Same but different: Texas Air and Army National Guard compete for 'Best Warrior'

Courtesy Story

Posted: Feb 2, 2015

BASTROP, Texas – This year’s 2015 Texas Military Forces Best Warrior Competition brought out 35 guardsmen from both the Texas Army and Air National Guard who competed here to determine who would be the best of the best Feb. 5-7.

“The Best Warrior Competition is a big deal for Texas and the Texas Military Forces,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Mark Weedon, TXMF senior enlisted adviser. "It is one of the biggest joint events we have involving actual soldiers and airmen. This event allows the soldier and airman to compete with each other in both physical and mental challenges.”

The competition demonstrated the knowledge and skills of the guardsmen in seven events, spanning three days. The first day started with an essay, testing their aptitude, writing abilities and critical thinking and how well the soldiers and the airmen express their thoughts. Following the writing skills, the competitors met with a panel of senior enlisted leaders who barraged them with a series of questions pertaining to their military tasks.

“We are from the same Texas Military Forces,” said Command Chief Master Sgt. Kevin O’Gorman, state command chief for the Texas Air National Guard. “When we deploy in a joint environment, we work together side-by-side and we need to foster that early on. This competition brings camaraderie and jointness, even though soldiers and airmen do things differently.”

Day two started with a twilight land-navigation course, starting at 5 a.m. and finishing after daybreak. Once again, the soldiers and airmen battle-tested their skills in using a map and compass to plot the points and discover hidden flags throughout the course. 

Shortly after completing land navigation, the competitors went to the weapons-qualification range, then on to the 11 Army warrior task lanes, where both Army and Air Force participants demonstrated their ability to disassemble and reassemble weapons ranging from a 9 mm pistol to an M2 machine gun, as well as testing in combat-first-aid techniques.

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Steven Hein, 136th Security Forces Squadron, and member of the Richardson Police Department, finished first during the land navigation course, coming in at 1 hour and 29 minutes, finding three of four flags. 

“It’s been a privilege to come out here and contend with the best,” said Hein. “It’s definitely good to come out here to compete and learn from the other guys like the Army and other guys in the tactical control party.”

Many of the competitors felt that the first day of the competition was the most challenging and exhausting. It included the mile-long obstacle course, containing nine stations with rigorous calisthenics in between obstacles, a six-mile ruck march and finished with three mystery events. The total course spanned eight miles as each competitor attempted to conquer each event with a go or no-go while carrying a 35-pound ruck sack on their back.

“The BWC is tougher than all the races I’ve competed in,” said U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Candice Wade, a veteran competitor in the Warrior Dash, Tough Mudder and Spartan Races, about the Best Warrior Competition. “The Best Warrior Competition is in a much higher level ... dealing with a land navigation course, eight types of weapons, combat casualty care, an obstacle course, ruck march and various physical events. I can say that this is absolutely the most difficult thing I’ve ever done.”

Among the spectators present were Maj. Gen. John F. Nichols, the adjutant general for Texas, and Maj. Gen. Edmundo Villarroel Geissbuhler, Chilean army liaison officer, who were both here to observe the competing guardsmen.

“There are two competitions going on here,” said Nichols. “One is the competition between Army and Air Force. The other is between the soldiers so we can send forth the best soldier in a national competition and be the best in the U.S. Army. This is a big deal to us.”

Geissbuhler strolled though the courses, closely observing each station, cheering on the soldiers and airmen racing through the obstacles.

“We have a lot of contact with the Texas Military Forces, both in the Air Force and Army,” said Geissbuhler. “This state partnership began in 2008 and there are a lot of activities we do together. I received an invitation to come here today and I’m very glad to be here.”

Texas and Chile are part of the State Partnership Program, using military-to-military relationships between the U.S. and Chile to increase military capabilities and interoperability. 

When asked if the Chileans have this type of competition amongst their military forces, Geissbuhler said, “We do have this competition in Chile, it is part of our training. We have been approved to send four competitors here to the BWC next year and compete among the TXMF. We will be sending two soldiers and two airmen and hope to do well.”

