ANG member represents as AF ambassador for third straight year

Story by: Tech. Sgt. Mindy Bloem, 149th Fighter Wing, Texas Air National Guard

Posted On: Feb. 02, 2017

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO - LACKLAND, Texas – A member of the Texas Air National Guard will once again represent the Air Force in an official capacity for Joint Base San Antonio's 2017 Military Ambassadors program.

Tech. Sgt. Marie Sarabia, a recruiter with the 149th Fighter Wing, cements her place in wing history as the latest member to be chosen for the special designation three years running.

"I was honestly humbled to be selected because you're going up against the best of the best," she said. "(The board) is not just looking at the Air National Guard, they're looking at the Air Force Reserves and active duty Air Force - really sharp folks that truly believe in what the Air Force is and what JBSA is, so when I got it, I was truly shocked. It's definitely a humbling moment."

The Military Ambassador program is an annual tradition for the JBSA military community. Official representatives from every branch of service are chosen from the three administratively-combined installations -- Fort Sam Houston, Randolph and Lackland -- to engage with their community at local events, the majority of which involve Fiesta San Antonio.

Master Sgt. Jacqueline Crow, an intelligence analyst with the 149th FW and last year's female Air Force ambassador, said she was happy to see the Texas Air National Guard once again represented in this way.

"It's a good deal for the Guard," Crow said. "The Guard can come out and represent -- Total Force once again. It also shows how valid the Guard is in today's war fight, today's military and today's Air Force. The Guard is an essential part of that, and I thought it was an amazing thing that (Sarabia) got selected for the program.

As someone who's been through the selection process herself, Crow understands how intense it can be for Air Force candidates.

She said Air Force applicants must first submit an extensive paper package that includes military history, special achievements, community involvement and job skills, among other qualifications.

The applicants who make it past the paper process must then meet before a board made up of active duty chief master sergeants and the previous year's Air Force ambassadors.

"It was pretty nerve wracking. I'm not going to lie," said Sarabia, remembering what it was like to meet before the selection board. And although Sarabia's said she's had experience with boards in the past, she confessed it was still a little intimidating.

"I went in there and had a lot of nerves, but I just had to calm myself down and take it one step at a time," Sarabia said on how she managed to quell her unease.

Crow was one of the people seated on this year's panel and remarked on how well Sarabia presented herself and said she impressed everyone on the board.

"She's going to do well. I'm really proud of her," said Crow about her successor.

Crow even decided to carry on a tradition that was started by the 2015 female Air Force ambassador, Tech. Sgt. Stephanie Hall, another fellow 149th FW member.

When Crow was first selected as ambassador in 2016, Hall gave Crow a service cap she had worn to keep the sun out of her eyes at various Fiesta events. The hat fit Crow perfectly and seemed to serve as a positive symbol for what lay ahead.

"To me, it symbolizes the passing on of the torch but also shows how we take care of one another in the wing, and really the Air National Guard," said Sarabia. "Some people say, 'well, what's the difference between you and anyone else?' and I would say we're very family oriented. We take care of one another and we're very proud of where we come from and what we represent."

As for Crow, she sees nothing but good things ahead for Sarabia.

"She is going to meet some amazing people along the way that really care about the San Antonio community, and she's going to meet some remarkable Air Force leaders," Crow said. "My advice to her would be to represent the Guard and the 149th well and to just be herself and have fun with it."

A fellow co-worker and another former ambassador from the wing, Master Sgt. Juan Flores, expressed the utmost confidence in Sarabia's abilities.

"I'm very proud of her," he said. "Not only is it a big accomplishment to compete and be selected among so many top performers, but I know she'll have a great experience and represent the Air National Guard in a great fashion."

Sarabia said she feels some pressure to keep the legacy going because of the strong representation the wing has had in the past but is simply going to focus on what she does best.

"Being an Air Guard recruiter, I know a lot of people don't know about the Air Guard," she said. "They just know about the Air Force Reserves, and of course active duty. I want to let them know we're here in the community and tell them about our state mission -- that we have unique missions that involve going out and actually defending our local communities. I really want to bring awareness into what we do."

