Texas Soldier realizes dream

Texas Guardsman realizes dream

Story by: Sgt. 1st Class Malcolm McClendon

Post: November 19, 2015

Angeline SanchezAUSTIN, Texas - Growing up in a family full of service members, Angeline Sanchez knew to take charge and lead fellow recruits through the 2nd Regiment’s, Texas State Guard, Regional Basic Orientation Training, gaining her the title of honor graduate of Class 001-015 at the class’s graduation ceremony held in Austin, Texas, Sept. 18, 2015.

Sanchez began her journey in the military long before she ever joined. Growing up around her U.S. Army father, stepfather, mother and U.S. Marine Corps grandfather had a profound impact on her life.

“My stepfather was a drill sergeant and when he’d come home wearing that big round brown hat, I knew that was something I wanted to do,” Sanchez said. “I loved the structure and the uniform, so my goal ever since was to join the military and serve.”

Even before she was old enough to join, she began researching jobs and the minimum placement scores needed for each. Then when her older brother joined the U.S. Army she knew she had found her calling.

“My brother joined as a medic and when he was home he’d show me his gear, which I thought was really cool,” Sanchez said. “When he came back from deployment he showed me pictures and told me stories about how he helped people and fellow soldiers in Iraq as a combat medic; and I knew then that’s what I wanted to do.”

When she turned 18, Sanchez took the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test, was sworn into the U.S. Army and shipped out on Valentine’s Day, 2012.

“I remember the six-hour ride to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, feeling excited and saying to myself, ‘I made it, I made it.’” Sanchez said. “When we finally arrived at the base my heart was pumping. Then the drill sergeant got on the bus and began ordering us to get our stuff and get off! It was exciting.”

Sanchez, along with other new arrivals, was placed in the reception platoon while they waited for the next training cycle to begin. There, she did not take any time off and was placed in leadership roles, such as barracks lead and marching the platoon.

“We were marching to breakfast chow one morning and it was my goal that day to lose my voice calling cadence,” Sanchez said. “I was in the back of the formation when the drill sergeant stopped everyone and called me to the front of the platoon and said, ‘this soldier has a voice ten times bigger than her body.’ From that point on, I was known as Mighty Mouse.”

Her time at Fort Sill would be short lived however. A childhood illness, that was all but gone, resurfaced and brought to the drill sergeants’ attention. 

“One night they called me down to report to the drill sergeant that was on duty,” Sanchez said. “He looked right at me and said, ‘Private Sanchez, you can’t stay here, because of your asthma,’ right then I broke down crying.”

Sanchez said she was devastated and returned to Texas with no plan, since the only thing she had ever wanted to do was now not an option.

“I didn’t have a backup plan; my plan was to do twenty plus in the Army,” Sanchez continued. “I fell in and out of jobs; I was too distracted, I didn’t have the drive for anything.”

Then one day while picking up her partner at Camp Mabry in Austin, Sanchez spotted, what she thought, was a soldier out of uniform crossing the street. She looked over at her partner and asked why he was wearing a Texas flag on his sleeve.

“She told me that he was in the Texas State Guard,” Sanchez said. “I immediately began researching what that meant. We went to lunch and I couldn’t put my phone down. I had multiple screens open, reading what they were about.”

She began calling numbers on the website to get more information on joining until she got a hold of Staff Sgt. John Gately, the noncommissioned officer-in-charge (NCOIC) of the communications section for the Texas State Guard.

“I talked to her on the phone and explained that the State Guard is designed to help the citizens of Texas in times of need, whether it be a man-made or natural disaster,” Gately said. “I also told her that we are an all volunteer force that specializes in shelter operations, search and rescue, medical assistance and the manning of points-of-distribution when called on by the governor during those emergencies.”

Since the TXSG mission is in Texas and requires no overseas deployment, Sanchez discovered that her asthma would not be a problem and that she could once more have the opportunity to put on the uniform and serve. She signed up shortly after and began drilling with her unit while waiting for the next RBOT class to begin.

