Perry signs 'Chris Kyle Bill,' allows military experience for Texas state licenses

Texas Gov. Rick Perry visits with Taya Kyle, wife of slain Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, following the signing of Senate Bill 162 at the Texas State Capitol, in Austin, Texas, Aug. 28, 2013.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry visits with Taya Kyle, wife of slain Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, following the signing of Senate Bill 162 at the Texas State Capitol, in Austin, Texas, Aug. 28, 2013. Senate Bill 162 has been called the "Chris Kyle Bill" because it recognizes the achievements of service members with special operations training, by allowing them credit toward state law enforcement licenses. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Phil Fountain)

Story by: Staff Sgt. Phil Fountain

 

 AUSTIN, Texas – In a ceremony at the Texas State Capitol, Gov. Rick Perry signed Senate Bill 162, which was passed by  the 83rd Texas Legislature to address employment challenges facing military service members, recently separated  veterans and their spouses.

 The bipartisan legislation requires state agencies that issue occupational licenses to recognize substantially equivalent  licenses issued by other jurisdictions – including the armed forces – and provide an expedited licensure process for  these individuals.

 “The unemployment rate among veterans is one of the highest in the United States,” said state Rep. Dan Flynn of Van  (HD-2), who sponsored the bill in the Texas House. “Considering the sacrifices they made for our country, it is imperative  we help their transition to civilian life by giving them credit for the hard work and training they have accomplished in the  military.”

 Flynn, a U.S. Army veteran who also serves as a commander in the Texas State Guard’s Maritime Regiment, worked with  state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte of San Antonio (SD-26), who chairs the Senate Committee on Veteran Affairs and Military  Installations, to develop the legislation.

 “After our heroes fight for us, they should not then have to fight for a job when they get back home,” Van de Putte said.

 Until now, military training was not recognized by the state of Texas, for licensure purposes.

 “Too often, service members and their spouses must wait too long for licensing in fields in which they already have substantial experience,” Van de Putte said. “This law will put them on the fast-track for an occupational license, but also will require them to come into full compliance with Texas’ licensing requirements within a year.”

Additionally, SB 162 is also known as the “Chris Kyle Bill,” named after the former Navy SEAL and author who was slain earlier this year, and recognizes the achievements of service members with special operations training. Kyle’s wife, Taya, was on-hand at the signing ceremony.

“I appreciate the sacrifices these many brave special operators have made,” Flynn said, “and I hope that by incorporating these changes into current Texas law we can honor the legacy of Chris Kyle and the many like him.”

The legislation grants these veterans credit toward the issuance of a basic police officer’s license. Additional training and a certification test is still required to receive the license.

“If a soldier can dodge IEDs in Iraq or Afghanistan while driving a semi, they can drive safely on I-35 or I-30 without having to be trained again,” Flynn said.

It’s possible that this type of legislation will now be pursued throughout the country, as Van de Putte and Flynn co-chair the National Conference of State Legislatures’ Task Force on Military and Veterans Affairs.

“We hope this legislation will serve as a model for all states,” Flynn said, “and we look forward to continuing to work with the Department of Defense to find new and better ways to show our appreciation to veterans as the return home.”

SGT John Gately instructing a class at Camp Mabry

Posted on: 24-Aug-2013

SGT John Gately instructing a class at Camp Mabry during August drill, on how administrate the new TXSG website. Units will be working to establish new websites for their components and units and more information will be available soon.

Photo of SGT Gately presenting the new websitePhoto of class

Texas Military Forces preserving ancient Texas history

Charles Coleman of the Thlopthlocco Tribe recognizes the partnership between his Tribe and the Texas Military Forces by presenting a traditional wooden flute to Maj. Gen. John F. Nichols, the adjutant general of Texas.
Charles Coleman of the Thlopthlocco Tribe recognizes the partnership between his Tribe and the Texas Military Forces by presenting a traditional wooden flute to Maj. Gen. John F. Nichols, the adjutant general of Texas. The flute was made by members of the Thlopthlocco tribe as one of the ways to preserve their heritage. The Texas Military Forces works with 11 different Tribal Nations in Texas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana in a joint effort to preserve tribal heritage and the history of Texas. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Army Capt. Martha C. Nigrelle/Released)

 Story by: Capt. Martha Nigrelle

 

 CAMP MABRY, Texas – Members of the Texas Military Forces (TXMF) and representatives from five different Tribal  Nations living in Texas, Louisiana, New Mexico and Oklahoma gathered here, in Austin, on Aug. 19, 2013, with one  stated goal in mind – to protect their shared history.

