Texas Guard taps well of experience

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

 Texas Guard taps well of experience

 Story by Spc. Praxedis Pineda

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Texas Department of Health Services and Texas Military Forces Jointly Train for Disaster Response

Texas Department of Health Services and Texas Military Forces Jointly Train for Disaster Response
Spc. Luke Elliott, 100th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
2011/08/04

Photo of PFC Kyle O'Boyle of the Texas State Guard taking the pulse of Christa Benavides
PFC Kyle O’Boyle of the Texas State Guard takes the pulse of Christa Benavides at Operation Lone Star 2011 in Laredo TX. Operation Lone Star is the nation’s largest humanitarian military exercise. It takes place each summer in the Rio Grande Valley and provides free medical care for two weeks for all who walk in. It’s also training for these soldiers and airmen for disaster response in Texas. It’s a joint project of the Texas Military Forces plus federal, state and local health agencies.Photo by COL Robert Morecook, JTF-OLS PAO, TXSG

LAREDO, Texas—Some describe it as a disaster response exercise, while others call it the nation’s largest humanitarian medical mission. The reality is that Operation Lone Star is both.

On Aug. 1, Operation Lone Star, a 13-year, annual tradition in Southern Texas, began its second week of providing health care services to people living near Laredo, Hebbronville, and Rio Bravo, Texas.

The Texas Department of State Health Services supported by the Texas State Guard, Texas Army and Air National Guard, U.S. Public Health Service, and country and local municipalities are collaborating for the exercise. Operation Lone Star is a real-world, emergency response exercise that allows first-response agencies and organizations to prepare for potential disasters while at the same time providing free medical care to those in need along the Texas border.

More than 400 military members, 300 federal, state and county employees and a myriad of volunteers united for the exercise, which started July 25 and ends Aug. 5. It provides a variety of medical services to include immunizations, sports physicals, blood pressure screenings, vision exams, pharmaceutical service, medical referrals, ministry services and preventative health education.

Operation Lone Star workers and volunteers provided more than 36,000 health services to about 5,950 people during the first week of the exercise, which was held in several Texas cities to include Brownsville, San Juan, Mission and Rio Grande City.

“We are providing free healthcare to the surrounding communities, those that are in underprivileged areas and those that do not have access on a day-to-day basis to affordable healthcare,” said Capt. Daniel Sem, a second-year, Operation Lone Star veteran. He is serving as the Texas Army National Guard officer in charge at the Laredo Operation Lone Star site. “I came away last year, and I trust I will come away this year, feeling like we did a job well done out here. We got a mission and a purpose and made an impact on the community.”

One of Capt. Sem’s Soldiers, Spc. LaRee Lennox, 162nd Area Support Medical Company, a Texas Army National Guard unit from San Antonio, Texas, said that since a lot of people here could not afford healthcare or insurance, this event helped provide much needed annual checkups and immunizations.

“I think it’s awesome that we’re helping,” said Lennox. “Everybody should have a chance to be healthy and get checked out, so I think it’s a good thing.”

While providing medical care is a major focus of the event, the other purpose is to prepare disaster response agencies and organizations in case an emergency situation, such as a hurricane landfall, emerges.

“The training that we get in running a non-disaster exercise like this prepares us for working together in disaster situations,” said Col. Robert Morecook, public affairs officer for the Medical Brigade of the Texas State Guard. “We get to know each other’s capabilities. We get to know each other’s personalities. We get to see where the strengths and the weaknesses are in our organization in a situation before a real disaster happens.”

This real-world training exercise is an important part of emergency preparedness for the Texas Military Forces and other agencies that may respond to hurricanes and other disasters.

“The training value from this is invaluable because when we have an emergency situation, a hurricane, a fire, a flood, whatever could happen, it’s better to learn it here in a controlled environment, a nonemergency environment, where we can come together and work out all the different hiccups and kinks in the system,” said Capt. Sem.

Operation Lone Star health care services will be available through Aug. 5 at the Laredo Civic Center at 2400 San Bernardo Ave. and at Hebbronville High School at 210 Longhorn Lane in Hebbronville, Texas. Services will also be provided Aug. 3-4 at the Rio Bravo City Hall at 1701 Centeno Ln. in Rio Bravo, Texas.

Texas State Guard Leadership Visits Operation Lone Star

Texas State Guard Leadership Visits Operation Lone Star
Staff Sgt. Phil Fountain, 149th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
2011/07/29

Photo of Maj. Gen. John Nichols touring the Medical Point of Dispensing (MPOD)
Maj. Gen. John Nichols, Texas’ Adjutant General, tours an Operation Lone Star Medical Point of Dispensing (MPOD) site with Ms. Chelsea Buchholtz, military liaison from the Office of the Governor, and Maj. Gen. Raymond Peters (right), commanding general of the Texas State Guard, at Pharr-San Juan-Alamo High School in the Rio Grande Valley on July 28, 2011.Photo by Staff Sgt. Phil Fountain, TXANG
Photo of Maj. Gen. Raymond Peters listening to Maj. Gen. John Nichols.
Maj. Gen. Raymond Peters, Commanding General of the Texas State Guard, listens to Maj. Gen. John Nichols, Texas’ Adjutant General, address an audience at Pharr-San Juan-Alamo High School as a part of Operation Lone Star in the South Texas Rio Grande Valley on July 28, 2011.Photo by Staff Sgt. Eric L. Wilson, TXANG

SAN JUAN, Texas (July 28, 2011) – Maj. Gen. Raymond Peters and Brig. Gen. Charles Miller, Commanding General and Chief of Staff of the Texas State Guard, respectively, joined Maj. Gen. John Nichols, Texas’ Adjutant General, for a tour of Operation Lone Star Medical Point of Dispensing (MPOD) site at Pharr-San Juan-Alamo High School in the Rio Grande Valley, today.

The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) leads the jointly operated event with the Texas State Guard, as well as other public health agencies.

For the 13th consecutive year, Operation Lone Star provides the state of Texas a unique inter-agency training environment to prepare for disaster relief and emergency management. Additionally, the effort provides medical care to a historically underserved population in the state with no direct cost to the patient.

Texas State Guard assets deployed for Operation Lone Star include physicians, nurses, other medical providers, and medics, as well as security, chaplains, attorneys, and public affairs.

During the previous Operation Lone Star in 2010, services were provided to 12,000 border area residents, and over 100,000 have been cared for during the program’s 12-year history.

During the visit, Maj. Gen. Nichols said, “We’re practicing what we’re designed to do, with all of our inter-agency partners,” and that Operation Lone Star is “an opportunity for us to join together and give something back to Texas.”