TXARNG Deputy Chief of Staff Retires

Commentary by: Michelle McBride
Texas Military Forces Public Affairs

Retirement ceremony honoring Col. Timothy M. Smith, deputy chief of staff for the Texas Army National Guard
U.S. Army National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Kenneth Walker/Released

CAMP MABRY, Texas (June 21, 2014) – The Texas Military Forces held a retirement ceremony honoring Col. Timothy M. Smith, deputy chief of staff for the Texas Army National Guard, at Camp Mabry, in Austin June 21, 2014.

Smith received his commission through the ROTC program at Stephen F. Austin State University in 1986 and joined the Texas National Guard in October of 1989. 

“It came down to whether or not this country – its people, its constitution, its freedoms, its heritage and its beauty – is all of that worth defending?” said Smith, when asked about his reasons for joining. “More importantly, is it worth dying for?  I absolutely believe that it is.”

In 2003, Smith was the first Texas Army National Guard Soldier to enter Iraq as part of the liberating force with the 4th Infantry Division. His service includes two combat tours in Iraq as well as assignments in all levels of command including the role of deputy chief of staff for Command, Control, Communications and Computer Operations. 

“I found the culture of military service a very comfortable fit,” said Smith. “The longer I stayed in, the more people I got to know who had experienced the same things I did.  In no other profession can you meet someone for the first time in your life and be able to establish a common frame of reference and rapport based on commonality of past experiences.”

Throughout his career Smith has been awarded, two Bronze Star Medals and five Meritorious Service Medals, but said his greatest accomplishment during his 29 years of service was his tenure as a battalion commander. 

“Leading 480 Soldiers through the preparation for deployment to combat, preparing and transporting $500 million worth of tactical equipment overseas, successfully relieving an active duty battalion in place so they could go home, accomplishing our assigned mission and returning everyone and all the equipment home safely during the period of the nine-year Iraq campaign that saw the most instances of road-side bombs and rocket attacks on coalition forces is, without question, what I consider to be my most significant accomplishment,” said Smith. 

His training includes the U.S. Army Signal Officer Basic and Advanced courses, the U.S. Army Combined Arms and Services Staff School, the U.S. Army Inspector General Course and the U.S. Army Command and General Staff Officer Course. Additionally, Smith holds a bachelor’s degree in radio/TV communications as well as professional certifications as a Certified Information Systems Security Professional and a Project Management Professional. He resides in Georgetown with his wife of 27 years and their 14- year-old daughter. 

“There’s no one thing I can put my finger on that I’ll miss more than anything else,” said Smith. “I think, though, that the hardest part of this transition for me to come to grips with will be not getting to wear the uniform which has been part of my identity for over 29 years.” 


TXNG State Chaplain Retires

Commentary by: Michelle McBride
Texas Military Forces Public Affairs

Col. Combs retirement
U.S. Army National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Kenneth Walker/Released

CAMP MABRY, Texas (June 21, 2014) – Col.  J. Craig Combs, Army Operations Chaplain for Joint Force Headquarters and State Chaplain for the Texas National Guard, celebrated his retirement in a ceremony held at Camp Mabry, in Austin, June 21, 2014. 

With a direct commission as a first lieutenant, Combs took his oath of office as a chaplain in the Texas Army National Guard on June 24, 1988. During his 26 years, he has deployed to Iraq twice and traveled on military operations and training missions to Honduras, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and Egypt. 
“I realized one day that I didn’t have to give up my calling to God and I didn’t have to give up my desire to serve my country,” said Combs, “I could do both as a Citizen -Soldier.”
Throughout his career, Combs has served as the division chaplain for the 36th Infantry Division, Texas Army National Guard, as well as the mobilization chaplain for U.S. Army South, among other roles. He has attended the Chaplain Officer Basic Course, Chaplain Officer Career Course, Command and General Staff Course, Chaplain Lieutenant Colonel Course and the U.S. Army War College Fellowship at George Mason University.
Combs holds a Bachelor of Arts in religion from Dallas Baptist University, a master of theology in pastoral ministries from Dallas Theological Seminary and a Ph.D in family education from Texas Tech University. 
“Being able to serve God and Soldiers faithfully in a time of war- the fact that I had the opportunity to get the call and answer it- is the best thing I have been able to do as a Citizen-Soldier,” said Combs.
Combs currently resides in Argyle with his wife of 40 years. Together they have four sons and one daughter.  
“I will miss the Soldiers,” said Combs. “That’s what my job was about- laughing with, crying with and serving with these men and women in uniform.”

