Texas Ranger General

Story by Bob Seyller, Texas Military Department Public Affairs

In the early days of Texas, the Rangers provided security and rule of law. However, as Texas grew, the Rangers also grew in both size and mission. During the Texas Revolution, the force formalized from a security force for settlers to well-trained soldiers and finally into lawmen delivering justice to an untamed frontier. No matter their role, it was clear: they were a military force. Nearly 100 years after the Texas Revolution, this connection would lead to a Ranger’s first term as adjutant general when Brig. Gen. William Sterling took office.

Texas Adjutant General William Sterling
Texas Adjutant General William Sterling

Born in Belton, Texas, near the turn of the century, Sterling grew up on his family’s ranch. It was there where Sterling learned how to ride, forage and shoot, before enrolling in Texas A&M University for courses in animal husbandry. Studying for two years, Sterling never attained his degree. Instead, he left to put his knowledge to use on ranches throughout Hidalgo County. Sterling had worked toward a life of raising cattle and tending herds. However, Sterling’s career would soon change as violence from the revolution in Mexico spilled across the Rio Grande.

In 1915, as World War I raged across Europe, another war was being waged closer to Texas. Beyond the Rio Grande, violence spread throughout Mexico in a bloody civil war. At the height of the conflict, Mexican forces raided American cities and military outposts, incurring the wrath of the famous Gen. John J. Pershing and his 10,000-man punitive expedition.

As Pershing pushed deeper into the heart of Mexico, hunting Gen. Francisco Pancho Villa, violence continued along the Texas border. There, Sterling found his calling as a scout and reserve member of the United States 3rd Cavalry Regiment and Texas Rangers. Working closely with both groups, Sterling saw firsthand the slaughter of more than 500 Texans at the hands of Mexican troops. As the raids worsened, word spread of the “Plan of San Diego,” a plot that called for race riots between Anglos and Tejanos. These riots were to be ignited by bloody incursions from Mexican seditionists. Supporters of the plan believed the riots would eventually force America to return the Southwestern states to Mexican control. 

Fear of the Mexican reoccupation plot was growing as the Zimmerman Telegram arrived, both at the height of the U.S. march to World War I. The telegram offered Mexico help in conquering most of the Western United States in exchange for allying with Germany and possibly Japan. The plot called for the extermination of all Anglo men over 16 and any Latino that fought against Mexico. Texas’ response to this threat came from a combination of soldiers, rangers and deputized citizens who left nearly 1,000 of the Mexican seditionists dead.  

As the Texas border came under control, the United States prepared to join the European war effort. Sterling, like many Americans, joined this effort, commissioning with the Texas Infantry as a second lieutenant. Though he never served overseas, Sterling's time with cavalrymen on the border helped him prepare newly enlisted soldiers for the war.  

After the war, Sterling returned to law enforcement as the sheriff and justice of the peace of Mirando City, a border town near Laredo. He once again worked alongside the Texas Rangers, whose duties had shifted from fighting Mexican revolutionaries and seditionists to catching bootleggers smuggling liquor across the border. 

“Bill [Sterling] preserved order in an oil town by methods learned from the Texas Rangers and other border officers. On an unpainted pine shake we found a large sign bearing ‘W.W. Sterling, Justice of the Peace, The law of the Tex-Mex,’” described contemporary historian Walter Prescott Webb. “Nearby, stood a boxcar in which the judge held his prisoners by means of a generous length of chain and padlocks.” This method of restraint was called a “trotline.” 

Adjutant General William Sterling poses with his Texas Ranger Captains.
Adjutant General William Sterling poses with his Texas Ranger Captains. 

As crude oil gushed from derricks rising against the bright Texas sky, the call went out for roughnecks seeking “black gold” to move to Borger, a city centered in the Texas panhandle. Though every oil town had its share of card houses and lawlessness, a corrupt city government coupled with a population increase of more than 40,000 people in three months, allowed prostitutes, card sharks and bootleggers to become nearly as common as oil workers. Lawlessness in Borger reached a boiling point when murders and explosions within the city limits had become a way of life.

“Many persons have been killed including several officers and two or three women. Daylight robberies, hold-ups, explosions and bootlegging continued practically unabated,” according to a contemporary Associated Press report.

Sterling arrived under the command of Capt. Frank Hamer, who would later become famous for putting an end to Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow’s criminal careers in a hail of gunfire. Working with 10 other Rangers, Sterling and Hamer brought the town under control as Rangers arrested 124 men within the first day. Each lawbreaker found himself shackled to a trotline awaiting removal to trial in Stinnett, Texas.  Rangers also targeted vices throughout the city, issuing warnings to 1,200 prostitutes to leave town or face arrest. Liquor, gambling and corruption were additional focuses of the team as it sought to reign in the lawlessness of the city.

“The liquor traffic was broken up, many stills being seized and destroyed, and several thousand gallons of whiskey captured and poured out. 203 gambling slot machines were seized and destroyed,” said Brig. Gen Robert Robertson, the Adjutant General of Texas at the time. “As a result of the demand on the part of the citizens of Borger for administration of the law, the mayor, city commissioners and chief of police resigned, replaced by citizens pledged to uphold laws.”

Sterling’s work in Borger did not go unnoticed. Among other changes, he would promote Sterling to captain, giving him command of the Laredo-based Company D. 

His previous experience on the border allowed Sterling to run an efficient unit far from the headline-grabbing troubles of the booming oil towns of northern Texas. He worked with his Rangers to respect the local population and to be sympathetic to Anglo and Tejano concerns, fairly administering justice. For a time, Sterling seemed to have settled into a job he had always wanted. This changed after the election of Ross Sterling to governor. 

Ross Sterling prepared to take office as the nation was entering the Great Depression in 1931. The economic collapse of the nation would ruin many of his initiatives in the legislature, but the one initiative in which he did find support was strengthening the Ranger corps. 

