Texas Guard shares response mission with International visitors

In this image released by Joint Task Force 136 (Maneuver Enhancement Brigade), Brigade Commander Col. Lee Schnell briefs delegates of the Swedish Armed Forces International Centre during their visit to the Round Rock Armed Forces Reserve Center Oct. 28, 2014. The group of service members from Sweden, Finland, and Norway toured various military and civil agency sites throughout central Texas to learn more about the National Guard approach to disaster response.
In this image released by Joint Task Force 136 (Maneuver Enhancement Brigade), Brigade Commander Col. Lee Schnell briefs delegates of the Swedish Armed Forces International Centre during their visit to the Round Rock Armed Forces Reserve Center Oct. 28, 2014. The group of service members from Sweden, Finland, and Norway toured various military and civil agency sites throughout central Texas to learn more about the National Guard approach to disaster response.

 

Story by Master Sgt. Daniel Griego

 ROUND ROCK, Texas - "We are only part of the solution," said Swedish Armed Forces Lt. Col. Conny Hansen. "We  have to learn more about how to interact with other agencies: civilian agencies, non-governmental organizations,  governmental organizations."

 When natural and man-made disasters test the response plans of a region, interagency cooperation is instrumental in  the success of rescue efforts. Militaries around the world, in order to mitigate suffering and save lives, are adopting  comprehensive plans that integrate the armed forces with local civilian departments. Such is the case with the Swedish  Armed Forces and surrounding militaries, as they enhanced their approach to disaster relief by learning from their  counterparts within the Texas National Guard.

 "This year we decided to have a look at civil-military cooperation as a focus," said Hansen, who serves as the officer in  charge of peace operations for the Swedish Armed Forces International Centre (SWEDINT), "and come here to Texas to  look at Domestic Operations."

 From Oct. 24-30, delegates from Sweden, Norway, and Finland toured central Texas military and civilian sites to learn  about our methods of consequence management. Location stops included Camp Mabry, the headquarters for the  Texas Military Forces; the Round Rock Armed Forces Reserve Center, home station for Joint Task Force 136  (Maneuver Enhancement Brigade); the Texas Department of Public Safety offices in Austin; the Texas State Capitol;  and Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas. 

 "We have this fact-finding trip to get the picture about the United States or the Texas Military Forces' comprehensive approach," said Finland Army Maj. Anssi Yrjölä, a course director with SWEDINT, "and how they work together with the civilian sector and the military. This is one good example how to conduct comprehensive approach."

The visiting officers coordinate trips like this specifically for the benefit of their centre instructors at SWEDINT, who are tasked with integrating military assets with local civilian agencies in their home countries.

"We teach individual staff officers, mainly officers and senior NCOs, and prepare them for international missions," said Hansen. "Today's contemporary operating environment forces you to have a comprehensive approach. You have to interact with different agencies, like you are here with Domestic Operations."

How the National Guard works alongside civil authorities during emergencies was a defining theme of the trip. As the Guard outfit responsible for the FEMA Region VI Homeland Response Force mission, Joint Task Force 136 (Maneuver Enhancement Brigade) was a perfect fit for what the SWEDINT delegates were looking to discuss. 

"I think this is a very unique and very professional unit," said Swedish Navy Lt. Cmdr. Harry Jaantola, a NATO expert with the Peace Support Operations Department. "It's a very, very solid, built-up system; the cooperation they do with the civilian local authorities concerning regular meetings and presentations and stuff like that." 

For the members of JTF-136 (MEB), the visit was an opportunity to highlight common goals and improve everyone's capabilities.

"Visits like this enhance the global response community," said Col. Lee Schnell, the commander for JTF-36 (MEB). "When we can share our best practices and develop international relationships, everybody wins."

The discussions were augmented by JTF-136 (MEB) displaying a mock deployment of select elements within its 6th Civil Support Team and the 6th CBRNE Enhanced Response Force Package.

"Visiting with delegates of the Swedish International Centre was a great learning experience," said Spc. Karla Sosawong, an administrative Soldier with the 6th CERFP. "We had the opportunity to share with them what our role is during Domestic Operations and listen to their techniques; it was a great way to integrate efforts."

These efforts will ultimately help to standardize global response operations, fostering collaboration when disaster strikes.

"It's worth it, definitely," said Jaantola. "This has been a great, excellent visit in all ways."

