Journey to becoming Army Fit

Week 9

We are continuing to gather advice about strengthening our form, technique and bodies.  More than one service member and one of our own family members told us to try the ‘Perfect Pushup’ device.  Sounds great!  A tool that will perfect our pushups and help us reach our goal numbers in order to pass the test.  Just like that, the device showed up in the office thanks to a kindhearted service member.  We were thrilled.  If you’ve never seen this apparatus, it is two round disks (that swivel) and there are handles on top of each disk. We immediately tried them out, figuring that they were the magic wand that would fix everything.  Wrong!  We had a tough time figuring out how to use them correctly and the swiveling made us very unsteady.  We looked online for more information. The person in the video we found made it look so easy. We tried again. No luck. 

We asked our co-worker Sgt. Sanders for help since he was the one who first mentioned the device to us. With grace and ease, Sgt. Sanders performed several perfect-form pushups and instructed us patiently when we tried again.  We can see how the device could be helpful, but have decided that it is, unfortunately, still beyond our skill level.  Back to doing pushups the old fashion way!  

Lesson of the week:
What works for some does not always work for others.  This is true for mental fitness as well as physical fitness.  The only way to know what suits you is to listen, watch, gather lots of ideas and then try them. Those that work, add them to your list of techniques.  Those that don’t...well, as with the ‘Perfect Pushup’ device, it is a learning experience.  

Commentary by Courtney J. Lynch and Tracy K. Ward, Psychological Health Coordinators

Texas Guard Soldier takes home top honors during Task Force Sinai quarterly competition

Story by: Sgt. Thomas Duval

Posted: March 19, 2015

Story courtesy of: Task Force Sinai

Sgt. Thomas Duval Spc. Ricardo Gonzales, a combat medic from the Minnesota National Guard, currently serving in the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt with Task Force Sinai, performs first aid on a simulated casualty during the unit's Best Warrior Competition held March 18, 2015. During the competition Soldiers underwent a number of mental and physical tests that included trauma lanes, physical fitness test, weapons qualification and a formal board, among others. (U.S. Army Photo By: Sgt. Thomas Duval, Task Force Sinai Public Affairs)
Sgt. Thomas Duval
Spc. Ricardo Gonzales, a combat medic from the Minnesota National Guard, currently serving in the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt with Task Force Sinai, performs first aid on a simulated casualty during the unit's Best Warrior Competition held March 18, 2015. During the competition Soldiers underwent a number of mental and physical tests that included trauma lanes, physical fitness test, weapons qualification and a formal board, among others. (U.S. Army Photo By: Sgt. Thomas Duval, Task Force Sinai Public Affairs)

EL GORAH, Egypt — After being in the Sinai Desert supporting peace with the Multinational Force and Observers for less than a month, Spc. Tommy Ly has already taken the reins and set the standard for his peers.

Ly, a financial management technician assigned to the 1st Squadron, 112th Cavalry Regiment- currently operating as the Army’s U.S. Security Battalion in Sinai Egypt- won the Task Force Sinai Soldier of the Quarter Competition held here March 18, 2015. 

“I have always set high standards to push myself to be better and to win this is just a relief,” Ly, a Channelview, Texas, native said.

For Ly and the other hopefuls, the two-day event kicked off March 17th as Soldiers were tested on their Army knowledge with a written exam. 

Day Two of the competition began by testing each Soldier’s physical prowess during the Army Physical Fitness Test and continued as each competitor completed a number of situational training lanes. The lanes included weapons qualification, treating a casualty, calling in a nine-line medevac, and communications lane. Each participant was graded on their proficiency in each warrior task and given an overall score. 

That score was carried with the Soldiers as they entered the final obstacle- a formal board in front of their leaders. During the board, senior leaders from Task Force Sinai tested the nominees on their overall knowledge on more than 12 Army categories ranging from regulations to leader values. 

“I really learned a lot about myself throughout this competition,” Ly added. “Studying the different topics taught me what Army leadership is and I was able to pick up different leadership traits.” 

To make the situation more challenging, Ly only arrived to the Sinai three weeks prior to the competition and was told while unpacking that he would be selected to represent his unit. 