By the end of the three-day event, the competitors seemed both mentally and physically exhausted. 

“I’m here to do my best, not just as a woman, but as a soldier,” said Sgt. Wendy Farris, 149th Aviation Battalion, one of the four female competitors. “This was really exciting. I’ve learned a lot and grown in the process. I’m devising my plan for next year’s competition.”

There were 22 Army and 13 Air Force competitors, coming from all parts of Texas. Most of the competing guardsmen were drill status guardsmen. They also serve Texas as police officers, firefighters, physical strength trainers and other professionals. 

The overall winners for the competition will be announced at an award ceremony April 11, 2015.

Journey to becoming Army Fit

Freezing Cold, and we’re out on the track in several layers of clothing.

Week 1

Freezing Cold, and we’re out on the track in several layers of clothing.  Northerners would think we are real wimps putting on this many clothes for 40 degree weather. Coat: check, Gloves: check, Hat: check.  Extra clothes: check. Stop Watch: NOPE.  Not today.  Today's goal is to make it around the 1-mile track at Camp Mabry twice without passing out or throwing up.  

We run some and walk some but complete the two miles feeling pretty accomplished!  Actually it is not bad at all.  We’re talking (good sign, that means we are breathing) and laughing and sharing about ourselves.  We really do not know each other very well because we just met 2 months ago and work in different buildings. We agreed to try a routine of running three times a week at a minimum, at the end of our work day. 

After the run we decide to humble ourselves a little bit by trying the pushups and the sit ups.  

I did 5 pushups (I don't believe they are “legitimate” but there is time for that) and Courtney is so kind she tells me good job.  Just so you know, I did embarrass myself by asking a Lieutenant if I could do my pushups on my knees.  She kindly informed me that all pushups had to be done on the toes.  She gave me more information on how to do the pushups correctly but I was spinning from the idea that I had to do them on my toes, so I do not have that information at this time.

I then try the situps.  I dread this.  I hate situps and my core is MUSH.  I am not only NOT Army Fit I am Citizen Mush when it comes to the core.  I definitely need some guidance in this area.  HELP.  Anyway, I push through 10 really ugly situps.  Again, Courtney is nothing but supportive, but now her turn.

Run, not bad, but slow as she goes! I get through the two miles relatively unscathed but only because Tracy (too humble to tell you she’s a former runner) slows her pace to stay with me the whole run. 
Pushups are another story altogether. I quickly learn that my form is hideous at best. I thought I was doing pretty well cranking out a second push-up when Tracy nicely complimented my plank position form. “I’m doing pushups!” I manage to say.  I’ve been told that the correct form is when upper arms are parallel to the ground, but at this point I’m finding parallel to be very overrated. Sit-ups went a bit better but I’m pretty sure I won’t be allowed 5-minute breaks between each sit up, so I’ll have to work on pace. 

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

Journey to becoming Army Fit

Join us as two behavioral health therapists train to become mentally and physically “Army Fit.”

I am Tracy Keating Ward and I am Courtney Lynch.

Hi! I am Tracy Keating Ward and I am Courtney Lynch.  We are Psychological Health Coordinators (PHCs) for the State of Texas and we are located at the beautiful Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas.

Being therapists, we have spent a good portion of our lives learning the ins and outs of mental / emotional fitness.  However, due to busy lives and a deep desire to help others, we have found ourselves failing at being physically fit.  This has a lot to do with sitting for long hours in a chair, as therapists sometimes do, driving long hours commuting (traffic, traffic, traffic), and not prioritizing any type of regular exercise routine.  This level of poor fitness does not just appear suddenly. It creeps up day after day until you realize you now get winded going up a flight of stairs.  UGH. 

Working in a military setting and being surrounded by a large number of fit people really opens your eyes to evaluate your own fitness level.  Seeing service members running in the morning, during lunch and after work (no matter the temperature) makes you reflect on your own lack of commitment to exercising.  We have decided that we want to be role models and be both mentally fit and physically fit.