Texas State Guard 8th Regiment Provides Support to Wings Over Houston

Date: November 1, 2014

By: SSG Malana Nall, PAO - 8th REGT

HOUSTON, TX – Soldiers from the Texas State Guard's 8th Regiment put its skills and training to the test at the 30th Annual Wings Over Houston Air Show. Wings Over Houston is one of the top air shows in the United States in its category and attracts festival goers from throughout Houston and around the globe. This year’s performers featured the US Navy’s Blue Angels Flight Demonstration Team which excited the crowd.

This was the 28th time support has been provided to the event and the soldiers were well versed in the needs and requirements of the Texans who attended.  Over 100 soldiers from the Regiment were on hand at Ellington Field to assist members of the Commemorative Air Force, and Houston Police Department with crowd safety and control. Troops manned the flight line in an effort to keep visitors out of the pathway of taxing aircraft, provided gate security, bag inspections and directional crowd control for record crowd of an estimated 95,000 visitors. 1LT Lance Herrington stated; “We were proud to be able to assist so many Texans in enjoying the show and many kids enjoyed our set up to try on military gear and get their picture taken.”  Additionally members of the TXSG Medical Brigade assisted in the treatment of staff and visitors to the air show with medical needs.   Overall over 3500 man hours were provided in what has become one of the biggest events of the year for the regiment.

Photo Credit to: SSG Malana Nall, PAO - 8th REGT   - SPC Mark Renfro receives a high five from a visitor to the 30th Annual Wings Over Houston Air Show.
Photo Credit to: SSG Malana Nall, PAO - 8th REGT   - SPC Mark Renfro receives a high five from a visitor to the 30th Annual Wings Over Houston Air Show. 
Photo Credit to: SSG Malana Nall, PAO - 8th REGT - PV2 Nicholas Ognanovich talks with visitors while keeping them safe from moving aircraft on the flight line of the 30th Annual Wings Over Houston Air Show.
Photo Credit to: SSG Malana Nall, PAO - 8th REGT - PV2 Nicholas Ognanovich talks with visitors while keeping them safe from moving aircraft on the flight line of the 30th Annual Wings Over Houston Air Show.

Ghosts, ghouls and goblins, Oh my! JFHQ’s FRG hosts Halloween party

The Joint Force Headquarters Family Readiness Group, part of the Texas Army National Guard, hosted its first unit-wide Spook-tacular Fall Festival at Camp Mabry, in Austin.
Texas Army National Guardsmen, family and friends dress up for the Joint Task Force Headquarters’ Spook-tacular Halloween party held at Camp Mabry, Oct. 26, 2014. Te event was organized by the unit’s Family Readiness Group to help promote family and unit fun. (U.S. Army National Guard courtesy photo/Released))

Commentary by: The Texas Military Forces’ UPAR Class

AUSTIN, Texas – On Oct. 26, 2014, the Joint Force Headquarters Family Readiness Group, part of the Texas Army National Guard, hosted its first unit-wide Spook-tacular Fall Festival at Camp Mabry, in Austin. 

"The intent of this event is that everyone has fun," said Joint Force Headquarters commander, Maj. David E. Tyler. “It’s for the families.”

The festival included trick-or-treating, water dunking, pie throwing and other fall festivities.

"This is the very first Halloween party they’ve had," Tyler said. "I told a few enlisted NCOs that this is what I wanted to do, they jumped on board, made some suggestions, had a lot of good ideas and here we are."

The unit’s family readiness group organizers were the ones who set up the event.  Maria Daniels, FRG leader and wife of Sgt. 1st Class Donny Daniels, expressed that this event would not have been possible without her 20 volunteers. 

"A lot of volunteer hours went into this event," Daniels said "I had a lot of good help. I couldn’t ask for better soldiers than here at Joint Force Headquarters."

The FRG exists to support unit troops and families in case of emergencies as well as to increase communication among soldiers. 

"The FRG is so important because we are able to have these events and involve our families," said Tyler. "So many people think we just set up tents and shoot weapons, but that’s not all. I like to have these events to eliminate a bit of stress, boost morale and let the soldiers have a good time with their families."

Rosa Soto, the unit’s FRG co-leader not only helps set up events, but gets personal satisfaction from them as well.