36th Inf. Div. Soldiers from Texas deploy to Afghanistan

Story by: Spc. Christina Clardy

Posted On: Feb. 02, 2017

FORT HOOD, Texas - Soldiers from the 36th Infantry Division, Texas Army National Guard, say farewell to friends, family and colleagues at a deployment ceremony Jan 28, at Cameron Field on Fort Hood, Texas. This second group of Task Force Arrowhead advisors is headed to southern Afghanistan to take responsibility of the Train, Advise and Assist Command -- South and relieve the first Task Force Arrowhead TAAC-S team who deployed last year. The new TF Arrowhead Guardsmen will be advising Afghan National Defense and Security Forces to promote the long-term success of these institutions and the sovereignty of the Afghan government. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Christina Clardy)

AUSTIN, Texas – Soldiers of the 36th Infantry Division, their families, and their friends gathered for a ceremony at Cameron Field at Fort Hood, Texas, on Jan. 28, to send off “Task Force Arrowhead” as they deploy to Afghanistan in support of Operation Freedom's Sentinel.  The Austin-based unit is part of the Texas Army National Guard and is headquartered at Camp Mabry.

The detachment of over 50 experienced officers, warrant officers and senior enlisted T-Patchers will be replacing the current Train Assist and Advise Command group, also from the 36th Inf. Div., who deployed last year.

"We will be taking over responsibility for the Train, Advise and Assist Command-South mission, which includes 4 Afghan provinces and 42 districts," said the incoming TAAC-S Commander, Brig. Gen. Chuck Aris, a native of Waxahachie. "We will assume command of Australian, Bulgarian, and Romanian Troops, and U.S. Army Soldiers from the 101st and 82nd Airborne Divisions. All Soldiers will be working under a NATO-led mission to help the Afghan people."

In 2014, the regional commands transitioned to a Train, Advise and Assist Command (TAAC) structure, advising Afghan National Defense and Security Forces to promote the long-term success of these institutions and the sovereignty of the Afghan government. Two-thirds of the Soldiers will be deploying to Afghanistan; the rest of the service members will mobilize but remain stateside. Those remaining in Austin will serve as intelligence analysts and advisors to those deployed. The remote capability is made possible by the advances in today's modern combat technology and communications systems.

"We are a team of teams," said Aris. "We have selected our best to ensure that we will excel at this mission… and we have trained for more than a year and a half to build a world-class team. This group has already shown amazing skill, expertise, training and a deep commitment to what they do."

Chief Warrant Officer 4 Kirk A. Burns, who is deploying with the task force, explained that the group is comprised of experienced service members who have been chosen from across the whole division. They are both civilian and military experts in their fields: law enforcement; legal advisors; medical staff; aviation operations; and computer systems.

As a civilian, Burns works for the Texas Department of Public Safety's Cyber Security division and as a computer science professor at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville. In the Army National Guard he is a UH-60 Blackhawk pilot and tactical operations aviation officer. This will be his fourth overseas deployment, having served in Desert Storm, Operation Iraqi Freedom, Kuwait, and now Afghanistan.

"I'm looking forward to advising our Afghan counterparts and sharing some of my experience in aviation with the Afghan military," said Burns. "The more we have talked with our counterparts, the more I have realized that the Afghan government and military truly wants our assistance. They want to protect their country from the outside influences that are keeping it so unstable. They really seem to want to partner with us and learn from us."

At the ceremony, Maj. Gen. Lester Simpson, Commanding General of the 36th Inf. Div., thanked the citizen-Soldiers for their service to Texas and our nation. He also thanked their families for their support, and continued sacrifice as their loved ones are called upon to serve overseas.

"To the parents and children, husbands and wives, and brothers and sisters of those headed overseas - you are the unsung heroes of a nation at war," said Simpson. "You undoubtedly serve through your personal sacrifice and your commitment… and I want to personally thank you for your support and your strength. Because without you, we couldn't do what we do and are called upon to do."

To the Soldiers deploying, the division commander concluded with this encouragement:

"You'll be working hand-in-hand with our allies and our host nation to bring peace and stability to a complex region," Simpson said. "I have complete confidence that you will continue the legacy of exemplary performance that we've become known for, and will return at the end of your tour with pride knowing that you've achieved great things in the name of the 36th Infantry Division."