 Eight thousand years ago, long before any one nation’s flag flew over this state, people lived here, on the land that is  now known as Texas. Surrounded by the bluebonnets, rivers, hills and plains of Texas, people built homes, cooked  meals and raised families. Today, their story remains buried throughout the Lone Star State.

 In the 1990’s, TXMF began consulting with Tribal representatives in order to identify artifacts and locations of  significance. Since its conception, the exchange process has focused on addressing a variety of issues ranging from  the protection of sensitive archaeological sites, which allow access and preservation of traditional natural resources for  tribal use, to the identification and return of objects the tribes hold sacred.

 “This is our opportunity to meet with different Tribal Nations and help preserve their history,” said Maj. Gen. John F.  Nichols, The Adjutant General of Texas and Commanding General of the Texas Military Forces.

 Today, representatives from the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe, Caddo Tribe, Comanche Nation, Coushatta Tribe of  Louisiana, Alabama-Quassarte Tribal Town, Thlopthlocco Tribal Town, Kiowa Tribe, Mescalero Apache Tribe, Tonkawa  Tribe, Wichita and Affiliated Tribes and the Apache Tribe of Oklahoma regularly meet with TXMF officials to discuss  efforts being made to preserve both their heritage and ancient Texas history.

 In 2005, according to TXMF Cultural Resource Program records, a 2,000 year-old ceramic pot was unearthed on TXMF  property. After visiting with tribal leaders, it was discovered that the artifact held sacred significance to the Caddo Nation  and was returned to the tribe.

 Currently, TXMF has more than 700 protected archeological sites and has collected tens of thousands of artifacts that  help depict life as it was, in Texas, thousands of years ago, said Kristen Mt Joy, Cultural Resource Program Manager for  TXMF and a registered professional archeologist.

 “The beautiful thing about our program is that [TXMF] is trying to acknowledge [the Tribal Nations’] role in the history of  our state,” Mt Joy said. “It isn’t just a ‘check the box’ thing; [TXMF] really wants to hear what the Tribes have to say.”

The consultation process has resulted in more than artifact identification. As the partnership grows, more is learned about the history of the tribes and about the people who once inhabited Texas. Areas that are of cultural significance are labeled traditional cultural property, and special care is taken to preserve the area in its natural state. For example, an area traditionally used to gather plants for medicines – this area TXMF will try to protect, to ensure that the same plant life can continue to grow. 

In an attempt to protect these lands, both TXMF and their Tribal Nation partners understand that the focus does not stray from the installations’ primary mission of training service members.

“[The Tribes] take great pride in the military,” Mt Joy said. “They understand that we have a mission to train Soldiers and prepare them for service.”

This annual consultation is “an opportunity to share and exchange information on improving preservation,” said Mt Joy. This consultation process has created a partnership between TXMF and each Tribal Nation.

During the meeting, Charles Coleman, Tribal Historic Preservation Officer of the Thlopthlocco Tribal Town, presented Nichols with a traditional flute and thanked him for his commitment to partnering with the Tribal Nations. According to Coleman, the flute was handmade, out of bamboo, by members of the Thlopthlocco tribe and is a replica of flutes played by their tribe many years ago. 

As the meeting came to an end, a shared theme remained. Members of each tribe shared with the group what they are doing to record their history for future generations.

“It is our duty to preserve history,” Nichols said, reiterating a TXMF commitment to continue its work alongside the tribes.

