Texas National Guard Patch Ceremony to initiate Army of One 

Texas National Guard Patch Ceremony to initiate Army of One

Story by: Michelle McBride

Posted On: August 14, 2016

Photo of Ceremony when the patch being placed onto the uniform.AUSTIN, Texas - After months of planning, the first step in the process was underway. Once the “change patch” order was given, the Associated Units Pilot Program accomplished its first task.

Soldiers from the Texas Army National Guard 143rd Infantry Regiment in Austin, Texas, will participated in a patch-over ceremony with the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, an active duty unit stationed in Vincenza, Italy, on August 14, 2016.

“We are honored that the Army has selected our unit to help generate reserve force combat power in support of Army total force policy,” said Texas Army National Guard Lt. Col. Kurt J. Cyr, commander, 1st Battalion, 143rd Infantry Regiment (Airborne).

In March, the U.S. Army announced the implementation of the Associated Units Pilot Program, which is meant to create relationships between specified units across the active Army, Army Reserve and the Army National guard. This will also allow them the opportunity to train together before deploying.

“This is going to be a great demonstration of how the total Army fights,” said Col. Gregory Anderson, commander, 173rd Airborne Brigade.

The Chief of Staff of the Army directed a change to the reserve component force to increase unit readiness, reduce response time and change pre-mobilization training strategy.

The battalion will participate in the Associated Units Pilot Program from 2016 through 2019 in association with the 173rd Airborne Brigade. This means the 143rd will become part of the 173rd’s formation and will wear their unit patch.

“Most ceremonies mark either recognition of achievement or a transition,” said Anderson. “This particular ceremony, for them to don the 173rd patch is symbolic of their relationship to us and our responsibility to them.”

After the ceremony, they will visibly be part of the same team, said Anderson. They will then begin working to train and build readiness together, both stateside and overseas.

“The pilot program will ensure that our communication and coordination of training and resourcing requirements to achieve combat readiness is maintained, and will assist in the building of trust and cohesion between

our two units, establishing a One Army ethos in our leaders, regardless of what component they come from,” said Cyr.

For reserve components, this relationship means adding additional training days to their yearly schedule which many see as beneficial for the

home states of the reserve components. For Texas, this means an increase in readiness throughout the state.

“This pilot allows us to have a formal relationship with regard to certain training and readiness authorities and responsibilities, but still remain under the command of our parent unit in Texas,” said Cyr.

Along with increased readiness, there are also many other benefits that come from training alongside the active component including the testing of new strategies, frequent rotations to combat training centers and an overall elevated level of experience and cohesiveness. This will allow components to deploy together and fight seamlessly in combat under an established command relationship.

“We will always carry the historic lineage and honors of the 143rd Infantry Regiment,” said Cyr, “but we are looking forward to the patch-over ceremony in August, and toward beginning a new chapter of history for both the 143rd and the 173rd, together.”

Sunday, August 14, 2016 9:21:00 AM Categories: Texas Army National Guard

Texas Guardsman donates kidney to stranger 

Texas Guardsman donates kidney to stranger

Story by: Sgt. Elizabeth Pena

Posted: August 12, 2016

Texas Army National Guard Spc. Brittany Reppond, with the 197th Special Troops Support Company, based out of Camp Bullis, San Antonio, Texas, right, donates kidney to Arthur Corenblith, left, February 18, 2016, at the Methodist Specialty and Transplant Hospital in San Antonio. While working for a sales company at a local gas station, the Soldier saw a sign 'my brother needs a kidney' on a car and decided to donate. (Courtesy Photo)
Texas Army National Guard Spc. Brittany Reppond, with the 197th Special Troops Support Company, based out of Camp Bullis, San Antonio, Texas, right, donates kidney to Arthur Corenblith, left, February 18, 2016, at the Methodist Specialty and Transplant Hospital in San Antonio. While working for a sales company at a local gas station, the Soldier saw a sign 'my brother needs a kidney' on a car and decided to donate. (Courtesy Photo)

SAN ANTONIO – Every day holds the possibility for a miracle, but Arthur Corenblith, 56, husband and father of two, was quickly losing hope and questioned how many days he had left to live.

Corenblith, an elementary school teacher was suffering from a genetic illness and needed a kidney transplant fast. He had been on the waiting list for what seemed like a lifetime.

 At 93 percent kidney failure, Corenblith was put on dialysis.

“At that time I had been on the list for four years and I was getting nowhere. I had gotten pneumonia, I had been in the hospital for over a month; I would connect to the dialysis machine every night for a year and a half, for nine hours and I was still teaching school as well; I would literally have to hold on to my podium while teaching.”

One of the hardest parts for Corenblith was missing out on his youngest son’s soccer season due to being on the dialysis machine every day.

“I really didn’t have a night anymore. My 13-year-old had to be driven to and from soccer practice by his coach,” he said.

 Friends and family tried donating to Corenblith but were disqualified due to medical history.

 His sister went as far as writing a sign on her car. “She put on her car, with shoe polish, my brother needs a kidney,” he said.

 Under a new policy made by the United Network for Organ Sharing in 2012, the fittest organs would be given to those likely to live the longest with the donated organ. The top 20 percent of kidneys would be offered to the top 20 percent of patients and the other 80 percent would work the same way.

