Memoirs from a Deployment

Memoirs from a Deployment


Today has been extremely long and cumbersome.

We have been in country for a little less than a week. It's a bit of a commute to the hospital -A little over a mile to be exact. I tell myself its like walking to work back home.

The past three weeks were spent training with our British and Danish counterparts in a hospital exercise meant to simulate the military hospital we are assigned to in Afghanistan. The days were long, and the nights were spent carousing at the local pubs. It was one of the best times of my life. I mean, when you combine pints of beer, massive amounts of fried potatoes, and cute British soldiers to flirt with, what's not to like?

While we were there, the Boston marathon bombing took place. All of a sudden, our situation, and the reason as to why we are here as soldiers, became real again. No matter how much fun we are having while training or how much everyone around us claims that things are winding down and we should have a quiet summer, the fact is we are still at conflict.

The trip to Afghanistan took almost three days. Even in the dark, I could tell that our base was a small bustling city that never sleeps; a far cry from the primitive settlements that I had experienced in Iraq ten years prior. 

We took a few days to get settled into our barracks and adjust to the time difference. Tensions have started to arise and attitudes have begun to come out. No one is on their best behavior anymore, and small things like invasion of personal space and consumption of personal time are making people cranky. Generally, I try to be laid back and keep a positive attitude, and I can usually fool people even on my worst day. 

Today, however, was our first full shift at the hospital. The ICU wasn't particularly busy, just a couple of Afghans who had been hit by IED blasts. It would normally have been an easy day but we butted heads with the UK from the moment we began our shift. We barely knew where any supplies were, which sucks when your patient extubates himself ten minutes into the first shift.  Also, it has become painfully clear that the US and UK have some very different nursing methods. It's very hard to set aside our evidence based methods of patient care and adopt someone else's protocols. Ah well, it's only the first day. Hopefully within the month tensions will subside and we will all be able to care for our patients harmoniously.

Then there's the issue of our patient population. As a nurse, or any healthcare provider for that matter, we are sworn to provide care no matter the circumstances. I never thought that would bother me until now. Our patients today were just Afghan locals, and although I gave the best care that I could, it was difficult to not have a completely biased opinion about them. What am I going to do when I have a detainee? I used to pride myself on being able to separate myself from issues such as these. A few months ago, I had a patient back in the states that had a history of incarceration for homicide and I never thought twice about it. Maybe it's the years I spent caring for the soldiers in the wounded warrior ward that makes me a little sick to my stomach now. I have seen firsthand what the Taliban is capable of.  Now I'm supposed to save them?

Part 3 of a 13 part miniseries following the personal memoirs of a soldier

Drinking and Driving is a crime

  Austin Police Department, spoke to Soldiers from Joint Force Headquarters, Texas Army National Guard, about preventing DWI accidents
Detective Mike Jennings, Driving While Intoxicated Program Coordinator, Austin Police Department gives Capt. Martha Nigrelle, Joint Force Headquarters, Texas Military Forces, a field sobriety test during a presentation at Camp Mabry in Austin, TX, August 2, 2014. Jennings briefed soldiers from the Joint Force Headquarters on what his department is doing to prevent DWI-related casualties in the city and how to help prevent DWI accidents. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Malcolm McClendon).

Commentary by: Capt. Martha Nigrelle

Detective Mike Jennings, Driving While Intoxicated Program Coordinator, Austin Police Department, spoke to Soldiers from Joint Force Headquarters, Texas Army National Guard, about preventing DWI accidents and how Austin Police Department is working to prevent DWI-related casualties during a brief at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas, August 2, 2014.

“This is an important topic,” said Maj. David Tyler, Joint Force Headquarters Company Commander, Texas Army National Guard. “DWIs are unacceptable.”

Perry, a citizen soldier, also serves as a full time police officer for the Austin Police Department. He enlisted the help of a fellow officer to educate his Soldiers on the effects of drinking and driving because it is one his top priorities as a commander, but also a direct parallel to the Adjutant General’s top priority, taking care of Soldiers. 

Austin’s DWI program was developed in 1998 and has taken a proactive stance in preventing DWI-related accidents in Austin, as well as working with other police departments across the state to improve investigations. The program’s mission is to reduce fatalities, injuries and loss of property due to DWI crashes in the city.

Intoxication is defined in the Texas Penal Code as, “not having the normal use of mental or physical faculties by reason of the introduction of alcohol, a controlled substance, a drug, a dangerous drug, a combination of two or more of those substances or any other substance into the body or having an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more.”

