The Texas State Guard Assists With Dallas Charity Event

 

Collecting tickets
Cpl. Kendra.Neuendorff, 3rd Battalion, 4th Regiment, Texas State Guard, collects tickets from guests during the Dallas Margarita Society Ball, Sheraton Hotel, Dallas, Texas, November 21-22, 2015.  This charity event collects toys for at risk children of the North Texas community.  Texas State Guard participation in community service events such as the Margarita Ball is an essential part of the Texas State Guard mission and exemplifies the Texas State Guard motto "Texans Serving Texans."  (Photo by Capt. Esperanza Meza, 19th Regiment, PAO/Released)

Story by:  Chief Warrant Officer 2 Janet Schmelzer

Posted:  December 28, 2015

DALLAS - What has become an annual tradition, the 4th Regiment, Texas State Guard, provided support to the organizers of the Dallas Margarita Society Ball, Sheraton Hotel, Dallas, Texas, November 21-22, 2015.  This charity event collects toys for at risk children of the North Texas community.

The regiment assisted the 13,000 guests with floor plan information, directions to various events at  the hotel, ticket collection, and elevator and escalator operations. 

The soldiers also conducted communications planning, risk assessments, and first aid.

Participation in community service events such as the Margarita Ball is an essential part of the Texas State Guard mission and exemplifies the Texas State Guard motto "Texans Serving Texans."  

Other groups assisting in the event were the Texas Department of Public Safety, the Dallas Police Department, EMS/EMT Medical Team, and Texas State Guard units from the 19th Regiment and the Texas Medical Brigade.

 

showing floor plans
Pfc. Michael Strader, 3rd Battalion, 4th Regiment, Texas State Guard, assists a guest with venue information at the Dallas Margarita Society Ball, Sheraton Hotel, Dallas, Texas, November 21-22, 2015.  This charity event collects toys for at risk children of the North Texas community.  Texas State Guard participation in community service events such as the Margarita Ball is an essential part of the Texas State Guard mission and exemplifies the Texas State Guard motto "Texans Serving Texans."  (Photo by Capt. Esperanza Meza, 19th Regiment, PAO/Released)

A Child's Smile Brings Joy To All! Texas State Guard 4th Regiment "Young Heroes Of The Guard" Toy Drive a Success

Story by Chief Warrant Officer 2 Janet Schmelzer, TXSG

Posted:  December 28, 2015

sorting gifts
4th Regiment soldiers sort hundreds of toys for children who are patients at Cook Children's Medical Center, Fort Worth, Texas, December 12, 2015.  This annual "Young Heroes of the Guard" toy drive exemplifies the community service mission of the Texas State Guard. (Photo by Sgt. Byron Sims, 4th Regiment, TXSG/Released)
4th Regiment Toy Drive
4th Regiment soldiers delivered hundreds of toys to children who are patients at Cook Children's Medical Center, Fort Worth, Texas, December 12, 2015.  This annual "Young Heroes of the Guard" toy drive exemplifies the community service mission of the Texas State Guard. (Photo by Sgt. Byron Sims, 4th Regiment, TXSG/Released)

FORT WORTH, Texas - With bundles of toys, the 4th Regiment, Texas State Guard, surprised children at Cook Children's Medical Center in Fort Worth, Texas, at the sixth annual Texas State Guard "Young Heroes of the Guard" Toy Drive, December 12, 2015. 

"Seeing these children at Cook smile with joy makes all 4th Regiment guardsmen smile with joy, too," commented Col. Alfred Sustaita, Commander of the 4th Regiment.

"Many of these children will be spending the holidays in the medical center.  And we are so privileged to bring cheer and happiness to the children.  This is a favorite event for the regiment.  We have more fun than anyone can imagine bringing toys here." 

This year the regiment delivered over 3,400 toys for children of all ages, including 300 collected at the Dallas Margarita Society Ball, Dallas, Texas, November 21, 2015 and 1,700 toys collected by 1st Battalion, 2nd Regiment, Texas State Guard during its "Young Heroes of the Guard" toy drive, and hundreds of toys donated by the Marine Corps Reserves "Toys for Tots."  

