Airmen seize drugs, capture smugglers

CAMERON COUNTY, Texas—Airmen from the Texas Air National Guard detected and apprehended three drug smugglers near Brownsville, Texas, February 19, 2023. The Guardsmen seized 112 pounds of cannabis with a street value of $89,000 from the smugglers who illegally entered the U.S. from Mexico.

The Guardsmen used advanced day and night optics to help spot the suspected drug smugglers illegally crossing the Rio Grande River. The Guardsmen routinely provide unique skills and equipment to assist partner agencies detecting and preventing illegal activity.

“The situation began to unfold when our Border Patrol partners let us know they saw some suspicious activity near the border,” said Staff Sergeant Santos Flores, a Special Operations team member in Task Force South. “So, I formulated a plan on how our team could operate tactically and stealthily, putting us in the best position to apprehend the drug traffickers.”

The Airmen volunteered for Operation Lone Star and work side-by-side Texas Department of Public Safety and other law enforcement partners to deter criminal activity from spilling across the Texas – Mexico border.

TMD Hosts Lawmakers

AUSTIN, TEXAS - The Texas Military Department held its annual Legislative Day, Feb. 3, 2023, offering state legislators a firsthand look at the state's military capabilities. 

The day kicked off with an address from Maj. Gen. Win Burkett, commanding general of the 36th Infantry Division, Texas Army National Guard. The guests were allowed to see training simulators and exhibits from the Texas Army National Guard, Texas State Guard, Texas Air National Guard, Counterdrug Task Force, and Special Operations Detachment-Africa, all headquartered in and around Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas. 

Johnathan Silva, chief of staff for Representative Richard Hayes was on hand for Legislator Day. “One of the biggest takeaways was how Guardsmen are utilized throughout the state,” Silva said. “They are some of our key personnel for Operation Lone Star and natural disasters.” 

The day’s events included briefings on the capabilities of the TMD and gave the legislators and their staff an opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the role the TMD plays in keeping Texas safe.  

Legislators witnessed an F-16 fighter jet take off and rode in a C-130 transport plane, both flown by Texas Air National Guardsmen. Once aboard the C-130, the congressmen and women could feel the equipment in action.  

“The flight was the most memorable part of the day.” said Silva. That’s not something that your average person gets to experience. Whether they are full-time or traditional, 1-weekend-a-month Guardsmen, they are expert trained personnel to fly these aircraft.”  

The event aimed to showcase the department's capabilities and give legislators a better understanding of the work the TMD does for the state of Texas. 

The Texas State Guard showcased their search and rescue equipment, highlighting their commitment to providing support during times of need to the state of Texas. The exhibit included a range of equipment, from communication systems to rescue boats and vehicles. 

Members of the Texas State Guard were on hand to demonstrate the equipment and share their experiences using it in real-world situations. They emphasized the importance of having the right tools and training to effectively respond to emergencies and provide aid to those in need. The display of their search and rescue equipment showcased the Texas State Guard's commitment to serving the state and its communities and highlighted the importance of preparedness in times of crisis. 

Capt. Keith Weaver, Alpha Company, 5th Battalion, 19th Special Forces Group was at the event to share the work that the Special Operations Detachment-Africa is doing as part of their duties in theater.  

“We’re here to talk about what our elements are doing. We are privileged that we get tasked around the world,” said Weaver. “Our company was in Syria, Iraq, and the Arabian Peninsula last year. Texas is one of a handful of states that has a Special Operations component. We are unique because we could be tasked anywhere around the world.”  

The Texas Military Department serves as the state's military branch, providing support to local communities during times of need, including natural disasters and emergencies. The department is also a crucial component of national security, providing support to military operations both domestically and abroad. 

Legislators also learned of one of the lesser publicized entities of the TMD, the Joint Counterdrug Task Force. Task Force officials shared what the JCDTF provides, a professional support to federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies and community-based organizations in the state of Texas. Chief Warrant Officer 2 Kevin Hagar, Drug Demand Reduction Outreach program manager, for Counterdrug was available to speak to elected officials.  

“We are fighting fentanyl on two different levels,” Hagar said. “Not only on the supply piece of the problem, but we also provide education for children to reduce drug demand.”   

