Operation Lone Star Brings Medical Care to the Valley

Story and Photos by Staff Sgt. Eric Walden, Texas State Guard Public Affairs

BROWNSVILLE, Texas - This year marked the 20th anniversary of the Texas State Guard’s involvement in Operation Lone Star.  Operation Lone Star is a collaborative medical services project that unites state and county health and human service agencies, the Texas Military Department, local service groups and volunteers in the largest public health humanitarian effort in the country. OLS is a real-time, large-scale emergency preparedness exercise that provides medical service and disaster recovery training to state agencies and personnel while addressing the medical needs of thousands of underserved Texas residents.

Brig. Del Marco Coppola, DO, discusses a patient's case with members of the multi-agency staff, including a doctor from Mexico, nursing students and a provider form the U.S. Public Health Service during operation Lone Star 2019 at the Brownsville MPOD, Brownsville, Texas.
Brig. Del Marco Coppola, DO, discusses a patient's case with members of the multi-agency staff, including a doctor from Mexico, nursing students and a provider form the U.S. Public Health Service during operation Lone Star 2019 at the Brownsville MPOD, Brownsville, Texas.

Each summer since 1998, OLS provides medical care at no cost to residents of the Rio Grande Valley. For many residents, it is the only medical care they receive all year. For elements of the Texas State Guard and its Texas Medical Brigade/Medical Component Command, it is a vital training mission that offers hands-on experience in mass medical care in partnership with local public health authorities. For local residents, it is the gift of health–or of life itself.

The medical services OLS provides include immunizations, blood pressure checks, diabetes screenings, hearing and vision exams, physicals for students, medical evaluations and dental services.

Each year approximately 200 military staff members, more than 200 state and county employees and countless volunteers give their time and talents to make OLS a reality. Annually, OLS provides some 60,000 medical services to more than 12,000 Texas residents.

For the Texas Medical Brigade, OLS is its primary Annual Training event where these highly trained, licensed and certified health care professionals dedicate more than a week of their time. During the intensive training exercise, they set up Medical Points of Distribution and prepare for state and local emergencies, while providing an enormous humanitarian service to the people of Texas. 

The TMB/MCC is one of the four components of the Texas State Guard. It was established in March 2003 as the Texas State Guard Medical Reserve Corps, a component of the Texas Military Department under the Adjutant General of Texas and at the direction of the Governor of Texas. It was reorganized as the TMB/MCC in May 2007 and has an authorized end strength of 350 medical and support personnel statewide. The TMB/MCC remains a Medical Reserve Corps unit designated by the U.S. Surgeon General.

The TMB/MCC serves as a regional medical response team to assist in Texas public health emergencies, including biological terrorism, epidemics and disasters. The mission is to provide licensed medical personnel and technical support expertise in response to large-scale disasters, supplementing public health authorities of the Texas Department of State Health Services. The TMB/MCC also provides medical care to military personnel of the Texas Military Department and first aid support to select community events.

Many of these medical military staff return year after year to provide services to communities that always welcome assistance with basic healthcare services. Since there are multiple locations in the Rio Grande Valley where MPODs are located, such as Brownsville, Mission, Laredo and other Rio Grande Valley locations, military healthcare providers may be assigned to new locations each year. Despite this movement, OLS has forged relationships between many physicians and clientele, relationships deep enough for clients to track down physicians they have seen before in order to see them at their new locations. 

CPT Adrian Cano, a Texas State Guard physician, gives a nine-year old boy a much-needed basic health care examination during Operation Lone Star at the Mission MPOD, Mission, Texas.
CPT Adrian Cano, a Texas State Guard physician, gives a nine-year-old boy a much-needed basic health care examination during Operation Lone Star at the Mission MPOD, Mission, Texas.

Brig. Gen. Marco Coppola, DO, the Chief Medical Officer for OLS 2019 relayed a story where he saw the same client for three years in a row. The man, who was initially diagnosed as obese and suffering from high blood pressure, sought out Dr. Coppola each year to update his medications and receive an update on his progress. In the third year, the man had lost so much weight he was no longer obese, and his blood pressure had returned to normal. This relationship between the client and his OLS healthcare provider has turned the man's life around.

Col. Jonathan MacClements, MD, Surgeon General of the Texas State Guard, had one of the most unusual cases. Last year at OLS, a man presented a disfiguring skin disorder. Dr. MacClements was able to diagnose the skin disease as leprosy and worked to ensure follow-up care of the man during the year. This resulted in the man returning to see him again this year and evaluate his progress in alleviating the debilitating disease. 

Col. Robert McBroom, MD, an infectious disease specialist out of Wichita Falls, Texas, recalls a young student client who initially came in for a sports physical, which is a common need for students participating in sports in their local schools. Her experience at OLS led her to return for the last three years not only for continued care under Dr. McBroom, but also as a volunteer herself, providing translation services to clients and forging new relationships between clients and their OLS healthcare experience. 

