Partners in Care program making its way to Texas National Guard

Story by: 2nd Lt. Alicia Lacy

 

CAMP MABRY, Texas - The goal is to help the Soldiers and Airmen of the Texas National Guard.

Through collaboration and partnerships with faith-based organizations in the state, the Texas Military Forces Chaplain Col. Joe Combs can achieve just that.

Since November 2013, Combs and his staff have been working to launch a Partners in Care program for the Texas Military Forces.

Partners in Care is a Department of Defense-approved program that establishes partnerships between the Texas National Guard and faith-based organizations that can provide resources to Soldiers and Airmen, and do so without regard to any religious affiliation.

The benefit of the initiative in Texas, given Texas’ vast geographical area and members living in communities across the state, often rural, is that it provides a linkage between service members who may be in need with groups that can provide resources to assist them at no charge. 

“In Dallas, or Houston or Austin, there are a lot of resources, but when you’re talking about Nocona, Texas, and Muleshoe, Texas, where we have Guardsmen and women, those resources aren’t as easily available,” Combs said. “But in each of those communities, there are faith-based organizations that are active and meeting the needs of those in the community.”

Though the partnerships are with faith-based organizations, the program allows service members to receive needed assistance from these organizations while maintaining their religious freedoms.

“It’s very clear in the [Memorandum of Understanding]. This initiative neither endorses the establishment of religion, nor requires any member of the Texas Military Forces to participate in any religious activity,” Combs said. “It respects each member’s right and each family member’s right to freedom of religion.”

Types of support includes, but isn’t limited to; counseling for individuals, couples, or families, childcare, household and automotive repairs, child and teen education, mentoring, reunion and reintegration support, single parent support, emergency food, clothing, and housing, transportation assistance, financial management classes and crisis and grief counseling.

A key benefit is that these groups provide assistance at no cost to the National Guard or the service member.

In early March 2014, Combs received the final approval to hit the ground running and begin establishing these partnerships with Texas congregations. Despite the green light, Combs is not in a rush to kick off the program.

“I want to make sure to proceed slowly and judiciously to make sure we do it right,” Combs said.

Combs plans to work with Air and Army National Guard chaplains throughout Texas Military Forces to identify possible congregations that would be willing to participate, in addition to getting commanders on board with the program.

Twenty-five other National Guards have already established a program in their respective state or territory, and Combs and his staff connected with chaplains from other states with established programs to gain insight on how to launch a program here.

“These faith-based organizations have a history of being willing, ready and able to help in the time of need,” Combs said. “As long as we ensure those religious freedoms are being upheld, this is a great resource to alleviate some of those needs out there.”

Texas Special Ops support US counterterrorism efforts in Africa

Maj. Sean Vieira, Special Operations Detachment planner, works to develop campaign plans with African counterparts during the 2014 FLINTLOCK exercise in Niger.
Maj. Sean Vieira, Special Operations Detachment planner, works to develop campaign plans with African counterparts during the 2014 FLINTLOCK exercise in Niger. The exercise allowed U.S. forces to work with partner nations to expand their capabilities to combat terrorism.

Story by: 2nd Lt. Alicia Lacy

 

NIAMEY, Niger - Texas Army National Guard Special Operators recently returned from a monthlong mission to Africa where they worked to bolster the counterterrorism capabilities in the northwest region of the continent. 

Special Operations Detachment – Africa (Airborne), one of the newest units in the Texas Army National Guard, deployed from mid-February to mid-March to Niger, Africa, serving as the overall command and control headquarters for the U.S. Africa Command’s FLINTLOCK exercise. 

This premier exercise is designed to help build the counterterrorism capacity of African partner countries. Special Operations forces from eight African countries and 11 Western European countries participated in the event that was performed in four locations across Niger. 

Building partner capacity is a key tenant in the war on terror. Special Operations forces, like SOD-A, routinely work to bolster abilities of partner countries so they are able to defend their borders from terrorist activity and attacks. 

To address the emerging and ongoing security threats in Africa, U.S. armed forces, other U.S. government agencies and international partners have been working closely together - training and fighting side-by-side - to thwart the spread of violent extremist groups.

