From the Top January 2020

A Message from The Adjutant General

Happy New Year! I hope each of you had a relaxing and happy holiday season. As I enter this second year as your Adjutant General, I want to take a moment to pause and look back at 2019. As you know, it is by looking at our past that we can best prepare for our future, and so I want to take the lessons learned from both the wins and losses of last year to better prepare for a successful 2020. 

Major General Tracy R. Norris is the Adjutant General of Texas.
Major General Tracy R. Norris is the Adjutant General of Texas.

At the state level, we had one of our most successful State Legislative sessions ever. Our team worked hard to ensure that our elected officials were well informed of the good work of our TMD members and of the needs of the agency in our effort to keep our State and Nation safe. The Texas-Mexico border was of particular interest to our elected officials, and I am so proud of the professionalism and positive attitude of our Soldiers and Airmen who have gone to the border, many of whom were sent on short-notice orders. Nationally, we were able to secure support from the Texas Delegation in DC to coordinate with III Corps and Ft Hood to establish our RTI as a total Army school system. This is a huge win for the Texas National Guard and further secures our status as a national leader in readiness and training.

Looking forward, I am excited to see where we go and grow as an agency in the new year. Gaining additional force structure for Air and Army and modernizing all components will be a priority, so prepare for being a participant in this effort. This will include getting Armor back to Texas and growing the Air Guard force structure. Texas is already often in the spotlight, and as we grow this scrutiny will only increase. Each of you must take responsibility for your individual readiness. Be mentally and physically prepared. The new Army Combat Fitness Test is no joke, and I expect Texas to be a leader in showing other states how to train for this test, and how to pass it with ease. I also will be prioritizing succession planning. We must make sure that our future leaders, both officer and enlisted, are ready to take over one day. This means a focus on talent management, so be prepared for an increased prioritization of the future of this agency. It will be no surprise to any of you that maintenance will be a priority for the 2020 as well. It’s time we remember that maintenance is mission, and prioritize it because nothing is more important than the safety of our Soldiers and Airmen.

It has been an honor to be your Adjutant General this past year, and I am ready for another year of challenges and victories with ya’ll. Texas is strong, Texas is ready. We will continue to lead the nation and to fight for the good of our communities, keeping them safe here at home, and fighting for their safety abroad. Thank you for all you do. Your dedicated service is the heart of this organization. Thank you for your hard work and sacrifice.

Duty. Honor. Texas.

 

Airmen urged to be catalysts for innovation

By Airman 1st Class Charissa Menken, 136th Airlift Wing, Texas Air National Guard

FORT WORTH, Texas – Technology is shaping the modern civilian world. But as innovation evolves, so does the mission of Air Force warfighters.

Capt. Jennifer Marrs, 136th Airlift Wing force support services officer, guides public affairs members through the AFWERX location while explaining what sharing and products they provide to Airmen and start-up companies Sept. 5, 2019, Austin, Texas. Marrs displays what facilities start-ups and AFWERX members can utilize to develop new ideas while networking. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by A1C Charissa Menken)
Capt. Jennifer Marrs, 136th Airlift Wing force support services officer, guides public affairs members through the AFWERX location while explaining what sharing and products they provide to Airmen and start-up companies Sept. 5, 2019, Austin, Texas. Marrs displays what facilities start-ups and AFWERX members can utilize to develop new ideas while networking. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by A1C Charissa Menken)

The Air Force has taken steps to encourage Airmen, education outlets, and new technology companies to be catalysts for change by partnering with AFWERX. The organization was established in 2017 by Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson to serve as the transition between contemporary ideas and real solutions.

"When you ask the average Airman, they probably have no idea that AFWERX even exists," said Capt. Jennifer Marrs, 136th Airlift Wing Force support services officer and chief of innovation at the 136 AW, Texas Air National Guard. She also is product manager and director of community outreach at AFWERX.

"Most people understand innovation as a buzzword, but they don't necessarily know how they are empowered to actually solve problems, which I think is a really incredible opportunity."

At AFWERX, Marrs works to connect Airmen who have problems or innovative ideas to academic outlets and technology start-ups.

"Innovation is something I'm really passionate about because we always say we are trying to get emergent technology in the hands of our warfighters," said Marrs. "My brother is a special operations pilot, so it's near and dear to my heart that my brother, and Airmen like him, have the latest and greatest technology."

"Airmen and NCOs are really shaping what innovation looks like," she said. "It's like they're steering the ship, but our leaders are giving us the latitude to try and do things we've never done before."

AFWERX has multiple products, including small business innovative research (SBIR), crowdsourcing and technology accelerators, available to Airmen, entrepreneurs and cutting edge companies.

All good ideas start somewhere. For the 136th Airlift Wing, that place is the Innovation Room or "Inno Room," where Maj. Mathew Joseph, 136th Civil Engineer Squadron commander, and Marrs facilitate discussion with Airmen.

"We're leading the way in innovation, and I would say it even goes beyond the 136th," said Joseph. "It's also the Texas Military Department and our Texas Adjutant General Tracy Norris."

One of the first partnerships created for the 136 AW, through SBIR, is with ICON, a company that creates printers, robotics and advanced materials for homebuilding.

"Just because we need to be standardized, we've been running on more of an antiquated system because it's something that everyone knows," Joseph said. "But if we can crack the code with getting emergent technology like ICON to work with us, we can catch up to where industry is" and use resources more efficiently.


Joseph touted the benefits of being part of the innovation team.

"Since we're in a standardized military organization, it lends itself to pushing you back into the box," he said. "So given the ability to work with these SBIR programs and AFWERX, we not only have the opportunity to think, but we get to play outside the box."