The Texas State Guard was fortunate to have Chief Lankford on duty

14-Aug-2013

The Texas State Guard was fortunate to have Chief Lankford on duty in Del Rio while the Del Rio Sector was hosting a member of Texas United States Senator Ted Cruz’s staff. Command Master Sergeant Paul Lankford in coordination with Del Rio Sector Border Patrol Assistant Chief Spielman, made a presentation to Melissa L. Miller, Constituent Services Liaison for U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, on the mission of Operation Border Star at the Del Rio JOIC and the incorporation of Texas State Guard troops in that mission.  Ms. Miller had been visiting the Del Rio Sector Headquarters operations that day, and at the end of the day was hosted for a presentation in the Border Intelligence Center (BIC) and the Joint Operations Intelligence Center (JOIC).  This was her first experience with Texas State Guard troops and she was very impressed with the mission. 

ACC Supported the 19th Annual Austin Maccabi Games

Photo of Event 1The Air Component Command supported the 19th Annual Austin Maccabi Games. Our 32 participating Airmen provided administrative support at both the Combined Transportation Emergency and Communications Center and the Dell Jewish Community Center Emergency Operations Center. 

They also supported law enforcement officers at several venues and helped to control access to venues to safeguard the citizens of Texas and our visiting guests.

Photo of event 2

Other Maccabi Games facts:

1,300 teens from delegations across the US, Israel, and several other international communities
1,000 Austin volunteers
500 visiting coaches and spectators
200 local Austin teens
Read more about the Maccabi Games here:
(http://www.maccabiusa.com/photos/19th-maccabiah-games/) are a week long international Olympic competition of Jewish youth athletes from around the world.

Texas Army National Guardsmen help mentor Guatemalan Task Force

U.S. Army Lt. Col. Anthony Flood, commander 1st Squadron, 124th Cavalry Regiment, Texas Army National Guard, presents National Army of Guatemala Brig. Gen. Antonio Lopez, commander of the Interagency Task Force Tecun Uman, with a plaque for his unit's successful training.
U.S. Army Lt. Col. Anthony Flood, commander 1st Squadron, 124th Cavalry Regiment, Texas Army National Guard, presents National Army of Guatemala Brig. Gen. Antonio Lopez, commander of the Interagency Task Force Tecun Uman, with a plaque for his unit's successful training. Texas Army National Guardsmen teamed up with U.S. Border Patrol agents to mentor the newly-formed Guatemalan task force, whose mission is to interdict the flow of illicit activities on the Guatemalan borders. (U.S. Army photo by Miguel A. Negron/Released)

 

 GUATEMALA CITY, Guatemala – Texas Army National Guardsmen from the 1st Squadron, 124th Cavalry Regiment and  members of the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol’s Border Tactical (BORTAC) team, teamed up to mentor Soldiers from  the National Army of Guatemala and Guatemalan Federal Police Force officers from Interagency Task Force (IATF) Tecun Uman, at the Guatemala Military Academy, from January - June, 2013. The newly formed Guatemalan Task Force  has the mission of interdicting the flow of illicit activities on the Guatemalan borders.

 The six-month exchange between the U.S. and Guatemala is part of an initiative led by U.S. Army South to build partner  nation capacity with the Central American country and consisted of a series of exercises and events including  fundamentals of marksmanship, weapons maintenance, sand table preparations, mounted and dismounted  operations, and gunnery skills. 

 The Guatemalan soldiers and police officers, handpicked for this mission, demonstrated a high degree of motivation  and esprit-de-corps. They readily embraced the training, asked questions, and were very willing students, according to  U.S. Army Lt. Col. Anthony Flood, Commander, 1st Squadron, 124th Cavalry, who was highly impressed with the  proficiency, morale and professionalism of the Guatemalan troops. 

 “They deliver high quality orders briefs in a format very similar to the U.S. Army, and conduct rehearsals and back briefs  very similar to what is taught at the U.S. Army Ranger School,” Flood said. “The Guatemalan Soldiers are a dedicated  and professional force, and a credit to the Guatemalan Army.”

 Guatemalans and Texas Guardsmen not only trained together, but also lived in the same barracks, exposing them to  each other’s military culture. 

