Guard helps local community reclaim neighborhoods

 

Story by Sgt. Lamine Zarrad 

HARLINGEN, Texas -- Members of the Texas Military Forces participate in the Operation Crackdown, a joint effort of the Harlingen community and the military to reclaim neighborhoods from the influences of violence and illegal drugs.

A flotilla of construction machinery, illuminated by the strobe lights of several police cruisers, resembled a Mardi Gras parade rather than a military convoy. However, the adults and children of the Harlingen communities, greet the soldiers and airmen of the motorcade like wartime heroes.

The service members and their equipment are part of Operation Crackdown, the Texas Military Force's effort to reclaim neighborhoods from the influences of violence and illegal drugs.

Operation Crackdown, employs seized drug funds to rent machinery and equipment for the demolition of houses utilized in drug-affiliated activities, said Army Staff Sgt. Michael Leslie, the NCOIC of the operation. 

"The National Guard is a community organization," said Army Col. Randal E. Davis, the commander of the Texas Military Forces Joint Counterdrug Task Force. "We live in this community. We are here to help." 

"It's a joint operation," said Air Force Capt. Samantha A. Martinez, the OIC of Operation Crackdown. 

During Operation Crackdown missions, the Army and Air Force personnel operate jointly with the local authorities and federal agencies in demolishing houses with nexus to illicit activities.

"This project is fantastic," said Tom Whitten, Harlingen's police chief.

Successful community policing relies on continuous cooperation between various local, state and federal agencies, said Whitten. 

“The joint effort will especially benefit the children in the communities, as some of the decrepit houses are in near proximity to schools,” said Carlos Yerena, Harlingen city manager. 

"We are very happy that we came together to help clean up the city," said Lt. Miryam Anderson, an officer with the Harlingen police department. "A lot of entities came together and joined forces to demolish houses that had been somehow linked to the drug and crime activity."

The fifth graders of the James Bowie Elementary, situated directly across the street from a house riddled with gang-affiliated graffiti, indicated plenty of enthusiasm about the project.

The children are expecting newly planted trees in place of the decrepit building, said Kiara Trevino, a fifth grader at James Bowie Elementary who formerly resided next-door to the targeted structure.

Prior to demolishing the house, service members with the Drug Demand Reduction program provided anti-drug education to children attending JBE. 

Law enforcement agencies consistently reported reduced crime rates in the communities participating in Operation Crackdown, said Martinez. 

Counterdrug leadership anticipates maintaining the current annual tempo of approximately four to five, two week long missions every year in addition to expanding the area of the operation to north Texas. 

Since inception in 1993, Operation Crackdown has demolished nearly 1200 dilapidated houses in over 40 Texas communities, said Davis.

“We are working side by side with our law enforcement partners and local communities,” Davis said, “to interdict the flow of drugs, remove safe havens for their use, and reduce demand within the State to make our communities safer."

Texas National Guard marks decade of post-9/11 service

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst speaks at an event Sept. 10 at Camp Mabry, Austin, Texas, which commemorate a decade of Texas National Guard service in the global war on terrorism.
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst speaks at an event Sept. 10 at Camp Mabry, Austin, Texas, which commemorate a decade of Texas National Guard service in the global war on terrorism. Representatives from the Texas National Guard hosted a ceremony marking the opening of a new exhibit called "9-11 and Beyond: The Texas National Guard in the War on Terror" at the Texas Military Forces Museum at Camp Mabry. The exhibit highlights the extraordinary contributions of the 23,000 Texas Army and Air National Guard service members who have deployed in support of the global war on terror since Sept. 11, 2001.

 Texas National Guard marks decade of post-9/11 service 

 Story by Luke Elliot 
 
 AUSTIN, Texas - Texas National Guard soldiers and airmen, dignitaries and community members gathered at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas, Sept. 10 to commemorate a decade of Texas military support to the global war on terrorism with  the opening of a new historical exhibit.
 