Ross Sterling had known Bill Sterling for years, having met through Bill’s father. Both men discussed their ancestry sufficiently to decide there was no kinship, a determination that would be important as Ross Sterling prepared to appoint his new adjutant general for the Texas Military.

“I called in William W. Sterling, a tall, colorful Ranger captain, and gave him the names of several men who had applied and asked ‘Whom would you suggest for adjutant general?’ Bill replied that he would like to see Torrance of Fort Worth get it, but he could get along very well with any of those mentioned” said Ross Sterling. “I told him you won’t have to get along with any of them. I’m going to appoint you.”

With that conversation and a state senate confirmation, Capt. Bill Sterling became known as Gen. Bill, the first adjutant general pulled from the Ranger corps since Texas became a republic. If anything signified the unique path of his ascension, it would be his choice in uniform. 

Though he served as a commissioned officer during WWI, Sterling left mandarin collars and olive drab to career Guardsmen. The 6-foot-3-inch Ranger instead donned his trademark gun belt with a revolver inscribed, “Captain Sterling,” on the handle. No stars adorned his uniform; instead he had “GENERAL BILL” stitched above the pocket of his western shirts along with western motifs of bucking broncos or lone cattle. 

Brigadier General William Sterlinlg posing with a rifle at Brooks Field, a former U.S. Army airfield located outside of San Antonio, Texas. Members of the Texas National Guard participated in pilot training for both fixed wing aircraft and blimps in the 1930's.
Brigadier General William Sterling posing with a rifle at Brooks Field, a former U.S. Army airfield located outside of San Antonio, Texas. Members of the Texas National Guard participated in pilot training for both fixed wing aircraft and blimps in the 1930's.

Sterling took office vowing to eliminate politics from the promotion system within the department.  Changes to the National Guard’s structure began with the 1903 Dick Act, giving the organization a standardized promotion system within the Guard. However, the Rangers still primarily promoted individuals under a system patronage and political influence.  Sterling issued regulations requiring all captains of Ranger companies to serve first for two years. He also directed promotions to occur on merit and the reputation of the candidate.

Trouble from oil towns mostly sprang from vices that followed oil booms and roughnecks from drill site to drill site, but July 1931 would see oil producers for the first time fall under the gaze of both the Rangers and the National Guard.

The railroad commission moved to regulate the oil market and implement production limits but found the task impossible without an enforcement arm. Ross Sterling, an oil man before his political election, knew the problems collapsed oil markets would add to the stagnant economy of the depression era. He called upon his adjutant general and informed him it was time to restore order to the oil fields. 

Ross Sterling declared martial law across the oil fields, deploying 1,200 National Guardsmen from the 56th Calvary Brigade to Southeast Texas, led by Brig. Gen. Jacob Wolter, an expert in population control. Gen. Sterling empowered the Rangers to arrest any producers defying orders from Guardsmen to shut down drilling operations.

The deployment of the Rangers was more than enough to enforce the newly issued production limits. Without a single shot fired, Guardsmen secured the largest-known reserve of petroleum in the world at the time. However, this would not last long. Court injunctions issued in response to lawsuits by oil producers found the occupation to be unconstitutional. Therefore, as quickly as they arrived, the National Guardsmen left the area. 

Oil towns would continue to plague Bill Sterling’s time as adjutant general. However, a new foe would soon emanate from Oklahoma. 

Bill Sterling saw his tenure as adjutant general come to a close in 1933. Ross Sterling lost his bid for the Democratic nomination to Miriam Ferguson, and, as a result, the governorship. Though the Rangers began an investigation into claims of ballot stuffing on the part of the Ferguson campaign, Ross Sterling called the investigation off in order to avoid the appearance that he was using the Rangers to influence an election. 

Bill Sterling knew Ferguson’s retaliation for the Ranger investigation into election tampering would be fierce, so he tendered his resignation before she took office. Upon his departure, Sterling’s biennial report to the governor offered some parting guidance about the Rangers’ role in the Texas Military.

“The Ranger service should be taken out of the hands of the adjutant general, who in almost every case is a military man. The military organization of the state has grown to such an extent that the adjutant general should devote his entire time to the military.”

It took another two years for Sterling’s vision for the Rangers to manifest as the force moved from the Texas Military’s control to their new home at the Department of Public Safety. Now part of an official state-sanctioned law enforcement agency, Rangers saw their department grow into a modern investigative force with tools and methodologies at their disposal that their predecessors could only imagine. 

The Rangers left the Texas Military Department, and along with it, they left behind a joint legacy of heroism and the story of Texas’ only Ranger-adjutant general.   

The tombstone of Adjutant General William Sterling

 

CBRNE Task Force Certifies in Disaster Response

Story and Photos by Andrew R. Smith, TMD Public Affairs

 

ROUND ROCK, Texas Dec 5, 2019 — A National Guardsmen from the Texas based 136th Infintray Division, CBRNE Task Force, stands a decontamination boundry watch as part of a FEMA certification. These drills are an important preperation for disasters that may occurn in FEMA region 6. (U.S. Army Photo by Andrew R. Smith/Released)

ROUND ROCK, Texas Dec 5, 2019 — A National Guardsmen from the Texas based 36th Infantry Division, CBRNE Task Force, stands a decontamination boundary watch as part of a FEMA certification. These drills are an important preparation for disasters that may occur in FEMA region 6. (U.S. Army Photo by Andrew R. Smith/Released)

ROUND ROCK, Texas, Dec. 5, 2019 – National Guard units from Texas and Louisiana met at the Round Rock Public Safety Training Center for an emergency response training evaluation. The training of the day was a large staged incident that rated the Guard units’ response to a simulated chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear contamination incident. The units had to set up and maintain contamination boundaries, perform search and extraction of crisis actors, decontaminate the actors and provide medical triage care for any injured actors.
 

