Soldiers, employers bridge gap between military, civilian worlds

Story by: Staff Sgt. Amanda Zuniga

Posted: April 23, 2015

Staff Sgt. John Sands A civilian employer fires a machine gun at Camp Swift in Bastrop, Texas, during an Employer Support for Guard and Reserve event with the 636th Brigade Support Battalion, Joint Task Force 136 (Maneuver Enhancement Brigade), as part of the unit's weeklong annual training period April 21, 2015. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. John Sands/Released)
Staff Sgt. John Sands
A civilian employer fires a machine gun at Camp Swift in Bastrop, Texas, during an Employer Support for Guard and Reserve event with the 636th Brigade Support Battalion, Joint Task Force 136 (Maneuver Enhancement Brigade), as part of the unit's weeklong annual training period April 21, 2015. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. John Sands/Released)

BASTROP, Texas - Guardsmen of the 636th Brigade Support Battalion, Joint Task Force 136 (Maneuver Enhancement Brigade), welcomed their employers to spend a day in the life of a Soldier at Camp Swift in Bastrop, Texas, during the unit’s weeklong annual training period April 21, 2015.

The “Boss Lift” experience, coordinated through the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, allowed participants to gain a better perspective on what the National Guard can do in response to natural disasters and what training is like for their citizen-Soldiers.

“The military has other capabilities than just the combat role,” said City of Marshall Mayor Ed Smith. “Now I know how the military would fit into a city’s disaster plan.” 

Civil servants from Marshall, Texas, attended the event with employers because the city is home to the 636th BSB Headquarters.

“Even though they may not be a direct employer, constituents that live in that community are here in this formation,” said Lt. Col. John Crawson, 636th BSB commander. “Harrison County and the City of Marshall are extremely supportive of our National Guard units, and they never get a chance to see what we do. This is great community outreach."

The visitors had the opportunity to fire machine guns, enjoy a Meal, Ready-to-Eat, ride in a military helicopter, and visit a tactical operations center. Many of the employers only had a vague idea of what their employees do on training weekends. 

“I think that it’s one thing to regale [our bosses] with stories of the stuff that we do,” said Capt. Lucas Hamilton of the 636th BSB. “It’s a completely different thing when [they] can come out here and see what we do, the area that we’re in, some of the operations that we do and see some of the training that we do.”

Boss Lift participants got a first-hand look at what it takes to be a Soldier, whose job in the National Guard may be completely different from their civilian job. Soldiers train long and hard to be proficient in each of their military professions. 

“It made me respect the military more and appreciate the dedication you put into your training,” said Anthony Miller of Full Thrust Taekwondo, whose wife serves in the 636th BSB. “I will support the Guard more and the job my spouse does.”

This was not the first time that bosses have visited their Soldier employees, nor will it be the last.

“It’s really important that employers see why their soldiers are missing work,” Crawson said. “It’s almost like a family, and your employer is a part of that family."

Growing up Army

The month of the Military childCommentary by Michelle McBride

Starting with Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger in 1986, each serving Secretary of Defense has designated April as “The month of the Military child.” Although I am an Army brat myself, this is a very new and interesting concept to me.  In fact, I never even knew it existed until I began working for the military. Like most members of our Armed Forces, recognition and praise has never been necessary or even wanted.

For me, it all began in El Salvador in the 1980s. My dad was conducting some training missions as part of a Special Forces unit in San Salvador when he met my mom. For my dad, it began in the 1970s when he made the bold decision to enlist in the Army right out of high school.  I’ve always been very proud of my dad for making this decision, even when it meant not recognizing him at the airport when he returned from a deployment.

As a child, I traveled all over. I spanned the globe from Panama, to El Salvador, to North Carolina and back again. I went to three different elementary schools in the span of five years and I cannot begin to tell you what an amazing/terrifying experience that was for me. It was hard moving from place to place-saying goodbye and then starting over.  Rinse, wash and repeat. There were always tears, but there was also always laughter, love and patience. There was also an incredible amount of opportunity to grow as a person and get immersed in different cultures and languages.  I even went through a phase when we moved from El Salvador to North Carolina where I refused to speak English to anyone.  I pretended to forget, but really I just missed speaking Spanish. 

My mom was a rock wall, never faltering, never showing any kind of weakness (there should probably be a month, or year, or decade dedicated to the military spouse). I remember thinking my parents must not have enjoyed having friends, since they were always ready to move on to the next place. Now I know better. It was probably harder for them, especially adding in the pressures of real estate shopping, school district searching and grumpy children.