How do we do this? In talking to service members, we learn that taking a PT test every six months is a big motivator in their staying fit. So we decided to challenge ourselves to see if we could pass a PT test on March 23, 2015. Please note that we said we want to PASS the test, not EXCEED.  Passing means getting a score of 60 percent on each of the three skill sets: two-mile run, pushups, and sit-ups. 

Tracy:  That means for me, who is a 52 year-old female, I have to do nine pushups in two minutes, 28 sit-ups in two minutes and run two miles in 24 minutes and 24 seconds.  

Courtney:  And for me, at age 43, I have to do 12 pushups, 32 sit-ups and a 2-mile run in 23 minutes and 42 seconds.

We’ve begun to talk to others about our goals. Service members we have talked to have been encouraging, respectful, and did not die laughing when they heard how few pushups we had to do.  (Just like a service member to always be respectful). 

We have committed to blogging weekly about our progress.  If you are so inclined to join our fitness mission, or just want to follow our progress, please do.  If you are a civilian employee, contractor, or family member, and want to join us in becoming “Army Fit,” go to to find the standards for your age and gender. Remember, if you just want to pass like us, look at the numbers that fall in the 60 percent column.  Also, if there is a medical reason you cannot run, you are allowed to walk (a very fast walk), swim 800 meters, or bike 6 miles.  

Every journey starts with the first step.

Governor brevets Texas ANG officer to General, first female

Story by: 2nd Lt. Phil Fountain

Post: Jan 23, 2015

149th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
BG McNabbAUSTIN, Texas (Jan. 23, 2015) – In one of his last official acts, former Gov. Rick Perry commissioned the first female Texas Air National Guard officer as a brevet brigadier general, in Austin, Texas, effective Dec. 31, 2014.
Retired Col. Constance C. McNabb of Montgomery, Texas was presented with the general officer commission by Maj. Gen. Kenneth W. Wisian, Deputy Adjutant General for Air and Commander of the Texas Air National Guard, in a ceremony at Camp Mabry, in Austin, Texas, Jan. 23, 2015.

“This is a real thrill to recognize Connie with the brevet brigadier general,” said Wisian. “This is overdue recognition for under-heralded work.”

McNabb retired after more than 23 years of service as a member of the U.S. Air Force, Nebraska Air National Guard and Texas Air National Guard.
She was first commissioned as a captain in the U.S. Air Force’s Biomedical Science Corps. A “Citizen-Airman,” McNabb is also a Texas licensed, graduate veterinarian.

McNabb served a varied military career that included service as commander of the 149th Medical Group, a subordinate unit of the 149th Fighter Wing, based at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, TXMF Joint Surgeon then Chief of the Joint Staff for the Texas Military Forces, at Camp Mabry.

Her career culminated with her service as the Air National Guard Assistant to the Surgeon General at Headquarters, 25th Air Force at JBSA-Lackland.

“I look forward to seeing you around here more in the future and continuing to be a mover and shaker within Texas,” Wisian said. “Hopefully, broader than just within the Texas Military Forces.”

The Texas Government Code authorizes the governor, upon recommendation of the adjutant general, to confer a brevet commission “for gallant conduct or meritorious military service.” The code allows for the governor to commission the officer to the next higher grade.

In McNabb’s case, she was promoted from the rank of colonel to brigadier general in the National Guard of the State of Texas.

The military brevet is a significant state honor that's been bestowed upon only a few members of the Guard.

During his time in office, Perry issued only six brevets to active service members, according to the Texas Military Forces General Officer Management Office. McNabb is the first female from the Texas Air Guard.

The significance of her service was described in her recommendation for this honor.

