National Guard senior leaders 'Like' Facebook, Twitter

Story by: Staff Sgt. Phil Fountain

Posted on: April 2, 2013

Maj. Gen. John F. Nichols, The adjutant general of Texas, visiting with senior leaders of the Texas Military Forces on Camp Mabry, in Austin, Texas, March 20, 2013.
Maj. Gen. John F. Nichols, The adjutant general of Texas, visiting with senior leaders of the Texas Military Forces on Camp Mabry, in Austin, Texas, March 20, 2013. Nichols is the state's senior military leader appointed by the governor of Texas and posted this image to his official Facebook page (Major General John F. Nichols). (National Guard photo illustration by Air Force Staff Sgt. Phil Fountain)

 CAMP MABRY, Texas – Senior National Guard leaders are making their voices heard on a new parade ground, in the  online auditorium of social media. State and federal military officials have taken to the Internet to send messages directly  to their troops and the public.

 The adjutant general of Texas, Air Force Maj. Gen. John F. Nichols, recently launched an official Facebook page, and has  been posting behind-the-scenes photographs and informal guidance on a range of issues. He is currently one of six adjutants general to have a registered Facebook page with the National Guard Bureau at the Pentagon, in Arlington, Va.

 “The idea is to reach out to our people in another, unique way,” Nichols said. “The vast majority of our service members  are younger than 30 [years of age] – and this is a way to reach them in a familiar forum. And many are traditional members  of the Guard and can sometimes be hard to regularly reach, by nature of their part-time service.”

 This can be a daunting task, particularly for a Guard organization with more than 25,000, actively serving citizen-soldiers  and airmen performing disparate missions across a geographically expansive state and in overseas operations.

 “In many ways, social media is a modern version of our traditional office bulletin boards,” he said. “The only difference is  the Internet has the ability to reach people almost anywhere in the world.”

 For example, the Texas Army National Guard’s 136th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, headquartered in Round Rock, Texas, is currently deployed to Afghanistan as part of Task Force Centurion, and they have been able to share photographs and videos of their soldiers and the positive things they are doing for the nation on their Facebook page.

At the national level, Army Gen. Frank J. Grass, the 27th Chief of the National Guard Bureau, is active on Facebook, as is his senior enlisted adviser, Chief Master Sgt. Denise Jelinski-Hall. Grass is also on Twitter as @ChiefNGB. The adjutant general of Pennsylvania, Army Maj. Gen. Wesley Craig, is also on Twitter as @TAGPNG, the only adjutant general with an NGB-registered account.

Grass and Jelinski-Hall tend to post photographs and comments from events they attend, and give updates on their current activities and projects.

It’s a way for the leaders to interact with service members and the public in a less formal setting.

Facebook and Twitter have been ranked the first and second most popular social networking sites, respectively, according to an eBizMBA analysis of global Internet traffic, dated March 18, 2013.

“It’s important to actively engage people where they are,” said Rick E. Breitenfeldt, the bureau’s public information branch chief, who advises leadership on developing their social media presence. “It’s the way people are communicating today.”

Beyond typical organization pages, he said it can be helpful for leaders to communicate directly with service members and their families.

“Sometimes, it’s important for the force to hear – in first-person – from the leadership,” Breitenfeldt said. “This way, they are able to share messages they think are important, but also behind-the-scenes items that you typically wouldn’t put on an organizational page.”

Their posts range in formality.

Grass has posted official press statements, as well as informal videos of his testimony before a congressional committee, discussing major issues like the current federal budget sequester.

Jelinski-Hall uploads casual, weekly “Mentorship Moment” videos, where she has shared advice on issues ranging from resiliency, core values and ethics to money management.

On Twitter, the micro-blogging site that limits posts to 140 characters, Grass has been known to tweet similar messages that he puts onto Facebook, and to “retweet” messages from accounts he follows, such as the National Guard (@USNationalGuard), the Joint Chiefs of Staff’s account (@thejointstaff) and its chairman, Army Gen. Martin Dempsey (@Martin_Dempsey). Craig of Pennsylvania’s activity on Twitter is very similar.

Additionally, the National Guard’s senior ranking officer frequently uses the hashtag #NationalGuard in his messages, which allows Twitter users to quickly find all posts with that term included.

The use of unique hashtags can be helpful in aggregating information during a crisis or emergency management situation, said Breitenfeldt. It also helps you reach the group of people that would be most interested in hearing your message.

“Hurricane Sandy is a prime example,” Breitenfeldt said. “We operated on high-tempo for an 18-day, straight period of time.”

Breitenfeldt said they used not only #NationalGuard, but also other unique hashtags, including #Sandy, to get word out about the National Guard response to that hurricane last fall.

