Texas general embraces international goodwill

Sgt. Michael Vanpool Isela Flores, a senior at Martin High School in Laredo, Texas, holds the Texas state flag at parade rest during the International Bridge Ceremony in Laredo, Texas, Feb. 21. The ceremony commemorates the bonds between the United States and Mexico and features a series of abrazos, or embraces, between representatives of the two countries in the center of the bridge. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Michael Vanpool, 36th Infantry Division Public Affairs/Released)
Sgt. Michael Vanpool
Isela Flores, a senior at Martin High School in Laredo, Texas, holds the Texas state flag at parade rest during the International Bridge Ceremony in Laredo, Texas, Feb. 21. The ceremony commemorates the bonds between the United States and Mexico and features a series of abrazos, or embraces, between representatives of the two countries in the center of the bridge. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Michael Vanpool, 36th Infantry Division Public Affairs/Released)

Story by: Sgt. Michael Vanpool

Posted: Feb 22, 2015

LAREDO, Texas – Standstill traffic is not uncommon on the Lincoln-Juarez International Bridge linking the United States and Mexico. On the morning of Feb. 21, there were no cars, but still scores of people still standing.

At the middle of the bridge, Americans and Mexicans waited together for the ceremony to begin. National anthems were sung. Prayers were said. Speeches were delivered. But the crowd was waiting for what came next.

Dignitaries from both countries walked to the center of the bridge to exchange abrazos, or embraces, with their counterparts and to show their neighborliness during the International Bridge Ceremony, part of the 118th George Washington Birthday Celebration in Laredo, Texas. 

Two children from each country, dressed in historical clothes, began the ceremony by meeting in the middle of the bridge, embracing (or abrazando), and exchanging each other’s flags. 

After the children, dignitaries begin exchanging their abrazos, including Brig. Gen. Orlando Salinas, the deputy assistant adjutant general for the Texas Army National Guard. At the middle of the bridge, Salinas met and exchanged an abrazo with Mexican General de Brigada Georges Andre Van Lissum Gomez.

“Having this opportunity to meet the general and being that military liaison between the two countries is always a good opportunity to learn from each other,” Salinas said.

Following the abrazo, Salinas escorted his counterpart to the American side. Tradition dictates that the Americans invite the Mexicans to the city of Laredo. For the past few decades, they have been treated to a parade that gathers thousands of people.

“Our ability to meet with and continue military relations with the Mexican army is of paramount importance as we work towards the safety of not just the nation, but also the state of Texas,” Salinas said.

The abrazo was a part of Salinas’s role as the honorary air marshal of this year’s Washington’s Birthday celebration. The prior week, he oversaw the Stars and Stripes Air Show Spectacular.

Salinas commanded the 3rd Battalion, 141st Infantry Regiment, 36th Infantry Division, based in the Rio Grande Valley. Many of his Soldiers were from Laredo, a city known for rallying around its service members throughout the years. This was especially true when they deployed to Afghanistan for Operation Enduring Freedom. 

“Laredo has always held a special place in my heart,” Salinas said. “Laredo’s support of the men and women in uniform is some of the best support I’ve ever seen.”

The tradition of abrazando, or embracing, on the bridge began in 1898. It started as a simple sign of goodwill between neighbors and now represents the shared heritage of the sister cities of Laredo, Texas, and Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas.

“For those of us who live on the border,” said Veronica Castillon, President of the Washington’s Birthday Celebration Association, “the International Bridge Ceremony is a reminder that Laredo and Nuevo Laredo share more than a river. We share family, business and a cultural heritage that bind us as one community.”

The cities also recognized their shared lineage as former members of the Republic of the Rio Grande, an independent nation that lasted 294 days in 1840. The sisterhood of the two cities remains, as does the short-lived country’s flag. Throughout the ceremony, the three-starred, red, white, and black flag joined the signature six flags of Texas in honor of their unique history.

R. Gil Kerlikowske, the commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, delivered the keynote speech at the event. He said that the goodwill exchanged between the sister cities has reinforced a strong neighborly bond, rich with patriotism.