Legislative Day was a testament to the department's commitment to serving the state of Texas, and to providing its elected officials with a comprehensive understanding of the military's capabilities and operations. 

Voyage of a Lifetime: From Naval Officer to Texas State Guard Deputy Commanding General

By David Brown, 1st Lt., Texas State Guard 

AUSTIN (Camp Mabry), Texas - In a career that includes service as a U.S. Naval Officer, military instructor, and multiple leadership posts in the Texas State Guard, Brig. Gen. Joe Cave of Bastrop now has been named Deputy Commanding General (DCG) of the nation’s premier State Guard force.    

After 16 years of service in the U.S. Navy, Cave joined the State Guard in 2007, entering as a Commander in the Texas Maritime Regiment (formerly known as “TMAR”, and recently consolidated into the current brigade command structure).  Promoted to Captain in 2011, Rear Admiral in 2018, and Brigadier General in 2019, Cave has distinguished himself as Officer-in-Charge of Operation Border Star/Drawbridge, as commander of Marine Rescue Operations during Hurricane Harvey, and as the leader of the 6th Brigade until his recent promotion to DCG.   

“(During Hurricane Harvey,) when the Governor said, ‘put in all ships and get everybody out there’, I mean, we were putting everybody out there,” Cave recalls. “That was our first boat type of rescue, but we had trained for it and our troops were extremely professional. Our folks were working around the clock; we were the only ones operating at night, going out and saving people. We were there to serve, and that was quite evident.”  

Not only was the bravery and commitment of Texas State Guard troops on full display during Hurricane Harvey, but Cave’s emphasis on military training and education has returned multiple dividends for the people of the State of Texas served by the Guard.  

Cave’s approach is “service members first,” says Brigadier General Roger Sheridan, Commander of the 6th Brigade, Texas State Guard.  “He gives you the leeway to explore new ideas and be innovative.  He’s not overbearing, not over-commanding, but he provides the direction you need to get where you’re going.”   

“(Brig. Gen. Cave) is very direct, he’s assertive, and he leads from the front. But there’s also a quiet gentleness about everything he does,” says Master Sgt. Joy Evans, who currently serves as Cave’s aide-de-camp. “You’re not afraid of saying what you really think with him.” Evans says candor and respect are keystones of Cave’s leadership style.  

Cave didn’t expect a life in the military.  He didn’t even come from a ‘military family’, Cave says. Though he knew his father had been in the Army, it wasn’t until two years ago that he discovered that his dad previously served in the Texas Defense Guard (the predecessor to the Texas State Guard).   

Cave smiles as he reflects on his military career, and a moment growing up in Amarillo that changed his life.  “I was an underachiever (in school),” Cave says. He recalls a teacher calling him out one day, declaring, "you know what the problem with you is? You're either going to be an axe murderer, or President of the United States!"   

“As I thought about it,”, Cave adds, “what she was truly saying was, ‘you know, you can be as low as you want, or you can be as high as you desire to be’.”  It was the seed of a self-improvement mindset that would lead Cave to pursue a BASc in Wildlife Management from West Texas State (now West Texas A&M), and later, an MA in Education Administration. 

With few civilian jobs at the time open to people with Cave’s credentials, “it turned out the Navy had a lot of wildlife that needed to be managed,” he says with his characteristically dry wit.   

That sense of humor served him well during multiple ‘at seas’ that would take Cave around the world, and occasionally into hairy situations.  Cave recalls being off the coast of Lebanon as ballistic splashes peppered the waters around his ship, and being reminded by the petty officer 2nd class manning the gun director that only a quarter inch of aluminum stood between him  and – grim.  Later, on a mission thru the Straits of Hormuz during a time when enemy ‘suicide attack boats’ were taking runs at American ships, “they would come out and make a run for you, and we’d all have weapons to bear,” he says. “I remember saying, ‘wow, this is going to get very real, very quick!’, but fortunately, they decided to veer off.” 

After 16 years in the U.S. Navy, Cave retired at the rank of Commander, and moved into education, working as Senior Naval Science Instructor with the Navy’s Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (NJROTC).  He was assigned to various schools running leadership courses and camps before being asked to join the State Guard. 

These days, as the first officer from the top in the Texas State Guard command chain, there’s much more on his plate, notes Evans, his aide-de-camp. “Now I do sometimes want to put a bell on him - where’s my boss?!” jokes Evans. 