ROUND ROCK, Texas Dec 5, 2019 — National Guardsmen from the Texas based 136th Infintray Division, CBRNE Task Force, preform washdown drills as part of a FEMA certification. These drills are an important preperation for disasters that may occurn in FEMA region 6. (U.S. Army Photo by Andrew R. Smith/Released)

ROUND ROCK, Texas Dec 5, 2019 — National Guardsmen from the Texas based 36th Infantry Division, CBRNE Task Force, perform washdown drills as part of a FEMA certification. These drills are an important preparation for disasters that may occur in FEMA region 6. (U.S. Army Photo by Andrew R. Smith/Released)

The Texas-based Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosive Task Force took part in the training exercise and activated nearly 200 Guardsmen and more than a dozen vehicles as part of the training event.

The exercise was a combined green and white exercise, with the “green” referring to military personnel and the “white” referring to local first responders. Observers graded the National Guard units taking part in the training on the day’s response efforts. The U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command sent personnel to observe and grade CBRNE Task Force’s efforts and rate its level of preparation to respond to a real-world event of a similar nature.

Due to the extensive training and requirements to set up and properly use the decontamination equipment, as well as CBRNE’s unique cooperation with local authorities and disaster response units, the unit has a very high training tempo. Guardsmen in the unit often have to devote additional time to training and certifications such as this one.

“Our unit works with a variety of local agencies,” said Maj. Bradley Smejkal, executive officer of CBRNE Task Force. “Due to these missions, all of our traditional Guardsmen have to balance the green and white mission. We do a lot of extra training including additional annual training, most of which is devoted to cooperating with and being certified by the white side.

“If you can’t protect yourself and your personnel, you’ll become an additional casualty. We are here to help, not hinder, local assets. To assist them, we bring in our own gear and train to meet the local standards.” 

ROUND ROCK, Texas Dec 5, 2019 — National Guardsmen from the Texas based 136th Infintray Division, CBRNE Task Force, check resperators before preforming decontamination drill as part of a FEMA certification. These drills are an important preperation for disasters that may occurn in FEMA region 6. (U.S. Army Photo by Andrew R. Smith/Released)

ROUND ROCK, Texas Dec 5, 2019 — National Guardsmen from the Texas based 36th Infantry Division, CBRNE Task Force, check respirators before preforming decontamination drill as part of a FEMA certification. These drills are an important preparation for disasters that may occur in FEMA region 6. (U.S. Army Photo by Andrew R. Smith/Released)



The scenario utilized numerous crisis actors whose independent actions added realism and chaos to the exercise.

“I learned a lot from the exercise and the presence of the crisis actors. I saw firsthand how civilians under stress can be random and unpredictable,” said Pfc. John Albert Dearing Jr., a member of the unit. “It is important to explain any instructions clearly and keep them updated with the status of the situation.”

By the end of the first day, the task force completed all of the tasks associated with the training. However, the event had more tasks and challenges to follow over the next two days.

The combined training of Texas and Louisiana guard units alongside local responders helps to organize all assets that might respond to a disaster in FEMA region 6, which encompasses much of the southwestern United States. The training was coordinated by the 136th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade in coordination with local authorities, in preparation for potential disaster response. The 136th MEB is the brigade-level command for CBRNE Task Force.

Texas Guard's 6th CERFP showcases disaster response

Story and Photographs by Tech. Sgt. Agustin Salazar, 149th Fighter Wing, Texas Air National Guard

Capt. Gabriela Torres, a trauma nurse assigned to the 149th Medical Det-1, simulates providing medical treatment during the Texas National Guard's 6th CERFP Task Force response evaluation exercise Dec. 7, 2019, in Round Rock, Texas. (Photo Credit: Tech. Sgt. Agustin Salazar)
Capt. Gabriela Torres, a trauma nurse assigned to the 149th Medical Det-1, simulates providing medical treatment during the Texas National Guard's 6th CERFP Task Force response evaluation exercise Dec. 7, 2019, in Round Rock, Texas. (U.S. Air National Guard Photo by Tech. Sgt. Agustin Salazar)

ROUND ROCK, Texas - Members of the Texas National Guard's 6th CERFP Task Force participated in a disaster response evaluation exercise Dec. 4-8.

The Texas National Guard's 6th CERFP Task Force includes the 149th Medical Detachment-1 and Fatality Search and Recovery Team from the 149th Fighter Wing, an Air National Guard unit headquartered at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland. This task force includes Air and Army National Guardsmen who may be called on to assist first responders within FEMA region 6 -- Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and New Mexico.

Lt. Col. Joseph McDaniel, the chief medical officer assigned to the 149th's Det. 1, supervised his team's efforts during the exercise.

"The purpose of this evaluation is to certify that we meet standards for hurricane response and all that entails as it pertains to disaster preparedness," McDaniel said. This particular exercise simulates a disaster caused by an explosion where patients are exposed to chemical, nuclear and biological warfare."

Leaders of the task force conduct these responses at least three times a year, since members may be asked to support first responders during large-scale emergencies. The "C" in "CERFP" stands for CBRN (chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear), which is an integral part of their "ERFP" (enhanced response force package).

Capt. Jesse Hernandez, a 149th medical plans and operations officer, oversaw the joint task force's planning and integrated operations.

"This exercise highlights the 149th's ability to perform and manage multiple missions," Hernandez said. "It validates to the governor that the 149th is a very important wing to the state of Texas."

The team showcased its response efforts during Hurricane Harvey.

"During Hurricane Harvey, we were pulled out as an a la carte response team," Hernandez said. "We were used as a primary E.R. for a week and a half until they were able to get their power and water running."

Leaders note that another benefit of this task force is the multilayer perspectives it includes. The various members are as diversified as the various job roles they hold within the task force. Some, for example, may hold military jobs that are vastly different from their assigned responsibilities within CERF-P. This military diversity does not always include the additional civilian experience many members have as an added perspective.

