Texas Guardsmen double annual training value

Story by: Sgt. Suzanne Carter

Posted: April 24, 2015

Courtesy Photo Guardsmen with the Texas National Guard's 836th Chemical Company, 6th Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and High-Yield Explosives (CBRNE) Enhanced Response Force Package, Joint Task Force 136 (Maneuver Enhancement Brigade), move an injured civilian into a chemical decontamination line during a training exercise at Govalle Waste Water Treatment Plant in Austin, Texas, as part of their weeklong annual training period April 22, 2015. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Martha Guerrero/Released)
Courtesy Photo
Guardsmen with the Texas National Guard's 836th Chemical Company, 6th Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and High-Yield Explosives (CBRNE) Enhanced Response Force Package, Joint Task Force 136 (Maneuver Enhancement Brigade), move an injured civilian into a chemical decontamination line during a training exercise at Govalle Waste Water Treatment Plant in Austin, Texas, as part of their weeklong annual training period April 22, 2015. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Martha Guerrero/Released)

BASTROP, Texas - National Guard troops of the Joint Task Force 136 (Maneuver Enhancement Brigade) conducted dual mission training exercises at Camp Swift in Bastrop, Texas and other locations around the state during their weeklong annual training period April 19-26, 2015.

Service members practiced their Soldier skills while performing emergency response operations in order to build competence as the custodians of the FEMA Region VI Homeland Response Force mission.

“Any time that we’re training, we’re going to be doing both our Defense Support to Civil Authorities mission as well as our Army mission,” said Col. Lee Schnell, JTF 136 (MEB) commander. “It’s kind of just what we do.”

Training for the brigade’s DSCA mission provided opportunities for Soldiers to apply their warrior tasks and military occupational specialty skills. Members of the 436th Chemical Company, part of the 6th Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and high-yield Explosive (CBRNE) Enhanced Response Force Package, said that their experience with Army equipment supports their HRF mission readiness.

“We are conducting reconnaissance operations in buddy teams using a joint chemical agent detector,” Sgt. Cody Hammond said. “We use these to find a contaminated area so that we can mark the terrain and give the command element a picture of the area of operations. If necessary, we can use these during a [DSCA] mission.”

Soldiers and their leaders valued the chance to work with their military (green) equipment, getting back to the basics of their traditional Army role while still supporting their disaster response (white) mission.

“This year we are going to continue with more green training in combination with the white because we need to be ready for both missions,” said Capt. Marilu Wilkinson, commander of the 436th Chemical Company. “[The Soldiers are] getting some good training with the equipment. They’re very excited to do this green training.”

Maintaining their HRF mission means that the brigade must be prepared to react to natural disasters, terrorist attacks, or other devastating incidents that may occur in Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, or New Mexico. Covering such a diverse region means that Soldiers must be mobile and adaptable to any environment, which is why the troops trained at the Govalle Waste Water Treatment Plant in Austin and Disaster City in College Station, in addition to Camp Swift. Training for the HRF mission includes responding to notional scenarios with the full force of the brigade’s capabilities like chemical decontamination, search and rescue and medical triage. 

“We responded to a plane crash that involved a large number of personnel in a contaminated environment,” said Sgt. 1st Class Jason Sanchez, a platoon sergeant with 836th Engineer Company, also part of the 6th CERFP, about the Govalle scenario of their annual training. “During that exercise we allowed our junior members to go ahead and take charge while our senior leaders became the worker bees. The results were astounding.”

Sanchez said that giving junior Soldiers control of the situation allowed them to take ownership of their role in the response efforts and perform above expectations.

“They reacted well to the situation, called up reports, kept everybody informed, provided a good plan for their response, and then sent up a clear picture of the situation to the leadership in the [tactical operations center],” he said.

Spc. Kimberly Pena with the 236th Military Police Company, part of the CBRNE Assistance Support Element, appreciated the opportunity to be more responsible for her role in supporting emergency response efforts, which includes guiding civilians toward help.

“We have to be in communication with other elements on the ground to find out the information that we need,” she said. “It’s not up to the [noncommissioned officers] to always do that for us. It’s more individual responsibility to talk to civilians and get them where they need to go to get help.”

Pushing junior service members into leadership roles expands their capacity for overcoming obstacles and accomplishing any mission that comes their way.

“What Soldiers do best is solving problems creatively,” Schnell said. “This training puts leadership in the environment where they have to use the Soldiers to the best of their abilities and challenge everybody all the way up and down the chain of command. Our junior members are very smart when it comes to solving problems and our leaders are learning that if they give their Soldiers broad directions, they can count on the Soldiers to figure out a solution.”

Conducting dual trainings like this not only encourages Soldiers to take on more active roles in their training, but also brings them together as a team and builds morale.

“The teamwork, the adventure, the excitement, the communication,” said Pfc. Espinoza Mariano of the 836th Engineer Company, “everything about it has been awesome.”

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.