Laredo community proud to celebrate first US president

Anheuser-Busch Washington's Birthday Parade participants prepare to march through Laredo, Texas, Feb. 19.
Anheuser-Busch Washington's Birthday Parade participants prepare to march through Laredo, Texas, Feb. 19. The parade is part of Laredo's 114th year celebrating the United States' first president. The Washington Birthday Celebration Association invites the Texas Military Forces to participate in the parade in recognition of the TXMF's support in the Laredo community and its celebration.


 Story by Spc. Suzanne Carter

 LAREDO, Texas - Most of the United States lets George Washington's birthday pass unceremoniously, observed as  President's Day on the third Monday in February. That doesn't fly in Laredo, Texas.

 "They've been celebrating George Washington's Birthday for 114 years," said Carlos Garza, a Washington's Birthday  Celebration Association of Laredo, Inc., volunteer and liaison for the Texas Military Forces. 

 The George Washington Birthday Celebration began in 1898 with a mock battle between Laredoans and Native  Americans, where Laredoans presented the local Great Chief Sachem with the key to the city. Laredoans and people in  the surrounding area saw George Washington as the Sachem of the United States according to the Association. 

 "George Washington was so revered in the United States and Mexico that we honor him," Garza said. In and around  Laredo, Washington is the people's symbol of freedom and the celebration demonstrates their love of American history,  he said. 

 Growing from a simple two-day fiesta to the current month-long extravaganza, the celebration features parades, parties,  a carnival, an air show, and many other events. In the months leading up to and during the celebration, citizens of  Laredo portray George and Martha Washington during visits to schools, re-enactments, parades, and parties.

 "The Washington Birthday Celebration is one of the oldest celebrations of George Washington's birthday," said Francis C. Averill, this year's Washington. "Throughout the United States, not many of them take place. In Laredo, Texas, yes, we do have a grand one. People come from all over."

The celebration, which attracts more than 400,000 people each year, came packed with public and invitation-only events during its fourth and final weekend, February 18-20. Each event highlighted a different piece of Laredo's traditions and community as it honored the country's first president.

"Many people basically say, 'Laredo, Texas? George Washington?'" said Javier Cabello, a member of the Laredo Knights of Columbus. "We're here. We're part of the United States. We're honored to be citizens of this great country. We're blessed to have a culture that is a mix of both American and Mexican heritage. It's a great honor and privilege to be part of these festivities."

The celebration allows Laredoans to honor prominent members of the community while celebrating American history. During a welcome luncheon on Friday, February 18, the WBCA and La Posada Hotel honored one of the U.S. military's first female pilots, Laredoan Barbara Fasken. 

Texas State Guard Chief of Staff Brig. Gen. Charlie Miller presented the Congressional Gold Medal to Fasken's grandson, Spc. Robert D. Dickson of the 124th Cavalry Regt., during the luncheon. Fasken received the medal posthumously in recognition for her service in the Women Airforce Service Pilots during World War II.

Los Caballeros de la Republica del Rio Grande hosted the Caballeros Cocktail Party at the Laredo Civic Center Friday, where former Texas Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Jose S. Mayorga, Brig. Gen. Miller, and other Texas Military Forces representatives were honored guests.

"It's good to see the military here," said Charlie Elizalde, a photographer from San Antonio. "It's great to meet and greet them and thank them for their service."

Later that evening, the civic center's auditorium sparkled during the Society of Martha Washington Colonial Pageant and Ball. 

Averill and his Martha Washington, portrayed by Betty Ann B. Moreno, received nine debutantes and their escorts during the pageant, which recreated an event the Washingtons would have attended during George's presidency. Each couple represented significant figures from the Colonial period, decked in elaborate costumes that glittered in the spotlight as they promenaded across the stage.

"Wow! Those look great," Sam N. Johnson, a Laredoan who played Washington in 1979, said about the hand-beaded ball gowns. Johnson said the gowns get more elaborate every year.

Meanwhile, the rest of Laredo prepared for the next day's Anheuser-Busch Washington's Birthday Parade. Folding chairs tethered to parked vehicles lined the parade route by 6 p.m. Friday evening. Spectators filled those spots long before the parade began around 9 a.m. Sunday.

More than 160 floats, bands, performance troupes, and other participants marched in the parade, a GWBC staple since the celebration began. Spectators waved at passing public officials such as the mayors of Laredo and Nuevo Laredo, Texas Speaker of the House and Mr. South Texas Joseph R. Strauss, and Maj. Gen. Mayorga. 

Cabello said that Laredoans from all walks of life have the opportunity to participate in the parade, whether they're walking with a float or waving from the sidelines. 