“Literally the month I was supposed to get a kidney the national standards changed,” said Corenblith. “I had no idea what I was going to do.”

That’s when he decided to register in San Antonio to broaden his chances of finding a donor.

“I went to the Methodist Specialty and Transplant Hospital in San Antonio to register because I wasn’t getting anywhere in Houston,” said Corenblith.

“My brother-in-law had forgotten his luggage and had to return home to get it. On the way back, Brittany was at a gas station he stopped at.”

Unbeknownst to him, he had found his miracle.

 Texas Army National Guard Spc. Brittany Reppond, 21, a carpentry and masonry specialist for the 197th Special Troop Support Battalion, based out of Camp Bullis near San Antonio, was working as a sales person outside the local gas station.

“I saw on the back of a car ‘my brother needs a kidney’, said Reppond. “I’ve seen stuff like that in the past, but this time it was like God was calling me to do it.”

Reppond called the number on the vehicle and got all the information she needed from Corenblith’s sister.

“I prayed about it, I’d say for about a week. I told myself if I’m a match it’s God’s will, and I was a perfect six out of six,” she said.

 After getting approval from her chain of command, she began the process.

“I had to do a 24-hour urine sample and give a lot of blood, go on liquid diets, and get X-rays, cat scans and psychiatric testing,” said Reppond.

 Doctors from the San Antonio hospital asked that Corenblith meet Reppond for the first time to make sure she still wanted to follow through with the procedure.

“I was shaking on my way to meet her -- what do you say to someone who is going to do this for you especially after you have been waiting for so long?” said Corenblith. “The hospital told me afterward, this young woman is focused, she sets her sights and she goes for it, and that’s a testament to the National Guard as well.”

 “When I found out he had two kids I said, I have to do this, I can’t let them not have their dad because I don’t have my dad anymore,” said Reppond, who lost her dad in 2011.

 Even though Corenblith said he never felt good enough to receive someone’s kidney, Reppond gave him the reassurance he needed.

“I was really nervous,” said Corenblith. “Then I saw Brittany the day of the surgery, she was so calm and confident you could tell she’s a Soldier, those are all the things I’m not. She was just reflecting back to me all the things I needed, comfort, encouragement and happiness that she’s doing this for me.”

Months after the procedure, the two Texans still stay in contact with each other. Corenblith works hard to stay healthy through exercise.

“I got her a little stuffed monkey and I got a matching one,” said Corenblith. “I even went and bought a treadmill and it’s on my treadmill. I say to myself- I must be strong - this is Brittany’s kidney.”

 “I don’t regret it at all, I would do it again,” said Reppond.

 She has since moved to East Texas, is a volunteer in the Zavalla Fire Department, and is getting ready for EMT school.

“I want to be a paramedic,” said Reppond. “I like helping people I’ve been like that my whole life and the medical field, to me, is the best way to do it. This was a stepping stone for that.”

 “God made my crooked road straight,” said Corenblith. “Several times things looked very bleak for me, bad pneumonia, anemia, medications, National Kidney Allocation change and 1.5 years on dialysis - but God straightened it out in the end.”

Corenblith is now able to attend his son’s soccer practices and just returned from a weekend at Fiesta Texas, in San Antonio with his two sons, Mitchell, 23, and Cooper, 13.

“Even to this day, this very moment, I struggle hugely with how to thank her enough and what to say. She saved my life. It’s the most miraculous story in the world.” Corenblith said.

 To find out how you can become a donor log on to: http://www.organdonor.gov/becomingdonor/index.html

Friday, August 12, 2016 9:30:00 AM Categories: Texas Army National Guard

Texas Guardsmen go back to the basics with base defense  

Texas Guardsmen go back to the basics with base defense

Story by: Staff Sgt. Jennifer Atkinson

Posted: August 12, 2016

Soldiers from 636th Brigade Support Battion, 836th Engineer Co. (Sappers), and 136th Military Police Co. participate in base defense training during the 136th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade Exportable Combat Training Capability exercise at Ft. Hood, Texas, August 9-14. This exercise focuses on reinforcing and increasing proficiency in fundamental Soldier skills, such as shooting, moving, and communicating. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Jennifer D. Atkinson/Released)
Soldiers from 636th Brigade Support Battalion, 836th Engineer Co. (Sappers), and 136th Military Police Co. participate in base defense training during the 136th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade Exportable Combat Training Capability exercise at Ft. Hood, Texas, August 9-14. This exercise focuses on reinforcing and increasing proficiency in fundamental Soldier skills, such as shooting, moving, and communicating. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Jennifer D. Atkinson/Released)

Ft. Hood, Texas – Members of the 136th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, like all Soldiers in the Texas Army National Guard, have two primary missions: domestic support and overseas warfighting. During the brigade's  Exportable Combat Training Capability exercise at Ft. Hood, Texas, August 9-14, these experts in emergency response from the 636th Brigade Support Bn., the 836th Engineer Co. (Sappers), and the 136th Military Police Co., are getting back to the fundamental Soldiering skills they would use when deployed. 

“We're out here for two weeks, receiving training on route security, on base security, and on basic MP skills,” said Spc. Blake Davis, a military policeman stationed in the gunners hatch of a gun truck. “This training is more hands on, so I'm learning a lot.”