 Texas Adjutant Gen. Maj. Gen. John F. Nichols hosted the ceremony, which celebrating a new exhibit called "9-11 and  Beyond: The Texas National Guard in the War on Terror" at the Texas Military Forces Museum at Camp Mabry.
 
 "The Texas National Guard has deployed more soldiers than any other national guard to this war," said Nichols, who noted  that the Texas National Guard has mobilized more than 29,000 soldiers and airmen since 2001, with about 23,000 of them  deploying overseas to Iraq and Afghanistan. "The Texas military forces have sacrificed greatly."
 
 The exhibit includes displays on the Texas National Guard's support to Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi  Freedom, major Texas National Guard deployments, and many interactive displays and presentations.
 
 "We're very proud of our troops, especially for all the sacrifices that the members of the guard and their families make on  behalf of our nation," said Texas State Sen. Jose Rodriguez, District 29, El Paso, Texas. "I believe that Texas has  always honored and supported its veterans. We're a proud state. We like to brag about our state, and we like to brag about  our troops."
 
 "I think it's extremely significant on the tenth anniversary to open up an exhibit like this at Camp Mabry because it is  important, as Gen. Nichols said, to make sure people remember this day, remember the people who gave their lives," said  Rodriguez.
 
Brig. Gen. William Smith, who returned from Iraq a few days before the ceremony, said he was surprised about the emotions the event brought him.
 
"It just makes me respect our soldiers and the abilities that they have and the things they are doing," said Smith. "It's always a good thing to see other people acknowledge what those soldiers are doing."
 
Smith, who served as the assistant division commander for maneuver, 36th Infantry Division, also deployed with the 49th Armor Division shortly after Sept. 11, 2001.
 
This deployment was the first large-scale mobilization of the National Guard since World War II. 
 
"It was a huge challenge," said Smith. "It's been an almost continuous cycle since. If you go back in time, you'll find that since Sept. 11, we have had somewhere between 3,000 and 5,000 Texas National Guardsmen deployed every year. That's a tribute to the sustainability of our system and more importantly to our soldiers."
 
Smith added that the Texas National Guard has changed significantly since 2001.
 
"We have had a couple of major events in the military that have changed the course of how we do business," said Smith. "For instance, if you find a regulation that was written before 1989, before the fall of the wall…it is probably not valid. If you find something that was written before 2001, it probably is suspect at least because everything has changed for us since 2001."
 
"This is not our fathers' National Guard," he added. "It's a marketable different organizations that we're in."
 
A common theme at the event was the display of gratitude toward soldiers and airmen for all they have accomplished during the past decade.
 
"What you do is inspirational. I appreciate you," said Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst. "God bless every one of you all in our Texas Army and Air National Guard. Thank you all the men and women that serve abroad, and may we never forget the 3,000 innocent men and women who lost their lives on 9/11."

’SaberCats’ Get New Commander

’SaberCats’ Get New Commander
MAJ Michael Quinn Sullivan, PAO, TXSG
2011/08/20
 

Photo of MAJ Alfred Sustaita, Jr., recieving the colors from COL Frank Woodall
MAJ Alfred Sustaita, Jr., receives the colors from COL Frank Woodall in the 1st Bn, 2 Regt, change of command ceremony in San Marcos. Sustaita takes over the SaberCats from CPT Robert Purcell.Photo by MAJ Michael Quinn Sullivan, PAO, TXSG

1st Battalion, 2nd Regiment Changes Command
SAN MARCOS, Texas - A new commander of the Texas State Guard’s 1st Battalion, 2nd Civil Affairs Regiment took charge today in a Change of Command ceremony held at the armory in San Marcos.

The battalion includes more than 50 TXSG soldiers working in and around Hays County, though some - like new commander Maj. Alfred Sustaita Jr. - travel across the state to drill with what is known as the “SaberCats” battalion.