Nowhere is this model more relevant than Niger, which has been described as the crossroads for African terrorism, said Col. Douglas O’Connell, SOD-A commander. 

Niger is adjacent to Mali, Nigeria, Libya and Algeria - all countries that are currently battling al-Qaida or affiliated terrorist groups. 

Proliferation of al-Qaida-linked extremist groups in the area presented real-world threats to troops who trained, mentored and advised partner nations in command and control, airborne operations and small unit tactics.

“This exercise is occurring at a time when our nations are faced with multiple obstacles within our region, which requires strong resolve to confront terrorism,” said Nigerien Chief of Staff M. Koridio Mahamadou. 

The annual, joint exercise, hosted by Special Operations Command-Africa since 2005, is a multifaceted, multinational training that consisted of airdrops of equipment and personnel, live-fire exercises, long range patrolling and support, mission planning and control at the operational level, and humanitarian relief operations that provided medical and dental care to the local populace. Interfacing with the other nations presented an opportunity for increased interoperability, counter-terrorism, and combat skills training for the African and Western nation partners.

Under SOD-A’s leadership, more than 1,000 troops from all four branches of the U.S. armed forces, Africa, Europe, and other Western partner nations played a role in the exercise, which was SOD-A’s new unit validation exercise.

“Your presence reflects your interest in our regional partnerships,” said Nigerien Col. Mahoamane Laminou Sani, FLINTLOCK country coordinator.

The goal of the exercise is to expand the partner nations’ capabilities to combat terrorism and enhance their tactical, operations and strategic capabilities.

SOD-A officers also mentored African officers, and the detachment conducted a unique airborne operation involving jumpers from all four U.S. military services, European parachutists and jumpmasters from Niger. At the conclusion of the parachute jump, SOD-A members were awarded Nigerien Jump Wings.

However, beyond the tactical and strategic operations, SOD-A operators understood the significance of building relationships.

“Relationships matter,” O’Connell said. “You can't attempt to influence any events or outcomes in Africa without first building a personal relationship with your host nation counterpart. Special operators understand this, which is why we are ideally suited for these types of missions.”

SOD-A is a unique reserve component comprised of highly experienced special operations soldiers and key enablers such as intelligence, logistics and communications. 

With the multinational flavor of FLINTLOCK combined with the very real threat, proved to be the ideal exercise to test the detachment’s readiness to conduct operations. The detachment’s mission is to deploy and provide command and control of joint and combined special operations forces 

“The soldiers who have joined SOD-A are looking for a chance to conduct real-world operations in challenging and extreme environments,” O’Connell said.

Yet, these highly-qualified service members did much more than execute realistic counterterrorism training. Without question, they contributed to the counterterrorism capabilities of America’s partners throughout Africa.

Texas Air Guard top leader transitions to Pentagon position

Story by: 2nd Lt. Alicia Lacy

CAMP MABRY, Texas - Two Texas Military Forces leaders stepped into new roles. 

Brig. Gen. Brian C. Newby is returning back to his legal roots as the guard adviser to the U.S. Air Force deputy judge advocate general at the Pentagon, and Col. David M. McMinn will step into the position left vacant by Newby.

“I will be the No. 2 lawyer in the Air National Guard to support the No. 2 lawyer in the United States Air Force,” Newby said. “It’s a fantastic job and one that I’m looking forward to.”

The position is newly created within the ANG structure that will allow the Guard to build a relationship with its active duty counterparts.

In his role as the Texas Air National Guard chief of staff and deputy commander, Newby served as the principle adviser to the commander of the Texas Air National Guard for all Air National Guard issues, in addition to assisting in the planning, direction and administration of more than 3,100 Texas ANG Airmen. His responsibilities also included recruiting, retention, labor relations, training, employee development and equal opportunity initiatives.

“I’m going to miss being the deputy commander, but my relationships with both the Army Guard and Air Guard are very strong,” Newby said. “I’m a Texan at heart. I’m a Texas Guardsman.” 