Texas National Guard kids make connections at Young Heroes Camp

Story by 2nd Lt. Alicia Lacy

BROWNWOOD, Texas - A little rain never hurt, and it most certainly did not kill their groove or dampen their moods.

Temporarily packed in a stuffed auditorium, about four dozen kids took a pause from the outdoor activities due to a sudden downpour, but the rain did not discourage them or end their fun. 
Music blasted on the speakers and they all hit the floor, showing off the new moves they’ve learned days before.

They were no longer strangers, but friends who only needed a little bit of music, but primarily just each other to have a good time.

To officially kick off summer, 106 Texas Air and Army National Guard kids swarmed the 78-acre conference and retreat center at Lake Brownwood for the annual, weeklong Young Heroes camp June 9-13, 2014.

Nearing the end of their stay at the camp, the kids were restless and eager to jump into the next activity with their new friends, some coming out of their shells and engaging with each other and camp staff. 

Though organizers packed the weeklong schedule with dancing, singing, hiking, shooting, zip-lining, swimming, and a flood of other activities that included a talent show and color run, the real message was to let parents and kids know that there is a support system available through the Texas Military Forces Family Support Services. 

However, the biggest takeaway is for the kids to form camaraderie among each other and build confidence, said Robert Hankins, the lead child and youth coordinator with TXMF FSS.

“[This is for] kids who have gone through, are going through or will go through a deployment or any military situation,” Hankins said. “[Annual Training] throws a lot of kids off, but here they can share, figure it out, and link together with other kids, and they learn that they’re not alone.”

Campers learned information pertaining to child and youth services available that they can take home to their parents, as well as a better understanding of the word “brat.”

Army brat and Air Force brat are terms often used to describe military dependents; however, Hankins put a twist on the old expression and formed an acronym to mean brave, responsible, adapt/attitude, and tough/terrific/tenacious.

He urged all campers to be proud of their service member and to be brave, responsible, adaptable with a good attitude, tough, terrific and tenacious.

Bailey Wehrman, 11, of Dallas, said she made many friends at the camp.

“It was fun and it’s a good experience,” said Wehrman, whose dad serves in the Air National Guard.

Alysa Touchett, 11, of Pflugerville, and daughter of a Texas Army National Guard member echoed those sentiments, telling participants to just “have fun.” 

For many of the kids, they’ve had very little contact with other Texas National Guard kids and families and have also experienced several mobilizations of their parent or parents.

“We want them to establish camaraderie by breaking the routing and bringing the parents together,” Hankins said. “With Guard kids, there may be another Guard family four blocks down the street and they don’t know.”

The kids ranged in age from about 9-years-old to 13-years-old, who were entering the fourth through the ninth grades. Each attended the camp at no cost thanks to the Army National Guard, the National Guard Association of Texas and the State Family Program.

This camp is not the only program offered by the TXMF Child and Youth program. The program offers events and programs geared toward TXMF children ages six through 18 throughout the year.
“It’s all about serving the kids,” Hankins said.

For more information on TXMF Child and Youth programs, call 512-782-1231 or visit www.facebook.com/TXMFChildAndYouthProgram.

Steiner named Chief of Staff

Col. Dan SteinerCommentary courtesy of the Texas Military Forces

CAMP MABRY, Texas (June 6, 2014) – Maj. Gen. Manuel “Tony” Rodriguez, Commander of the Texas State Guard, is pleased to announce that Col. Dan Steiner, of Cedar Park, has been named Chief of Staff for the Texas State Guard.

In his new role, Steiner will work to accomplish the goals and mission of the Texas State Guard.

Steiner’s previous military background includes experience as a Senior Intelligence Officer, Director of Threat Cell, Texas Air National Guard, in Austin, Texas, and Director of Joint Operations for the Texas Air National Guard with expertise in Defense Support of Civil Authorities coordination and disaster operations. In this role, he has assisted with various Hurricanes, to include Katrina and Rita, as well as wildfires and floods. Additionally, Steiner holds a Political Science degree from Lindenwood University. 