The outgoing commander is Capt. Robert Purcell. He has spent more than 36 years serving the state and nation. He first entered the United States Army in 1968 and retired in 1988, assigned to duties in the infantry, logistics and military intelligence. He and his family settled in San Marcos in 1992. He was soon invited to join the TXSG and assumed command of what was then known as Company A, 4th Battalion, 1st Regiment.

“The men and women with whom I’ve served in the Texas State Guard have been remarkable soldiers,” said Purcell. “Every single one has demonstrated time and again a passion for serving their fellow Texans.”

Purcell has held numerous positions in the TXSG, and was involved in the realignment of units following deployment for Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Along with his many awards from his time on active duty with the US Army, he has also been awarded the Senior Military Emergency Management Specialist badge, the Texas Outstanding Service medal and three Texas Medals of Merit for his service in the Texas State Guard.

Maj. Sustaita enlisted in the TXSG in 1989, rising to the rank of Staff Sergeant. In December 1993, he was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant. He was a member of the Corps of Cadets at Texas A&M University, graduating in 2000 with a bachelor’s degree in Bioenvironmental Science.

Among Maj. Sustaita’s awards and decorations is the Texas Medal for Merit, the Adjutant General’s Individual Award, the Commanding General’s Individual Award, the Humanitarian Service Award, the Texas Faithful Service Medal, the Texas State Guard Service Medal, the TXSG General’s Staff badge, and the Basic Military Emergency Management Specialist badge.

Out of uniform, he serves as Program Director and Professor of Occupational Health and Safety Technology at San Jacinto College. Sustaita lives in Alvin with his wife and son.

The change of command ceremony is an important part of military tradition that symbolizes the change of the Commanding Officer of a military unit in a formal ceremony that can be traced back to Roman times. This ceremony emphasizes the continuity of leadership and unit identity despite changes in individual authority. This transfer of authority is physically represented by the passing of the Unit Colors, the tangible symbol of the unit, from the outgoing commander to the new commander.

Sustaita said he is honored to carry on the tradition of excellence started by Purcell.

“The success we have in the future working on behalf of Texans will be connected directly to the hard work and dedication of Capt. Purcell,” said Sustaita. “My job as battalion commander will be to ensure they remain prepared to successfully fulfill the missions we’re presented.”

UT football team supports Texas Guardsmen

Texas Military Forces, soldiers and their families from The Texas National Guard spent a special afternoon with the University of Texas football players and coaches at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas, Aug. 14, 2011.
In this image released by the Texas Military Forces, soldiers and their families from The Texas National Guard spent a special afternoon with the University of Texas football players and coaches at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas, Aug. 14, 2011. This unique afternoon allowed military members and their families to get close and personal with their favorite Longhorn. The football players gained a greater understanding of the sacrifice members of Texas Military Forces endure to serve their state and country. UT Coach Mack Brown is a strong supporter of Texas Military Forces and stressed his sincere gratitude to all in attendance. The opportunity to bring together two great organizations to share synergies and give thanks made for a memorable event.

 

 Story by Spc. Eric Love 

 CAMP MABRY, Texas – Following a long drill weekend, members of The Texas Military Forces didn't mind staying  around a bit longer as their families joined them to share a special afternoon with the University of Texas football team.  More than 30 players and five coaches took time away from their pre-season training at the UT 40-acre campus to show  their appreciation and support for local guardsmen.
 
 After their Aug. 14 afternoon workout, the team arrived at Camp Mabry, Texas and loyal Longhorn fans braved the  sweltering heat to get one-on-one time with their favorite players. 
 
 UT Head Coach Mack Brown emphasized the importance of making time in their regimented schedule to reach out to the  surrounding community. On this occasion, they met with members of the TXMF, signing autographs and taking photos  with their fans.
 
 "Thank you for giving your lives; your families for giving their time and allowing us to have a free country and play a game  like football," said Brown. "[Saying thank you] is really important to us."
 