One of the primary “green” missions of the 636th BSB is the establishment and defense of the battalion staging area. The BSA serves as the central point for the battalion's tactical operations center, as well as communications services and basic sustainment functions, such as living quarters and field feeding operations for the entire brigade.

“Today we're doing a simulation of base defense,” said Maj. Kadett Derry, 636th BSB executive officer. “This is where we have the battalion staging area, where we have the basic elements that support the brigade. This is where we get attacked and at this point the enemy is coming in and we're trying to defend our position.”

One of the critical tasks in establishing a base defense plan is using the terrain to best advantage, establishing a defensible perimeter by placing Soldiers and vehicles in elevated positions with good visibility on any approaching enemy while offering cover and concealment to Guardsmen on the ground.

“We're protecting the base, making sure no one comes over [the perimeter],” said Blake. “After we receive positive confirmation, we're going to engage that target.” While on guard duty, Blake scanned the brush and scrub outside the concertina wire with binoculars, keeping a sharp eye out for unexpected movement or suspicious activity.

In addition to training to detect the enemy, the Soldiers also developed their ability to respond to an attack. To ensure a successful defense, the Guardsmen conducted “react to fire” drills and established response teams.

“Once the enemy hits, it's quite amazing what we do at that point,” said Derry. “We have a quick reaction force, they actually go out and engage the enemy. If anyone comes inside the line, we have a ready reserve force.”

Participating in the training allows younger or less experienced Soldiers the chance to increase their proficiency in these fundamental warfighting skills. 

“I'm learning from my NCOs,” said Blake. “I'm watching them and participating in other events so I can get practice.”

“We're getting ready for a different mission,” said Spc. Keith Hoffman, a wheeled vehicle mechanic from B. Co., 626th BSB. “This is different from our usual classes, and we get to learn what we're going to do overseas, so we can do both our jobs right.”

The Guardsmen will continue to train and refine these fundamental techniques until the drills become second nature.

“It's exciting to see our Soldiers out there on the line. It's a work in progress,” said Derry. “After every iteration, we're continuing to improve. It's amazing to see. We have some great soldiers.”

Friday, August 12, 2016 9:28:00 AM Categories: Texas Army National Guard

Beans and bullets - finding new ways to feed the force 

Beans and bullets - finding new ways to feed the force

Story by: Staff Sgt. Jennifer Atkinson  

Posted: Aug 12, 2016

Soldiers from 636th Brigade Support Bn. and the 136th Military Police Bn. prepare meals and feed Soldiers in a proof-of-concept kitchen during the 136th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade's Exportable Combat Training Capability exercise at Ft. Hood, Texas, August 9-14. This exercise focuses on reinforcing and increasing proficiency in fundamental Soldier skills, such as shooting, moving, and communicating. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Jennifer D. Atkinson/Released)
Soldiers from 636th Brigade Support Bn. and the 136th Military Police Bn. prepare meals and feed Soldiers in a proof-of-concept kitchen during the 136th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade's Exportable Combat Training Capability exercise at Ft. Hood, Texas, August 9-14. This exercise focuses on reinforcing and increasing proficiency in fundamental Soldier skills, such as shooting, moving, and communicating. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Jennifer D. Atkinson/Released)

FORT HOOD, Texas --The adage “an army marches on its stomach” carries more than a kernel of truth. Not only are field rations critical in maintaining combat readiness by supplying the nutrition needed by Soldiers to perform well in the field, chow is often closely tied to troop morale. 

Field kitchens have evolved, from cramped tents to crowded truck beds, and most recently, the compact containerized kitchen, but the cooks of the 136th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade are getting a chance to test an entirely new concept kitchen.

More closely resembling a “bounce house” than the squared-up design of the modern containerized kitchen, this prototype field kitchen is ahead of the standard in terms of safety, speed and efficiency.

“With this set up, we can knock out the food, move on, and find ourselves ahead of schedule, ” said Sgt. 1st Class Mark Shaw, Headquarters and Headquarter Co., 136th Military Police Battalion. “We would not have made mission today without it.”

This particular configuration of field kitchen is a totally new concept, said Ramiro Andrade, the engineering project manager with Babington Technology. The 636th BSB has been working with Babington and its partner company AAR Mobilizations Systems, over the past few years to develop a better field kitchen design, and will get the chance to demonstrate the improvements to the National Guard Bureau during an upcoming field visit.

Babington makes the heating elements used in the new kitchen, and they're a massive step up from the old burners. The burner units are modular, making maintenance and replacement less expensive, both in terms of money and time spent learning to repair or maintain six different types of burner.

“We cooked 600 of the 800 portions for breakfast in the new kitchen and 200 in the other kitchen,” said Shaw, “and the new one won, hands down.”

The powered multi-fuel burners are “incredibly efficient,” said Andrade, and work within the Army's mandate to eliminate gasoline from military fuel inventories. The PMB primarily uses JP-8 for fuel, as well as any other distillate fuel available, and improves safety by relocating the fuel tank outside of the kitchen itself.

