Texas State Guard Sergeant Shares Love of Outdoors with Veterans as Therapy for Life’s Stresses

National Volunteer Month

By Gregory Illich, Warrant Officer 1, Texas State Guard 

CENTERVILLE, Texas - Many of us only wish that our day-to-day work and service would be more than a job or task and so we look forward to our days off and busy our weekends with our hobbies. For Sgt. Eric Munoz of the 2nd Brigade, Texas State Guard, his work is not laborious or burdensome: it is the sharing of his love of the outdoors with his fellow veterans, in true camaraderie.  

Munoz is the Founder and President of Texas Outdoor Heroes, a 501(c)(3) non-profit which helps veterans in need to experience the outdoors, fishing, camping, cookouts, hunting, and hiking at no cost, to enrich their lives as they deal with stress and various challenges. Through his organization’s network of contacts, Munoz also helps veterans connect with counseling services and other resources they may need. Each year he hosts “A Salute to Veterans” event with barbecue and entertainment to show those that have served that they are appreciated. Also, he reaches out to the veterans in his local community each month to foster a strong community and friendships.   

Munoz lives in the rural town of Centerville, Texas, and enjoys working on his cousin’s ranch. A self-taught welder by trade, he owns and manages a small business that manufactures farm and commercial metal buildings. An outdoorsman, he enjoys camping, hunting, and fishing.  

A veteran with the U.S. Army and the Texas Army National Guard in the 141st Infantry Regiment (Mechanized), Munoz served as an infantry soldier trained especially on crew-served heavy anti-armor weapons such as the TOW anti-tank missile and was the designated tank driver for his squad.  

After leaving federal service, Munoz says he looked back fondly on his time in uniform. He missed the camaraderie, but also realized there were many fellow veterans who needed help, the assistance of various kinds, but most importantly, someone to talk to who had a shared experience. Having looked up other veteran’s groups and associations, he discovered there was a need that fits well with his passion: the outdoors. He wanted to share his love of outdoor experiences with his brother and sister veterans, especially those who felt isolated, misunderstood, or suffered from PTSD. He believes that facilitating these activities with groups of veterans who have shared experiences is an excellent form of therapy. 

“I started the veteran’s support non-profit in honor of my son's best friend, Sgt. Wade Wilson, a U.S. Marine who was killed in action while serving in Afghanistan in 2011,” Munoz explains. “He was a remarkable young man who loved hanging out with his friends. Always had a trick or two up his sleeve. The hardest thing for me was getting the news and having to tell my son about his friend. We live in a small town where everyone knows everyone. The war that was going on in Iraq & Afghanistan became very real.” 
After mustering the entire community to turn out in Wilson’s honor when he was laid to rest, Munoz knew he wanted to do more - make a more lasting tribute. Munoz was the driving force in renaming a portion of I-45 in the Centerville area for Wilson.  

Munoz said, “I told the local and state representatives, ‘I will do everything I can to make this happen, but I will let you handle the political side of things while I get the community support and funding.’” Persevering through a lengthy process, Munoz achieved his goal on May 26, 2017, when legislation was added to the Texas Transportation Code renaming a 17-mile stretch of I-45 the ‘Sergeant Wade Daniel Wilson Memorial Highway’.  

“The highway not only honors Wade’s sacrifice but expresses our support for all those who have served and all families that have lost loved ones in the military,” Munoz says. “After renaming the highway, I still wanted to do more, so I joined the Texas State Guard, to serve again with my fellow brothers and sisters in uniform, helping Texans in time of need.” 

The Texas State Guard is one of three branches of the Texas Military Department, which also includes the Texas Army National Guard and the Texas Air National Guard. For more than 80 years, thousands of men and women, including many veterans of federal service, have volunteered to serve their state in the Guard, answering the call of civilian authorities during countless disasters and emergencies statewide.  

Since 2011, Munoz’s organization has hosted an annual cookout event honoring veterans, providing food and entertainment at no cost to all veterans who attend. Also, Munoz continues to host camping, hunting, and fishing trips each year, benefiting hundreds of veterans over the years.  