 U.S. Army Capt. Derek Ruschhaupt, Commander of Headquarters Troop, noted different leadership styles between the two militaries.
“It was interesting to see the roles Guatemalan Army platoon leaders assume versus ours,” Ruschhaupt said. “For instance, they march their troops to chow, do on the spot corrections, and provide all the direction and command and control down to the squad level; different from our system where noncommissioned officers perform those duties.” 

For U.S. Army 1st Sgt. Chavelo Jimenez, Squadron Command Sgt. Maj., training with the Guatemalan Soldiers and police officers brought back memories from when he first enlisted in the Texas Army National Guard in the early 1980’s. Then, he trained with vehicles and weapons systems similar to the current Guatemalan Jeep-mounted .30 caliber machine gun.

“I remember seeing Jeeps at Fort Hood, so it was great to see these again,” Jimenez said. “However, these Jeeps are much nicer, with air conditioning, nice seats and up-armored. Much better than what we had.” 

The exercise culminated in a week-long series of scenario-based missions challenging the Guatemalan Soldiers and police officers with events such as simulated civil disturbances, narcotics lab raids, and vehicle checkpoint operations. At the beginning of each task, the commanders were given an order. From there they had to develop a plan, brief it, conduct rehearsals, and execute the mission. 

Texas Army Guardsmen observed the entire event and then conducted after-action review with the Guatemalans offering feedback to help refine tactics and techniques for their future missions.

At the conclusion, a ceremony was held to recognize all the participants. Among the invitees were U.S. Army Col. Michael Knutson, U.S. Embassy to Guatemala Senior Defense Official, and National Army of Guatemala Brig. Gen. Antonio Lopez, Commander of the IATF. Lopez later thanked the Texas Army National Guardsmen for their participation in the event.

“We are happy to have trained with our friends from Texas and appreciate their professional work ethic and dedication,” Lopez said. “They are excellent soldiers.” 

Austin area Youth graduate from TXMF STARBASE Summer Program

by 1st Lt. Martha Nigrelle

CAMP MABRY, Texas – 20 children graduated from the Texas Military Forces (TXMF) STARBASE program here in Austin, Texas, June 28, 2013. The weeklong program for the youth of Camp Mabry employees gave the fifth and sixth graders hands-on learning enrichment in science, technology, engineering, and math.

STARBASE is a program that helps students, between 6 and 18 years of age, improve their math and science skills “through experiential learning, simulations, and experiments in aviation and space-related fields.” 

Students said one of the favorite activities during the week was an egg experiment.  Children had to design a parachute for their egg.  After dropping their egg from a designated location, the eggs were inspected and placed into categories, such as “survivor,” “major surgery” and “dead.” According to the children, only one egg was pronounced dead and only one needed major surgery. 

Another class favorite was said to be “the robot.”  After reporting that the class had programmed the robot to crush the Lincoln Memorial, one student stated, “don’t worry, it was just a model of the Lincoln Memorial, not the real thing!”

Col. Pat Hamilton, The Adjutant General’s Chief of Staff, spoke to the students during the graduation.

“You are the future,” Hamilton said. “You are going to invent things we can’t even imagine.  That’s why it is important to get interested in science and math. Thank you for coming out.  We are really proud of you for everything you have done.”

As each student was presented with a Certificate of Achievement and a STARBASE medal by Maj. Gen. John F. Nichols, The Adjutant General of Texas, it was evident that many of the students felt the same way.

Doors opened for Texas students

"I feel prepared to handle the real world now," said Jessica Knofla, the class assistant corps commander, during the Texas ChalleNGe Academy Graduation at Iraan High School, in Iraan, Texas, June 22, 2013.
"I feel prepared to handle the real world now," said Jessica Knofla, the class assistant corps commander, during the Texas ChalleNGe Academy Graduation at Iraan High School, in Iraan, Texas, June 22, 2013. The academy is a youth challenge program, sponsored by the Texas Military Forces that targets students between the ages of 16 and 18 who have dropped out of high school or are at risk of dropping out. (National Guard photo by Army 1st Lt. Martha Nigrelle)

Story by: 1st Lt. Martha Nigrelle

 

 IRAAN, Texas – Hundreds of family members cheered as 89 students marched into the Iraan High School gymnasium  on the morning of June 22, 2013. Coming from locations throughout the state of Texas, and each with their own troubled  past, these students were all celebrating the same achievement – graduation from the Texas Challenge Academy (TCA).