For me, being an Army brat was just that. It was nothing special or unique. You did what you had to do every day to support the people that meant the most to you. It may have been different, but my dad still taught me how to ride a bike (or at least tried to; I was a very stubborn child). And we still celebrated birthdays and holidays together. Sure it may have been Christmas in October, but that didn’t change the sentiment. 
And then I became a teenager.

(Part 2 of 3 documenting my experience as the daughter of a soldier in honor of the Month of the Military Child. If you or someone you know is a military family member in need of support please contact Family Support Services at their 24/7 hotline 1-800-252-8032 or visit their website at https://tmd.texas.gov/family-support-service)

Community interacts with Texas Military Forces

Story by: Sgt. Praxedis Pineda

Posted: April 19, 2015

Courtesy Photo A Soldier with the 36th Infantry Division fights against enemy German Soldiers during a WWII reenactment at the Texas Military Forces Open House and Air Show at Camp Mabry April 18, 2015. Camp Mabry and its facilities are open to the public. Events like these help to form a better relationship and understanding between Texas Military Forces and the Austinites who live around the post.
A soldier with the 36th Infantry Division, Texas Army National Guard, fights against enemy soldiers during a WWII reenactment at the Texas Military Forces Open House and Air Show at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas, April 18, 2015. Events like these help to form a better relationship and understanding, of the Texas Guard mission, between Texas Military Forces and the community.

AUSTIN, TEXAS – Highlighting more than three decades of local, state and federal partnership, the Texas Military Forces and first responders demonstrate teamwork during the Texas Military Forces Open House and Air Show at Camp Mabry in Austin, April 18, 2015. The free two-day event welcomed the local community to view this partnership.

“We host this event to thank our friends and neighbors,” said Maj. Gen. John F. Nichols, the adjutant general of Texas.

Because of operational tempo and mission requirements, it’s not usually possible for visitors to interact with the service members and first responders. 

“We’re always in such a hurry,” said Patrick Phillips, flight paramedic with the Travis County Start Flight. “When we’re operational there’s not an opportunity to visit.”

The open house lets agencies slow down to demonstrate their capabilities. 

“People can see what we do in a friendly environment,” said Phillips. “It’s an opportunity for us to display our equipment.”

Displays included helicopters, trucks and boats used during combat and emergency operations. Some visitors touched and even operated some of the equipment.

“My kids can connect the things they see in the movies with reality,” said Jessie Metcalf, a community member that lives in the surrounding neighborhood.

Agencies clarified many myths and misconceptions visitors had in regards to their capabilities. 

“This is a great insight to different emergency services, and not just fire,” said Lt. Jarrett Jobes, member of the Austin Fire Department Special Operations rescue team. “The unit responds to hazardous material, cave rescues and water rescues.”

The event endorsed the “Partnerships That Matter” theme, and informed the community of the teamwork performed between agencies.

“We learned about the camaraderie and connections between the volunteers,” said Metcalf. 

Throughout the year, Texas Military Forces and first responders work together to strengthen their partnerships.

“We work pretty close with the Texas Military Forces and the police,” said Phillips. 


Modern equipment and weapons were the spotlight this weekend, but the show wasn’t complete without reminders of the past.

“To me it is very important because we’re also remembering those who came before us,” said Nichols.

Visitors traveled through time with activities like the WWII reenactment and multiple vintage weapons demonstrations.

“We learned how they shoot the big guns,” said Miguel Ornelas, Palm Elementary School student.

While some displays advertised history other events were dedicated to the future. A naturalization ceremony allowed veterans to receive their American citizenship.

“There are some that are Americans by birth, [these veterans] are Americans by choice,” said Mayor of Austin Steve Adler.

This opportunity allows new citizens other options and benefits.

“This was possible because I enlisted,” said Pvt. Carlos Hernandez Del Bosque, Texas Army National Guard. “Now I’m a U.S. citizen. Now I can finish school.”

The spirit of the event flows from veterans, to newly naturalized citizens, to children that want to share their experience with others.

“Try to come next year because it’s a lot of fun,” said Phillips.

Operation Crackdown returns to Laredo

Story by: Master Sgt. Ken Walker

Posted: April 16, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Camp Mabry welcomes new Garrison Commander

 

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

Commentary by TXMF Staff

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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