2nd Regiment Texas State Guard Has New Commander

Story by: Sgt. Stefan Wray, 2nd Regiment, Texas State Guard

Posted On: 1/28/2017

Col. John W. Muirhead assumed command of the 2nd Regiment, Texas State Guard, at a change of command ceremony held at Camp Mabry, Austin, Texas, Oct. 15, 2016. His wife, Sgt. Yvonne Muirhead and Brig. Gen. Howard N. Palmer, Jr., Commander, Army Component Command, Texas State Guard, congratulate Muirhead on his accomplishment. (Texas State Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Barry Branham).

AUSTIN, Texas – Col. John W. Muirhead assumed command of the 2nd Regiment, Texas State Guard, at a change of command ceremony at Camp Mabry, Austin, Oct. 15, 2016. Prior to the change of the command, Muirhead was promoted to the rank of colonel in the Texas State Guard.

He will lead the regiment, which is headquartered in Gatesville, with battalions in Austin, Gatesville and Killeen.

“The 2nd Regiment has an outstanding history and outstanding soldiers,” said Muirhead. “It is an honor to be a part of it and to command is the greatest responsibility for an officer. I believe in leading from the front will not ask anyone to do what I have not already done. I will capitalize on our greatest asset – the soldier. We need to make sure that we are developing leaders at every level.”

Muirhead began his military career when he was commissioned into the U.S. Air Force after completing a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and the Air Force ROTC program at the University of Texas at Austin, in 1990. During his federal service, he served in the Strategic Air Command Missile Combat Crew Flight Command, as a jump-duty Special Operations Forces Intelligence Officer, the Chief of Research and Analysis for the Joint Psychological Operations Support Element and the Chief of Influence Operations on the Air Staff at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.

Brig. Gen. Howard N. Palmer, Jr., Commander, Army Component Command, passes the 2nd Regiment guidon to Col. John W. Muirhead at the change of command ceremony at Camp Mabry, Austin, Texas, Oct. 15, 2016. The guidon is the flag of the unit and symbolizes the authority to command the unit. (Texas State Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Barry Branham).

His other assignments have included commander, operations squadron, Defense Language Institute English Language Center and deputy commander for the 37th Mission Support Group, the largest support group in the United States, at Joint Base San Antonio- Lackland.

His ground combat tours include the U. S. Army 6th Psychological Operations in Kosovo during Operation Allied Force; the Allied Rapid Reaction Force in Macedonia during Operations Noble Anvil and Joint Guardian and the 18th Airborne Corps Chief of Current Operations for Information Operations in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Many of his assignments included duty as a behavioral scientist, psychological operations tools and technologies research, psychological profiling, strategic intelligence planning and counter-terrorism.

Retiring in 2011, Muirhead joined the Texas State Guard in December 2014. He previously served as the Executive Officer for the 1st Regiment and the Operations Officer for the Army Component Command.

"Col. John Muirhead is the best qualified with the experience, education and vision to lead the 2nd Regiment to even greater achievements," said Brig. Gen. Howard N. Palmer, Jr.,

Commander, Army Component Command, Texas State Guard. “He knows how the Texas State Guard fits into the Texas Military Forces and Texas Military Department. He understands that we are here to serve our fellow Texans as a mission ready force.”

Muirhead and his wife, Sgt. Yvonne Muirhead, reside in San Antonio. In his civilian role he is a lieutenant with the Bexar County Constable Office, Precinct 4.

Candlelight Vigil for lost pilots of 1-149th Attack Reconnaissance Battalion

Story by: Sgt. Michael Fitzpatrick

Photo By Sgt. Michael Fitzpatrick | Hundreds gather on Jan. 14, at Ellington Field in Houston Texas, for a Candlelight Vigil in memory of CW3 Dustin Lee Mortenson and CW2 Lucas Lowe, pilots with the 1-149Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, who died when thier AH-64 Apache helicopter crashed Dec. 28, 2016 in Galveston Bay. 

