Texas ANG updates Congressman on cyber, readies for mission expansion

Texas ANG updates Congressman on cyber, readies for mission expansion

Story by: 2nd Lt. Phil Fountain

Posted: April 16, 2016 

94th Airlift Wing U.S. Rep. Will Hurd (TX-23) (left) visits with Brig. Gen. David M. McMinn, commander of the Texas Air National Guard, and Brig. Gen. Dawn M. Ferrell. Texas’ deputy adjutant general for air, in his Capitol Hill office in the Cannon House Office Building, in Washington, March 2, 2016. McMinn and Ferrell were requested to provide an update on the 273rd Information Operations Squadron, a subordinate unit of the 149th Fighter Wing, based at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, which has been selected to become an Air National Guard Cyber Protection Team and recently completed a site activation visit as they transition toward becoming a cyber operations squadron. (Photo courtesy of the Office of U.S. Rep. Will Hurd) 160302-Z-XX000-002
94th Airlift Wing
U.S. Rep. Will Hurd (TX-23) (left) visits with Brig. Gen. David M. McMinn, commander of the Texas Air National Guard, and Brig. Gen. Dawn M. Ferrell. Texas’ deputy adjutant general for air, in his Capitol Hill office in the Cannon House Office Building, in Washington, March 2, 2016. McMinn and Ferrell were requested to provide an update on the 273rd Information Operations Squadron, a subordinate unit of the 149th Fighter Wing, based at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, which has been selected to become an Air National Guard Cyber Protection Team and recently completed a site activation visit as they transition toward becoming a cyber operations squadron. (Photo courtesy of the Office of U.S. Rep. Will Hurd) 160302-Z-XX000-002

WASHINGTON – Senior leaders from the Texas Air National Guard were invited to provide U.S. Rep. Will Hurd (TX-23) an update on the 273rd Information Operations Squadron while visiting Washington, March 2, 2016.

The 273rd IOS is a subordinate unit of the 149th Fighter Wing, headquartered at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, and has been selected to become an Air National Guard Cyber Protection Team, which will expand the organization’s mission and designate them as a cyber operations squadron.

Last year, Hurd joined U.S. Reps. Joaquin Castro (TX-20), Henry Cuellar (TX-28) and Lamar Smith (TX-21), who all represent portions of San Antonio, in penning a letter to the National Guard Bureau and the Air National Guard in support of the 273rd IOS’ selection.

“The TXANG is a logical and cost-effective means to defend America in the cyber realm,” according to the letter. “The TXANG is unique in its diverse ability to perform cyber operations in State Active Duty, Title 32 and Title 10 status. The relationship with 24th Air Force and the TXANG has already been established by a signed agreement, which provides Texas Guard members secure and non-secure positions for current and further growth requirements…”

Brig. Gen. Dawn M. Ferrell, Texas’ deputy adjutant general for air, and Brig. Gen. David M. McMinn, commander of the Texas Air National Guard, were joined by Col. Kurt Leslie and Command Chief Master Sgt. George B. Longoria, both representing the 149th Fighter Wing.

“The activation of the cyber protection team will take Texas cyber to the next level,” Ferrell said. “We’re proud of what we’ve accomplished and the cyber mission we perform, but stand ready to give even more. As we say in Texas, ‘we’re open for business.’”

A big part of the Texas Air National Guard’s success has to do with the organization’s ability to retain and recruit cyber talent.

“We’ve been very successful at retaining this critical talent for the Air Force – bringing in those transitioning from the active duty to stay in the cyber fight,” McMinn said. “We have maximum cyber capacity for our current cyber mission and have to regularly turn away fully-qualified cyber warriors seeking to continue their service (in the guard).”

A planning team from the Air National Guard’s Readiness Center, headquartered at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, recently completed a site activation visit to determine the unit’s suitability to accept the new mission requirements as a cyber operations squadron.

“They looked at several areas to include: manpower, communications, Total Force Initiatives and logistics,” said Maj. Kristy Leasman, the squadron’s commander. “Our ability to recruit is exceptional and our communications support is ideal, with our active duty relationships.”

The unit is working toward hitting all of the benchmarks before Fiscal Year 2017.

“Going forward, we are refining our strategy to maintain our Total Force relationships, to continue our requirements through an updated agreement – a bigger agreement plan – and will implement new logistics processes for mobility,” Leasman said. “We are on a very fast track to meet all initial operation capability requirements. We expect to have them completed well before the FY17 target.”

Leasman is very proud of the squadron she leads and their role within the Department of Defense.

“We’re leading-edge cyber security professionals for the Air Force and DOD,” she said. “We’re extremely well-suited, a natural fit, to accept this mission.”

While the Air Guard cyber unit is located near the 23rd Congressional District of Texas, their mission is an area of personal and professional interest for Hurd, who is a former CIA officer and civilian cybersecurity professional.

“When both the public and private sectors take notice of a growing industry in a city, you know something real is happening,” Hurd said. 