No worries. Cave isn’t one to lose sight of what’s important.  

“As our world continues to change, the demands upon our federal soldiers are going to increase, the world is continuing to become, in my opinion, an increasingly dangerous place. Well, if all the ‘what ifs’ come into play, we are going to be asked to step up,” Cave notes.  While members of the Texas State Guard are often called by local civil officials to aid in search-and-rescue and other emergency missions statewide, its additional duties include assisting Texas (Army and Air) National Guard forces as needed and providing additional security on the home front.  

“Our political leadership definitely sees the worth in the Texas State Guard, as many times this year we've been called down to the capitol to provide information. They ask the right questions, and sometimes they get kind of tickled when we answer the question, "Well, how much did y'all get paid?"  

While Texas State Guard soldiers do receive a stipend for State Active Duty missions in addition to a range of benefits, troops commit to attend drills and undergo constant military training without pay.  Most Guard members will tell you they chose to join the Texas State Guard out of a love of public service, and a love of Texas.  

As Deputy Commanding General of the Texas State Guard, Cave exemplifies the spirit of both.  

Texas National Guard Expands Operations to West Texas

The Texas National Guard expanded Operation Lone Star to the far western city of El Paso. The movement of personnel, equipment and capabilities was in response to the unprecedented number of illegal border crossings in the area.

“I am so impressed with the OLS staff as well as the Soldiers from Task Force West,” said Maj. Gen. Ronald “Win” Burkett, Operation Lone Star Commanding Officer. “Over 400 personnel and 40 vehicles were repositioned in El Paso within a 72-hour time frame.”  

The Guard can flex capabilities, equipment, and personnel anywhere along the border within a 72-hour window. The Texas Air National Guard provided four C-130J Hercules aircraft to expedite travel of personnel and vehicles to the far western region, and tactical troop movements took place all over Texas. 

Proof of the Guard’s effectiveness against the numbers of illegal crossings is becoming more and more obvious with each passing day.

 Day 1: Military vehicles, Soldiers, and concertina wire rolled onto the Rio Grande River’s edge. Only a few onlookers stood on the other side watching the activity. It was early in the morning and bitter cold. Within four-hours the number of onlookers increased, but no one challenged the swift work of Soldiers uncoiling the concertina wire.

Near nightfall, almost 500 immigrants stood at the wire asking the seven armed Soldiers to let them in. The crowd was made up of immigrants from Argentina, Cuba, Nicaragua, Mexico, Russia, and Venezuela; men and women, both alone and with children, tried pleading, chanting, and singing. Law enforcement partners also explained the process for entering the United States legally and still the crowd stayed. 

Day 2: The immigrants dissipated, leaving in the direction of the next legal crossing area.  Soldiers stood behind the concertina wire with only occasional conversation across the river answering immigrants’ questions of where they go now. 

The Triple strand concertina wire, with armed personnel and military vehicles, and fast fencing has turned the once illegal fast-path into a ghost town. 

The Texas Department of Emergency Management also installed shipping containers to help deter illegal crossings. The Texas Department of Public Safety emplaced vehicle and officers, also working the line with the Soldiers. 

The National Guard’s El Paso operation is now an enduring mission, as part of Gov. Greg Abbott’s efforts to secure Texas’ southern border. The region will have over 600 troops and 100 military vehicles to support our law enforcement partners in this mission. 

The mission remains for the Guardsmen to assist law enforcement partners to block and repel illegal crossings, as well as to interdict trans-national criminal activity from spilling across the border.

Texas National Guard adds 45 drone pilots to OLS

When 1st Lt. Austin Laughlin started on Operation Lone Star, the mission was daunting. He and his company were responsible for preventing illegal border crossings in a 25-miles stretch along the Rio Grande River in Zapata County.  While the county wasn’t known for particularly high traffic, it was known for being undermanned in its vast expanses of thick over growth that provide a perfect route for those travelers who want to remain undetected.

One tactic for finding the clandestine migrants, developed by the Texas Department of Public Safety, was the use of drones in conjunction with groups of elite soldiers from the Texas National Guard, called “brush teams.” The brush teams would use the information provided from the DPS unmanned aircraft equipped with night vision and thermal cameras to locate and arrest trespassing migrants in the unforgiving terrain.