 Brown then started the team off with a customary "roll call" where each positional player contributed their own special  chant to kick-start the activities. The crowd was overwhelmed by the enthusiasm of the team and responded with a loud  "Hook 'Em Horns." 
 
 The players took time to mingle and say thank you to the service members, signing t-shirts, hats, footballs and posters.  Fans, young and old, expressed great appreciation and excitement at having a chance to see the players relaxed in an  informal gathering.
 
 "This was so cool," said Spc. Richard Castillo of 100th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment. "It was great to meet the  coaching staff and players and I was surprised by how curious they were about what life is like in my uniform."
 
 Army Col. Patrick Hamilton, the joint chief of staff for the state adjutant general, discussed the vital role the UT football  players have in lifting a soldier's morale by giving a brief overview of activities members of The Texas Military Forces  engage as they are deployed oversees in places like Iraq and Afghanistan.
 
"After being out on a three day mission, soldiers look forward to waking up at 4:00am to turn on Armed Forces Network and watch a UT football game, allowing them to decompress," said Hamilton.
 
Hamilton then opened up the floor for questions from the players about military life. The topics ranged from the weight of the combat vests to discussing the similarities between football players and soldiers on leadership challenges, morale, teamwork, dedication and hard work. 
 
The answers, geared toward quality of life issues, provided the players valuable insight on the sacrifices the TXMF members encounter on a daily basis when deployed.
"We are truly grateful for all you do and defending our freedom, thank you for allowing us to play the game of football," said Brown.
Hamilton concluded the session by addressing how grateful the Texas Military Forces are for the Austin community.
 
"We are a community-based organization and being able to connect with the [Austin] community and an organization like the University of Texas is important," said Hamilton. "We are extremely grateful for Coach Brown and his team for coming out to Camp Mabry and giving up their precious time during this busy training camp, it really means the world to the soldiers within The Texas Military Forces."

Operation Lone Star Treats Thousands in South Texas

Operation Lone Star Treats Thousands in South Texas
COL Robert Morecook, Texas State Guard Public Affairs
2011/08/11
CAMP MABRY, AUSTIN, Texas – Operation Lone Star (OLS) provided approximately 53,000 medical services to almost 10,000 patients during a two-week period as part of a public health exercise and humanitarian mission in South Texas.

The Texas Military Forces, led by the Texas State Guard, supported the Texas Department of State Health Services during this 13th annual mission. Col. Don Prince, the military commander for OLS stated, “Operation Lone Star is an exceptional opportunity for Texas Military Forces and public health officials to strengthen community relations and further develop interagency cooperation while training for real world disasters.”

Seven medical sites offered free services to thousands of underserved residents along the southern border of Texas, with assistance from the U.S. Public Health Service and county and local health departments. The mission was successfully completed on Friday, Aug. 5.

Lines started forming early each day for the clinics in Brownsville, San Juan, Mission, Rio Grande City, Laredo, Hebbronville and Rio Bravo. The clinics ran from July 25 to Aug. 5, with specific dates varying by site.

Each OLS site was a complete well health clinic as well as a medical treatment facility. Patients’ heights, weights and medical histories were taken. Blood pressures were checked. Blood samples were screened for diabetes, and immunizations were given. There were stops for nutrition education and for vision and glaucoma screening before a patient would see a doctor, nurse practitioner, or physician’s assistant, if needed.

Texas residents benefitted from the free medical services, making the event extremely popular and successful among the persons attending. For long-term medical care, many patients were sent home with written prescription in hand, usually for a low cost generic medication at a local pharmacy.

As well as helping the citizens of South Texas, many of whom are medically uninsured and thus do not have access to regular medical care, the clinics gave Texas Military Forces and other public health organizations the chance to collaborate in running temporary medical care facilities.

When disasters happen in Texas, frequently hurricanes, large treatment clinics may be required. Exercises such as Operation Lone Star allow public health agencies to hone their skills in advance of disasters.