A graduate of Texas A&M University, Hurd also chairs the Information Technology Subcommittee of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

“It was a pleasure to work with the Air National Guard to bring the 273rd Cyber Operations Squadron to San Antonio,” Hurd said. “I'm excited about the impact they will have on education opportunities and job growth in my hometown.”

The future looks bright for Texas airmen to continue defending America in the cyber realm.

“Texas – San Antonio, in particular – is perfectly situated to meet the long-term needs of any cyberspace mission,” Ferrell said. “We appreciate our congressional delegation’s strong support of the Texas Air National Guard.”

Texas ANG unit participates in Luke’s weapons loading competition

Texas ANG unit participates in Luke’s weapons loading competition

Story by: 2nd Lt. Phil Fountain

Posted: April 16, 2016

2nd Lt. Phil Fountain Tech. Sgt. Mark Nash (right), Tech. Sgt. Federico Barrios (center) and Senior Airman Robert Satter (left), aircraft armament systems technicians, load an inert AIM-120, advanced medium-range air-to-air missile onto the wingtip of an F-16 Fighting Falcon during the loading portion of the 56th Fighter Wing’s quarterly load crew of the quarter competition at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, April 8, 2016. Nash, Barrios and Satter are members of the Texas Air National Guard’s 149th Fighter Wing, headquartered at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, which is currently operating at Luke while San Antonio’s Kelly Field undergoes runway repairs. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by 2nd Lt. Phil Fountain) 160408-Z-DJ352-029
2nd Lt. Phil Fountain
Tech. Sgt. Mark Nash (right), Tech. Sgt. Federico Barrios (center) and Senior Airman Robert Satter (left), aircraft armament systems technicians, load an inert AIM-120, advanced medium-range air-to-air missile onto the wingtip of an F-16 Fighting Falcon during the loading portion of the 56th Fighter Wing’s quarterly load crew of the quarter competition at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, April 8, 2016. Nash, Barrios and Satter are members of the Texas Air National Guard’s 149th Fighter Wing, headquartered at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, which is currently operating at Luke while San Antonio’s Kelly Field undergoes runway repairs. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by 2nd Lt. Phil Fountain) 160408-Z-DJ352-029

LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Arizona (April 8, 2016) – A weapons loading team with the Texas Air National Guard participated in the Load Crew of the Quarter competition at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, April 8, 2016.

Tech. Sgts. Mark Nash and Federico Barrios and Senior Airman Robert Satter, aircraft armament systems technicians assigned to the 149th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, a subordinate unit of the 149th Fighter Wing, headquartered at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas participated in the first quarter competition.

In addition to the 149th team, the competition included U.S. Air Force weapons loading teams from the Luke-based 61st, 309th and 310th aircraft maintenance units, subordinate units of the 56th Fighter Wing.

“We were invited by the 56th Fighter Wing’s loading standardization section to perform in a ‘loadeo’ competition,” said Chief Master Sgt. Darin S. LaCour, the wing weapons manager for the 149th. “A three-member crew competed against the active duty weapons loaders for a load crew competition.”

“When we came here and introduced ourselves to them, they said, ‘hey, we have a competition, would you like to join?” LaCour said. “We jumped at the chance and said ‘absolutely, we’ll be ready.’”

The 149th is currently conducting their F-16 Fighting Falcon operations at Luke, near Phoenix, while San Antonio’s Kelly Field undergoes repairs, which has temporarily limited the fighter training unit’s flight operations in the Alamo City.

“It builds camaraderie between the crews, out there,” said Master Sgt. Ian Snowsill, the weapons standardization superintendent for the 56th Maintenance Group. “It’s a competition, its bragging rights.”

The timed competition required the teams to load two inert AIM-120, advanced medium-range air-to-air missiles onto on their unit’s aircraft, Snowsill said. Additionally, there was a tool kit inventory and inspection by quality assurance from the 56th. There was also an individual written examination.

The competition brought out the Texas unit’s pride, complete with the Lone Star State’s flag on display and members from across the wing cheering on the weapons load crew.

“You definitely saw the pride that was in our unit,” Barrios said. “Being in the competition, you’re so focused on the task at hand. But, when you’ve got people out there cheering that loud, you can’t help but hear.”

“It motivates you,” Barrios said. “You want to go faster, you want to be more proficient, because you know you’ve got people behind you rooting you on.”

In addition to fellow weapons loaders, the 149th had airmen from across the wing watching the loaders compete.

“It’s not only good for loaders, but for the wing, in general,” LaCour said. “From the crew chiefs – to show off their jets and how clean we keep them – to the loaders showing off their skillsets and their speed and accuracy, to the [aerospace ground equipment] guys showing off their equipment and how quickly and well they work, to the operations guys coming out and seeing what we do every day.”

“This machine wouldn’t work without everyone involved,” LaCour said. “The loaders were highlighted today, but it takes everybody.”

As a career field, weapons load crews are responsible for ensuring their unit’s primary assigned aircraft are properly loaded with munitions and countermeasures to meet the pilot’s mission and contingency requirements, LaCour said. Competitions like this reinforce the importance of the loader’s role in the Air Force mission.