January 14, hundreds of servicemen and women, friends and family and the soldiers of the 1-149 Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, gathered in a hanger at Ellington Field in Houston to mourn the loss of CW3 Dustin Lee Mortenson and CW2 Lucas Lowe, who died when their AH-64 helicopter crashed into Galveston Bay on Dec. 28, 2016.
Mortenson was a maintenance test pilot, and Lowe was an AH-64D pilot who graduated from Flight School weeks before the crash.
Though Mortenson and Lucas were unknown to many of those involved in the rescue and recovery efforts following the crash, they came to the vigil. Whether because of dedication, esprit de corps, or perhaps in solidarity for the loss of good people, they came. The Coast Guard, state and local police, strangers, friends and relatives; they all came to share grief, but also to celebrate the lives, service and sacrifices of Mortenson and Lucas – husbands, fathers and veterans.

389th Engineer Company Soldiers build new MEDEVAC facility

Courtesy Story by: Sgt. Courtney Champagne

Photo By Jet Fabara | Flight medics talk with their leadership following an awards ceremony held for the 389th Engineer Company, 368th Engineer Battalion, 176th Engineer Brigade, for the construction of a new MEDVAC facility in Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan. The facility will house members of Charlie Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Aviation Regiment (General Support Aviation Battalion) from Ft. Riley, Kan. (“Boomer Dust-off”). (DOD photo by Jet Fabara)

BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan – The MEDEVAC facility at Bagram Air Field in northern Afghanistan has seen better days. Its shattered windows, leaning walls, and peeling paint serve as evidence of the building’s lengthy history. 

The old hangar was constructed in the 1950s for the Afghan people by the U.S. Government in an effort to impede the spread of communism in Asia. 

During the Invasion of the Soviet Union in Afghanistan in 1979, it was inhabited by Russian forces until they withdrew in 1989, after which the Taliban maintained domination of the location that the old hangar was built on. 

In 2002, Bagram Air Field became home to American forces as part of the US-led invasion of Afghanistan, and the hangar became the workspace for hundreds of medical evacuation (MEDEVAC) crews, providing them with administrative offices as well as break, maintenance, and storage spaces which are critical for successful MEDEVAC operations. 

The primary mission of Charlie Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Aviation Regiment (General Support Aviation Battalion) from Ft. Riley, Kansas (“Boomer Dust-off”) is to save lives by providing MEDEVAC from the frontlines of conflicts in Afghanistan to the medical facility at Bagram Air Field. 

The GSAB mission is vital to the overall success of operations in Afghanistan; ensuring Soldiers and Afghan Nationals are provided with swift medical attention after sustaining battlefield injuries.

In the spring of 2016, the 389th Engineer Company a U.S. Army Reserve unit from Middletown, Iowa teamed up with C. Co., 2-1 GSAB to coordinate the build-out of a new MEDEVAC facility. The aging hanger required replacement to address safety concerns and provide a new facility that met standard operating requirements. 

The Base Support Group Commander, Col. G. Shawn Wells Jr. ordered the hangar’s evacuation due to overall structural instability however it became an urgent necessity to figure out where MEDEVAC crews would now conduct operations. 

A large area maintenance (LAM) tent was placed nearby as a short-term solution. Although the LAM tent provided a covered space for the crew to operate in, it lacked space for administrative offices and break areas, as well as maintenance and equipment storage. It hardly met the crew’s needs as a sensible area of operation. 

The 389th Engineer Company rose to the occasion and immediately began the early design plans to create a work space worthy of Boomer Dust-off as well as future MEDEVAC crews and their missions.

The MEDEVAC crews must be prepared to respond to emergencies at any time, spending long hours in their work spaces on standby. Special considerations were taken into account when weighing the design options of the new structure within the LAM tent. 

The final design was a collective effort amongst Boomer Dust-off personnel, Joint Engineering (JENG) at Bagram Air Field, the Forward Engineer Support Team (FEST-A), the 368th Engineer Battalion’s Construction Management Section, and the 389th Engineer Company. 

A crew of 14 Soldiers were selected to complete the build-out based on their carpentry expertise. Their skills were immediately evident based on their productivity. Only three days into the job, they were an entire day ahead of schedule. 