Steiner assumed his role as Chief of Staff for the Texas State Guard on May 15, 2014.  He continues a great military career, and we look forward to his many accomplishments to come.

Welcome aboard!

19th Regiment Combines Annual Training with North Texas Mass Casualty Exercise

Story by: CPT Esperanza Meza

Posted: 16-JUN-14

Spc John Turner with 19th Regiment, 1st Battalion, scans a Texas Emergency Tracking Network (TETN) band to provide to shelter evacuees at Balch Springs Recreation Center, during a mock hurricane exercise, June 7, 2014
Spc John Turner with 19th Regiment, 1st Battalion, scans a Texas Emergency Tracking Network (TETN) band to provide to shelter evacuees at Balch Springs Recreation Center, during a mock hurricane exercise, June 7, 2014

The Troopers of the Dallas-based 19th Civil Affairs Regiment, Texas State Guard, joined more than a dozen North Texas emergency management agencies in a mass casualty exercise that tested the full-range of the Regiment’s mission set. Operation Thunderbolt, led by the Dallas County Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security, tested the Regiment’s leaders and staffs at every level and provided Troopers unique and challenging training in readiness for this year’s hurricane season. The exercise took place in several communities across North Texas requiring the Regiment to operate simultaneously from numerous locations at the maximum range of its communications capabilities and to move every day.

“We set out from the beginning to exercise each of our METL tasks in an interagency agency environment on the turf where we’re likely to be employed”, said Col. Robert Hastings, commander of the 19th Regiment. “Every year, our annual training cycle culminates in a hurricane readiness exercise at the beginning of hurricane season.”

The training scenario revolved around a category 4 hurricane bearing down on the gulf coast triggering evacuations of Texas and Louisiana coastal communities and activation of the Dallas mass sheltering plan. It was further complicated by severe weather in North Texas with multiple tornadoes and severe flooding. In addition to thousands of evacuees, the scenario included mass casualties from an airplane crash and a hazardous chemical accident. The scenario enabled the Regiment to exercise its emergency response capabilities in communications, mass care, shelter management, evacuee tracking, wide area damage assessment, and search and rescue.

The exercise also contained a number leadership reaction scenarios designed to build teamwork and communication. In one scenario, teams conducting wide area damage assessment in the city, Grapevine, following a simulated tornado strike, discovered civilians and another TXSG team trapped in a “collapsed” warehouse – in reality a Grapevine Fire Department rescue training facility. The teams had to rapidly assess the situation, determine a course of action, and evacuate and treat the victims as the building “collapsed” around them. In another scenario, the Regiment responded to a request for assistance from the DFW Airport to help search for missing passengers from a plane crash in a heavily wooded area on the airport.

PFC Hunter Becker, assigned to 19th Regiment, 1st Battalion, attaches a Texas Emergency Tracking Network (TETN) band to one of the victims, acting as a role player, as her mother looks on  during a hurricane shelter management exercise, June 7, 2014
PFC Hunter Becker, assigned to 19th Regiment, 1st Battalion, attaches a Texas Emergency Tracking Network (TETN) band to one of the victims, acting as a role player, as her mother looks on  during a hurricane shelter management exercise, June 7, 2014

SGT Samantha Shipman, a Civil Affairs team leader, stated, “This AT tested both our basic and advanced skills in dealing with different real world scenarios and issues. It built our teamwork and communications to a new level and gave us an opportunity to find things to improve on that we may have overlooked in previous AT experiences.”

As thousands of displaced citizens began flooding into Dallas, the Regiment was redirected to the area of Balch Springs, Kaufman and Terrell to establish shelters and process evacuees. As evacuee “role players” streamed in by bus and carload, Troopers quickly established shelters, emergency tracking network stations and medical treatment stations for special needs patients. Each of the dozens of role players presented a unique and challenging problem for the shelter teams to deal with. Realism was further driven by injects provided by observer-controllers and civilian emergency management subject matter experts.