“RBOT is a basic introduction to the Texas State Guard,” Staff Sgt. Curtis Rust said, lead instructor for 2nd Regiment’s RBOT. “We go over first aid, land navigation, military customs and courtesies, drill and ceremony and communications skills. We want to take the overall knowledge of what the Texas State Guard is and does, and take that to build upon.”

At RBOT, Sanchez quickly reverted back to her time at Fort Sill and took charge.

“My time at the reception platoon taught me to step up when they needed someone to volunteer,” Sanchez said. “I made it to formations before time, got up a little early and got my squad up and ready for the day and, of course, called cadence every chance I got.”

Sanchez’ performance was again noticed by instructors.

“She was very motivated, took ownership and had a drive-forward attitude,” Staff Sgt. Jason Rogers said, an instructor with the 2nd Regiment’s RBOT. “She was engaged with everyone else’s efforts in the training, cheering them on and pushing them to make it through.”

By training’s end the instructors came together and overwhelmingly voted Sanchez as the honor graduate for the class. And in a ceremony full of friends and family she was asked to stand and be applauded.

“It was amazing, my mother came in from out of town to see me,” Sanchez said. “She was there with me when I was going through my depression for not being able to complete Army Basic Training. I had never graduated from anything before, so when she came to see me here, she had tears in her eyes and then to find out I was honor graduate… it topped it all and made her proud.”

Sanchez now drills with the 1st Battalion, 1st Regiment in San Antonio and looks forward to her career in the TXSG.

“I feel so much better now, this is the happiest I’ve ever felt in my life,” Sanchez said. “When I first went to basic at Fort Sill, I had that awesome feeling you get when you put on your uniform and take charge. And now, in the State Guard, I have it again.” 

Texas Military Department Announces New Air Guard Commander

Maj. Gen. John F. Nichols, the Adjutant General of TexasAUSTIN, Texas (November 18, 2015) – Maj. Gen. John F. Nichols, the Adjutant General of Texas, is pleased to announce Brig. Gen. David McMinn has been named the Commander of the Texas Air National Guard (TXANG), following the retirement of Maj. Gen. Kenneth W. Wisian.

McMinn received his commission upon graduation from Clemson University in 1985, completed Undergraduate Pilot Training and was assigned to Pope AFB, North Carolina as a C-130E pilot in 1986. While there, McMinn specialized in Low Altitude Parachute Extraction System Tactical Air Delivery and Adverse Weather Aerial Delivery System formation flying.

After serving during Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm, McMinn transferred to the TXANG and joined the 136th Airlift Wing as an instructor pilot and later served as the 321st Expeditionary Operations Group Commander during operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom. He has also served as the Operations Group, Vice Wing, and Wing Commander in the 136th Airlift Wing. As a traditional Guardsman, McMinn has gained over 5,000 flying hours both in his role as a command pilot in the T-37, T-38, C-130E and C-130H2 aircraft and as a captain for a major commercial airline. He most recently served as the Chief of Staff for the TXANG.

As Commander of the TXANG, McMinn commands more than 3,000 service members and oversees TXANG operations, training, readiness and resource allocation for both state and federal missions.

The appointment follows the recent announcement regarding the retirement of Maj. Gen. Kenneth W. Wisian, Deputy Adjutant General-Air and Commander of the TXANG. Wisian is retiring with more than 32 years of service to the state and nation, including tours of duty in the Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan. He now serves as director of the Coastal Protection division of the office of the Texas General Land Office.

Details regarding a change of command and/or retirement ceremonies for the above individuals are forthcoming.

Texas Military Department Announces Deputy Adjutant General-Air Appointee

Maj. Gen. John F. Nichols, the Adjutant General of TexasAUSTIN, Texas (November 18, 2015) Maj. Gen. John F. Nichols, the Adjutant General of Texas, is pleased to announce Col. Dawn Ferrell, of Wichita Falls, has been named the Deputy Adjutant General-Air for the Texas Military Department, effective immediately, following the retirement of Maj. Gen. Kenneth W. Wisian.