Munoz’s passion is shared by his family. His three sisters, Lupita De La Rosa, Cecilia Morales, and Lorena Garcia all help with the non-profit's mission by preparing meals for the veterans as needed, on occasion serving as many as 450 at a time. His wife, Gloria, assists in the bookkeeping and day-to-day operation of the non-profit.  

“This year is my 12th year helping veterans,” Munoz explains. “It is my way to give back and show appreciation for my fellow veterans and let them know they are not forgotten, and they are not alone. I am there for them.” 

During April, National Volunteer Month, the Texas State Guard is turning a spotlight on Texans who give of their time and efforts to make their communities a better place. In the Texas State Guard, there are many, like Munoz, who go above-and-beyond the call of duty to serve their fellow Texans. More information on opportunities to serve in the Texas State Guard can be found online at tmd.texas.gov/state-guard.  

The Citizen-Soldier Behind the Mask

National Volunteer Month

By David Brown, 1st Lieutenant, Texas State Guard 

HOUSTON – A year before Pearl Harbor, the ‘super soldier’ made his first appearance: clad in a uniform of red, white, and blue on the cover of a comic book, delivering an uppercut to Adolf Hitler.  These days, you might find Captain America at a Houston area hospital, kneeling by the side of a sick child’s bed.   

“Are you really Captain America?” the child often asks. Rising with a crisp military salute, the masked soldier replies, “Captain Steve Rogers, at your service, Sir!”  And for a few moments, the pain seems to melt away from the child’s face, replaced with a smile.   

Yes, he’s a soldier–in real life, a Warrant Officer in the Texas State Guard. His ‘secret identity’ is Greg Illich of Houston, and his ‘superpower’ is volunteering.   

In his role as Captain America, cheering up sick kids at hospitals and visiting schools across the Houston area with an anti-bullying message, Illich is utterly convincing as the leader of ‘The Avengers’ in his theatrical-grade costume and aircraft-aluminum shield. 

But his other uniform is the real deal: the green camo of a Texas State Guard soldier assigned to the 2nd Brigade. And it is lifesaving work, requiring constant professional and military training in order to be ready to serve fellow Texans whenever called upon by civil authorities.   

Since World War II, thousands of Texas men and women have volunteered to give back to their home state through service in the Texas State Guard, one of three branches of the Texas Military Department (which also includes the Texas Army National Guard and the Texas Air National Guard).  The Texas State Guard has earned a reputation as the premier State Guard force in the nation, saving lives, providing shelter, leading search and rescue missions, and serving with distinction through disasters like Hurricane Harvey and countless other emergencies across Lone Star State.  

Service in the Texas State Guard requires no small amount of personal sacrifice, including time away from home and family. Illich has been married for 34 years to Maria, a school teacher. They have one daughter, Katherine, who is an artist in Denver. “Make no mistake, we know that the families of service members sacrifice, too, so that their loved ones can serve,” says Maj. Gen. Anthony Woods, Commanding General of the Texas State Guard. “We all have deep respect and gratitude for that sacrifice.”  

“Six years ago, my wife told me about a student at her school who had been diagnosed with bone cancer,” Illich recalls. “She said ‘Let’s go visit…but I want you to dress up.’ I said, ‘What?’ She said, ‘Yup, you’ve got the t-shirt and shield (which Illich used to wear on the front porch at Halloween)’. My first response was ‘negative’. I’m not that guy to puff my chest out and try to be something I’m not.” 

“It’s not about you, it’s about the kids,” Maria replied.  

That did it. After the first visit, the nurses asked ‘Cap’ to come back. Over time, the costumes got better. Much better. And the visits to kids at children’s hospitals, burn centers, and schools began mounting deep into the triple digits.  

“One of the reasons I am Captain America is because I was bullied as a kid. I was a big comic book fan as a kid, but Captain America really spoke to me. He’s a defender,” says Illich. “When I visit the schools, anti-bullying is a big part of my message. At hospitals, it’s an opportunity for me to ask the kids, ‘What’s your superpower?’” He encourages them to think of how they can use their talents to better society. For some kids, it’s an opportunity to see themselves in a whole new light–not as little or frail, but as a hero, a winner.  