Ly, a four-year Army veteran who serves as part of the North Camp Response Team for the MFO, immediately started to study on his limited amount of off-time. Although the amount of dedication each Soldier put into preparing for the competition cannot accurately be measured Ly said he didn’t do it alone and instead attributes his success to his leaders who mentored him along the way.

His platoon leader, Sgt. 1st Class Dustin Harris, ensured Ly stayed motivated by challenging him on a daily basis. 

“I told him you better score a 270 or higher on your PT test or else you’re not going,” Harris said. “I even made him run with someone who I knew would push him.” 

Harris also challenged Ly with by reminding him of the unspoken rivalry between National Guard and active duty Soldiers. 

“There’s always been a rivalry between the guard and active duty,” Ly said. “It’s nice for us to win something like this.” 

At the end of the day, all of Ly’s sacrifices paid off but as he walked away with the title of ‘Best Soldier in the Desert’, for this quarter, he didn’t have time to celebrate. Instead he did what a true Soldier does and got right back to work.

TXMF Day at the Capitol

Story by: Capt. Martha Nigrelle

Posted: March 19, 2015

Picture of EventAUSTIN, Texas – The Texas legislature recognized the members of the Texas Military for their service to the state and nation, March 19, 2015, during Texas Military Forces Day at the Capitol in Austin.

As part of the day, legislators and their staff members spent time visiting with numerous guardsmen to discuss the roles and capabilities of the guard in Texas.

The TXMF used the day to showcase the force, which featured representatives from across the force, as well as two different rifle and pistol simulators. Organizers from the TXMF Government Affairs team said their goal was to increase awareness and understanding of the TXMF’s dual state and federal mission to both state representatives and the general public.

Visitors remained engaged dueling on the simulators and learning more about their Texas Guard.  Ana Ramon, chief of staff for state Representative Joe Farias (San Antonio), said she found it fascinating how so many different components came together to serve as one.

 “Often, decision making is done on a very superficial level,” Ramon said. “When you have someone you are talking to who lives it, who sees it every day, it gives you the drive and the motivation to dig deeper and find not just the cause, but what the systemic root of an issue is and how we can help that.”

 Guardsmen set up informational booths focusing specifically on the Army, Air and State Guards, the facilities and maintenance office, the Texas Challenge Academy, the Civil Support Team, Domestic Operations and the unique skill sets and capabilities each of these components provides. 

 “We wanted to make sure as many divisions in the National Guard and State Guard could be represented as possible,” said Jordy Keith, TXMF government affairs deputy director-state. “We wanted the legislators and the general public to see what the Texas National Guard and Texas State Guard does for Texas.”

 Many of the service members working the event took a break to visit the Senate, in session, where they received a standing ovation in thanks, by all representatives and member of the public present, for the service TXMF gives to both the state and nation.

 “I thought today went extremely well,” said Maj. Gen. John F. Nichols, the adjutant general – Texas, “They got to meet you all, they didn’t just see Nichols. They got to see the National Guard.”

 Just before the Senate session began, Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick stopped by the event to visit with the troops and thank them for their service.

 “America depends on a strong Texas,” said Patrick. “And a strong Texas relies on all of you.”

Journey to becoming Army Fit

continue to work toward our goal of taking and passing a PT testWeek 8

We continue to work toward our goal of taking and passing a PT test; however, we both notice that it is not as easy as we thought it would be. Initially, our motivation was high and our day-to-day jobs were a little less hectic since we were still new and it was the holiday season. Now, our work days are much busier and our bodies have various aches and pains from increased exercise and working under-used muscle groups, which makes working out tougher. We remind ourselves that progress is slow, and we respect that our bodies need a bit more recovery time now than they did when we were in our twenties and thirties. 

It gets us thinking about service members in the National Guard. Active duty service members typically do PT together in an organized group, and as a required part of their daily work routine. Guard members, on the other hand, often live and work apart from each other, and must rely on their own initiative to maintain their physical fitness in order to pass their PT test. It makes us very much appreciate their commitment, dedication, and self-discipline to being in the National Guard. They inspire us, along with a deep desire not to flunk, to keep chugging toward our goal. 