“This is one project that is going to have a lasting impact here,” said Spc. Kevin R. Suzie, carpentry and masonry specialist with the 389th Engineer Company. 

The end result included crafted trimming, cut and placed balusters, and sections of spacious rooms. 

“Their attention to detail was remarkable”, said Lt. Col. Matthew J. Strub, Deputy Commander of Task Force Victory.

The completed project was executed in just under three weeks. It included creative design solutions to the customer’s specific conditions, including adequate space for storage of a UH-60 Blackhawk aircraft during maintenance and repair. 

“We got to test our skills. We got to make design changes and use creativity”, said Sgt. Kent A. Hortstman, carpentry and masonry specialist with the 389th Engineer Company.

The 1st Combat Aviation Brigade hosted a ribbon cutting ceremony on November 10, 2016 honoring both the critical service of the Soldiers of C Co., 2-1 GASB, and the key role of the 389th Engineer Company throughout the construction of the new facility. 

During the ceremony, 1st CAB Commander Col. John M. Cyrulik and Command Sgt. Maj. Roque R. Quichocho presented Soldiers of the 389th with impact awards for their indispensable contribution to current and future MEDEVAC missions. 

Afterwards, leaders conducted a field expedient ribbon cutting in the new facility, in true MEDEVAC style, using trauma shears to cut the ribbon. 

“No other force on the planet goes to the extent that we do to make sure no Soldier gets left behind. This collaboration provides the capability to save lives,” said Cyrulik. 

The highly-skilled and dedicated Soldiers of the 389th provided a site for hundreds of MEDEVAC crews to proudly call their own today, and for many years to come. 

“At the end of the day, nothing gets done without the nuclear fuel that is our Soldiers,” said Cyrulik.

The 389th is a U.S. Army Reserve unit on a nine-month deployment. The unit is assigned to the 368th Engineer Battalion, and the 176th Engineer Brigade, Task Force Chaos.

36th CAB Memorial Run for E-40

36th Combat Aviation Brigade, Col. Brian D. Allgood, 46, of Oklahoma; Col. Paul M. Kelly, 45, of Stafford, Virginia; Lt. Col. David C. Canegata III,

Courtesy Story by: Sgt. Michael Fitzpatrick

Posted On: Jan. 25, 2017

Members of the 36th Combat Aviation Brigade at the Armed Forces Reserve Center at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport in Austin Texas, gathered outside American Legion Post 79 for a memorial run around Austin’s Ladybird Lake to commemorate the loss of Capt. Sean E. Lyerly, 31, of Pflugerville, Texas, and nine other soldiers killed when the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter Lyerly flew was shot down in the Diyala province northeast of Baghdad on Jan. 20, 2007.

The following information is a report from the Multinational Corps Iraq news release published By American Forces Press Service and reprinted online January 26, 2007 on the website:

The military statement said two coalition aircraft were flying on a routine mission when one of the aircraft crashed in a rural area northeast of Baghdad. Reports indicate a distress call from the trail aircraft. About 20 seconds later, the lead aircraft crew saw the trail aircraft go down.

The lead aircraft immediately circled back to provide security and assistance to the crew and passengers, the statement said. After determining the area was clear, the lead helicopter landed and quickly surveyed the scene for any survivors of the downed aircraft.

The crew observed that the aircraft was on fire and determined there were no survivors, officials said. They remained on the ground and secured the site until additional security arrived.

An aerial coalition quick-reaction force arrived on the scene to provide additional security about three minutes after the Black Hawk was reported down. This air support arrived quickly, officials explained, because the crews were already conducting patrols in the area. The lead aircraft involved in the initial incident stayed on the scene for an additional seven minutes before leaving the secured site to fly to Forward Operating Base Balad.

The lead aircraft crew, made up of soldiers from Company C, 1st Battalion, 131st Aviation Regiment, "performed heroically in protecting and safeguarding their comrades" in the downed Black Hawk under extremely adverse conditions, the Multinational Corps Iraq statement said. 