As Newby prepares to make his transition from Texas to Washington, D.C., this move is not new for him. Newby, a graduate of Texas Tech University and the University of Texas School of Law, has had two previous assignments in the nation’s capital, serving as the ANG assistant to the secretary of the Air Force inspector general and the ANG assistant to Headquarters U.S. Air Force Operations and International Law Division.

“We will dearly miss Brian’s leadership and judgment, but this position will bring even more benefit to the entire ANG,” said Maj. Gen. Kenneth Wisian, deputy adjutant general and commander of the Texas Air National Guard.

As McMinn begins to step into his position as the Texas ANG chief of staff and deputy commander, he will leave his current position as director of strategic planning with the TXMF. 

McMinn, a Clemson University graduate, was formerly the commander of the 136th Airlift Wing, Carswell Field, Fort Worth, Texas.

“If anyone if ready to fill Gen. Newby’s shoes without missing a beat, it’s Dave,” Wisian said.

The formal handoff was April 1, 2014.

4th Regiment - MAJOR Ted Prescott Takes Command of 1ST Battalion

MAJOR TED PRESCOTT TAKES COMMAND OF 1ST BATTALION

Story and Photo by: CW2 Janet Schmelzer, PAO, 4th Regiment

Posted: 2014/03/31

WEATHERFORD, TX -- On February 22, 2014, the 1st Battalion 4th Regiment welcomed a new Battalion Commander. Major Ted Prescott received the 1st Battalion Guidon during a Change of Command ceremony at the Weatherford National Guard Armory in Weatherford, Texas. 

Major Prescott joined the US Army after graduating from the University of Texas at Arlington as a Distinguished Military Graduate in 1979. He entered the US Army as a Armor officer. He served as a tank platoon leader with A Company, 2/5 Cavalry, 1st Cavalry Division during the testing of the XM-1 tank at Fort Hood, Texas. He was the Company Executive Officer for B Company when his battalion was moved to 2nd Armored Division and re-designated as 2-67 Armor.

Following his graduation from Armor Officer Advanced Course in 1983, Prescott served as the S3-Air for 2nd Squadron, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment upon his deployment to Germany.  He then commanded E Troop and later served as the Squadron Adjutant and Border Officer. In 1987 he completed Combined Arms Services Staff School and served as an Operations Officer at First US Army, Fort Meade, Maryland. There he was involved in the plans and operations for infrastructure projects in Honduras, the Richard Nixon Funeral Plan, and the 1988 Inauguration of President George H. W. Bush. In 1990 MAJ Prescott as a Joint Operations Officer with Joint Task Force 6 at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, where he coordinated military support for regional marijuana eradication operations and counter drug initiatives along the US-Mexico border. In 1992 he left the active service.

In 2012 he joined the Texas State Guard and has served as the Executive Officer for the 4th Regiment until his appointment as 1st Battalion commander.

Texas National Guard and Chilean Armed Forces leaders meet to discuss future of partnership

Chilean Air Force Capt. Javier Salinas, left, Commandos, 6th Squadron, 4th Aviation Brigade, Chilean Air Force, briefs U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Brian Newby, Chief of Staff and Vice Commander, Texas Air National Guard, and Command Chief Master Sgt. Oscar Tey, Senior Enlisted Leader, Texas Joint Domestic Operations Command, on the capabilities of his unit at the brigade's air base in southern Chile, March 27, 2014.
Chilean Air Force Capt. Javier Salinas, left, Commandos, 6th Squadron, 4th Aviation Brigade, Chilean Air Force, briefs U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Brian Newby, Chief of Staff and Vice Commander, Texas Air National Guard, and Command Chief Master Sgt. Oscar Tey, Senior Enlisted Leader, Texas Joint Domestic Operations Command, on the capabilities of his unit at the brigade's air base in southern Chile, March 27, 2014. The visit was part of the Annual State Partnership Program Planning Meeting, there the leaders discussed, planned and agreed on the security cooperation events that the two organizations will conduct in the next two years. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Malcolm McClendon).