“I once walked off from visiting a kid and heard a mom say to her son, ‘Yeah, he’s real, honey…’”, Illich laughs. 

Stories are a passion for Illich, who has B.A. and Masters’ degrees in history. For 13 years, he put his nuanced understanding of history to work as a fraud investigator (“a historian-as-detective”, Illich says) working alongside the FBI, the Secret Service, and local law enforcement fighting financial crimes. His history studies came in useful as a schoolteacher for a brief period, too. But what began as a hobby became full-time work for Illich in 2006, who is today an independent instructor in the martial art of taiji (also commonly written as ‘tai chi’), an ancient Chinese practice used in defense training, meditation, and health.   

Somehow, Illich finds room in his schedule to serve his community in other ways, too - assisting at Young Eagles fly-in events to share the love of aviation with young people (Illich is also a pilot), as a lector and usher at his church, and honoring fallen service members and first responders as part of the Patriot Guard Riders motorcycle honor guard carrying the U.S. flag at more than 450 funerals since 2006.  

That guy in the Avengers films? That Chris Evans. He’s an actor.  

The hero is a soldier with a supersized heart for public service. 

And that’s for real.  

There are many ways to serve your community and your state, and during National Volunteer Month, the Texas State Guard salutes all who serve in ways big and small.  If you have a passion for public service and would like to learn about opportunities to serve in the uniform of the Texas State Guard, visit us online at tmd.texas.gov/state-guard. 

Supporting Those Who Serve, Supporting Those Who Sacrifice

National Volunteer Month

By Phoebe Sisk, Major, 1st Brigade, Texas State Guard 

MINERAL WELLS, Texas -- The men and women who serve the state of Texas are known by many names- heroes to some- and to four-year-old Scarlett Dove of Mineral Wells- Mom and Dad.  

Scarlett’s father is Lt. William Dove, a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps and a former U.S. Army soldier who has served in the Texas State Guard since 2016. Lt. Dove is currently a volunteer on a year-plus deployment in support of the Operation Lone Star border security mission. Scarlett’s mother is his wife Stacy, a devoted civilian spouse credited with the significant volunteer effort of standing up the first Family Readiness Group (FRG) in the 80-plus-year history of the Texas State Guard. The FRG is an organization that provides critical support, communication, and a sense of belonging to the families of service members. 

“Since I began serving in this role, I’ve taken my kids to every event possible,” says Stacy. “In addition to allowing them to witness the value of their dad’s service, I wanted them to understand how much positive can come from helping others... I tell them to do it for the cause not for the applause.” 

After 20 years of marriage, Stacy is now her own breed of veteran in terms of supporting a deployed spouse. As the current head of the 1st Brigade’s FRG, her unfailing commitment to the Texas State Guard since her husband joined stems from a strong calling to ensure other families do not experience the same lack of support and resources she experienced as a young military spouse overseas.  

“After my first contact with the Army’s FRG in Germany,” Stacy says, “I never heard from them again, so I was left to figure out everything on my own... this made me very sympathetic to the needs of families of service members going forward.” 

With four children, including the youngest who has recently been diagnosed with a learning disorder and, of late, has required extra attention, love, and support, Stacy also single-handedly runs the family farm, which includes the daily care and feeding of cows, donkeys, chickens, guinea fowls, ducks, and a goat. 

“My areas of priority- family, farm, and the FRG- have melded together to form one seamless world, so often it feels that my daily tasks are accomplished simultaneously instead of separately,” says Stacy. “There’s not a time when I am not reaching out to someone in the name of the FRG because I know we are all having, at times, the same hard day.” 

Stacy feels that the 1st Brigade’s FRG has come a long way since its launch, at one point providing services to the entire Texas State Guard during a period of responding to the simultaneous missions of Hurricane Laura, COVID-19, and assisting with civil unrest throughout the state.  

“We’ve built the FRG program from the ground up, researching the best of all military branches and adopting what fits our own hybrid organization,” says Stacy. “Still, we need to be better about connecting, just picking up the phone and making a call.” 