The soldiers, who belonged to a number of active Army and Army National Guard units, are: Col. Brian D. Allgood, 46, of Oklahoma; Col. Paul M. Kelly, 45, of Stafford, Virginia; Lt. Col. David C. Canegata III, 50, of St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands; Capt. Michael V. Taylor, 40, of North Little Rock, Arkansas; Capt. Sean E. Lyerly, 31, of Pflugerville, Texas; CSM Marilyn L. Gabbard, 46, of Polk City, Iowa; CSM Roger W. Haller, 49, of Davidsonville, Maryland; First Sergeant William T. Warren, 48, of North Little Rock, Arkansas; SFC Floyd E. Lake Sr., 43, of St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands; SFC John G. Brown, 43, of Little Rock, Arkansas; Staff Sgt. Darryl D. Booker, 37, of Midlothian, Virginia; Cpl. Victor M. Langarica, 29, of Decatur, Georgia.

Texas Guardsman saves life of blind man seconds after he was struck by vehicle

Texas Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Aaron Dias, recruiting and retention officer for the Recruiting and Retention Battalion, Region II, Team VII, enjoys lunch with his six-year-old son Gavin, left, and 18-month-old Aeryn, right, at a local resturant Nov. 12, 2016, in Tyler, Texas. Dias is responsible for rendering aid and saving the life a blind pedestrian that was struck by a vehicle in East Texas. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Elizabeth Pena)

Story by: Sgt. Elizabeth Pena

Posted: Monday, January 9, 2017

TYLER, Texas – Disaster can strike at anytime. Citizen-soldiers of the Texas Army National Guard are taught to always be prepared.

Texas Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Aaron Dias, recruiting and retention officer for the Recruiting and Retention Battalion, Region II, Team VII in Tyler, was driving back from the Military Entrance Processing Station in Shreveport, Louisiana, to his armory in Tyler with his recruit when disaster struck.

“The sun was starting to set,” said Dias. “It was to that point where you run into the sun it kind of casts a glare on you.”
Hiwatha Hudson, a legally blind 55-year-old man had just stepped off to cross the street with his cane.

“My applicant in the passenger seat hollered at me ‘there’s someone on the road!’ said Dias. “Sure enough, as soon as we cast over the hill, I saw a silhouette of a man and I swerved to miss him.”

At that moment Dias was thankful he avoided the man, but as he was pulling over, he saw something horrid.

“Then I looked back in my rearview mirror, I saw someone hit him so I turned around, jumped in the suicide lane and jumped to assist him,” said Dias.

Without hesitation, Dias immediately called 911 and took the situation into his own hands. 

“I jumped out, got my applicant to start blocking traffic. When I came up to the man he was face down and the blood was running down pretty heavy,” said Dias. “So I rolled him over on his side to the recovery position to kind of balance his head so the blood 
would drain out and I held him there and checked his pulse until the EMT arrived.”

The recovery position, one of the many skills learned in the military, is designed to prevent suffocation through obstruction of the airway. 

“We are taught over and over, repetition so that way when it comes to a situation like this, you don’t think you just react. I don’t think if I had that training or that repetition of training I don’t know if I would have done anything successfully like I did,” said Dias. 

Service members in the Texas Army National Guard must go through combat life saving courses throughout their military career and are taught to always be ready to help.

Dias, father of two, has been a member of the guard for over ten years.

“Every other generation of my family has served,” said Dias. “It’s a duty, it’s an honor and opportunity to put on this uniform everyday.”

Hudson has since been transferred to the Ocean Behavior Hospital in East Texas. 

“I am so glad he was there to render aid because if he hadn’t, I would not have my son today,” said Jerleane Hudson, mother of Henry. “I’m praying that God will forever bless him.”

Although he has not made a full recovery, it is Dias’s fast response that saved his life.

“People will drive past people in wrecks all the time they won’t stop and ask if they’re OK. Heck it could've been you, or me and I would pray that someone would stop and do what they could, whether it was helpful or not, at least they were trying. You know, just help," said Dias.

Thousands of fatalities every year in casualties where the cause of the unconscious was not fatal, but the airway was blocked, causing the patient to suffocate. Dias accredits the military with giving him the knowledge and experience to respond to this situation.