"They always take great joy in seeing all of the entries in the parade, all the military units, all the civic and religious organizations that participate," he said.

Cabello said Laredoans enjoy the opportunity to host such a unique celebration.

"Laredo, we are a very friendly people," he said. "We are honored and proud to be part of this celebration, and we welcome [the public] with open arms."

Texas Guard at 70!

Texas Guard At 70!
MAJ Michael Quinn Sullivan, TXSG 

Photo of Banner with Color Guard that says "Texas State Guard at 70"
Image of the 2nd Battalion Color Guard, Texas Defense Guard in Houston, Texas, 1942

AUSTIN - While its history can be traced to Stephen F. Austin’s colonial militia, the modern Texas State Guard is celebrating its 70th anniversary this week. Today’s guard features more than 2,000 men and women serving the state – peak participation since World War II.

“Whatever the task, the Texas State Guard has been, and will continue to be, equal to it,” said Commanding General Ray Peters, who leads the Guard under the direction of the Texas Adjutant General and the Governor. “This is Texans serving Texans in practical and pragmatic ways.”

On Feb. 10, 1941, Texas Gov. Lee O’Daniel signed the Defense Act creating the Texas Defense Guard. The U.S. Congress had previously authorized the states to establish defensive units to serve at the discretion of the governor in support capacities. When the federal authority for the “Defense Guard” expired in 1947, the Texas Legislature re-authorized the entity under the banner of the “Texas State Guard Reserve Corps.”

Today’s state guard is one of three components of the Texas Military Forces, alongside the Army National Guard and Air National Guard. But unlike the National Guard entities, the State Guard generally serves only within the borders of the Texas and answers only to the governor. When activated, guardsmen provide critical services in times of natural and man-made disasters. In recent years the Texas State Guard has played critical roles in a wide-range of situations, from the search-and-recovery of the Columbia to shelter management in last summer’s Hurricane Alex.

“The flexibility of having 2,000 professional, civic-minded and uniformed Texans serving in the State Guard means we can mobilize anywhere in the state within hours of activation by the governor,” said Peters. “We serve to support the needs of local authorities, and provide for the relief and comfort of our neighbors at the worst of times. Whether it’s search and rescue operations with the Texas Parks and Wildlife, providing logistical support to the National Guard, or offering emergency medical care during a disaster, our men and women are trained to do it all.”

With only a half-dozen full-time staff, the Texas State Guard is composed of volunteer citizen-soldiers from all walks of life.

“For 70 years the men and women of the Texas State Guard have been honored to serve the people of Texas,” said Peters.

Two Honored for Spirit, Professionalism in Service

Two Honored for Spirit, Professionalism in Service
MAJ Michael Quinn Sullivan, TXSG 

Photo of NCO of the Year Award being presented
Major General Raymond Peters (right), Commanding General, Texas State Guard, and Brigadier General Robert Bodisch, commander of the Texas State Guard Maritime Regiment (left) presents the NCO of the Year Award Petty Officer 2nd Class Joseph Lofy of Katy(center).Photo by SGM Steve Gamboa

AUSTIN - Going above and beyond what is expected of a Texan has long been the Hallmark of the men and women serving in the Texas State Guard. But this year’s junior enlisted member and non-commissioned officer of the year exceed the state guard’s high standard for exceptional service.

Corporal James Smith of Arlington said he was just looking for a way to “give something back to my adopted state” when he joined the Texas State Guard in 2009. He said he was motivated to “do something to feel like I have earned the right to call myself a Texan.”

As the Junior Enlisted Service Member of 2010, CPL Smith says he believes the award reflects on the collaborative work of his fellow enlisted men and officers in the 4th Regiment.

Since joining the TXSG, CPL Smith has served in the 4th Regiment’s 2nd Battalion as a squad leader, developing materials to aid in the training of non prior-service guardsmen. He serves as his unit’s personnel NCO and public affairs officer.

During Hurricane Alex, CPL Smith deployed to south Texas where he oversaw the first operational utilization of the battalion’s Special Needs Evacuation Tracking System (SNETS). Outside the Texas Guard, CPL Smith is a professional engineer with degrees from Oklahoma State University and Emory-Riddle Aeronautical University.

Major Wendell Sadler, CPL Smith’s commanding officer said “CPL Smith has proven to be an apt leader within the unit and has expanded his role into the areas of personnel and public affairs. His attitude and initiative exemplifies the values of the TXSG.”

The NCO of the year is similarly motivating.