Equal to the Task

Preparing for the Army Combat Fitness Test

Story and Photos by Charles E. Spirtos, TMD Public Affairs

ACFTWhen a force is fit, it is more lethal and more agile in the face of threats. Whether the call is on the battlefield, or during the heat of a natural disaster like a hurricane, the men and women of the Texas Military Department maintain constant preparedness to maintain a force ready to support federal authorities home and abroad.

Part of maintaining a professional force is maintaining maximum physical fitness. A recent Army-wide innovation that will allow the force to maintain relevance and increased lethality is the introduction of the Army Combat Fitness Test as the test of record for assessing Soldier fitness.

The ACFT will be a superior metric in determining a Soldier’s readiness for the battlefield by evaluating complex actions that have direct parallels to motions frequently encountered in the battlefield, according to TMD Command Senior Enlisted Leader CMSgt Michael E. Cornitius. Cornitius also believes that the collaborative nature of the ACFT will increase camaraderie within the force: “You can encourage each other through the course of the test. You’re going to have at least four battle buddies to walk you through it--so that’s what I like about it.

The Army Combat Fitness Test may be a challenge for Soldiers who are used to the older physical fitness test. However, SSG Anthony Delagarza believes that training in support of the ACFT will allow the Texas Military Department to become the fittest, most lethal force in the country. The Army Combat Fitness Test is not easy. In fact, many seasoned Soldiers have described it as extremely daunting. This doesn’t scare us off however, this motivates us. After all, when have Texans ever backed down to a challenge?

Texas State Guard’s "Young Heroes” Holiday Program Hits 100K Toys

Story By: WO1 David Brown, TXSG HQ Ass’t PAO

Texas State Guard members met with the CEO and VIPs of fiveBelow at the fiveBelow Gateway Station, Burleson, Texas, December 21, 2019. fiveBelow is a sponsor for the Texas State Guard - Young Heroes of the Guard Toy Drive.
Texas State Guard members met with the CEO and VIPs of fiveBelow at the fiveBelow Gateway Station, Burleson, Texas, December 21, 2019. fiveBelow is a sponsor for the Texas State Guard - Young Heroes of the Guard Toy Drive.

AUSTIN, Texas -- This past Christmas, one of the most popular and best-known outreach programs of the Texas State Guard reached a new benchmark.  During the 2019 season, the Texas State Guard (TXSG) Toy Drive collected over 100,000 toys, which brought a smile to the faces of hospitalized and homeless children across the Lone Star State.
 
Sgt. First Class John Gately, the Young Heroes of the Guard Toy Drive Coordinator for the last 6 years, reports that the final tally by Christmas Day was 104,604 toys, with a retail value of over $500,000.  Since its inception in 2009, Young Heroes of the Guard has collected and distributed more than 349,000 toys.
 
This is an all-time record for the 11-year-old project, founded by TXSG Chaplains. The initial success of the Toy Drive in North Texas captured the attention – and the imagination – of officials at TXSG Headquarters, who, for Christmas 2014, expanded the program statewide.  Last Christmas, children’s’ hospitals and shelters from Galveston to El Paso received toys collected through this program.

Making this effort even more remarkable is the enormous amount of logistical support work put in by individual citizen-Soldiers of the TXSG.  In addition to their routine Guard duties and their obligations to their own jobs and families, some organizers, such as Lt. Steven Coder of Godley, Texas, put in six to eight hours a day from mid-October up to Christmas Eve. Lt. Coder’s work included organizing the many moving pieces that make such a project successful.

“When you give that child a toy and you watch her face light up”, Coder says, “you’ll understand why we do it.  This toy drive brings such joy—not just to the kids, but to everyone involved, and it lasts long after the holidays.” 

More recently, the program has developed a partnership with the retail store “fiveBelow working together to bring hope and joy to Texas communities. For the third year in a row, members of the TXSG took up positions outside “fiveBelow ” stores across Texas, asking shoppers to make a toy donation on their way out.  Other members of the TXSG, including their families and supporters in the community, set up collection boxes outside businesses and churches.  Hess Corporation, the energy company with offices in Houston, donated 3,000 of its famous toy trucks to the effort.

In early December, the toys were gathered at local armories, sorted into age groups, and distributed to hospitals and shelters across Texas.

When asked, will it be possible to match the spectacular success of the 2019 TXSG Toy Drive next December? 

Coder sighs and cracks a knowing smile.  “We’re already getting to work on that!”

Texas State Guard Deploys for Imelda

Story by Staff Sgt. Gregory Illich

Photo: P.O.D.Tropical Storm Imelda made landfall at Freeport, Texas, and dumped 43 inches of rain on the Texas Southeast Gulf Coast over five days from September 17-21, 2019.   Many people on the Gulf Coast, still recovering from Hurricane Harvey just two years before, found themselves again in the crosshairs of the massive storm.
 
Imelda hit the Texas bayous and low-lying areas of Jefferson and Orange Counties the hardest.  Emergency responders and local emergency management organizations acted quickly to initiate rescue efforts and set up emergency shelters.  Although the danger of Imelda slowly subsided, the impact of the storm continued to be a threat as floodwaters persisted.

As residents began to cope with the loss of property, electricity, drinking water, and necessities, county emergency officials requested further help from the state.  Within twenty-four hours of the requests, the Texas State Guard activated 182 members and moved into the “strike zone” to deliver supplies to those in need. 

“The Texas State Guard received the request on September 20  and guard members were on scene the following day working alongside the Texas Army National Guard which delivered water and needed equipment and the Texas Forestry Service which also supplied equipment and forklift operators to replenish loading points,” stated 1st Sgt. Terry Lene, Texas State Guard Military District Coordinator for Jefferson County.

Working alongside the Texas State Forest Service and local volunteers, the Texas State Guard established six distribution points in Jefferson and Orange counties supporting the cities of Hamshire, Fannett, Nome, Bevil Oaks, Vidor, and Mauriceville. Other Texas State Guard units were staged at an emergency operation center established in Woodville in order to support boat rescues and provide medical support.
  