 The academy is located in the west Texas town of Sheffield, and is a Youth Challenge Program sponsored by the Texas  Military Forces. The program targets high school students between the ages of 16 and 18 who are high school dropouts  or are at risk of dropping out of high school. 

 TCA has the potential to significantly change people’s lives.

 According to the TCA leadership, each year up to 118,000 students drop out of high school in the state of Texas. A goal of  TCA is to help these students reclaim their lives through mentoring, education, physical fitness and volunteer service to  the community. After a five and a half month course of instruction, students graduate, and then spend the next 12 months  meeting with a mentor every week in order to maintain the positive changes in their life. 

 “I wasn’t even here for two weeks and I was trying to go home,” said Christopher Parkey, the class speaker. “I finally  manned up and I started doing great things. I made myself proud. For the first time my dad said he was proud of me…  But I am just one of 89 success stories here at TCA.”

 These students have a right to be proud, said Lauren Schulman, the academy’s commandant. “You have made the  journey from compliance to self-reliance” – indicating another goal of TCA, to help these students learn how to rely on  themselves.

 Col. Suzanne Adkinson, commander of the Joint Counter-drug Task Force and commencement speaker, spoke to the  students about choices and making the decision to better their lives. Opting not to stand behind the lectern; instead, she  chose to walk around the gym and speak directly to the students. 

 Adkinson reminded the students that sometimes life will present a situation that might not be fun, but is necessary to get  to the next step, making a comparison to household chores.

 “I hate to vacuum,” she said, “but I hate dirt even more.”

 Her solution? Put on some headphones, dance around and vacuum anyway. In life you have to work hard and “go get it yourself,” she said.

Corps commander, Joshua Tilley, a Waco, Texas, resident, said he is ready to do just that. Tilley said he appreciates the life skills he got while at TCA, especially learning how to stay calm and work through a problem.

While he said he has fond memories of the drill and ceremony competition and helping the Texas Military Forces (TXMF) build an obstacle course, he said he is looking forward to a future life serving in the U.S. Air Force.

Jessica Knofla, of Seabrook, Texas, and the assistant corps commander, said she was thankful that her mother encouraged her to participate in the program. She said TCA gave her the tools to take initiative and to find her voice. Knofla said she now feels prepared to handle the real world and is confident that she can push herself to achieve her dream of earning a degree in psychology, law, or filmmaking.

It is evident that this program had a positive effect on each of the students as they accepted their diploma.

“We learned to make our lives better here,” said Priscilla Lopez, one of the graduating students.

“A doorway has been opened for you here today,” said Adkinson, “Doors will continue to open for you. You just have to choose to go through that door.” 

As each student moved their graduation tassel to the left side of their mortar board, the TCA director Michael Weir congratulated the Class of 2013, and told them now was the time “to move from finish strong to carry on.”

Texas National Guard engineers clear the way

A Buffalo mine-protected vehicle follows along in a route clearance convoy training-mission at Camp Bowie in Brownwood, Texas, June 18, 2013.
A Buffalo mine-protected vehicle follows along in a route clearance convoy training-mission at Camp Bowie in Brownwood, Texas, June 18, 2013. The company cleared a route to ensure the safe passage of a key leader engagement during their practice missions, which were completed during their three-week annual training. The 454th Engineer Company, 111th Engineer Battalion, Texas Army National Guard, based out of San Angelo, Texas, is preparing to deploy early next year. (National Guard photo by Laura L. Lopez/Released)
 Story by: Laura Lopez
 

 CAMP BOWIE, Texas – As National Guard citizen-soldiers and airmen gear up for their required annual training, the men and women assigned to the 454th Engineer Company, 111th Engineer Battalion, Texas Army National Guard (TXARNG),  spent time at Camp Bowie in Brownwood, Texas, preparing for a route clearance mission in Afghanistan, where they’re  slated to deploy early next year. 