"These teams -- it's their passion," said Master Sgt. Kristin Bovinet, an observer, coach and trainer for the National Guard Bureau's Joint Surgeon General's office, as she evaluated the task force during the exercise. "For some of them, it is not their primary duty. There are many who hold other career fields, yet they are still managing to come out here and complete their duties."

Responding to domestic operations and natural disasters while integrating with other federal and civilian agencies is a major part of what a state's National Guard does for the nation's defense, a point not lost on Hernandez.

"Every single component in the CERF-P brings a certain flavor that other components might not be able to provide," he said. "The joint capability brings a more robust capability to the civilian agencies so that we can integrate and have a unified response to any event."

"All the teams come together, and they make it work because they know deep down that lives depend on it," Bovinet said.

National Guard conducts transfer of authority with Active Duty components

Story by Captain Leyda Ocasio-Kanzler, Joint Task Force - Guardian Support Public Affairs Officer

MCALLEN, Texas – Members of the Georgia Army National Guard deployed as part of Joint Task Force- Guardian Support to form Task Force Volunteer in support of United States Customs and Border Protection. 

U.S. Army Lt. Col. Brian Tritten shakes hands with Georgia Army National Guard Capt. Guy Serapion at the U.S. Border Patrol Rio Grande Valley Sector Headquarters, Edinburg, Texas, Nov. 1, 2019. (Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. De’Jon Williams)
U.S. Army Lt. Col. Brian Tritten shakes hands with Georgia Army National Guard Capt. Guy Serapion at the U.S. Border Patrol Rio Grande Valley Sector Headquarters, Edinburg, Texas, Nov. 1, 2019. (Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. De’Jon Williams)

Task Force Volunteer is the fifth task force to join Joint Task Force- Guardian Support since its inception in April 2018.

Task Force Volunteer conducted pre-mobilization deployment training at Fort Stewart, Georgia. They assumed responsibility for the mission upon the transfer of authority from the 317th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 10th Mountain Division, Fort Polk, Louisiana.

Rio Grande Valley Sector assistant chief patrol agent Vaughn Horne speaks to National Guard members at the U.S. Border Patrol Rio Grande Valley Sector Headquarters, Edinburg, Texas, Nov. 1, 2019. (Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. De’Jon Williams)
Rio Grande Valley Sector assistant chief patrol agent Vaughn Horne speaks to National Guard members at the U.S. Border Patrol Rio Grande Valley Sector Headquarters, Edinburg, Texas, Nov. 1, 2019. (Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. De’Jon Williams)

The mission of Task Force Volunteer is to work alongside our law enforcement partners to enhance security efforts by serving as a force multiplier enabling our partners to better provide the necessary manpower to deliver frontline law enforcement.

Georgia National Guard 1st Lt. Ashton Griffith serves as the Task Force Volunteer executive officer. He, answered the call to be a part of JTF-GS while on a seven-month deployment to Afghanistan. 

“This is a great opportunity not only for myself but for my soldiers as well,” said Griffith. “Everyone is excited to do this mission.”

Georgia Army National Guard Capt. Guy Serapion briefs National Guard and U.S. Border Patrol members at the U.S. Border Patrol Rio Grande Valley Sector Headquarters, Edinburg, Texas, Nov. 1, 2019. (Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. De’Jon Williams)
Georgia Army National Guard Capt. Guy Serapion briefs National Guard and U.S. Border Patrol members at the U.S. Border Patrol Rio Grande Valley Sector Headquarters, Edinburg, Texas, Nov. 1, 2019. (Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. De’Jon Williams)

This partnership between Georgia and Texas offers Guardsmen and women a chance to not only work together, but it also provides an opportunity for them to understand how federal law enforcement works and potentially pursue a civilian career with U.S. Border Patrol.

“This mission was something to help further their career,” said Griffith. “They’ll also have the time to learn more about the military and how we can work with Texas and the border patrol.” 

National Guardsmen and U.S. Border Patrol Agents discuss the transfer of authority responsibilities at the U.S. Border Patrol Rio Grande Valley Sector Headquarters, Edinburg, Texas, Nov. 1, 2019. (Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. De’Jon Williams)
National Guardsmen and U.S. Border Patrol Agents discuss the transfer of authority responsibilities at the U.S. Border Patrol Rio Grande Valley Sector Headquarters, Edinburg, Texas, Nov. 1, 2019. (Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. De’Jon Williams)

The unique skills and resources that the Georgia National Guard provides will continue the mission to provide civil support with ground and aerial forces supporting USCBP to enhance the Department of Homeland Security in the five USCBP five sector in Texas.

The Texas National Guard stands ready to serve Texas and the United States with partnerships like these.

At the Forefront of Fitness

Our Interview with Texas Army National Guard Sgt. Benjamin Magby

Story by Charles E. Spirtos, Texas Military Department Public Affairs

Sgt. Magby training. (Courtesy Photo: Sgt. Benjamin Magby)
Sgt. Magby training. (Courtesy Photo: Sgt. Benjamin Magby)

Sgt. Benjamin Magby, Alpha Troop, 1st Squadron, 124th Cavalry Regiment, is no stranger to fitness. As a calvary scout in the Texas Army National Guard, he also maintains status as a competitive powerlifter with a deadlift max of 515 lbs. and a total max of 1,200 lbs. This lifestyle requires a strict regimen of physical fitness and allows him to maintain his peak performance both as a powerlifter and as a warrior in the Texas Army National Guard.

Magby likens the structure and format of powerlifting to the sort of fitness requirements that a well-prepared Soldier must maintain. He believes that his career as a powerlifter prepares him for the battlefield.