Story by: Sgt. 1st Class Malcolm McClendon

 

 SANTIAGO, Chile – Senior leaders of the Texas National Guard and the Chilean Armed Forces met for the Annual State  Partnership Program Planning Meeting in Santiago, Chile, March 26, 2014. There the leaders discussed, planned and  agreed on the security cooperation events that the two organizations will conduct in the next two years.

 The partnership between Texas and Chile is part of the State Partnership Program, or SPP, run by the National Guard  Bureau. It allows State National Guards to partner with nations around the world to strengthen relationships and i  interoperability, enhance military capabilities, and increase cultural awareness and professional skills among U.S. military  personnel and their counterparts.

 According to Brig. Gen. Patrick Hamilton, commander of the Joint Texas Domestic Operations Command, an informal  relationship with Chile started before the two were formally announced as partners, back when a former Texas Adjutant  General and the current Chilean President attended school together.

 “Maj. Gen. [Ret.] Charles Rodriguez went to the Inter-American Defense University with Michelle Bachelet,” Hamilton said.  “There they became friends; he became the Adjutant General of Texas and she became the President of Chile. So we  reached out to Chile to see if they’d be interested in forming State Partnership with us, they were very interested and so we  formally requested the partnership.”

 The TXNG and Chile have been partnered since 2008 and have conducted close to 80 exchanges, some of which include  airborne operations, artillery fire, C-130 and F-16 maintenance and flight maneuvers, special forces exchanges, combat  casualty care practices, homeland response capabilities and even environmentally responsible practices. 

 According to Hamilton the partnership is a success due a similar partnership with another nation the TXNG has had since  the early ‘90s. 

 “The SPP was started at the end of the Cold War with the intent to bring former Warsaw Pact nations into NATO. Those  showing a desire reached out; and in our case Czech Republic did and Texas was assigned to it,” Hamilton said. “Texas was one of the first states to be part of the SPP and we have become very effective since; therefore there were no growing pains with the Chilean partnership.”

Hamilton is optimistic about where the partnership is going and how the TXNG and Chile can help each other grow and participate in larger exchanges. 

“Because our relationship is as mature as it is and the Chileans are as advanced as they are, U.S. Southern Command has asked us to begin helping Chile pursue leadership roles within the region and in exercises with U.S. Army South and other countries,” Hamilton said. “They’ve done that and we want to continue supporting them in those roles.”

Col. Tim Hodge, Chief of Security Cooperation Division at U.S. Army South attended the meeting as an observer to see how the relationship and future subject matter expert exchanges can help his command achieve similar goals with the South American nation. Hodge believes the TXNG is a key partner not only with Chile, but with U.S. Army South as well.

“U.S. Army South has worked with the TXNG ever since we moved to San Antonio, over eight years ago,” Hodge said. “Throughout the years, Texas has helped us not only with Chile, but with other partner nations throughout our area of responsibility. Texas is our partner-of-choice whenever it comes to fielding engagements like this.”

Hodges also believes these exchanges are key for the future of both countries’ militaries.

“When a young sergeant or young captain comes to these exchanges they not only meet their counterparts and exchange technical knowledge, they develop friendships as well,” Hodges added. “As they both rise through the ranks as senior enlisted and officers and they now have someone they can reach out to when needed and keep the relationships going.”

Chilean Navy Captain Francisco Abrego, North America and Asian Pacific Area Section Chief, International Operations Directorate for the Chilean Armed Forces Joint Staff and SPP coordinator for the Chileans, believes the face-to-face interaction the exchanges bring to the Texan/Chilean partnership is important.

“The network created by these exchanges is valuable, because now you know a face on the other side,” Abrego said. “It’s not just a phone number and a name, it’s a friend and that makes things go smoother and faster.”

This year’s meeting included a visit to Chilean Army, Navy and Air Force bases located in the southern part of the country. There, Chilean component commanders briefed the TXNG delegation on their respective capabilities and structure.

“We visited the different organizations and this gave us insight into how they work,” Hamilton said. “This helps us understand how we can better support each other in these exchanges.” 

According to the ASPPPM delegation new opportunities did come to mind.

