Volunteers wash more than 100 loads of laundry for troops assisting in Harvey relief efforts

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Photo By Capt. Aaron Moshier | Fatima Maniar’s son Gabriel and Nichole Bode’s daughter Gabbie, volunteers from the St. Thomas More Catholic Church and School, pose for a photo with handmade thank you notes for soldiers serving out of the Rosenberg National Guard Armory. Volunteers washed more than 100 loads of laundry as a show of support and appreciation for mobilized Soldiers assisting in Hurricane Harvey relief efforts, Rosenberg, Texas, September 2, 2017.

ROSENBERG, TX, UNITED STATES

09.08.2017

Story by Capt. Maria Mengrone

176th Engineer Brigade (TXARNG)

 

ROSENBERG, Texas – A group of volunteers from Meyerland, a neighborhood in Houston, washed more than 100 loads of laundry as a show of support and appreciation for mobilized Soldiers assisting in Hurricane Harvey relief efforts in Rosenberg, Aug. 29-Sept. 4, 2017.

“We don’t have a means to wash our uniforms so this kind gesture allows us to remain focused on the mission,” said Texas Army National Guard Sgt. 1st Class James Thomas, technical engineer, 111th Engineer Battalion, 176th Engineer Brigade and native of Leonard. “Our soldiers are operating in almost five feet of water, they’re soaked and this is helping our morale.” 

Fatima Maniar, a veteran and avid church volunteer, came up with the idea after brainstorming with friends on how she could best help the soldiers serving in surrounding communities. 

“I started thinking of ways I could help and I asked my friend if she would help,” said Maniar. 

Maniar enlisted the help of her friend Nichole Bode, and together the duo began offering free laundry service to service members working out of the Rosenberg National Guard Armory. 

“We began alternating trips because the need for laundry was great,” said Bode.

The idea quickly became popular among soldiers and soon Maniar and Bode recruited more volunteers to help.

“We had friends that just offered to help for nothing in return. I’d say we had about eight people helping with the laundry,” said Maniar. 

The volunteers show up to the armory every day and pick up between six to 15 loads of laundry. 

“The soldiers never told us when to get it back to them but we knew that we had to get their laundry back to them as fast as possible,” said Bode. 

Since the beginning of the operation Maniar and Bode have declined to accept any form of compensation for their volunteer work.

“We've offered them detergent that we brought with us but they wouldn’t take it. They've been here every single day, day after day. That's time, money, and resources that they have given to support us,” said Chaplain Candidate (2nd Lt.) Ismael Berlanga, unit ministry team, 111th Engineer Battalion, 176th Engineer Brigade and native of San Saba. 

“I know, at first, it was difficult for soldiers to give a stranger their dirty clothes but they warmed up and now it has definitely improved the morale of our soldiers.”

The laundry operation has become a family affair with the inclusion of Maniar’s son Gabriel and Bode’s daughter Gabbie.

“We were blessed that our homes were not affected by the floods and I hope the kids see that helping ours neighbors is a good thing and especially our military,” said Bode. “Gabriel’s dad is in the military and his mom Fatima is a veteran, my dad also served. Our kids are growing up with a respect for the military and it warms my heart to see that.”

Soldiers working out of the Rosenberg armory understand the impact of donning a clean uniform when working in wet conditions. 
It has really made a difference to our soldiers,” said Berlanga. “Just having clean clothes and clean socks really has helped the soldiers stay focused on the mission.

“The outreach in this community is just awesome,” said Thomas. “They are going out of their way to do our laundry and make sure we have clean clothes is just awesome. Thank you.”

The soldiers wish to thank an additional group of volunteers: Kim Lesniewicz, Vanessa LaWare, Irma Perez, Christina Sumerall, Heather Gallagher and Paige Wermuth.

At the request of the Governor, the Texas Guard mobilized more than 12,000 military men and women from the Texas Army and Air National Guards, Texas State Guard to support Hurricane response operations following Hurricane Harvey.

Texas Guard aviator guides helicopter deliveries of hay to stranded cattle in Texas

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Photo By Sgt. Ariel Solomon | BEAUMONT, Texas -- National Guard members from multiple states help provide feed to livestock trapped by floodwater in Jefferson county, Texas, September 7, 2017. Thousands of cattle were left stranded and without access to food in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, and civilians and Soldiers worked together to come up with means of getting food to as many of those cattle as possible (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Ariel J. Solomon).

