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State Partnership Program Brings Together Chile and Texas Guard for Cyber Training

Photo By Capt. Micheal Ortiz | The Texas National Guard and the Chilean Army met Aug. 28-30, 2023 for a joint cyber security exercise in Santiago, Chile as part of the State Partnership Program (SPP), to exchange ideas, train to defend against cyber threats, and discuss the importance of the growing a cyber-defense program in the military.
Photo By Capt. Micheal Ortiz | The Texas National Guard and the Chilean Army met Aug. 28-30, 2023 for a joint cyber security exercise in Santiago, Chile as part of the State Partnership Program (SPP), to exchange ideas, train to defend against cyber threats, and discuss the importance of the growing a cyber-defense program in the military.

AUSTIN, TX– The Texas National Guard and the Chilean Army met Aug. 28-30, 2023 for a joint cyber security exercise in Santiago, Chile as part of the State Partnership Program (SPP), to exchange ideas, train to defend against cyber threats, and discuss the importance of the growing a cyber-defense program in the military.

Col. Christopher Howell, chief of the Cyber Operations Branch, Joint Force Headquarters, Texas Military Department, said that the exchange of knowledge is a valuable tool for improving cyber security in both countries.

“We want them [Chile] to further understand how Chile’s cyber operations and organizational capabilities employ tactical responses at a military level. Also, we discussed the communications within their country,” Howell said.

As cyber threats become more common, it is crucial to support the relationship amongst both countries and strengthen the bonds between military and their civilian counterparts, Howell said.

1st Lt. Jose Pantoja, with the Chilean Navy, said that these long-term partnerships are critical for international security for the future.

“I think keeping this relationship between Chile and Texas is fundamental to develop our capacities and our apprenticeships to improve our defenses. With this experience, the Texas National Guard shares with us their knowledge and training for maintaining our systems. We are also learning how they coordinate with their citizens,” said Pantoja.

The exercise included a simulated cyber-attack on a Chilean government website. Partners from both countries worked together to overcome challenges and address vulnerabilities brought to light during the exercise.

Sgt. Maj. Darla Wright, senior non-commissioned officer for the Cyber Operations Branch, Texas Military Department, said building junior soldiers’ knowledge is beneficial to both the military and the individuals.

“We wanted to share the different aspects that have been key to retain and recruit cyber personnel within the organization, and that is making every person understand their contribution and their effort is recognized and this will create growth within the cyber-intelligence field now and for the future,” Wright said.

The Texas National Guard leaders also discussed the importance of rewarding hard work, developing individuals’ skills, and allowing each member the opportunity to advance within the Chilean Army.

“Often the best recruiter is the person who is already doing that job. They have those skill sets, so the different things that we can help is to interview the talent within and train Soldiers to become instructors, “ Wright said.

The Texas National Guard and the Chilean Army will continue to work together to share information, develop personnel, and respond to cyber threats and guidance for the future.

Texas National Guard Deters Trespassing at UT-Brownsville

Soldier at Texas Mexico border

BROWNSVILLE, Texas – In response to increasing illegal immigrant traffic on the University of Texas Brownsville campus, Texas National Guard Airmen, along with law enforcement partners, have installed barriers and continue to patrol the area, regularly apprehending illegal migrants attempting to use the campus to evade detection.

According to university officials and local law enforcement agencies, illegal migrant trafficking was a daily occurrence along the property. The college was not only experiencing a rise in trespassing incidents, but theft and property damage increased in parking lots and common areas throughout the campus.

The Texas Guard began an army engineer operation to clear brush and install triple-strand concertina wire along the fence line of the college late last year during a large influx of illegal crossings occurring between Brownsville’s two main international ports of entry.

Operation Lone star also increased the number of security points and added roving patrols between the ports of entry. During April and May, the Guard surged manpower, equipment and capabilities to the area.Soldier's shoulder patch standing in front of a concertina wire fence

The Guard has maintained a focused presence in the area to protect local businesses, residence and government entities from illegal migration and criminal activity. Texas National Guard is dedicated to preventing, deterring and interdicting transnational criminal activity, in conjunction with our state and local partners, along the Texas and Mexico border.

Texas National Guard Aid in Stash House Raid

Soldiers standby while Border Patrol agents process detaineesLAREDO, Texas – Texas National Guard Soldiers, along with law enforcement partners, apprehended seventeen individuals located in a known illegal migrant stash house this week that lacked running water, restrooms and limited power according to the personnel on the operation.