Seeing the success of the joint brush team operations, Laughlin knew more drones would mean more illegal migrants would be unable to enter Texas undetected.

Laughlin quickly developed a plan that would have Texas Guardsmen flying drones as part of Operation Lone Star.  He pitched the idea to the commanders on the ground, who immediately saw the value in adding additional brush teams resourced with drones and championed the young lieutenant’s idea to the highest echelons of the agency.   

With that the Texas Military Department’s Small Unmanned Aircraft System Program was born.  In his new position as the program’s training director, Laughlin said the first class of TMD pilots are set to start training to fly.  After completing the FAA’s part 107 training and additional practical training with both TMD and DPS personnel, those Soldiers and Airmen will be able to fly with the agency and as commercial drone pilots in their civilian lives. The new remote aviators will be chosen from within the Texas National Guard’s ranks.

“We are looking for people that are on a State Active Duty mission currently, or want to be,” said Laughlin. “We want people who want to make a difference.”

In response to the increase in illegal border traffic, TMD is preparing to train 45 new drone pilots.  While those pilots will initially work directly with DPS, Laughlin said that eventually the drones will be spread out, working independently to expand the number of brush teams across the border.

“It’s important that we are successful on Operation Lone Star,” Laughlin said. “With this program we can better stop the people with nefarious intent from crossing illegally into Texas”

NGB leadership visits Texas National Guard troops on the border

Story by Sgt. 1st Class Elizabeth Pena 
Texas Military Department

Story by Sgt. 1st Class Elizabeth Pena
Photo By Sgt. 1st Class Elizabeth Pena

HARLINGEN, Texas -- Senior Enlisted Advisor Tony L. Whitehead, the senior enlisted advisor for the Chief, National Guard Bureau, visits Texas Guardsmen, November 22-24, 2022, in Harlingen, Texas, to check the pulse of the soldiers and airmen during the Thanksgiving holiday.

SEA Whitehead serves as the Chief's principal military advisor on all enlisted matters affecting training, utilization, the health of the force, and enlisted professional development. As the highest enlisted level of National Guard leadership, he provides direction for the enlisted force and represents their interests.

"The purpose of the visit was to check on our soldiers and airmen working on Operation Lone Star," said SEA Whitehead. "They're Guardsmen, and I wanted to make sure that we had an opportunity to speak to them about their thoughts and ideas about the mission, how they were doing, how they felt about how the mission was going and any ideas that I needed to take back to the Chief of the National Guard Bureau."

Operation Lone Star is a state-led mission to respond to increased illegal immigration on the Texas-Mexico border. In May of 2021, Texas issued a disaster declaration covering 48 counties, primarily counties along or near the Texas – Mexico border. Currently, approximately 6,000 service members are deployed in support of Operation Lone Star.

During the visit, SEA Whitehead met with different units and components to get a full picture of the various mission sets of the state active-duty members, which included getting to ride on a Texas State Guard Center Console boat, used by Task Force East, known as the 'river unit' for the border mission. This unit uses TXSG flat-bottomed and center console boats in support of the border mission.

"Task Force East is responsible for four zones in the McAllen sector of the border. Our unit is specifically responsible for the river," said Texas Army National Guard Capt. Mike Jones, commander of the TF East team. "Today, we were showcasing some of the highlights of both the Mexico and U.S. side such as landmarks, key areas the Cartel uses and Border Patrol use, you know, in the whole cat and mouse game of border security."

Soldiers assigned to the river unit received recognition coins from SEA Whitehead for their outstanding work on the border. They had the opportunity to talk about their experiences on the mission with the highest enlisted leader in the National Guard.

"The Southwest Border Mission is a unique mission to the United States," said SEA Whitehead. "For our soldiers and airmen doing the mission, this has been talked about a lot, and I think sometimes we forget that we've got people down there 24 hours a day, seven days a week."

As part of SEA Whitehead's priority to seek opportunities for innovation and advancement within the ranks, SEA Whitehead asked service members to provide feedback to take back to the top [Pentagon].

"The visit was so great for my soldiers," said Capt. Jones. "These guys [and gals] are all highly motivated, to begin with, but having leadership from NGB come down and see what they do on a day-to-day basis is a big deal."