For the city of Laredo, the George Washington Birthday Celebration is a month of festivities, with events ranging from parades and pageants to air shows and fireworks.

The celebration evolved over the years, from a patriotic memorial of America’s first president to a celebration that unites the sister cities. The meetings between civil and military officials from both sides of the bridge aim to honor their mutual histories.

Journey to becoming Army Fit

SGT Cook and SGT De la Garza, Master Fitness Trainers, saw us and came to our rescue to give us guidance on proper form for pushups and sit-ups.Week 4

We planned to meet at the track after work to check our progress. How many pushups can we do? Sit-ups? And how is our time on the two-mile run?

Tracy went first and counted twelve pushups. Courtney did eleven. We then each did fourteen sit-ups. Or so we thought!

SGT Cook and SGT De la Garza, Master Fitness Trainers, saw us and came to our rescue to give us guidance on proper form for pushups and sit-ups. They demonstrated and helped us with our pushup form, hand positioning, and getting our upper arms parallel to the ground. 

After we tried our pushups and sit-ups using what they taught us, we realized we can only do one or two proper pushups (i.e. pushups that would PASS the PT test). We did have some success this week however, as we completed our two-mile run in 22:34, which is above the 60% standard for both of us!

The Master Fitness Trainers also demonstrated several exercises we should do prior to each workout, as well as exercises to help build upper body and core strength. Their knowledge is vast, their patience immense, and we so appreciate their willingness to help and teach us. 

Physical fitness tips (from the Master Trainers): 

  • Although doing pushups with arms placed out wide may be easier and will ‘pass’, moving hands closer together (directly under your shoulders) will help to protect your shoulders and joints from strain. 
  • Squeezing glute muscles will help you maintain a straighter plank or pushup position.
  • To build upper body strength, lie flat on the ground and lift your body into the push-up position, then return to lying on the ground, and push back up. 

Mental fitness tips: 
     
If you keep active, you are:

  • less likely to be depressed, anxious or tense
  • more likely to feel good about yourself
  • more likely to concentrate and focus better
  • more likely to sleep better
  • more likely to cope with cravings and withdrawal symptoms if you try to give up a habit such as smoking or alcohol
  • more likely to be able to keep mobile and independent as you get older
  • possibly less likely to have problems with memory and dementia

from: Royal College of Psychiatrists (http://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/healthadvice/treatmentswellbeing/physicalactivity.aspx)

Commentary by Courtney J. Lynch and Tracy K. Ward, Psychological Health Coordinators

Texas cavalrymen begin peacekeeping mission in the Sinai

Story by: Sgt. Thomas Duval

Posted: Feb 19, 2015

Sgt. Thomas Duval Maj. Gabe Simonds, commander for 1st Squadron, 112th Cavalry Regiment addresses an audience during a Transfer of Authority Ceremony held on the Multinational Force and Observer's South Camp in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt Feb. 19, 2015. The 1-112th Soldiers relinquished command of the U.S. Security Battalion to Soldiers from the 4th Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment.
Sgt. Thomas Duval
Maj. Gabe Simonds, commander for 1st Squadron, 112th Cavalry Regiment addresses an audience during a Transfer of Authority Ceremony held on the Multinational Force and Observer's South Camp in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt Feb. 19, 2015. The 1-112th Soldiers relinquished command of the U.S. Security Battalion to Soldiers from the 4th Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment.

EL GORAH, Egypt - The cavalry has arrived and as their unit motto suggests, they are "Rarin to Go." Texas Army National Guard Soldiers from the 1st Squadron, 112th Cavalry Regiment assumed command of the U.S. Army Security Battalion from the Fort-Hood based 4th Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment, during a transfer of authority ceremony held on the Multinational Force and Observer’s South Camp in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, Feb. 18, 2015.