"I am so happy to be helping these families at Cook during the holiday season and there is always welcoming smiles," commented Pfc. Matthew Gustavsen, 3rd Battalion, 4th Regiment.  "We try to make the critically ill children happy and we pick out special toys for them.  We learned that one little boy will not see another Christmas.  I felt sadness yet I was humbled that we could make this Christmas a happy one." 

Maj. Michael Potts, Executive Officer, 4th Regiment, spoke about a mother that he met on the hospital elevator.  "She thanked me for doing what we were doing. She said when her two-year son got the toy from the soldier, it was the first time since his operation that he smiled."
 
"All of these children are our heroes," stated 4th Regiment Chaplain (Capt.) David Fish, "and to bring smiles to the children is a real blessing to us all." "We are already looking forward to our 2016 toy drive."  Chaplain Fish is the guiding force for the 4th Regiment toy drive.

The generosity of Texans helped the 4th Regiment to fill up collection boxes all over Tarrant and surrounding counties.  Soldiers put collection boxes in businesses, restaurants, churches, schools, libraries, and many other places.

With the abundance of toys this year, Medical Center and Children’s Hospital will use the toys as holiday and birthday gifts for patients throughout the coming year.

The Texas State Guard annual "Heroes of the Guard" toy drive exemplifies the community service mission of the Texas State Guard.

Houston Area Texas State Guardsmen Deliver Holiday Cheer to Children

Story by:  Capt. Shawn James, 447th Air Support Group 5th Air Wing, PAO and Warrant Officer Malana Nall, 8th Regiment, PAO

Posted:  December 24, 2015

Delivering toys
Texas State Guard 8th Regiment, Army Component Command, soldiers Sgt. Sasha Shepard and Staff Sgt. Anna Reyes presented Patrick with new toy trucks while he recovers in Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital, Houston, Texas, December 21, 2015.  Texas State Guard soldiers from Houston area units collected 3,658 toys for hundreds of children.  This annual toy drive is a community service event provided by the Texas State Guard across the state to bring joy to children who will spend the holidays in the hospital.  (Photo by Warrant Officer Malana Nall, 8th Regiment, TXSG, PAO/Released)

HOUSTON - Santa got a lot of  help from the Texas State Guard Army Component Command 8th Regiment, 5th Air Wing 447th Air Support Group, and the Texas Maritime Regiment 1st Battalion by delivering Christmas toys to children aged 2 months to 16 years old in Houston area hospitals, December 21, 2015.

Delivering toys
Texas State Guard soldiers, Sgt. Sasha Shepard, Staff Sgt. Anna Reyes, Sgt. Greg Illich, 8th Regiment Army Component Command, Tech. Sgt. Rhueben Towne, 447th Air Support Group, 4th Air Wing, Pvt. Dwayne Holt, 8th Regiment, and Petty Officer 2nd Class Kenneth Horowitz,  1st Battalion, Texas Maritime Regiment, delivered Christmas toys to Everett at a Houston area children's hospital, who was also celebrating her birthday, December 21, 2015.  Texas State Guard soldiers from Houston area units collected 3,658 toys for hundreds of children.  This annual toy drive is a community service event provided by the Texas State Guard across the state to bring joy to children who will spend the holidays in the hospital.  (Photo by Warrant Officer Malana Nall, 8th Regiment, TXSG, PAO/Released)

In total, the Houston area Guardsmen collected 3,658 toys for the "Young Heroes of the Guard Toy Drive" and delivered the toys to children at Children's Memorial Hermann Hospital, Texas Children's Hospital and Shriner's Hospital for Children-Houston.

Tech. Sgt. Rhueben Towne, 447th Air Support Group, coordinated the toy drive and worked with local hospitals and Houston area Texas State Guard units to set up collection points all over the city.

Towne's wife, Charlotte, Petty Officer 2nd Class Kenneth Horowitz, Texas Maritime Regiment 1st Battalion,  and Pvt. Dwayne Holt, 8th Regiment, collected almost 700 toys by themselves.  Houston schools and businesses and the residents of Houston donated hundreds of toys.  

Sugar Land Fire Station No. 6, Sugar Land, Texas, kindly allowed the Guardsmen to sort the toys by age groups in the fire station.

At the first hospital the soldiers, acting as Santa's elves, went room to room and into the emergency room at Children's Memorial Hermann Hospital delivering toys and visiting with children and their families. They left toys in the children's play area, leaving enough toys to last until next year.  