Sgt. Magby completing "The Murph Challenge", a CrossFit workout in honor of the late Navy LT and Medal of Honor recipient Michael P. Murphy. Participants in the Murph Challenge are encouraged to complete the workout while wearing 20-pound armor plates. (Courtesy Photo: Sgt. Benjamin Magby)
Sgt. Magby completing "The Murph Challenge", a CrossFit workout in honor of the late Navy LT and Medal of Honor recipient Michael P. Murphy. Participants in the Murph Challenge are encouraged to complete the workout while wearing 20-pound armor plates. (Courtesy Photo: Sgt. Benjamin Magby)

“In powerlifting, one does not win simply by mere strength alone,” said Magby.

While the amount of weight lifted is certainly a key factor, proper form and execution is equally essential. The synergy of power and form as seen in powerlifting has a direct parallel to resiliency and lethality on the battlefield, as exemplified by the fact that in combat, a Soldier must employ proper technique in tandem with force.

Magby takes great pride in operating at a peak level of physical fitness. When asked for his motivation to maintain physical wellness, Magby responds that being in the best possible physical shape directly correlates with the Army value of duty. 

“It’s my duty and responsibility to maintain the standard required of a Soldier to perform on the battlefield,” said Magby.

As a non-commissioned officer and leader, he believes it’s his duty to lead by example and model to his Soldiers what the expectations of physical fitness are and what steps are required to reach and exceed those expectations.

In order to serve as a role model for his fellow Soldiers, Magby constantly looks for new challenges to conquer. In November, he participated in a charity ruck march to support the Texas Airborne Alliance during which he rucked 42 miles in 24 hours.

“It was one of the most physically challenging activities I have ever participated in,” Magby said.

Sgt. Magby and Cpl. Garrett Thompson completing the "42 in 24" Ruck March in support of the Texas Airborne Alliance. (Courtesy Photo: Sgt. Benjamin Magby)
Sgt. Magby and Cpl. Garrett Thompson completing the "42 in 24" Ruck March in support of the Texas Airborne Alliance. (Courtesy Photo: Sgt. Benjamin Magby)

Despite numerous opportunities to leave the ruck march, Magby nevertheless persisted and completed the forty-two miles in stride. Having risen to the occasion, Magby exhibited superior physical fitness and led by example.

When asked about the Army Combat Fitness Test, Magby expressed excitement for the Army’s evolution in assessing Soldiers’ holistic wellness. He believes these changes to the Army physical fitness program will result in fewer battlefield injuries and a force that exhibits increased resiliency and agility.

“You are not going to be able to walk in one day and max [the ACFT] out,” said Magby. “But with continuous conditioning, every Soldier will be able to succeed.”

Magby looks forward to the ACFT becoming the official Army fitness test of record because the complex motions required for each event remind him of powerlifting and also have direct parallels to activities that a Soldier may need to perform in combat.

In discussing the importance of a holistic wellness program, Magby acknowledges the importance of emotional and spiritual health in maintaining peak resiliency. These facets of fitness are all equally important, and spiritual health is especially significant for Magby, who is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Here, he finds inspiration for personal growth in his spirituality.

His spiritual health “gets him through hard times” and centers him during periods of stress and adversity, improving his quality of life in the civilian world and as a Guardsman, as well.

Rucksack. (Courtesy Photo: Sgt. Benjamin Magby)
(Courtesy Photo: Sgt. Benjamin Magby)

Magby’s holistic spiritual, physical and emotional wellness provides a system of support to ensure that he can balance the many demands he faces as a citizen-Soldier. 

One does not need to be a professional powerlifter, a fitness guru or a nutrition expert to reach his or her fitness goals. By setting and meeting goals for fitness as Magby has, every member of the Texas Army National Guard can be the best citizen-Soldiers they can be.

 

Texas Army National Guard Partners with Volt Athletics and The Peak to Enhance Strength & Conditioning Program

AUSTIN, TEXAS - The Texas Army National Guard (TXARNG) has entered into a partnership with Volt Athletics and The Peak to provide its 20,000 soldiers with individualized, state-of-the-art technology for physical fitness training.

“The Volt App, which utilizes artificial intelligence to customize workout routines to the needs of each individual, will allow troops to not only meet but also to exceed fitness goals. This is in the context of our major push to improve overall wellness within our organization, including: physical, mental, and spiritual health," says Chief Master Sergeant Michael E. Cornitius Jr., who is the Texas Military Department Command Senior Enlisted Leader at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas.

Volt collaborated with Texas Joint-force Headquarters and the Texas Military Department to design an exclusive, specialized training program to help Texas National Guardsmen prepare for the introduction of the Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT), and help the TXARNG achieve their goal of transforming their fitness culture to better avoid and recover from preventable injuries, and build cohesive teams.

Volt’s revolutionary AI technology delivers personalized 52-week training programs to soldiers wherever they are, via their mobile device. Volt then tracks and adapts each soldier’s individual training program in real-time based on their feedback, set by set. Each training session builds on the last, progressing the soldier so they can successfully pass the ACFT and stay combat-ready. And Volt’s HD video demonstrations of every exercise guide each soldier on the specific technique required to stay safe and effectively execute the training. Volt’s technology provides a fully scalable solution, empowering each soldier to take charge of their own training.

"The Texas Army National Guard is taking a proactive and unified approach towards strength and conditioning, and we're honored that our team at Volt gets to play a role," says Dan Giuliani, Co-Founder and CEO of Volt Athletics. “Because of this partnership, every soldier at the TXARNG can leverage Volt's AI training technology and will have access to world-class training to ensure they are prepared for the ACFT, and ready to perform at any time."

Volt is proud to partner with The Peak Inc., a Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business, who increases operator effectiveness in austere environments through operational training and human performance optimization services.

The partnership between The Texas Army National Guard and The Peak and Volt Athletics is effective immediately. Volt’s training system is currently available to all soldiers and officers.

National Guard competition showcases its elite

Story by Specialist Miguel Ruiz, 100th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, TXARNG

AUSTIN, Texas – The sun has yet to shine for another few hours, its hovering around 30 degrees Fahrenheit and Best Warrior competitors are running on merely four hours of rest as they crowd the starting line of a makeshift running trail at a National Guard training center in Bastrop County.

