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Sgt. Alvarado’s Journey to becoming a Non-Commissioned Officer

Story by Captain Leyda Ocasio-Kanzler, Public Affairs Officer,  Joint Task Force - Guardian Support

Sgt. Jeffrey Alvarado, intelligence analyst with Team Laredo has his specialist rank removed by Capt. Yihte Ban, Alpha Company 636 Military Intelligence Company Commander in Laredo, Texas, Dec 16, 2019. Entering into the NCO Corps is a memorable promotion as it marks the era of a new beginning of responsibility. (Texas Army National Guard photo by Capt. Leyda Ocasio-Kanzler)
Sgt. Jeffrey Alvarado, an intelligence analyst with Team Laredo has his specialist rank removed by Capt. Yihte Ban, Alpha Company 636 Military Intelligence Company Commander in Laredo, Texas, Dec 16, 2019. Entering into the NCO Corps is a memorable promotion as it marks the era of a new beginning of responsibility. (Texas Army National Guard photo by Capt. Leyda Ocasio-Kanzler)

LAREDO, Texas- Sgt. Jeffrey Alvarado joined the Texas Army National Guard at the rank of Specialist, having completed his Basic Leadership Course while on active duty. The journey to become a Non-Commissioned Officer is a distinguished honor to take. For Alvarado, it was one that he aspired to complete. Alvarado started his journey by signing an eight-year contract with the active duty component. Later, he decided to switch over to the National Guard to finish out his contract with the military. However, since the National Guard offers incentives such as extra college money for his children and a signing bonus, he offered to sign an additional six-year contract with the National Guard to extend his military service.

Within four months of integration into the Texas Army National Guard, Alvarado was offered an opportunity to join Joint Task Force-Guardian Support as an intelligence analyst supporting U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s operations in Laredo, Texas. Alvarado decided to accept the position and relocated to Laredo, Texas. “Now I’m happy, because I actually enjoy it here,” said Alvarado. “I like my job, I enjoy what I’m doing, I like the town, I like the people, I like everything about it.” Alvarado’s previous experience with military intelligence during his active duty service has made him an incredible asset to Team Laredo.

Marshall Taylor, an intelligence research specialist for CBP, said “Sgt. Alvarado has been crucial in identifying multiple persons and places of interest which are suspected of belonging to criminal organizations that have ties to major drug cartels.” Being on this mission has allowed Alvarado to not only expand his knowledge within his military career, but to put his skills into action. His collaboration with CBP has further developed the mission of securing our southwest border.

Marshall goes on to give recognition to the countless hours that Alvarado has dedicated to assisting Customs and Border Protection in combating the Transnational Criminal Organizations operating within the 177 miles of the Laredo sector area of operations. He states that “Sgt. Alvarado’s go-getting attitude and ability to solve complex problems makes him an intelligence analyst any unit would be proud to showcase.” Laredo has become a place of new beginnings for Alvarado, who upon completion of his military contract is aiming to pursue a career within the Laredo Police Department.

The National Guard Soldiers deployed to the border are an active force in working to alleviate the humanitarian crisis on our border while simultaneously ensuring it is more secure. The National Guard continues to be a support to CBP, developing a partnership with them in order to create a strong force that remains ready and willing to serve their state and nation.

Col. Shaunte Y. Cooper achieves high honor as first African American Colonel for 147th Attack Wing

Article and photographs courtesy of the Marshall News Messenger

In its 102-year history, no African American had been promoted to the rank of colonel in the 147th Attack Wing in the Air Force. At least not until Marshall’s own Lieutenant Colonel Shaunte Y. Cooper.Marshallite achieves high honor as first African American Colonel for 147th Attack Wing

Cooper got a leg up into the military with a bachelor of arts degree with a double major in history and business administration from Wiley College in 1992. In 2015, she received her master of arts degree in professional development, graduating Summa Cum Laude, from Amberton University in Garland.

Col. Cooper’s military career started in 1989 when she joined the Texas Army National Guard. Cooper said she mainly originally joined the military to receive assistance with college tuition at Wiley College. She transitioned to the Texas Air National Guard in 1993 as an enlisted Airmen. In 1994, she was commissioned and became a personnel officer at the 136th Airlift Wing in Fort Worth.

She also earned her teaching certificate for Texas elementary education and taught fourth grade at John Neely Bryan Elementary School in Dallas.

In 1999, Col. Cooper’s leadership skills were recognized when she served as an assistant to the relocation officer for the successful relocation of the 136th Airlift Wing from Dallas to its current location in Fort Worth. She was praised for her determination to schedule and plan the effort, and high recognition was received on this project.