Beyond sharing information, the effective use of social media for leaders is about finding ways to make connections and share personal insights, Breitenfeldt said.

To date, one of the Texas adjutant general’s most popular posts was about leaders taking calculated risks.

“Don’t be afraid of failure – it means you’re trying,” Nichols posted, March 19, 2013. “If leaders are afraid to make mistakes, we won’t improve as an organization. Do the risk analysis; assess the variables; but be prepared to underwrite the mistakes of your people and take responsibility for them.”

Social media has the ability to spread a message exponentially.

Nearly 50 people “liked” Nichols’ post and it has been shared numerous times, which Facebook reports has been seen by nearly 850 people, more than three times the number of people that currently follow the general’s page.

Among those who “liked” and commented on the post, in his personal capacity, was Air Force Staff Sgt. David Porcelle, a noncommissioned officer assigned to the Texas Military Forces’ Joint Operations Center in Austin, Texas. He wrote, “Sir, a great philosophy… I make mistakes all the time; rarely the same ones twice,” and included an emoticon forming a smiling face.

Porcelle said he first discovered the senior Texas leader’s page when “someone I know ‘liked’ a comment made by Maj. Gen. Nichols, and that [activity] showed up in my timeline.”

He said he follows numerous senior leader and organizational pages, and thinks they are helpful with getting information to a broad cross-section of people, including those who’ve deployed, transferred to new units or retired.

“Social media’s another tool in the box to get instant feedback from every angle and echelon,” he said. “It’s a useful adjunct to more formal means and direct contact.”

This can be invaluable during those times of disaster, when messages need to get out quickly, in real time.

Breitenfeldt said there was a social media multiplier effect in relation to National Guard’s response to Hurricane Sandy, particularly though their follower’s sharing and commenting on the National Guard’s posts.

“We posted 35 stories on our website that received 17,000 hits,” Breitenfeldt said. “But on Facebook, we posted a fraction of the stories, and they were seen a half a million times. On YouTube [a social media video sharing site], our videos received 1.5 million views and were shown on major networks.”

This type of capability can be powerful, particularly in a state the size of Texas, which can face a myriad of disasters, potentially at the same time, including: hurricanes; tornadoes; wildfires; and even blizzards.

In addition to Nichols, other senior Texas Guard officers on Facebook include: Maj. Gen. Joyce L. Stevens, assistant adjutant general – Army and commander of the Texas Army National Guard, Maj. Gen. Manuel Rodriguez, commander of the state-based, volunteer Texas State Guard, and Brig. Gen. William L. Smith, commander of domestic operations.

“With our armories and air wings spread across the state, and units and personnel mobilized around the globe, social media can be a powerful tool to quickly send a message,” Nichols said. “Additionally, I enjoy hearing directly from our soldiers and airmen – getting their feedback.”

While the senior Texas general is still new to the online community, he said he wants to use the platform to talk about more than just himself and his activities.

“I look forward to helping get the word out about the great things we’re doing, [as] a military organization with our inter-agency partners, for the state and nation,” Nichols said.

An Army Guard aviation pioneer looks back

Col. Deanne E. "Dea" Lins, a member of the T xas Army National Guard, stands with her family at Camp Mabry, in Austin, Texas, Jan. 12, 2013. Lins received the Meritorious Service Medal and retired after more than 30 years of service to the state and nation
Col. Deanne E. "Dea" Lins, a member of the Texas Army National Guard, stands with her family at Camp Mabry, in Austin, Texas, Jan. 12, 2013. Lins received the Meritorious Service Medal and retired after more than 30 years of service to the state and nation. (Image courtesy of retired Col. Deanne E. Lins)
Story by: Staff Sgt. Phil Fountain 
 
 CAMP MABRY, Texas - The Texas Army National Guard's first female aviator recently retired after more than thirty years  of service in the National Guard, achieving the rank of colonel.

 Deanne E. "Dea" Lins of Austin was the Army National Guard's first female aviator in three different states - Connecticut,  Massachusetts and Texas. During her career, she flew UH-1 Iroquois, also known as Huey, and UH-60 Black Hawk  helicopters, from the mid-1980s into the late '90s.

 During the second half of her career, she held various positions, including service as an airspace management officer  on deployments to the South Korea and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Later she served in logistics, personnel and human  resources specialties, and deployed to Iraq in support of Operation New Dawn. She concluded her career at the Texas  Military Forces' Joint Force Headquarters here.

 Lins began her military career through the Reserve Officer Training Corps program at the University of Bridgeport, in  Bridgeport, Conn., where she was a distinguished graduate in 1983. After serving in Connecticut, then Massachusetts,  Lins joined the Texas Army National Guard in 1986.