The soldiers not only delivered toys but also sang Happy Birthday to one patient who was celebrating his seventh birthday.  

delivering toys
Cpl. Justin Stanton, 8th Regiment, Army Component Command, Texas State Guard, delivers a new toy truck to two-year-old Mason during the "Young Heroes of the Guard Toy Drive" at a Houston area children's hospital, December 21, 2015.  Mason was the first child in the hospital to receive a toy this year.  Texas State Guard soldiers from Houston area units collected 3,658 toys for hundreds of children.  This annual toy drive is a community service event provided by the Texas State Guard across the state to bring joy to children who will spend the holidays in the hospital.  (Photo by Warrant Officer Malana Nall, 8th Regiment, TXSG, PAO/Released)

"It was a great experience to see all three Texas State Guard units come together and bring joy to the faces of the children," commented Tech. Sgt. Towne.  "We will take as much time as necessary from toy pickups to delivering toys to make the holiday a special time for the children."

At Shriners Children’s Hospital, soldiers delivered 1,200 toys so that the hospital staff could set up its version of Christmas shopping for the families of patients. Parents will be able to look for just the right gifts for their children.  Then the hospital staff will wrap each toy and Santa will deliver the toys on Christmas morning.  

"It means a lot to our patients," commented Elizabeth Ferrer, a representative of Shriners Children's Hospital.  "The greater meaning is that the kids know someone outside the hospital is thinking of them."

At Texas Children's Hospital, soldiers delivered hundreds of toys that the hospital staff and Santa will hand out to the children at a party Christmas Day.

loading toys
Texas State Guard soldiers from Houston area units collected 3,658 toys during the "Young Heroes of the Guard Toy Drive." Soldiers from the 8th Regiment, 1st Lt. Skip Matthews, Staff Sgt. Anna Reyes, Cpl. Justin Stanton and Sgt. Sasha Shepard, loaded the toys into the delivery truck bound for three Houston area children's hospitals, December 21, 2015.  This annual toy drive is a community service event provided by the Texas State Guard across the state to bring joy to children who will spend the holidays in the hospital.  (Photo by: Capt. Shawn James, 447th Air Support Group, 4th Air Wing, TXSG,  PAO/Released)

With all the toys finally delivered, Chaplain Douglas Richardson (Lt. Cmdr.), Texas Maritime Regiment, felt humbled by the experience.  "As chaplain, it is a privilege to share the real meaning of giving and the spirit of soldiers of the Texas State Guard."   

Deployment Opportunity!

TXARNG volunteers in grades O5, O4, O3, E8 or E7 to serve as subject matter experts in the operations, intelligence, protection, and sustainment warfighting functions with the following branches/MOS: INF/11, EN/12, FA/13, MP/31, INT/35, LG/90/92 and O1A/O2A (Branch Immaterial)

WHO:  TXARNG volunteers in grades O5, O4, O3, E8 or E7 to serve as subject matter experts in the operations, intelligence, protection, and sustainment warfighting functions with the following branches/MOS: INF/11, EN/12, FA/13, MP/31, INT/35, LG/90/92 and O1A/O2A (Branch Immaterial)

WHEN:  Mobilize February 2016 to CONUS Replacement Center (CRC), deploy NLT March 2016 for a 9-12 month deployment.

WHY:   Support immediate additional request for forces (RFF) from CENTCOM to provide subject matter expertise (SME) in specific warfighting function (WFF)

Site for Volunteers - https://www.us.army.mil/suite/page/663076

NATO Resolute Support Mission - http://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/topics_113694.htm

POC:  TXARNG Mobilization Team Email - ng.tx.txarng.list.txarng-mobilization@mail.mil