Gov. Greg Abbott made the appointment Friday, Nov. 13, 2015. Ferrell earned a bachelor's degree and master's degree from Midwestern State University and a doctorate degree from the University of North Texas. She joined the Texas Air National Guard (TXANG) in 1983, commissioning through the Air National Guard's Academy of Military Science in 1994.

Since 2009, Ferrell has served as the Commander for the Mission Support Group of the 136th Airlift Wing for the TXANG based at the Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base. In 2013, she deployed to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) Headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan, serving in a joint North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) billet as Director of Plans and Logistics Operations, where she was responsible for strategic level oversight for logistics planning, sustainment and redeployment of United States and NATO forces for the ISAF mission.

As the Deputy Adjutant General, Ferrell is the state’s senior Air Guard official appointed by the governor and serves as the principal advisor to the Adjutant General on all matters concerning the TXANG. 

The appointment follows the recent announcement regarding the retirement of Maj. Gen. Kenneth W. Wisian, Deputy Adjutant General-Air and Commander of the TXANG. Wisian is retiring with more than 32 years of service to the state and nation, including tours of duty in the Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan. He now serves as director of the Coastal Protection division of the office of the Texas General Land Office.

Details regarding a change of responsibility and/or retirement ceremonies for the above individuals are forthcoming.


Air Day held in San Antonio

149th Fighter Wing, at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, Oct. 15, 2015Commentary and photo by Michelle McBride
Texas Military Department Public Affairs Office

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas – Members of the Texas Air National Guard welcomed distinguished visitors and community leaders to the 149th Fighter Wing, at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, Oct. 15, 2015.

The event was part of the Texas ANG’s annual “Air Day” to showcase and educate their civilian leaders on the organization’s state and federal capabilities.

“We are an integral part of all of the operations the U.S. military does all over the world,” said Maj. Gen. Kenneth W. Wisian, Deputy Adjutant General for Air and Commander of the Texas Air National Guard. “Texans are flying combat missions day in and day out.” 

During the event, the attendees were able to interact with Texas ANG’s leadership as well as Citizen-Airmen assigned to their three air wings, which are located in Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio.

The mission of the Fort Worth-based 136th Airlift Wing is to provide tactical air support, via the C-130 Hercules aircraft, at home and abroad. The unit currently has personnel and aircraft deployed overseas.

The 147th Reconnaissance Wing, based in Houston, operates the MQ-1 Predator remotely piloted aircraft to provide critical support for overseas contingency operations.

Additionally, the 149th Fighter Wing’s primary federal mission is to train combat-ready pilots – active duty, Guard and Reserve – to employ the F-16 Fighting Falcon. Attendees had the opportunity to view the F-16 up-close and view them take off for a training mission.

When activated by the Governor of Texas, the Air Wings have the ability to assist state and local officials respond to disaster relief and humanitarian aid missions with medical and other logistical support.

Another mission of the Texas Air National Guard includes protecting cyberspace. Texas Airmen from the 273rd Information Operations Squadron, based in San Antonio, were on-hand to highlight their unique partnership with the U.S. Air Force and the National Security Agency to protect the nation’s digital infrastructure.

The Texas Air National Guard leaders also pointed out the unique value they bring to the nation’s defense.

“Why do we need the National Guard? Because of our combat force and our tremendous value to the tax payer,” Wisian said. “We do everything the (Air Force) Reserve does, but also accomplish state missions.”

To be called A Veteran

Commentary by: Capt. Martha Nigrelle

U.S. Army Soldiers conduct a patrol in Vietnam during the height of the Vietnam War. (Photo Courtesy of Department of Defense)
U.S. Army Soldiers conduct a patrol in Vietnam during the height of the Vietnam War. (Photo Courtesy of Department of Defense)

I have a friend named Cal. He is quick to smile, and quite dashing, even at 80. He’s one of those people that even after just one conversation you think, what an amazing person – I am so glad I met him! He just retired from his third career. He loves his God, he loves his wife and he loves his country – and all of this is evident in all that he does.

The funny thing about a lot of older veterans is that despite their fierce pride in the military and the men and women they served with, you might never know they are veterans. A very humble group of people – not quick to toot their own horn.