She then transitioned to the 147th Attack Wing in Houston and served as the director of personnel for a year in 2003-04, then as the Commander of Mission Support Flight from April 2004 – Nov. 2006, and went on to serve as the interim Mission Support Group Commander from May 2006 – Dec. 2006.

Marshallite achieves high honor as first African American Colonel for 147th Attack Wing

During her time with the 147th attack wing, she participated in the overseas missions of Operation Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom after 9/11 occurred.

Her federal military awards include the Meritorious Service Medal, Air Force Commendation Medal, Air Force Achievement Medal, Air Force Outstanding Unit Award, National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Armed Forces Service Medal, Humanitarian Service Medal, Air Force Longevity, Armed Forces Reserves Medal, Army NCO Professional Development Ribbon, Small Arms Expert Marksmanship Ribbon, AF Training Ribbon and the Army Service Ribbon.

Col. Cooper’s state military awards include the Lone Star Distinguished Service Medal, Texas Outstanding Service Medal, Texas Medal of Merit, Texas Governor’s Unit Citation and the Texas Adjutant General Individual Award.

Col. Cooper is the daughter of Melba Jones and the granddaughter of the late Lorenza Washington and Warreen Washington of Marshall. She has been married to Ramsey Cooper for 28 years and they are the proud parents of one daughter, Sydnie.

“My husband Ramsey and daughter Sydnie Nicole have made many sacrifices over the years for my career. They have been very understanding of the demands of military life and are the reasons why I feel purposeful and accomplished,” she said.

Marshallite achieves high honor as first African American Colonel for 147th Attack Wing

She said her family is extremely proud of her and have always been supportive of her career. One of the reasons Cooper has made her way to the top is due to the perseverance her mom, Melba, taught her.

Her grandmother, Warreen, taught her about compassion, a characteristic Col. Cooper strives to emulate when it comes to mentoring others.

With her promotion, Col. Cooper is the Air National Guard Advisor to the Air Force Recruiting Service Commander at the Joint Base Randolph in San Antonio. She is responsible for directing the integrated Staff of the Air Force Recruiting Service. She represents the ANG on recruiting issues and is the primary point of contact for manpower and personnel actions.

 

This article first appeared in the Marshall News Messenger as "Marshallite achieves high honor as first African American Colonel for 147th Attack Wing" on February 9, 2020.

Army Commissions New Physician Assistants

Story by Andrew R. Smith, Texas Military Department Public Affairs

Fort Hood, Texas – On January 31, 2020, Class 17-3 graduated the Army’s Interservice Physician Assistant program at the Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center, welcoming four new physician assistants into the Army.

January 31, 2020 Soldiers from Interservice Physician Assistant Program class I7-3 graduate during a ceremony held at the Caral R. Darnall Medical Center. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Andrew R. Smith/Released)
January 31, 2020 Soldiers from Interservice Physician Assistant Program class I7-3 graduate during a ceremony held at the Caral R. Darnall Medical Center. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Andrew R. Smith/Released)

The graduating Soldiers were recognized for completing their postgraduate studies and earning the title of physician assistant (PA).  Three of the four Soldiers also earned their commission as Army officers upon completing the course. Among the attendees were unit members and family members of the graduates, as well as medical professionals who had worked alongside the students to provide training and education.  

For one of the graduates this event was the culmination of years of work and the fulfillment of a long-term life goal. 

“I always wanted a medical career.  I was commissioned as an engineer but I had a great relationship with the battalion PA in my last unit,” said Capt. Adam Todd. “She helped the unit immensely by evaluating running related injuries and physical routines.  She made a suggestion to the battalion command that the intensity of runs be reduced and injuries in the unit decreased sharply.  That ability to have influence on the battalion commander and the ability to help Soldiers really inspired me.”

To become a physician assistant, students must pass classes in anatomy, physiology, pathology, diagnosis, treatment, disease processes, communication and patient assessment.  This rigorous coursework includes weekly tests and many hours of research and writing outside of class.  Fortunately, the students were in the hands of very capable instructors— some of who had taken the same path and gone through the same course of study.

Guest Speaker Teresa Walters, an Army veteran of 20 years, as well as a graduate of the Army’s Interservice Physician Assistant program provided the graduates a few words of wisdom and insight.

“I always tried to interject life lessons into what I was teaching, the method I use is humor.  It really opens the students up and I feel like it gets them to trust you more,” she said.  “I also tried to make myself as available as possible for any questions they had, be it classes or life in general. I let them know the importance of being approachable as a PA.”