“It’s a part of being in the military but it’s also a part of just being raised in a small town. You help anyone that needs help. That also goes hand in hand with being in the guard. We are citizen soldiers we are supposed to help out wherever we can,” said Dias.

Michael A. Blew


Michael A. Blew speaks about the importance of having Branch Advisory Committees and how they can help manage and develop our human capital for the Texas Military Department.

Produced by the Texas Military Department Public Affairs Office

T-Patch Division promotes new brigadier general

Story by: Spc. Christina Clardy

Posted: December 4, 2016

Maj. Gen. James K. "Red" Brown, U.S. Forces Command Deputy Commanding General - Reserve Component and former 36th Infantry Division Commanding General, and Amy Aris promote Charles "Chuck" Aris to Brig. Gen. on Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016, at Camp Mabry, Austin, Texas. He is joined by family, friends and colleagues to celebrate his promotion at a ceremony and following reception at the Texas Military Forces Museum. Aris has been selected to deploy to Afghanistan as the Commander of the Train, Advise, Assist Command -- South during the 36th Infantry Division's second command rotation in support of Operation Freedom's Sentinel.
Maj. Gen. James K. "Red" Brown, U.S. Forces Command Deputy Commanding General - Reserve Component and former 36th Infantry Division Commanding General, and Amy Aris promote Charles "Chuck" Aris to Brig. Gen. on Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016, at Camp Mabry, Austin, Texas. He is joined by family, friends and colleagues to celebrate his promotion at a ceremony and following reception at the Texas Military Forces Museum. Aris has been selected to deploy to Afghanistan as the Commander of the Train, Advise, Assist Command -- South during the 36th Infantry Division's second command rotation in support of Operation Freedom's Sentinel. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Michael Leslie)

AUSTIN, Texas — Colonel Charles "Chuck" Aris, the Assistant Division Commander of Support, was promoted to the rank of brigadier general in a ceremony on Sunday, Dec. 4, at Camp Mabry.

Maj. Gen. James K. "Red" Brown, the Deputy Commanding General — Reserve Component, United States Forces, promoted Aris to his one-star rank with his friends, family members and colleagues present.

During the ceremony, Brown, a former commanding general of the 36th Inf. Div., and Aris' wife of 26 years, Amy, pinned the new general's rank to the shoulders of his uniform. His son Matthew and daughter Kate presented him with a one-star general's flag, a traditional general officer's belt, and a desk placard. As per Texas tradition, Aris then gave bouquets of yellow roses to both his wife and his mother, Janice. 

"Aris is one of those officers that we always knew was going to rise to the top," said Brown. "He and his family are the ultimate traditional National Guard family. As a civilian, Chuck is a very distinguished and a very successful attorney, who doesn't have to do this; but he chooses to do so as a service to this great state and this great nation."  

Because of his dual military and civilian careers, several military dignitaries and civilian colleagues attended the ceremony, including Maj. Gen. John F. Nichols, the Adjutant General of the Texas Military Department, Maj. Gen. Lester Simpson, Commanding General of the 36th Infantry Division Commander, and fellow attorneys from his law firm. Aris, a resident of Waxahachie, Texas, is also a partner with the Dallas-based Byrne, Cardenas and Aris Law Firm, where he handles civil litigation.

"I want to say thank you to every senior leader, every mentor and every person in my life who has supported, trained, and guided me," said Aris. "But I need to say 'thank you' to my family, because without them, their love and their support, I would not be standing where I am today."

Aris will deploy to southern Afghanistan next year as the Commander of the Train, Advise and Assist Command -- South in support of Operation Freedom's Sentinel. 

"Its an honor to be selected for this [promotion and deployment]," said Aris. "I pledge to do my very best to make sure that we excel in this mission and continue the great heritage of the Texas Army National Guard."

His most recent assignments include serving as the acting Assistant Division Commander of Maneuver, division Chief of Staff, and Commander of both the 56th and 72nd Infantry Brigade Combat Teams. He served as a task force commander during a 2005 rotation to Kosovo, and deployed to Iraq in 2009 as an assistant chief of staff in operations.