We have received so many good tips and strategies for building our strength and physical fitness. It is interesting to note that all of these tips and strategies are helpful, yet different. Each takes a unique approach to accomplishing the same goal or task. We see the same occurrence in mental fitness. There are varied ideas about how to maintain mental fitness and increase coping skills; all good, yet different. We compiled a list of coping skills, some that are our favorites and some that are borrowed from others:

•    Ask for help 
•    Create a support system
•    Accept imperfection / Be gentle with yourself
•    Take a relaxation break
•    Monitor inner thoughts
•    Take care of your (physical) health
•    Have a friend and be a friend

For more ideas and suggestions about coping and emotional health, check out:

Commentary by Courtney J. Lynch and Tracy K. Ward, Psychological Health Coordinators

Journey to becoming Army Fit

our PT date is closing in on usWeek 7

As our PT date is closing in on us, we notice we are feeling some anxiety about taking the test.  We are having to use more positive self talk, such as: You can do this; Others have started out weak but got stronger and passed the test;  You are progressing, be patient.  

At the same time, however, we’ve also observed an increase in negative self talk: OMG, you are going to flunk; What were you thinking signing up for a PT test and blogging about it?; You are going to make a fool out of yourself; This is a dumb idea; You are going to embarrass yourself and your colleagues; Everyone is going to laugh at you. 

We've had to help each other with these thoughts and spend some time using more realistic statements to combat the negative ones. Ok, if you fail, you tried, it's not the end of the world and you did get in better shape than when you started. Learn, adapt and try again.  As the old saying goes... “If at first you don't succeed, try, try again.”

While we know there is a possibility we might not pass, we do know we will survive if we fail the PT test.  We will survive that failure, that day, that week, and the flack we may have to endure for awhile following the test. 

Mental Fitness maturity comes from facing our fears, our failures, and our mistakes followed by taking responsibility, finding solutions, gathering support and learning from the experience. Mistakes and failures are some of the best teachers, if you take time to learn from them.  Tough situations create an opportunity to practice your coping skills and find out where you may need to add extra ones. 

In sum, learning to be Army Fit is making us “walk the walk”, not just “talk the talk”. And, it is making us use our coping skills as we get closer to the test on March 23, 2015.  

•    Positive Self-Talk (Be encouraging, realistic, and patient with change and progress).
•    Monitor Negative Self-Talk (Watch for words that make the situation worse than it really is; watch for words that are mean or cruel or words that deplete your desire to keep trying or to do better).
•    Evaluate the situation outside of the anxiety/worry or fear of failure.  (Talking to someone who is outside of the situation may help you see the situation more clearly).
•    Learn and Adapt (Remind yourself that we all have challenges; they are part of our human experience and help us mature.  You will make mistakes and have failures in life.  Take responsibility for shortcomings, learn from mistakes, make amends if necessary, and move on....The Next Challenge is right around the corner). 

Commentary by Courtney J. Lynch and Tracy K. Ward, Psychological Health Coordinators

From The Top: “What the Heck is DOMOPS?” The History and Composition of the Domestic Operations Task Force

Brig. Gen. Patrick M. Hamilton CommanderCommentary by Brig. Gen. Patrick M. Hamilton
Commander, Domestic Operations Task Force

CAMP MABRY, Texas – Many members of the Texas Military forces are unfamiliar with the Domestic Operations Task Force also called “DOMOPS”.  What is it?  Who are they?  What do they do?  I will answer these questions and give a short history on how the Domestic Operations Task Force came to be.

Over the years leading up to the Task Force’s creation, the Texas Military Forces had responded to many hurricanes and other emergencies averaging almost 30,000 man days per year since 2001.  The response effort, while effective, lacked a standing headquarters.  Units who were called on to respond were always changing and Soldiers had to learn and re-learn response operations in support of civil authorities.  It was quickly discovered that a permanent task force headquarters was needed.  

In the fall of 2011, the Joint Staff were tasked by the Adjutant General, Maj. Gen. John F. Nichols, to devise a plan which would allow the Texas Military Forces to improve response time, maximize equipment and personnel capabilities, place various critical Domestic Operations programs on a sustainable footing, and make the best use of taxpayers’ dollars in regards to the State Active Duty (SAD) or Federal Title 32 Domestic Operations Missions.  A distributed planning team was assembled and conducted a systematic planning effort to develop courses of action.  After much analysis, a plan was approved. Brig. Gen. Len Smith, now Maj. Gen., spearheaded the establishment of the Domestic Operations Task Force as permanent force structure with subordinate, non-divisional units.  The Domestic Operations Task Force was established on May 21st, 2012 under the command of then Brigadier General Len Smith. 