The Texas Maritime Regiment’s 1st Battalion has been served ably by Petty Officer 2nd Class Joseph Lofy of Katy.

Drawing from his prior service in the United States Navy and civilian work in emergency management, PO2 Lofy serves in the dual role of communications and intelligence NCO. He has pursued qualifications on the IC4U, ISIS and TICP communications systems, while also receiving his general HAM operating license.

“I joined the TXSG because I did not feel like I was finished serving my country and state," said PO2 Lofy. "The state guard was the outlet I felt I needed to explore, as it was a marriage of the two pastimes I enjoy: the military and emergency management."

His enjoyment is evident in by the degree to which he involves himself in his duties and responsibilities. In July, he received the Commanding General’s Individual Award for his support of the joint TMAR / Texas Parks and Wildlife training exercise. Commander Wayne Hogard of the Maritime Regiment says PO2 Lofy is a model guardsman.

“PO2 Lofy’s professionalism and volunteering sprit, along with his ’can-do’ attitude, exemplifies the embodiment of the TXSG soldier.”

That spirit was evident in 2010. While returning home from TXSG annual training, PO2 Lofy witnessed a motorcycle accident. He stopped and rendered lifesaving aid – an action for which commendation is pending.

The graduate of Fort Hayes State University is currently enrolled in a master’s degree program in emergency and disaster management. PO2 Lofy said he is excited about the opportunities presented in the TXSG to "continue to volunteer and learn all I can."

PO2 Lofy said that from the recognition he feels an even deeper obligation to "model for our junior personnel" the qualities to be a senior NCO.

When asked why he felt the compelled to be in the TXSG, Junior Enlisted Member of the Year CPL Smith spoke for many native born sons of the Lone Star State.

“There is something special about Texas,” he said. “I don’t care where you go in the world, when you tell people that you are from Texas there is a certain recognition that you are from someplace special.”

It’s the dedicated service of PO2 Lofy, CPL Smith and the more than 2,000 men and women of the State Guard, who make the Lone Star State special.

TXSG Deputy Commanding General Retires

TXSG Deputy Commanding General Retires
MAJ Michael Quinn Sullivan, TXSG 

Photo of Major General Raymond Peters presenting the Commander's Award for Public Service to retiring Brigadier General Robert Cheeseman.
Major General Raymond Peters (right), Commanding General, Texas State Guard, presents the Commander’s Award for Public Service to retiring Brigadier General Robert Cheeseman. The award was among many presented to Cheeseman during a retirement ceremony at Camp Mabry on October 30,2010.Photo by SGM Steve Gamboa

AUSTIN, Texas -- With more than 40 years of uniformed service to his nation and state, Brigadier General Robert Cheeseman’s distinguished career was recognized this weekend in a retirement ceremony at Camp Mabry.

“I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to wear the uniform and serve the citizens of Texas,” Cheeseman said in his remarks to family, colleagues and fellow guardsmen. “It’s been my honor to work among you and serve with you.”

Cheeseman has served in the Texas State Guard since 1996, the same year he retired from the United States Air Force. He had enlisted in the Air Force in 1966. As a staff sergeant, he was selected to attend Texas State University as a part of the Airman Education and Commissioning Program. He was commissioned in April 1972.

He is a graduate of the USAF Air War College, Air Command and Staff College, and Squadron Officers School. Cheeseman served in the Air Force as a Special Investigations and Counterintelligence Officer. His last assignment, with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, was as Deputy Director and Senior Special Agent, Contingency and Wartime Plans, at Headquarters in Washington, DC.

“We thank you for your service to Texas,” said Major General Raymond Peters, commanding general of the Texas State Guard in his remarks at the ceremony.

As a member of the Texas State Guard, Brigadier General Cheeseman's assignments have included Air Liaison Officer, Vice Commander and Commander of the 4th Air Wing, Inspector General, and Deputy Commanding General for Air.

Cheeseman and his wife, Lorraine, have two children and two grandchildren.

The Mission of the Texas State Guard is to provide highly trained soldiers for Defense Support to Civil Authorities by providing ready military forces during State Emergences to assist State and local authorities in homeland security, community service and with medical services.

The Texas State Guard is one of three branches of the Texas Military Forces, reporting to The Texas Adjutant General, Major General Jose S. Mayorga, The Commander-in-Chief of the Texas Military Forces is the Governor of Texas, Rick Perry. The other two branches are the Texas Army National Guard and the Texas Air National Guard.