“Colonel Constance C. McNabb distinguished herself by exceptionally meritorious performance of duty in a succession of positions of increasing responsibility,” wrote Maj. Gen. John F. Nichols, the 51st Adjutant General of Texas, to the governor in his recommendation. “In each duty assignment, Colonel McNabb’s exceptional leadership skills, personal and professional relationships and dedication to mission accomplishment were apparent throughout her military career in the Texas Air National Guard.”

McNabb expressed humility to receive this honor.

“This is far more than I ever expected,” she said. “[It’s] an honor I never expected and for which I am most grateful.”

“Humbled, thankful and appreciating the leadership of Gov. Rick Perry, Maj. Gen. John Nichols and Maj. Gen. Kenneth Wisian,” McNabb said after receiving the commission.

Brevet Brig. Gen. McNabb is not resting on her laurels.

She said she is looking forward to continuing her service to the state of Texas as a member of the Texas State Guard, the volunteer component of the Texas Military Forces.

Additionally, McNabb said she is excited to be enrolled in a graduate program at Texas A&M University’s Bush School of Government and Public Service, where she is seeking a graduate certificate in non-profit management.

She said she’s not sure what else the future might bring, but she will seek opportunities to serve Texas and her fellow veterans.

“It’s been a wonderful ride,” McNabb said. “And I look forward to the opportunity to continuing to serve the Texas Military Forces.”

National Guard helicopters support Border Patrol

Photo: UH-72 Lakota helicopter
A National Guard UH-72 Lakota helicopter prepares to fly in support of Customs and Border Protection (CBP)-led Operation Phalanx. National Guardsmen from across the country assist CBP in disrupting transnational criminal organizations and drug trafficking organizations by conducting aerial detection and monitoring along the U.S.-Mexico border in support of Operation Phalanx and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Malcolm McClendon/Released)

LAREDO, Texas - Army National Guard members have served along the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas since 2012 providing aviation support to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, with plans to continue serving for the foreseeable future.

Soldiers, from numerous states across the country, collaborate in this unique mission, known as Operation Phalanx, to provide aviation assets in support of CBP alongside Office of Air and Marine, Texas Department of Public Safety, U.S. Department of Homeland Security and other local, state and federal agencies with operations along the international border. They are prepared to fly their UH-72 Lakota helicopters regardless of day or time, ready to deploy as requested by CBP. 

“These UH-72 helicopters, which are bought and paid for by our taxpayers, are the perfect platform to perform this mission,” said Brig. Gen. Patrick Hamilton, Domestic Operations commander, Texas National Guard. “They provide a tremendous operational flying experience for future state and federal missions.”

The standard crew consists of three Guardsmen, two pilots and a sensor operator, and one Border Patrol agent observer per aircraft. The ability to combine the agent with the advanced UH-72 helicopter helps provide effortless support to border patrol agents working on the ground. 

“This aircraft’s capabilities make it a unique asset in the Army aviation inventory and perfect for this mission,” said a pilot with the Texas National Guard, who has been on the mission for six months. “It has a communications package that none of the other Army aircraft have that allows us to communicate on secure Border Patrol and other law enforcement channels. This communication capability, along with a high-powered searchlight and cameras with infrared capabilities, make it the total package.”

On any given flight, these aircrews can support CBP and other agencies with the identification and observation of undocumented immigrants, the seizure of illegal narcotics, and in emergency situations, conduct search and rescue operations and casualty evacuation. They also assist law enforcement in vehicle pursuits in order to prevent dangerous high-speed pursuits in populated areas. 

“The amount of assistance is invaluable,” said assistant chief patrol agent Dan Ramos. “They have provided us an extra level of safety.”

The partnership helps strengthen the relationship between both agencies.

“We are proud to work with National Guardsmen across the nation to support Customs and Border Protection,” said Hamilton. “We have a great relationship with all of our partner agencies on the border, making Operation Phalanx the perfect mission for National Guard soldiers.”

While providing an invaluable asset to CBP, the soldiers assigned to Operation Phalanx also benefit in their military and professional careers while on mission. Pilots, sensor operators, maintenance personnel and operations support personnel gain valuable experience in the demanding and constantly changing environment on the international border, making them invaluable assets at their home units when they return to their respective states. 