Texas State Guard providers create much more than a single healthcare experience; they create relationships where clients return year after year to follow up on their healthcare needs. These relationships exemplify a trust between the Texas State Guard medical providers not only with the local community, but also with individual clients. 

“This speaks volumes for the importance of OLS and why the efforts of the Texas Medical Brigade are instrumental for the health and well-being of the citizens of Texas,” Brig. Gen. Coppola said.

Dr. Voss and a young patient

This article originally appeared in the October 2019 edition of The Dispatch, on page 14.

Saving a Life In a Moment's Notice

Story by Brandon Jones, Texas Military Department Public Affairs

It was just another hot summer night for Texas Army National Guardsman Spc. Matt Oldham as he worked his civilian job, the overnight shift as a security guard at the Dallas Holocaust Museum, when an out-of-control car careened into a nearby building and burst into flames as he watched. Oldham knew he had to help. He ran to the burning car.

It wasn't too long ago, though, that Oldham walked the halls of Wylie High School in Wylie, Texas, figuring out what to do next with his life. Oldham says life can be pretty tough in a small town. Between classes, social pressures and uncertainty about college, he found a passion that stuck with him for a lifetime and helped him navigate the crash that night, as he put his military training to use. Oldham's desire to serve his country has always been his number one priority. 

Oldham says that spirit of service comes from three generations of men in his family. Oldham's great grandfather, James Oldham, served in the U.S. Navy as a Seabee during World War II. His grandfather, Sgt. Bob Oldham, served multiple tours in Vietnam, receiving a Bronze Star for combat valor and a Purple Heart for wounds suffered in combat. Oldham's father, Sgt. Mark Oldham, spent time in Germany during the Cold War, in South Korea and at Dyess Air Force Base in Abilene, Texas. 

Spc. Matt Oldham and fiance Emma Sonck pose during a red carpet event hosted by Collin College. (Courtesy Photo: Army.com)
Spc. Matt Oldham and fiance Emma Sonck pose during a red carpet event hosted by Collin College. (Courtesy Photo: Army.com)

"The stories my family told me about serving were a life guide for me,” Oldham said. "I can't imagine a future without it."

It was just 20 days after his high school graduation in 2015 when Oldham joined that family tradition. He's now a SAW gunner in the 144th Infantry Regiment out of Seagoville, Texas, and his family couldn't be any prouder.

"When you realize the magnitude of the organization you have joined, it makes you want to grasp on to every piece of knowledge and apply it to your life," Oldham said.

Oldham deployed to the Horn of Africa from 2017-2018 after joining the National Guard. He describes the deployment as an opportunity to be a well-rounded Soldier. During his deployment, Oldham says he and other Soldiers learned airbase defense, patrols and general theater security.

"It's hard to imagine what you would do in a situation like that," Oldham said. “You try to push past it mentally, even though it's training because a real-life situation can be hard."

But Oldham had no idea he would put the skills learned during his deployment to the Horn of Africa to the test this past July. Oldham was three hours into his shift as a security guard for the Dallas Holocaust Museum when a loud sound forced him out of his seat. The sounds of glass breaking and tires screeching echoed in his ears as he made his way to see what was happening. As he got closer, Oldham noticed a man had crashed his vehicle into a downtown office building across the street from the museum, and the man's vehicle was now on fire.

Two Dallas Police Officers were already trying to do everything they could to save the man from the burning car. The entire front end of the man's SUV crunched against broken glass and bricks from the building, and the impact had trapped the man between the building and the car, according to Oldham. 

"I had to act and participate in the rescue anyway I could," Oldham said. "If that were my family member, I would want someone to do the same."

Firefighters respond to a crash near the Dallas Holocaust Museum where Spc. Matt Oldham works as a security officer. (Courtesy Photo: Robert McMurrey, Twitter)
Firefighters respond to a crash near the Dallas Holocaust Museum where Spc. Matt Oldham works as a security officer. (Courtesy Photo: Robert McMurrey, Twitter)

Oldham reached for his tourniquet, something he learned to carry at a first aid course he took during Initial Entry Training at Fort Benning, Georgia. He also took a Combat Lifesaver course his battalion medics taught. As part of the CLS class, Soldiers learned to use tourniquets, Israeli bandages, litters, chest seals, nasopharyngeal airways and more. Oldham recalled all of his training as he examined the driver for injuries.

"I could see several broken bones mostly in his feet and arms," Oldham said. "There were injuries to his chest as well. We were aware that this was a hazardous situation, and we needed to act fast."

As flames from the car intensified, Oldham could feel the sweat drop from his face and heat radiate throughout his body. He says he didn't think for a second about how he and the officers were putting themselves in harm's way. Oldham applied a tourniquet to the man's right foot as he helped pull him from the car.

"He seemed to be conscious even though he didn't say much," Oldham said. "I wanted to make sure he knew we were going to do everything we could to try to save him."