By preparing in advance for disasters, exercises such as Operation Lone Star are designed to protect the health of Texas and its citizens.

The Texas State Guard is one of three branches of the Texas Military Forces (TXMF), operating under the command of the Adjutant General of Texas and the Governor as Commander-in-Chief of all state military forces. The TXMF includes the Texas Army National Guard and the Texas Air National Guard.

The mission of the Texas State Guard (TXSG) is to provide mission-ready military forces to assist state and local authorities in times of state emergencies; to conduct homeland security and community service activities under the umbrella of Defense Support to Civil Authorities; and to augment the Texas Army National Guard and Texas Air National Guard as required.

Headquartered at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas, the TXSG functions as an organized state militia under the authority of Title 32 of the U.S. Code and Chapter 431 of the Texas Government Code.

Texas Guard taps well of experience

Service members and former general officers attend the inaugural conference of the Council of Retired Executives in the Texas Military Forces Museum at Camp Mabry, Texas, Aug. 6.
Service members and former general officers attend the inaugural conference of the Council of Retired Executives in the Texas Military Forces Museum at Camp Mabry, Texas, Aug. 6. The adjutant general of Texas proposed the idea of the senior mentor team built of retired military leaders who will lend their experience and guidance for the benefit of the Texas National Guard. A long-term relationship with former general officers ensures that their years of knowledge will not be lost and will remain available to Texas Military Forces.

 Texas Guard taps well of experience

 Story by Spc. Praxedis Pineda

 AUSTIN, Texas -- Senior and former leaders of the Texas Military Forces gathered at Camp Mabry, Texas for the  inaugural Council of Retired Executives, Aug. 6, 2011.

 Maj. Gen. John Nichols, the adjutant general of Texas, initiated the council in order to make use of their knowledge and  influence for the benefit of the Texas Military Forces. It also serves as a mentorship program that builds a lasting brain  trust within the state.

 “We want to capitalize on their experience,” said Nichols. “With over 30 years of experience, they have seen trends come  and go, but they have also seen what works.”

 Government and corporations alike often invite retired senior leaders to meetings and conferences to gain their input.

 Through the councilmen’s feedback, the Texas Military Forces will gain the guidance to face issues that current leaders  have not yet encountered. This new resource will target issues including recruiting, budgeting, and family relations. 

 “We are moving toward a time when resources are going to be stressed,” said Maj. Gen. Mike Taylor, retired. “We have  been there before”

 With a weakened economy and a downgraded military force, this is the right time to conserve resources and elicit the aid  of experienced veterans. With this new council, Nichols can more efficiently engage the challenges that lay ahead.

“I don’t know of any other TAG that has done this,”  said Col. Suzanne Atkinson. “It is a great benefit to be able to bring all of these men in the same room”

With unique experiences and backgrounds, each member contributes something different. Many of these former general offices continue their service as civilians in other departments of the military.

“We have Gen. Owens (working for the National Guard Bureau) giving us the latest and greatest information,” said Atkinson
Many others maintained their leadership role in their communities as politicians, business owners, and heads of organizations.

“We have people here from all over the state,” said Taylor. “A lot of us are embedded in the community.

The councilmen all had equal input on the future of the Guard they once led. All members had the opportunity to voice their expert opinions.

“[Nichols] opened up the floor for discussion,” said Taylor. “No limits when he asked for feedback.”

The goals of this first meeting did not specifically include problem solving sessions or resolution of pending issues. Instead, the adjutant general and his stall briefed the council on current missions and discussed the new capabilities of the Texas Military Forces.

“It gave us a chance to showcase what we’re doing now,” said Atkinson. 

Nichols concluded the conference with one question: “If you had the opportunity to do it again, what would you change?” 

One by one, the councilmen gave their answer, leaving Nichols with invaluable notes. Nichols had tapped a well of experience.

“We don’t want to go down a road with no return that puts our structure at risk,” said Nichols. “I consider it a huge success”