“If we detect alcohol, we have to do some sort of an investigation,” said Jennings. “We can’t let you drive until we know you are OK.”
The program uses three primary field sobriety tests to determine if a person is driving under the influence: the horizontal gaze nystagmus, the walk and turn and the one leg stand. Each of these tests has a 79 percent or higher accuracy rating.

The horizontal gaze nystagmus is 88 percent accurate and the most popular test. 

“HGN tests for eye muscles and peripherals,” said Jennings. “Alcohol slows your reaction time down in your eyes and you lose your peripherals quite a bit.”
After a person is unable to complete one of the three field sobriety tests, the detaining officer will ask for a sample, either through a breathalyzer or a blood sample. If the person suspected of a DWI refuses, the officer can apply for a blood search warrant. If a judge decides the evidence is sufficient, a warrant can be granted for a blood draw. These samples will be tested for drug and alcohol levels and the results can be used in court.

“It’s very hard for the defense attorney to fight a blood test,” said Jennings. 

It isn’t just alcohol and recreational drugs causing DWIs. It’s important to remember that some prescription medications cause drowsiness and impair senses said Jennings. If the label on the medication says, “do not operate heavy machinery,” that also applies to driving a vehicle.
Jennings showed Soldiers a public service announcement that presented a graphic representation of some of the second and third order effects of driving under the influence. 

“Drinking and driving is a crime,” said Jennings. “From 2008 to 2011, there were 118 alcohol related fatality crashes in Austin.”
The video said it best-

“For everybody’s sake…drive safe.”

Texas State Guard Soldier to Miss Texas USA

Photo of Miss Texas USA

Story by Capt. Esperanza Meza
19th Regt. Public Affairs Office
LAREDO, Texas (September 1, 2014) – As members of the Texas State Guard, soldiers take an oath to serve Texas and often sacrifice a great deal to do so, for TXSG Sgt. Lauren Guzman, she wears two hats for Texas – her ACU patterned patrol cap and a crown.

Guzman was crowned Miss Texas USA 2014 on Sept. 1, 2013, representing the Lone Star State and serving the citizens of Texas as both Sgt. Guzman and as Miss Texas all year. 

"In the community, being a role model with high standards is expected when being in and out of uniform," Guzman said, speaking of the TXSG contributing to her success in the pageants.  "The TXSG taught me to be on time for events, meetings, and how to network, but it also takes a lot of discipline, commitment and self-motivation when there is no monetary compensation involved."

Guzman is currently assigned to 1st Regiment, TXSG, in the operations section in San Antonio and served with the regiment's Quick Reaction Team before it disbanded.  

“We've given her the latitude to attend required Miss Texas USA functions without penalty or adverse perception for not being able to attend scheduled Unit Training Assemblies,” stated State Guard Col. Vincent Carag, 1st Regiment commander. "We, the Soldiers of the 1st Regiment, stand behind her efforts 100 percent."  Guzman agreed, stating the troops and command, her “extended second family,” has been very supportive.

Guzman joined the TXSG in 2007 and holds a bachelor’s degree in forensic science from St. Mary’s University, which she earned while serving in the guard and is looking to the future. 

As her reign comes to an end, she is considering several career options and looking to attend Officer Candidate School.

"She was a soldier before she became Miss Texas USA and I could tell she was a ‘squared away soldier' when I first came on board," said 1st Regiment, Command Sgt. Maj., Mario Zuniga, giving accolades to Guzman.

 "As a leader, she is a coach and mentor and is not afraid to get dirty or ask questions," he said, "and when she won Miss Texas USA, both the colonel and I thought she'd be a great spokesperson and recruiter for the TXSG." 

A pageant veteran, Guzman started in 2005, where she won the Miss Laredo Top Model Pageant. In 2006, she was first runner-up in the Miss Laredo Teen USA but claimed the title in 2008.  Persevering, she competed for Miss Texas USA, being third runner-up in 2011, first runner-up in 2012 and fourth runner-up in 2013 before winning the title in 2014.  
Guzman followed her father’s and grandfather's footsteps into the TXSG.  Both served several years with 1st Regiment; her father, a major in the medical corps, and her grandfather, an education professor posthumously promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel.

Guzman looks to her family for inspiration to do well and set an example for others. 

“My mom has always been there and pushed me to do well while I also try to do right to be a role model for my sister,” she said.