This truly was an example of Texans serving Texans in every way.  Seeing emergency responders, volunteers, local organizations, and the Texas Military Department working together in a partnership meant that our mission would get done efficiently and effectively.  The residents who came through our distribution points were grateful for the help and were an inspiration for their resiliency,” remarked Col. John Diggs, Tactical Emergency Operations Center, Texas State Guard.

At each distribution point, Texas State Guard members safely directed vehicles and some pedestrians into the distribution lanes where hundreds of packs of bottled water and bagged ice were stacked and ready.  As vehicles drove up the designated lanes, lining up much like an assembly line, guard members were able to load three vehicles simultaneously with water and ice while the drivers waited inside their vehicles.  Local partner agencies such as area food banks and the American Red Cross also provided food and cleaning supplies.  Other donated supplies including baby supplies were distributed as needed.
   
Guard members assisted more than 10,000 families at the six distribution points.  They distributed 22,728 cases of bottled water and 7,632 bags of ice to 9,729 vehicles.
 
Robert Viator, Orange County Precinct 4 Commissioner, expressed his appreciation for the support of the Texas State Guard.  “The Texas State Guard helped our citizens through this disaster.  I don’t think we could make it without the assistance of these men and women who serve our country and serve us and our community.”
 

Georgia Guardsmen provide support to Texas Guard and Law Enforcement partners

Story and Photos by SSgt De'Jon Williams, 136th Airlift Wing, Texas Air National Guard

Army and Air National Guard members from various states stationed along the Southwest Texas border work together with their local, state and federal law enforcement partners.

Cpl. Thomas Leroux and Spc. Joshua Smoak, a Task Force-Volunteer Mobile Video Surveillance System Truck team, view a computer screen in their Mobile Video Surveillance System truck Dec. 21, 2019 in Rio Grande City, Texas. The MVS truck cameras are displayed on computer screens inside the truck. (Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. De’Jon Williams)
Cpl. Thomas Leroux and Spc. Joshua Smoak, a Task Force-Volunteer Mobile Video Surveillance System Truck team, view a computer screen in their Mobile Video Surveillance System truck Dec. 21, 2019 in Rio Grande City, Texas. The MVS truck cameras are displayed on computer screens inside the truck. (Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. De’Jon Williams)


National Guard members provide support for a variety of tasks on behalf of the U.S. Border Patrol in an effort to allow more agents to protect our nation’s border directly in the field.

One way in which the National Guard assists Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is by surveilling illegal activity along the Rio Grande. Specialized trucks called Mobile Video Surveillance Systems (MVSS) give National Guard Soldiers and Airmen the capability to monitor a vast area of land along the border.

“Our job here is to be on the border in these trucks, observing the river and calling up what we see,” said Cpl. Thomas Leroux, an MVSS truck team commander.” The main objective is to deter any illegal activity between the United States and Mexico.”

MVSS truck commanders, or “TC’s” serve as the noncommissioned officer in charge of the site they are assigned to during a shift. They are also responsible for the maintaining of equipment used during operations.

“A big part of what I do is communicate with Border Patrol,” Leroux said. “I’m primarily responsible for the equipment and the relay of information.”


MVSS truck teams consist of the TC and a driver, who also serves as the equipment operator. Leroux is often partnered with Spc. Joshua Smoak, the driver for their team.


“Mainly my job is to get us from point A to point B without getting us stuck in the mud,” Smoak said. “I get us here, make sure we’re in a position where if anything does happen, we can get out safely and quickly. I also make sure I position the truck where the camera has the best visibility while also keeping it somewhat hidden.”

There are multiple teams of soldiers along the border using these trucks and other similar vehicles. For their team, Leroux and Smoak are using next generation scope trucks with night and day camera capabilities.

“On this truck, the main equipment is the cameras in the back,” Smoak said. “One is a normal camera, and the other is a heat signature camera. We can pull them up separately if we need to. They extend up about 30 feet, which is good to see over all the trees. We also use the laptop inside the truck, which is how we communicate with the cameras.”

Cpl. Thomas Leroux, a Task Force-Volunteer Mobile Video Surveillance System truck commander, studies a computer screen in Rio Grande City, Texas, Dec 21, 2019. Leroux leads one of many two-man Mobile Video Surveillance System Truck teams along the Southwest Texas border. (Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. De’Jon Williams)
Cpl. Thomas Leroux, a Task Force-Volunteer Mobile Video Surveillance System truck commander, studies a computer screen in Rio Grande City, Texas, Dec 21, 2019. Leroux leads one of many two-man Mobile Video Surveillance System Truck teams along the Southwest Texas border. (Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. De’Jon Williams)

These trucks are assigned to each MVSS team at the beginning of their shift at various Border Patrol stations. The teams check out their trucks and begin their shift at the sites where they spend most of their shift.

“Once we get to the site, we do a transfer of authority (TOA),” Leroux said. “We do that with the group we are relieving. We transfer equipment, ammunition and paperwork. I complete the required paperwork and get accountability for the equipment. At the same time, I’ll discuss with the other group what happened on the previous shift.”



Leroux explains that during a TOA, the previous team transfers all the equipment and relays all the information from the prior shift. After this, the previous team is relieved, and the site is now his team’s responsibility.

In the meantime, the driver is also doing his part to participate in the TOA.

Spc. Thomas Leroux writes in his logbook Dec. 21, 2019 in Rio Grande City, Texas. Mobile Video Surveillance System teams keep a log of their findings while on duty. MVSS truck team leaders keep a log of their activities throughout their shift. (Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. De’Jon Williams)
Spc. Thomas Leroux writes in his logbook Dec. 21, 2019 in Rio Grande City, Texas. Mobile Video Surveillance System teams keep a log of their findings while on duty. MVSS truck team leaders keep a log of their activities throughout their shift. (Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. De’Jon Williams)


“When we first get here, my first job is to park the truck in a somewhat concealed position so that scouts on the other side can’t easily detect us,” Smoak said. “While he’s doing the TOA, my job is to get the equipment on the truck up and running.”