She moved to Texas with her husband, Tony, a fellow aviator that was serving in the active-duty Army, she said. At the time, he was stationed at Fort Hood, near Killeen, and then later joined the Texas National Guard.

At one point, they served together in the 49th Aviation Brigade, which later became the 36th Combat Aviation Brigade, headquartered in Austin. Tony, a retired major, concluded his military service as the resource manager for the Texas Army National Guard's 36th Infantry Division, headquartered here.

Lins described her transition to Texas from the Northeast.

"Coming into Texas wasn't hard for me," Lins said. "But I do know it was difficult for some of the men."

There were cultural adjustments that had to be worked through, she said, but added that her fellow pilots were generally welcoming.

"Some of the men were Vietnam era pilots," Lins said. "They were wonderful, [and I] had some wonderful mentors. They took everyone - all the new people - and really tried making them the best they could be."

While proud, Lins downplayed the perception of her being a pioneer.

"I was the first female aviator (in Texas)," she said, but noted that there were two other females working their way into Army aviation at the time, including now Cols. Jeanne (Buschow) Arnold, director of the Texas Military Forces Red Team Support Group here, and Lisa Hines, director of support for the Joint Force here.

She said they all flew during the same period.

From her experience, Lins said some of the greatest hurdles she faced being an early female aviator involved living in field conditions, a challenge she later tackled as a company commander, then as a battalion commander.

"It doesn't really matter which sex you are, both sides have their own issues," Lins said. "How do you balance being close enough to hear and know what's going on in the unit, in an informal chain-of-command way, without having to break modesty?"

Lins found it to be important for all Soldiers to be in close proximity in field conditions, because important discussions can take place and decisions can be made impacting the unit.

"The next day, you might miss a meeting because you didn't know," she said. "You didn't know what was going on."

As a commander, she worked through these complexities with her noncommissioned officers, some of whom said their spouses had concerns with mixed gender cohabitation. But they found a way to address the issue.

"We set up bivouac when we got home for the Family Day activities," Lins said. "We set it all up as if we were in the field, with all of the curtains and all the different things that we do. I think that really helped."

Further, she said she enjoyed building close-knit relationships in the National Guard. Many she has had for decades.

One such relationship is with Col. Patrick M. Hamilton, the adjutant general's chief of staff, who said he met Lins and her husband two decades ago, when he was an armored cavalry officer assigned to the aviation brigade.

"In the early '90s we got to know each other," Hamilton said. "Dea was a well respected pilot, and she was competent - and everybody liked her."

Hamilton discussed another barrier Lins broke during her career, when they deployed to Bosnia-Herzegovina with the 49th Armored Division in support of Operation Joint Forge.

"In 1999, we prepared for and deployed together," he said. "Dea was on the division staff with me, she was our G3-Air (air battlefield manager), a first (for a female Army Guard officer) that I know of. We were the first Guard division to go and command active duty troops in Bosnia."

"Everything was on the other foot with them," Hamilton said of the deployment. "He (Tony) had the kids at home, and Dea and I were deployed together."

Beyond the challenges, Lins said there were many benefits to serving in the National Guard.

Lins said her military service proved to be a stabilizing force in her life, particularly when balancing her life commitments.

"I don't know if it's a lot different from anyone else," Lins said. "Being a mom and having a career in the National Guard, I think is a huge benefit."

"I didn't have to suffer much in that career. I could continue that career, in my case almost 32 years," she said. "I was able to continue a National Guard career all this time."

"If you're in the Guard, you're family," she said. "Through the years, you're going to go in-and-out of each other's career. You'll know these same people for many, many years. You might not see somebody for ten years, (and) then you're working with them again."

She looked back on an exceptional career with pride.

"I wouldn't trade a thing," Lins said. "I wouldn't trade any of it."

East Texas Medical Outreach Program

East Texas – This past week marked the start of the first East Texas Medical Outreach event offering free preventative and primary care to uninsured East Texans. Supported by the Texas State Guard and running 12 hours a day, licensed physicians and nurses were on site to administer multiple screenings, perform physicals and advise on healthy lifestyle choices such as healthy eating and not smoking.

The East Texas Medical Outreach event is a collaborative medical services project that unites state and county health and human service agencies, Texas Military Forces, local service groups and volunteers in the largest public health humanitarian effort in the country. The East Texas Medical Outreach event is a real-time, large-scale emergency preparedness exercise that provides medical service and disaster recovery training to state agencies and personnel while addressing the medical needs of thousands of underserved Texas residents.