The ceremony marks the 60th rotation of U.S. Soldiers to deploy in support of the MFO’s peacekeeping mission and comes during a time when much of the world’s focus has shifted to the region. The Army National Guardsmen from Bryan, Texas, will be responsible for the security of a number of remote out posts along the Sinai Peninsula and Red Sea and will look to build upon the success’ of their predecessors. 

The 4th Squadron, 3rdd CR will redeploy to Fort Hood having reached a number of milestones along the way. During their time in the Sinai, the 3d CR Soldiers brought the U.S. back to the podium in a number of physical competitions across the MFO to include taking home the Commander’s Cup in the coveted Force Skills Competition. The Soldiers from the "Longknife Squadron" also achieved success from an operational standpoint by patrolling more than 107,000 miles, conducting more than 375 sling-load missions across the Strait of Tiran and transporting almost a million pounds of cargo.

The Texas Army National Guard will pick up where their active-duty battle buddies left off.

Their experience as trained Cavalry Scouts will be required in the manning of multiple response teams on both of the MFO’s North and South camps while accomplishing the overarching mission of observing and reporting compliance of the Camp David Accords Peace Treaty. To accomplish their mission, the Soldiers will have a lot of help along the way as the 1-112th will work closely with service members from Australia, Canada, Colombia, Czech Republic, France, Hungary, Italy, New Zealand, Norway, United Kingdom, Uruguay and the Republic of the Fiji Islands.

Although grasping the reigns of the multi-echelon mission is a daunting task for many, Maj. Gabe Simonds, 1-112th commander, said he and his team are ready for the challenge. 

“The Multinational Forces and Observers have been quietly and professionally serving as welcomed guests for 32 years now,” said Simonds. “It is truly a privilege to be here in the Sinai and we look forward to working with our partners in the MFO…we are ready to stand our posts!”

--READERS NOTE--
The Multinational Force & Observers (MFO) is and independent peacekeeping organization which is headquartered in Rome and based in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. Created by agreement between the Arab Republic of Egypt and the State of Israel it is comprised of military members and from 13 nations. Australia, Canada, Colombia, the Czech Republic, the Republic of the Fiji Islands, France, Hungary, Italy, New Zealand, Norway, the United States and Uruguay contribute contingents to make up the MFO's Force.

TAG Talks: Major Chol Chong

On our first edition of TAG Talks Major Chol Chong speaks about the current status of the Texas Army National Guard Medical Department, issues within it and proposed solution. TAG Talks are a series of unique presentations put together by students in The Adjutant General's Executive Leadership Development Program offering the perspective of future Senior leaders of the Texas Military Forces.

Community, military team up for Laredo air show

Story by: Sgt. Michael Vanpool

Posted: Feb 16, 2015

PHOTO: Sgt. Michael Vanpool Brig. Gen. Orlando Salinas, the deputy assistant adjutant general of the Texas Army National Guard, gives a thumbs up after being designated the air marshal of the 2015 Stars and Stripes Spectacular Air Show in Laredo, Texas, Feb. 15. The Washington’s Birthday Celebration Association Stars and Stripes Spectacular Air Show is one of many events for Laredo’s month-long celebration for America’s first president. (Texas Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Michael Vanpool, 36th Infantry Division Public Affairs)
Sgt. Michael Vanpool
Brig. Gen. Orlando Salinas, the deputy assistant adjutant general of the Texas Army National Guard, gives a thumbs up after being designated the air marshal of the 2015 Stars and Stripes Spectacular Air Show in Laredo, Texas, Feb. 15. The Washington’s Birthday Celebration Association Stars and Stripes Spectacular Air Show is one of many events for Laredo’s month-long celebration for America’s first president. (Texas Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Michael Vanpool, 36th Infantry Division Public Affairs)

LAREDO, Texas – Texas Guardsmen parachutists flew the American and Texan flags over Laredo to open the Washington’s Birthday Celebration Association’s Stars and Stripes Air Show Spectacular at Laredo International Airport, Feb. 15.

Capt. Tim Hanrahan and Staff Sgt. Zachary Bowen lowered the flags onto the flight line. This was the fifth year for Hanrahan, who said he continues to jump because it’s an “opportunity to represent our country and the Texas Army National Guard.”