Smoak gets his camera and equipment up and running while the previous team continues to operate theirs. This protocol ensures that there is no gap in coverage of the area.

After the TOA is complete, Leroux and Smoak begin their shift monitoring the border.

“Throughout the day I keep the scan and surveillance going,” Smoak said. “Sometime there is action, sometimes there’s not, but it is how it is sometimes. At the end of the day the relief comes in and it’s the same process as before. I ensure continuous reconnaissance the entire time until the next team gets their scan up and going.”

Through technological prowess and Soldiers’ own vigilance, Leroux and Smoak have provided the Border Patrol with intelligence that has led to more than 90 apprehensions, 62 turn backs and a seizure of more than 235 pounds of narcotics since the beginning of the mission. 

Cpl. Thomas Leroux and Spc. Joshua Smoak, a Task Force-Volunteer Mobile Video Surveillance System Truck team, view a computer screen in their Mobile Video Surveillance System truck Dec. 21, 2019 in Rio Grande City, Texas. The MVS truck cameras are displayed on computer screens inside the truck. (Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. De’Jon Williams)
Cpl. Thomas Leroux and Spc. Joshua Smoak, a Task Force-Volunteer Mobile Video Surveillance System Truck team, view a computer screen in their Mobile Video Surveillance System truck Dec. 21, 2019 in Rio Grande City, Texas. The MVS truck cameras are displayed on computer screens inside the truck. (Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. De’Jon Williams)



Of all the missions he supports, drug interdiction provides Leroux with the greatest fulfillment. Leroux said that participating in drug seizures is particularly rewarding for him because he “can physically see the fruits of [his] labor.” Particularly, Leroux was proud of “the feeling that I was a part of stopping that much of such a dangerous and harmful substance from making it into our country. I feel like we’re literally defending our nation.” Leroux then stated that for him, the mission has some elements which are personal: “I stopped drugs from getting within four blocks of a school, that’s huge! I have children and the idea that they would be in a place that is dangerous or subjected to that kind of environment is terrible. So, the idea that I’m able to prevent that is phenomenal! It’s great, I love it!”

This is the first time Leroux and Smoak have performed a mission like this, but it is one they both find rewarding.


“I had a lot of preconceptions before coming out here,” Smoak said. “There’s schools and kids and all this life right here… I’m just really happy that we’re able to help protect them [and] help secure this area so that they can live a normal, happy life. The safer the border is, the safer they can feel, the safer they can keep living their lives.”

 

A Soldier’s Journey

Texas-based National Guard Soldier turns his life around

Story by Sgt. Karen Lawshae, 1st Armored Division

AFGHANISTAN - For Sgt. James Green, his path to the U.S. Army could be described as a rocky one.

He was born in San Angelo, Texas as a “military brat,” being the son of an Air Force tech sergeant. During his formative years his family bounced around between various places, including several stateside and overseas locations such as Maryland, Texas, Washington, Hawaii, and Japan. His family finally settled in El Paso, Texas following the completion of his father’s term of service in the U.S. Air Force.

Green describes his early life as “chaotic, and unstable.” “As soon as I would make a good friend, I'd have to leave,” he said.

This is an unfortunate fact of life for many military children, but Green had other issues to deal with as well – the eventual divorce of his parents and some extremely challenging anger issues. His mom thought his anger stemmed from the divorce, but Green says there were other concerns beyond the surface. 

Sgt. James Green, a native of El Paso, Texas, assigned to the 1st Armored Division Mobile Command Post Operational Detachment (1AD MCP-OD) stands outside his work location Dec. 30 at Task Force-Southeast Headquarters in Southeastern Afghanistan. Green credits his service in the U.S. Army for helping him change his life around for the better. Green is currently deployed to Afghanistan as a member of the Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 1st Armored Division supporting Operation Freedom's Sentinel and Operation Resolute Support. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Karen Lawshae)
Sgt. James Green, a native of El Paso, Texas, assigned to the 1st Armored Division Mobile Command Post Operational Detachment (1AD MCP-OD) stands outside his work location Dec. 30 at Task Force-Southeast Headquarters in Southeastern Afghanistan. Green credits his service in the U.S. Army for helping him change his life around for the better. Green is currently deployed to Afghanistan as a member of the Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 1st Armored Division supporting Operation Freedom's Sentinel and Operation Resolute Support. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Karen Lawshae)



“I was angry and I was diagnosed with ADHD [Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder]. I had a ton of energy and nowhere to put it,” he said. “I was a very destructive child; I was hard to deal with as a child.”

Green went through years of medication and therapy for his ADHD and anger issues, none of which seemed to help. One day he decided to stop taking the medication out of frustration and found other outlets to deal with his ADHD. Unfortunately, he states he turned to “illegal” means to deal with his issues.

Juvenile delinquency followed, with various forays into theft, drugs, and other illicit behavior. Green got a wake-up call, however, when he got arrested. The arrest was for a minor offense, but it was enough to make him want to turn his life around. He felt military service would help him find structure in his life, so he enlisted as a Soldier in the Texas Army National Guard in 2003 as a cable systems installer-maintainer and deployed to Iraq within a year of his enlistment.

During Green’s first deployment to Iraq, he gained additional clarity and focus through dealing with difficult circumstances. Green’s combat deployment to Iraq was harsh and violent. He was awarded an Army Commendation Medal with Valor device for his actions when his guard tower was attacked by a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) and small arms fire.