The operation stemmed from an anonymous tip from the Crime Stoppers Program in the Laredo area. The information provided described a vacant house believed to be sheltering a large group of illegal aliens. Guard Soldiers assigned to Operation Lone Star collaborated with local and state law enforcement to respond the morning of August 30.

“The house was very small and living conditions were bad,” said Sgt. 1st Class Vasquez, Platoon Sergeant for Alpha Company’s second platoon. “There were signs that the group was one of many utilizing the house in recent days.”

The Guard established a perimeter around the house and property to allow law enforcement to approach the residence. Several individuals tried to flee from the back door but were stopped upon seeing the Soldiers positioned in the streets. The individuals were detained immediately by law enforcement officials and the area was secured.

The Guard has referred over 613,000 illegal migrants and criminal elements to law enforcement partners since the beginning of Operation Lone Star in March 2021. Illegal migrant and criminal referrals include surrenders as well as interdictions to apprehend. Law enforcement partners instruct Soldiers in apprehending illegal activity thus multiplying manpower to prevent, deter and interdict border crossings.Soldiers stand outside a house at night

“Our law enforcement partners have told us we are a force multiplier here in Laredo and without us their job would be much more difficult,” said Vasquez.

The Texas National Guard, in conjunction with law enforcement partners, is dedicated to preventing illegal migrant crossings from Mexico to the US and stopping cross-border illicit narcotics trafficking.

OLS Stops Human Smugglers

Soldiers standing having meeting outsideLAREDO – Texas Army National Guard soldiers stopped human smugglers attempting to use a raft to cross the Rio Grande last week. The Soldiers in partnership with state and federal law enforcement made the smugglers turn back into Mexico to avoid being arrested.

The Soldiers were on a dismounted patrol near the riverbank, when they were alerted by their law enforcement communication partners to a raft of attempted human smugglers floating across the border river.

As the smugglers made their attempt to cross, Guardsmen discovered various hiding places human smugglers use to hide illegal immigrants as part of a growing money-making scheme. Soldiers say they often find these immigrants in the tall reeds and thick brush that line the banks of the river before they are taken by smugglers for their illegal passage into the United States.

“It’s about getting into their head,” said Spc. Ramirez, a Soldier assigned to Alpha Company, Task Force Center. “You have to be able to think like one of them to understand where someone in their position would think to hide.”

The Soldiers utilize advanced tracking hardware and software to accurately detect the positions of the migrants and use their knowledge and experience of tracking people through the terrain that surrounds the southern border.

“It’s like a game of hide and seek,” said Spc. Ragland, also with Alpha Company, Task Force Center. “But they’re as smart as you, if not smarter, in ways to get around law enforcement or anybody that’s trying to stop them from illegally immigrating into the US.”two soldiers walk near Rio Grande River

The soldiers on Operation Lone Star operate in this way across the entirety of Texas southern border, and they are trained to intercept illegal immigration before the criminals make landfall into the United States.

The Texas National Guard, in conjunction with interagency partners, is dedicated to preventing illegal migrant crossings from Mexico to the US and stopping cross-border illicit narcotics trafficking.

Oklahoma National Guard among border contingents

EL PASO, Texas – Oklahoma National Guard Soldiers are serving along the Texas and Mexico border to prevent, deter and interdict illegal border crossings and other illegal activity. The Oklahomans are part of a larger coalition of states supporting Operation Lone Star.

Oklahoma is currently serving as part of the Emergency Management Assistance Compact in Texas along the southern international border with Mexico. In the past three months, multiple states have rotated personnel and equipment to Operation Lone Star.

“We patrol and call up anything suspicious or if anyone looks like they are about to cross illegally,” said Spc. Trace Greer, an Oklahoma National Guardsman assigned to Task Force West. “They [Oklahoma National Guard] were asking for volunteers to come to the border and I felt like doing something to help my community out.”

The multi-state support is not new for Operation Lone Star. In October 2021, Arkansas National Guard provided a team of mechanics to support operations in the Rio Grande Valley. The team was responsible for maintenance on tactical vehicles assigned to Operation Lone Star.

In the past three months, multiple states have joined the EMAC response to support Texas in securing the southern border.

“The support we have received in the El Paso area of operations from our partner states is crucial to mission success,” said Maj. Sean Storrud, Operation Lone Star Task Force West Commanding Officer. “The Oklahoma National Guard contingent, as well as our other partner states, have provided the extra manpower we need to continue to prevent and deter illegal border crossings to secure our nation’s backyard.”

Operation Lone Star was launched by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on March4, 2021, in response to the rise in illegal immigration and criminal activity on the southern border. The Guard partnered with local and state law enforcement agencies to answer the call to secure the nation’s international border with Mexico.