For those watching, seeing the flags drop down from the sky has a personal attachment.

“I no longer see red, white, and blue on our nation’s colors,” said Brig. Gen. Orlando Salinas, the air marshal for this year’s show. “What we see now is names and faces of friends and places.”

The air show was first included nearly 20 years ago in the Washington’s Birthday Celebration, a monthlong celebration for the Laredo area. That was when Carlos Garza took the position as the first sergeant for the Texas Army National Guard’s 436th Chemical Company. 

Garza knew the importance of the military in the history of the border town, not just from books but his family’s experience. Laredo is where his mother and family sought refuge during the Mexican Revolution of 1910. 

When Garza began to drill in Laredo, he felt that the city’s attachment to the military had waned. He said that he could grow the community’s patriotism by showcasing the aircraft that helped win World War II. So he helped put together the Stars and Stripes Air Show.

“It started small with war-birds,” Garza said, “but now it’s the biggest event for Laredo and Washington’s Birthday.” 

The spins and rolls captivated the audiences, making the show an integral event for the Washington’s Birthday Celebration Association (WBCA). Garza served as a WBCA board member and currently is its military liaison. 

This year brought in nearly 40,000 spectators to the airfield, with countless others looking up to the sky.

The air show now features civilian and stunt pilots from across the country, but the event still holds onto its military roots. Every year, one Soldier from the Texas Military Forces is chosen to preside over the show as the air marshal.

This year, Brig. Gen Orlando Salinas, the deputy assistant adjutant general for the Texas Army National Guard, was selected for the honor. Salinas grew up in San Diego, Texas and said that he had fond memories of visiting Laredo. 

“To me, personally, it is extremely important to say thank you on behalf of a native south Texan to be invited to be your air marshal,” Salinas said to the crowd. “With all the duties that I have and all the places I have visited there is no place in the world I would rather be than sharing this great day with you.”

This year’s show saw the return of the Lockheed P-38 Lightning, which was the only fighter plane produced in America during World War II. The particular plane flown was dug from its grave and completely restored to its original glory, said Garza.

For the city of Laredo, Washington’s Birthday is a month long celebration filled with pageants, parades, and so much more; many of which are reminiscent of the days of George and Martha Washington. 

The air show is one of the more grand departures from Washington’s times. However, the airplanes, helicopters and airborne Soldiers are very much a part of today’s military celebrated year after year here in Laredo.

Journey to becoming Army Fit

We are getting pretty comfortable with the two-mile run.Week 3

We are getting pretty comfortable with the two-mile run. Now that we can comfortably run with-out any walking we are about to start timing ourselves and working on increasing our pace to make sure we can meet our 60 percent time standard (24:24 for Tracy and 23:42 for Courtney). 

There seems to be a long-standing myth that it takes about 21 days for a new habit to form. Many people have studied the concept of habit-making and there are varying ideas about the length of time it takes to form them. Some say days, some say months, others say it is about setting realistic and small goals.

We want running, pushups, and sit-ups to become habit, just like something small we do every day, such as brushing our teeth. When we brush our teeth, chances are that we give it no thought at all. If we do think about it, we are probably not thinking how much we dislike it, how we don’t want to do it, or even how it is good for our oral health. We just do it because it is habit and routine, and just what we do every day.

Here are some of the things that are helping us make physical fitness a habit:

  • If you are new to running, start by walking for 10 minutes. Then, for the next 15 minutes, alternate 30 seconds walking and 30 seconds running. End by walking for 10 more minutes. Do this three times per week. 
  • Work out with a partner, whenever you can. 
  • Make your workout something you can do anywhere, whether at home, at work, or somewhere else. For us, this means keeping spare workout clothes and shoes in the car at all times for lunchtime or after-work workouts. Make it difficult to talk yourself out of exercising!
  • At home, map out a two mile route in your neighborhood so that you can be ready to run at a moment’s notice. 
  • Do pushups or sit-ups during commercials of your favorite TV program. 
  • Schedule time for physical fitness and exercise. Put it on your calendar and, as much as possible, try to stick to a routine (i.e. schedule workouts on the same days/times). 
  • Involve family members; children might think doing pushups with you is fun! 
  • Here are some of the things you can try to make mental fitness a habit:
  • "Exercise releases endorphins—chemicals in your brain that boost your mood—giving you an instant surge in happiness…..Happiness Tip: Go on a short 20-minute walk. It will help you relax and make you more confident about your body." (GuardYourHealth.com) 
  • "By elevating your mood and energy levels, your morning workout will curb your cravings and motivate you to make other healthy choices throughout the day." (GuardYourHealth.com)
  • "Don’t underestimate smiles," says psychologist Dan Hill. "When you smile, you pull more oxygen into your lungs. It makes you relaxed and open to possibilities…Happiness Tip: Think of something that makes you smile, like your favorite stand-up comedian or your team’s touchdown on Monday night. By making yourself smile, even when you’re feeling down, you really can trick yourself into feeling happier". (GuardYourHealth.com)

Commentary by Courtney J. Lynch and Tracy K. Ward, Psychological Health Coordinators

TXMF Museum honored with Texas Star Award

Story By: Capt. Martha Nigrelle

Posted: Feb 12, 2015

Courtesy Photo The Texas Military Forces (TXMF) Museum’s living history detachment portrays Texas Civil War veterans during a reenactment commemorating the Battle of New Market Heights in Henrico County, Virginia, Sept. 26, 2014. The detachment, which covers numerous time periods and pays tribute to the Texas military and the service and sacrifices made by Texas veterans, received a Texas Star award from the Texas Living History Association for its living history program in a ceremony held in Dallas, Jan. 24, 2015. (Photo courtesy Jeff Cantrell, TXMF Museum)
Courtesy Photo
The Texas Military Forces (TXMF) Museum’s living history detachment portrays Texas Civil War veterans during a reenactment commemorating the Battle of New Market Heights in Henrico County, Virginia, Sept. 26, 2014. The detachment, which covers numerous time periods and pays tribute to the Texas military and the service and sacrifices made by Texas veterans, received a Texas Star award from the Texas Living History Association for its living history program in a ceremony held in Dallas, Jan. 24, 2015. (Photo courtesy Jeff Cantrell, TXMF Museum)

DALLAS – The Texas Living History Association awarded the Texas Military Forces Museum a Texas Star for outstanding contributions to the field of living history, in a ceremony held at the Dallas Heritage Park, Jan. 24, 2015.

The museum’s living history detachment, made up of more than 50 volunteers, participates in reenactments and living history programs spanning numerous time periods, from the War of 1812 to the Vietnam War. Each program or reenactment that the detachment participates in pays tribute to a piece of Texas Military Forces history.

“It’s a great way to reach out to the public,” said Jeff Hunt, the TXMF Museum curator.

The Texas Living History Association was founded in 2012 by living history enthusiasts and professional historians in Texas to help advocate for living history around the state and encourage participation and interaction between fellow enthusiasts and historic sites that have living history programs said Jim Lauderdale, president of the Texas Living History Association.

Steve Draper, director of the 1st Cavalry Museum, located at Fort Hood, and a member of the Texas Living History Association, nominated the TXMF Museum for this distinguished honor. 

“I nominated them because they are one of the few organizations in Texas that primarily do 20th and 21st century history,” said Draper. “The Texas Military Forces Museum has been doing it for a long time. The reviews are that they do an outstanding job – that warrants some recognition.”

There are hundreds of living history programs across the state, from the Alamo’s Texas Revolutionary living history program to groups portraying life in Texas during the 17th century. 

“The Texas Star Award is awarded to the best living history site or group nominated,” said Lauderdale. “The TXMF Museum was nominated based on the outstanding Muster Day event they put on every year and the many other interpretive programs they have done.”