Seconds turned into what seemed like minutes during the rescue. The man was taken to the hospital and treated for his injuries. Dallas Police arrested the man for driving under the influence after the crash. Oldham feels everyone involved is fortunate the situation turned out as well as it did. Oldham says he was at the right place at the right time.

While Oldham insists he was just doing his job, Oldham is receiving awards to honor his heroism. The Dallas Holocaust Museum awarded him with The Lifesaver Award, and he's also receiving an award from his unit.

"When people walk up to me now they're saying I don't know if I would have been able to do that," Oldham said. “Life is short. It could all be over in an instant. I'm grateful for everyone one involved that night."

As he walks by the office building where the crash happened, all Oldham sees now are repairs. He wonders if he could have done more that night.  

While some may consider Oldham a hero, he doesn’t see himself as one. Instead, he thinks of the generations of men in his family that served before him. 

"If I could hear the words ‘well done’ by any of them, that's all I need," Oldham said.

 

Spc. Matt Oldham assists a fellow member of the infantry in weapons training
during a deployment to Arta, Djibouti. (Courtesy Photo: Spc. Matt Oldham)

This article originally appeared in the October 2019 edition of The Dispatch on page 10.

The Nervous System of Texas Guard Operations

Story and Photos By: Caitlin Rourk, Texas Military Department Public Affairs

 
Sgt. Kory Colvin, left, and Maj. John Pearson, right, monitor real-time updates in the Texas Military Department Joint Operations Center, Camp Mabry, Austin, Texas. The JOC serves as a link between partner agencies and Texas' 24,000 Guardsmen and civilians.
Sgt. Kory Colvin, left, and Maj. John Pearson, right, monitor real-time updates in the Texas Military Department Joint Operations Center, Camp Mabry, Austin, Texas. The JOC serves as a link between partner agencies and Texas' 24,000 Guardsmen and civilians.

AUSTIN, Texas - Managing information flow for a part-time force, operating in an environment where incidents often occur with no advance warning, requires round the-clock monitoring and coordination. For the Texas Military Department, which has more than 24,000 service members and civilians in its ranks, dozens of agency partners and a dual federal and state mission, its Joint Operations Center plays that critical role.

The JOC is the hub of information flow during both steady state operations, where it oversees the daily battle rhythm of the nation’s largest state military organization, and major incidents to which the Texas Military Department responds, be it tropical or winter weather, floods, wildfires and other civil support and law enforcement operations.

“We are able to communicate with all the major commands and units. We should be able to very clearly tell anyone who walks in—most notably, the Texas Adjutant General—what is available,” Staff Sgt. Kimberly Eastburn, a JOC battle NCO, said. “If the TAG wants to send out a certain number of aviation assets, we know exactly where those are and what is possible since we get those fed to us. The JOC has all the information to handle anything the state needs.”

The JOC has four key charges. First, it ensures timely and accurate communications with TMD components, the National Guard Bureau and interagency partners. Second, the JOC maintains situational awareness, which aids leaders in decision-making, alerts leaders to take action and assists in appraising the effectiveness and efficiency of operations and activities. Third, the JOC provides mission command to TMD forces that are mobilized in support of Domestic Support of Civil Authorities. Finally, it maintains historical documentation.

Located at the Joint Force Headquarters building at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas, the JOC’s design maximizes accessibility of information and serves as a central collaborative gathering place for TMD personnel and interagency partners during incident responses. Large television screens stream cable news network feeds, screens project real-time numbers and information and Soldiers sit behind computer monitors and phones, acting as a switchboard to units in the field.

In July, TMD renamed the JOC for Sgt. Maj. Elwood H. Imken, a longtime figure in the agency who passed away in 2018. Imken was instrumental in creating TMD’s JOC, and TMD leaders recognized how fitting the dedication would be. Eastburn says she immediately saw the parallels between the JOC and Sgt. Maj. Imken, as both were—in their own unique ways—at the heart of the agency.

“The JOC is the hub of what’s happening in the Texas Military Department. Sgt. Maj. Imken was the hub of almost everything that was happening at Camp Mabry at one time or another in any capacity he served,” Eastburn said. 

Staff Sgt. Kimberly Eastburn, left, and Sgt. 1st Class Clinton Staha, right, discuss a potential unit mobilization in response to flooding at the Texas Military Department Joint Operations Center at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas.
Staff Sgt. Kimberly Eastburn, left, and Sgt. 1st Class Clinton Staha, right, discuss a potential unit mobilization in response to flooding at the Texas Military Department Joint Operations Center at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas.

Like most Texas Guardsmen, Hurricane Harvey was the biggest mission of which Eastburn has ever been a part. She says working in the JOC when the governor mobilized the full Texas National Guard gave her greater appreciation for what an unprecedented undertaking it was and how much coordination was involved to accomplish it.

“The coordination and ability to respond and make that happen when it did is because the JOC is so heavily involved. We have the information, from what the State Operations Center needs, to what the Department of Public Safety needs,” said Eastburn. “Our partners know us, and we are the intermediary when a State of Texas Assistance Request, or STAR, goes out. We push the STAR and call out for mission-ready packages, and we know exactly how much it will cost because of all the past experience and events of what’s happened here.”