“The time-standard they used is the standard across the U.S. Air Force,” LaCour said. “It shows the load crews where they’re at, as far as their time standards. It’s a big morale booster for everyone involved.”

LaCour was pleased with his weapons loaders’ performance.

“They did an outstanding job representing the Texas Air National Guard and the Air Force, in general,” LaCour said.

147th ASOS completes first full mission profile with Czech FACS

147th ASOS completes first full mission profile with Czech FACS

Story by: 1st Lt. Alicia Lacy

Posted: April 13, 2016

1st Lt. Alicia Lacy Tactical air control party members with the 147th Air Support Operations Squadron, 147th Reconnaissance Wing, pose as a 357th Fighter Squadron A-10 Warthog from Davis Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, flies overhead April 12, 2016. The battlefield airmen traveled to the desert range in Gila Bend for a weeklong simulated deployment with their Czech partners. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by 1st Lt. Alicia Lacy/Released)
1st Lt. Alicia Lacy
Tactical air control party members with the 147th Air Support Operations Squadron, 147th Reconnaissance Wing, pose as a 357th Fighter Squadron A-10 Warthog from Davis Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, flies overhead April 12, 2016. The battlefield airmen traveled to the desert range in Gila Bend for a weeklong simulated deployment with their Czech partners. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by 1st Lt. Alicia Lacy/Released)

About two dozen tactical air control party members from the 147th Air Support Operations Squadron, 147th Reconnaissance Wing, Texas Air National Guard, and four Czech forward air controllers completed a full-mission profile April 16, 2016, in Gila Bend, Arizona, for an annual National Guard State Partnership Program exchange.

The Texas National Guard has been paired with the Czech Republic since 1993 and has completed hundreds of engagements in the U.S. and in the Czech Republic to support the security cooperation objectives of the U.S. European Command commander.

For this year’s exercise, the battlefield airmen were able to mimic a cradle-to-grave, full squadron deployment, combining all warfighting elements from ground skills to air skills and close air support training with live fire. 

“Typically, we piecemeal our training,” said Capt. Steven Kroll, 147th ASOS director of operations, so the weeklong deployment allowed the airmen to merge all their full mission set capabilities within one mock, joint mobilization.

In a typical deployment for a TACP or joint terminal attack controller, the airman integrates with an Army ground unit and provides the expertise on air power and how to best use it, whether in combat or humanitarian operations.

Once, the TACPs are attached to the Army unit, the commander can task out close air support missions for the airmen to engage the enemy, neutralize threats and keep the troops on the ground safe by matching the correct ordnance with the targets.

In addition to working with their coalition partners from the Czech Republic, the Texas airmen worked with active duty A-10s, F-35s and F-16s for live-fire, close air support controls, and with the Arizona National Guard’s 2nd Battalion (Assault), 285th Aviation Regiment’s UH-60 Blackhawks during a simulated key leader engagement that included airlift of the leaders, a quick reaction force, and extraction of all parties in combat conditions. 

Altogether, the airmen completed nearly 100 controls, utilizing a mixture of live ordnance. 

The Czech FACs possess the same combat skill set as the TACPs, so the training provided an opportunity to exchange tactics and procedures, as well as other training experiences.

Chief Warrant Officer Pavel, a FAC with the Czech air force, said the exchange also builds trust and camaraderie, so if deployed together, they are able to have an established confidence in each other’s skills.

Pavel, who recently deployed with the 147th ASOS’ commander, said the relationship the two units have built over the years has helped while he was downrange.

According to Kroll, the dry, mountainous Arizona desert provided the perfect backdrop for this type of training.

“Davis Monthan and the Barry Goldwater Range in Gila Bend are really good training environments,” he said. “It’s wide open…it’s a desert environment, it’s a good representation of our current fight in Afghanistan, so that helps, and it’s a good way to practice our MCOs.”

Pavel agreed, saying that there aren’t too many places in the Czech Republic that represent the environment and terrain in Southwest Asia, so giving his troops experience in that type of environment was invaluable.

Not only did the exercise allow the airmen to employ a full mission profile in a joint environment, but it helped prepare them for their Warfighter exercise later this year, in support of the Texas Army National Guard’s 56th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 36th Infantry Division, Kroll said.