As Miss Texas USA, Guzman traveled throughout the state and nation addressing issues such as breast and ovarian cancer awareness, attended charity events, parades and visited hospitals and schools to help educate children regarding the dangers of drugs and the importance of education. She also volunteers with numerous non-profit organizations on top of her work with the Guard.

As Guzman relinquishes her crown to the next Miss Texas USA, she leaves us with this advice.

"If you have a goal, push for it and ask yourself why you want it,” said Guzman. 

“Keep your head up till you achieve what you want and accomplish it. I kept competing until I won Miss Texas USA.”

Gov. Perry Appoints Brigadier General Betty as Commander of Texas State Guard

Posted: 20-AUG-14

Gov. Rick Perry has appointed Brigadier General Gerald "Jake" Betty as Commander of the Texas State Guard effective Sept. 1, 2014 for a term to expire at the pleasure of the governor. The commander of the Texas State Guard is responsible for the organization, training and administration of the Texas State Guard, and reports to the Texas Adjutant General.

Betty is Brigadier General of the Texas State Guard Army Component Command. He is a member of the American Legion, Association of Former Students of Texas A&M, Corps of Cadets Association and the Association of Former Yell Leaders. He served in the U.S. Army and U.S. Army Reserve.

Betty received a bachelor's degree and master's degree in education administration from Texas A&M University.

2BN, 8th Regiment Changing of Command and Enlistment Promotions

Posted: 19-AUG-2014

MAJ Britton presents LTC Krueger with the Cavalry Saber from the 2nd Bn. Photographed by SPC Hays, 2nd Bn., 8th Regt. 16 AUG 2014
MAJ Britton presents LTC Krueger with the Cavalry Saber from the 2nd Bn. Photographed by SPC Hays, 2nd Bn., 8th Regt. 16 AUG 2014

It was already turning out to be a warm and humid Saturday even in the early hour of only seven-thirty in the morning. After pulling into the parking lot at the Bryan Armory several soldiers from Second Battalion were greeting each-other with warm handshakes and friendly banter. A steady stream of soldiers continued to arrive and, now numbering in the dozens, file into the classrooms inside the armory for company time. Once there the battalion companies briefly split into separate groups to review the process for the Second Battalion change of command ceremony and the promotion of four of the battalions enlisted personnel. After briefing the personnel verbally the companies rehearsed the Drill and Ceremony movements and functions before the ceremony itself took place in the vehicle bay of the armory.

The first round of ceremonies consisted of the promotion of four enlisted personnel in the Second Battalion from within Company A, and in the Second Battalion staff. Sergeant Gore, the Second Battalion S3 NCO, was promoted to Staff Sergeant, and Specialist Zelaya of Company A was promoted to Sergeant, and Privates First Class Manning and Hall, also of Company A, were promoted to Corporal and Specialist respectively. These enlisted men of the Second Battalion have demonstrated the dedication and competency of leadership necessary to be entrusted with greater responsibility and recognition deserving of promotion within the ranks. We look forward to their promising careers within the Texas State Guard and the Second Battalion.

Alas, all good things must come to an end, and the ceremony of the change of command of the Second Battalion resulted in the prestigious promotion of responsibility for one Major (MAJ) Britton to the role of commanding officer of the battalion, and the bittersweet loss of the outgoing commander of Second Battalion: Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) Krueger. LTC Krueger, having inherited the Second Battalion from LTC Manning upon his retirement, set about creating the framework for a more consistent and quality focused training scheme for the soldiers of the Second Battalion. After working tirelessly with the Second Battalion for several years LTC Krueger has helped bring about many changes and improvements to the organization, efficiency, and quality of the personnel and training drills conducted by the Second Battalion.

As testament to LTC Krueger’s humility and exemplary leadership while in command he stressed in his farewell speech that his successes are not his own, but a result of the collective effort of each and every soldier in the unit. Each drill that saw an increase in the number of attending soldiers, every successful training mission undertaken by the unit, and the exemplary professionalism displayed at every Annual Training exercise is as much a reflection of the discipline of the men and women of the rank-and-file of Second Battalion as it is the quality of leadership from Officers and Non-Commissioned Officers alike. With Colonel Grantham, the Commanding Officer of the Eighth Regiment, presiding over the change of command, and with General Jake Betty in attendance, the mantle of responsibility for Second Battalion was passed to MAJ Britton.