The Domestic Operations Task Force is a joint organization comprised of four subordinate units and a joint staff.   In addition to the joint staff, the four units that make up the task force are the Joint Task Force 136th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade (MEB), the 176th Engineer Brigade, the Joint Counter Drug Task Force, and the Southwest Border Task Force.  Each of the subordinate units has a mission set that is specific to Domestic Operations, while also maintaining its federal, wartime mission. 

One of these missions is the Homeland Response Force (HRF) Mission.  The HRF Mission belongs to the Joint Task Force 136th (MEB) in Round Rock, Texas.  The HRF mission is to provide a CBRNE (chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and explosive) response capability in each FEMA region that is able to provide timely life-saving skills within the first 48 hours of a CBRNE event, and to establish, when necessary, a regional command and control structure in order to synchronize all State Active Duty/Title 32 CBRNE responses involving Civil Support Teams (CST), CBRNE Enhanced Response Force Packages (CERFP) and prepare for follow-on forces.   Texas is in FEMA Region VI, which is also comprised of Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, and Oklahoma.  The JTF 136th (MEB)’s HRF mission is evaluated and re-certified every three years. 

The 176th Engineer Brigade is assigned the All Hazards mission set and provides the Joint Task Force Headquarters for Defense Support to Civil Authorities (DSCA) missions.  TXMF are continuously supporting civilian authorities by responding to all hazards at the direction of the Governor, in order to preserve the lives and property of the people of Texas.  Those missions include hurricane response, ground wildfire suppression, and winter storm response to name a few. The 176th’s geographic dispersion and variety of equipment make it a perfect unit for domestic all hazards response.

The Joint Counterdrug Task Force’s mission is to assist Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs) and Community Based Organizations (CBOs) in the disruption of illicit drug financing, production, transportation and distribution, and promotes drug-free living through community-based education and prevention.  The Joint Counterdrug Task Force (JCDTF) conducts operations throughout the state of Texas and along the southwest border.  In addition to military counterdrug operations, the JCDTF also conducts civil operations to coach communities by delivering collaborative and effective strategies that create healthy citizens.  Civil operations include the Texas ChalleNGe Academy, STARBASE, Operation Crackdown, and the Joint Substance Abuse Program. 

The Southwest Border Mission (Operation Phalanx) is conducted by Joint Task Force Liberty, of which the Texas Military Forces has operational control.  The Task Force’s mission is to conduct aerial detection and monitoring to disrupt Transnational Criminal Organizations (TCOs) and Drug Trafficking Organizations in support of U.S. Department of Homeland Security.  JTF Liberty works closely alongside the Customs and Border Protection Office (CBP) to provide air-centric operations and increase CBP’s capability with personnel and technology.  The helicopter used to conduct air operations along the border is the UH-72 Lakota and it is the premier Law Enforcement Agency support aircraft within the National Guard.  The National Guard is a key partner in the Department of Defense’s efforts on border security, and our operations on the border have led to the seizure of over 75,000lbs of illegal narcotics and the apprehension of over 61,000 undocumented aliens since 2012. 

As we move into hurricane and wildfire season and as activity along the southwest border is picking up, there is no question that the Domestic Operations Task Force is ready to respond at a moment’s notice. The Soldiers and Airmen of the Domestic Operations Task Force are “Texans Defending Texas.”

Brig. Gen. Patrick M. Hamilton has served over 28 years in the Texas Army National Guard and became the Commander of the Domestic Operations Task Force in June of 2013. His military career includes deployments to Bosnia and Afghanistan and has served as the Adjutant General’s Chief of Staff. Brig. Gen. Hamilton holds a bachelor’s degree from Texas A&M University and a Master of Strategic Studies from the U.S. Army War College.