Texas response team exceeds validation standards

Texas response team exceeds validation standards

Story By: Master Sgt. Daniel Griego

Posted On: April 6, 2016

Master Sgt. Daniel Griego Army Sgt. John Cornejo of the Texas National Guard's 6th Civil Support team prepares monitoring equipment during the unit's Training Proficiency Evaluation at the DFW International Airport's Fire Training Research Center March 29, 2016. This evaluation is the official certifying exercise, conducted by U.S. Army North, for the 6th CST to continue service as the state's premier military support element for hazardous materials incidents. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by 1st Sgt. Daniel Griego/Released)
Master Sgt. Daniel Griego
Army Sgt. John Cornejo of the Texas National Guard's 6th Civil Support team prepares monitoring equipment during the unit's Training Proficiency Evaluation at the DFW International Airport's Fire Training Research Center March 29, 2016. This evaluation is the official certifying exercise, conducted by U.S. Army North, for the 6th CST to continue service as the state's premier military support element for hazardous materials incidents. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by 1st Sgt. Daniel Griego/Released)

When one’s mission is to respond to no-notice incidents involving hazardous materials, there is very little room for error. The men and women of the Texas National Guard’s 6th Civil Support Team are in a constant state of heightened alert and readiness. From March 29-31, that readiness was put to the test as the team conducted its Task Performance Evaluation, a series of simulated disaster scenarios that certifies the Guard asset to continue its statewide mission.

“The reason we’re evaluated is to make sure that we’re actually operable in the real world,” said Staff Sgt. Carolina Dilger, the decontamination NCO for the 6th Civil Support Team. “It’s catered more toward real-world threats, things we might actually encounter.”

The validation, required every 18 months and held this time at the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport’s Fire Training Research Center, is conducted by U.S. Army North and reinforces the standards all 54 civil support teams throughout the country must demonstrate proficiency in.

“Army North is mandated by congress with the CST program that we are the official evaluators for their certification to keep on marching,” said Steven Wisniewski, an observer controller/trainer with U.S. Army North. “We try to put on an exercise that would emulate real-world possibilities, as far as this team reacting, responding to a terrorist threat against the homeland involving weapons of mass destruction.”

The 6th Civil Support Team was one of the first teams in the nation to gain initial certification in June 2001. Since then, it has consistently exceeded the standards in its response mission. At the close of this year’s validation, it walked away with the highest ratings across all evaluated tasks.

“This program is not in its infancy anymore,” said Wisniewski. “They have gone from crawling baby steps to coming into a world with high technology, high-speed, highly educated skill sets to tackle the problems they may face.”

Also on site for the training were Col. Scott Mac Leod, the commander of Joint Task Force 136 (Maneuver Enhancement Brigade), and Lt. Col. Oliver Mintz, the brigade operations officer. JTF-136 (MEB) is the National Guard higher headquarters for the 6th CST.

“I’ve been really impressed with the efficiency and the professionalism of the Soldiers in this unit,” said Mintz. “They truly have an understanding of what they’re doing, they’re committed to the mission and they’re extremely professional in everything that they undertake.”

Although the 6th CST excelled in their validation, they are always looking to improve and better serve their state as a response element.

“For the commander, Lt. Col. Phillips, it’s always an opportunity to use an evaluation to assess the performance capability of his team,” said Mac Leod. “As he goes through this evaluation, he’ll be looking for gaps in capability, whether that be training, equipment, logistics, anything that he needs to continue to focus on as he looks at his next training year.”

With this renewed validation under their belts, the members of the CST look toward their next opportunity to showcase their capabilities for their civil and regional partners. In April, they’ll join the emergency response community in San Antonio for the Texas Division of Emergency Management’s annual conference.

“Our CST has a fantastic reputation,” said Mac Leod, “both inside the state and out. They’re a highly trained team; they do well in everything that they do.”

5th Engineers repeat as combatives champs

5th Engineers repeat as combatives champs

Courtesy Story and photos by Dawn Arden

Posted On: April 4 2016

The 5th Engineer Battalion Combatives Team poses with the 2016 Commander’s Cup Combatives Post Championship plaque at the conclusion of the finals at Davidson Fitness Center. The team earned 1,578 points over the three-day tournament.
The 5th Engineer Battalion Combatives Team poses with the 2016 Commander’s Cup Combatives Post Championship plaque at the conclusion of the finals at Davidson Fitness Center. The team earned 1,578 points over the three-day tournament.

Three days of modern Army combatives concluded Friday at Fort Leonard Wood’s Davidson Fitness Center, where competitors battled it out in the Commander’s Cup Combatives Tournament finals. 

Eighteen service men and women took to the cage on the final night in a bid to see who would be ultimately victorious in the nine weight classes.

At the end of the night, it was 5th Engineer Battalion that walked away with the Commander’s Cup trophy with a total of 1,578 points. 92nd Military Police Battalion came in second place with 638 points, followed by 14th Military Police Brigade in third place with 434 points.

In the days leading up to the final event, competitors were put to the test in grappling, followed by Pancrase and finally a mixed martial arts style.

“We started out first with just straight grappling on Wednesday, and then Thursday was Pancrase, which is kind of like a little bit of stand up:  a little bit of kicking; you can slap, you can go to the ground and submit, and then today is what you would classify as MMA where we’re allowed to punch, kick, knee, but no elbows. You can take them to the ground and do any type of submission holds that we can,” said Spc. Rebekah Klimt, Company B, 169th Engineer Battalion, and Flyweight champion.

Service members involved in the combatives program agree that the discipline and hard work it takes to be successful in the program makes for a better, stronger, military.