"The East Texas Medical Outreach event provides support to our fellow Texans in an underserved area that needs our help. The efforts of all agencies involved are tremendous and this event has a very positive impact on the communities they touch in East Texas.” said Major General Tony Rodriquez, Commanding General, Texas State Guard. The medical services provided during the East Texas Medical Event include immunizations, blood pressure checks, cholesterol screening, diabetes screening, mammograms, women's health care, social service's support, hearing and vision exams, physicals for students, limited dental services and limited pharmacy product.

19th Regiment Captures Inaugural Gonzales Cup

Texas State Guard Public Affairs

AUSTIN, Texas - Six members of the Texas State Guard’s 19th Regiment, headquartered in Dallas, took top honors in the inaugural Commander’s Small Unit Excellence Challenge, winning the “Gonzales Cup.” The two-day event held in early June at Camp Bowie, TX tested the Guardsmen in a number of individual and team skills. “The Commanders Challenge was designed to provide a competitive training exercise for our soldiers, incorporating our Mission Essential Tasks into a series of field training scenarios,” said Maj. Kevin Lilly, officer-in-charge of the event. “Additionally, we wanted to promote esprit de corps, unit cohesion and the type of bonding formed in team endeavors.” The intent according to Lilly was to create a physically and mentally demanding exercise. All tasks were graded to U.S. Army standards. The four tasks evaluated were: 

 

  1. Combat Lifesaver/First Aid. The Guardsmen were scored on individual skills and placed in timed team exercises, such as stabilizing spinal injuries, arterial bleeding, transporting an injured individual over rough terrain, and using a field improvised litter; 
  2. Physical Fitness. Guardsmen were graded on push-ups, sit-ups and a timed run based upon the Army Physical Fitness Test; 
  3. Small Arms Marksmanship. Competitors fired 9mm pistols from the standing, kneeling, squatting and prone position; and
  4. Radio Telephone Operator procedures testing.

“I am very proud of this team of highly skilled and motivated Guardsmen,” said Col. Robert Hastings, commanding officer of the 19th Regiment. “They went after this challenge with vigor. They studied, they trained, they rehearsed, and they won.” The 19th Regiment’s wining team, led by Master Sgt. Mark Sligar, squared off against competitors representing four other TXSG Regiments from across the state. 

The winning team members are:

 

  • Master Sgt. Mark Sligar
  • Sgt. Ken Clayton
  • Sgt. Ronnie Littles
  • Cpl. Brian Nail
  • Pfc. Samuel Lopez
  • Pfc. Robert Marlin

Sgt. Ken Clayton was also recognized for achieving the highest individual score in the competition. The “Gonzales Cup” is named for the Battle of Gonzales, the first military engagement of the Texas Revolution. It was fought near Gonzales, Texas, on October 2, 1835, between rebellious Texian settlers and a detachment of Mexican army troops. The cup is inscribed with the slogan “Come and Take It” which was printed on the flag flown by the Gonzales settlers during the battle. The 19th Regiment has a record of excellence in competition. The Regiment’s competitive marksmanship team won the Texas Adjutant General’s Combat Rifle Competition Match twice, and the unit’s Quick Reaction Team won the QRT Challenge three times.

Texas Independence Day Message

MG M. A. Rodriguez
2013/03/01
Fellow Guardsmen,

On March 2, 1836, Texas’ founding fathers gathered at Washington-on-the-Brazos under less than ideal circumstances. The Alamo was under siege and just days later would fall. The Texas forces were, by all reasonable measures, no match for Santa Anna’s army. What the Texians did have was the desire to live free, and protect their families and neighbors.

Like the American counterpart written sixty years earlier, the Texas Declaration of Independence carefully outlined the Texian desire for liberty and served as the legal justification of their cause.

It’s important for us each to remember that they acted not because they knew they could win, but because they knew their cause was just.

Who we are today as Texans stands as legacy to the righteousness of their action. Their love of Texas, and their fellow Texans, inspired them to work for a future they knew they may not live to see. The Lone Star State shines brightly today because those brave men put their principles ahead of their convenience, the needs of others ahead of themselves.

Your service in the Texas State Guard is no different.

Your love of Texas, and concern for your fellow Texians, has compelled you to take time each month from your families to attend drill -- sometimes traveling far and always on your own dime. You take off from work each summer to attend annual training. Most of all, you keep a go-bag packed, ready to roll when called to aid our neighbors.

Militarily, many of our Texas State Guard units can trace their history to those early days in the fight for independence. Our mission is different from theirs, but not what is important. Our love for Texas, and our abiding concern for our fellow Texans, is exactly the same.

As we celebrate Texas’ birthday this weekend, I know we both count it an honor to wear the Lone Star flag on our shoulders. Even more so, it’s an honor for me to serve alongside you as together we serve Texans.

Equal to the Task!

M. A. Rodriguez

MG, Texas State Guard

Commanding