In a different incident, some Iraqi children were killed by a roadside IED that was intended to target him and his fellow Soldiers. The attack took place in a location where Green had been interacting with those same children the day before during a combat patrol, and the lone surviving child came to the gate of his unit’s outpost after the tragedy to inform him of what happened.

“It was at that point that all the anger I had been holding on to, all that energy was gone. It was a completely reality-shattering moment for me, and everything changed in my life,” said Green.

Green has since deployed three more times with the Texas Army National Guard: two more tours in Iraq, and he is currently deployed to Afghanistan, where he is an invaluable member of the communications section during his assignment at Task Force-Southeast, based in Southeastern Afghanistan. He assists with everything computer-related and keeps communications running smoothly throughout the task force as the help desk administrator.

Green is a proud member of the 1st Armored Division’s Mobile Command Post Operational Detachment, known as the 1AD MCP-OD, a relatively new Texas Army National Guard unit that is a company-level element for the 1st Armored Division Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, based at Fort Bliss, Texas.

1AD MCP-OD Soldiers work side-by-side with the division’s active duty Soldiers, providing essential skillsets needed during major training exercises and frequent deployments. It is a rare opportunity for a National Guard Soldier to work so closely intermingled with the active component.
 

Sgt. James Green, native of El Paso, Texas, assigned to the 1st Armored Division Mobile Command Post Operational Detachment (1AD MCP-OD), Texas Army National Guard, kisses his wife Hannah on their wedding day, May 12, 2017. Green's journey into the U.S. Army has been filled with challenges, but he values the lessons the Army has given him. Green is currently deployed to Afghanistan with the 1st Armored Division Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion in support of Operation Freedom's Sentinel and Resolute Support. (Photo Courtesy of Sgt. James Green)

Sgt. James Green, native of El Paso, Texas, assigned to the 1st Armored Division Mobile Command Post Operational Detachment (1AD MCP-OD), Texas Army National Guard, kisses his wife Hannah on their wedding day, May 12, 2017. Green's journey into the U.S. Army has been filled with challenges, but he values the lessons the Army has given him. Green is currently deployed to Afghanistan with the 1st Armored Division Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion in support of Operation Freedom's Sentinel and Resolute Support. (Photo Courtesy of Sgt. James Green)

“I really enjoy a lot of facets of it,” Green said. “We have a lot more reach and a lot more opportunity to do the jobs that we originally signed up to do.” Green also enjoys the MCP-OD’s frequent opportunities for training missions and overseas deployments.

In addition to his military achievements, Green has educational goals as well. He currently holds an Associate’s Degree in Information Systems & Security from Western Technical Institute, and aspires to earn both a Bachelor’s and a Master’s Degree in Cyber Security and Information Assurance in the future. He hopes to re-class his military occupational specialty (MOS) to 35 series, Intelligence, and hopes to get the opportunity to work within the Department of Defense in the future. As for his Texas Army National Guard career, Green plans to take full advantage of the unique opportunities afforded by his unit, saying “This MCP-OD will keep me until my military retirement.”

Guard members reflect on 2019, prepare for new decade

By Tech. Sgt. Erich B. Smith, National Guard Bureau

ARLINGTON, Va. – From cyber missions to training with international partners, supporting the war fight and responding to natural disasters, 2019 was a busy year for the National Guard.

The year began with Guard members helping out during numerous winter storms.

More than 450 New York National Guard members were on duty in January responding to a snowstorm that blanketed most of New York, including New York City. Many of those same troops were back at it when gusting windstorms in February meant clearing debris from roadways and conducting traffic control operations.

In March, massive flooding affected thousands of people in Nebraska, Missouri, Iowa and other Midwest states, prompting governors to activate more than 340 Guard members. Airmen from the Missouri Air National Guard's 139th Airlift Wing used sandbags to stem the flow of running water, while Soldiers with the Nebraska Army National Guard's Company B, 2nd Battalion, 135th Aviation Regiment, used CH-47 Chinook helicopters to drop bales of hay for displaced livestock.

"We pushed hay out of the back of one of our helicopters in order to feed cows that were stranded," said Air Force Maj. Gen. Daryl Bohac, the adjutant general of the Nebraska National Guard. "The floodwaters have trapped the cattle and isolated them."

In Colorado, winter storms came as late as April, and the Colorado National Guard activated 50 members to help first responders with transportation needs, using Humvees to get to hard-to-reach places.

"The [Colorado National Guard] is always ready, always there to assist our neighbors [and] to save lives, prevent suffering and mitigate great property damage," said Army Col. Scott Sherman, commander of Joint Task Force Centennial, which leads the Colorado Guard's response to domestic events.

As winter storms subsided, many Guard units shifted their attention to wildfires.

In May, Alaska Army National Guard fire suppression efforts included water bucket drops from UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters while ground troops provided traffic management and evacuation support using Humvees.

"Soldiers are manning traffic control positions 24/7," said Army Capt. Ralph Harris, commander of the Alaska Army National Guard's 297th Military Police Company. "Some folks were asked to leave their homes, but had to return to their homes first to prepare, so our MPs check them in and out for accountability and to ensure people are aware of the unsafe roads for travel."

More than 100 Soldiers and Airmen with the California National Guard's Task Force Rattlesnake cleared out potential fuels, such as dead trees, dry vegetation and other flammable material, throughout the state.

"Everyone's really motivated and excited to be a part of this project," said Army 2nd Lt. Jonathan Green, the officer in charge of a firefighting team with the California Army National Guard's 115th Regional Support Group. "We're excited to hit the ground, make progress and hopefully prevent future fires from happening."

But wildfires and snowstorms weren't the only natural disasters that tested the Guard's readiness. As the active hurricane season arrived, Guard members were primed to respond.

After Hurricane Dorian ravaged the Bahamas, Airmen from the Tennessee Air National Guard's 118th Wing provided imagery analysis, including damage assessments, infrastructure reports and identification of potentially hazardous material.