“This makes me a better Soldier because of the discipline that it takes: day after day training,” said Spc. John Suarez, 5th Engr. Bn., “It’s going through with it when you think that you can’t go any more, and just finding that will. This translates into my workplace or the battlefield in general. I’m very proud to represent my unit; they are very encouraging, very  supportive.”

Suarez added, “I think there’s no excuse for not trying it. You can start on your own level, you don’t go right into fighting people in the cage. You can start off with just a little bit of cardio kickboxing, and move on from there. They’re just going to fall in love with it as so many people do once they get started.”

This is only the second year that combatives have been included in the Commander’s Cup, and although it is a popular and welcomed addition, it does take more planning than the other sports in the program. Planning for this three-day tournament began after the finals last year.

“This one’s not self-sufficient; we need help from those that run the combatives,” said Danny Howell, Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation sports specialist. “We’re getting to the point now where we know our role in the combatives tournament, and they know their role, so it kind of works. This is the second time for this event, so a lot of the kinks from the first time are worked out. They take care of everything on the mat or inside the  cage, and I do the logistics on the outside of that.”

2016 Commander’s Cup Combatives
  • Winners by weight class:
  • Bantamweight: Ariel Espinoza-Levy, 14th MP Bde.
  • Flyweight: Rebekah Klimt, 169th Engr. Bn.
  • Lightweight: Daniel Bido, 92nd MP Bn.
  • Welterweight: Adrian Alonzo, 5th Engr. Bn.
  • Middleweight: Jason Powell, 1138th MP Co.
  • Cruiserweight: Marcus Knauft, 1st Engr. Bde.
  • Lt. Heavyweight: Javier Santos, 92nd MP Bn.
  • Heavyweight: Matthew Lansford, 5th Engr. Bn.
  • Super Heavyweight: Cory Lemeron, 5th Engr. Bn.

Texas Guardsmen host high school chemistry field trip

Texas Guardsmen host high school chemistry field trip

Story By: Master Sgt. Daniel Griego

Posted on: March 31 2016

Master Sgt. Daniel Griego Students from the Hill Country Christian School of Austin visit the Texas National Guard's 6th Civil Support Team at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas, March 24, 2016. The field trip showed the students practical applications of chemistry in the real world and allowed them the opportunity to try on specialized hazardous materials suits. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by 1st Sgt. Daniel Griego)
Master Sgt. Daniel Griego
Students from the Hill Country Christian School of Austin visit the Texas National Guard's 6th Civil Support Team at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas, March 24, 2016. The field trip showed the students practical applications of chemistry in the real world and allowed them the opportunity to try on specialized hazardous materials suits. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by 1st Sgt. Daniel Griego)

High school students from the Hill Country Christian School of Austin took part in a special field trip recently when the Texas National Guard’s 6th Civil Support Team welcomed them to Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas, for a tour and demonstration of their mission. The trip, held March 24, provided the 47 students an opportunity to experience real-world applications of chemistry through the equipment and techniques used by the 22-person team.

“It honestly blows my mind,” said Holly Wedgeworth, a senior at Hill Country
Christian School of Austin. “They know so much about it and to be able to apply it, especially in very real world situations and very important situations, it’s crazy. It just makes you realize how great these people are.”

The 6th Civil Support Team is a specialized Guard outfit designed for quick responses to chemical and hazardous incidents. Twenty-two full-time service members comprise the team ready to identify, contain, and monitor substances at locations throughout Texas.

“We’re definitely not your traditional Guard unit or Army unit,” said Capt. Brandon Wells, a survey team leader with the 6th CST. “While we do maintain basic Soldier skills as a requirement, our mission set is completely different. 90% of the gear that we use is not standard Army equipment. We go to hours and hours of training taught by PhD-level scientists to learn the ins and outs of what it is we’re required to do for our job.”

During the tour, they allowed the students to try on protective gear, handle sampling equipment, and explore their mobile labs.

“I think they will think more about not just the academic piece,” said Sarah Jo Smith, the class chemistry teacher, “but really think about how these reactions and these principles they are learning actually apply in their day to day lives, not just something from a textbook.”

By providing this tour to high school students, the Texas Guardsmen are able to show a practical side to military service not often known by civilians.

“When I was in high school, I didn’t know that the military offered these kinds of specialty units and jobs,” said Wells. “When you see the real-world application and how you can take that knowledge that you’ve learned, it just drives those learning points home and that’s why we do it.”

The field trip further bridges the gap between National Guardsmen and the communities they support, especially in reinforcing the importance of education.

“I’m very grateful that we got to do this,” said sophomore Amber Carroll. “It makes it more meaningful. I want to do something with chemistry or forensics, so that kind of helps me see how it applies. Actually getting to come out here and see it makes you realize how important and significant it is.”

This is the second year for the school to visit Camp Mabry, with more than double last year’s turnout.

“I think it’s something that we’re going to look to sustain in future years and probably look to expand it,” said Wells.