Capt. Jacob Schreyer, a JOC battle captain, explains that the JOC maintains an especially close relationship with full-time staff at units. Once the JOC receives the STAR, which allows Texas municipalities to request resources from TMD and other agencies for disaster and civil support responses, Schreyer and his team immediately make contact with units well before they are activated. The JOC explains the mission and helps leaders marshal their rosters, something that can be challenging for M-Day leaders who simply cannot be fully engaged on day-to-day unit operations. 

Facing the constraints of a largely part-time force, Eastburn says the JOC’s role in supporting readiness and ensuring accurate and timely information flow cannot be understated.

“As far as readiness, we know what we’ve got. We know where the people are. Overall readiness, without the JOC, it would be really hard,” Eastburn said. “We are the communication hub for everything the TAG wants, everything NGB wants, all the way down to the units. Without that, we just have so many different ways the information would flow down and potentially be miscommunicated.”

Battle captains and NCOs man the JOC every day of the year. While the JOC has set core hours, someone on staff is always on-call. More substantial incidents can prompt leaders to initiate the Adaptive Battle Staff, a construct that scales a staff size when responding to a natural or manmade disaster. The ABS has full-time personnel and traditional Guardsmen who come in on State Active Duty orders and different levels that dictate the number of SAD personnel and types of shifts and hours, ranging from Level IV, normal conditions, to Level I, maximum readiness.

“We are postured and ready to turn to 24-hour coverage, with 12-hour shifts and daily shift change briefs, if the agency is in an event response that requires increased manning,” Schreyer said. “We can flip back at a moment’s notice.”

In the months ahead, the JOC will modify how it displays information to maximize impact. Schreyer adds that the JOC is also working toward even greater integration with all three TMD components, including implementing a new system that better synchronizes with the Texas Air National Guard and having liaison officers more regularly present at the JOC.

This article originally appeared in the October 2019 edition of The Dispatch on page 6. 

Mental Fitness

I remember being in elementary and having to take the presidential fitness test.  From elementary to college we are encouraged to maintain a certain level of physical fitness.  Scrolling through Instagram or watching a television commercial you can almost be guaranteed to see a reference to one’s physical health.  But what about mental fitness?  We don’t really see references to maintaining our mental fitness.  Wait, do we even know what mental fitness is?

Mental fitness is basically the ability to emotionally and psychologically meet the demands of our everyday lives.  Just like working out and eating right helps us with our physical fitness there are things we can do to help us with our mental fitness.  Here are few things you can try incorporating into your life to help you maintain or improve your level of mental fitness.

Exercise
I’m sure you’ve heard of the “runner’s high.”  Exercise releases endorphins, which are those “feel good” hormones.  Exercise also increases the blood flow to your brain which increases the level of oxygen to your brain.  The combination of these two can help you reach a calmer, more relaxed state after your workout.  This can lead to better decision making and less stress in your everyday life.

Use Humor
Speaking of stress, stress can cause an increase of cortisol in your body which can lead you feeling fatigued, angry, and/or irritable.  Using humor to help you handle stressful situations can help reduce your stress level and lower your level of cortisol.  If you enjoyed reading the Sunday comics look some up online, or pick up a newspaper.  Read a funny story or watch a comedy to help you destress.  

Focus on one task at a time
Technology can be fantastic, but it can also mean that we are multitasking more now than ever before.  We may feel that if we are not doing 100 things at a time, then we are wasting our time or not accomplishing “enough.”  This can cause us to feel like we have to go full force at all times but what ends up happening is that we may end up depleting our energy source! Take your time and focus on one thing at a time.  

Hobby
Pick up a new hobby! Learning something creates new neural pathways in our brains.  Or maybe you have an old hobby that you have neglected and you want to get back into. This can be anything from reading to photography to gardening.  Hobbies help you become task orientated and can help you feel productive.

Reach Out
Life gets tough sometimes.  And sometimes we have to reach out.  Don’t fear reaching out.  Utilize your support system.  Remember that show “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” had phone a friend as an option for contestant’s life line.  You can choose to use “phone a friend” to help you cope.  Sometimes just vocalizing your stressors helps you feel better.  You can also reach out to a professional.  Call your counselor and set up an appointment.  Or if you don’t have a counselor, you can call the counseling line (512-782-5069) and speak to someone or set up an appointment.

Hope these five tips can help you on the road to mental fitness.  Just like it’s important to keep our muscles active to keep up with our physical fitness it is just as important to keep our brain active for our mental fitness.

Heart as big as Texas

Story by: Sgt. 1st Class John Gately

CPT Mills with her puppyFor 20 years the Texas State Guard has been part of Operation Lone Star.  Over those years, these men and women have helped countless numbers of people and brought medical services to many that could not afford it.

