Texas Homeland Response Force welcomes visitors to certification training exercise

Soldiers from the Texas Military Forces' Homeland Response Force (HRF) treat a "casualty" during the HRF certification exercise at Camp Gruber, near Muskogee, Okla., March 5, 2014.
Soldiers from the Texas Military Forces' Homeland Response Force (HRF) treat a "casualty" during the HRF certification exercise at Camp Gruber, near Muskogee, Okla., March 5, 2014. More than 800 service members came together to train on disaster preparedness and emergency management during the exercise. Emergency management leadership from nine different states attended the exercise to observe the training. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Capt. Martha Nigrelle)

Story by: Capt. Martha Nigrelle

 

 CAMP GRUBER, Okla. - Emergency management leadership from nine different states attended the Texas Military Forces  Homeland Response Force training exercise to observe disaster preparedness certification training at Camp Gruber, near  Muskogee, Okla., March 5, 2014.

 Civilian and military visitors ranged from various fire departments and the Texas Commission of Environmental Quality, or  TCEQ, critical infrastructure director to Maj. Gen. Myles Deering, the adjutant general – Oklahoma.

 Joint Task Force 136 Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Texas Military Forces' Homeland Response Force, or HRF, is  conducting a weeklong exercise involving approximately 800 service members rehearsing their response to large-scale  disasters.

 “This is the reason the National Guard is such a great tool,” said Col. Patrick Hamilton, Domestic Operations Commander,  Texas Military Forces. He explained that the HRF often conducts training with other civilian agency first responders.  Hamilton further described how the National Guard provides first responders with additional resources to assist with crisis  management.

 As guests were led through the training area they witnessed soldiers and airmen dressed in chemical suits “responding” to  a large-scale chemical attack. “Casualties,” in the exercise, were evacuated with precaution as service members ensured  the chemical threat was contained.

The scenario involved two large chemical attacks and a broken water main, said Col. Lee Schnell, Joint Task Force 136 Maneuver Enhancement Brigade commander, Texas Military Forces. Service members trained to assist first responders in casualty evacuation, triage, and search and rescue in a contaminated environment.

Even with snow covering the ground, and temperatures hovering around freezing, the service men and women seemed to maneuver easily through the makeshift village in their chemical suits to render aid. 

TCEQ, imbedded several hazardous material specialists into the training to work along side the HRF said TCEQ’s Critical Infrastructure Director Kelly Cook. 

“The HRF is a force multiplier,” said Cook. “We do a lot of the same things, but Texas is a big state and they provide much needed support for large disasters.”

There are 10 HRFs in the U.S. and each one has to certify every 24 months, said Schnell. Leadership from six different states came out to observe this exercise in order to assist with their own unit operations.

The training is a certification exercise for the HRF, but it is also preparation for the next time Texas, or any other state’s emergency response force may need their help.

“I came here today to check on the Texas Military Forces and show my support for the HRF concept,” said Cook, also explaining that this HRF falls under Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, Region 6. “The great Region 6 HRF, we love working with these guys.”

FEMA Region 6 states include Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, and Oklahoma.

International history returns to the Texas National Guard

 The boxcar was one of 49 given to the U.S. in 1949 - one for each state and the then Hawaiian territory, and was inducted into the Texas Military Forces Museum at Camp Mabry during a ceremony on Feb. 23, 2014.
The Texas Merci Boxcar arrives at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas, Feb. 13, 2014. The boxcar was one of 49 given to the U.S. in 1949 - one for each state and the then Hawaiian territory, and was inducted into the Texas Military Forces Museum at Camp Mabry during a ceremony on Feb. 23, 2014. The "Gratitude Train" or Merci boxcars were given by the people of France as a gift to the American people as a gesture of thanks for relief supplies sent following World War II and the sacrifices made by American service members on French soil during World Wars I and II. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by 2nd. Lt. Alicia Lacy)

Story by: Capt. Martha Nigrelle

 
 

CAMP MABRY, Texas - The Texas Merci boxcar, a gift from the people of France, was welcomed to the Texas Military  Forces Museum at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas, in a ceremony held on post, Feb. 23, 2014. 