First enlisted wing IGI member leaves mark on Gunfighter history

First enlisted wing IGI member leaves mark on Gunfighter history

Story By: Staff Sgt. Mindy Bloem

Posted on: March 31, 2016

Staff Sgt. Mindy Bloem Senior Master Sgt. Carl Boeshore, 149th Fighter Wing Inspector General for Inspections superintendent, Texas Air National Guard, finishes some paperwork in his office, March 11, 2016, at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas. Boeshore came to the unit in 2013 as the first enlisted person assigned to the IGI when the program was still in its early stages. He plans to retire from the military April 9, 2016, after 29 years of service.
Staff Sgt. Mindy Bloem
Senior Master Sgt. Carl Boeshore, 149th Fighter Wing Inspector General for Inspections superintendent, Texas Air National Guard, finishes some paperwork in his office, March 11, 2016, at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas. Boeshore came to the unit in 2013 as the first enlisted person assigned to the IGI when the program was still in its early stages. He plans to retire from the military April 9, 2016, after 29 years of service.

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO - LACKLAND, Texas -- In 2012, the Inspector General for Inspections office was a new program in the Air Force and didn't officially come into play at the 149th Fighter Wing until the following year.

When Senior Master Sgt. Carl Boeshore arrived at the 149th, after his old unit, the 217th Training Squadron closed shop, he became the first enlisted member assigned to the newly developed IGI section.

Boeshore is no stranger to the inspection process. He was once written up for having too many additional duties, 28 in total at the time, but said that experience has benefited him in his current IGI position.

"In the write up, the inspector granted that I was doing my additional duties well, but that having 28 was too many," said Boeshore, referring to an inspection he had received early in his career. "But now, as an inspector, having that depth of knowledge from all of those additional duties has really helped me get familiar with a lot of various programs."

Lt. Col. Edward Stamper arrived at the wing shortly after Boeshore's arrival, when the IGI was still in its infancy at the wing. 

"The Air Force enacted the IGI around 2012, and the wing inspection program started in March of that same year, but the first person actually assigned to the inspection program was Sergeant Boeshore in 2013," Stamper said.

According to Stamper, when the IG was halved to become two separate sections -- one being the IG Quality of Life, designated for complaints resolution; the other being the IGI, designated for inspections -- Stamper joined the team as the head of this newly conceptualized department, mainly overseeing the IGI section.

Lt. Col. Christopher Miller, already assigned to what was then the IG, now became head of the more precisely formed IGQ section. 

With all of these changes and no clear-cut direction from higher headquarters, the IGI staff decided to create a lot of its own guidance to get their tasks accomplished.

"The MAJCOMS, AETC and the Air Force Inspection Agency - they were not giving guidance other than what had been printed," said Stamper, recalling the early days of setting up the IGI. "Their intent was to get creative solutions, pick the best ones and make those a best practice. Because of that, we were kind of on our own."

One of the first tasks Stamper assigned to Boeshore was no small undertaking.

"I wanted him to go through every inspection report that he could find that had been done elsewhere and create a checklist," Stamper said. It was a tough job for a [Drill Status Guardsman]. It must have taken him about four months, but he did it."

From that assignment came the Major Graded Area inspection checklist, a local wing product still used to date.

"It may seem minor, but this document represents hundreds of hours of research," Stamper said, pointing to various categories and subcategories under the four main ones on the checklist that Boeshore created. "One of our biggest challenges was there was no playbook for the inspection system. We now have something that we use in every single inspection."

Stamper referred to Boeshore as an "administrative wonder" and Boeshore, too, sees it as one of his strengths.

"One thing I've realized about myself is that I'm a good administrator," he said. "The biggest challenge is finding the most efficient way to do things. It's a lot of refinement of the process, a lot of trial and error."

The end result was a product the IGI staff could use in a comprehensive fashion when performing inspections.

"The checklist allows us to go in and capture the data needed to give to wing leadership to say this is what that unit looks like, this is their health -- the good, the bad, the things we need to change and the things we need to leave alone," Boeshore said.

According to Boeshore, the members of the IGI team are "solution managers" of sorts.

"We don't tell you how to solve your problem," Boeshore said. "That's not our realm. If we hear of something that may be a benefit to you, we'll pass that on to you, but our job is to help you identify the problem so you can find a solution and track work within it."

Stamper said one of the biggest hurdles the IGI has been trying to overcome is getting people out of the old inspection mindset. 

"A lot of people still haven't gotten a grasp on how you apply this effectiveness concept to the compliance concept we've had for so long," said Stamper. "It's no longer about being perfect. It's about being in control of your imperfections. The difference in the new system is continuous self-inspection, not trying to look perfect for one inspection."

Boeshore said part of the education process is eliminating people's misconceptions that the IGI is a villain out looking for a problem.

"I didn't want to be that evil IG guy," he said, before illustrating his point with a typical scenario. "You know, 'here he comes. Where are the coffee and doughnuts? Get them ready.' I've been in those shoes. I didn't want to be that guy."

Boeshore knows that to change the culture of thinking from compliance to effectiveness begins with the "mentoring moments" he gets on the job.