Some of the unit-level leadership also briefed SEA Whitehead on the morale of the Texas Guardsmen, stating there was an 86 percent volunteer rate for troops wishing to stay on the mission. These extension requests, leaders said, can be attributed to the pay incentives, time off to spend with family and the unique mission set the border mission provides. Through OLS, Texas Guardsmen can work in different units and alongside state partners like the Border Patrol Department of Public Safety, as well as the impact the mission has on the communities.

Reflecting on his visit, SEA Whitehead was incredibly impressed with the service members' work and their commitment to serving the greater good.

"One of the best things I liked about what I heard was that they have been here long enough to see the difference they have made in what they've been doing. So, despite some of the things they've heard regarding the negative social media or negative press, they know that there's been a positive difference in what they have been doing since they've been here."

When asked why he chose to come during a Thanksgiving holiday, SEA Whitehead said he wanted to ensure our soldiers and airmen know military leaders in Washington, D.C., are mindful of their 24/7 commitment.

"When the holidays come around, I don't know if people have the impression that things are halted because of it or that they are just comforted that we have military members down there on the Texas-Mexico border. Some of our Guardsmen have families that they're separated from, that's not just those deployed overseas but those deployed right here in the U.S.," said SEA Whitehead. "So, it's important for the Chief of the National Guard Bureau, myself, and the rest of the leadership team to go down and tell them ‘Thank you’ for what they're doing. We appreciate what they're doing, and we must let them know they're standing in a gap that's extremely important to our nation's security."

Six Sigma Training and More: a Valuable New Benefit for Texas State Guard Soldiers

By David Brown, 1LT, Texas State Guard 

AUSTIN (Camp Mabry), Texas – Although many soldiers in the Texas State Guard will tell you that serving their fellow Texans is a reward unto itself, a new program offered to all service members underscores the range of benefits available to those who wear the uniform.  Starting this year, members of the Texas State Guard are eligible for free professional development and training from one of the top companies in online education.  

This summer, every member of the Texas State Guard received (via email) a log-in and password to take advantage of the SkillSets Online Training Center, which allows participants to earn a certification in new skills (or a refresher on existing skills).  Some 7,000 courses and real-world simulations are now available to service members without charge, including Six Sigma Yellow, Green, and Black Belt certification, lessons in project development and organization, team leadership, managing budgets, predictive modeling, communicating with stakeholders, and much more. Many of the offerings are centered on computer technology, ranging from user-focused training all the way up to advanced programming, network security, and the management of highly specialized systems. 

"The certification and training opportunities available to members of the State Guard through SkillSets Online are a significant benefit,” says Col. Darren Fitz Gerald, Chief of Staff for the Texas State Guard.  “At no cost to the individual servicemember, they can pursue self-paced professional development and, in some cases, training and coursework for nationally recognized certifications.  Regardless of whether their time spent with SkillSets Online is aimed toward advancement in their civilian career or strengthening specific skills and abilities needed in the Guard, the end result is a capable and confident servicemember ready and able to serve their fellow Texan." 

Pvt. Luke Turner of Flower Mound, a recent recruit, wasted no time taking advantage of the new benefit.  

“I saw that my Master Sgt. had 18 classes, so I just wanted to one-up him,” Turner says.  

Turner’s ambition was inspiring. In his T6 (signals) section at Texas State Guard Headquarters, a “challenge” issued by the Officer-in-Charge resulted in Turner chalking up some 96 certifications by the October drill.  

You can guess who won the challenge. 

“At first I started working on classes involving employee-employer relations, how to manage large groups, how to manage a conference, that sort of thing,” Turner says. “I focused on those classes because when I was younger, I volunteered at a church camp, and I’d be responsible for 12 kids–and had to learn how to handle disputes between the campers.”  As Turner’s course completions mounted, he shifted his educational focus to IT (Information Technology) studies, helping him get more acquainted with some of the high-tech systems used in the T6.   

Experts say online development courses provide a more flexible, convenient, and efficient way to grow and strengthen professional skills compared to in-person and other more traditional coursework options.  That is an important advantage for Texas State Guard members, many of whom have busy jobs in the civilian world, to say nothing of family and community commitments. One key advantage to the SkillSets approach is that most subjects include a ‘pre-test’ option, enabling students who pass to receive credit and certification without having to sit through an entire course session (most of which are 1-2 hours long).  