“I enjoyed getting the chance to set up and work with the emergency tracking network equipment and though there were some issues, it gave me the chance to practice coming up with a viable solution in real time with people actually waiting,” explained Spc. John Hurst.

The sentiment was echoed by Pvt. Jonathan Miller, a new member of the 19th Regiment, who added that the exercise put all his previous training in context. “Having just completed my FEMA and Red Cross training, it allowed me to gain real world perspective and partake in multiple disaster scenarios.”

The Regiment’s three battalions were augmented by a detachment from the TXSG Medical Brigade, a signals team from Texas Army MARS, and personnel from the TXSG Maritime Regiment.

"When the citizens of the Texas need assistance, exercises like this ensure we'll be ready. It was an opportunity to prove to ourselves and our emergency management partners that we are in fact prepared to respond," said Hastings.

Command and General Staff College Graduation of Class One

Command and General Staff College Class One

Story By: SSG Timothy Pruitt, Public Affairs Officers TXSG HQ

CAMP MABRY, TX —On Saturday 14 June 2014 the Command and General Staff College (CGSCG) graduated its first class of twelve graduates. The CGSCG is a Graduate level program for senior officers with the enduring purpose of supporting Leader Development and Education.  Professional Military Education ensures the professional vitality of officers by preparing them to discharge their duties in the service of our great state of Texas.

The twelve graduates are as follows: BG Brian K. Smallwood (Class Leader), COL Edwin A. Grantham (Asst. Leader), LTC Phyllis Brooks, LTC James Ray Hays, LTC Kristopher K. Krueger, LTC Kevin J. Lilly, MAJ Benedict J. Boerner, LCDR Robert W. Finley, MAJ Jose L. Garcia, MAJ Donna V. Lary, MAJ Wendell C. Sadler, and MAJ J. Michael Spraggins

Operation Alamo Shield

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

Picture of People next to mapsPORT ARANSAS, TX—On Wednesday morning June 6th the weather in Port Aransas, TX was deceptively calm, with no heavy rains or gusty winds. Preliminary weather reports indicated the approach of a relatively mild storm, which had first formed as a tropical depression two days before in the Gulf of Mexico. The storm was being monitored by Air Force Hurricane Hunters from the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, Keesler AFB, MS.

By nightfall the weather had quickly changed drastically, and the National Weather Service was now issuing warnings for a full-fledged hurricane with its eye on Port Aransas, Ingleside, Aransas Pass and Corpus Christi. Winds at landfall were now being predicted to exceed 160 miles per hour.

The suddenness of this storm had happened once before on August 3, 1970 with Hurricane Celia, which approached as a mild storm, but left 18 dead, 9,000 injured or sick, over 3,000 homes destroyed or damaged with estimated property losses exceeding $100 million. Celia also accounted for over $50 million in crop loss. This storm, as islanders later put it, “Surely was Celia’s sister.”

COL Vincent Carag, Texas State Guard Commander of the 1st Regiment (REGT) in San Antonio, had been monitoring the progress of the storm, and wisely conducted a practice “recall” on Tuesday night. COL Carag’s gut feeling later proved to be a “game changer.”

The hurricane hit Port Aransas on its march across the island to Corpus Christi, where it hit with devastating consequences. With so little warning, very few people were able to evacuate the area north up I-37 to San Antonio. Port Aransas normally has a year round population of 4,000, but during the summer months it swells to from 40,000 to 70,000. Corpus Christi is a moderate sized Gulf Coast city with a population of about 312,000.

COL Carag initiated a real-world “recall” on Thursday morning assembling a Task Force made up of 150 soldiers and airmen, who would provide evacuee tracking, shelter management, points of distribution, area reconnaissance, wide area assessment, limited search and rescue, area security, and other emergency management missions to protect lives and property in the storm-ravaged area.

Task Force 1st REGT is made up of San Antonio-area TXSG forces, soldiers and airmen who train annually for just such a disaster response. TF 1 REGT commander COL Carag said, “San Antonio is geographically closest to the summer island playgrounds of Padre Island, Port Aransas, Aransas Pass and the city of Corpus Christi, thus we would be the first get the call for hurricane disaster contingency operations.” He emphasized, “That’s what we train for—that’s who we are.”

