Operation Crackdown returns to Laredo

Story by: Master Sgt. Ken Walker

Posted: April 16, 2015

Master Sgt. Ken Walker A heavy 45,000 pound Deere excavator tears down a house in Laredo, Texas, April 9, 2015. The house, identified by local law enforcement as being used for illicit drug activity was recently set ablaze and burned. Texas Joint Counterdrug Task Force's Operation Crackdown destroys drug havens in partnership with city officials and law enforcement agencies. The Texas Joint Counterdrug Task Force partnered with The City of Laredo, the Laredo Police Department and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection to clean up the city and rid the community of crime associated with a drug nexus. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Ken Walker/ Released)
Master Sgt. Ken Walker
A heavy 45,000 pound Deere excavator tears down a house in Laredo, Texas, April 9, 2015. The house, identified by local law enforcement as being used for illicit drug activity was recently set ablaze and burned. Texas Joint Counterdrug Task Force's Operation Crackdown destroys drug havens in partnership with city officials and law enforcement agencies. The Texas Joint Counterdrug Task Force partnered with The City of Laredo, the Laredo Police Department and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection to clean up the city and rid the community of crime associated with a drug nexus. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Ken Walker/ Released)

LAREDO, Texas — Operation Crackdown, a Texas Joint Counterdrug Task Force program, known for demolishing houses connected with illegal drug trade, making neighborhoods safer and helping prepare students to make good decisions, returned to Laredo, April 9, 2015. 

The Texas Joint Counterdrug Task Force partnered with the city of Laredo, the Laredo Police Department and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection to clean up the city and rid the community of crime associated with drugs after thirty-three properties in Laredo were selected for demolition over the course of two weeks, through a carefully planned, legal process that identified, qualified and validated inclusion of each site. 

Following an anti-drug presentation at their school, about 20 fourth grade students from Santo Niño Elementary School walked to a demolition site, less than two blocks from their school playground, and participated at the demolition of the dilapidated and burned out house on South Louisiana Avenue, by screaming “knock it down, knock it down,” giving workers a loud and clear order to start the demolition.

“If we take down this house, and other houses like it that are being used for drug purposes or other illegal purposes, we could turn it into a home for people who really need it or we could turn it into recreational areas,” said local fourth grader Mia Ramirez, 10, before one building was demolished.

Anti-drug messaging programs like this one and a presentation made right before the demolition, afforded law enforcement agencies the opportunity to educate the local community on the seriousness and extent of illicit drug activity in the neighborhoods, explained Supervisory Border Patrol Agent Jose Monserrate.

“Educational programs such as this are essential for our school, said Marissa Quiroga, the head fourth grade teacher at Santo Nino Elementary. “When the law enforcement and the military communities come together, a strong message is being sent to our young students. Choices will impact them throughout their lives, so we as adults have a responsibility to guide our students to make good decisions.”

This operation is a program in which Texas Military Forces soldiers and airmen demolish structures that have been connected with illegal drugs and related criminal activities. These drug houses, open air drug markets and other neighborhood drug hubs pose serious threats to neighborhoods, largely because they often lead to spillover crimes – robberies, gang violence, homicides and other problems - that go hand-in-hand with drug addiction. The crimes make it hard to live and grow up in the neighborhoods, and they drive down property values.

Operation Crackdown also brings law enforcement partners and community members together for a common purpose and allows the service members to keep their military skill set honed. 

A two-week mission costs the task force about $30,000. The city pays for the debris removal, asbestos testing and abatement, landfill use and permit costs. The city must also clear the demolitions with the Texas Historical Commission.

“It’s ironic that we use drug money to knock down drug houses,” said Col. Suzanne Adkinson, task force commander.

“We use asset forfeiture funds from apprehensions of illegal activity,” said Brig. Gen. Patrick M. Hamilton, Domestic Operations commander, Texas Military Forces. “They have money, they have houses and they have cars that are forfeited. We get a portion of that money to rent the equipment, purchase the fuel, lodging and personnel to actually tear down the houses.”

According to a task force presentation to the City of Laredo, 83 percent of abandoned dwellings showed signs of drug abuse, prostitution or other criminal activity had taken place there. Crime rates are twice as high on blocks with abandoned or open buildings as on other blocks.

Police Chief Richard Palomo from the Laredo Independent School District Police Department reminded the young audience that those who wear a uniform – policemen, first responders and the military – are the guardians and gatekeepers of our community. He encouraged all students to reach out and thank them for keeping our communities safe.

Local resident Minerva Castillo said she was happy to have the ugly burned out house torn down because people in the neighborhood would feel much safer.

“There were people sleeping there at night, said Castillo. “We were worried because we didn’t know who they were or what kind of people they were.”

Neighbor Rosario Munoz agreed. She said that when she was about to buy her house, her family was scared to buy there because she heard that neighborhood drug addicts were sometimes in the house.

“Before today, residents did not want to walk their kids to school or walk to our neighborhood church on this street because everyone knew the drug people were sometimes there,” Munoz said. “Thank God the City of Laredo and the Operation Crackdown service members are tearing the house down. No more bad people around our neighborhood. It is now safer for our children.”


To date, Operation Crackdown has demolished 1,462 structures, varying from frame houses to an abandoned warehouse, in 25 communities across Texas.

For more information about Operation Crackdown, call the Texas Joint Counterdrug Task Force at 512-782-5670.