 In 1949, this boxcar, filled with gifts by the people of France, was delivered to Camp Mabry - as a gesture of thanks to the  American service members for the sacrifices made on French soil during World Wars I and II.

 The boxcar was one of 49 given to the United States that same year – one for each state and the then Hawaiian territory.  Grand Chef de Gare David Knutson, the Texas State commander for the Society of Forty Men and Eight Horses, explained  that in 1947 the American people collected $40 million worth of relief supplies for the people of France and Italy who were  struggling from the aftereffects of World War II. In response, the people of France created the “Gratitude Train,” or the Merci  boxcars to thank the American people for these supplies, as well as the sacrifices made during both world wars.

 “This is a special day to commemorate a special relationship,” said Sujiro Seam, Consul General of France in Houston.  “French and American soldiers spilled blood together. That means much more than the dispute on how to name your fries.” 

 Although originally housed at Camp Mabry, the boxcar was moved and placed under the care of the Travis County American  Legion during the early 1950s, when space was needed to support war efforts.

 The Texas boxcar then was placed under the care of the Society of Forty Men and Eight Horses, a separately chartered  veterans’ honor society established in 1920 by veterans of World War I. The society gets its name from the stencil painted on  the side of the boxcar, “40 and 8,” indicating that the car could hold either 40 men or 8 horses. These boxcars were used heavily for military operations during both World Wars I and II.

“One of the great symbols of World War I and World War II is the boxcar,” said Jeff Hunt, Texas Military Forces museum director. “It is very fitting that the boxcar will have a permanent place with the Texas Military Forces where we can remember what Americans and French did together and continue to do together, in various places around the world.”

The ceremony boasted several unique speakers. The mayor of Austin, Lee Leffingwell, read a proclamation, making Feb. 23, 2014 Texas Merci Boxcar Day in Austin. Retired Navy Lt. Michael Thornton, and Medal of Honor recipient, attended as the keynote speaker. 

“Freedom is built on blood, sweat, and tears,” said Thornton. “Today we commemorate this.”

Freedom and the relationship between the French and the American people was the dominant theme during the ceremony, as many recalled how the boxcar symbolized the struggle for freedom that both countries’ service members have fought for together throughout the years. 

“France was the first ally of the United States,” said Seam indicating the role the French military played during the American Revolution. “But France was also the first country to recognize the Republic of Texas. I hope you Texans know that France was the first ally of Texas.”

The boxcar is on display at the Texas Military Forces museum, along with several of the gifts that arrived inside of the boxcar in 1949. For more information on how to view the boxcar visit the Texas Military Forces museum webpage at   www.texasmilitaryforcesmuseum.org.

Free tax services at Camp Mabry!

Commentary by: Michelle McBride

Every year the deadline to file taxes seems to sneak up on us, and this year is no exception. If April 15th is approaching too fast for you, then maybe the Texas Military Forces IRS-Certified volunteers can help.

Starting Feb. 8, 2014 through April 8, 2014, the Legal Assistance team at Camp Mabry will be helping Service members, veterans and dependents file their taxes free of charge.

The Soldiers in Legal Assistance are certified through an IRS training program and are able to provide customers with E-filing as well as direct deposit for returns. Most people who have worked with them have received their returns in about a two week period.

To be eligible for this service you must be one of the following:

-Military Identification Card holding member of the Texas Military Forces or Reserve
-A retiree or surviving dependent spouse

Along with these requirements you must also have a combined household income BELOW $60,000. However, eligibility exceptions will be given on a case-by-case basis. 
If you meet eligibility requirements or have any other questions contact Legal Assistance at 512-782-1169 or email them at ng.tx.txarng.mbx.legal-asst-office@mail.mil.