“I reviewed the SkillSets certifications available and did an analysis of what this would cost service members if they were to try to obtain this training in the private sector, and found we were saving soldiers tens of thousands of dollars,” says Master Sgt. James “Damon” Williams, who serves in the T6 section of Headquarters Company. “We thought not only would SkillSets be a major bonus for those already serving, but it’s also a great tool for recruitment as an extremely valuable new benefit of membership in the Texas State Guard.” 

“The training is great for anyone with a job in the civilian world, someone possibly looking for a new job, or boosting your resume with credentials,” Turner says, adding, “I think you’d really be missing out if you didn’t take the opportunity to get those certifications–it’s truly a wonderful thing.” 

But the Texas State Guard – and the people it serves – gain from this new benefit as well. 

To be “Equal to the Task” (per the motto of the Texas State Guard) and mission-ready when asked to assist during emergencies statewide, continual training and learning are a must.  On top of professional and personal development, Texas State Guard service members are constantly engaged in military training and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) studies.   

The Texas State Guard is one of three branches of the Texas Military Department, along with the Texas Army National Guard and the Texas Air National Guard. Other benefits of service in the Texas State Guard include state tuition assistance, a daily stipend for state active duty, and much more.  A full list of benefits can be found online at under the State Guard tab.   

Operation Vapor Trails

The Texas Air National Guard participated in Operation Vapor Trails, a joint mass-casualty exercise  where mock-patients received advanced medical care while being evacuated by air, Oct. 19, 2022 at Kelly Airfield.

Operation Vapor Trails is an annual exercise that presents Airmen with real-life scenarios designed to train and educate personnel who use the Texas Air National Guard’s newest addition, the C-130J Super Hercules, to transport patients and medical personnel.

The Texas Air National Guard’s 136th Airlift partnered with the U.S. Air Force’s 59th Medical Wing for the exercise. Capt. Brian Mulkey from the 136th Airlift Wing and a C130 J Super Hercules pilot said that as a pilot, their mission is making sure that the plane is ready and able to fly equipment and medical staff in the event of a mass casualty.

“We are a team with multi-capable airmen, our pilots, loadmasters and crew chief together,” Mulkey said.  “We are doing what is required to do the mission. We work as a team, and a scenario like this lets us train with each other, and that helps us learn and work together.”

For this joint mass-casualty exercise, the flight crew and medical staff were briefed minutes prior to boarding the aircraft. The teams had to prepare for all necessary medical emergency requirements with limited time. Role players acting as patients were transported onto the aircraft while medical teams worked through multiple scenarios during the one-hour flight.

 “As Guard Members, we stand ready for emergencies like hurricanes and borders issues. As Texans and Airmen, we step up when needed. It is very fulfilling to be a Guard member to be called from our civilian jobs and come help out where needed,” Cpt. Mulkey said.

Operation Vapor Trails is designed to strengthen emergency response capabilities by training for an emergency with operations in multiple locations.

Mulkey said, “Even though this is just a simulation, as Texans, it is very fulfilling to be a Guard member  called from our civilian jobs and come help out where needed.”

Camp Mabry Education Fair

November 15th from 10:00AM- 2:30PM

The Texas Army National Guard Benefits and Incentives Office is hosting the Camp Mabry Education Fair November 15th from 10:00AM- 2:30PM. The fair will include universities and government organizations that will provide information about benefits and incentives programs, and will discuss entitlements afforded to the Soldiers and Airmen of the Texas National Guard.

Because benefits and incentives programs are often confusing, the Texas Military Department provides resources to help Soldiers and Airmen navigate these programs.

Mary Vrbanac, education services specialist for the Texas Army National Guard, said that out of the 54 states and territories, Texas provides the best benefits to their National Guard members.

 “The Texas National Guard Soldiers and Airmen receive federal tuition assistance; every Guardsman is entitled to Chapter 1606 as well as chapter 30, 33, and many others depending on their status, we want to make the most of their benefits and what is afforded to them.”

 What does that all mean?