Texas Guardsman raises 25,000 toys for sick children

Story by: Capt. Martha Nigrelle

Posted On: December 21, 2015

Texas State Guard Staff Sgt. Williams, 1st Battalion, 2nd Regiment, stands amongst donated toys at Dell's Children Hospital in Austin, Texas, Dec. 19, 2015, as part of the annual "Young Heroes of the Guard" program. Williams led toy drive operations for 1st Battalion, 2nd Regiment and collected more than 25,000 toys to be delivered to sick children all over Texas. (Texas State Guard photo by Col. Joseph Jelinski/ Released)
Texas State Guard Staff Sgt. Williams, 1st Battalion, 2nd Regiment, stands amongst donated toys at Dell's Children Hospital in Austin, Texas, Dec. 19, 2015, as part of the annual "Young Heroes of the Guard" program. Williams led toy drive operations for 1st Battalion, 2nd Regiment and collected more than 25,000 toys to be delivered to sick children all over Texas. (Texas State Guard photo by Col. Joseph Jelinski/ Released)

AUSTIN, Texas - Santa’s Texas State Guard elves brought holiday cheer to the Dell Children’s Hospital in Austin, Dec. 19, 2015, as Staff Sgt. James “Damon” Williams, 1st Battalion, 2nd Regiment and a group of Texas State Guardsmen unloaded thousands of toys from trucks and proceeded to fill the hospital’s amphitheater with toys.

In 2009, the Texas State Guard started the Young Heroes of the Guard program, with the hopes of collecting enough toys to distribute to every pediatric patient in every children’s hospital in Texas during the Christmas season, and leave a year’s worth of toys behind.

That first year, they collected more than 2,000 toys and by 2014, they collected almost 23,000 toys across the state.

This year, Williams leading the toy drive efforts for his battalion, just one of the many units participating in the State Guard’s toy drive, collected more than 25,000 toys.

“We want to help everyone in need,” said Williams.

Starting in March, Williams coordinated a three-prong approach to collecting toys.

“I start my toy drive operations in March,” said Williams. “My goal is to submit the application for support the day they are first accepting letters so that my request is the first one on the pile and hopefully the first one to be considered.”

Williams and his team of State Guard volunteers work with local companies and major corporations to coordinate donations until October.

“Then we deploy toy drive operations,” said Williams.

In true military fashion, Williams coordinates one team to man large donation boxes at designated drop off points, another team to stand outside major retail stores and advertise the toy drive and collect donations, and a third team to handle other donations.

“I have a calendar of all our operations to make it easy for soldiers to find dates and times that would be conducive for them to help,” said Williams.

After meeting the Battalion’s goal of 11,000 toys, Williams and his team decided to keep going.

“Staff Sgt. Williams took the lead for the battalion and just went with it,” said Lt. Col. Cendy Brister-Antley, commander of 1st Battalion. “You can give him something and he will run with it. He has contacts like you wouldn’t believe!”

For Williams the drive to bring joy to children staying in hospitals hits close to home.

“I spent time in the hospital as a child,” said Williams. “It was one of the most difficult times of my childhood. That’s what drives me, that memory of what it was like.”

Hospital staff members will give these toys to hospitalized children, siblings of hospitalized children and children of hospital patients throughout the entire year.

“Our goal is to give them enough toys to make it through the entire year,” said Williams.

Units are assigned to local hospitals. For 1st Battalion, that means Dell Children’s Hospital.

“Last year they got 6,000 toys and started running out in October,” said Williams. “That was our incentive to boost our toy collection.”

Meeting their original goal of 11,000, and then some, they should meet this goal.

The battalion delivered more than 10,000 toys to Dell Children’s Hospital and have given the remaining toys to State Guard units across Texas, to help support toy drive effort statewide.

“It was a planned operation,” said Brister-Antley. “To blow away the State Guard.”

Despite the large piles of toys and the competitive spirit of the unit to outdo last year’s numbers, being able to give back to the community and bring joy to children is what means the most to these guardsmen.

“We delivered more than 10,000 toys to Dell Children’s Hospital,” said Brister-Antley. “I saw pride in my Soldiers, pride in the accomplishment of giving back.”

For Williams, it’s about bringing joy to a child’s life.

“I had a large pink stuffed dog that one of the girls was eyeballing. I walked over to her and asked her if she could give the dog a good home. She grabbed it and seemed really happy,” said Williams. That’s why we do it – for the smiles and the happiness we can bring to the kids.

Next year, Williams said he hopes to collect 50,000 toys.