The TXMF Museum hosts programs and reenactments at Camp Mabry in Austin several times a year, but also travels to numerous places across the country, to include the Battle of Gettysburg in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. 

“What’s different about us is that most places only focus on one time period,” said Hunt. “We’re the only museum program that I know of that deals with different time periods.”

The museum conducts approximately one living history program a month. They traditionally cover three separate events in May, their busiest month – a Vietnam display in Temple, the Close Assault reenactment and weapons display honoring the history of the 36th Infantry Division during World War II, at Camp Mabry in Austin and the reenactment of the Battle of Palmetto Ranch, the last battle of the Civil War in Brownwood. 

“I am exceptionally proud of this award because it speaks to the dedication of our volunteers,” said Hunt. “They are the backbone of the whole thing. They love history and want to support the men and women of the Texas guard today and our veterans.”

The TXMF Museum’s Muster Day is held annually during the TXMF Open House at Camp Mabry and traditionally hosts displays and presentations from every military campaign the Texas Military has participated in since the Texas Revolution through the Vietnam War, to include a World War II reenactment with World War II aircraft and several 1940’s Army tanks. 

This year’s TXMF Open House and Muster Day will be held at Camp Mabry, April 18-19. For more information on this event or other upcoming museum events please visit https://tmd.texas.gov/upcoming-events or http://texasmilitaryforcesmuseum.org/.

Texas Army Aviators receive national award

Story by: Maj. Randall Stillinger

Posted: Feb 12, 2015

Maj. Randall Stillinger A C-12 aircraft from Operational Support Airlift Detachment 49 takes off from Dallas Executive Airport en route to Austin, Texas. The detachment, commanded by Chief Warrant Officer 5 Todd Moorehead, was selected as the best fixed-wing unit in its category by the Joint Operational Support Airlift Center. They had just returned from receiving their award at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois. (36th Infantry Division photo by Maj. Randy Stillinger)
Maj. Randall Stillinger
A C-12 aircraft from Operational Support Airlift Detachment 49 takes off from Dallas Executive Airport en route to Austin, Texas. The detachment, commanded by Chief Warrant Officer 5 Todd Moorehead, was selected as the best fixed-wing unit in its category by the Joint Operational Support Airlift Center. They had just returned from receiving their award at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois. (36th Infantry Division photo by Maj. Randy Stillinger)

SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. – An Austin-based fixed wing unit from the Texas Army National Guard received special honors from the Joint Operational Support Airlift Center (JOSAC) during a ceremony on Tuesday.

Operational Support Airlift (OSA) Detachment 49, which utilizes C-12 aircraft to transport passengers and cargo from across the military branches, received this special honor during a ceremony at the headquarters for United States Transportation Command.

The unit, which is commanded by Chief Warrant Officer 5 Todd Moorehead, is a detachment assigned to the 36th Combat Aviation Brigade, 36th Infantry Division, also headquartered in Austin.

Maj. Scott Messare, JOSAC’s Execution Operations officer, said, “These awards are a chance for us to publicly recognize units that are consistently performing at the top of their peer organization groups.”

Messare helps facilitate the awards program and praised the Texas aviators for their great work and willingness to support the Department of Defense mission.

“They are here for a reason,” Messare said. “They are definitely at the top of their group and a pleasure to work with.” 

The annual award is presented among various categories based on size, function and location. Detachment 49 was at the top of the 21 units in their category.

The primary selection criteria includes number of hours and missions flown, number of passengers carried and pounds of cargo hauled. The JOSAC branch chiefs also consider other aspects like aircraft and aircrew availability, flexibility in supporting missions, percentage of cancelled missions, and the accuracy of logistics flight records. 

The goal of the awards program is to recognize the success of flight crews in meeting the goals of JOSAC, which include preventing fraud, waste and abuse of Department of Defense assets, conducting operations with efficiency, and completing assigned missions with the most amount of cost savings to government and the taxpayers.

The program also rewards an aspect of the mission that can’t necessarily be measured in statistics: Excellent customer service for the passengers who fly on their aircraft. 