HAMSHIRE, TX, UNITED STATES

09.07.2017

Story by Sgt. Ariel Solomon

128th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

 

Sand, grit and hay billowed into the faces of roughly two dozen Texas and Utah National Guard Soldiers as two Ohio National Guard CH-47 Chinook helicopters touched down in the parking lot of Hamshire-Fannett High School in Jefferson County, Texas, Sept. 7. 

As the dust settled, trucks with trailers full of hay moved forward and within moments a flurry of work moved bale after bale of hay into the cargo hold of the transport helicopters. Directing it all, from the middle of the bucket line of haystackers, was Chief Warrant Officer 2 Zach Koehn from the 149th Aviation Regiment Texas National Guard .

After Hurricane Harvey struck the Gulf Coast of Texas, thousands of acres of ranchland was submerged below several feet of water, stranding thousands of cattle on islands of higher ground. Within days of the disaster, the local sheriff's office began using their Huey helicopter to respond to calls from ranchers who were unable to reach their livestock.

“We found a tremendous number of cattle stranded in areas that were inaccessible and wouldn’t be accessible for quite some time in Jefferson and nearby counties,” said Lt. Tony Viator with the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department. “We began dropping hay, but we quickly realized we wouldn’t be able to support that mission over such a broad region. So we contacted the Guard and they sent Zach. We couldn’t have done this without his help.”

At the highschool, the helicopters lifted off to take their cargo of 130 hay bales each to cattle throughout the region. The helicopters followed a grid pattern developed by Koehn, which sped up the delivery of feed.

“I first got here, the civilians were finding all the locations for the cattle, but there were 80 grid coordinates and I didn’t know if it was several bunches of cows or individual cows,” said Koehn. “I didn’t want my pilots to enter in all these numbers into their systems and take up so much time, so I simplified it. We split up the counties into a search grid the military and civilian pilots could use to spot cattle, and feed each sector systematically.”

While throwing hay onto a trailer in preparation for another iteration of helicopter-hay-delivery, Koehn explained that the operation was a governor-mandated effort to restore a $25,000,000 rancher industry investment and protect Texan livelihood.

“It’s not just the ranchers, it’s the truckers that carry the cattle and feed, its the veterinarians that take care of the cattle’s medical needs. Nationally this is where a lot of meat comes from and it has the potential to raise the price of beef nationwide,” Koehn said.

Many local ranchers came to pitch in moving bales of hay onto the trailers and into the helicopters.

“These guys aren’t getting paid to be here,” said Koehn. “They’re here because they know it needs doing for their community and we’re thankful for all of their help.”

Above the flooded pastures, the Chinooks hovered just feet above the ground. The crew rationed out enough feed for each group of cattle to last for a few days until the water recedes and ranchers can reach their livestock. 

By the end of the 4-day mission, crews flew more than 20 flights, providing food for more than 10,000 cows.

Texas Guard: A Life Interrupted by Duty

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Photo By Spc. Nathaniel Free | Spc. Markeisha Dudley, a member of Company A, 949th Brigade Support Battalion from Fort Worth, Texas, arrives at a point of distribution station in the City of Orange on 7 September, 2017. Dudley has been collecting donations, transporting supplies on pallets, and distributing everything from trash bags to baby formula since she was activated with her unit in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.

ORANGE, TX, UNITED STATES

09.07.2017

Story by Spc. Nathaniel Free

128th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

 

BEAUMONT, Texas — In the early morning hours of August 25, 2017, Hurricane Harvey slammed into eastern Texas as a Category 4 storm, followed by days of record-breaking rainfall. 

“I was evacuated shortly after the hurricane hit,” said Staff Sgt. Ernesto Luevano, a local of Houston, who serves the Texas National Guard’s 551st Multi-Role Bridge Company, located in El Campo, Texas.

By the time Luevano had driven his wife and child to safety, he had received mobilization orders from his unit. As a citizen-Soldier, he dutifully said goodbye to his family, turned his truck around, and returned through flooded neighborhoods to retrieve his military gear from his home.

“I picked up my rucksack and it was full of water,” Luevano said.