Brigadier General Jake Betty, Colonel Paul Watkins and Lieutenant Colonel Pedro Barreda Coined by the 4th Regiment

By: Capt. Esperanza Meza
Texas State Guard Public Affairs
Phone: 817-733-6269
Email: esperanza.meza@txsg.state.tx.us

DATE: 2/19/14

TEXAS STATE GUARD ESTABLISHES NEW UNIT IN LONGVIEW, TEXAS

DALLAS – The Texas State Guard (TXSG) has established a new unit in Longview, Tx. The 3rd Battalion, 19th Civil Affairs Regiment will begin regular training at the Longview Fire Training Academy this summer and is currently recruiting to reach its strength of 60 personnel.

The 3rd Battalion is part of the 19th Civil Affairs Regiment, which includes additional units in Dallas and Greenville. The mission of the 19th Civil Affairs Regiment is to provide mission-ready military forces to assist state and local authorities in times of emergencies and disasters.

“Texas State Guard volunteers come from every walk of life, men and women, with and without prior military service,” said Col. Robert Hastings, commander of the 19th Regiment.

The Longview unit is recruiting for members in the counties of Panola, Rusk, Cherokee, Smith, Wood, Upshur, Gregg, Harrison, Marion, Cass, Morris, Camp, and Bowie. Membership is open to Texas residents, age 17 to 70, and in good health.

“The Texas State Guard is a great organization for people looking to combine a public service opportunity with adventure and military service,” said Col. Robert Hastings. “Whether you served in the military before and would like to rejoin a military organization, or you’ve never served but just thought about it, TXSG provides a unique opportunity for military service within the state.”

The TXSG is the state's volunteer military agency; trained, organized and ready to respond when a disaster strikes and Texans need help. The TXSG is comprised of more than 2000 volunteers organized into four components – Army, Air, Medical and Maritime – with individual units assigned throughout the state. The 19th Civil Affairs Regiment trains to execute the following missions:

  Mass care sheltering
  Emergency communications
  Special needs evacuation tracking
  Wide area damage assessment
  Urban search & rescue

In recent years, the TXSG has been called to active duty for hurricanes, tornadoes, flooding, and wildfires. TXSG is the lead military component for Operation Lone Star in the Rio Grande Valley – the state’s annual humanitarian medical mission – and provides support to the state’s annual Oral Rabies Vaccination Program and the Joint Operations Intelligence Center.

TXSG personnel train one weekend per month and attend a four-day annual training exercise.

For more information about the Texas State Guard, call 469-554-TXSG or go to: https://tmd.texas.gov/state-guard

LTC Grantham Takes Command of the 8th Regiment

By: SSG Malana Nall
HQ, 8th Civil Affairs Regt., TXSG
Email: malana.nall@txsg.state.tx.us

LTC E. A. "Buddy" Grantham Takes Command Of Texas State Guard's 8th Regiment

Photo: (Credit-SSG Malana Nall) LTC Buddy Grantham holds the regimental colors after accepting command of the 8th Regiment from Brigadier General Jake Betty
Photo: (Credit-SSG Malana Nall)
LTC Buddy Grantham holds the regimental colors after accepting command of the 8th Regiment from Brigadier General Jake Betty

HOUSTON, TX – Lieutenant Colonel E.A. "Buddy" Grantham assumed command of the Houston based 8th Regiment of the Texas State Guard from outgoing Colonel John Carpenter. The change of command ceremony took place at the National Guard Armory in Houston, Texas.

The 8th, the largest of the Army Component’s six regiments, encompasses 33 Counties along the Texas Gulf Coast. LTC Grantham, a resident of Houston and retired United States Army Officer, commands units based in Houston, Bryan, Huntsville, Nacogdoches and Beaumont. These units and their highly trained soldiers work with local emergency management personnel to protect citizens of the state of Texas during times of natural or manmade disasters.