When asked about how it felt to be remembered fondly by the students and asked to return and speak at their graduation Walters said, “I was honored when they asked me to come back and speak at their graduation.  I taught them almost two and a half years ago and it validated the work I did and what I taught them, and to me showed that I made a difference.  It meant a lot that they remembered all of that, and I can’t wait to see what they do.” 

With assignments in hand, the students will report to field units where they can begin to put their training and education to use by serving and safeguarding Soldiers.

The Army officially began its physician assistant program in 1971 at the Medical Field Services School in Fort Sam Houston, in San Antonio, Texas.  The roots of the program date back to World War II, when a fast-track training for medical doctors was implemented to assist in the war effort. In today’s Army, a physician assistant performs most of the duties of a healthcare provider on a battalion level, providing localized and immediate care to soldiers wherever they may be.

Congresswoman Kay Granger Visits Southern Border

Story by Texas Military Department Public Affairs Office

EL PASO, Texas- Members of the Texas Military Department hosted a congressional visit to the El Paso area of the Texas-Mexico border on November 22, 2019.  There, Congresswoman Kay Granger (TX-12) met with the Adjutant General of Texas, Maj. Gen. Tracy R. Norris, and received an overview of the Joint Task Force Guardian Support mission, currently led by the United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Congresswoman Granger also visited with troops currently assigned to Joint Task Force Guardian Support. 

The Texas Army National Guard began their partnership with CBP beginning in 1989, with the start of the Texas Joint Counter Drug Task Force.  Throughout the years, Texas Soldiers and Airmen have operated in support roles to enhance border security. A 30 year mission of continuous sustainment has evolved from the control of drug infiltration to the United States, to logistical and intelligence operations along the southwest border.    

Currently, Joint Task Force Guardian Support is comprised of Soldiers and Airmen from more than 12 states.  Their mission is to operate in a supportive role which allows CBP agents to return back to enforcement duties and the administration of immigration law. Operations performed by the National Guard include aerial support, motor vehicle maintenance, transportation, detection and intelligence analysis and logistical support, among other capabilities. 

EL PASO, Texas -- U.S. Border Patrol Agent in Charge Walter Slosar gives a guided aerial tour of the U.S. border to Rep. Kay Granger, the congresswoman from Texas District 12 and ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee, and the Adjutant General of Texas, Maj. Gen. Tracy Norris, during her congressional visit to the area, Nov. 22, 2019. The delegation traveled by a Texas Army National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk from El Paso through Monuments I and III to the U.S. Border Patrol's Santa Teresa Station in Sunland Park, New Mexico. At the station, Rep. Granger, Maj. Gen. Norris, U.S. Army Budget Liaison Maj. Mark Bedrin, House Appropriations Committee Professional Staff Homeland Minority Clerk Dena Baron and Communications Director Sarah Flaim, met with CBP personnel and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers representatives to further discuss the state of the border, specifically in their sector. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Christina Clardy)
EL PASO, Texas -- U.S. Border Patrol Agent in Charge Walter Slosar gives a guided aerial tour of the U.S. border to Rep. Kay Granger, the congresswoman from Texas District 12 and ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee, and the Adjutant General of Texas, Maj. Gen. Tracy Norris, during her congressional visit to the area, Nov. 22, 2019. The delegation traveled by a Texas Army National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk from El Paso through Monuments I and III to the U.S. Border Patrol's Santa Teresa Station in Sunland Park, New Mexico. At the station, Rep. Granger, Maj. Gen. Norris, U.S. Army Budget Liaison Maj. Mark Bedrin, House Appropriations Committee Professional Staff Homeland Minority Clerk Dena Baron and Communications Director Sarah Flaim, met with CBP personnel and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers representatives to further discuss the state of the border, specifically in their sector. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc.
Christina Clardy)

The National Guard aerial support function has been vital to assisting federal agents in the field with monitoring migrants. The National Guard also assists with aerial rescues. Due to the continuous support of the National Guard, CBP has been able to enhance its security efforts along the southwest border.  National Guard ground support is comprised of Soldiers and Airmen providing motor vehicle maintenance support, thus increasing the roadside capabilities within the CBP force.  With the support of Congresswoman Granger, returning agents to enforcement duties has become a more obtainable goal for CBP. 

Congresswoman Granger is no stranger to the Texas National Guard. Throughout her career, she has worked to prioritize federal funding for concurrent military modernization efforts in order to keep the National Guard at par with the active component.  In 2017, as the Chairwoman of the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee, Rep. Granger oversaw the appropriation of eight C-130J Super Hercules aircraft for the Air National Guard.  This marked the first time that the National Guard had received new C-130J models since 2005.