Cal’s first retirement was from the Army as a Chief Warrant Officer 3, after serving multiple tours in Vietnam. 

One night, after eating dinner, my husband and I got to share our own deployment stories with him and his wife. As it turned out, a lot of the things we remembered about our own deployments were pretty much the same, whether fighting in Vietnam or Iraq. Cal’s only response was “Sometimes, it’s good to talk to Army folk.”

And he is right. It is good to talk to Army folk. It’s good to talk to people who have gone through something that no one really gets unless they have done it themselves – it’s what truly makes us brothers and sisters in arms. 

My Uncle Terry is also a Vietnam veteran, he was a platoon leader and after only a few months in country, he was shot. Apparently, he almost died leading from the front and protecting his men. The doctors said that there was no logical explanation for him surviving- a real miracle.  The Marines awarded him the Silver Star. But all Uncle Terry ever told me was that being a Platoon Leader was the best job he ever had.

Then there is our friend Jack and his buddy Ed. I ate dinner with Jack and Ed the day Jack’s son, my husband’s best friend, was posthumously presented with the Distinguished Service Cross for tackling a suicide bomber and saving the lives of all of his Soldiers. 

I had the greatest time talking to Ed. He kept asking me questions about my time in the Army, and it never occurred to me to ask him much about himself. I found out later, Ed Freeman was a Medal of Honor recipient made famous in the movie “We Were Soldiers.” 

Ed and Jack flew together in Vietnam. On the same day that Ed disobeyed a direct order and flew into the battle of Ia Drang Valley, saving the lives of many Soldiers, Jack was on a mission elsewhere in the country.  

Not a word about this from either of them – both so humble.

People like Cal, Uncle Terry, Jack and Ed are who I think of when I think of Veterans. These are some of the best men I have ever known. They served their God, their family and their country with love in their hearts and no complaints. And when they think back on their military service – they remember fondly the phenomenal men and women they served alongside.

I’m not sure I will ever deserve to be lumped into the same category as them when my military career winds down, but I hope that our next generation of veterans will be able to look at me and say I lived up to this standard. If they do, then maybe I will have earned the title veteran. 

Texas Guardsmen are Warfighter ready

Story by:  Sgt. Elizabeth Peña​

Posted: November 9, 2015

Texas Guardsmen are Warfighter ready
Sgt. Elizabeth Peña
Spc. John Volkmer, a satellite operator with the 625th Signal Company of the Texas National Guard's 136th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, ensures his equipment is ready during the Warfighter exercise Nov. 12-22 at Fort Campbell, Ky. For this brigade, headquartered out of Round Rock, Texas, Warfighter tests coordination and methods of battle through a command and control simulation. (Photo by U.S. Army National Guard Sgt. Elizabeth Pena/Released)

FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. - Texas boots hit the ground running Nov. 5, 2015, at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, as approximately 200 soldiers from the Texas Army National Guard’s 136th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade engage a three-week, combat-oriented training event known as Warfighter.

“Warfighter is an opportunity for a division, in this case the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) to conduct main combat operations,” said Col. Scott Mac Leod, commander of the 136th MEB. “It also enables its brigade combat teams and functional and multi-functional subordinate brigades to exercise their tasks as part of main combat operations.”

For this brigade, headquartered out of Round Rock, Texas, Warfighter tests the headquarters’ coordination and methods of battle through a command and control simulation.

“In this scenario, the enemy is the Arianans,” said Master Sgt. Daniel Johnson, the brigade’s noncommissioned officer in charge of current operations. “They are after the oil infrastructure in Atropia, and we are sent in after the United Nations’ resolution to [push] out the Arianans and secure the oil fields. The 136th MEB are here supporting the 101st Airborne Division through assured mobility and survivability.”

Warfighter features a number of Army units conducting their combat validation, with the MEB just one of many brigades supporting Fort Campbell’s Air Assault division. The 136th MEB is distinguished as the only National Guard outfit participating. In the scenario, the brigade deploys with battalions of military police, engineers and support companies as it would in a real-world mobilization.