“Pilots gain unprecedented flight hours flying relevant missions every day, sensor operators rapidly adapt and learn how to maximize the capabilities of our cameras to assist CBP, maintenance personnel become experienced at inspections most states wouldn’t see for years to come, and flight operations personnel successfully manage relationships with numerous agencies and accountability for flight crews,” said a Nebraska National Guard soldier, who has been on this mission for more than a year. “It’s a fantastic opportunity for soldiers to serve on a domestic mission with important implications, working alongside their counterparts from other states.”

Additionally, the soldiers are also proud to serve in positions that allow them to support the integrity of their country and its borders on a daily basis. 

“This mission is incredibly rewarding, because we know we’re making an important difference, specifically to the Border Patrol agents on the ground, but also to our country as a whole,” said the guardsman. “When we signed up to join the National Guard we wanted to make a positive impact on our country and in our communities, and this mission allows us to do that every day.”

The National Guard has provided support along the U.S.-Mexico border in various ways and on numerous occasions since 1917, most recently providing constant support to CBP since 2010. From 2010 to 2012, the National Guard provided CBP ground support, switching to an aviation based mission in 2012.

Strengthening Your Mental Fitness

Commentary by TXARNG Counselors Renee Senn, LCSW and Tracy K. Ward, LPC

"I am disciplined, physically and mentally tough, trained
and proficient in my warrior tasks and drills."

Excerpt from Soldier's Creed

After the holidays most of us find ourselves with some additional weight and tighter clothes... two "signs" that our physical body needs a little tune-up and a little extra attention. An important aspect of being a service member is to maintain a level of physical fitness and a readiness to serve. Knowing you have Army physical standards and a PT test increases your awareness of your body and physical fitness level.

The Soldier's Creed emphasizes that soldiers maintain not only their physical toughness to serve but also their mental toughness as well. How do soldiers measure their mental toughness or know when it needs some attention?

I am disciplined, physically and mentally tough, trained  and proficient in my warrior tasks and drills.

A mental fitness tune up is needed when you BEGIN to:

  • lose sight of Army values
  • pull away from  family and  friends  
  • smile less 
  • laugh less 
  • drink more alcohol 
  • smoke or increase smoking
  • use illegal substances
  • have more arguments with those you love  
  • no longer engage in activities you enjoy
  • skip family events 
  • sleep more or sleep less
  • have mean thoughts toward yourself or others
  • hold grudges 
  • feel an increase in sadness, anxiety, boredom or anger
  • no longer engage in spiritual practices like attending worship services, praying, etc. 

When you notice your physical body is beginning to be out of shape it is wise to make changes early. For example, making changes when the waist band is too tight, versus waiting to react when all your clothes no longer fit.  The quicker you recognize the signs, create an action plan and make changes, the smoother and easier the process. This is also true for your mental toughness.  Pay attention to the early signs.  Notice when you BEGIN to lose sight of your Army values.  Knowing your personal signs, creating a plan of action, and engaging in the plan will create quick changes to your mental fitness and decrease the chance of a crisis.  

It is important to create a plan of action with lists of people, places and activities that mentally strengthen you and uphold Army values.  Choose people who will tell you the truth, listen with compassion, advise you, and will help you get back on track. Choose from a combination of your friends, family members, Battle Buddies, a chaplain, a therapist or anyone who you trust and believe will have your best interests at heart.  This does not include mischievous friends.  Mischievous friends may be fun to be with but can lead to trouble and they may not honor Army values.
A plan should also include places and activities that replenish, strengthen and build resilience. Participate in activities that make you smile, laugh, move, talk, and engage with good people.  All of these activities may strengthen mental fitness.  This plan does not include long hours of video games, stressful movies and social media (each of which is shown to increase stress and anxiety). 