“Modernized air assets provide a stronger future for aerial delivery support and make the unit more competitive for additional missions,” said Maj. Gen. Dawn Ferrell, Deputy Adjutant General for Air, Texas Military Department. “If the 136th Airlift Wing receives C-130J models, it will extend the unit's aircraft lifespan significantly over the current C-130H model.  With its increased cargo capacity and improved performance characteristics, the C-130J would enhance the wing's operational capabilities to better serve Texas and the nation.”

Congresswoman Granger’s visit to the current border mission, Joint Task Force-Operation Guardian Support, was an opportunity to highlight her focus on domestic response strategy. It also allowed her to demonstrate her continuous bipartisan support of both the Guard and the citizens of Texas.

“Her support has ensured the UH-72 Lakota’s availability for domestic support missions, to include hurricane response, wildfire suppression and border operations,” said Brig. Gen. Thomas Suelzer, Director of Joint Staff, Texas Military Department.

As a voice for the National Guard, Ms. Granger was successful in the critical fight for maintaining AH-64 Apaches and Infantry Brigade Combat Teams within the National Guard, and has worked tirelessly to ensure the National Guard’s operational readiness is maintained.  When force structure conversations take place between the Active Duty and the Guard, the Texas Delegation looks to her for her leadership in defense related issues.  Ms. Granger has worked tirelessly to remain educated on the Guard issues that affect her district, the Texas Guard and the Guard’s 54 states and territories.

U.S. Border Patrol Agent in Charge Walter Slosar gives a guided aerial tour of the U.S. border to Rep. Kay Granger, the congresswoman from Texas District 12 and ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee, and the Adjutant General of Texas, Maj. Gen. Tracy Norris, during her congressional visit to the area, Nov. 22, 2019. The delegation traveled by a Texas Army National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk from El Paso through Monuments I and III to the U.S. Border Patrol's Santa Teresa Station in Sunland Park, New Mexico. At the station, Rep. Granger, Maj. Gen. Norris, U.S. Army Budget Liaison Maj. Mark Bedrin, House Appropriations Committee Professional Staff Homeland Minority Clerk Dena Baron and Communications Director Sarah Flaim, met with CBP personnel and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers representatives to further discuss the state of the border, specifically in their sector. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Christina Clardy)

Even now, as the ranking member of the powerful House Appropriations committee, Ms. Granger continues to support the mission of the National Guard. 

“The Congresswomen’s support of long-term sustainment of the RC-26B in the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act protects a manned platform at the 147th Attack Wing,” said Maj. Gen. Ferrell.  “This airframe is an integral asset used domestically in support of the southwest border mission and is unique to the Guard.” 

These improved capabilities within the Texas Military Department have amplified readiness levels, mirroring those of units on active duty. This allows Maj. Gen. Tracy R. Norris to heavily focus on the future of the organization and the growth of both manpower and resources for the Texas Army and Air National Guard. 

“The Texas Military Department is extremely thankful for the ongoing support of the Texas Congressional delegation and the leadership provided by Congresswoman Granger,” said Marcy Weldin, Director of Government Affairs, Texas Military Department. “Because of her support we are better equipped to serve the citizens of Texas and the nation when called upon. For that reason, Maj. Gen. Norris has nominated her for the National Guard Association of the United States’ distinguished Harry S. Truman award.”

Congressman Granger’s other awards include the Minuteman Award, Navy Distinguished Public Service Award, as well as the Great American Patriot Award.

 

2019 TMD Legislative Successes

Highlighting the Work of the TMD Government Affairs Office in 2019

Article by the Texas Military Department Government Affairs Office

During the Regular Session of the 86th Legislature, the Government Affairs Office (GAO) closely tracked 501 of the 7851 bills filed by the Texas Legislature. Additionally, GAO maintained situational awareness of and expertise on all issues relating to military and state agency topics. In addition to these monitoring responsibilities, GAO remained in constant contact with legislative offices to serve as a resource and knowledge base for both members and staff. A consistent presence in the Capitol allowed TMD to answer questions and engage with offices on a daily basis. Education for legislative staff and members was provided by Texas Military Department (TMD) General Officers, GAO and Office of Executive Director (OED) personnel through meetings with members, testimony provided at Committee Hearings and numerous staff-to-staff engagements. The Regular Session of the 86th Legislature gaveled in on 8 January 2019 and gaveled out on 27 May 2019. Of the 7851 bills filed, 1323 were passed by the Governor and 58 bills were vetoed. State capitol

Governor Abbott, in his State of the State address, laid out issues of particular importance and declared school finance reform, teacher pay raises and property tax relief as emergency items, allowing them to be taken up by the legislature in the first 60 days. These emergency items were in addition to other items of interest such as school safety, disaster response and mental health. 