For more information on the Texas State Guard toy drive, please visit their website http://www.txsgtoydrive.org/. To see more photos from the toy drop off at Dell Children’s Hospital, Dec. 18, 2015, visit https://www.flickr.com/photos/texasmilitaryforces/albums/72157662483102302

Airmen support Snowball Express 2015

Story by: Tech. Sgt. Vanessa Reed

Post: December 16, 2015

Tech. Sgt. Vanessa Reed U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Mark Mize, a squad leader from the 136th Security Forces Squadron, Texas Air National Guard, from Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base, Texas, and his therapy dog, Sully, welcome families arriving for Snowball Express 2015 at Dallas-Fort Worth Airport, Dec. 12, 2015. Snowball Express is an organization dedicated to the children of military members who have died while on active duty since Sept. 11. (Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Vanessa Reed/released)
Tech. Sgt. Vanessa Reed
U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Mark Mize, a squad leader from the 136th Security Forces Squadron, Texas Air National Guard, from Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base, Texas, and his therapy dog, Sully, welcome families arriving for Snowball Express 2015 at Dallas-Fort Worth Airport, Dec. 12, 2015. Snowball Express is an organization dedicated to the children of military members who have died while on active duty since Sept. 11. (Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Vanessa Reed/released)

NAVAL AIR STATION FORT WORTH JOINT RESERVE BASE, Texas - Texas Air National Guardsmen from the 136th Airlift Wing here, volunteered their time in support of Snowball Express 2015 at the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport on Dec. 12, 2015.

Snowball Express is an annual gathering for children of fallen military members who died while on active duty on or after Sept. 11, 2001. This year an estimated 1,700 family members traveled to the Dallas-Fort Worth area for the event.

“I am in charge of 18 volunteers but we have almost 400 helping this year,” said Fernando A. Ospina, the DFW Airport coordinator for Snowball Express. “Most of the volunteers do it out of a love for kids, a love of our military and a love of our nation.”

This is the sixth year that Airmen from the 136AW work alongside military and civilian volunteers to meet and greet children and their escorts as they exit the aircraft and assist with luggage handling.

“We’re one of the few units that still participate in our uniform because they enjoy seeing that,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Camille LaDrew, Texas Air National Guard, military volunteer coordinator for the 136AW. “It reminds them that they are still part of the military family.”

Military volunteers were also joined by family members. One family brought along a group of 10 trained therapy dogs and their handlers.

“We heard stories today about how the kids miss their dogs and are so glad our guys are here,” said Kate A. Mize, a military spouse and dog handler with A New Leash on Life. “They bring a sense of comfort, a sense of home.” 

Snowball Express was founded in 2006 with the primary goal of supporting the families of fallen military members by providing them with new memories and hope.

Guard set to activate additional cyber units

Story by: Sgt 1st Class Jon Soucy - National Guard Bureau  

Posted: Dec. 14, 2015

Photo of two soldiers working at computersARLINGTON, Va. (12/9/15) – As part of ongoing growth of cyber forces throughout the Department of Defense, the National Guard announced plans to activate 13 additional cyber units spread throughout 23 states by the end of fiscal year 2019.

“Our goal for cyber-defense is to train, equip and provide highly skilled forces responsive to the needs of the nation,” said Army Gen. Frank Grass, chief of the National Guard Bureau. “Working with the Army and Air Force our cyber squadrons and teams will provide trained and ready Soldiers and Airmen to support requirements established by the services and U.S. Cyber Command.”

Seven new Army Guard Cyber Protection Teams will be activated across Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Wisconsin. They join four previously announced Army Guard CPTs spread across California, Georgia, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan and Ohio.

In partnership with the Air Force, the Air Guard will activate four new Cyber Operations Squadrons in Idaho, Michigan, Texas and Virginia. In addition, a cyber Information Surveillance Reconnaissance squadron will stand up in California Photo of soldier on laptop and a cyber ISR group in Massachusetts.

The current roll out of Guard cyber units is part of laying out a larger foundation for future cyber forces scheduled for activation.

“This is the beginning,” said Air Force Col. Kelly Hughes, chief of the Space and Cyber Warfare Operations Division at the Air National Guard Readiness Center. “This is a massive amount of force structure the Guard has laid into this mission, but this is just the first layer.”

Activating cyber units in these states allows for the Guard to fulfill Army and Air Force cyber missions while positioning cyber protection units in each of the 10 Federal Emergency Management Agency response regions.