As another safety measure, the combustion element of the test cookers are all completely enclosed, reducing the chance of accidental fires and burns. The hyper-efficient combustion method also means the burner produces no odors or CO2 gasses, and redirects the heat to the food instead of the air around the cooking area, leading to a more pleasant and safer work area. The two-tiered design helps keep cooks and customers cooler, taking advantage of thermodynamics to displace hot air into the top arch of the tent, reducing the temperature in the kitchen and on the serving line by more than 40 degrees. 

“The contractors have had a constant thermometer in here,” said Shaw. “During what I like to call full burn and turn, with the oven cabinet, warming table, and griddle going, it was 89 degrees in here. In the CK, during full turn and burn, it's 150 degrees on the wet bulb.”

The equipment efficiency isn't just a cost-saving measure, said Shaw. It also translates to Soldier efficiency, allowing cooks to better balance technical proficiency with tactical training. 

“More times than not, cooks have to be exempted from training,” said Shaw, “because you can't leave the kitchen with something cooking- it's a fire hazard, but what does that do for Joe when he's supposed to be at a range, or needs extra practice with primary marksmanship training or medical training? You can run 100 different training scenarios, but nothing exempts him from being there with the cooking food.”

Since this is the proof-of-concept run for the kitchen, only the cooks from the 136th MEB, which includes the 136th Military Police Battalion and the 636th Brigade Support Battalion, are getting to take this new design out for a tasty spin, but they're hopeful the feedback influences the choice of equipment, and the contractors are encouraging honest, practical feedback.

“While we're leaning on this, it's really an adjustment,” said Staff Sgt. Marcus Flakes, food operation sergeant with 712th Military Police Co. “We've been using the CK for a while, so it's what we're used to, and this feels like we've got great equipment, but it has to be functional for the cooks.” The cooks have noted several issues to address in the next design, such as floor drains, sump pit piping, and an interior hand-washing station.

“I'm retiring, so I'm not going to see any of this stuff in use,” said Shaw, “but my son is coming into the military. I've got a personal reason to want everything better, as well as professional reason. If I feel like I can look back and I actually did something that made a difference, hey, life's good.”

Friday, August 12, 2016 8:45:00 AM Categories: Texas Army National Guard

Texas Military continues to strengthen partnerships with Native Americans 

Texas Military continues to strengthen partnerships with Native Americans

Story by: Sgt. Elizabeth Peña

Posted: August 9, 2016

Key leaders from the Texas Military Department and state agencies joined together with representatives from over 15 Native American tribes representing Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and New Mexico, during the annual tribal consultation, July 27, 2016 in Austin, Texas. The Texas Military has been working closely with Native Americans since the 1990’s to review plans that will allow for the preservation and protection of historic lands on Texas military training sites. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by: Sgt. Elizabeth Peña/Released)
Key leaders from the Texas Military Department and state agencies joined together with representatives from over 15 Native American tribes representing Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and New Mexico, during the annual tribal consultation, July 27, 2016 in Austin, Texas. The Texas Military has been working closely with Native Americans since the 1990’s to review plans that will allow for the preservation and protection of historic lands on Texas military training sites. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by: Sgt. Elizabeth Peña/Released)

AUSTIN, Texas – Key leaders from the Texas Military Department and state agencies gathered together at a table with representatives from over 15 Native American tribes representing Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and New Mexico, during the annual tribal consultation, July 27, 2016 in Austin, Texas.

The Texas Military has been working closely with Native Americans since the 1990’s to review plans that will allow for the preservation and protection of historic lands on Texas military training sites.

“The Army made a requirement for the Army installations to reach out to Native American nations,” said Brig. Gen. Tracy R. Norris, assistant deputy adjutant general of the Texas Military Department. “What you see at this last visit is all those years of work, things are really starting to grow now especially with other agencies wanting to come in to meet at the same time to save time for all of the different tribes.”

This year local agencies such as the Texas Department of Transportation, the Texas Historical Commission, the Texas Archaeological Research Lab, and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department joined the table.

“It is beneficial to our relationship with the tribe because they were pretty excited to be able to visit with TxDot,” said Kristen Mt. Joy, the cultural resources manager for the Texas Military Department. “They are building roads all over the place so there are a lot of issues that the tribes want to know what they're doing, where they're putting those roads and to make sure they're protecting cultural sites.”

The Texas Military Department currently has seven training installations across Texas covering over 30,000 acres of land. 

“With us, we have training lands and they are kind of contiguous large pieces of land,” said Mt. Joy. “We go out and we’ve identified all the archeological buried sites at those training facilities, and we look at the things that are most important and, we do that with the tribes.” 

For Texas, this was the biggest conference since the program was established. 

“As it gets stronger every year, there’s more substance coming in and more collaboration, said Norris. 

There are currently only three active tribes in Texas; the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas in Livingston, the Kickapoo Traditional Tribe of Texas, in Eagle Pass and the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo, in El Paso.
“So those were the only tribes that got to stay here in their ancestral territories, everyone else got relocated,” said Mt. Joy. “It’s an opportunity for them to reconnect with their heritage here in Texas and to know that things are being protected and respected on lands that we manage.”

During military trainings, Texas Guardsmen are given cards to identify plants and wildlife that need to be preserved.

Holly Houghton, of the Tribal Historic Preservation Office says educating Soldiers helps them understand why preserving and protecting historic land is so important to the tribes.