Despite little recovery time from the pains and injuries from the previous day’s events, roughly 40 Soldiers and Airmen from the Texas National Guard endure their next task, marching (or running) a 12-mile course while carrying a weighted pack in full military uniform. 

Soldiers with the 36th Infantry Division showed their strength and knowledge in the Best Warrior competition at Camp Swift, Bastrop, TX. The winning Soldier and NCO will go on to the active duty Best Warrior Competition. (U.S. Army National Guard Photo by Staff Sgt. Mark Scovell, 36th Infantry Division Public Affairs)
Soldiers with the 36th Infantry Division showed their strength and knowledge in the Best Warrior competition at Camp Swift, Bastrop, TX. The winning Soldier and NCO will go on to the active duty Best Warrior Competition. (U.S. Army National Guard Photo by Staff Sgt. Mark Scovell, 36th Infantry Division Public Affairs) 

The course is unlit with no indication of how far a competitor has traveled. Large and loose gravel exposes weak ankles and is unforgiving of thin boot soles. The winding, hilly trail is a grueling challenge for any experienced trail runner.

Nevertheless, the competitors persevered placing one foot in front of another, fighting mental and physical discomfort, in a race to the finish line against their peers in the Texas Military Department’s Best Warrior Competition.

TMD BWC competitors are hand selected from Texas’ 24,000 Guardsmen and are representatives of their respective units within the Texas Army National Guard and the Texas Air National Guard.

The annual competition showcases TMD’s most capable Soldiers and Airmen and promotes a lethal, capable and well-rounded fighting force that serves both Texas and the United States for stateside emergency responses or overseas deployments in addition to their year-round training initiatives.

“It’s challenging and rewarding. You can’t fully anticipate what to expect to run into, whether it’s board (interview with senior leaders) questions, mystery events, or running into brush and trees during the night land-navigation course,” said Staff Sgt. Josh Pittman, a combat engineer with the 840th Mobility Augmentation Company and a competitor in 2018’s TMD BWC. “You have to be ready for anything and everything.”

Best warrior competitions take place nationwide on state, regional and national levels and are sponsored by various National Guard or active Army organizations. No one competition is identical to another but what is for certain is that each competition lasts for several days, throughout the night, and will push competitors to the brink of their physical and mental limitations by way of enduring continuous and stressful tasks, exams and challenges.

“Every competition had at least an interview board, ruck march, ACFT (Army Combat Fitness Test), day and nighttime land-navigation courses, various warrior-task challenges and various live-shooting events,” said Spc. Hunter Olson, the overall national winner of the National Guard Best Warrior Competition, first runner up in the All-Army national-level BWC, and an infantryman with the 1-175th Infantry Regiment, Maryland National Guard.

“The competition is difficult for the average Soldier, mostly due to the cumulative fatigue the competition can inflict,” said Olson. “There were days where competitors traveled over 18 miles with weighted rucksacks.”

Traveling long distances while carrying 40 pounds or more of gear may be only one piece of a competitor’s pain puzzle.

In 2018’s TMD BWC, competitors competed in a nighttime land navigation course where they were tasked with locating markers, spread hundreds of meters apart in Central Texas woodlands, using only a compass, a map, and moonlight. They were not afforded the luxury of using flashlights or lamps.

Competitors traveled by foot up and over thick vegetation and through creek beds with only victory in mind as it continued to rain and temperatures hovered near freezing. The last competitor to complete this portion of the competition crossed the finish line around midnight, leaving roughly four hours of downtime before the ensuing 12-mile ruck march (run).

“The night land navigation portion of BWC was challenging. Starting late at night after going through multiple events all day was mentally and physically demanding,” said Sgt. Zachary Schindler, a 2018 TMD BWC competitor and a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System Gunner with the 4-133rd Field Artillery Regiment. “The weather and conditions of that course immediately put everyone at a disadvantage.”

By this point in the competition cuts, bruises and full-body fatigue began to set in because only hours before the nighttime navigation course, competitors had just completed a grueling obstacle course and an intensified version of the Army Physical Fitness Test which included a four-mile run. All of these events are held back to back.

Perhaps a more invisible deterrent to BWC victory, other than physical exhaustion or injury, is the mental strain and uncertainty that many competitors face as these competitions near their end.

It is not uncommon to hear from competitors that they feel nervous before a particular event or are skeptical of their ability to perform. However the competitors’ resiliency in the heat of battle usually reigns supreme, as was the case for Sgt. Noe Ochoa, a 2018 TMD BWC competitor and a cyber analyst in the TXARNG.

“The obstacle course was my toughest event because of my fear of heights so I prepared myself mentally by taking every opportunity to climb high structures and get used to the feeling,” said Ochoa. “It paid off. I was able to scale the confidence climb in a personal-record best!”

BWC competitors like Ochoa are representative of the resiliency and readiness that all Texas Guardsmen possess.

Despite the individual-based nature of each event, competitors found ways to come together to lift the morale of one another which helped individual performance and created lasting friendships by the end of the BWC, said 2018 TMD BWC competitor Sgt. Schindler.

“The competition is designed to test you as a warrior. And you will be pushed to your limits under conditions you may not be accustomed to,” said Schindler. “All the competitors were great and pushed others along at every event. No one was ever truly alone.”

Faced with intense competition, difficult tasks, and harsh conditions, BWC competitors perform at a high level and all Guardsmen should consider competing says the 2018 overall winner of the National Guard BWC.

“While winning is a good goal, the high-level training that BWCs offer should be a big motivator to competitors,” said Olsen. “If you are goal-oriented and motivated, take the chance to better yourself!”