The Mission of the Texas State Guard is to provide highly trained soldiers for Defense Support of Civil Authorities (DSCA), by providing ready military forces during State Declared Emergencies, to assist State and local authorities in homeland security, community service and with medical services.

The Texas State Guard (TXSG) is one of three branches of the Texas Military Forces (TXMF), reporting to the Texas Adjutant General, Major General John F. Nichols, located at Texas Military Forces HQ, Camp Mabry (Austin), Texas. The Commander-In-Chief of the Texas Military Forces is the Governor of Texas, Rick Perry. The other two branches are the Texas Army National Guard (TXARNG) and the Texas Air National Guard (TXANG).

Texas National Guard engineers say farewell to loved ones

The 454th Engineer Company colors are cased during a mobilization ceremony at the McNease Convention Center in San Angelo, Texas, Feb. 19, 2014.
The 454th Engineer Company colors are cased during a mobilization ceremony at the McNease Convention Center in San Angelo, Texas, Feb. 19, 2014. The San Angelo based engineer company will be deploying to Afghanistan to perform route clearance mission patrols and is the only company of this type within the Texas Army National Guard. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Private 1st Class Shannon Gatta/Released)

Story by: Pfc. Shannon Gatta, 454th Engineer

Company Public Affairs
 

 SAN ANGELO, Texas - Leaders with the Texas Army National Guard, together with friends and family, said goodbye and  good luck to members of 454th Engineer Company during a mobilization ceremony at the McNease Convention Center, in  San Angelo, Texas, Feb. 19, 2014. 

 The approximately 100 soldiers deploying to Afghanistan, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, will provide route  clearance missions with convoys and dismounted patrols, in order to detect and interrogate buried roadside bombs and other  explosive devices. 

 Just one of a handful of route clearance mission teams within the entire National Guard and the only one within the Texas  Army National Guard, the company has a potentially dangerous mission to ensure the remainder of the forces can move  freely around the battlefield. 

 “Our mission stands out as unique and vital one for the stability and safety of the Afghani people,” said Staff Sgt. Melissa  Wofford, medic noncommissioned officer with the company. “We are one of very few route clearance units in the country and  the very first to deploy with females like myself. I’m here to do the job that is needed and to support and protect my [fellow]  soldiers as well as to carry out the mission at hand.” 

With hundreds of loved ones attending the deployment ceremony to wish their loved ones well, friends and family arrived to the Concho Valley from across the state and even as far away as another country. For the only son of retired Army veteran Sgt. 1st Class Steven Alsept and his wife, the trip from Yongsan, South Korea, not only showed support for their son, Lt. Raymond Alsept, but came with advice on the eve of his first deployment. 

"[He said] listen to my NCOs," Lt. Alsept explains. "I have the final decision in our platoon but it's the NCOs that sway the decision [for me] tremendously."

Along with the focused training that each individual has received for their military occupational specialty, all of the soldiers have been through various trainings to include gunnery, medical, combative, explosive and field training in the past few months to be well-prepared for any mission given. 

This deployment to Afghanistan will mark the first overseas mission for the San Angelo-based company and an opportunity to represent the state of Texas.

“This multifaceted mission allows the National Guard’s citizen-soldiers to prove how diverse it is and be a recognizable force alongside our active duty counterparts,” said Capt. Eric Leatherman, commander of the company. 

The traditional formation of soldiers, casing of the colors, and a final salute from leadership to the company commander signified their mission a-go and served as a reminder of the absence, from friends and family, which lies ahead. 

Guest speakers, such as U.S. House of Representatives Congressman Mike Conaway, Col. Patrick Hamilton, Domestic Operations commander, Texas Military Forces, Col. Tracey Norris, 176th Engineer Brigade commander, and Command Sgt. Maj. Jimmy Leonard, 111th Engineer Battalion command sergeant major, were among those who came to show their gratitude and encouragement for those soldiers and their families.

