By David Brown, 1LT, Texas State Guard
As a youth, Anthony Woods wanted to become a policeman. After retiring from a distinguished career in law enforcement (for the Dallas Police Department and the Drug Enforcement Administration), Woods might have thought his life in public service was over. Not even close. Today, Brig. Gen. Woods is Acting Commanding General of the Texas State Guard, leader of the premier state guard force in the nation.
“I never would have imagined it,” said Woods, whose first mentor in the military was a Major who was head of his high school Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program. “I thought if I could make Major like him, that would be a big accomplishment. All my (advancements) have been a surprise to me. My promotions are the byproduct of my passion for the people.”
Indeed, Woods’ reputation as a leader with a commitment to the welfare of soldiers precedes him. “He is passionate about caring for the people of the Texas State Guard,” says Sgt. Maj. John Jacobs. “I was in a meeting with him today and Gen. Woods said that ‘we do not make the difference; we are the difference’; I had to write that one down. That says a lot about how he sees our soldiers.”
Sgt. 1st Class Jeanette Jimmerson heartily agrees. “I can honestly say he sees the value of every soldier. He wants to know what matters to you - it matters to him. He wants to know soldiers by their first names, he wants to know what they care about.”
A graduate of TCU with a Masters’ degree from the United States Army War College, Woods’ military career began in the early ’80s serving in the Texas Army National Guard, receiving a 2nd Lt. commission from the University of Texas at Arlington ROTC program. He would be responsible for training thousands of troops in border operations at the U.S.-Mexico border. Woods would go on to be deployed in Operation Enduring Freedom serving tours of duty in Afghanistan and other points abroad leading military intelligence operations. In 2005, Woods became the first African American Commander of the 1st Battalion, 112 Armor, leading his unit in the first American training exercise in the country of Romania after the fall of the Soviet Union.
There is a picture on the wall of his office at Camp Mabry that says a great deal about the person he is. It is a portrait of one of the legendary Buffalo Soldiers–the Black troops known for their ferocity and skills as warriors who helped shape the West and much of American history.
It was during his time serving at the US border that he first encountered the story of the Buffalo Soldiers. “I’m a Black man, grew up in good government housing…”, Woods says, but he’d never heard of the Buffalo Soldiers before.
“I was embarrassed. I got a lesson in Black history. I promised myself I would learn more.”
The Buffalo Soldiers (how they got their name is a point of dispute among historians) were Black soldiers from a variety of Army units including the 9th Cavalry, 10th Cavalry, 24th Infantry, and 25th Infantry based in a variety of locations. Fort Huachuca in Arizona claims to be the “home” of the Buffalo Soldiers because it is the only base to have hosted all members of the group.
“I visited the Fort Huachuca Museum. I got into it,” Woods says with some degree of understatement. These days, he owns a replica vintage Union uniform which he uses in his travels to different schools and speaking engagements, sharing the stories of the Buffalo Soldiers, who fought with valor during the Spanish-American War, in the Philippines, and in both World Wars before being absorbed by other Army units after World War II. When not fighting wars, the Buffalo Soldiers defended westward travelers and settlers and helped shape the contours of what the US would become.
“It means a lot to me. It is my heritage. The Negro soldier, the Buffalo Soldier, the Black soldier: they have all had a huge impact on our country’s history, from the period of westward expansion all the way up to World War II and beyond. If you think about it, in all the major conflicts, our position didn’t change until the military included the Black soldiers.”
Today, it is clear Woods is focused on positive change for the State Guard, building off the accomplishments of his predecessor as Commanding General, Maj. Gen. Robert Bodisch, who retired on October 31, 2021.
“Being a force multiplier for Texas and the Texas Military Department is a huge responsibility. We don’t have the numbers (of personnel) but we have people with heart. And we’re not just equal to the task, we exceed it. The level of professionalism in the Texas State Guard is huge.”
Woods has a three-phase plan in mind for the Texas State Guard. Phase 1, he says, will focus on retention. “There are three reasons I believe people join the Texas State Guard: to serve, to grow, and for recognition–the promotions and awards,” Woods says. To that end, Woods plans to double down on valuable training opportunities and make sure that awards and promotions are prompt, timely, and prolific.
Phase 2, Woods says, is promotion. While the Texas State Guard has been called ‘Texas’ best-kept secret’, Woods wants to raise the profile of the State Guard so that more potential recruits know about the opportunities to serve their fellow Texans. “We’re not going to be shy about banners,” Woods adds, saying that we can expect to see more Texas State Guard signage at Camp Mabry and beyond.
Phase 3? “Get ‘em in here!”, Woods says with a laugh. But he’s quite serious; recruitment is a key goal. “Our recruiters are doing a great job,” Woods adds. “We need to make joining the Texas State Guard as easy as it can possibly be, promising exciting training opportunities and creating a sense of belonging and inclusion. As we go forward, we need to see more women in leadership positions. We want the ranks of the Texas State Guard to look like the communities we serve. I don’t want to exclude anybody.”
Woods’ objectives reflect his own experience in discovering the Texas State Guard. As a member of the Texas Army National Guard, Woods says initially, he knew little about the structure of the Texas State Guard but witnessed firsthand the professionalism of its soldiers.
“I saw the commitment made by Texas State Guard servicemembers and I was impressed by their sacrifices. These were people who had nothing to gain from being in the State Guard.” Noting the selflessness of the troops, Woods says he expects Texas State Guard leaders to care deeply about soldiers and their families.
And, Woods notes, as the Texas State Guard takes active roles in Operation Lone Star and other missions, the reputation of the entire corps grows as well. “Respect for the Texas State Guard has risen tenfold. Our soldiers are showcasing the professionalism of the Guard and all the mission-ready packages.” The Texas State Guard provides mission-ready forces to assist state and local authorities in times of state emergencies, conducts homeland security and community service activities, and augments the Texas Army National Guard and Texas Air National Guard as required. The Texas State Guard, Texas Army National Guard, and Texas Air National Guard are all part of the Texas Military Department led by the Texas Adjutant General, the state’s senior military official appointed by the governor.
Woods, who lives in Dallas with his wife, has raised seven children and runs the private investigation service Checkmate Surveillance, LLC. It appears clear his love of family, deep appreciation of history, business acumen, and real-world military experience will serve him–and the people of Texas - extraordinarily well as he takes the reins of Acting Commanding General, Texas State Guard.
The Texas State Guard is looking for professionals from a variety of fields to serve their fellow Texans. Prior military service is not required, but a commitment to public service and a willingness to meet the high standards of the Texas State Guard is essential. You can learn more about the opportunities to serve in the Texas State Guard online at tmd.texas.gov/state-guard.