"I am proud of our Airmen for their tireless efforts to respond in the affected areas and from right here in Nashville, Tennessee," said Air Force Lt. Col. Aaron Wilson, commander of the 118th Intelligence Group. "This is what we train for. This is why America has a National Guard: to save lives at home, to fight our nation's wars and to build partnerships."

More than 5,500 Guard members were on duty, positioned to respond in the aftermath of Dorian.

Air Force Gen. Joseph Lengyel, chief of the National Guard Bureau, highlighted how Guard members were ahead of the storm as it made its way toward landfall.

"[Guard members] will be poised to work and ready for their communities and states – from the inception of preparation, through the response, through the recovery – until the [local first] responders can handle this without any military assistance," said Lengyel.

But first responders weren't the only partners the Guard had in 2019.

The Guard saw continued growth and activity with the State Partnership Program, a Defense Department priority that pairs Guard elements with partner nations worldwide.

The Nebraska National Guard was paired with Rwanda's military, marking the 78th partnership in the SPP.

"I know that the training opportunities, cultural experiences and professional exchange of ideas that the SPP makes possible will benefit both the Nebraska National Guard and Rwanda for years to come," said Bohac, the adjutant general of the Nebraska Guard.

During the year, other Guard elements worked with their SPP partners.

New York Air National Guard members worked with South African firefighters near Cape Town, South Africa, honing their skills battling brush fires. The effort was part of the partnership between the New York National Guard and the South African National Defence Force.

"It was a great experience to be part of an international partnership and to be able to learn from other firefighters as well as show them what we are capable of," said Air Force Staff Sgt. Jodi Ruther, a firefighter with the New York Air Guard's 109th Airlift Wing.

She was pleased to see many women involved in the training.

"Hopefully, encouraging more women to join firefighting [teams] will show that we are just as capable as the men in the world of wildland firefighting," Ruther said.

In Estonia, military police and security forces from the Maryland National Guard participated in Spring Storm, an annual exercise conducted by Estonia's military that focused on convoy security, detainee operations and tactical patrols.

"This is not a typical training environment for the military police detachment," said Spc. Angelique Helkowski, with the Maryland Army National Guard's 290th Military Police Company. "When we train stateside, we do the same things repetitively. This gets us out into nature and relates more to a deployed environment."

For Tech. Sgt. Kevin Miner, a security forces specialist with the Maryland Air National Guard's 175th Wing, working with a mixed group of U.S. and Estonian soldiers meant his squad had to operate more efficiently and effectively.

"Although my squad had never trained together, we were able to mobilize as a team," Miner said. "It was a very easy transition, and we had unit cohesion immediately."

The year also had its share of milestones and anniversaries.

In early June, aircrews from the Kentucky Air National Guard's 123rd Airlift Wing, flying two C-130 Hercules aircraft, participated in the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion in Normandy, France. The aircrew performed seven flyovers in the C-130s and helped airdrop nearly 1,000 U.S. and Allied paratroopers as part of the commemoration.

"This was an incredible opportunity," said Chief Master Sgt. Jeff Brown, the loadmaster superintendent at the wing. "To be involved with something so significant – I never thought that in my career I would get to do something like this. We have some young guys with us, too, and it has been great for them to see what it takes to go into a large exercise like this."

In North Carolina, a Virginia Army National Guard artillery unit took part in a unique live-fire exercise: firing from a waterborne landing craft.

Though artillery crews employed their guns from landing craft during the D-Day invasion in World War II, the tactic has not often been used since that era. 

Spc. Jerrad Nicholson, with the Indiana Army National Guard's 1st Squadron, 152nd Cavalry Regiment, leads Soldiers into a room during Slovak Shield 2019, a training exercise in Lešt, Slovakia, Nov. 10, 2019, as part of the Defense Department's State Partnership Program. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Senior Airman Jonathan Padish)
Spc. Jerrad Nicholson, with the Indiana Army National Guard's 1st Squadron, 152nd Cavalry Regiment, leads Soldiers into a room during Slovak Shield 2019, a training exercise in Lešt, Slovakia, Nov. 10, 2019, as part of the Defense Department's State Partnership Program. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Senior Airman Jonathan Padish)

Army Staff Sgt. Ryan Turner, with the Virginia Army Guard's 1st Battalion, 111th Field Artillery Regiment, said the unusual setting for the artillery exercise presented challenges.

Every time a shell was fired, he said, the recoil from the shot would displace the howitzer on the landing craft.

"Being on the boat, we had to situate sandbags behind the tires [on the howitzer] as well as the spade," said Turner. "What we've rigged up seems to work."

The year also marked the 30th anniversary of the National Guard Counterdrug Program, which has Guard members working with law enforcement agencies to combat the flow of illegal drugs into the United States.

"This program allows the Citizen-Soldier [and Airman] to support law enforcement agencies down to our communities, making it a solid grassroots initiative," said Army Col. Miguel Torres, the head coordinator for the Texas National Guard Joint Counterdrug Task Force, one of the first units to conduct counter-narcotics support missions with law enforcement. "Guardsmen can help do the nuts and bolts of things and allow law enforcement agencies to put people behind bars."

In July, Army Lt. Gen. Daniel Hokanson took the reins of the Army National Guard.

Hokanson, previously the National Guard Bureau's vice chief, said it's the Soldiers who make leading the Army Guard worthwhile.

"With all the changes nearly four centuries have brought with them, what has made the National Guard great remains the same – that's our people," Hokanson said, adding that close to 30,000 Army Guard Soldiers are currently deployed worldwide.

Air National Guard members deployed as well, fulfilling a variety of roles, such as providing tactical airlift throughout the U.S. Central Command area of operations.

C-130 aircrews from the Montana Air National Guard executed nonstop missions flying personnel, equipment and supplies to established bases and austere locations.