The company will undergo further training at Fort Bliss in El Paso before leaving for Afghanistan this spring.

Texas National Guard teams up with Austin’s National Charity League, Inc. to help women vets find jobs

Daniel Esquivel, a designer from Project Runway's Season 11, gives advice on a potential career outfit to Amanda Negrete at the Military Women in Transition event here at Camp Mabry Feb. 16, 2014.
Daniel Esquivel, a designer from Project Runway's Season 11, gives advice on a potential career outfit to Amanda Negrete at the Military Women in Transition event here at Camp Mabry Feb. 16, 2014. Esquivel donated his time and gave away a career outfit he designed to an attendee. Chapters from the Austin area National Charity League, LLC., Texas Military Forces and Austin Human Resources Management Association worked together to host the career event for military women and dependents.

Story by: 2nd Lt. Alicia Lacy

 

CAMP MABRY, Texas - Be proactive, be prepared and take advantage of all the resources available.

As a recruiter who works to help veterans find jobs, Leslie Goodman said that’s advice she wants all military members to know and practice when transitioning from the military to the civilian workforce.

Goodman was one of several employers, recruiters and organization representatives at the Texas National Guard and National Charity League, Inc.’s Military Women in Transition event Feb. 16, 2014, at Camp Mabry.

Organizers of the event touched on several aspects of the job search and career enhancement process, which included social media, resume reviews and mock interviews.

Goodman said one of the biggest challenges for military members transitioning to a civilian career is that there aren’t enough military occupational specialties that directly translate into a civilian occupation.

“They have the discipline and training, but not the job skills,” Goodman added. “It’s difficult to take a service member who worked with artillery to apply those skills to a career in the civilian sector.”

Although some career fields in the military don’t directly convert into a civilian career, the basic skills gained from military service can give veterans an advantage.

Lisa Young, Annie Worthen, and Jennifer Grier, all U.S. Army veterans, said they can capitalize on the foundational skills they learned in the military - discipline, attention to detail, how to remain focused on the task, and always completing the mission.

Those are all qualities employers look for, Goodman said.

Goodman also stressed that service members should always be prepared when interviewing.

Many job seekers don’t know to research the company, the company culture, or the interviewer prior to going to a job interview, Goodman said. By doing their homework, jobseekers can have an edge.

In addition to doing research and planning for the future, Goodman said it is important for service members to take advantage of the programs the military offers its members like the G.I. Bill and eArmyU.

Worthen had the opportunity to perform a mock interview with Goodman, where she said she learned helpful information that can aid in her own career search.

Worthen was pleased with the event and the honest feedback she received.

“This event is great because the information they’re giving us, we didn’t know,” Worthen said.

Members from the Austin chapters of the league, Texas Military Forces Family Support Services and Operation Homefront conceived the idea for the event after a brainstorming session. As a result, the group recognized a lack of transitioning services for military women.

“Our organization has a national initiative, Service from the Heart, focused on supporting military members and their families,” said Julie Ballard, Hills of Austin chapter president. “There were transition services for men, but none that focused on the unique needs of women.”

After spending 12 years in the Army, Young said she appreciated the clothing closet and the opportunity to speak with hair and makeup experts.

“We’re so used to wearing a uniform everyday, so they’re teaching us what to wear,” Young said.

The clothing closet allowed attendees to choose from new or gently-used business attire and receive advice from hair and makeup professionals, which featured Daniel Esquivel, a designer from season 11 of “Project Runway” and season 3 of “Project Runway All Stars.”

Esquivel, whose father served in the U.S. Air Force, said he was happy to give back to the community.

Esquivel gave fashion advice and raffled one of his designs to an attendee, which will be tailored to fit her.

Organizers said the event was successful because it presented options for women veterans and dependents, as well as providing an opportunity for teens in the league to engage with and serve military members - something that doesn't happen often.

“We can see this happening again,” Ballard said. “But we will always bend toward the greatest need.”