KFOR 32 Transfer of Authority Ceremony

CAMP BONDSTEEL, Kosovo – NATO’s Kosovo Force officially welcomed the 32nd rotation of U.S. Soldiers taking responsibility for the Regional Command – East mission during a transfer of authority ceremony, June 30, 2023.

KFOR transferred authority between the outgoing RC-East team, 76th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Task Force Nighthawk from Indiana and the incoming 56th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Task Force Texans from Texas.

“We have been blessed and couldn’t have asked for a better team,” said Col. Chris Mabis, commander of the 76th. “You have all been tremendous teammates and I am forever grateful for your dedication to this mission.”

The ceremony started with the National Anthem, sung a cappella by Task Force Texans and Alabama National Guard 1st. Lt. Timothy Lett, a helicopter flyover and the changing of state flags, from Indiana to Texas. In front of the three flag poles, that prominently display the American flag, the state flag of the current Regional Commander and the NATO flag, leaders from the 76th cased their unit’s colors, officially signifying the conclusion of their nine-month mission in the region, followed by leaders from the 56th IBCT unfurling their unit’s colors, representing the beginning of their mission in Kosovo.

“The actions and contributions of Task Force Nighthawk have been invaluable and will have lasting impacts for years to come,” said Maj. Gen. Angelo Ristuccia, KFOR commander. “The U.S. has provided world-class Soldiers to the KFOR mission over the years.”

During the 76th’s tour, RC-East completed 219 air mission requests, more than 2,500 patrols and more than 3,000 soldier-leader engagements.

“I look forward to working with international organizations and the institutions in Kosovo to support peace and stability in the region,” said Col. Ross Walker, commander of the 56th IBCT and incoming commander of RC-East. “We’re here to maintain a safe and secure environment and freedom of movement for all people in Kosovo.”

Soldiers from Texas, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Alabama, and Illinois National Guard units join Soldiers from ten contributing partner nations, forming the Regional Command East team, all dedicated to maintaining a safe and secure environment and freedom of movement under the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244 of 1999.

State Partnership Program Bolsters Aliance

Santiago, Chile –Texas Air National Guard Capt. Phil Fountain and Texas Army National Guard Capt. Michael Ortiz refreshed valuable relationships and continued building bonds between the two countries through a successful Subject Matter Expert Exchange, July 12, 2023, in Chile as part of the National Guard’s State Partnership Program with the Chilean Joint Staff. 

The collaboration took place to increase awareness of the Chilean Army’s role of providing security and protection, build trust between the Chilean Army and citizens, and develop positive relationships between Texas National Guard and the Chilean military. 

“The State Partnership Program provides a unique opportunity to share best practices,” said Capt. Phil Fountain. “Being in Chile has been a great experience to understand how they conduct public affairs operations and community relations activities. I had the opportunity to be here last year and meet our public affairs counterparts, and this year we have further strengthened our relationship and mutual understanding.”

During their time in Chile, the Texas National Guard Public Affairs team joined the Chilean Army’s Public Affairs team's historic Route 77 initiative, which commemorated the Battle of La Concepción. The team visited the Museo Historial y Militar de Chile where they learned more about the Chilean Military’s history as part of the Student Day Program. The visit by students from Escuela Premilitary Heroes de la Concepción to the museum served to highlight the importance of educating the youth of Chile about their country's history.

The Texas National Guard was also part of a community outreach effort in the commune of La Pintana, where the Chilean Army showcased its military police K-9 unit, an Army band played music for the children, and local health organizations provided information on vaccines and other services for the community. The team was interviewed by Chilean journalists, and the success of the outreach demonstrated the positive impact of the multi-national efforts to connect with the local community. 

“The Chileans have been gracious, welcoming, and very supportive of the exchange,” said Fountain. “We went into local communities and learned how the Chilean army connects with the citizenry, from participating in public health events to engaging with local schools and connecting people together through their museums of history.”

The Texas National Guard’s participation in the SMEE supports the U.S. Southern Command’s strategic goal of strengthening partnerships with countries in the region. Through their participation, Texas National Guard personnel can share their expertise and best practices in public affairs with the Chilean military, underscoring the importance of communication and collaboration to successfully accomplish the mission.

This exchange was also part of an ongoing effort in the SPP, which seeks to improve each nation’s ability to remain highly adaptive to changing security and geopolitical conditions. The SPP provides professional military education and training opportunities that facilitate collaboration and foster enduring relationships. 

“The State Partnership exchanges are a high note of my career,” Capt. Phil Fountain said. “I look forward to the opportunity to return to Chile and to, someday, welcome our partners to Texas.”