The scenario described above was the basis for the Annual Training (AT) for TF 1 REGT, which also included the 449th Air Support Group, the Alamo Medical Response Group, and the Engineering Detachment. The 1st BN and 3rd BN of the 1st RGT were the Army components to the Task Force.

“After Hurricane Celia hit the area 43 years ago, much has changed in how we track, prepare and train for hurricane relief,“ explained Rick Adams, Emergency Management Coordinator (EMC) for the city of Port Aransas. EMC Adams, working with Brandi Ashby-Fisher, District Coordinator for Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM), COL (USA Ret) Rob Maxham, volunteer Assistant EMC Port Aransas, asked the TXSG executive counsel if they would be willing to conduct disaster training in conjunction with Port Aransas and Nueces County for their Annual Training this year. “We thought this training would benefit both the city of Port Aransas and the TXSG greatly,” COL Carag said.Pictures of 3 troops

“Ancillary emergency responders, who aided in the AT hurricane relief scenario were the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, and the Military Auxiliary Radio System (MARS) ‘green egg’,” COL Carag stressed. He explained that the Red Cross aided in shelter management, while the Salvation Army provided meals for the Task Force.

Others involved included the Port Aransas Independent School District (ISD). COL James J. Gardon, Medical Response Group oversaw efforts to house TXSG personnel in the Burnett Middle School gymnasium, and set up the inflatable shelter on ISD grounds.

EMC Rick Adams said virtually every municipal employee was involved in the scenario, “Our Fire and EMS, our Police, our Water Plant personnel, our Waste Water personnel, and our facilities personnel all pitched in to make this a real success.”

Maj Ferdinand Girard, Commander of the 449th ASG, Lackland AFB said it best, “This is as close as you can come to the real thing (a hurricane)—this is exactly the type joint-training we should be doing.”

“Much of the success of this year’s Annual Training scenario belongs to the Operations Officer for 1st REGT, MAJ Don T. Shirley, who coordinated the planning,” said Col Thomas Ball, 5th Air Wing (5th AW) Commander.  Members of the 5Th AW were utilized to be “Evaluators” during the exercise.  Col Ball provided boat and water safety training in Port Aransas to Army and Air Component personnel.  “After  hurricane landfall, our troops may be asked to conduct operations around high-water areas, and we want to ensure they can perform those duties safely and effectively,” Col Ball explained.

Overall, COL Carag was pleased with the performance of the task force over the four-day training period. “We ran round-the-clock scenarios, and stressed our people with events much like they would encounter during a real hurricane,” COL Carag said. “Are we better prepared for a hurricane?, you bet we are,” he answered.

Medical Outreach Provides Care in East Texas

Photo of Dr. Jonathan MacClements and Nurse Practitioner Thoone
Dr. Jonathan MacClements and Nurse Practitioner Thoone

VAN, TX – The Texas State Guard in cooperation with a number of medical agencies, colleges, and other community organizations has returned for the second year to provide preventative and primary care to uninsured East Texans.  Licensed physicians and nurses are performing physicals, administering hearing tests, mammograms, and other health screenings, providing immunizations, dental care, and mental health services, and advising on healthy lifestyle choices.

“We are thrilled to partner with the Department of State Health Service and the Texas State Guard to deliver to those most in need in East Texas.  Lives are being changed,” stated George T. Roberts, Jr., Chief Executive Officer Northeast Texas public health district.

More than 500 individuals had arrived by Wednesday morning with two days of service still to go -- far exceeding the 300 visits last year. Many use this opportunity to receive the only health care and dental care they receive all year long and are very appreciative of the State’s efforts.

“We appreciate the support of the Texas State Guard who provided support of traffic flow, security, and filling in the hot spots each day.  We could not have made it without them.” said Dr. Paul McGaha, Regional Medical Director of the Texas Department of State Health Services.

Partnering agencies include Van ISD, University of Texas at Tyler School of Nursing, UT Health Northeast Family Medicine Residency Program, NET Health, Texas Department of State Health Services, Piney Woods Regional Advisory Council Trauma Service Area-G, Texas A&M University, Baylor College of Dentistry, Andrews Center, Tyler Junior College and many other community organizations.