“It's like there’s a cactus, who wants a cactus, it’s got prickers. Well it produces a fruit that we use but also if you roast it and peel it then the flesh inside can be used for wounds or all sorts of different uses. When they realize that plant has something important, well then they won’t just destroy it,” said Houghton. 

Meetings like this give the Texas Military Department and Tribal leaders a lasting relationship based on our core values. 

“It’s the right thing to do,” said Norris. “It keeps our credibility with the Native Americans in the areas that we train in. They become advocates for us because we take good care of the things they care about.”

Tuesday, August 9, 2016 9:36:00 AM Categories: Texas Army National Guard

Texas Guard engineers poised to make history on Middle East deployment 

Texas guard engineers poised to make history on Middle East deployment

Story by: Capt. Maria Mengrone

Posted: Aug. 8, 2016
 

The 176th Engineer Brigade Commander, Colonel Charles M. Schoening and Command Sergeant Major Anthony Simms furl the brigade colors in preparation for deployment during the mobilization ceremony held for the brigade headquarters at Cowtown Coliseum in Fort Worth, Texas, June 4, 2016. The 176th Engineer Brigade headquarters boarded a flight in late July and set off on an historic mission to the Middle East to provide engineer support and capabilities to maneuver units across the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility. (Photo by U.S. National Guard Capt. Maria Mengrone)
The 176th Engineer Brigade Commander, Colonel Charles M. Schoening and Command Sergeant Major Anthony Simms furl the brigade colors in preparation for deployment during the mobilization ceremony held for the brigade headquarters at Cowtown Coliseum in Fort Worth, Texas, June 4, 2016. The 176th Engineer Brigade headquarters boarded a flight in late July and set off on an historic mission to the Middle East to provide engineer support and capabilities to maneuver units across the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility. (Photo by U.S. National Guard Capt. Maria Mengrone)

GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas – A group of 135 Texas Army National Soldiers of the 176th Engineer Brigade headquarters boarded a flight in late July and set off on an historic mission to the Middle East to provide engineer support and capabilities to maneuver units across the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility.

“It’s the first time that an engineer brigade headquarters has had this type of mission within the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility,” said 176th Engineer Brigade Commander, Col. Charles M. Schoening a resident of Georgetown, Texas.

“We have had other engineer brigades in Iraq and Afghanistan other times but they have had different types of missions,” said Schoening. “This mission will be a pure engineer brigade headquarters mission where we will be overseeing and providing command and control for specific engineer missions throughout the theater.”

The vast region that encompasses the U.S. Central Command spans four million square miles and includes some 18 nations.

“Our greatest challenge will be movement throughout the theater; how do we get to those places where the work needs to be done with our manpower and our equipment,” said Schoening.

The brigade headquarters will track movement of approximately 1,700 Soldiers from a variety of Active Duty, National Guard and Army Reserve engineer elements.

Engineer forces under operational control of the 176th Engineer Brigade are set to provide design and survey, horizontal and vertical construction, fixed bridging, general combat engineer capabilities and heavy dive team under water inspections.

“Our mission is so diverse and covers such a wide variety of sovereign countries, with each having its own set of rules, it will require us to stay on top of it and we have a process that will ensure we get to where we need to go,” said Schoening.

The various skill sets of engineer Soldiers will be put to the test during the projected nine-month deployment.

“The mission we have is exactly the mission we have been preparing for; this is what an engineer brigade headquarters does,” said Schoening.

The brigade has been preparing for this type of mission since its completion of the III Corps Warfighter Exercise 13-2 in February 2015.

A month leading up to mobilization the brigade headquarters spent three-weeks conducting pre-mobilization training at Camp Swift, Texas, May 2016, that focused on warrior tasks and engineer specific staff training.

Most recently, the 176th Engineer Brigade wrapped up mobilization training with a culminating mission readiness exercise at Fort Bliss, in July 2016, in which the brigade was successfully validated for deployment.

“I want the Soldiers to know that we are a highly trained force that is capable of successfully completing every task within our mission,” said Schoening.

Many brigade Soldiers are eager to put their training into action.

“I’m ready to deal with the challenges,” said Sgt. Torrance Bowman, 23, technical engineer, 176th Engineer Brigade, a native of DeBerry, Texas. “I am excited to have the opportunity to travel and conduct surveys at potential construction sites and just do my job.”