“Working with active duty components is the same as working with National Guard units or Reserve units,” said Sgt. Mikael Lopez, the 136th MEB intelligence team leader. “Soldiers are soldiers wherever you go. We train together. We deploy together.”

Soldiers from the 136th MEB spent months gearing up for the exercise. In September, they engaged in a condensed, three-day command post exercise in anticipation for Warfighter. This gave soldiers the chance to exercise their duty roles and prepare for what would be expected in Kentucky.

“We had a nice, long train up,” said Lopez. “I feel very confident in my team; I have good soldiers. We have a great chain of support up top and our peers are very strong.”

While stateside, the 136th MEB is custodian of the FEMA Region VI Homeland Response Force mission, designed to combat the threat of Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and High-Yield Explosive incidents. Warfighter allows these versatile Guardsmen to also train on their overseas combat mission.

“The HRF has a great reputation, and now this is a great opportunity for us to come and do what we call a green mission,” said Mc Leod, “and to practice those tasks that are common to an actual overseas scenario.”

The 136th MEB will use Warfighter to exercise mission command in maneuver support and area support operations. 

“We’ve met with the 101st and we are getting a lot of positive feedback on our setup and the way we are operating things,” said Johnson. 

The Warfighter scenario runs Nov. 12-22, with the preceding week dedicated to preparations and battle drills.

“I am extremely confident in our troops,” said Mac Leod. “Today, we completed the combined arms rehearsal. I think that we are all proud to be here and represent the Texas Army National Guard and to put a strong foot forward.”

147th Reconnaissance Wing reaches 100K flight hours on MQ-1

Story by: 1st Lt. Alicia Lacy

Posted: November 9, 2015

Wing receives aircraft
Courtesy Photo
Members of the 147th Reconnaissance Wing Maintenance Group open the crate holding an MQ-1 Predator at Ellington Field Joint Reserve Base in Houston, Aug. 18, 2009. The wing is transitioning from the F-16 to the MQ-1 and this is the first of several Predators that the wing will receive.

HOUSTON, Texas – Achieving 100,000 flying hours takes years to realize.

But for the members of the 147th Reconnaissance Wing, Texas Air National Guard, conquering this incredible feat is just a testament to their hard work and dedication to the mission.

The wing accomplished the milestone Oct. 8, 2015, just seven short years after receiving its new mission to fly the MQ-1B Predator.

“I’ve witnessed the constant hard work and professionalism required by the 147th Reconnaissance Wing to accomplish this achievement,” said Col. Gary Jones, vice wing commander . 

In 2005, the Department of Defense recommended retiring the then-147th Fighter Wing’s F-16 Fighting Falcons and replacing them with the reconnaissance aircraft, with plans for the unit to be fully equipped and operational by 2009.

This change required airmen to adjust and re-train on a new aircraft that began its initial operational capability in the U.S. Air Force only a few years before the wing took its first flight July 2008.

“There have been many milestones along the way for the 111th (Reconnaissance Squadron) since Ellington took on this mission, and there will continue to be more, but this is a very significant accomplishment,” said Lt. Col. David Peck, 111th Reconnaissance Squadron commander. “To put 100,000 hours in context, that amount of time is equivalent to flying for 11.41 years non-stop, and we did it in just seven years.”

Due to the unique structure of the National Guard, pilots can fly in different statuses from domestic Title 32 missions and federal Title 10 hours to flight hours during training exercises; however, the 100,000-hour milestone was all done while on federal Title 10 status.
The accomplishment cannot only be attributed to the pilots who fly the mission, but to the entire wing, from the member charged with writing orders to the maintainers who keep the aircraft mission ready and the combatant commanders who use the aircraft in theater.

“We have had to forge and maintain working relationships with a host of organizations over the years,” Peck said. “Additionally, we count on support from our advocates at NGB to give us the funding, manpower and voice we need to enable these missions.
In addition to the one team, one fight mentality, guard members accumulate years of experience, acquiring the expertise to be proficient in their jobs.

“What is not to be overlooked is the substantial amount of experience the Guard, and the 111th in particular, brings to the MQ-1 community,” Peck said. “I first began to fly the Predator in 2005. Over a decade later, I am still doing the same mission.”