 The three-week annual training included learning about the different mine-resistant, ambush-protected (MRAP) vehicles, obtaining the appropriate and necessary licenses, undergoing multiple safety briefings and spending time in a newly  built Virtual Clearance Training Suite (VCTS). The training also included four-to-five hour, full route clearance practice  missions, June 17-18, 2013, with different targeted areas of interest set as close to theatre conditions as able to be replicated forcing Soldiers to move beyond computerized simulators and learn more than just the different convoy configurations.

 “These training missions really drive home what these Soldiers are going out there to do,” said Capt. Kenneth Sweet, Commander, 454th Engineer Company, 111th Engineer Battalion, Texas Army National Guard. “These Soldiers are  going out there to find explosive hazards so that vehicles that are not designed for that don’t find them.”

 Just one of a handful of route clearance mission teams within the National Guard and the only one within the TXARNG,  training and readiness remain at the forefront of the minds of commanders who will lead them, potentially into harm’s  way. A first deployment for about 50 percent of the Soldiers, the company’s executive officer believes that having the  resources and equipment readily available for them to train with is essential.

 “Just getting their hands on a Buffalo (mine-protected vehicle) and driving a Husky (tactical support vehicle) and stuff of  that nature is an experience many of these guys have never done before,” said 1st Lt. Corey Ebert, 454th Engineer  Company, 111th Engineer Battalion, Texas Army National Guard. 

 A multifaceted mission that provides the rest of the forces the ability to move freely around the battlefield, one soldier from San Angelo, Texas, working with the counter improvised explosive device integration cell planting the land mine simulators and roadside bombs for each practice-training mission received an eye-opening experience.

“Working with them places the shoe on the other foot and allows one to see what the enemy does and why,” said Spc. Joshua Morris, construction equipment mechanic, 454th Engineer Company, 111th Engineer Battalion, Texas Army National Guard. “It’s kind of interesting knowing they (my fellow soldiers) are going to get hit, but at the same time you want it to happen so they can learn that muscle memory of going through the motions here, rather than over there.”

Focused on working as a team to successfully accomplish the task at hand, members of the engineer company were given a variety of different scenarios in which a roadside bomb or explosive device found them, as a means to force them to determine and discuss the best way to react to the situation. Additionally, commanders ended each scenario with a follow-up mission like a key leader engagement or the establishment traffic control points to further enhance their skill arsenal.

A resident of Dallas, Texas, who hopes to learn responsibility, strength in numbers and leadership, in addition to teamwork isn’t worried about being one of the only females assigned the deployment. 

“I was raised to be pretty strong and independent, so nothing really intimidates me,” said Pfc. Shannon Gatta, small arms repair, 454th Engineer Company, 111th Engineer Battalion, Texas Army National Guard. “They are my comrades and someone who will be able to cover me in the battlefield and vice versa.”

Whether leading a convoy with a Husky tactical support vehicle designed to detect buried explosive hazards or assisting in the interrogation or neutralizing of a roadside bomb or explosive device one Big Lake, Texas, resident says the dream of deploying as a combat engineer on a route clearance mission will soon come true. However, the legacy he continues makes him honored to serve his country. 

“My grandfather was in the 36th Infantry Division in World War II and was in the Italy and northern African campaigns, so to be a part of the Texas Army National Guard like he was is a highlight of my career,” said Spc. Timothy Stout, combat engineer, 454th Engineer Company, 111th Engineer Battalion, Texas Army National Guard.

As citizen-soldiers from a diverse range of professions, this San Angelo, Texas, based engineer company is honored to be one of last major combat deployments in support of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) for the TXARNG in the foreseeable future and hope that the residents will come together, support the soldiers and their families, while understanding more about the missions and roles of the National Guard.

“This deployment (and all others) prove to everyone that the National Guard is not just something that can be used here at home or just used in the state of Texas; they are multifaceted, wear more than one hat and are a recognizable force to provide our active duty counterparts,” said Ebert.

The 454th Engineer Company will continue to train at various locations in Texas to include Fort Bliss in El Paso, before their scheduled deployment to Afghanistan in early 2014.