Moorehead, of Austin, said that this award is a nice recognition of all the work that the Soldiers have done. 

“We threw the Army work ethic at the mission and we make ourselves as available as possible,” Moorehead said.

Col. Micheal Dye, commander of the Army Aviation Support Facility at Austin’s Bergstrom International Airport, said that he’s not surprised that the detachment received the award.

“These are a great group of guys that work hard to accomplish the mission with a tremendous level of professionalism,” Dye said.

Same but different: Texas Air and Army National Guard compete for 'Best Warrior'

Courtesy Story

Posted: Feb 2, 2015

BASTROP, Texas – This year’s 2015 Texas Military Forces Best Warrior Competition brought out 35 guardsmen from both the Texas Army and Air National Guard who competed here to determine who would be the best of the best Feb. 5-7.

“The Best Warrior Competition is a big deal for Texas and the Texas Military Forces,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Mark Weedon, TXMF senior enlisted adviser. "It is one of the biggest joint events we have involving actual soldiers and airmen. This event allows the soldier and airman to compete with each other in both physical and mental challenges.”

The competition demonstrated the knowledge and skills of the guardsmen in seven events, spanning three days. The first day started with an essay, testing their aptitude, writing abilities and critical thinking and how well the soldiers and the airmen express their thoughts. Following the writing skills, the competitors met with a panel of senior enlisted leaders who barraged them with a series of questions pertaining to their military tasks.

“We are from the same Texas Military Forces,” said Command Chief Master Sgt. Kevin O’Gorman, state command chief for the Texas Air National Guard. “When we deploy in a joint environment, we work together side-by-side and we need to foster that early on. This competition brings camaraderie and jointness, even though soldiers and airmen do things differently.”

Day two started with a twilight land-navigation course, starting at 5 a.m. and finishing after daybreak. Once again, the soldiers and airmen battle-tested their skills in using a map and compass to plot the points and discover hidden flags throughout the course. 

Shortly after completing land navigation, the competitors went to the weapons-qualification range, then on to the 11 Army warrior task lanes, where both Army and Air Force participants demonstrated their ability to disassemble and reassemble weapons ranging from a 9 mm pistol to an M2 machine gun, as well as testing in combat-first-aid techniques.

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Steven Hein, 136th Security Forces Squadron, and member of the Richardson Police Department, finished first during the land navigation course, coming in at 1 hour and 29 minutes, finding three of four flags. 

“It’s been a privilege to come out here and contend with the best,” said Hein. “It’s definitely good to come out here to compete and learn from the other guys like the Army and other guys in the tactical control party.”

Many of the competitors felt that the first day of the competition was the most challenging and exhausting. It included the mile-long obstacle course, containing nine stations with rigorous calisthenics in between obstacles, a six-mile ruck march and finished with three mystery events. The total course spanned eight miles as each competitor attempted to conquer each event with a go or no-go while carrying a 35-pound ruck sack on their back.

“The BWC is tougher than all the races I’ve competed in,” said U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Candice Wade, a veteran competitor in the Warrior Dash, Tough Mudder and Spartan Races, about the Best Warrior Competition. “The Best Warrior Competition is in a much higher level ... dealing with a land navigation course, eight types of weapons, combat casualty care, an obstacle course, ruck march and various physical events. I can say that this is absolutely the most difficult thing I’ve ever done.”

Among the spectators present were Maj. Gen. John F. Nichols, the adjutant general for Texas, and Maj. Gen. Edmundo Villarroel Geissbuhler, Chilean army liaison officer, who were both here to observe the competing guardsmen.

“There are two competitions going on here,” said Nichols. “One is the competition between Army and Air Force. The other is between the soldiers so we can send forth the best soldier in a national competition and be the best in the U.S. Army. This is a big deal to us.”

Geissbuhler strolled though the courses, closely observing each station, cheering on the soldiers and airmen racing through the obstacles.