Incoming commander of the Second Battalion, MAJ Britton, gave a short speech emphasizing that he will continue to build on the success of those before him, and presented the outgoing commander with a parting gift from the soldiers of the unit: A Cavalry Saber etched with the insignia of the Eighth Regiment shield, and the words “Texas State Guard” with a wooden display stand and an attached plaque inscribed with the name of LTC Krueger, the date and the purpose of the occasion for which it was presented. In the closing statements of the ceremony MAJ Britton wished LTC Krueger the best in his endeavors as he transfers to Texas State Guard Command Headquarters to continue doing greater and better things for the TXSG. LTC Krueger, we soldiers of the Second Battalion thank you for your dedication to us and for your service rendered thus far to our great State of Texas. You shall be sorely missed.

Memoirs from a Deployment

Memoirs from a Deployment


I never meant to join the Army. 

I was nineteen and stuck in a volatile marriage to my high school sweetheart who had just finished the Special Forces Qualification Course the year before. By our one year anniversary our fights were getting worse every day and I knew something had to change. So I enlisted and two weeks later I shipped off to basic training, followed by language school at the Defense Language Institute. I didn't tell my husband what I had done until the contract was signed.

I graduated from the Basic Korean course in July of 2002. By January of 2003 I was arriving to my duty station at Fort Campbell. During the two years of language school my husband and I fought constantly, but decided to give our marriage one more chance.  Then war was declared on Iraq. So my husband left for Kuwait a mere three weeks after I arrived at Ft Campbell. Six weeks later, I would follow him.

Preparing for the Iraq deployment was difficult. I was essentially a brand new soldier who had been issued mounds of equipment that I had no idea what to do with. I was also extremely broke, and had developed some questionable means to make it to the next payday. I was the queen of floating checks and lived on peanut butter and jelly. I didn't get to buy any of the "cool guy" Army gear but made do with what I was issued. The day before we left, I patched up a busted out window in our rented house with newspaper and duct tape.

A few months into my deployment I received a message that my husband was sick and was sent back to the states on emergency leave. His prognosis was extremely poor. His family took over his care, and persuaded me to sign over legal guardianship since I was so young, only twenty two. I never returned to Iraq, which was always an internal struggle for me; I hated leaving my team who had become my family in a short time but my husband had only been given six months to live.

His parents kept him alive in a persistent vegetative state for five years, with the help of feeding tubes, supplemental oxygen, and other great advances in modern medicine. During this time I decided that the enlisted life wasn't for me. I got selected for a Green to Gold scholarship and went to college, where I got a BSN. I had become pretty good at providing care, so why not get a degree in that? 

My husband passed away during my senior year of college. Shortly after, I graduated and commissioned as a 2nd Lt.  in the Army Nurse Corps. I changed my name back to my maiden name and moved. I thought that if I changed everything about myself, I could erase the past from my memory. It doesn't really work that way, especially since I became a nurse.

I've been a nurse at a military medical center since the fall of 2009. I initially worked caring for the wounded warriors. It was incredibly rewarding and emotionally taxing at the same time, and after a couple of years, I was ready for a change. 

Preparing for this deployment has been a complete 180 from the Iraq deployment ten years ago. I was able to afford cooler gear such as new Oakleys, as well as a spa day the week before I left. The girl who wrote hot checks to pay the light bill is a distant figure in the past.

The week before I left, I was invited to a function at the White House as a guest of a good friend, for Women's History Month. It was a cold, wet Monday afternoon in March. All of my nice clothing had been packed away in storage with the rest of my apartment, to include my umbrella. I was wearing the best outfit I could scrounge up and looked like a drowned rat next to all of the other women in their beautiful dresses and elegant coats. I almost turned around to leave, not wanting to embarrass anyone when it finally dawned on me. I am a female soldier going to Afghanistan to serve my country. I may not look my best, but that's OK.

Part 2 of a 13 part miniseries following the personal memoirs of a TXMF soldier

Governor Perry tasked us to increase our support

Photo of MG John F. NicholsJuly 21,2014 - Today, Governor Perry tasked us to increase our support to the Texas Department of Public Safety’s Operation Strong Safety. The Texas National Guard will work in full support of this state-led border security surge operation to deter criminal activity along the Texas-Mexico border.  Within the next 30 days we will send additional forces to the border who will act as force multipliers for the state.  

We are not strangers to this mission.  Our forces will enhance security efforts by amplifying the visible presence on the ground and along the river; working alongside commissioned law enforcement officers to detect and prevent criminals from infiltrating through the international border, and helping to ensure the safety of our fellow Texans.  We have performed similar roles in support of various state and federal operations along the border since 2006.  To our Texas Guardsmen already engaged in border support missions, thank you for your selfless service and dedication to this important effort.