"I get a great, awesome feeling just by seeing everyone smiling and having a good time, enjoying their family and friends," Soto said.

Those contributing to this story include: Story by: 1st Lt. Ira LeRoy, , 1st Lt. Tyler Ahrems, 2nd Lt. Greg Nedell, Sgt. First Class Thomas Jones, Staff Sgt. Santiago Nuno and Sgt. Terry Maldonado.

Ghosts, ghouls and goblins, Oh my! JFHQ's FRG Hosts Halloween party “I get a great, awesome feeling just by seeing everyone smiling and having a good time, enjoying their family and friends,” Soto said. “A lot of volunteer hours went into this event,” Daniels said “I had a lot of good help. I couldn’t ask for better soldiers than here at Joint Force Headquarters.”

Memoirs from a Deployment

Memoirs from a Deployment

8/19

It's always exciting when seasons start to change. That first cool breeze puts a nice spring in everyone's step. Normally, I'd be scouring all of my favorite stores, putting together a lovely fall wardrobe in the process.

Here in Afghanistan, I'm just happy to not have sweat dripping down my back when I walk to the bathroom. The days are getting shorter. Instead of the sun blazing up at four am, it's peaking above the horizon around 0530. And at night, it's almost chilly. I've made friends with some of the most unlikely people, learned to bond with those who I did not care for at first, and also to just let things be when there's no hope for common ground.

At the end of the day, we are still a team. Sometimes part of being a team player is just to keep your mouth shut and pick your battles. And most battles aren't even worth it in the long run.

Our new UK team has blended seamlessly with us, which is a blessing. Whether we are horsing around during slow times or landing several trauma patients at once, everyone has been ready to lend a hand or tell a good joke. Today there was a tiny lizard on the unit, crawling around while the doc inserted a central line into a patient. We all had a good laugh about it before someone caught it and let it outside. It makes for a good rest of the tour.

We have 57 days left. The end is in sight!

Part 11 of a 13 part miniseries following the personal memoirs of a deployed soldier

Guard skeet shooters support Texas Boys Scouts

In this image released by Joint Task Force 136 (Maneuver Enhancement Brigade), Col. Lee Schnell (left) and Brig. Gen. Patrick Hamilton (right) participate in the 2014 Sporting Clays Classic at the Texas Disposal Systems Exotic Game Ranch in Buda, Texas, Oct. 16, 2014. The annual event hosts teams of military veterans competing in clay shooting and raises money for the Boy Scouts of America. (Photo by Master Sgt. Daniel Griego)
In this image released by Joint Task Force 136 (Maneuver Enhancement Brigade), Col. Lee Schnell (left) and Brig. Gen. Patrick Hamilton (right) participate in the 2014 Sporting Clays Classic at the Texas Disposal Systems Exotic Game Ranch in Buda, Texas, Oct. 16, 2014. The annual event hosts teams of military veterans competing in clay shooting and raises money for the Boy Scouts of America. (Photo by Master Sgt. Daniel Griego)

 

Story by Master Sgt. Daniel Griego

AUSTIN, Texas - On Thursday, Oct. 16, the Boy Scouts of America, the Texas Army National Guard, and corporate sponsors all teamed up at the Texas Disposal Systems Exotic Game Ranch to support disadvantaged scouts throughout central Texas. The Sporting Clays Classic, held annually in Austin, Texas, is a fundraising effort wherein businesses sponsor "hero teams" to participate in a skeet shooting competition, with proceeds benefiting the Capitol Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America.

"We look for ways to make it possible for every boy to be in scouts," said Doug Cooper, the Development Director for the Austin Area Boy Scouts, "and this is one of the ways we do it. We've been doing it for 22 years; it's the oldest Sporting Clays tournament in Austin, and I think it's the best."

This year's event featured more than 200 shooters competing in five-person teams sponsored by local businesses such as Pinpoint Strategies and Sabre Commercial. Teams were made up of National Guardsmen from Joint Task Force 136 (Maneuver Enhancement Brigade) out of Round Rock, Texas, as well as other veterans and wounded warriors from throughout Texas. 

"[The sponsors] are very passionate about giving back and giving back to people who are important in giving to our country," said Ryan Leahy, the co-chair of the Boy Scouts Clay Shoot. "One of those ways is to sponsor a heroes team, which could include the National Guard or other veterans. That's what they do and that's what this is about. It allows the sponsor to give to a great cause while helping some of our national heroes."