"We come in, sit people down and ask them how their program is going or what kinds of problems are they having and how they're working to fix them," he said. "Having a deficiency is not the worst thing anymore. The best thing you can do is admit you have a problem so you can find a solution."

Stamper gave an example early in the inspection process of a unit that had a major wing-wide program that the Wing Inspection Team rated as "marginally effective."
Nearly 10 months later, that same program was rated as "best seen to date" and "best in AETC" during the MAJCOM Unit Effectiveness Inspection CAPSTONE. Stamper said that unit's program is still the only one of its kind recognized to this day as having UEI strength by the Air Education and Training Command and represents how the new inspection program highlights non-compliance to enable corrective actions.

Since leaving his former IG position to become the deputy Mission Support Group commander, Stamper said he has and will remain heavily involved in the transition process with Lt. Col. Jeff Towns, now on board as Stamper's replacement.

1st Lt. Jonathan Sweat, coordinator for the Wing Inspection Program, arrived in the IG office the same time as Stamper, and is still in the office full-time with Towns, which Stamper said is helping with the "continuity and flow" during this transition period.

Boeshore is also set to leave the IGI soon when he retires in April. He said with the military constantly reducing in size, having to do things efficiently is essential. With that in mind, he wants people to remember that the IGI exists for the units' benefit. "We want to change the culture of inspections," he said. "We're not the bad guys. We're here to help."

Guardsmen reunite children with parents during annual kite festival

Story by: Specialist Stefan Wray, 2nd Regiment PAO

Posted: March 30, 2016

Thousands gathered in Austin’s Zilker Park, March 6, 2016, for the 88th Zilker Kite Festival. The Texas State Guard supported festival organizers and local park rangers with search and rescue teams and logistics.
Thousands gathered in Austin’s Zilker Park, March 6, 2016, for the 88th Zilker Kite Festival. The Texas State Guard supported festival organizers and local park rangers with search and rescue teams and logistics.

AUSTIN, Texas – It couldn’t have been a more perfect day for flying kites, as thousands gathered in Austin’s Zilker Park on Sunday, March 6, for the 88th Zilker Kite Festival. 

For the 9th year, 28 guardsmen from the Texas State Guard's 2nd Regiment spent the day helping to reunite children and parents who had become separated in the crowd and providing logistical support to event organizers.

Weather conditions were optimal and the wind was constant throughout the day enabling hundreds of kites of all designs, colors, shapes and sizes were continuously in flight from mid morning to late afternoon.

Partnered with the Austin Park Rangers, guardsmen worked to reunite lost children with their parents.

“We had a lot of good people out in the field that knew what they were doing,” said Austin Park Ranger Brian Leuzinger. “I think we just had a really great command team that were sharing information, making sure that everyone knew who and what we were looking for.”

Working alongside park rangers, guardsmen were able to exercise their ground search and rescue skills, one the regiment’s primary missions. 

“The Kite Festival is really amazing. You get to see all the teamwork,” said Private 1st Class  Francis Ortiz, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Regiment.  “All the training I had paid off to do search and rescue, locating any missing children or missing parents.”

Some guardsmen even worked as linguists.

“Private 1st Class Dianna Salinas did an excellent job today.  In one situation, an unaccompanied child was brought back to our TOC. While she was here PFC Salinas sat down on the ground with the child. The child spoke only Spanish,” said Texas State Guards Staff Sgt Curtiz Rust. “Salinas was able to translate and get us the information we needed to reach out and locate the parents.” 

The Exchange Club of Austin originally founded the kite festival in 1929. It moved to Zilker Park in 1936 when the park opened and has been there ever since. 

“We so appreciate y’all and we so need y’all to be here. It means so much to us,” said Dorothy Twidwell, a member of the Exchange Club and the key festival organizer, referring to the 2nd Regiment’s role in assisting with the festival. “The crowd has grown so large that what we need from the State Guard is management of the crowd, help getting people on and off the buses, and help us patrolling the field.” 


Approximately 25,000 festival goers attended the free event this year, said Les Stobart, ABC Home and Commercial Services’ Marketing Director. The festival is actively being transferred from the Exchange Club to ABC.

 “One of the first questions that we ask every year is ‘Is the Guard going to be back?  Can we count on the Guard again?’’ said Sobard. “We couldn’t do it without y’all, so we deeply appreciate the role that the Guard plays in everything.”

The 2nd Regiment began preparations in advance of the actual festival.  A logistical team was at Zilker Park the day before to make preparations. The 2nd Regiment converged at 0500 on the morning of the festival near Zilker Park. Once on site, the Tactical Operations Center was set up adjacent to the command centers for Emergency Services and the Park Rangers.

Radios and GPS tracking devices were distributed to teams who were dispatched to positions throughout the park as well as other points in Austin where festival attendees would leave their cars and board buses to get to the park.
   
“It definitely exceeded my expectations,” said Texas State Guard Private 1st Class Miranda Leal.. “I didn’t think it was going to be this involved and with this many people.  It’s really fun. I would do it again next year.”