“The focus is to get that presence in as many states as possible and especially making sure we have all the FEMA regions covered,” added Hughes about the current activation plans.

Ensuring each FEMA region has coverage, ties into the Guard’s mission to respond to large-scale emergencies and disasters at home, said Air Force Col. Timothy T. Lunderman, director of joint cyber operations at the National Guard Bureau, adding that because the Guard is community based there are already relationships in place. Cyber teams and squadrons, he added, are another asset governors can use at the state level should they be needed.

“If we have never met before, and I come knocking on your door and say, ‘I’m here to help you with a cyber incident,’ you’d close the door,” said Lunderman. “The Guard is in all 50 states, three territories and the District of Columbia. We have the capability and relationships already established. If state and local officials need help they’re more likely to turn to the folks they know. The people they know are the Guard.”

And like other Guard assets, cyber protection units—whose members  only operate on DoD and government networks, including those of state governments—can be used in multi-state settings through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, said Lunderman.

While each state may not yet be home to a cyber protection team or squadron, Guard elements in each state, territory and the District of Columbia already have a computer network defense team or other cyber protection assets assigned, said Hughes.

“The Army National Guard has laid computer network defensive teams into every state,” he said. “Between the Army Guard and the Air Guard there is a level of cyber protection capability in each state.”

Armed with civilian experience in cyber security and network engineering, Hughes said, National Guard cyber specialists are able to provide robust capability.

“That’s the kind of thing you can get with the Guard,” he said. “Our longevity and knowledge is hard to match. That is what makes the Guard great.”

It’s also a mission that Guard members can easily transition from state status to federal status.

“We can do this mission from anywhere,” said Hughes. “We don’t have to physically relocate to do it. As long as we have the connectivity, we can operate from home station.”

Guard cyber protection units are part of larger service-specific requirements to provide cyber defense capabilities, explained Lunderman, adding those requirements have been spread throughout the active, Guard and reserve components. Each cyber team member, regardless of component, trains to the same service standard.

The future of cyber defense is open ended.

“When you look at the way the Internet was designed and built, nobody could even fathom what it has become today and it’s really even harder to think what it might become tomorrow,” said Lunderman.

The need for cyber defense assets is expected to increase.

“It’s only going to grow,” Hughes said. 

Happy Birthday, National Guard

These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country. But he that stands it now, deserves the thanks of man and women; for tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered. Yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. For that which we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightlyCommentary by Jeff Hunt, Director, Texas Military Department Museum

“These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country. But he that stands it now, deserves the thanks of man and women; for tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered. Yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. For that which we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly.”

Thomas Paine wrote those words in December of 1776, as the Continental Army – beaten, bleeding, cold, hungry and despairing – retreated before victorious British legions.  Within the month, that army would turn and deliver devastating defeats to the English at Trenton and Princeton, and in so doing save the American Revolution and the nation it had created. 

What Paine wrote in 1776 was a profound revelation.  What he put into words is a truth that has endured since 1636, when what would become today’s National Guard was born at the first militia muster in the colony of Massachusetts: that America’s citizen soldiers have always been the bulwark of our freedom and our liberty.

In time of peace and in time of war, the men and women of the National Guard have stood watch over America and its freedom. They have allowed us to sleep secure in the knowledge that our homes and loved ones are protected from the ravages of nature or threats of evil men.  Their vigil knows no weekends or holidays. It has been kept in raging storms, bitter cold and searing heat by those far away from home and the comforts they defend.

This is a truth often taken for granted. Yet those marching a lonely post or standing a midnight watch, do not complain or dissent. They serve because they see it as their privilege and duty. Because they recognize that the freedom America has won for herself and given to so much of the world, comes at the cost of their sacrifice. They willing put their bodies and their lives between America and its enemies, between our liberty and those who would steal it away.

And thus shall it ever be. The men and woman of the National Guard are the latest in a long and never-ending line of those willing to risk all for the things that make life worth living. To those who have gone before, who have fought and bled and died, for those who stand guard around the world today, and for those who will take their place in the decades to come, we owe a debt that can be repaid only in the appreciation and homage of a grateful people.  Indeed, as Thomas Paine said in 1776: “He that stands it now, deserves the thanks of man and woman.” America will always remember and she shall never forget the sacrifice they make.