This year started no different than any other year, but by the end of the day, a new family would be created.

This mission took a turn when a sweet, friendly but mischievous puppy found its way into the hearts of many at the Brownsville Medical Point of Distribution.

This little puppy was eager to meet every Soldier and patient as she wandered the MPOD. Of course, no one could pass up spending a little time with her.

After a long day of wandering around the MPOD, receiving lots of love and food, the puppy was seen laying down in a shady doorway. Several students watched the puppy and started to think the worst on that very hot day. They summoned a veterinarian from the Public Health Service that was attached to Remote Area Medical, one of the many providers of Operation Lone Star, to check on the puppy to make sure she was well.  After examining the puppy, the vet stated the puppy was just worn out and tired from her activities. However, she was in need of care, as she was covered in fleas and ticks and needed a myriad of other things that puppies require.

Several students worried about the puppy’s future as the Brownsville Animal Control was called.  In no time, one of the JROTC students, the RAM vet, and troops from the Texas State Guard came together and a plan was hatched with Brownsville Animal Control.  Animal Control would take the puppy to be spayed and receive all the needed immunizations and care, then JROTC Cadet Emily Cortez and her mother, Ann Erblich, would pick up the puppy and care for it until her new owner, Capt. Diann Mills could take her home.

The Texas State Guard mission is to always help Texans in their time of need, this time, it was a four-legged Texan that needed our help and Texas State Guard was “Equal to the task”!

Texas Counterdrug commemorates 30th Anniversary of law enforcement support

Story by: Capt. Nadine Wiley De Moura

Photo By Capt. Nadine Wiley De Moura | Col. Miguel Torres and Command Sgt. Maj. Brian Harless cut the Counterdrug's 30th Anniversary cake. Current and former task force members reunited with their law enforcement and community partners to commemorate the Texas National Guard Joint Counterdrug Task Force's 30 years of support to law enforcement agencies, Aug. 7, 2019, at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas. Counterdrug law enforcement partners in attendance included the Department of Homeland Security Investigations, three out of the four Texas High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area directors, two of the three Drug Enforcement Administration field division special agents in charge, the Texas Department Public Safety, the Texas Rangers and the Customs and Border Protection, Air and Marine Division. The law enforcement partners were presented with a 30th Anniversary certificate of appreciation and a 30th anniversary commemorative Counterdrug coin. As part of the ceremony, Chief Warrant Officer 4 Brandon Briggs was awarded as the Counterdrug Bil Enney Task Force Member of the Year and Staff Sgt. Tiffany Carrion was awarded as the Texas Criminal Analyst of the Year. Maj. Gen. Dawn Ferrell, the Texas Military Department Deputy Adjutant General-Air, presided over the ceremony with several other TMD leadership in attendance.
Photo By Capt. Nadine Wiley De Moura | Col. Miguel Torres and Command Sgt. Maj. Brian Harless cut the Counterdrug's 30th Anniversary cake. Current and former task force members reunited with their law enforcement and community partners to commemorate the Texas National Guard Joint Counterdrug Task Force's 30 years of support to law enforcement agencies, Aug. 7, 2019, at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas. Counterdrug law enforcement partners in attendance included the Department of Homeland Security Investigations, three out of the four Texas High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area directors, two of the three Drug Enforcement Administration field division special agents in charge, the Texas Department Public Safety, the Texas Rangers and the Customs and Border Protection, Air and Marine Division. The law enforcement partners were presented with a 30th Anniversary certificate of appreciation and a 30th anniversary commemorative Counterdrug coin. As part of the ceremony, Chief Warrant Officer 4 Brandon Briggs was awarded as the Counterdrug Bil Enney Task Force Member of the Year and Staff Sgt. Tiffany Carrion was awarded as the Texas Criminal Analyst of the Year. Maj. Gen. Dawn Ferrell, the Texas Military Department Deputy Adjutant General-Air, presided over the ceremony with several other TMD leadership in attendance.

AUSTIN, Texas— Current and former task force members reunited with their law enforcement and community partners to commemorate the Texas National Guard Joint Counterdrug Task Force’s 30 years of support to law enforcement agencies, Aug. 7, 2019, at Camp Mabry. 

The National Guard Counterdrug program, was established by congressional legislation in 1989, with a mission to leverage unique military capabilities, national resources, and community focus in the nation's response to drugs and associated security threats. 

“The National Guard Counterdrug Program was one of the most brilliant acts our U.S. Congress established 30 years ago,” Col. Miguel Torres, Texas National Guard Joint Counterdrug Coordinator said. “This program allows the Citizen-Soldier to support law enforcement agencies down to our communities, making it a solid grass roots initiative.”

With miles of border and numerous bridges and border crossings, Texas is prime real estate for major drug trafficking organizations to operate, but not without a fight from the task force. 

Shortly after President Reagan declared a “War on Drugs”, the Texas National Guard was one of the first states to conduct counter-narcotics support missions with law enforcement.