“We noticed through these visits there were some exchanges we can absolutely do that we didn’t plan for; some dealing with flood response,” Hamilton added. “Chile has plans in place to deal with tsunamis. And even though we don’t deal with tsunami type floods, we still have flooding due to storm surges or hurricanes, so we’re going to plan exchanges to share our procedures and experiences, so that we can both be better prepared.”

This years’ meeting wrapped up with both countries signing an agreement with more than 40 exchanges planned for fiscal years 2014 and 2015.

“We have come away from this meeting with a robust plan in place for both countries.” Abrego said. “The Texan culture is just like the Chilean culture, which is why it’s so easy to work with them; and because of that, our partnership grows stronger every year. We look forward to continue working with Texas for many years to come.”

The Texas State Guard has partnered with the Professional Volunteer Service Award

The Texas State Guard has partnered with the Professional Volunteer Service Award to provide Guardsman with recognition for their hours of volunteer service. All TXSG personnel are encouraged to sign up and track their hours on the PVSA website as their hours are incurred. Annually, hours will be reviewed and service acknowledgment will be received by qualified personnel.

Log on to the Personnel Area of the TXSG website for more specific instructions on how to get started today.

Jamey Guarascio-Cosper
1st LT, HQ PAO

Camp Mabry teams up with Austin Police Department to train for active shooter events

Camp Mabry security officer Gilbert Gonzalez, and members of the Austin Police Department's Counter Assualt Strike Team (CAST), secure work spaces during an active shooter training scenario at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas, March 19, 2014.
Camp Mabry security officer Gilbert Gonzalez, and members of the Austin Police Department's Counter Assault Strike Team (CAST), secure work spaces during an active shooter training scenario at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas, March 19, 2014. Base security officers and employees trained with the Austin Police Department to rehearse active shooter scenarios to better prepare for such an event. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Malcolm McClendon)

Story by: Sgt. 1st Class Malcolm McClendon

 
 

 CAMP MABRY, Texas – As the sound of blanks fired in the hallway, personnel ran out, jumped through windows or sought  cover from the active shooter coming through their workspace. Fortunately, this was only a training exercise held at Camp  Mabry in Austin, Texas, March 19, 2014.

 The training scenario was designed to help Camp Mabry’s security department better coordinate with the Austin Police  Department’s Counter Assault Strike Team (CAST), as well as prepare the base’s employees should anything like this ever  occur. 

 Sandi Valdespino, a civilian case manager with the Texas Medical Command, felt this was a great exercise not only to  prepare the personnel here, but also to make them aware of the realistic threat.

 “People always down play things like this, especially since we’re on a base working side by side with military members,”  Valdespino said. “It’s important for us to know what to do. The knowledge gained here will empower them greatly.”

 Valdespino also shared how a fellow employee took the training seriously and physically put planned escape measures to  the test.

 “When the exercise started, we all ran into my office and closed the door as previously planned,” Valdespino continued. “Right then, Sgt. Ahmad Ofogh began to actually drag a large filing cabinet to block the door. He said he wanted to see if he could actually physically do it if the time came.”

The exercise put Camp Mabry’s security officers to the test as well; they are the first response for any type of emergency on the installation. Officer Ian McPherson, day shift supervisor, knows training like this is crucial for his team.

“The realism of the training helped us identify our strengths and weaknesses,” McPherson said. “We know it’s just pretend, but it got our blood pumping and adrenaline up. Working with CAST added another level of reality, which also allowed us to have an outside organization critique our tactics so that we can either better them or reinforce what we were doing well.”

By days end, Austin Police Department’s CAST and Camp Mabry security officers and employees went through seven scenarios, each time discovering new ways to react to an active shooter event. Spc. Danielle Schrag, a case manager with Texas Medical Command, describes the value this has for everyone involved.

“To see the CAST and our security officers go through these scenarios together is comforting,” Schrag said. “It not only gives me confidence in their abilities to respond to an active shooter, but makes us, the employees, aware of something like this happening; and therefore better respond and help ourselves till they arrive.”