the homeland or the partnerships,” said Grass. “Think about what’s happening this year in Texas alone. And between those three missions, says how heavily you’re engaged…everyday there’s something happening.”

With this visit, Grass has officially visited all the states of America. “Fifty four states, territories and the District of Columbia and he saved Texas for last,” said Brush.

As a part of his Texas tour, the leaders went on to visit a local gym where Grass caught up with mixed martial arts fighter and Texas Guardsmen, Sgt. 1st Class Tim Kennedy.

Lastly, Grass took a trip to Fort Hood, Texas, where he met with soldiers from the Mississippi and Kansas National Guard during their annual training.

A Texan who Puts Texans First

Story By: David Erinakes, COL, MI, Texas State Guard - Chief, Public Affairs

Posted: June 16, 2016

Col. Dan Flynn was promoted to the rank of brigadier general (TX-Brevet)

Col. Dan Flynn was promoted to the rank of brigadier general (TX-Brevet) by Gov. Greg Abbott, Commander in Chief of the Texas Military Department, and Maj. Gen. John F. Nichols, the adjutant general for Texas in a ceremony at the Texas Capitol, in Austin, April 11, 2016.

Flynn began his military career in 1962, as a private in the 36th Infantry Division. He recalled one of his first duties was driving a jeep for Maj. Gen. Everett Simpson, then, commander of the 36th Infantry Division and one of the most decorated soldiers in World War II. There was only one problem: young Pvt. Flynn didn’t know how to drive. After hearing from his sergeant on that matter, Flynn decided a full-time position was probably not for him. However, his commitment to Texas and to the Unites States motivated Flynn to stay involved in the military and he joined the Texas State Guard in 2005.

During his tenure, Flynn served in a variety of positions and is most proud of helping Texas through the experience of multiple deployments in support of disaster management in the state, increasing readiness and mission success. 

"I could not have been more grateful than to finish my military career with such a high honor and I want to thank Maj. Gen. Nichols, Maj. Gen. Betty and Maj. Gen. Bodisch for their support to Texas and to the Governor, I will always be deeply appreciative and never forget this day," said Flynn.

Flynn has also had many other achievements during his service. He was a long-term bank examiner, Deputy Banking Commissioner, County Judge of Van Zandt County and holds the position of State Representative in House District 2 covering Van Zandt, Hunt and Hopkins counties in East Texas. In his capacity as a State Representative, Flynn is also Chairman of Pensions in the Texas House of Representatives and Chairman of the National Conference of State Legislators Defense Task Force.

The governor also recognized Flynn’s wife, Susan, during the ceremony, by honoring her with a Yellow Rose of Texas for her efforts and sacrifices in support of Texas.

Major Exercise Prepares The Texas State Guard

Story by: Spc. Stefan Wray, Spc. Matthew Bramanti, and Sgt. Greg Illich, Texas State Guard 

Posted: June 17, 2016

In a major training exercise, over 300 guardsmen from each component of the State GuardHARLINGEN, Texas - The Texas State Guard is ready this hurricane season. In a major training exercise, over 300 guardsmen from each component of the State Guard learned firsthand how to conduct a massive hurricane evacuation during a large-scale training exercise in the Rio Grande Valley, June 6 - 9, 2016.

"This exercise was a tremendous training and coordination opportunity among the Texas Military Department and emergency management agencies," said Texas State Guard Brig. Gen. Howard N. Palmer, Jr., commander, Army Component Command. "When a significant event occurs, the Texas State Guard will apply the lessons learned at this exercise and will be fully prepared for deployment to assist and support the citizens of Texas."

The Texas Division of Emergency Management and the Texas Military Department Domestic Operations Task Force planned this exercise to test the ability and readiness to evacuate persons by bus and aircraft out of the Rio Grande Valley in the event of a hurricane strike.

Working with service members and employees from the Texas Army National Guard, Texas Air National Guard, Texas State Guard, multiple local and state emergency agencies and the American Red Cross, state emergency management tested the use of aircraft as a mode of evacuation of medical evacuees for the first time, while also providing medical attention and sheltering operations to mock hurricane victims.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency estimates that in a major hurricane emergency 30,000 civilians would need to be evacuated from The Valley, making the ability to evacuate and track thousands of people efficiently and effectively is important to emergency management operations.

State Guard participation in the exercise and in a real-world state emergency is invaluable, said Lee Schnell, a section administrator for the Texas Division of Emergency Management. "Without the State Guard, this doesn't happen."

Texas State Guardsmen supported several areas of the exercise, including emergency tracking trainers, Texas Operations Center members, command and control members, medical observers, mock evacuees and search-and-rescue victims.

The first phase of the four-day operation was the movement of the soldiers to various locations around the state. Using this as an opportunity to train, Guardsmen followed standard military operation procedures throughout the transportation process, practicing communication networking with partner agencies along the route.

Upon arrival in Harlingen, the soldiers checked-in through a new in-process and out-process system rolled out for the first time by the Texas Military Department.

Right away, soldiers trained on the Texas Emergency Tracking Network, a tool Texas State Guardsmen often use to support sheltering operations following large-scale evacuations, According to the Texas Department of Public Safety, this tracking system allows the state operations center to in-process every evacuee, keep track of evacuees as they are transported to shelters in other parts of the state, and track medical assets.  

It also helps to reunite family members, comforts evacuees that their loved ones are safe, and saves lives.  Even evacuated pets are tracked by the system so that pet owners can also be reunited with their pets.

"The new evacuation tracking system that we are training on is very intuitive,” said Texas State Guard Staff Sgt. Cheryl Lemmings, 1st Battalion, 8th Regiment. “It's a good feeling to know that we are preparing to help others in a time of crisis."

After a day of training, many of the guardsmen switched gears and participated in the medical evacuation exercise role playing evacuees.

They received wrist bands and were in-processed through the emergency tracking network just as evacuees would be in a real evacuation, many also receiving medical treatment from Texas Army and Air National Guardsmen for mock injuries. Following check in, they boarded busses for the Valley International Airport in Harlingen and went through the Transportation Security Administration security checks before taking Texas Air National Guard C-130 flights back to Dallas, Houston, Austin and San Antonio.

"This is a true joint exercise with all the different agencies working together," said Texas State Guard Staff Sgt. Mike Mills, 1st Battalion, 2nd Regiment.  "It's great to see it from the evacuee's side and helps me to empathize with them.  We will be able to take that back and learn from it." 

Upon arriving at their respective airports, the role playing guardsmen were moved to designated shelters to spend the night just as evacuees would, away from the hurricane strike zone.  

On the last day of the operation, June 9, 2016, soldiers returned to their home of record with a much greater understanding of what happens during an evacuation.

"The professionalism demonstrated by the men and women of the Texas State Guard in this Rio Grande Evacuation Exercise is a credit to all Texans, said Maj. Gen. Jake Betty commander of the Texas State Guard. “ It will be a foundation for future possible disaster missions."

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."