Monday, August 8, 2016 9:33:00 AM Categories: Texas Army National Guard

Operation Lone Star returns to Rio Grande Valley 

Operation Lone Star returns to Rio Grande Valley

Story by: Col. Robert Morecook

Posted: Aug. 4, 2016

A Soldier from the 804th Medical Brigade, U.S. Army Reserves provides dental services to a patient in need during an annual medical disaster preparedness exercise in Pharr, Texas, July 27, 2016. Service members from the Texas State Guard worked alongside Soldiers from the 804th Medical Brigade, U.S. Army Reserves, the Texas Department of Public Safety, the Department of State Health Services, Remote Area Medical volunteers, Cameron County Department of Human Health Services (DHHS), City of Laredo Health Department, Hidalgo County DHHS and U.S. Public Health Services during Operation Lone Star (OLS), a week long real-time, large-scale emergency preparedness exercise in La Joya, Pharr, Brownsville, Rio Grande City and Laredo, Texas, July 25-29, 2016. OLS is an annual medical disaster preparedness training exercise, uniting federal, state and local health and human service providers, that addresses the medical needs of thousands of underserved Texas residents every year. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Malcolm McClendon)
A Soldier from the 804th Medical Brigade, U.S. Army Reserves provides dental services to a patient in need during an annual medical disaster preparedness exercise in Pharr, Texas, July 27, 2016. Service members from the Texas State Guard worked alongside Soldiers from the 804th Medical Brigade, U.S. Army Reserves, the Texas Department of Public Safety, the Department of State Health Services, Remote Area Medical volunteers, Cameron County Department of Human Health Services (DHHS), City of Laredo Health Department, Hidalgo County DHHS and U.S. Public Health Services during Operation Lone Star (OLS), a week long real-time, large-scale emergency preparedness exercise in La Joya, Pharr, Brownsville, Rio Grande City and Laredo, Texas, July 25-29, 2016. OLS is an annual medical disaster preparedness training exercise, uniting federal, state and local health and human service providers, that addresses the medical needs of thousands of underserved Texas residents every year. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Malcolm McClendon)

AUSTIN, Texas -- For the 18th consecutive year, Operation Lone Star took place in the Rio Grande Valley, July 25 – 29, 2016. Also known as OLS, the operation is an annual public health training event brought together by a large team of health organizations to train for public health emergencies and disasters.

Led by the Texas Department of State Health Services, the team included military personnel from the Texas State Guard’s Medical Brigade and the 804th Medical Brigade, U.S. Army Reserve, who provided much of the medical care to underserved communities in South Texas.

The military units worked closely together to provide much of the health care needs to the thousands of people who came through the doors of the five designated sites during OLS.

Their contributions were augmented by city and county public health services, public school districts, volunteer agencies such as Remote Area Medical, and medical training schools.

While providing care to underserved Texans, the large team practiced the coordination needed to set up and run large-scale public health clinics in case of natural or man-made disasters.

“We truly believe we made a great difference in the lives of people in South Texas,” said Lt. Col. Claud Cameron, Medical Brigade, Texas State Guard and OLS officer in charge at Juarez-Lincoln High School. “One fine lady said in tears that the glasses we provided at no cost to her made it possible for her to get a driver’s license and a job, totally changing her life.”

Services were provided at no cost to patients and included: immunizations for children; screenings for diabetes, high blood pressure and hearing and vision; sports physicals; physician visits; dental cleanings, fillings and extractions; optometric exams with free glasses; and mental health screenings, treatment and referrals.

“It’s a privilege to work with the Texas State Guard here in South Texas,” said Lt. Col. William Greene, RN, 804th Medical Brigade, U.S. Army Reserve, officer in charge of Army Reserve soldiers serving at Juarez Lincoln High School in Mission, Texas. “There has been good cohesion among all the troops from both Texas State Guard and Army Reserve, and it has been great to see how well all the pieces have come together.”

Research by the Texas State Guard during previous years indicates a substantial need for mental health services.

“Mental health has been really big this year,” said 1st Lt. Diann Mills, R.N., of the Medical Brigade, Texas State Guard, speaking about the Juarez Lincoln site.  “Lots of time what brings people in to the clinic is a physical health problem but the underlying mental health problem or stressful life situation may be the real cause.

During OLS, clinics were also run in Brownsville, San Juan, Rio Grande City and Laredo, Texas. “Our plan is to be ready to help Texans in case of disaster or emergency,” said Cameron.  “Missions like Operation Lone Star help make this possible.”

Thursday, August 4, 2016 9:38:00 AM Categories: Texas Army National Guard

Texas Joint Counterdrug Task force begins largest Operation Crackdown in Dallas 

Texas Joint Counterdrug Task force begins largest Operation Crackdown in Dallas

Story by: 1st Lt. Alicia Lacy

Posted: Wednesday, August 3, 2016

 

Photo By 1st Lt. Alicia Lacy | A Texas National Guard engineer watches as another Guardsman operates an excavator to demolish a house in that was known to be used by drug users and dealers, Aug. 3, 2016, in Dallas, Texas, as part of the Texas Joint Counterdrug Taskforce's Operation Crackdown. The operation, unique to the Texas National Guard's Counterdrug program, partners the taskforce with a Texas city to demolish structures connected with the use or distribution of drugs. This Crackdown mission is the taskforce's fifth time in Dallas and its longest Crackdown mission since the operation's inception in 1993. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by 1st Lt. Alicia Lacy/Released)
Photo By 1st Lt. Alicia Lacy | A Texas National Guard engineer watches as another Guardsman operates an excavator to demolish a house in that was known to be used by drug users and dealers, Aug. 3, 2016, in Dallas, Texas, as part of the Texas Joint Counterdrug Task force's Operation Crackdown. The operation, unique to the Texas National Guard's Counterdrug program, partners the task force with a Texas city to demolish structures connected with the use or distribution of drugs. This Crackdown mission is the task force's fifth time in Dallas and its longest Crackdown mission since the operation's inception in 1993. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by 1st Lt. Alicia Lacy) 

DALLAS – The Texas Joint Counterdrug Task force is ending its summer with its largest Operation Crackdown to date, set to raze more than 60 structures at more than 50 locations.