“Cartels and drugs do not discriminate and show no mercy,” said Torres. “The Counterdrug program adds a layer of support and hope to our communities, our great state of Texas and our national security.”

Counterdrug law enforcement partners in attendance included the Department of Homeland Security Investigations, three out of the four Texas High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area directors, two of the three Drug Enforcement Administration field division special agents in charge, the Texas Department Public Safety, the Texas Rangers and the Customs and Border Protection, Air and Marine Division. 

The law enforcement partners were presented with a 30th Anniversary certificate of appreciation and a 30th anniversary commemorative Counterdrug coin. 

As part of the ceremony, Chief Warrant Officer 4 Brandon Briggs was awarded as the Counterdrug Bil Enney Task Force Member of the Year and Staff Sgt. Tiffany Carrion was awarded as the Texas Criminal Analyst of the Year. 

In addition, Arthur Doty, a DEA senior executive from Washington D.C., was the law enforcement guest speaker. 

“Terrible people do terrible things, but in order to get them into the court room you have to synthesize this,” said Doty pointing to a photo of multiple stacks of case evidence in a presentation. “And don’t forget the electronic version. The only way we are going to do that is with the relationship with the Guard and law enforcement. 

“You take the best and brightest in the National Guard and combine them with our law enforcement analysts and case agents and synthesize that into something a courtroom, an Assistant U.S. Attorney, and a jury will understand.”

Leaders from the Massachusetts, New Mexico and Mississippi Counterdrug programs also attended to commemorate the national program’s success. 

“I love the fact this is the 30th anniversary and we are proud of that history,” said Doty. “The relationship between the Guard and our law enforcement has to grow. This is our community, our state, our country and we become all the stronger when we work together. On the behalf of all law enforcement personnel, we thank you for support to us as well.”

Maj. Gen. Dawn Ferrell, the Texas Military Department Deputy Adjutant General – Air, presided over the ceremony with several other TMD leadership in attendance. 

“In my opinion, it is the worst epidemic problems that we have in our country when 70,000 U.S. citizens die from drug-related overdoses in a year,” said Maj. Gen. Patrick Hamilton, the 36th Infantry Division commander. “One thing about the Guard is that we are a community-based organization, at the grass roots---it’s how we were built. 

“It shows we were organized from the very beginning and working with our partners in an intergovernmental agency relationship is how we get after the problem.”

Hamilton, previously presided over the Counterdrug program when he served as the Domestic Operations Task Force Commander.

“The thing to me, as a Division commander, a combat commander, who has troops who serve---the Counterdrug program is not what I think people feared; that it would be a distractor to the readiness of our force,” said Hamilton. 

“It was exactly the opposite. The Soldiers who I have serving the program are physically fit because they have to be because they are on active duty, they are medically ready and because of the way Title 32 was written they have to be able to train with my formation to maintain their readiness and be available for deployment at any time. Counterdrug is a readiness enhancer for our force.”

The 30 years of the program’s history are marked by parks that are built in the place of demolished drug houses, record multi-billion dollar drug seizures, positively impacted at-risk youth, and has enhanced law enforcement agency’s capabilities. 

Hamilton recalled attending Operation Crackdown, where Counterdrug engineers knocked down a home known for illicit drug activity.

“I’ve seen it first hand, a crack house getting knocked down in a neighborhood and hours later watching kids play soccer on an empty lot that was a crack house 24 hours before with people dealing and using drugs,” said Hamilton. “That is getting after what the problem is in communities. That folks, is why we have a Counterdrug program and why it needs to continue to be successful.”

Physical Fitness

By: Ari Penalosa, LPC, LMFT TMD Counselor

The Mind Body Connection
Recent research shows there’s a connection between physical and emotional wellness. So, the next time you hit the running trail, take your dog for a walk, or tend to your garden you’ll be working out more than just your body. The mind body connection is powerful and are often interdependent on each other.
Benefits on Mood and Mental Health:
Did you know that physical exercise helps the release of endorphins, also known as “the feel-good chemicals”, in the brain? Considered natural mood lifters, studies show endorphins are increased through moderate exercise. 
Studies indicate people who exercise regularly have fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety than those who don't.  Similar studies also show moderate intensity exercise can be an effective treatment on its own for mild-to-moderate depression. Exercise has been shown to ease chronic depression by increasing serotonin which helps your brain regulate mood, sleep and appetite.
Individuals that deal with anxiety and depression can find exercise serves as healthy coping strategy by shifting focus to the here and now and helping them take their mind off their worries.

Other positive aspects of physical exercise can be increased energy levels and improved sleep, as well as prevent and improve a number of health problems, including high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis, and fibromyalgia. It can also serve to increase focus and concentration. For some individuals meeting exercise goals can give them a sense of accomplishment and provide them a boost in self-confidence. 
 