Standardizing the platform of service offered within the FRG is also a goal, which Stacy claims has been facilitated through her team of four dedicated members who maintain excellence throughout the organization with little oversight: Stefanie Lassiter, David Montes, Anna Thomas, and Gina Jacobson.  

According to Jacobson, serving on the 1st Brigade’s FRG has been a wonderful way to get to know the high-quality individuals with whom her husband serves. “I didn’t understand the caliber of persons that made up the Texas State Guard until I got involved,” she said. “I’ve been impressed.” 

Stacy contends that she will continue reaching for the highest goal of ensuring all families feel connected and supported, and meanwhile, feels good about the work that has been done.  

“My pinnacle moment was in helping a spouse who experienced a very rough time get on her feet again- through helping her find an apartment, a job, and a way back to school,” says Dove. “It was also a great moment when we delivered a care package to every single deployed service member for the holidays.” 

“We are immensely grateful for the role that servicemember families play in supporting the work of the Texas State Guard,” says Maj. Gen. Anthony Woods, Commanding General of the Texas State Guard. “I want family members to know that their work, their sacrifice, is essential and deeply valued. We couldn’t do what we do without their support.” 

During April, National Volunteer Month, the Texas State Guard salutes the many men and women in and out of uniform who give back to their communities in countless ways great and small. Volunteerism makes the Lone Star State a stronger, healthier, and happier place to live. To learn more about the Texas State Guard, its history of public service, and opportunities to serve, go to tmd.texas.gov/state-guard.  

Her Uniform’s a Lab Coat, Her Passion’s Public Service

National Volunteer Month

By David Brown, 1st Lieutenant, Texas State Guard

LEWISVILLE, Texas - It may be blazing hot outside.  It may be freezing cold.  No matter the weather, on the fourth Saturday of each month, you’ll likely see Cecilia Woods there in the early morning outside of Westside Baptist Church in Lewisville, helping lift a bag of groceries into someone’s car, guiding someone through the process of picking up food for their family or arranging food on tables for distribution. 

“We have grocery baskets, people can come and go through the line and pick up things from each section and then they just get in their cars,” Woods says. “We’re usually there from early in the morning until 12 noon… or our food runs out.” 

Although Woods’ distinguished 25-year career as a pharmacist may seem far removed from her work distributing free food, volunteerism is something she takes seriously, even if she seems reluctant to take any credit.  “I never like to be in the spotlight, but I always like to help serve,” Woods says. “It’s a great way to reach folks in the community and many of them are just downtrodden–they’ve fallen on hard times–so it's always an opportunity to share the word, pray with somebody and just help out.”  

“Some of the people will come up and say ‘Hey, I know you from somewhere…OH, YOU’RE THE PHARMACIST! Yes! You’re my pharmacist!” Woods adds. “It really fills my soul.”  

Minister John Baree, Servant Leader of the Community Outreach Ministry at Westside, explains that the church’s monthly food pantry is organized in conjunction with the Tarrant County Food Bank. “Cecilia Woods is one of our core people,” Baree says. “There’s a handful of people you can count on every month to volunteer. She’s one of those–someone we can always depend on and we just look forward to seeing her face there.” 

As Woods says, “If I’m not working, I’m there because so many people in our community need help.”   

When in her lab coat at the pharmacy, one might find Woods busy administering free shots during flu season or taking an active role in quarterly ‘wellness days’, checking customers’ cholesterol, glucose, and blood pressure.  “We’re able to give folks a kind of baseline of where their health is, and I think that’s especially important for people who really don’t have a family physician,” Woods says.   

April is National Volunteer Month, but for Woods, volunteerism is a year-round activity. “It’s really something that I’ve always done,” says Woods. “It’s so funny: when my husband and I got married, I was always the one who’d go ‘Oh, someone’s standing on the corner, let’s give them five dollars, and he’d be like “oh, my baby– we’ll give away all our stuff!”, she adds with a hearty laugh.   

In truth, neither Cecilia nor her husband, Anthony, who live in Frisco, is the kind to hold back when it comes to public service. Maj. Gen. Anthony Woods is the Commanding General of the Texas State Guard and an Army veteran who has lived a life of public service, and who clearly couldn’t be more proud of his wife’s many contributions to the community.   