I am the Guard


New Video from the Texas Military Forces

Story by: Chief Warrant Officer Two Janet Schmelzer

Posted: March 9, 2015

I am the GuardI am the Guard - Video AUSTIN, Texas) - The Texas State Guard is featured in the new "I AM THE GUARD" video produced by SFC Malcolm McClendon, Texas Military Public Affairs Office.  This video is about the Texas Military Forces which includes the Texas Army National Guard, the Texas Air National Guard, and the Texas State Guard. 

One of the soldiers profiled is Staff Sgt. Jason Lopez, 2nd Regiment, Texas State Guard.  Photos include as well other TXSG soldiers. 

Video is available by clicking the image (left), the link in the right column on this page I am the Guard, or,  the TMD website  or

Journey to becoming Army Fit

great tips for reaching our pushup goalsWeek 6

We had an interesting and very helpful meeting with Capt. Nigrelle at PAO. She gave us great tips for reaching our pushup goals. For pushups, she demonstrated a technique that helped her and described it like this: Set a number goal for your pushups, let’s say 20. So, start by doing as many of the 20 on your toes that you can. If you do less than 20 on your toes, do the remainder up to 20 on your knees. Then do an additional 20 pushups from your knees, then 20 more from your hips. We like this idea and have been trying it. 

We are still several weeks away from the test day, so we need all the encouragement we can get. We so appreciate the soldiers who stop us to say that they are reading the blog, those who write comments on the blog itself, and the many who offer great tips/suggestions to help us improve! We try to remember and practice all of the helpful hints. 

Mental Fitness Tips

Add the word ‘yet’! 

During times of struggle, we often have negative thoughts or doubts about our abilities. We are noticing these thoughts creeping in lately. Thoughts like, ‘I can’t do this’, ‘I’m not good at this’ or ‘I don’t know what I’m doing.’  When you think this way, try adding the word ‘yet’ to the end of the phrase. For example, ‘I can’t do 32 sit-ups’, becomes ‘I can’t do 32 sit-ups ‘yet’.  Just adding the small word ‘yet’ opens the door to feeling more hopeful and motivated to keep trying. 

We think this strategy could apply for any challenge or struggle in your life when your self-confidence is waning. To read more about this and other strategies to build self-confidence, go to

Commentary by Courtney J. Lynch and Tracy K. Ward, Psychological Health Coordinators

Texas Native Named Texas Air National Guard Senior Enlisted Advisor

Chief Master Sgt. Marlon K Nation, assumed responsibility as the Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Texas Air National Guard from Chief Master Sgt. Kevin J. O’Gorman

Commentary by Michelle McBride

AUSTIN, Texas (Mar. 3, 2015) – Chief Master Sgt. Marlon K Nation, assumed responsibility as the Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Texas Air National Guard from Chief Master Sgt. Kevin J. O’Gorman, in a ceremony held at Camp Mabry in Austin, Feb. 8, 2015. 

During the ceremony Nation thanked his family and friends for their many years of love, support and sacrifice. 

“I have a lot of thanks to pass along,” said Nation, “Because I certainly didn’t get to this position on my own.”

After a successful active duty career, Nation enlisted in the Texas Air National Guard at Ellington Field in Houston, Texas, in September of 1981 as a Weapons Systems Specialist. Since then he has held various positions at Ellington to include being the noncommissioned officer in charge of Quality Assurance within the 147th Maintenance Group, the Maintenance Operations Flight NCOIC where he was responsible for the oversight of day-to-day operations of several sections including Group Training, Management Analysis, Plans and Programs, Maintenance Operations and Coordination and Budget oversight, as well as serving as the Chief Enlisted Manager for more than 300 enlisted personnel assigned to the 147th Operations Group.  In 2011, Nation was selected as the 147th Reconnaissance Wing’s Command Chief Master Sergeant.

“The American people expect standards of us that they don’t expect in any other walk of life,” said Nation. “We have all taken an oath and signed a contract to support and defend that way of life and I plan on doing that to the best of my ability.”

As the Senior Enlisted Advisor for the Texas Air National Guard, Nation will advise the Texas Air National Guard Commander on all enlisted matters affecting training, effective utilization, health of the force and enlisted professional development.

