USARCENT, National Guard, Reserves talk Total Force in Kuwait

Courtesy Story: Sgt. David Beckstrom

Posted on: January 4, 2016

Sgt. David Beckstrom The adjutant generals of the Utah, Texas, Puerto Rico and Alabama National Guard, along with general officers from the U.S. Army Reserve, took part in a four-day conference to better see how their Soldiers and Airmen support U.S. Army Central’s mission in Southwest Asia, Dec. 10-13. The Total Force concept was a major topic of discussion and focuses on the partnership between the active duty, National Guard and Reserve components as they work hand-in-hand to ensure the security and safety of people around the world and build enduring partnerships. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. David N. Beckstrom, 19th Public Affairs Detachment, U.S. Army Central)
Courtesy Photo:Sgt. David Beckstrom
The adjutant generals of the Utah, Texas, Puerto Rico and Alabama National Guard, along with general officers from the U.S. Army Reserve, took part in a four-day conference to better see how their Soldiers and Airmen support U.S. Army Central’s mission in Southwest Asia, Dec. 10-13. The Total Force concept was a major topic of discussion and focuses on the partnership between the active duty, National Guard and Reserve components as they work hand-in-hand to ensure the security and safety of people around the world and build enduring partnerships. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. David N. Beckstrom, 19th Public Affairs Detachment, U.S. Army Central)

CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait – The Adjutant Generals of the Alabama, Puerto Rico, Texas and Utah National Guard and general officers from the U.S. Army Reserve, took part in a four-day conference here, Dec. 10-13 to gain insight on how their Soldiers and Airmen support U.S. Army Central’s mission in Southwest Asia.

A major focus of the event was the Army’s Total Force concept, which aligns the active duty, National Guard and Reserve components of the Army as one force to ensure readiness and resource efficiency.

“The military expects the reserve components to maintain the same standard as the active duty component,” said Air Force Maj. Gen. John Nichols, the Adjutant General of the Texas National Guard based out of Austin, Texas. “We accomplish this by partnering with the active duty components in Texas for training and mentorship. This allows us to remain proficient in our assigned roles and ready to serve our nation when the call comes.”

During the visit, the generals interacted closely with their Soldiers. They were able to see what they do on a daily basis and what contributions the National Guard and U.S. Army Reserve make to USARCENT.

“Since the first Minuteman left their plows, picked up their rifles and moved to the sound of guns more than 379 years ago, National Guardsmen have been fighting our nation’s wars and defending the homeland,” said Maj. Gen. Jefferson Burton, the adjutant general of the Utah National Guard based out of Draper, Utah. “These Soldiers serving in Kuwait represent America’s finest. They are our ambassadors. They are smart, talented, and passionate about what they do. They are volunteers who serve to make the world a more secure place.” 

“We work to align the needs and efforts of the Army’s mission around the world with the training of our units,” said Brig. Gen. James Blankenhorn, the Deputy Commanding General of the Reserve Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Forces stationed out of Salt Lake City, Utah. “We ensure the service members understand the importance of their missions and that they are fully manned, equipped and trained to accomplish it.”

Service members work together in an inter-department setting to accomplish their missions both in the U.S. and around the world with partner nation forces.

“Since our nation’s inception, citizen Soldiers have been an integral part of our national defense,” said Burton, a native of Payson, Utah. “Nowhere is that more evident than what’s happening in Kuwait today. Soldiers from every component, Active, Guard and Reserve, are training to the same standard, and serve side-by-side with our international partners to make our world more secure.”

These general officers came to Kuwait to ensure their Soldiers are accomplishing their mission and that they are meeting the standard. This will facilitate potential policy changes to train, equip and prepare Soldiers for future missions.

“Being proficient in our job as a reserve unit allows us to augment and support the Army by deploying and assisting other units that might need our help,” said Sgt. Erika Sledge, a squad leader with 366th CBRN Company out of Savannah, Georgia. “Everybody in the military have different jobs and missions, but when we work together we can achieve great things.”