What does an effective exercise routine look like?
Before starting any kind of exercise regime please make sure to consult with your medical provider.  It’s also important to note that exercise alone cannot serve a replacement for talk therapy or taking psychotropic medications. 
For many the idea of starting an exercise regime might seem tedious and intimidating, even more so for those dealing with depression and anxiety. An effective exercise routine does not have to be time consuming or overly strenuous. In fact, it’s advisable to start slow with realistic exercise goals that will ensure you stick with your fitness regimen. A recent Harvard study showed that running for 15 minutes a day or walking briskly for an hour reduced the risk of major depression.

Points to Consider:
In order to ensure that you’ll stay motivated and consistent with your exercise regime consider the following:
•    Do activities you enjoy or explore new forms of exercise (Zumba, hiking, yoga, or anything that will put a smile on your face and gets your heart rate up).
•    Think about a set time that’s convenient in order to increase the chance that you’ll follow through with your new plan. 
•    Remember to create your exercise plan with your own needs and physical abilities in mind. 
Don’t get discouraged if find it difficult to stick to a new exercise regime. Be honest with yourself and determine what's stopping you from exercising or being physically active. It’s normal to have setbacks and encounter obstacles. Try to reframe exercise from being a chore to more of a lifestyle change. Be kind to yourself and give yourself credit for any effort made towards this new journey into a more active lifestyle. Your mind and body will thank you for it. 

Safety on the Flight Line

Story by Staff Sgt. Gregory Illich, Texas State Guard

Posted July 26, 2019

Pvt. Mary Jane Moore, 8th Regiment, Army Component, Texas State Guard, stands at a flight line to guide visitors, who are looking at the collection of commemorative aircraft, safely away from the active ramps and taxiways where aircraft are moved and refueled at the Commemorative Air Force Wings Over Houston Airshow at Ellington Airport, Houston, Texas, October 19, 2018. (Texas State Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Gregory Illich)
Pvt. Mary Jane Moore, 8th Regiment, Army Component, Texas State Guard, stands at a flight line to guide visitors, who are looking at the collection of commemorative aircraft, safely away from the active ramps and taxiways where aircraft are moved and refueled at the Commemorative Air Force Wings Over Houston Airshow at Ellington Airport, Houston, Texas, October 19, 2018. (Texas State Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Gregory Illich)

HOUSTON –The Texas State Guard provided logistical and medical support for the 19th consecutive year to the annual Commemorative Air Force Wings over Houston Airshow at Ellington Airport, Houston, from October 17-21, 2018.  With the anticipated number of visitors to exceed 50,000, air show organizers have come to depend upon the Texas State Guard support at one of the largest airshows in the country.
   
Securing the flight line is one of the important assignments of the Texas State Guard.  Guard members from the 8th Regiment, Army Component, were on duty to maintain a safe distance from the active ramps and taxiways to prevent visitors from accidentally wandering into areas where aircraft are moving for takeoff, landing, or refueling. 

"We are like a guardrail for airshow visitors.  We stand along the taxiways to safeguard visitors who do not realize that they are approaching an off-limits area or a danger zone.  We want everyone to enjoy the show but from a safe distance," stated Pvt. Mary Jane Moore, 8th Regiment, Army Component, Texas State Guard.

Guard members also staffed gated entry points to the airport.  They checked to ensure items carried onto airport property adhered to airport rules.  They also provided airshow information and directions to visitors.
 
The guard members from the 5th Air Wing, Air Component, assisted airport ramp personnel who moved aircraft as ramps were opened and closed to public access.  They also established communications using the Texas Interoperable Communications Package, which is used as a means of communication when other types of communication equipment are not available, normal communication channels are damaged during an emergency or disaster, such as a hurricane or flooding, or when electronic data is sent from remote locations. 
 
The 2nd Battalion, Texas Medical Brigade, staffed a medic tent with civilian counterparts to provide first aid to visitors. 
 
Guard members support to the Wings over Houston Airshow is one example of how the Texas State Guard uses community service activities to exercise skills that are used to support state and local authorities in times of emergencies or disasters.  Guard members practiced command and control, logistics, communications and other skills which apply to shelter management operations and traffic flow during the distribution of food and water.
  
"Anytime that the Texas State Guard can support our local communities, whether disaster support or community activity support, means that the Texas State Guard is serving our fellow Texans.  We are Texans Serving Texas!" stated Maj. Austin Green, Executive Officer, 8th Regiment.
 

Sgt. Maj. Elwood H. Imken-A Life Well Lived

Story by: Brandon Jones
Texas Military Department Public Affairs

Sgt. Maj. Imken Photo

AUSTIN, Texas- Once in a while, you’ll cross paths with someone who will make you smile, laugh, and push you to the best of your abilities. It is almost impossible to forget someone like that.  If you ask family and friends of retired Sgt. Maj. Elwood H. Imken he fits the description in every way.  Imken passed away last year, but, his story is one people will tell for generations. To commemorate his service, the Texas Military Department will honor him again during a special dedication ceremony.