Guard cyber teams key asset in cyber defense

Story by Sgt. 1st Class Jon Soucy, National Guard Bureau

ARLINGTON, Va. - National Guard members continue to be an integral element in cyber defense, the Guard's top general said during a recent roundtable discussion at the Pentagon on the cyber mission set.

"When I first joined the National Guard cyber was not part of our vocabulary," said Air Force Gen. Joseph Lengyel, chief of the National Guard Bureau. "Now, it's one of our daily battlegrounds."

Pennsylvania Army National Guard cyber team members monitor computer networks during elections in the state Nov. 5, 2019. Cyber teams from throughout the National Guard have remained a key part of cyber defense, said Guard officials, and have responded to ransomware attacks in Texas and Louisiana and worked in direct support of U.S. Cyber Command. (Photo Credit: Staff Sgt. Zane Craig)
Pennsylvania Army National Guard cyber team members monitor computer networks during elections in the state Nov. 5, 2019. Cyber teams from throughout the National Guard have remained a key part of cyber defense, said Guard officials, and have responded to ransomware attacks in Texas and Louisiana and worked in direct support of U.S. Cyber Command. (Photo Credit: Staff Sgt. Zane Craig)


More than 3,900 troops make up the Guard's cyber element, said Lengyel, adding that includes traditional part-time units as well as 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.

Guard cyber teams have also responded in support of local and state authorities, including earlier this year in Texas and Louisiana.

"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."

County officials realized that a response to the attack was beyond the scope of their information technology staff and looked to the Guard for assistance, said Norris.

"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."

That, it turned out, was just a dress rehearsal. A month later 22 Texas counties were hit with ransomware attacks, and again the Texas Guard was called out.

"Immediately the [Texas] Department of Emergency Management called over to us and we got people on the phone to assess and figure out where to go to start [responding to the attack]," said Norris.

From there, a team of 50 or so Soldiers and Airmen responded to get the networks back online, said Norris, adding it took about two weeks to get everything back to normal.

Jackson County, the county hit in the May attack, was also one of the 22 counties hit in June, but the attackers were quickly stopped.

"They did not get past [the network] firewall," said Norris, adding that was in large part because of measures Guard members had put in place after the earlier attack.

Similar attacks occurred in Louisiana in July. Those attacks affected five parishes -- the Louisiana equivalent to a county -- and 54 schools.

"It was two weeks prior to school [starting for the year]," said Kenneth Donnelly, executive director of the Louisiana Cyber Security Commission. "Mainly it affected the parish school board systems for [grades] K through 12."

Louisiana National Guard cyber teams were called in.

"The governor declared a state of emergency, which allowed us to expand our [response] capability," said Donnelly. "We were able to use those [Guard] assets and were able to build the capability and capacity in Louisiana to get on the ground quickly and recover the parishes' school systems before school started."

The response also mitigated attacks in other parts of Louisiana.

"We were able to prevent seven other parishes from being severely impacted by the ransomware attack," said Donnelly.

That was, in part, because of assistance from the Louisiana Guard.

"This is the new norm," he said. "We currently have ongoing two additional cyberattacks that took place recently and we have the same resources on the ground right now."

Because of that "new norm," cyberattacks are often treated no differently than a hurricane or other large-scale disaster and the Guard is brought in to assist, said Lengyel.

"When they first developed cyber, people thought there really is no domestic mission for a governor to use a cyber force in state capacity," he said. "Now, we're seeing how wrong that could be."

But unlike a natural disaster, Guard cyber teams can be brought in ahead of time to mitigate possible attacks and were key to doing just that during recent elections.

"In 2018 the Guard was on duty in 27 states either monitoring the state.gov networks or on standby in case something happened," said Lengyel.

Plans are already underway for similar support during the 2020 elections.

As part of that, Guard teams would begin by assessing the network for any vulnerabilities, said Army Maj. Gen. Bret D. Daugherty, the adjutant general of the Washington National Guard, which has a large cyber element.

After that, said Daugherty, any vulnerabilities would be addressed.

"This is all side by side with Department of State IT people who do the keyboard entry," he said.

Finally, if needed, a team would then monitor the network.

"We [would] have that team on hand leading up to and during the election to monitor the network for any bad actors who may be trying to hack in, doing whatever we can to keep that from happening," said Daugherty.

If any hacking activity were to occur, it would then be turned over to law enforcement officials, said Lengyel.

"Once we find a crime scene in the cyber domain, we turn it over to law enforcement or call in the FBI," he said.

The Guard's ability to operate in the cyber domain is just another skill set Guard members bring to the fight, whether overseas or at home, Lengyel said.
"It's the role of the men and women of the National Guard to be able to offer these kinds of services to our governors to respond to a domestic event," he said. "Whether it's a hurricane, a fire or a cyber event, it's just another military skill set we can transfer into use."

147th Attack Wing participates in weapon evaluation exercise

Story by Tech. Sgt Daniel Martinez, 147th Attack Wing

ELLINGTON FIELD JOINT RESERVE BASE, Texas – The 147th Attack Wing participated in a Weapon System Evaluation Program exercise conducted by the 86th Fighter Weapons Squadron from Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, Nov. 3.

Inspectors evaluated tactics, weapon effectiveness and airframe readiness. Members of the 147th Attack Wing armed MQ-9 Reapers with live ammunition for the first time at Ellington Field JRB, and completed launch and recoveries (LRE) by Mobile Dual Control Ground Control Station (GCS) and Ground Data Terminal (GDT).

Ellington Field, Joint Reserve Base, Texas - 147th Attack Wing Members participate in a Weapon System Evaluation Program exercise conducted by the 86th Fighter Weapons Squadron from Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, Nov. 3, 2019, at Ellington Field, Joint Reserve Base, Texas. (US Air Force National Guard Photo by Senior Master Sgt. Sean Cowher
Ellington Field, Joint Reserve Base, Texas - 147th Attack Wing Members participate in a Weapon System Evaluation Program exercise conducted by the 86th Fighter Weapons Squadron from Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, Nov. 3, 2019, at Ellington Field, Joint Reserve Base, Texas. (US Air Force National Guard Photo by Senior Master Sgt. Sean Cowher)

"It's an exciting time to be Reaper Keeper! We are flying from our ramp, exercising all specialties, and helping validate the effectiveness of munitions for the U. S. Air Force," said Lt. Col. Derek Weaver, the 147th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron commander. "Morale is at an all-time high and I am proud of the men and women that have worked hard every day to make this happen."