Sponsors have the option of supporting an entire team or an individual service member. The day's activities included clay shoots, flurry shoots, Gnat shooting, social dinner, and an auction at the end of the night. 

"A company gets to do a good turn to both the Boy Scouts and the military," said Cooper. "And of course the Soldiers get to come out here and shoot and we're really happy to have them out here."

This is the second year for JTF-136 (MEB) to participate in the Sporting Clays Classic, having first competed last year after their deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

"Last year, the 136th MEB returned home from Afghanistan," said Lt. Col. John Crawson, the chief of staff for JTF-136 (MEB). "A couple of months after we returned back, I got a note from Col. (Ret.) Te Starr that there was a Boy Scout shooting clay event going on down at Texas Disposal Systems Exotic Ranch. Corporate Sponsorship had sponsored five hero teams. So we fielded five teams and brought them down and had a great time."

Crawson, who coordinated Guard participation again this year, has strong ties to the Boy Scouts of America and involving the National Guard in community events like this.

"I've been around scouting programs since I was a little boy and now I've got two sons in scouting. It's a great thing; it's a great way for us as Guardsmen to give back into our community. Proceeds that are raised in this event today go back into the capital area council specifically to sponsor some of our disadvantaged children that live inside our council."

The event raises $75 thousand to $100 thousand each year in service of more than 24,000 scouts across 15 counties. Proceeds target underprivileged Boy Scouts in hard-to-serve areas, allowing them to engage events they might otherwise miss.

"Next summer," said Cooper, "there's going to be boys climbing mountains in new Mexico or going to a Boy Scout camp down in lost pines near Bastrop. And they're going to be there because of this event."

Guard service goes beyond disasters

In this image, Round Rock youths enjoy the military tactical vehicles during the city's annual Touch a Truck event, held Oct. 25, 2014, at Old Settlers Park.
In this image, Round Rock youths enjoy the military tactical vehicles during the city's annual Touch a Truck event, held Oct. 25, 2014, at Old Settlers Park. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Jennifer Atkinson)

 

 Story by Staff Sgt. Jennifer Atkinson

 ROUND ROCK, Texas - During a hurricane or other natural disaster, National Guard vehicles are familiar sights in local  communities, giving aid to Texans in a time of need. It's not often those same trucks and equipment are standing still  long enough for community members to climb in, take a good look around and chat with Guardsmen from the Round  Rock-based Joint Task Force 136 (Maneuver Enhancement Brigade).

 At the Touch A Truck event, sponsored by the City of Round Rock and staged at Old Settlers Park, children of all ages  got a chance to get in an armored cargo truck and Humvee. With an eagle's eye view of the people on the ground, kids  and adults got a taste of what driving one of these vehicles might be like. 

 “These sure have changed from my day,” said Robert Gomez, laughing. “I barely recognize these as Army trucks! I'm  really glad I got a chance to bring my family out here to see something like what I used to drive.” Gomez, a Houston  native visiting family for the weekend, recalls lines of trucks moving supplies after Hurricane Ike. 

 “The kids remember that too,” he said. “They remember seeing the trucks lined up in our neighborhood, before we got  power back. We got a lot of ice from you guys then, off the back of trucks like these.”

 Honking the truck horn was an especially popular activity, as was climbing the rear steel ladder to reach the bed of the  track.

 On the same day, members of the brigade's 436th Chemical Detachment, also located at the Armed Forces Reserve  Center in Round Rock, supported the city's “Halloween at the Y" event, allowing visitors to explore a decontamination  trailer and chemical protection gear, such as gloves, suits, and a gas mask.

 "This weekend, the 136th MEB supported the citizens of Round Rock at two different events," said Capt. Stephen  Houck, commander of the headquarters company. "This allows us a great opportunity to give back to a community that  gives us so much."

 Although this is the first year for the National Guard to support Halloween at the Y, the unit has a long history of  providing vehicles and personnel to the Touch a Truck event, fostering a long-term working relationship with the city.  Next to the trailer at the Round Rock Dell Diamond parking lot, where "Halloween at the Y" took place, kids climbed in  and out of a green Humvee.