 “Our mission is for the Texas Army National Guard Education and Incentives Office to maximize utilization of education benefits and incentives for those who have dedicated themselves to the service of our country and of the state of Texas,” said Mary Vrbanac.  

 “We want our Soldiers and Airmen to utilize these benefits and with the many different options, we explain the difference between each one and when and how they are to be used,” she said. “We sit down with them and try to understand what they want in their future and then we provide the resources to start them on the process.”

The goal for the Texas Army National Guard Education and Incentive Office is to answer questions from Soldiers and Airmen. The counselors also advise and educate unit commanders to prepare Soldiers and Airmen to go through the approval process, often a process that can be lengthy and confusing.  

“The Texas Army National Guard Education and Incentive Office is primarily the auditing agency when the unit commanders or leadership send those up for approval, to ultimately get their Soldiers and Airmen paid,” said Andrew Lehman, Texas Army National Guard State Incentive Branch Manager.

When discussing options and constraints, the counselors understand that it is paramount for any Soldier or Airmen to understand what they can and cannot do while under contract. They also stress that though they may have many options, time is also a factor for any service member’s contract and necessary actions are needed to retain and maintain their benefits and incentives during time in service.

Whether in the process of signing up for the different types of incentives or education benefits, or are already utilizing them, ultimately it is up to the Soldier to understand what they are entitled to and when an how to apply.

“Our mission is when [the Soldier] leaves, they were provided with the resources and information about different programs to effectively utilize the benefits they deserved when they signed up for the Texas Army National Guard,” said Cpt. Samantha Fernando, education counselor and GI Bill manager at Camp Mabry, “We want what is best for our Soldiers.”

The Camp Mabry Education Fair on Nov. 15, 10:00-2:30 PM, located at 2200 West 35th St. Austin, TX 78703 at Camp Mabry, Building 15. Colleges and many government organizations will be available to answer questions. To contact an education or incentives counselor you may call (512) 782-5505 or stop by the office. You can also email them directly at

ANG Texans Welcome New Commander

The 136th Airlift Wing celebrated two wing leaders during a combined change of command and retirement ceremony here Sunday.

Texas Air National Guard Chief of Staff Brig. Gen. Matthew Barker officiated the ceremony in which Col. Matthew Groves assumed command from Col. David Compton, and Compton retired after 32 years of service.

“The 136th has been on a winning streak lately, there’s no doubt about it,” Barker said. “That’s because of the men and women in formation here, and also because of the exceptional leadership of Col. David Compton.”

Barker recapped highlights of the 136th AW’s history, noting the wing was the first Air National Guard unit to enter combat. He also applauded the wing for its most recent accomplishments, including the unit being selected as home of a new aeromedical evacuation mission, completing 90 percent of the conversion from C-130H to J models, and exceeding 200,000 safe flying hours, all while providing continued support to the Texas border mission, Operation Lone Star.

Barker spoke of Groves’ diverse background, commenting that Groves is equally comfortable leading the combat mission in the desert or walking the halls of power in the Pentagon.

“All of his diverse background is going to serve the 136th AW very well,” Barker said. “I’ve seen his passion for the mission and the Airmen.
“I challenge you to uphold this wing’s great legacy and unleash the power of these great Texas Airmen,” he added.

After he assumed command, Groves thanked the members of the 136th, fellow wing leaders, and his family.

“I am truly grateful to stand with you who have raised your right hand and sworn to defend the constitution of the United States of America,” he said. “I am grateful for your time that you do not have to give. I am grateful for your sacrifices and those of your loved ones. I am grateful for your sense of service.”
Groves spoke on complex, dynamic challenges, both globally and locally, for which the Texans may be called upon.

“You know all of this and yet you step forward and you continue to serve with passion and professionalism,” he said. “I say to every member of this wing, ‘Thank you, be ready, we’re going to need you.’”

In his new role, Groves will command a wing of more than 1,000 Citizen Airmen.

He previously served as the 136th AW vice wing commander. Prior to joining the TXANG, he served as the deputy director of plans and programs at the National Guard Bureau, Joint Base Andrews, Maryland.

The 136th AW is one of three flying units in the Texas Air National Guard, with a mission to provide highly trained, equipped, and motivated military forces for worldwide combat and peacetime tasking while flying and maintaining eight C-130J aircraft.