Texas Army National Guard’s MFTC validates Army’s one-school concept

Story by: 1st Lt. Alicia Lacy

Posted: March 3, 2015

1st Lt. Alicia Lacy Staff Sgt. Anthony Delagarza, a Master Fitness Trainer Course instructor, gives directions to soldiers before a round of guerrilla drills March 3, 2015, at Fort Hood, Texas, as part of the Master Fitness Trainer Course. About 20 National Guard and active duty Army soldiers began the final two weeks of training to become master fitness trainers to act as special advisers to unit commanders to facilitate physical training. (Air National Guard photo by 1st Lt. Alicia M. Lacy/Released)
1st Lt. Alicia Lacy
Staff Sgt. Anthony Delagarza, a Master Fitness Trainer Course instructor, gives directions to soldiers before a round of guerrilla drills March 3, 2015, at Fort Hood, Texas, as part of the Master Fitness Trainer Course. About 20 National Guard and active duty Army soldiers began the final two weeks of training to become master fitness trainers to act as special advisers to unit commanders to facilitate physical training. (Air National Guard photo by 1st Lt. Alicia M. Lacy/Released)

FORT HOOD, Texas – Master Fitness Trainer Course instructors from the 2nd Battalion, 136th Regiment, Regional Training Institute, Texas Army National Guard, continue to support the one-Army-school system through their multi-component training class.

The instructors hosted the fourth iteration of the course Feb. 22 – March 6, 2015, at Fort Hood. 

“Right now, the Army is working toward a one-Army-school system, which basically means that any soldier from any component can go to a school being taught by a different component,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Robert Balderston, commandant for the Texas Army National Guard training institute. “This course validates the principle that it’s a joint effort between components.”

Traditionally, National Guard, active duty and Reserve soldiers attended the two-week, in-residence, Phase II portion of the training class at the Texas National Guard’s headquarters at Camp Mabry in Austin; however, for this iteration the course tested the Fort Hood location.

“Fort Hood’s III Corps is providing resources and we’re providing instructors, so it’s a win-win for everybody because they’re able to get their soldiers trained and we’re able to validate the one-Army-school system concept,” Balderston said about soldiers receiving training across components.

The course had a mix of five National Guard soldiers from Texas, Louisiana, Florida and Missouri, and 15 active duty soldiers from numerous bases in Texas and Colorado.

The multi-component mixture in the class supported the total force Army concept, allowing soldiers from all components to work and train together.

“I look at it as a one team, one fight,” said Sgt. Jose Hamilton, a nodal network systems operator-maintainer with the 86th Expeditionary Signal Battalion based at Fort Bliss. “The instructors are Guard and they still come in with that military bearing ... you would expect from someone being in the Army, period.” 

The National Guard-led course is only one of five Master Fitness Trainer Course sites in the entire country, charged with training National Guard, active duty and Reserve soldiers to be master fitness trainers who can conduct physical readiness training for their units.

“The course is getting us ready to train our units on how to do the correct PRT to help our soldiers get better at fitness all around,” said Sgt. 1st Class Christi Stephens, the readiness noncommissioned officer for the 249th Transportation Company, Texas Army National Guard. “When we do PRT, we’ll do it the right way, so even if we have them for just one day and we do one hour, we can do it right and have that precision we’re supposed to have.”

Following the successful completion of the academically intense, two-week distance learning course and the two-week in-residence course, which is largely physical, the soldiers will be advisers to their unit commanders on all things PRT, as well as educating their peers on performance, nutrition, fitness and readiness.

While working through the training modules, soldiers learned about the principles of PRT – precision, progression and integration – that aid in reconditioning and reducing injuries.

“You’ve got to earn your precision before you can go to the progression phase of these movements,” said Sgt. 1st Class Shelley Horner, an MFTC instructor and the course’s noncommissioned officer in charge. “Injury prevention is one of the biggest things for MFTC. We are very specific. We make sure the students really know the standard and are able to take that back to their units and train the trainer.”

Master Fitness is part of the Army’s effort to increase soldier physical readiness, reduce injuries and standardize unit training by preparing soldiers for the physical challenges of fulfilling the mission in complex environments, while facing a range of threats, according to the Army Physical Readiness Training Field Manual 7-22. 

The MFTC is one of several courses offered by the RTI that is available to all soldiers regardless of component.