Luevano is just one of thousands of citizen-Soldiers in the Texas National Guard who’s life has been interrupted by Hurricane Harvey. The 551st was one of the first units to respond to the call, and deployed in areas still flooded with over 40 inches of rain.

“We’ve been going out in trucks to neighborhoods where there’s water. We go as far as we can, then deploy the Zodiacs,” said Luevano. 

A Combat Rubber Reconnaissance Craft, commonly referred to as a Zodiac, is a versatile inflatable boat that can be carried in the back of a flatbed truck. The high-profile trucks can drive in floodwaters as deep as five feet before deploying the boats, Luevano said.

“We go house to house knocking, screaming, doing whatever we can to find people,” said Luevano. “We started out in Houston and we’ve been working our way east. The last place we went to was Orange.”

There are approximately 30 points of distribution stations, called PODs, set up in and around the city of Orange, to provide vital commodities like food and water. Mobile PODs also require Soldiers to brave floodwaters to reach people unable to obtain supplies because of road conditions, or because they’ve lost their only means of transportation. 

“I saw it on the news, getting worse and worse, so I told my fiancé it looks like we might be getting pushed out,” Spc. Markeisha Dudley said, a member of Company A, 949th Brigade Support Battalion, located in Fort Worth, Texas. 

The 949th BSB was activated August 28, and has since been managing various PODs across the hurricane-affected area, not only saving lives, but also restoring livelihoods.

Dudley said her fiancé, Brandon, has been extremely supportive. 

“We were planning to get married on September 3rd. We’ve been planning a big wedding for quite some time, and invited a lot of people,” she said. “We had to call everyone, and postpone it. He knows that the people out here need me.”

Dudley has been collecting donations, transporting supplies and distributing everything from trash bags to baby formula. With less than six months before the end of her military contract, it’s given her time to reflect.

“This is what I signed up for. This is the action that I wanted. It’s made me think about re-classing instead of getting out. When I was a young child, I saw the Army coming in and asked, ‘who’s that?’ It was the National Guard. That’s what I wanted to do,” Dudley said. 

Luevano and Dudley are just two of more than 16,000 military personnel currently on the ground, volunteering to live a life interrupted by duty.

Soldiers on the Moove

 

HAMSHIRE, TX, UNITED STATES

09.07.2017

Video by Sgt. Tim Beery

128th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

 

In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, over 10,000 cattle remain stranded throughout Southeastern Texas. These animals are trapped and do not have access to good food and nutrition. Members of the Joint Task Force 56, Texas National Guard, have mobilized to deliver hay and feed to stranded cattle in rural Texas.

Texas Soldiers break language barriers to help victims of Hurricane Harvey

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Photo By Staff Sgt. Melisa Washington | Pvt. Andres Lopez of the 3-133rd Field Artillery ground guides a Light Medium Tactical Vehicle through flood waters. Texas Army National Guard Soldiers from the 36th Infantry Division transported and distributed food, water, and supplies from Orange County Airport to standed residents in low-income areas of Orange, Texas on September 6th, 2017. US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Melisa Washington/ RELEASED

ORANGE, TX, UNITED STATES

09.06.2017

Story by Staff Sgt. Melisa Washington

100th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

 

ORANGE, Texas - “Stop, they might need something!” Spc. Laura Campa barked at Sgt. Andrew Felthous, the driver of our high water truck.

He obliged, stopped the vehicle and pulled back his window. Campa took off her seatbelt and leaned over him. “Ocupan algo?” she asked. ‘Do you need something?'

The two middle-aged women with two small girls shook their heads no and continued to walk. 

“They're Hispanic, they might need something and not be able to ask for it” she explained to me, “I always stop to ask, even if they don’t wave for us." Felthous put the vehicle back in drive to catch up to the lead truck.

As a public affairs specialist assigned to escort a journalist on a relief effort mission for the Texas Military Department, I was intrigued. But as a Mexican-American, my intrigue increased two-fold.

I asked Campa if she felt that her ability to speak Spanish had proven useful during their mission to distribute food, clean water, and supplies to Harvey victims in low-income neighborhoods of Orange. 

“We went to one shelter to give out supplies, and a woman there couldn’t speak any English. I had to translate for her” she replied. 

On this particular venture, Spanish was far from a foreign language. Out of 11 Soldiers and one civilian journalist on the mobile supply distribution mission in Orange, eight of us were bilingual. I soon realized there was no standard operating language for this mission.