Service members in the National Guard and Reserve components serve the nation by being citizen Soldiers, this means that they are entrepreneurs, construction workers or civil workers while still serving in the U.S. military.

“I have spoken to several service members from the Reserve component,” said Blankenhorn, a native on Atlanta, Georgia. “They are all saying the same thing, ‘we are learning great things while we are out here.’ This shows the dedication and commitment each of these Soldiers have to their nation, community and families. We will continue to train our Reservists to be ready to mobilize should the need arise.”

“Like many other cities across the nation, the impact of war touches the entire community,” said Burton. “The National Guard is the connective fabric to our communities, and that connection has proven vital to maintaining the nations will in confronting these global challenges.”

Texas National Guard responds to winter weather

Story by: 1st Lt. Alicia Lacy

Posted: December 30, 2015

A soldier from 2nd Battalion, 142nd Infantry Regiment, 56th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 36th Infantry Division, Texas Army National Guard responds to the southwest blizzard in the Texas Panhandle.
Courtesy Photo
A soldier from 2nd Battalion, 142nd Infantry Regiment, 56th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 36th Infantry Division, Texas Army National Guard responds to the southwest blizzard in the Texas Panhandle.

AUSTIN, Texas - Teams of soldiers from the Texas National Guard came to the aid of Texans as the onslaught of winter weather immediately following the Christmas holiday left parts of the Texas Panhandle covered in snow and ice.

From heavy rains and thunderstorms with potential flooding to blizzard conditions and tornadoes, the devastating weather that hit Sunday impacted many North Texas residents, with tornadoes leaving 11 dead.

With the winter storm imminent, the Texas National Guard dispatched soldiers Saturday to prepare to respond and assist, prepping their vehicles and winter kits to aid residents who may be impacted, said Capt. Luke Reynard, the military district coordinator for the Texas disaster district 1 region.

“What we saw most is high winds and really low visibility,” Reynard said. “The snow was coming in and blowing so hard it was causing whiteout conditions.”

Because of the low visibility, the Texas Department of Transportation shut down Interstate 40.

The guardsmen partnered with the Texas Department of Public Safety and TxDOT to assess the road conditions, clear roads and assist travelers who may have been stranded.

“Sunday morning I was working directly with DPS, and what we found was that DPS didn’t have a lot of eyes on the road as far as conditions,” Reynard said. 

As a result, the guardsmen became the eyes on the road to survey road conditions as teams were sent west on Interstate 40 to the New Mexico border, east on Interstate 40 to the Oklahoma border and northeast on State Highway 60 toward Pampa.

As the guardsmen navigated the icy roads with little to no visibility, they were able to rescue more than 100 residents and assisted about 65 other stranded motorists by providing blankets, food and water, according to information from the Texas National Guard’s joint operation center.

Reynard said one of the biggest challenges were the snow drifts.

“We can have 3 inches of snow and you’ll encounter a snowdrift 6-foot tall,” he said. “We had a storm dumping about 5-10 inches of snow with 35-40 miles-per-hour sustained winds.” 

Eventually, DPS was able to launch its helicopter and perform route recon near Friona, while TxDOT cleared up the roads making them passable by Monday evening, ending the National Guard’s mission.

“We are proud and grateful we have a team that is so dedicated to helping Texans in these dire times,” said Maj. Gen. John F. Nichols, the adjutant general – Texas. “We couldn’t have completed this mission without the dedication of our soldiers and their families for allowing them to serve the great state of Texas.”

The Texas State Guard Assists With Dallas Charity Event

 

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

Story by:  Chief Warrant Officer 2 Janet Schmelzer

Posted:  December 28, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Story by Chief Warrant Officer 2 Janet Schmelzer, TXSG

Posted:  December 28, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Houston Area Texas State Guardsmen Deliver Holiday Cheer to Children

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

Posted:  December 24, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Deployment Opportunity!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Texas Guardsman raises 25,000 toys for sick children

Story by: Capt. Martha Nigrelle

Posted On: December 21, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Airmen support Snowball Express 2015

Story by: Tech. Sgt. Vanessa Reed

Post: December 16, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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