Camp Mabry welcomes new Garrison Commander

 

Maj. Paul D. Mancuso assumed command of Camp Mabry’s Garrison Command unit, from Lt. Col. John (Les) Davis at a ceremony held on Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas.Photo Courtesy John Thibodeau

Commentary by TXMF Staff

 

On Thursday, April 2, 2015, Maj. Paul D. Mancuso assumed command of Camp Mabry’s Garrison Command unit, from Lt. Col. John (Les) Davis at a ceremony held on Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas.

Mancuso, of Cedar Park, received his commission in 1990 through the University of Texas at Arlington ROTC. Additionally, he has served in a variety of key leadership positions to include Recruiting and Retention Region II Commander, Executive Officer for the 1st Squadron, 112th Cavalry Regiment, as well as other positions within the 36th Infantry Division. Awards include the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, three Meritorious Service Medals, five Army Commendation Medals, the Joint Service Achievement Medal, two Army Achievement Medals, the National Defense Service Medal, the Meritorious Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal, the Joint Meritorious Unit Award, the Iraqi Campaign Medal, the Armed Forces Reserve Medal and the Order of Saint George.

Mancuso most recently was assigned to Joint Force Headquarters as the Current Operations Chief where he assisted in updating the Texas Military Forces’ All Hazard Plan while managing the Texas Military Forces’ response to numerous state support events. Mancuso holds a bachelor’s degree in Interdisciplinary Studies from the University of Texas at Arlington and is projected to receive a masters of science in Homeland Security- Cyber Security later this year.

Davis served as Garrison Commander for three and half years and currently serves as the Deputy Director of Construction and Facilities Management for the Texas Military Forces, which oversees more than 110 facilities across the state. During his tenure as garrison commander, Davis was instrumental in the development and fostering of Camp Mabry’s relationship with the City of Austin.

As the garrison commander, Mancuso will be responsible ensuring the quality of life for military personnel, employees and guests, as well as the preservation and safeguarding of infrastructure and environment. Additionally, he will work to execute the vision of an organization which facilitates the Texas Military Forces mission, provides first-class tenant support, and partners affirmatively with our agency partners and the surrounding community.

 “I am honored to be selected as the Garrison Commander and I am excited to lead the great organization and continue the tremendous work that Lt. Col. Davis has established,” said Mancuso.

Camp Mabry Garrison Command maintains the force protection and physical security of the base, oversees the Texas Military Forces Museum, Camp Mabry Lodging program and the Texas National Guard Mail Distribution Center.

TX State Guard team practices recovering car

Story by: KXAN News

Posted: April 11, 2015

TX State Guard recover carBASTROP (KXAN) — Members of the Texas State Guard Maritime Regiment extracted a car submerged in Lake Bastrop on Saturday. There was nothing foul or suspicious about the vehicle because it was nothing more than a training exercise, however the skills can be crucial for cases when a vehicle ends up underwater.

“We are ready to aid those local agencies that do not have the assets to do things like what we did today,” said Brigadier General Brian Smallwood.

The Maritime Regiment TXSG is made up of 240 volunteers and operates across the state of Texas and many took part in the “underwater disaster preparedness” exercise.

Wednesday they played out a scenario of a car plunging into Lake Bastrop after being carjacked. Two potential “victims” were inside the car while a ground search took place for the suspect.

Using four divers and giant yellow air lift bags, the team located and then lifted the car out of the water with a very careful technique.

“There could be evidence and we have to be safe with the vehicle,” said Lt. Stephen Moffit.

http://kxan.com/2015/04/11/tx-state-guard-team-practices-recovering-car-from-lake/

Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month

 declaring April “Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month.”Photo and Commentary by Michelle McBride

While April is nationally recognized as Sexual Assault Awareness Month, on Thursday, April 2, 2015 members of the Texas Military Forces leadership decided to bring awareness to this serious issue with a proclamation declaring April “Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month.” 

At the ceremony, Maj. Gen. John F. Nichols, Texas Adjutant General; Command Chief Master Sgt. Marlon Nation, Senior Enlisted Advisor, Texas Air National Guard; and Command Chief Warrant Officer Earnest Metcalf, Texas Army National Guard, signed the proclamation in support of eliminating sexual assault.

“We create a culture of dignity when we work together,” said Caitlin Sulley, from the Institute on Domestic/Sexual Violence at the University of Texas at Austin, who appeared as a guest speaker at the ceremony. 


This year, the Department of Defense’s theme is “Eliminate Sexual Assault: Know Your Part. Do Your Part.” 

Eliminate Sexual Assault: Every service member, at every level in our military, must know, understand and adhere to service values and standards of behavior in order to eliminate sexual assault, and other inappropriate behavior. 

Know Your Part: Each member of our Department of Defense community has a unique role in preventing and responding to sexual assault. We must recognize our part in stopping this crime starting with our own awareness and knowing when and where to intervene

Do your Part: We have to act. If we see a crime or inappropriate behavior unfolding, we need to step in to prevent it. We each need to add our voice to the call to end this crime. 

This theme was set with the expectation that all service members, civilians and family members do their part in preventing sexual assault and should encourage victims to report offenses.  

“Change your behavior or get out of my organization,” said Nichols. “I think we have trust and dignity for each other, but there are some who want to come in and take that away. They are not allowed in our formation.”