The Dallas Crackdown mission, which is the task force’s sixth mission in the city, began July 25 and will continue through the end of August.

Operation Crackdown is a program unique to the Texas National Guard that provides National Guard engineers to a community to demolish structures linked to the use and/or distribution of drugs. 

The partnership between the taskforce and the city of Dallas has resulted in about 120 structures demolished over the past five years.

The difference between the city of Dallas’ mission and a typical mission is that Crackdown personnel will spend nearly six weeks demolishing structures, whereas the typical Crackdown mission is two weeks and includes about 30 structures.

“We’ve been given an opportunity to expand the program and the city of Dallas has taken advantage of that to aggressively pursue the demolition of these drug houses,” said Army Col. Suzanne Adkinson, Texas Joint Counterdrug Task force Commander. 

To start the process on this behemoth operation, city of Dallas officials made a request. After a request is made, agreements between the Texas National Guard and the requesting city are made using Military and City Lawyers. For a structure to be selected, it must have a connection with the drug trade. Once the site has been approved, the city must receive approval from the homeowner to demolish the structure on his or her property. Then the structure is inspected for hazardous materials. Law enforcement officials then secure the site before the Guard’s arrival.

“We are excited that Operation Crackdown is demolishing structures in our city that have been havens for drugs and other criminal activity,” said Community Prosecutor Jill Haning, in a statement. “The demolitions are a positive development and an essential part of the fight against blight in our neighborhoods.”

The Community Prosecution section of the Dallas City Attorney’s Office has been tasked with coordinating the operation, with more than one dozen city departments involved in this mission. 

 “Our goal is more structures and removing more safe havens that foster drug activity,” said Air Force 1st Lt. Bruce Robison, Crackdown officer in charge.

The program is made possible through asset forfeiture funds that represent the proceeds of, or were used to facilitate drug-related crimes.

“It’s the opportunity to take drug money off the street and reuse it to demolish drug houses, making it a little safer for the people in the community,” Adkinson said.

On average, each two-week mission costs the task force about $30,000, which includes personnel and equipment costs.

The operation not only provides a service to the community in its war against drugs, but also enhances military readiness for the Texas Guardsmen, who utilize the engineering skill set in their real-world mission, and allows the Texas National Guard to partner with communities within the state.

"We're excited to be able to give back to the community in this way," Adkinson said. "It ties in to our state and our TAG's mission to partner with our community, as well as staying ready and relevant to being the force of choice, while providing the right forces at the right time to execute the mission."

Wednesday, August 3, 2016 9:40:00 AM Categories: Texas Army National Guard

Texas Guard, reservists and civilians partner at Operation Lone Star 

Texas Guard, reservists and civilian partner at Operation Lone Star

Story by: Capt. Martha Nigrelle

Posted: July 28, 2016 

Lt. Col. John Hsu, a dentist in the 804th Medical Brigade, U.S. Army Reserves, Operations Chief for Dental Services, prepares to treat a patient at an Operation Lone Star site in Pharr, Texas, July 27, 2016. Service members from the Texas State Guard worked alongside Soldiers from the 804th Medical Brigade, U.S. Army Reserves, the Texas Department of Public Safety, the Department of State Health Services, Remote Area Medical volunteers, Cameron County Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), City of Laredo Health Department, Hidalgo County DHHS and U.S. Public Health Services during Operation Lone Star (OLS), a week long real-time, large-scale emergency preparedness exercise in La Joya, Pharr, Brownsville, Rio Grande City and Laredo, Texas, July 25-29, 2016. OLS is an annual medical disaster preparedness training exercise, uniting federal, state and local health and human service providers, that addresses the medical needs of thousands of underserved Texas residents every year. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Malcolm McClendon)
Lt. Col. John Hsu, a dentist in the 804th Medical Brigade, U.S. Army Reserves, Operations Chief for Dental Services, prepares to treat a patient at an Operation Lone Star site in Pharr, Texas, July 27, 2016. Service members from the Texas State Guard worked alongside Soldiers from the 804th Medical Brigade, U.S. Army Reserves, the Texas Department of Public Safety, the Department of State Health Services, Remote Area Medical volunteers, Cameron County Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), City of Laredo Health Department, Hidalgo County DHHS and U.S. Public Health Services during Operation Lone Star (OLS), a week long real-time, large-scale emergency preparedness exercise in La Joya, Pharr, Brownsville, Rio Grande City and Laredo, Texas, July 25-29, 2016. OLS is an annual medical disaster preparedness training exercise, uniting federal, state and local health and human service providers, that addresses the medical needs of thousands of underserved Texas residents every year. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Malcolm McClendon)

BROWNSVILLE, Texas -- Texas Guardsmen and U.S. Army Reservists worked alongside civilian partner agencies to provide necessary medical care to underserved Texas residents during Operation Lone Star, July 25-29, 2016 in La Joya, Pharr, Brownsville, Rio Grande City and Laredo.

Operation Lone Star is a large-scale emergency preparedness exercise that unites local, state and federal medical service and disaster response agencies.

“The hands on training has been great,” said Capt. Edith Cardwell, 804th Medical Brigade, U.S. Army Reserves. “Most of our training is notional. Here we have real-live patients instead of mannequins.”