The Texas National Guard personnel continues to work closely with their partners to maintain and strengthen relationships and the bond between the organizations. The SPP and the SMEE program are an important part of Texas National Guard’s mission to serve the citizens of Texas and the people of the world. 

Texas National Guard Continues to Secure Laredo

LAREDO, Texas – The City of Laredo is a high-traffic area for international crime and illegal border crossings. In recent months, Task Force Center, located in Laredo has experienced a significant uptick in criminal smuggling of illegal aliens and drugs. This increase leads to more vehicle and foot chases involving local and state law enforcement officials, often aided by Texas National Guard partners.

“The Soldiers of Task Force Center are flexible and highly motivated for mission success,” said 1st Sgt. Nate Warfield. “We will continue to prevent, deter, and interdict transnational criminal activity along Texas Mexico border with our law enforcement partners.”

In Laredo, Guardsmen use advanced night vision equipment to patrol known human and drug smuggling routes. Local and state law enforcement can directly communicate with the Guard to synchronize efforts to interdict the criminal activity. Unmanned aerial vehicles and other aviation assets provide all partner agencies with the bird’s eye information needed to safety and effectively conduct operations. Employing those skills and equipment has led to more than 210,000 apprehensions and referrals to law enforcement.

The partnership with law enforcement grows stronger with every apprehension in Laredo and across the entire border. Joint Task Force Lone Star will continue to hold the line against criminal activity and illegal border crossings to ensure Texans’ backyards are safe.

Texas National Guard continues to secure El Paso

EL PASO, Texas – The Texas National Guard has continued to hold the line between Texas and Mexico along the Rio Grande River, stopping any mass migration attempts like those seen earlier this year. Soldiers from the Texas Military Department patrol the roads and river and fortify concertina wire barriers.

Earlier this year, El Paso was the epicenter for thousands of immigrants trying to across the river illegally, going over walls and through tunnels to get into the US.

Joint Task Force Lone Star, El Paso Region commander, Maj. Sean Storrud said he has seen significant changes in the past few months.

“Operational changes already began occurring before the end of Title 42, significantly affecting illegal immigration into El Paso”, Storrud said. “We anticipate an increase in efforts to breach the C-Wire in an attempt to access the storm sewers that go under the border wall or in an attempt to go over the border wall with ropes and ladders.”

To reinforce border security, more engineer troops deployed to construct more than 17 miles of concertina-wire barrier along the Rio Grande River.

Soldiers from the Florida, Tennessee, and Arkansas National Guard have joined the effort in El Paso and other areas along the border areas.

The Leading Edge: 147th hosts third annual leadership development course

The 147th Attack Wing hosted its third annual Leadership Development Course at the Lone Star Museum in Houston, June 1-4, 2023.

The four-day course covers a variety of topics, to include communication skills, time management, conflict resolution, developing and demonstrating discipline, interpersonal skills and more. In addition to the course material, the LDC also offers members the opportunity to learn alongside their peers and foster stronger networks of leadership. Master Sgt. April Miller, 147th Operations Group), attended the LDC last year as a student, and decided to return this year as a course facilitator.

“Going through the course last year completely re-motivated me, to where I took the lessons I learned back to my unit and began taking on more of a leadership role,” said Miller. “What’s great about doing it this year is that I still learn so much as a facilitator in this course.”

The LDC facilitators collect and review feedback from students after each course to make changes and improvements to the curriculum. This year, they added the “5 Voices of Leadership” assessment, which helped students identify their unique leadership style.

“The leadership assessment really helped drive home that whole team concept,” said Miller. “You get to see how you are as a person in a group, and why you think the way you do. That was the most involvement I have seen out of this course so far.”
In addition to new changes to course materials, the 147th was invited members of the 136th Airlift Wing and 149th Fighter Wing to the course to help facilitate professional development and networking across multiple wings.

“This is my first time here, and it’s been a great experience,” said Senior Master Sgt. Celeste Larouche, senior enlisted leader for the 149th Host Aviation Resource Management Office. “There were a lot of new leadership concepts I had not yet been exposed to and I truly appreciated learning about them; there’s a lot of new tools that have been offered to me through this course.”

Reflecting on her first visit to the event, Larouche expressed her appreciation for the opportunity to learn new leadership concepts, expand her tools of leadership, and build lasting relationships with peer-leaders.

“This event was well worth the time,” said Larouche. “I’ve truly gained a lot of experience, I’ve networked here, and I’ve accomplished a lot of personal and professional development here.”