Chemical soldiers train for dual mission

Story by: 1st Lt. Matthew Verdugo

Posted: December 9, 2015

1st Lt. Matthew Verdugo Soldiers from the 436th Chemical Company, 6th CBRNE Enhanced Response Force Package, 136th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Texas Army National Guard, decontaminate a volunteer at the San Marcos municipal airport during a simulated plane crash exercise, Nov. 16, 2015. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by 1st Lt. Matthew Verdugo/Released)
1st Lt. Matthew Verdugo
Soldiers from the 436th Chemical Company, 6th CBRNE Enhanced Response Force Package, 136th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Texas Army National Guard, decontaminate a volunteer at the San Marcos municipal airport during a simulated plane crash exercise, Nov. 16, 2015. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by 1st Lt. Matthew Verdugo/Released)

BASTROP, Texas – National Guardsmen of the 436th Chemical Company conducted dual-mission training exercises at Camp Swift near Bastrop, Texas, and San Macros, Texas, during their annual training period Nov. 13-18, 2015.

The soldiers practiced their traditional warrior skills at Camp Swift, Texas, in areas such as land navigation, security clearing, basic rifle marksmanship, machine gun familiarity, reacting to improvised explosive devices, and physical fitness. This training is essential to maintaining a state of readiness and deployability in support of the citizens of Texas and civil authorities at home or abroad. 

“It is always important to return to basics and improve upon warrior tasks and drills that lay the foundation for everything we do as soldiers,” said 1st Sgt. Dianne Overshown, first sergeant for the 436th Chemical Company. “In many cases, our Soldiers can bring valuable insight from their civilian careers to enhance the training the unit receives in the field.”

The 436th Chemical Company’s core mission is to decontaminate friendly units that have come under a chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear attack in theaters of operation. In addition, the unit specializes in the reconnaissance of CBRN threats and the surveillance of biological dangers. However, their basic Army fundamentals are the foundation that allows the unit to excel in their more technical responsibilities.

“It was fascinating to see some of our soldiers with law enforcement backgrounds take the lead on room clearing and marksmanship,” said Sgt. 1st Class Stephen Snyder. “Training like this really gives the soldiers confidence for future, more complex operations.”

Experienced leaders shared their lessons and best practices with subordinates throughout the week, refining team skill sets in reacting to IEDs, clearing buildings, and weapon familiarization. Each drill reinforced the common themes of teamwork and cooperation. 

“It was great to shoot rounds down range and learn from our experienced sergeants some of the finer points of marksmanship,” said Spc. Zacharias Trigo. “I never realized the infinite number of situations that could present themselves during the clearing of a building and how all team members must work as one.”

The service members also practiced mass casualty decontamination operations as part of their FEMA Region VI Homeland Response Force mission. The HRF mission calls for Guardsmen to augment first responders during stateside natural or man-made disasters requiring specialized decontamination capabilities.

“Our unit has the unique challenge and privilege of being able to help our fellow citizens in a time of crisis,” said 1st Lt. Luis Lopez, 436th Chemical Company commander. “We train, hoping that a day like that never materializes. It is training like this that makes it real for everyone involved.”

The 436th Chemical Company additionally participated in a simulated downed plane scenario at the San Marcos Municipal Airport alongside area first responders and other elements of their National Guard battalion, the 6th CBRN Enhanced Force Package. The exercise simulated dozens of casualties and the release of toxic elements in and around the crash site. The chemical soldiers practiced setting up the decontamination infrastructure and conducting mass causality decontamination while wearing personal protective equipment.

“Exercises like this really bring to light the responsibility our unit has to help our fellow citizens survive such a potential tragedy,” said Staff Sgt. Vanessa Stange. “I am amazed by the professionalism of the area first responders and how our soldiers are performing under stress.”

In addition to the simulated plane crash, 436th Chemical Company soldiers were certified during a three-day course as hazmat operators and recognized by the National Guard Bureau as qualified to perform their decontamination duties. This gives the troops an academic component to augment their practical application exercises throughout the year.

“Having two missions is a lot of work, but it is rewarding and feels good that we can help,” said Spc. Katty Gracia. “I can’t wait until the next annual training.”