Medical sites were set up in local schools providing immunizations, hearing and vision examinations, sports physicals, diabetic screening, blood pressure screening, dental services and behavioral health services.

The exercise first began in 1998, following an outbreak of tuberculosis in the Rio Grande Valley. Over the years, it has grown into one of the largest disaster preparedness exercises of its kind, in the country. As well as, providing annual training to disaster response agencies, Operation Lone Star ensures that thousands of Texas residents receive medical services, they may not receive otherwise.

“We are creating a ring of public health safety,” said Eduardo Olivarez, chief administrative officer for the Hidalgo County Department of Health and Human Services. “Because of this training, we are prepared for any future outbreaks. We know exactly how long it will take us to immunize a large number of people and what resources we will need to do that.”

For the first time, more than 100 soldiers from the 804th Medical Brigade joined experienced medical providers from the Texas Military Department, the Department of Public Safety, Department of State Health Services, Remote Area Medical, Cameron County Department of Health and Human Services, City of Laredo Health Department, Hidalgo County Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Public Health Services.

They weren’t the only ones new to the team. The inaugural class of the University of Texas – Rio Grande Valley medical school volunteered their time to assist patients, physicians and administrative specialists with the operation.

On only their third day of medical school, the students arrived at Operation Lone Star, ready to learn.

“They teach us the ‘see one, do one, teach one’ model,” said Sonya Rivera, one of the students. “So that’s what we are doing here.”

This year the students are observing and helping wherever they can, said Rivera. Each year, as they learn more, they hope to be able to ‘do one’ and provide hands-on medical care. Eventually, their goal is to be able to teach others.

“If you can do that, then you have mastered it,” said Rivera.

Side by side, Guardsmen worked with Reservists, civilian medical experts and students, a seemingly well-oiled team, after only a few days.

In the past three years, there were 119,683 services given at Operation Lone Star providing approximately $12 million of support to Texas residents in the Rio Grande Valley said Maj. Gen. Jake Betty, commanding general of the Texas State Guard.

“If a disaster ever occurs, it’s great to meet our colleagues in this environment; we can learn a lot from each other.” said Col. Jonathan MacClements, a physician in the Texas State Guard. “We are all on the same team.”

Texas Army National Guard Capt. Jessica Jackson contributed to this article.

Thursday, July 28, 2016 9:49:00 AM Categories: Texas Army National Guard

STARBASE Houston hosts inaugural camp for students 

STARBASE Houston hosts inaugural camp for students

Story by: 1st Lt. Alicia Lacy

Posted: July 22, 2016

STARBASE Houston students pose with instructors and 147th Reconnaissance Wing Commander Col. Stan Jones at the end of the location's weeklong STEM camp at Ellington Field July 22, 2016. About 20 students attend the STEM camp. Starbase is a Department of Defense program to motivate students to explore science, technology, engineering, and math. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by 1st Lt. Alicia Lacy)
STARBASE Houston students pose with instructors and 147th Reconnaissance Wing Commander Col. Stan Jones at the end of the location's weeklong STEM camp at Ellington Field July 22, 2016. About 20 students attend the STEM camp. Starbase is a Department of Defense program to motivate students to explore science, technology, engineering, and math. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by 1st Lt. Alicia Lacy)

HOUSTON – They constructed birdhouses and tested its strength, they designed their own unmanned aerial vehicles, they sent rockets flying through a tube in the classroom, they discovered the properties of materials created with nanotechnology and assessed the solubility of different materials and learned how global positioning systems worked.

For one week, 20 Houston-area students took a hands-on approach to science, technology, engineering and mathematics during the STARBASE Houston’s inaugural STEM camp July 19-22, 2016, at Ellington Field Joint Reserve Base in Houston.

“This is our first year doing this camp because we wanted to thank Ellington Field for all the support they provided to us for the 20 years we’ve been here,” said Loraine Guillen, STARBASE Houston program director, during the graduation July 22.

“Another reason is because I’ve bumped into people and they don’t know that STARBASE is here and that we exist.”

For five hours each day, the students engaged in various experiments to help them understand scientific principles, such as Newton’s Laws, Bernoulli’s principle, nanotechnology, navigation, aviation and mapping.

“This is a lot more hands on and it helped me learn better,” said Jaden Enloe, 12. “They told us how to do it and I learn best that way. I need to see it to visualize it, so it was cool to work with.

Enloe, who will enter the seventh grade this year, said the program also helped the students learn to work together.

During the graduation ceremony, former STARBASE student Tech. Sgt. Elizabeth Alicea delivered a few words to the students and guests.

“I was always grateful to the STARBASE program because I felt that it was one of the first pillars in my life and development,” she said.

Alicea attended the STARBASE program in Puerto Rico, which is sponsored by the Puerto Rico National Guard.

“Take all your STARBASE experiences and take it to school and share them,” she said. “Don’t forget them.”

The Texas National Guard sponsors STARBASE Houston, a Department of Defense program. The program hosts more than 50 classes throughout the school year, to include public schools, home schools and parochial schools, Guillen said.

The curriculum is based on science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, and is aligned with the state education standards.

The purpose of STARBASE to expose youth to the technological environments, while allowing them to engage with civilian and military role models on military bases and installations.

Friday, July 22, 2016 9:58:00 AM Categories: Texas Army National Guard