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

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

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.”

TXSG 1st Regiment Changes Command

TXSG 1st Regiment Changes Command
MAJ Michael Quinn Sullivan, PAO, TXSG
BROWNWOOD, Texas – A new commander of the Texas State Guard’s 1st Regiment took charge today in a ceremony at the Texas Military Forces training facility at Camp Bowie.

Photo of Change of Command
BG Manuel Rogriguez passes the 1st Regiment colors to LTC Chuck Brewton in the Change of Command ceremony that took place at Texas Military Forces tranining center at Camp Bowie on Sunday as outgoing 1st Regiment commander COL Raul Gonzalez, left, and CSM Joe Trevino look on.Photo by Sgt. Timothy Pruitt, TXSG

Including soldiers from New Braunfels/San Antonio to the Valley, the 1st Regiment has been commanded by COL Raul Gonzalez of Laredo, since 2006. He is being transferred to TXSG headquarters in Austin. The new commander is LTC Chuck Brewton of San Antonio.

“Serving with the men and women of the 1st Regiment has been a pleasure and honor,” said COL Gonzalez. “I look forward to continue serving them in my new capacity.”

1st Regiment is one of six in the TXSG's Army Component. The other TXSG components are the Air Division, Maritime Regiment and Medical Brigade. The TXSG, commanded by MG Ray Peters, is part of the Texas Military Forces, which includes the Army National Guard and Air National Guard.

The Army Component is commanded by BG Manuel “Tony” Rodriguez, to whom LTC Brewton will report.

Brewton has served as Gonzalez's executive officer since March. He entered the TXSG in 2003.

“COL Gonzalez leaves some big shoes to fill,” said LTC Brewton. “The heart and soul of the Texas State Guard are the men and women serving their neighbors and fellow Texans, so as commander of 1st Regiment my job is to make sure they have the tools and training needed to do it.”

Organizationally, the 1st Regiment of the TXSG includes three battalions and a Quick Response Team.

BG Rodriguez said he is pleased LTC Brewton would step up as the regiment's commander.

“He has a real heart and passion not only for the state guard, but also the soldiers in the 1st Regiment, their families and the people who live in South Texas and the Valley,” said Rodriguez

Texas State Guard Deploys to Camp Bowie, Texas for Annual Training

Texas State Guard Deploys to Camp Bowie, Texas for Annual Training
COL Robert Hastings, PAO, TXSG
CAMP BOWIE, BROWNWOOD, TEXAS – Over the next two weeks, some 1200 members of the Texas State Guard (TXSG) will deploy from across the State of Texas to Camp Bowie to complete their annual training. Annual Training 2011 will focus on the ability of the Texas State Guard to accomplish Defense Support to Civilian Authority (DSCA) missions through multiple training events and command and control exercises.

“The principle focus of our annual training this year is the execution of our mission essential tasks in support of civilian authorities and in response to a civil disaster,” said Maj. Gen. Ray Peters, commanding general of the TXSG. “As we enter the hurricane season it is important for the leaders and citizens of Texas to know with confidence that the Texas State Guard is trained and ready to respond as we have many times in recent years.”

Training activities planned for TXSG personnel include the Texas Emergency Tracking Network (TETN), the National Incident Management System, mass care operations, wide area damage assessment, global positioning system operations, first aid, land navigation, radio communications and command post operations among other activities. Additionally, several professional military education courses will be conducted to include the Primary Leadership Development Course and the Basic Noncommissioned Officer (NCO) Course.

One of the most important activities planned for this year’s training is a command, control and communications (C3) exercise which will train and test leaders’ abilities to employ and manage TETN, mass care and shelter operations, points-of-delivery, and wide area damage assessment mission sets in response to a hurricane scenario. The C3 exercise will be conducted in a table top environment with simulated communications traffic.

Annual training also serves as the venue for TXSG’s annual Quick Reaction Team (QRT) competition. Each civil affairs regiment with TXSG is assigned a QRT consisting of personnel trained and equipped for rapid deployment anywhere within the state of Texas, to respond to emergencies involving disaster assessment, search, rescue and recovery, and infrastructure protection. The QRT competition will test the readiness and skills of each QRT in four areas; land navigation, leadership reaction course, physical fitness, and pistol marksmanship.

“We’ve been preparing for several months now to ensure this annual training event provides quality training that is both challenging and rewarding for our soldiers,” said Peters. “At the same time this annual training will help ensure the force as a whole is at its maximum level of readiness to respond to potential civil emergencies we may face this hurricane season.”

Camp Bowie is a Texas Military Forces training center located in west central Texas near the cities of Brownwood and Early.

“We appreciate the continued partnership of the City of Brownwood which is once again playing an important role in supporting our training,” said Peters. “The citizens of Brownwood have always been hospitable towards the Guard, and the City actively engages in our training scenarios to enhance realism and to practice real-world inter-agency coordination.”

In recent years the TXSG has been called to active duty for nine hurricanes (Katrina, Rita, Dean, Humberto, Dolly, Edouard, Gustav, Ike, and Alex), the Eagle Pass tornado in 2007, and severe flooding in Marble Falls in 2007. The TXSG is also the lead military component for Operation Lone Star in the Rio Grande Valley – the state’s largest annual medical emergency preparedness mission.

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

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

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