MQ-9 Reapers were flown out of Ellington Field JRB to an isolated training site in Florida and were evaluated during live-drop operations.

"Texans can be proud of what their Air National Guard has accomplished. Right down the road from where Houston CAPCOM launched our mission to the moon, we launched our first out-of-state weapons exercise with our aircraft beyond visual range," said Lt. Col. Christopher, an MQ-9 pilot assigned to the 111th Attack Squadron. "This is the first step in a new era of the way the Texas Air National Guard serves the state and country as a whole as our aircraft flies off into the sunrise of a cool Houston morning."

The MQ-9 Reaper is the 12th airframe to be flown out of Ellington Field JRB, Texas.

Texas Counterdrug supports Red Ribbon events throughout the state

Story by Master Sgt. Michael Leslie, Texas Joint Counterdrug Taskforce

AUSTIN, Texas – Red Ribbon week has grown since its inception in 1988 educating the public about the hazards of drug abuse. This year, the Texas National Guard Joint Counterdrug Task Force stepped up their support to law enforcement agencies and community anti-drug coalitions to bring this message to communities around the state. 

Members of the Texas National Guard Joint Counterdrug Task Force support El Paso Drug Enforcement Administration during Take Back Day to receive unused prescriptions. (Courtesy Photo, Texas Joint Counterdrug Taskforce)
Members of the Texas National Guard Joint Counterdrug Task Force support El Paso Drug Enforcement Administration during Take Back Day to receive unused prescriptions. (Courtesy Photo, Texas Joint Counterdrug Taskforce)

Drug free starts with me.

“Red Ribbon is about educating the community on drug awareness and the negative impact drugs have on individuals and society,” said Counterdrug civil operations noncommissioned officer in charge, Master Sgt. Celsa Reyes.

The Counterdrug task force started with teaching Girls Scouts in Liberty Hill, Texas with a rock wall, dunk tank and a helicopter, showcasing the various capabilities of the program.

“It was a challenging experience since it was the first time collaborating with Girl Scouts but a great opportunity to involve us and a great success,” said Reyes.

Over the next few weeks, task force members sponsored a Red Ribbon 5k Run, stood side-by-side with Drug Enforcement Administration agents for prescription drug Take Back Day, and went to 39 schools in 12 cities giving briefings and handing out red wrist bands as a reminder to stay drug free.

“Getting the message to youth across the nation on the danger of using drugs is a very important announcement that can save many lives,” said Master Sgt. Almera Rose, an assistant team leader for the Counterdrug program. “To reach out as many audience as possible, the message must be said repetitively in different ways. One way of doing that is through red ribbon week.”

The Texas National Guard Joint Counterdrug Task Force flew Drug Enforcement Administration special agents in an Army National Guard Luh-72 Lakota helicopter to five Austin-area schools to talk about drug abuse prevention and awareness. (US Army National Guard Photo by Master Sgt. Johnie Smith)
The Texas National Guard Joint Counterdrug Task Force flew Drug Enforcement Administration special agents in an Army National Guard Luh-72 Lakota helicopter to five Austin-area schools to talk about drug abuse prevention and awareness. (US Army National Guard Photo by Master Sgt. Johnie Smith)

A new initiative with the DEA was to fly an Army National Guard LUH-72 Lakota helicopter to various Austin-area schools and giving a short message from a DEA agent about what students needed to watch for as they grow up and are possibly subjected to illicit drugs.

“We hope our Texas communities understand the commitment and passion we, National Guard members, have towards drug prevention and education programs,” said Reyes. “Through the use of our helicopter, this event becomes memorable to our children and assists them in staying drug free.”

Each student body then raised their right hand and repeated a pledge to do well in school and stay drug free.

Even the school mascot in Dripping Springs, Texas made an appearance from the helicopter where children erupted in cheer as Timmy the Tiger stepped out with arms wide.

The Texas National Guard Joint Counterdrug Task Force flew Drug Enforcement Administration special agents in an Army National Guard Luh-72 Lakota helicopter to five Austin-area schools to talk about drug abuse prevention and awareness. (Courtesy Photo, Texas Joint Counterdrug Task Force)
The Texas National Guard Joint Counterdrug Task Force flew Drug Enforcement Administration special agents in an Army National Guard Luh-72 Lakota helicopter to five Austin-area schools to talk about drug abuse prevention and awareness. (Courtesy Photo, Texas Joint Counterdrug Task Force)

“It shows that the community cares,” said Senior Master Sgt. Kira Harris, the Counterdrug comptroller noncommissioned officer in charge and Dripping Springs native. “When we stepped off the helicopter, the kids screamed for Timmy the Tiger like he was a rock star.”

Red Ribbon Week is in honor of DEA Special Agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena after his capture, torture and murder at the hands of a Mexican drug cartel in 1985. Task force members were a part of an event in which Mika Camarena, Enrique’s wife, spoke in Dallas, Texas, honoring her husband.

“Carrying on the legacy of “Kiki” Camarena is a constant reminder of how lucrative and dangerous the illegal drug business can be,” said Rose, “and if you get in their way, you will get hurt somehow.”

Before he joined the DEA, Camarena wanted to be part of the solution to take back communities and protect children from the criminals that would harm them for illicit profit.

“Red Ribbon events remind us that people like DEA special agent Enrique Camarena have laid their lives in the fight against drugs,” said Reyes.

Soldier