8th Regiment Provides 'Wings Over Houston' Support

8th Regiment Provides ‘Wings Over Houston’ Support
CPT Joseph Conte, PAO, 8th Civil Affairs Regt., TXSG 

Photo of PFC Adam Dudley in front of a crowd.
PFC Adam Dudley (Foreground), 1st Bn., 8th Regt., provides flight line crowd control in front of a Commemorative Air Force (CAF) Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress “THUNDER BIRD”.

HOUSTON, Texas -- Over 100 Soldiers of the 8th Civil Affairs Regiment, Texas State Guard, helped make the 26th Annual Wings Over Houston Air Show a success on Saturday Oct. 23 and Sunday, Oct. 24 at Ellington Field in Houston.

The Wings Over Houston Air Show draws approximately 50,000 visitors annually. It is organized as a celebration of patriotism and an educational event providing community entertainment, aviation awareness and military recruiting opportunities.

The 8th Civil Affairs Regiment soldiers provided over 3,000 man-hours to its mission of gate access control, flight line crowd control, and crowd control during air show performances. This was the 24th time the 8th Regiment has participated in the Wings Over Houston Air Show.

Members of the Texas State Guard’s Medical Brigade, Houston Group, provided medical support to Wings Over Houston during air show operations.

The Highlights of the 26th Annual Wings Over Houston Air Show featured the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds Flight Demonstration Team, U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet Tactical Demo Team, USAF Viper West Demo Team F-16 Fighting Falcon, USAF A/OA-10 Thunderbolt II, USAF C-17 Globemaster III Demo, C-47 and C-17 Transport Heritage Flight, Air Force Heritage Flight, U.S. Coast Guard HH-65C Dauphine Helicopter Demo, Commemorative Air Force “Tora! Tora! Tora!” WWII Airpower Demo, Navy Legacy Flight and many others.

The show’s security coordinator, Chris Hendon, said he was very impressed with the 8th Regiment’s handling of the visitors during the air show performances. The 8th Regiment’s assistance will be requested at next year’s show, Hendon noted.

The Mission of the Texas State Guard is to provide highly trained soldiers for Defense Support to Civil Authorities (DSCA) by providing ready military forces during State Emergences to assist State and local authorities in homeland security, community service and with medical services.

The Texas State Guard (TXSG) is one of three branches of the Texas Military Forces (TXMF), reporting to The Texas Adjutant General, Major General Jose S. Mayorga, located at Texas Military Forces HQ, Camp Mabry (Austin), Texas. The Commander-in-Chief of the Texas Military Forces is the Governor of Texas, Rick Perry. The other two branches are the Texas Army National Guard (TXARNG) and the Texas Air National Guard (TXANG).

Texas State Guard Trains in oil spill response - hundreds more to be trained by end of year

Texas State Guard Trains In Oil Spill Response - Hundreds More To Be Trained By End Of Year
Maj. Michael Sullivan, TXSG Public Affairs
AUSTIN, Texas – With the effects of the Deep Horizon disaster still lingering, 30 members of the Texas State Guard recently received specialized instructor training in oil spill response strategies from the Texas Engineering Extension Service. By the end of 2010, a significant portion of the TXSG will be trained in oil spill response.

The course, funded by the Texas Division of Emergency Management, provided participants with the fundamental knowledge and skills needed to effectively manage an oil spill response operation.

With 691 drilling platforms on the Texas coast and 9 million acres leased offshore for exploration, the risk for a major spill is real, said Brigadier General Robert Bodisch, commander of the Texas State Guard Maritime Regiment.

“The Texas Maritime Regiment (TMAR) of the Texas State Guard is honored to participate in oil spill response training with the Texas Engineering Extension Service,” said Bodisch. “Following the recent BP incident in the Gulf of Mexico, it is important that we are properly trained and prepared to assist when called upon. This training exercise advanced our skills and knowledge for such an occasion.”

The hands-on training was conducted at Lake Bastrop in Texas, which is operated by the Lower Colorado River Authority. The classroom portion of the course was held at Camp Swift, a Bastrop training site for the Texas Army National Guard.

State Guard officers and enlisted men learned response strategies and techniques. They also participated in a simulated spill situation, assuming leadership and operational roles. Specific course topics included containment, clean-up and recovery of oil, sorbents, boom deployment, skimmer operations, and oil sampling and documentation techniques, as well as shoreline protection, clean-up and restoration.

The Texas Engineering Extension Service, operating under the authority of the Texas A&M University System, has delivered oil spill prevention and incident management training for the U.S. Coast Guard and the petrochemical industry since 1975. They are experts in oil spill control and response recently developed the curriculum and delivered instructor training for workers, contractors and volunteers involved in the Gulf cleanup operation following the BP Deepwater Horizon incident in April.