To those whom we will send, the state and nation once again need you.  In times of crisis, our civilian leaders call upon us without hesitation.  For many, I know this is not the first call; you’ve been called in the past to serve our state and nation.  Now the Governor of Texas is calling you to help secure our homeland.  Times of great need are why we wear the uniform and serve.  Times like these are why the Texas Guard exists.   

The citizens of Texas continue to honor us with their absolute trust and confidence.  They do so because they understand what I see every day:  you stand ready and willing to serve, whatever the call may be.  And I couldn’t be more proud of you.

This is a critical moment in our state and nation.  I’m thankful that at moments like this, Texas can rely on you for its safety and security.  Texas Strong!    



John F. Nichols
Adjutant General



 Letter from the Adjutant General

Texas State Guardsmen jumps into action!

Photo of the burning motorcycle.

By: LTC Cendy Antley, 2nd Regiment

Posted: 18-JUL-14

We all know Texas State Guard members are people who give of themselves selflessly to the citizens of the state of Texas.  Saturday, July 16, 2014 was no different.  On Interstate 35 South at Waco, CPL Michael Dunlap witnessed what few would ever want to see in their lifetime.

At approximately 5:45 p.m. CPL Dunlap was driving home to Austin when he witnessed a motorcycle in the right hand lane, on its side, on fire, with the driver lying in the lane not moving.  Fuel was running down the overpass on fire.  Without hesitation, CPL Dunlap stopped his car, checked to make sure the scene was safe, and pulled the driver of the motorcycle to safety with the assistance of a truck driver.

The motorcycle driver was conscious and answer pertinent questions posed by the CPL.  While no one Texas State Guard member expects to put their life on the line to save a stranger, we are very proud of CPL Michael Dunlap as he exemplifies what a State Guardsman is made of. CPL Michael Dunlap is the true grit of a Texas State Guard.  Bravo Zulu.

Chief Petty Officer Nathan Gilbert Promoted to Senior Chief Petty Officer

By: CMSgt Paul Lankford, 5th AW Public Affairs Officer

Posted: 17-JUL-14

Members of the Del Rio JOIC stood in formation as Col Hamilton and Maj Kali Pinckney, Commander of the 449th ASG, pinned on his new rank.   Col Hamilton explained, “I’m pleased to promote CPO Gilbert to SCPO.  Chief Gilbert began his TXSG career with the Army side, later when TMAR stood up, he transferred to that component.”
Members of the Del Rio JOIC stood in formation as Col Hamilton and Maj Kali Pinckney, Commander of the 449th ASG, pinned on his new rank.   Col Hamilton explained, “I’m pleased to promote CPO Gilbert to SCPO.  Chief Gilbert began his TXSG career with the Army side, later when TMAR stood up, he transferred to that component.” 

Del Rio—During a July 15th Staff Assistance Visit, Operation Border Star OIC Col Thomas Hamilton, promoted Chief Petty Officer (CPO) Nathan Gilbert to Senior Chief Petty Officer (SCPO). SCPO Gilbert is the Training Officer for the Del Rio Joint Operations Intelligence Center (JOIC).

SCPO Gilbert’s home unit is TMAR 1st BN located at the Rosenberg, TX Armory. SCPO is the N-1 Personnel Actions Officer for TMAR 1st BN.

“The ‘Top Three,’ within the enlisted naval ranks of TMAR are the Chief Petty Officer, the Senior Chief Petty Officer, and the Master Chief Petty Officer,” said Col Hamilton. On April 1, 1893, the grade of Chief Petty Officer was established, and effective June 1, 1958 the grade of Senior Chief and Master Chief were created. The Chief Petty Officers (CPO) serve a dual role as both technical experts and as leaders, with the emphasis being more on leadership; including the recognized collateral duty of training newly commissioned Junior Officers. CPO’s are, in essence, the middle managers of the Navy, the Chief is in charge of getting the work done through the junior enlisted.

Arthur J. Miller, Border Liaison Officer Del Rio for Operation Border Star (OBS) said, “SCPO Gilbert is very deserving of this promotion. He is the JOIC Training Officer, who is responsible of not only new-hire training, but refresher training on OBS JOIC procedures.”

After the promotion ceremony, members of the U.S. Border Patrol’s Del Rio Border Intelligence Center (BIC) and TXSG members of the JOIC congratulated SCPO Gilbert during a promotion reception in the JOIC.