The regiment helped reunite 11 lost children with parents or guardians during the event. 

 

Texas State Guard supports civil authorities in recent floods

Texas State Guard supports civil authorities in recent floods

Story By: Capt. Maria Mengrone, Public Affairs Officer, 176th Engineer Brigade

Posted on: March 24, 2016

Sgt. 1st Class Chris Skinner, 2nd Battalion, 8th Regiment, Texas Sate Guard walks alongside a flood victim, at a safe shelter in Beaumont, Texas established by the American Red Cross, March 18, 2016. “We treat them like family,” said Skinner. “The people here are important to us and we must not forget that they need our help.” The TXSG mobilized, in support of civil authorities, to assist evacuated flood victims in the southeastern region of the state, 14-21 March 2016. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Capt. Maria Mengrone/Released)
Sgt. 1st Class Chris Skinner, 2nd Battalion, 8th Regiment, Texas Sate Guard walks alongside a flood victim, at a safe shelter in Beaumont, Texas established by the American Red Cross, March 18, 2016. “We treat them like family,” said Skinner. “The people here are important to us and we must not forget that they need our help.” The TXSG mobilized, in support of civil authorities, to assist evacuated flood victims in the southeastern region of the state, 14-21 March 2016. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Capt. Maria Mengrone/Released)

BEAUMONT, Texas – The Texas State Guard, in support of civil authorities, assisted in establishing safe shelters for evacuated flood victims in the southeastern region of the state, March 14-21, 2016.

“We have a total of 18 Soldiers from the State Guard here to supplement the Red Cross in any way they need us. They run the shelter, and we support their efforts,” said Sgt. Christopher T. Riehle, recruiter, 3rd Battalion, 8th Regiment. “We train closely with the Red Cross and other agencies to make sure we are prepared for something like this.”

The Texas State Guard trains annually to remain proficient in the duties they perform while called upon during disaster relief missions. Some of the emergency response training includes shelter management, search and rescue, emergency communications, mass care and medical support.

“We assist with setting up the shelter, but it could be anything from moving tables to providing security or just talking to the clients that are here,” said Staff Sgt. Nick B. Martinez, 2nd Battalion, 8th Regiment. “Just being able to help is a great reward.”

Guardsmen ran 24-hour operations at the shelter to ensure anyone in need was equipped with immediate support.

“At our peak we had about 170 clients that needed our help,” said Shelter Manager Marie Killingsworth, American Red Cross Volunteer. “The Soldiers have been here since the beginning. I love that they are so flexible, and can move at the drop of a dime.”

The Texas State Guard assisted with supporting three other safety shelters, two of which were evacuated due to flood concerns and consolidated in Beaumont.

“This is now the forth shelter we have been a part of and we are fully trained to do what it takes to help,” said Riehle. “The best part is when the clients thank us for being here because they know they’re gonna get the help that they need.”

The Texas Military Department activated more than 150 service members from the Texas Army National Guard and the Texas State Guard during severe flooding in Orange, Newton and Jasper counties. They provided swift water rescue support to emergency first responders, rescuing and evacuating 410 people from the floods, and supported shelter operations, providing basic necessities to hundreds of people in need.

The long, proud history of the Texas State Guard: Balloon Bombs in WWII

Photo Courtesy of The Texas Guardsman, June 1943 issue
Photo Courtesy of The Texas Guardsman, June 1943 issue

Story by: Chief Warrant Officer 4 Thomas W. Dodd

In November of 1944, Japanese forces launched a series of incendiary balloon bombs targeted for the west coast of the U.S.  Of the 9,300 balloons launched from Japan, only about 300 reached the U. S. – with two of them finding their way to Texas. 

One of these bombs was sighted by schoolboys in Desdemona (Eastland County), who made quick work of the balloon with their pocket knives.  Fortunately for them, the balloon had lost its payload before making landfall.  The next day Army personnel from Abilene confiscated all the pieces the boys had collected.

 The other device found its way to Comyn in Comanche County, which was located by members of Company  D  of the Texas State Guard.

 “The balloon was about 30-feet high when extended and carried five metal canisters,” said Wade Cowan, a member of the squad that located it. “Four were incendiaries and one was a fragmentary, or anti-personnel bomb.”

 Cowan remembered that people who knew about the bombs at Desdemona and Comyn were very excited, thinking that the Japanese were about to invade the country.  When they realized that people could not survive at the altitudes where the balloons drifted, they relaxed a little.

 “Government censorship of the press kept panic down,” said Cowan. “Still it was a time to be watchful and alert.”

 Cowan and his squad members secured the area until Army ordnance personnel arrived on the scene.

World War II brought on many challenges for the U. S. and its allies.  The Texas State Guard played a part in providing the state and the citizens of Texas security when called on.
 

To learn more about World War II and the history that the Texas Military played in it, visit Campy Mabry in Austin, Texas and explore the Texas Military Forces Museum.