We all found our operational tempo in the neighborhood we were assigned to bring relief to.

Texas National Guard Soldiers from the 36th Infantry Division trekked through flooded streets asking residents what items they needed. They shouted the requests back to the truck and returned with the items. 

The embedded journalist and I took photos and captured videos of the Soldiers in action.

Several streets down, I found myself shouting requests "Agua, necesito agua!” I yelled down the road, ‘Water, I need water!' I had put my camera down to help. 

The Soldier on the truck handed me a case of water. 

As soon as I passed off the water, I asked for the next item. "Pañales, talla dos!” I shouted back to him, ‘Diapers, size two!’ Requests for supplies continued to bounce back and forth between driveways and LMTVs in English and Spanish. 

Language was fluid that day; there were no barriers. We acted and reacted rhythmically because we understood each other far beyond the words we were speaking.

Texas National Guard Soldiers distribute food and supplies to stranded residents in Orange

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Photo By Staff Sgt. Melisa Washington | Soldiers ground guide a Light Medium Tactical Vehicle around an abandoned car. Texas Army National Guard Soldiers from the 36th Infantry Division transported and distributed food, water, and supplies from Orange County Airport to residents in low-income areas of Orange, Texas on September 6th, 2017. US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Melisa Washington/ RELEASED

ORANGE, TX, UNITED STATES

09.06.2017

Story by Staff Sgt. Melisa Washington

100th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

 

ORANGE, Texas — Texas National Guard Soldiers from the 36th Infantry Division distributed goods ranging from food and clean water to diapers and baby shoes to stranded residents in low-income neighborhoods of Orange, Sept. 6, 2017. 

Orange County established a point of distribution, or POD, at the Orange County Airport following the devastating flood from Hurricane Harvey. The POD receives donated food, water, and hygiene, baby and pet products from private organizations, individuals and the military to distribute to the community. Most PODs are stationary; residents drive through to receive supplies.

Glynis Gothia, a local school teacher and the county commissioner’s wife, serves as the supply coordinator at the airport’s POD. She saw there was a need to transport food and water to residents in some affected areas with help from the Texas National Guard. 

"They’re still under water, the military is going to them and bringing them supplies. Because they haven’t been able to get out and get any supplies” Gothia said.

Soldiers encountered families with children and several elderly residents that lived alone. At most houses, the water had receded to the driveway, but the water was still too deep in the street to leave safely.

“Most of these residents are low income. They don’t have anywhere to go or a means to leave. Some people are afraid to leave their homes and their belongings,” said Texas National Guard Cpt. Patrick Lane, 1-133rd Field Artillery, explaining why so many people did not leave.

The Soldiers drove high water vehicles to get through neighborhoods where water levels were still waist-deep in some areas. Soldiers dismounted and trekked through the water on foot to guide the vehicles through the streets and run supplies from the vehicles to driveways and doorsteps. 

Texas National Guard Pfc. Jonathan Galindo, 3-133rd Field Artillery, stood on the back of the vehicle, sorting through food and hygiene products to find what the flood victims needed. This was his first experience assisting in a natural disaster.

"This is the way I serve my country. I’m here helping people out, it’s a great feeling. You know, the water is high, they’re not able to get out of their homes. It’s great we’re able to provide for them here” Galindo said. 

Soldiers also provided assistance to a Marine veteran and volunteer. His truck went into a ditch full of water while he distributed supplies to affected residents. Equipped with a rope, they pulled the truck out of the ditch. 

Teamwork was key for Soldiers on the mobile distribution mission as well as between the military and civilian crew at the POD. 

"The coordination effort has been working fairly well. We’ve been real impressed with our military” Gothia expressed, "As long as there’s a need, they’re going to take care of it.” 

The Texas Military Department is managing approximately 30 points of distribution in areas affected by Hurricane Harvey.

56th Task Force Distributes Supplies

BEAUMONT, TX, UNITED STATES

09.06.2017

Video by Sgt. Cody Barber

56th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (36th ID, TXARNG)

 

Soldiers from the 56th IBCT and Texas Air National Guard maintain Points of Distribution centers helping out victims from Hurricane Harvey as well as helping local volunteers who are helping those affected