Just as you must exercise at least 3x a week to keep up your physical fitness, you will need to make an effort to use your mental fitness plan 3x a week.  That means having personal contact with good people, engaging in activities that you enjoy and going to places that increase your level of relaxation.  Continuing to do this weekly will help your mental fitness and will reward you with a level of mental toughness that will serve you well in and out of battle. 

Tracy K. Ward,  Renee Senn and Courtney Lynch are counselors located at Camp Mabry and  have made a commitment to honor and accept the physical and mental standards of the Army.  At this moment they aren't willing to post their physical fitness status so watch for quarterly updates on their progress.  If you need help creating a mental fitness plan or have helpful advice regarding their physical fitness progress, please contact them in Bldg 34 or at 512-782-6791. 

Guardsmen demonstrate new side of chemistry for students


Story by: Master Sgt. Daniel Griego

Posted: 15-Jan-15

Photo of Soldier and students
Master Sgt. Daniel Griego
Members of the Texas National Guard's 6th Civil Support Team provide demonstrations of their procedures and equipment for chemistry students from Hill Country Christian School of Austin at Camp Mabry Jan. 15, 2015. The intent of the visit was to provide high school students with real-world applications of chemistry in the areas of emergency response and special operations. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Daniel Griego/Released)

AUSTIN, Texas – For the members of the Texas National Guard’s 6th Civil Support Team, community outreach is a regular part of their mission. From showcasing their capabilities at the Texas Emergency Management Conference each year to setting up a fundraising booth at the Camp Mabry American Heroes Air Show, they have a long history of meeting their neighbors while serving the state. Recently, they made a new connection in the area by inviting chemistry students from a local high school to tour their facility and learn about the real-world applications of science in responding to hazardous material incidents.

“We’re providing an opportunity that we don’t often get, to interact with high school students, more importantly, high school chemistry students,” said Lt. Col. William Phillips, commander of the 6th CST. “Hopefully, they’re going to understand that chemistry is more than just a subject by seeing the professionals who they’ve have the opportunity to interact with today who apply chemistry on a daily basis.”

The event, held Jan. 15 at the CST’s headquarters on Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas, allowed students from Hill Country Christian School of Austin to learn about hazardous compounds, try on chemical suits, and simulate testing procedures used by the CST during response operations. 

“It has made me a lot more interested,” said 10th-grader Stephen Fritschle, “seeing how they do this stuff in real life and how it applies to real life. It’s actually given me a greater interest for chemistry in general and how cool it can actually be.”

The day was as much about demonstrating the value of a strong science background as it was communicating the mission of the unit. The CST, first organized in 1999, serves the state of Texas by supporting local first responders with detection, identification, and monitoring capabilities when an area is compromised by hazardous chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, or explosive contaminants. 

“There is another side of special operations that is highly trained and very specialized,” said Phillips, “and something that is not a traditional military unit’s task and purpose. That’s what the CST is, that’s what the CBRNE response enterprise is.These are Soldiers who have a very in-depth education requirement that they have to apply in hazardous environments and working in the unknown.”

Education was a recurring theme of the visit, as the Guardsmen of the CST imparted to the students the importance of academics and training in their career field. 

“One of the things that is challenging as a chemistry student is understanding how the concepts that you learn in the classroom are related to real-world experience,” said Meredith Wermel, the Hill Country Christian School of Austin chemistry teacher. “So getting them to actually be able to see how some of the compounds that they’re learning about in class could be analyzed by instruments and then actually be contained is a great opportunity.”

The members of the CST were especially enthusiastic about the chance to share their mission with the next generation of scientists and service members. For some, it was the field trip they would have wanted to take in high school.

“I wish I had this opportunity when I was at LBJ,” said Staff Sgt. Carolina Dilger, a survey team member with the 6th CST. “My military career absolutely would have started here.”

The CST plans to conduct more tours like this in the future as they continue their efforts to support and educate the community. 

“I feel like I have a deeper understanding. I love seeing how it is applied,” said 10th-grader Emma Astad. “I’m really happy I came.”