"It's a very consistent flow here. But that's the beautiful thing about the C-130 – it can land on short runways," said Air Force Lt. Col. David Smith, commander of the 779th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron. "Our flying schedule is extremely busy."

Meanwhile, Soldiers with the North Carolina Army National Guard's 30th Armored Brigade Combat Team operated M2A2 Bradley Fighting Vehicles in the Middle East in support of Operation Inherent Resolve.

"We are here as American Soldiers, one team, to do what our nation needs us to do," said Army Col. Robert Bumgardner, commander of the 30th ABCT. "We didn't come here to sit and watch. We came here to be part of the fight."

While the Guard's support of the war fight continued, cybersecurity activities in Texas reflected a different battle.

"In May, one county – Jackson County – got hit with ransomware," said Army Maj. Gen. Tracy Norris, the adjutant general of the Texas National Guard. "It disrupted county services. People weren't able to transfer property, the police doing a background check weren't able to pull up that information."

Texas Guard cyber teams were called in.

"We had people out there within 12 hours to do an assessment on what had happened and to get that county back online," said Norris. "We helped them get to a recovery point where their IT professionals could come in and get the county back to where it could deliver services."

Later in the year, the Ohio National Guard forged ties with the University of Akron to open a "cyber range" – a virtual training ground and testing site to enhance cybersecurity.

"This cyber range for us is a big deal," said Army Col. Daniel Shank, the assistant adjutant general for the Ohio Army Guard. "The cyber threat is changing, and we have to change with it. The military understands the threat, and we've actually changed our doctrine."

Lengyel said the more than 3,900 troops that make up the Guard's cyber element include traditional part-time units and full-time units that work directly for U.S. Cyber Command.

"The Air National Guard always provides two [cyber protection teams], and on the Army side, the Army [National Guard] always provides one, that are continuously mobilized and doing duty for U.S. Cyber Command and the cyber mission force," said Lengyel.

He said the Guard must continue to meet the challenges the cyber domain presents.

"When I first joined the National Guard, cyber was not part of our vocabulary," he said. "Now, it's one of our daily battlegrounds."

The National Guard celebrated its 383rd birthday on Dec. 13, the same day two Army Guard members became the first female enlisted Soldiers to complete the challenging U.S. Army Ranger School.

Army Staff Sgt. Jessica Smiley, a military police officer with the South Carolina Army National Guard, and Army Sgt. Danielle Farber, a medical instructor with the Pennsylvania Army National Guard, joined a small group of other women who have successfully negotiated the iconic school.

Farber attributed her success to seeing herself as a Soldier first.

"Come into it knowing you're going to be doing things that every other male that comes through here has to do," said Farber. "Don't come through here and expect any sort of special treatment, because it won't happen."

For Smiley, putting on the Ranger tab meant never giving up.

"My mindset going into this was to leave 100 percent on the table and never have a regret or look back and say, 'I should have pushed harder or I should have done something different,'" said Smiley. "I gave 100 percent. I did everything that I could, and now here I am."

With specialized training options, multiple mission sets and continued deployments, the Guard is an important part of the joint force, said Lengyel.

"Right now, about 40,000 Guard members are serving (overseas) worldwide," he said. "I wish I could visit with and thank every single one. It's an extraordinary force that has contributed more than 1.1 million individual overseas deployments since 9/11."

The Guard continues to stand ready as a new decade approaches.

"It is imperative the National Guard remains an operational force, as part of our Army and Air Force, that helps protect and secure our interests at home and abroad," Lengyel said.

This article was originally published by the National Guard Bureau at: https://go.usa.gov/xpMKQ

From the Top December 2019

Words from Brigadier General Greg Chaney

Brigadier General Greg Chaney is the Deputy Adjutant General - Army for the Texas National Guard

As we enter into the holiday season, I want each of you to pause and take time to reflect on what brought you into the profession of arms to begin with. We get so caught up in day-to-day tasks that years can go by in a blink, and we look up in amazement at all that has transpired. This same phenomenon can often result in us getting off track and forgetting where we were going in the first place. Taking time away from work to connect with family and friends helps us reconnect to our roots. It is important to re-discover your motivation to get up and do the good work you do day in and day out. Brigadier General Greg Chaney is the Deputy Adjutant General - Army for the Texas National Guard

If you are a leader in this organization, I want you to encourage your Soldiers, Airmen, State Guardsmen, and civilian employees to reset, and take care of themselves and their families. By the very nature of the environment we operate in, there are no “slow” seasons, no set routine breaks in the tempo of effort. We therefore must create those for ourselves when and where we can. 

Here in Texas we have a deep heritage of military service. Many of us signed up to serve because of this legacy. Following in the tradition of duty to country that we have had demonstrated to us by family members and those we look up to, has led many of us to where we are today. Throughout our history, the Texas Military Forces have consistently remained the most capable and mission ready forces in the Nation.  This distinction is indicative of our hard work and neighborly attitude. When disaster strikes at home or abroad, the Nation turns to Texas for personnel, equipment, and expertise. Thank you for following in the footsteps of our veterans of the generations before us.  It is an honor to serve here with each of you. 

Stay safe out there, take care of each other, and have a happy and healthy holiday. 

Duty Honor Texas 

 

The First Big Test

 

Story by Chief Warrant Officer 3 Janet Schmelzer, Texas State Guard

The Texas Defense Guard, created by the Texas Legislature in 1941 and renamed the Texas State Guard in 1943, was the state military unit responsible for protecting Texas, its people and property during World War II.  With the National Guard federalized, the Texas Defense Guard was on the front line to respond to attacks by foreign enemies, domestic civil disturbances and natural and man-made disasters.  Within a few months of its official existence, the Texas Defense Guard would face its first big test as a defense force.