“When coats and clothes and shoes are needed for our church’s Veterans Ministry, she’s a part of that, too. As a matter of fact, she’s so strongly involved that on several occasions I’ve seen her in the Army “marshmallow suit” (severe cold weather jacket) handing out coats and food,” says Maj. Gen. Woods. “She’s very humble in her approach to service. You know, I think she really undervalues her contribution.” 

Like military service, volunteerism has been a distinctive feature of American life since the country’s founding.  According to Susan Dreyfus, writing for the ‘Stanford Social Innovation Review’, volunteerism plays a uniquely prominent role in American life compared to other countries.  And yet, in recent years, volunteerism has been on the decline in the U.S., with 25.3% of Americans reporting that they have volunteered in the past 12 months, compared to an all-time high of 28.8% (between 2003 and 2005). 

But in a time of rapidly rising inflation and economic uncertainty, a changing climate, aging demographics, and increasing demands on public resources, the need for volunteerism is growing.   

“You know, Jesus said that the one that will be greatest amongst you will be a servant to all,” Minister Baree says. “Without those who have a heart for service like Mrs. Woods, we couldn’t help our community… no matter how much food we might have to distribute.”   

Maj. Gen. Woods says he’s seen other family members of Texas State Guard soldiers make similar contributions to their communities, seldom if ever calling attention to themselves or receiving the recognition they deserve.  “I see (servicemember) families’ commitment through my wife’s own service. For Cecilia, public service is truly a calling. If she doesn’t do it, she feels like she’s failing God. It’s like ‘I have to go–I cannot ‘not go’. Because of her service, her soul is satisfied.”   

And communities across Texas are better for that commitment to serve. 

From helping a local food pantry to giving blood, checking on an elderly neighbor, or supporting frontline health workers and first responder families, there are countless ways to volunteer.  For more than 80 years, during disasters and emergencies, tens of thousands of men and women have served their fellow Texans in the uniform of the Texas State Guard.  The nation’s premier State Guard force salutes all who serve in whatever capacity, and, as always, stands prepared and ready to answer the call - no matter the mission, no matter the hour. 

Border Czar visits Texas National Guard

CAMERON COUNTY, Texas –Texas Border Czar, Mike Banks, toured Texas National Guard emplacements and fortified positions along the Rio Grande River near Brownsville, February 2023. Governor Greg Abbott appointed Banks to be his special advisor on border matters in January. 

“Human trafficking and drug smuggling are big problems at Texas’ southern border,” said Banks, who worked for over 20 years as a border patrol agent. “Operation Lone Star is essential for the safety and security of Texans.”

During his tour, Banks met with myriad of troops involved in several different facets of Operation Lone Star. 

“I wanted to come to speak with the Airmen and Soldiers on the frontlines to find out what resources and tools are working the best to stem illegal immigration,” said Banks. “We are going to expand our infrastructure and utilize advanced technology to continue to curb criminal activity at our border.”

Banks asked questions and also answered questions from Operation Lone Star Guardsmen. 

“He gave us great insight into how the mission will unfold moving forward and how it continues to evolve in a positive way. It was a big morale boost,” said TSgt Bryan LaCour, the Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge of Standards and Evaluations in Task Force South. “We have been hearing about the Border Czar--and now being able to put a face with the name, and having some questions answered helped troops to see the big picture of border security and stay laser-focused on the job.”

Operation Lone Star has led to more than 350,000 illegal immigrant apprehensions, over 24,000 criminal arrests, and more than 362 million deadly fentanyl doses seized. 

Cartels are trying to take advantage of border patrol agents by overwhelming them with mass illegal migration, creating a diversion so drug smugglers and criminal aliens can sneak into Texas according to Banks who said Texas National Guardsmen are doing all they can to fill in the gaps. 

“We are keeping Texans safe by apprehending illegal aliens and properly processing them, so we know who is trying to enter our country, we will not allow criminals to overrun our border,” said Banks. “I am extremely honored to be in this position and appreciate our guardsmen working to protect our border, this is truly Texans serving Texans.”

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”