“We have a lot of contact with the Texas Military Forces, both in the Air Force and Army,” said Geissbuhler. “This state partnership began in 2008 and there are a lot of activities we do together. I received an invitation to come here today and I’m very glad to be here.”

Texas and Chile are part of the State Partnership Program, using military-to-military relationships between the U.S. and Chile to increase military capabilities and interoperability. 

When asked if the Chileans have this type of competition amongst their military forces, Geissbuhler said, “We do have this competition in Chile, it is part of our training. We have been approved to send four competitors here to the BWC next year and compete among the TXMF. We will be sending two soldiers and two airmen and hope to do well.”

By the end of the three-day event, the competitors seemed both mentally and physically exhausted. 

“I’m here to do my best, not just as a woman, but as a soldier,” said Sgt. Wendy Farris, 149th Aviation Battalion, one of the four female competitors. “This was really exciting. I’ve learned a lot and grown in the process. I’m devising my plan for next year’s competition.”

There were 22 Army and 13 Air Force competitors, coming from all parts of Texas. Most of the competing guardsmen were drill status guardsmen. They also serve Texas as police officers, firefighters, physical strength trainers and other professionals. 

The overall winners for the competition will be announced at an award ceremony April 11, 2015.

Sibling rivalry adds edge during Best Warrior Competition

Story by: Spc. Michael Giles

Posted: Feb 7, 2015

Sibling rivalry adds edge during Best Warrior Competition

Spc. Michael Giles
Tech. Sgt. Matthew Renteria and Senior Airman Michael Pineda listen to a brief before the obstacle course portion of the Texas Military Forces Best Warrior Competition at Camp Swift near Bastrop, Texas, Feb. 5, 2015. The event tests the mental and physical proficiencies of the participants through various challenges. Winners will continue to compete at a multi-state regional level. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Michael Giles/Released)

BASTROP, Texas - When the Texas Air National Guard first joined the Texas Military Forces Best Warrior Competition in 2013, then Air Force Staff Sgt. Matthew Rentería proclaimed that he would "win it all." He did not end up winning "it all" in 2013, but he pulled a close second in the noncommissioned officer division of the competition.

Matthew returned to compete in the 2015 Best Warrior Competition at Camp Swift, this time bringing a lifelong friend who helped him forge his competitive spirit, Senior Airman Michael Rentería.

The fraternal twins are well known as highly motivated, with an intense drive to surpass each other in all pursuits.

"They are both outstanding individuals," said Master Sgt. Justin Tassin, a Tactical Air Control Party supervisor for the brothers in the 147th Air Support Operations Squadron. "But when you put the two together, you can see the sibling rivalry, and it pushes them harder to perform."

Competition between the brothers covered all aspects of growing up.

"Everything we were doing, we were doing at the same time," Senior Airman Rentería said. "We competed in getting the girls, school and sports. It keeps us going. It keeps us battling."
Matthew and Michael also credit their father and their role in the military for their drive to excel. 

"He's my hero," Michael said. "He did a lot for us growing up."

Matthew explained that their roles as tactical air control party Airmen require high standards of physical and mental readiness, and this also keeps them working to stay sharp.

"Primarily, my concern is the mission," Matthew said. "If something were to pop off, I want to be in combat shape to go and do my duties."

Matthew has served for 10 years in the Air Guard while Michael has served for eight. Matthew mentored his brother in preparation for the competition, giving him the benefit of his experience, but said that Michael has what it takes to do well on his own in his first Best Warrior Competition.

"He has learned a lot," Matthew said. "He has been through a lot of training, so he's squared away."

Both brothers earned bragging rights during this year's competition. Matthew and Michael each achieved the highest event score during the interview portion, and they both scored among the top three in the obstacle course. Matthew earned the highest score on land navigation and Michael succeeded in earning the highest overall score among the junior enlisted soldiers.

The 149th Fighter Wing Command Chief Master Sgt. George Longoria, evaluator chairman for the essay portion of the event, expressed that the brothers' competitiveness is a quality that strengthens Americans. "Competing and being the best is part of our make up."