Fort Hood honors Texas National Guard maintenance shop

Sgt. Michael Shelby, Maneuver Area Training Equipment Site (MATES), Texas Army National Guard, works on a heavy equipment transporter, while using a drip pan to maintain leaking gear oil.
Sgt. Michael Shelby, Maneuver Area Training Equipment Site (MATES), Texas Army National Guard, works on a heavy equipment transporter, while using a drip pan to maintain leaking gear oil. Drip pans are one way MATES enforces environmental policies. MATES was recognized more than 48 other battalion size or larger units located at Fort Hood by Fort Hood's Directorate of Public Works for outstanding environmental stewardship Feb. 11, 2014. Fort Hood, Texas.

Story by: Capt. Martha Nigrelle

 FORT HOOD, Texas - The Texas Army National Guard Maneuver Area Training Equipment Site, or MATES, was honored  Feb. 11 at Fort Hood during the Hood Hero award ceremony, for outstanding environmental stewardship. 

MATES was recognized over 48 other battalion size or larger units located at Fort Hood by Fort Hood’s Directorate of  Public Works (DPW) explained Glenn Collier, Environmental Protection Specialist at Fort Hood. The DPW conducts regular  environmental inspections at these maintenance facilities. Based on results from these inspections, environmental  protection specialists determine who will be recognized for outstanding environmental stewardship.

 “MATES was selected as a result of a continued commitment to upholding environmental standards and policies. They  don’t just get cleaned up and look pretty for inspections, they stay that way all the time,” Collier said.

 Don Melton, Regional Environmental Specialist for the Texas Military Forces, explained that the environmental management  system follows policies and guidance set at the federal, state, and local levels. 

 “This high standard ensures consistency in the program. The Soldiers recycle almost everything,” said Melton. 

 It’s about a commitment to the environmental program, visibility on the program, and making good environmental habits  simple and easy to maintain explained Texas Army National Guard Col. Stanley Goloboff, Deputy Chief of Staff, Logistics. 

 “This shop is an example of every one of our [Texas Army National Guard] maintenance facilities. The same level of  environmental stewardship that is going on at MATES is going on in all of our [124] facilities,” continued Goloboff. 

The practice of recycling and disposing of waste immediately is what keeps these shops so clean explained Chief Warrant Office 2 Ryan Ramsey, the MATES environmental officer in charge. This prevents shops from accumulating waste, resulting in a clean working environment.

This isn’t the first time that MATES has been recognized for outstanding environmental stewardship.

In 2012, MATES received the highest state environmental award, the HONDO award, for excellence in environmental stewardship said Texas Army National Guard Maj. John Hutka, MATES superintendent. 

According to Hutka, National Guard units outside of Texas have also reached out to MATES as an example for good environmental practices.

The MATES team works hard at being good environmental stewards, but the main focus is always their mission. They maintain over 1600 vehicles for the Texas Army National Guard, servicing vehicles from brigades all over the state. Because of their unique location next to Fort Hood’s largest training area, they also prepare and issue necessary equipment to both Texas units, and any other guard or reserve unit that comes to Fort Hood for training. Should an active duty unit need assistance for their training mission, MATES is there to assist them as well.

“Our facility is like a hub. If anyone ever needs to turn something in, we take it. We never turn anyone away – reserve, civilian, or active,” said Sgt. Kisha Mathurin, environmental noncommissioned officer for MATES. “I am very proud of the team here and all of their hard work.”

Brig. Gen. Douglas Gabram, Deputy Commanding General 1st Cavalry Division, and keynote speaker for ceremony, said about the awardees, “these are the people who improve the quality of life for all of us at Fort Hood.”

The teamwork at MATES, their commitment to the environment, and their commitment to their fellow service members, both guard and active is key to the shop.

“We have a very good team over here at Fort Hood,” Ramsey explained. “We help out other units who come here to North Fort Hood. We give them that guard hospitality.”