In 1998, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree and commission from the Texas A&M University and was awarded as a Distinguished Military Graduate in the ROTC program.  After serving on Active Duty in the Army, in 1993 he joined the Texas Army National Guard. Aris also holds a Master of Science from the Army War College and a Juris Doctorate from South Texas College of Law. 

Aris’ awards and decorations include the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star Medal, Meritorious Service Medal (with two Oak Leaf Clusters), Kosovo Campaign Medal, Iraqi Campaign Medal  (with two service stars), Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and the Humanitarian Service Medal.

The mission of the 36th Infantry Division is to provide ready and responsive forces that can deploy to conduct unified land operations in joint and coalition environments, in support of a geographical combatant commander. On order, the division provides defense support to civil authorities within the United States in support of state and federal agencies.

Texas airborne infantry unit conducts night airborne exercise

Story by: Sgt. Elizabeth Pena

Posted: Dec. 2, 2016
Texas Guardsmen from the 1st Battalion (Airborne) 143rd Infantry, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, conducted a simulated airfield seizure during Operation Aztec, Nov. 17-19, 2016, near San Antonio, Texas. Operation Aztec is one of the first major collective training events under the 173rd Airborne Brigade. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Elizabeth Pena)

HONDO, Texas – Texas Army National Guardsmen from the 1st Battalion (Airborne) 143rd Infantry, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, conducted a simulated airfield seizure during a major collective training from 17-19 November 2016, near San Antonio, TX.

The two units are partnered through the Associated Unit Pilots Program, which pairs Active-Duty units with those in the Army Reserve and Army National Guard for a multi-year period to meet increasing demands of the Total Army.  

“Our battalion is now a part of the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, which is forward based in Europe,” said Texas Army National Guardsman Lt. Col. Kurt J. Cyr, commander of the 143rd Airborne. “Our brigade has the responsibility to be the contingency response force for U.S. Army Europe. It’s important for us to do collective training exercises such as this to maintain our proficiency in joint forcible entry operations.”

The training exercise, known as Operation Aztec, highlights the programs’ intent to increase the readiness and responsiveness of the Army as a total force. This was one of the first major collective training events for the battalion as an Associated Unit of the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team. 
“This weekend took about two months of drill time and preparations,” said Texas Army National Guard Sgt. 1st Class Benjamin Johnson. “We are bringing a lot of guys that have never deployed before to see what it will look like, or similar to, and the types of engagements we would see.”

During Operation Aztec, Texas Guardsmen jumped onto South Texas Regional Airfield in Hondo to secure and control the airfield, worked through the night against opposing forces to seize key terrain from the enemy. 

“Our battalion only jumps at night,” said Cyr. “We always try to maximize surprise, security and protection of the force by jumping at night. The airborne relies on the element of surprise, and the cover of darkness gives that surprise. Hours of limited visibility allow us to utilize security to gain a tactical advantage over the enemy by parachuting under the cover of darkness.”

The partnership enables integration of formations from units prior to mobilization through collective training exercises such as Operation Aztec.

“Our airborne infantry battalion is no different than any other you’d find in the Active Component,” said Cyr. “We train to the same standards, and are required to be compatible with our Active Duty counterparts across all warfighting functions.”

“I have full confidence in our Paratroopers, their training, our unit’s leadership and the leadership of our brigade in Europe. If there is ever a call for us to mobilize and fight alongside of the Active Component, we will be ready” said Cyr.

Under the new program, units will see an increase in training.

“The training days are getting longer,” said Texas Army National Guard Private 1st Class Jeremy May, a Paratrooper with the 143rd Airborne. “But this is something bigger than ourselves so we are willing to make that sacrifice. My main motivation is protecting the people that I love. That is the whole reason that I joined.”

A total of 27 units have been selected to undergo the pilot; four of those units come from the Texas Army National Guard. These units will train, build readiness and ultimately fight as one Army. 

“There are three different Army components, but when you deploy, everyone wears U.S. Army,” said Capt. Aaron M. Lee, a Ranger Training Assessment Company Commander at Fort Benning, Georgia. “We have to work together and be on the same level as far as individual collective tasks.”

The 143rd Airborne is scheduled train with the Active Component during a major joint forcible entry exercise in Europe during the summer of 2017.