“This is a great thing to do,” said Spc. Joshua Doucet, a member of the 436th Chemical Company. “Even though we've never had to use the equipment in a real situation, it's important to be out here so people can see us and can see we're always working to make sure we're ready to help.”

Talking to families and children about the mobile showers in the trailer, and the varied pieces of gear on the tables, Doucet was all smiles.

"I love this,” he said. “We get out and meet people from the community and show them we're ready to do our jobs, that we're here for them if they need us.”

Memoirs from a Deployment

Memoirs from a Deployment

8/10

My aunt passed away today. 
I found out via email from my mother. It wasn't necessarily unexpected, as she had been sick with lupus for many years, but it did catch me off guard. In the military, you can only go home on emergency leave for certain situations. When my husband got sick during my Iraq deployment, I got to go home. Anyone in your immediate family warrants emergency leave - an aunt does not. I wish I could go be with my family, particularly my cousin, whom I'm very close to, but it's not an option. Even the guys here who are expecting babies back home don't usually get to go home for the birth.

My little stepsister is also expecting her first child. I wish I could be more of a part of that, as well.

While this deployment is not as hard as others, we are not getting mortared every other day like some places, we are cut off from our families and certain conveniences. We learn to rely on each other for support and companionship during hard times and to enjoy the simplest of pleasures. For example, although I can't physically be there with my family, I can email and call occasionally, and I'll be able to send flowers.

We have 71 more days here. The countdown is in full effect. I'm ready to go back to my real life, sleep in my nice bed, and wear cute shoes again, but I also dread how lonely it might feel. As difficult as it has been to get used to living in close proximity with so many people, it will also be difficult to return to my empty apartment. At least I have a dog.

Part 10 of a 13 part miniseries following the personal memoirs of a deployed soldier

SALITRE participants bring smiles to Chilean children

Senior Master Sgt. Arellano gives a Chilean girl a gift ans a smile during a visit to the Children's ward at the Leonado Guzman Hospital
Senior Master Sgt. Mike Arellano from the 149th Fighter Wing, Texas Air National Guard, gives a Chilean girl a gift and a smile during a visit the children’s ward at the Leonardo Guzman Regional Hospital, Antofagasta, Chile, Oct. 11. Salitre is a Chilean-led exercise where the U.S., Chile, Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay, focus on increasing interoperability between allied nations. (Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Elizabeth Gilbert/released) 

 

 Story by Senior Master Sgt. Elizabeth Gilbert
 Texas Air National Guard Public Affairs
 

 10/16/2014 - ANTOFAGASTA, Chile -- More than 30 military members from five countries visited the Leonardo Guzman  Regional Hospital children's ward in Chile, Oct. 11, as part of a community outreach event for SALITRE 2014.
 
 The U.S., Chile, Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay are participating in this year's exercise, which is being hosted by Chile at  Cerro Moreno Air Force Base, Oct. 6-17. The military members brought gifts and spent time visiting with the hospitalized  children.
 
 "We did a good thing here. Hospitalized children can always use a little sunshine and a friendly smile to help their healing  process," said Col. (Dr.) Richard Vatt, flight medicine, 136th Medical Group, Texas Air National Guard, a traditional  guardsman, who is in Chile augmenting for the 149th Fighter Wing flight doctor during SALITRE 2014., "Parents all over  the world love their children, it's not any different here in Chile."
 
 The hospital visit is considered to be a social responsibility by the Chilean air force, who hosted the visit. It is a way to  establish community relations between the local residents and the military.
 
 "This visit [to Leonardo Guzman Regional Hospital] is to show our local community that SALITRE 2014 is not all about  combat missions, but a humanitarian mission as well," said Vilma Vega Berrios, internal communications, Chilean air  force. "It is our way of connecting with our communities."
 
Among the military members visiting the hospital was Maj. Andrew Davenport, F-16 pilot, 149th Fighter Wing, Texas Air National Guard, a traditional guardsman and a full time internal-medicine doctor in private practice, who speaks fluent Spanish. He comfortably communicated with the children, understanding their complaints and responding with a kind smile and words of encouragement.
 
The military members from each country went from room-to-room handing out gifts such as toys, balls, patches and hats, as each child eagerly waited to accept them. The parents were grateful for the early Christmas presents and they too had big smiles.
 
"The concern the parents have for the care of their child--it's universal," Vatt said. "It's an experience I will not forget."