In the Caribbean Sea near Cuba, a tropical disturbance started brewing on Sept. 15, 1941.  As the storm moved into the Gulf of Mexico, weather conditions were conducive to a tropical depression forming.  By Sept. 21, the storm had grown into a hurricane bearing down on the Texas Gulf Coast, headed for Port O’Connor or Matagorda.  On Sept. 23, the storm made an unexpected turn, placing Freeport, Houston and surrounding areas in its path.

Preparing for the hurricane, local authorities along the Texas Gulf Coast began requesting the support of the Texas Defense Guard.  On Sept. 23, the Guard activated 700 members, the first being from the 2nd, 7th, 22nd and 48th Marine battalions and the 2nd Squadron, Aviation Branch.  Battalion and squadron commanders ordered their men to bring their personal sidearms while the Guard would provide Enfield rifles with fixed bayonets and shotguns.  The Texas Adjutant General, Brig. Gen. John Watt Page, instructed all commanders that “their mission is to aid and support in every way possible civil authorities.”

When the hurricane made landfall, bringing rising tides, heavy rain and destructive winds up to 95 mph, Houston officials knew they did not have a sufficient number of policemen, firemen or city employees to patrol the city and protect property and people. On Sept. 23, the mayor and police chief assigned guard members from the 48th Battalion to patrol downtown on foot, ride along in Houston Police Department squad cars or observe from Houston Electric Company buses.  Armed with rifles with bayonets and sidearms, they protected department stores from looters.  At the coliseum, which was a shelter for evacuees, they cleared streets where sightseers caused traffic congestion by driving around staring at evacuees arriving on trucks.  Keeping streets clear around the coliseum was especially urgent because National Guard convoys were bringing soldiers and airmen from airfields and armories threatened by the storm.   

One sergeant-in-charge commended his men for their selfless service during the storm.    “Not one of them flinched from their duty and were eager to step off the bus in water up to their knees to reach their stations of duty,” he said.

The 2nd Battalion patrolled downtown Houston, stood guard to protect people from stepping on downed high-tension wires and broken glass and helped fifty women and children seeking shelter at the Houston Light Guard Armory.  

The 22nd Battalion braved wind, rain and flooding to make dramatic rescues near the Houston municipal airport.  Two guard members drove fifty miles to rescue a woman trapped in her home.  Notified that a family was stranded in a car two blocks from the airport, five guard members went into action.  Combatting the 95 mph wind and tying themselves together, they pushed forward on foot.  As they made their way down the road, they saw a man trying to hold on to a tree branch to keep from drowning in a flooded ditch.  One guard member put the man on his shoulders and carried him back to the airport.  The rest continued on, having to crawl as the force of the wind made walking impossible.  They finally reached the family of nine men, women and children.  They could not take all of them at once.  The guard members made two trips during the rescue, carrying four children on their shoulders on the first rescue and on the second carrying two women and two elderly men while a younger man held on to the ropes of the guard members.  

In another rescue near the airport, guard members received a message that a family was in grave danger as flood waters rushed into their home six blocks away.  Guard members struggled down the road on foot in rain so heavy and wind so fierce that they could not see or breathe.  This rescue team first stopped to rescue a boy and his grandfather who had suffered a heart attack.  Putting the old man on his shoulders, one guard member with the boy holding on to his belt returned to the airport.  Once there, the guard member administered first aid while waiting for the ambulance to arrive.  The rest of the rescue team, wading through flooded prairies and roads in waist-high water, found the house and brought the family members to the airport.  In all, the 22nd Battalion at the airport rescued 100 people between Sept. 23 and 24.

The 43rd and 9th battalions in Port Arthur mobilized to stop traffic at the seawall, maintain order in hotel lobbies and protect local schools filled with hundreds of evacuees.  At the Gulfport Boiler and Welding Works guard members kept watch over the shipyards and assisted workers trying to save equipment and materials from flooding waters.  

Although escaping the impact of the storm, Corpus Christi had requested the 28th Battalion to protect downtown and north beach businesses from looters.  Guard members with Enfield rifles closed the Nueces Bay causeway and prevented traffic at the seawall and water gates.

Radio operators from the Texas Defense Guard maintained communications by radio throughout the storm.  At Palacios, 1st Lt. J. C. Johnson of Houston, who served in the radio division, worked throughout the night of Sept. 23 and early morning of Sept. 24 and was one of only a few radios that continuously broadcast along the Texas coast.

On the morning of Sept. 24, the final mission of the Texas Defense Guard was to survey the coast and report back the damage.  The 2nd Squadron, Aviation Branch, received the mission.  Capt. N. E. Meador piloted the first plane to leave any Houston airport for the previous thirty hours.  He flew over oil fields, several towns and airfields, such as Freeport and Ellington Field.  He reported that fields and structures along the coast sustained significant damage and flooding, the road to Freeport was impassable and the town of Kemah was under water.  The second pilot, Capt. W. H. Cocke, flew over Houston and the lowlands, Liberty, Galveston Bay and Galveston.  The third pilot, Capt. Bernie Groce, checked out Kemah because the Red Cross had sent a message that people needed rescuing, but he found no one there.   All pilots relayed reports of total devastation.

The Texas Defense Guard ended its mission on Sept. 24.   In their first disaster response, guard members proved they were ready as a state defense force.  They were proud, and their morale soared.  They had earned the respect of the civilian authorities, local law enforcement and the public.  “I cannot speak too highly of the work of everyone concerned.  If the Texas Defense Guard had not mobilized and contributed their service, we would not have been able to handle the situation alone,” remarked Houston Chief of Police Ray Ashworth.

Texas Defense Guard members were men of selfless service, bravery and dedication to serving fellow Texans during the 1941 hurricane. Those qualities remain in the character and soul of every guard member who serves today in the Texas State Guard.