Growing up in Pflugerville and attending college at Southwest Texas State Teachers College (now known as Texas State University), Imken is a homegrown Texan. In March 1967, he boldly stood up for God and country and joined the Texas Army National Guard.

Imken's five decades-long service to the military would take him to places some Soldiers could only dream of. His career reached every echelon from platoon to division and every level of leadership, culminating as the Division Operations Sergeant Major for the 49th Armored Division and the 36th Infantry Division. From directing the mobilization of Texas Soldiers in state active duty missions to overseeing all four division warfighter exercises, Imken's work showed a love for his job. Retired Command Sgt. Maj. Bob Marshall knows a thing or two about Imken's service.  They met in 1980 when Imken was with the 124th Cavalry Regiment. The two remained friends until Imken's death. "E.H. had a way of looking out for people regardless of your command level. It really made you humble yourself and get the job done," said Marshall. " He was also one heck of a hunter and fisher. I'm going to miss that tenacity he had."

Community outreach was another important value for Imken. He worked for outreach missions like Operation Blue Santa and Food for Families. Imken said he learned early in his career that planning and program management were important for taking care of Soldiers. His efforts didn't go unnoticed especially from the organization he signed up to serve with so many years ago. 

On May 14, 2016, The Texas Military Department inducted Imken into its Hall of Honor. The Hall of Honor, which was established in 1980, recognizes outstanding service and leadership of individuals serving as members of the Texas Military Department in a state or federal status. A room in the Texas Military Forces Museum at Camp Mabry, in Austin, Texas, displays portraits and histories of military members inducted into the Hall of Honor.  His desire to serve others and give back on a much larger scale, characterized his career. It was this induction that allowed the organization to give back to him.

One Soldier who knows Imken's compassion for the men and women in uniform is retired Texas Army National Guard Col. Guy Schultz.  Col. Schultz is a close friend of Imken and coordinator with the Military Funeral Honors Team so he is happy to see his friend get this kind of recognition. "His work and life will have an impact for generations to come,” said Schultz. “However, when he took the time to know you, it was easy to recognize him as a great mentor who always strived for the best.”

Now three years after his Hall of Honor induction, the honors for Imken, and his legacy, continue even after his death. On July 12, 2019, the Texas Military Department will rename its Joint Operations Center as the Sergeant Major E.H. Imken Joint Force Headquarters-Texas Joint Operations Center. Imken was instrumental in the creation of the Joint Operations Center by using his extensive network to aid in disaster response efforts.  The Adjutant General of Texas, Maj. Gen. Tracy R. Norris, will speak at the dedication ceremony for her dear friend.
“I imagine that a few things surprised him, and it’s appropriate that we rename our JOC in honor of him,” said Norris.

Imken's family and friends will tell you his life of service shaped the Texas Military Department to always be ready to serve.  The recent JOC dedication is one more to note that ‘E.H. Imken had a life that was well lived! If you are visiting Austin and have the chance to stop by our museum to view the Hall of Honor, please do so. We are proud of our rich heritage at the Texas Military Department and honored to remember one of our own who crossed our path and lit the way for future generations. We also want to remember and honor all those who have had a lasting impact on us and who shaped who we are as “Texans Serving Texas.”
 

Healthy Coping

“Coping refers to the human behavioral process for dealing with demands,both internal or external, in situations that are perceived as threats.”

Sometimes we need to cope with things that happen to us, and other times we must cope with things that happen within us. Some events may require us to deal with both internal and external demands. In moments like these, it’s important to have techniques that help you to re-center and move toward a state of calm. 

What does healthy coping look like?

Healthy coping strategies accelerate a return to calm. Building personal go-to coping techniques that are effective for you will help you to create a foundation of mental fitness. Like just about all things related to the psyche, coping skills sound simple — and they are. But just because they’re simple does not mean that they’re easy. 

The following three steps may help you develop your personal coping techniques: 

1. Establish strategies that are effective for you. Identify how you best cope and practice strategies for calm when you’re in an average state of mind.
2. Recognize that coping strategies are not one-size-fits-all. Mental fitness, just like physical fitness, requires a personalized approach. Try different coping strategies, examine the possibilities, eliminate those that are not effective for you, and give those strategies that have potential a genuine try.
3. When you find a strategy that works, practice it regularly. The goal here is for healthy coping to become your first inclination when chaos rears its head.

The Mental Health Wellness Week website describes the following as healthy coping skills:
•    Practicing meditation and relaxation techniques;
•    Having time to yourself;
•    Engaging in physical activity or exercise; 
•    Reading;
•    Spending time with friends;
•    Finding humor;
•    Spending time on your hobbies;
•    Engaging in spirituality;
•    Spending quality time with your pets;
•    Getting a good night’s sleep;
•    Eating healthy.


There are nearly infinite ways to cope with situations that you may be experiencing, it’s simply a matter of finding which ones work for you, and in which situations they are most effective.
 
Cynthia M. Reyes, MA, LPC
Counselor
Texas Military Department Counseling Program
Counseling Line 512-782-5069