“Many other members of the 111th have employed this asset for roughly the same amount of time,” he added. “That is experience that active duty simply cannot match, and the squadron anticipated converting to the MQ-9 within the next 18-24 months, and when that happens, I’m confident that our squadron will continue to be an ‘Ace in the Hole’ for the combatant commanders.”

National Guard Gunfighter Fly-in competition unites seven Apache helicopter states

Story by:  Spc. Elizabeth Smith

Posted: November 9, 2015

Gunfighter Fly-In
Spc. Elizabeth Smith
Spc. Ryan Santana, a member of the Arizona National Guard, arms an AH-64D Apache attack helicopter for the Utah Army National Guard for the inaugural Gunfighter Fly-In in preparation for the gunnery event.

MARANA, Ariz. – The Arizona National Guard is hosting the inaugural Gunfighter Fly-in at Silverbell Army Heliport here Nov. 1 to Nov. 6. Seven of the eight states in the National Guard that operate the AH-64D Apache helicopters—Arizona, Idaho, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas and Utah—sent two of their best company-grade crews and maintenance support personnel to participate in the four-day event.

The crews are competing head-to-head in the Gunfighter Fly-in competition, which includes a variety of graded flying and gunnery scenarios: manned unmanned teaming with the small unmanned aerial system, a live fire exercise at the Goldwater Gunnery Range, performance in the simulator and a written gunnery skills test. 

The top team will receive an award for its performance and bragging rights for its home state. 

“We welcome competition,” said Capt. Ben Hickman, Commander of 1-149 Attack Reconnaissance Battalion with the Texas Army National Guard. “That’s one of the things about being a gunfighter. We all have type-A personalities and so we look forward to getting to compete but at the same time the underlying thing of this is to integrate with other units.” 

The Gunfighter Fly-in is an opportunity to share tactics, techniques and procedures, best practices and lessons learned throughout the National Guard Apache community. The competition also builds a unity of effort among National Guard Apache helicopter states. 

“This is a great opportunity to network with your peers,” Chief Warrant Officer 2 Leonard Vidalez of 1-149 Attack Reconnaissance Battalion Texas Army National Guard. “Everybody has experiences and knowledge to share with one another; it’s just more information for your tool kit to use at a future date or implement at the very next mission.” 

The vast amount of skills and experience throughout the National Guard Apache community are invaluable to the Total Force. 

“We have the same skill sets, we have the same capabilities, same abilities, so we’re a key enabler and contributor to the active component fight, both for foreseen and unforeseen events across the globe,” said Col. Christopher Baril, the 98th Aviation Troop Command and Western Army National Guard Aviation Training Site Brigade Commander.

The presence of Apache assets in the Army National Guard continues the guard’s ability to conduct training and is critical to the safety of deployed forces.

“Apaches are vital because in times of war or having to go solve a problem overseas with our active duty counterparts we need to be manned and equipped the same way so that there is synergy on the battlefield once we get there,” Baril said.

The Gunfighter Fly-in isn’t just about the lessons shared, the skills gained or the experience traded. It also has a little bit to do with the competition that brings these units closer together and makes the overall experience more effective for training purposes.

“It’s a competition but you wish everybody the best and you want everybody to be safe,” Hickman said. “We’re a close-knit community; we’re a very small community. When we come together we’re one team. We’re one family.”

TX Guardsmen compete in first ever apache helicopter competition

Inaugural Gunfighter Fly-In

Rows of Apache AH-64D helicopters are silhouetted by an Arizona sunset with the Ragged Top Mountains in the background Nov. 3 at Silverbell Army Heliport in Marana, Ariz. The Gunfighter Fly-In pits some of the best AH-64D Apache attack helicopter crews from seven different Army National Guard units from across the nation in a competition to see who's best. Crews from Arizona, Utah, Idaho, South Carolina, North Carolina, Texas and Missouri competed for the top scores in various events such as a live fire scenario, unmanned aerial systems teaming, simulator test and a written evaluation.

Courtesy of Arizona National Guard Public Affairs Office