This year the GAO added new team members to its staff. These team members were quick to adapt to their new roles and quickly established relationships with key legislative members and their staff. TAG, OED and GAO staff met with every Senator and Representative on the Finance and Appropriations committees. Moreover, GAO staff regularly met with members of the Defense and Veterans’ Affairs, and Veterans’ Affairs and Border Security committees. 

CPT Owen Williams along with the GAO team worked tirelessly on coordinating an Army Day event with members of the legislature. The intent of this event was to familiarize Texas legislators and their staff with the Texas Military Department, showcase our capabilities and engage in productive conversation. The intended outcome for was event was to recoup diminished funds from previous legislative sessions. The event’s success was so well received by the Adjutant General and Deputy Adjutant Generals, that CPT Williams was tasked with coordinating a second Army Day. This event was as successful as the first.

Throughout the interim, GAO will continue outreach to members and legislative staff, including but not limited to: armory visits, district engagements, change of command ceremonies, interim committee hearings, TMD legislative days and other engagements as appropriate.

Bills passed by 86th Legislature that directly benefit the TMD: 

- SB 1598/HB 2241 by Senator Hall and Rep. Tinderholt: Relating to hazardous duty pay for security officers employed by the Texas Military Department. 

This legislation amends the Government Code to allow a security officer employed by the Texas Military Department to receive hazardous duty pay, subject to applicable eligibility requirements.

- SB 1597/HB 3391 by Senator Hall and Rep. Shine: Relating to awarding certain medals for military service performed individually or as part of a crew. 

This legislation amends the Government Code to expand eligibility for the Lone Star Medal of Valor, Texas Outstanding Service Medal, and Texas Medal of Merit to include certain acts of military service performed as a member of a crew or team.

- SB 602/HB 1326 by Senator Hall and Rep. Flynn: Relating to the continuation and functions of the Texas Military Department. (SUNSET) 

Relates to the Sunset Review of TMD. This bill guarantees the continuation of the Texas Military Department as a state agency until September 1, 2031.

 

Successes in Budget: 

At the beginning of the 86th Legislative session, we requested funding for four exceptional items. This year, TMD was fortunate enough to receive funding in all four areas. 

Exceptional Item 1: State Guard Expansion – $2M 

Exceptional Item 2: Emergency Preparedness & Indirect Administration - $5M 

Exceptional Item 3: Facilities Management & Operations - $15.3M (STAR - $10M and Deferred Maintenance - $5.3M) 

Exceptional Item 4: Service Member Care $87K 

Overall agency FTE cap increased from 569 to 641.

From the Top January 2020

A Message from The Adjutant General

Happy New Year! I hope each of you had a relaxing and happy holiday season. As I enter this second year as your Adjutant General, I want to take a moment to pause and look back at 2019. As you know, it is by looking at our past that we can best prepare for our future, and so I want to take the lessons learned from both the wins and losses of last year to better prepare for a successful 2020. 

Major General Tracy R. Norris is the Adjutant General of Texas.
Major General Tracy R. Norris is the Adjutant General of Texas.

At the state level, we had one of our most successful State Legislative sessions ever. Our team worked hard to ensure that our elected officials were well informed of the good work of our TMD members and of the needs of the agency in our effort to keep our State and Nation safe. The Texas-Mexico border was of particular interest to our elected officials, and I am so proud of the professionalism and positive attitude of our Soldiers and Airmen who have gone to the border, many of whom were sent on short-notice orders. Nationally, we were able to secure support from the Texas Delegation in DC to coordinate with III Corps and Ft Hood to establish our RTI as a total Army school system. This is a huge win for the Texas National Guard and further secures our status as a national leader in readiness and training.

Looking forward, I am excited to see where we go and grow as an agency in the new year. Gaining additional force structure for Air and Army and modernizing all components will be a priority, so prepare for being a participant in this effort. This will include getting Armor back to Texas and growing the Air Guard force structure. Texas is already often in the spotlight, and as we grow this scrutiny will only increase. Each of you must take responsibility for your individual readiness. Be mentally and physically prepared. The new Army Combat Fitness Test is no joke, and I expect Texas to be a leader in showing other states how to train for this test, and how to pass it with ease. I also will be prioritizing succession planning. We must make sure that our future leaders, both officer and enlisted, are ready to take over one day. This means a focus on talent management, so be prepared for an increased prioritization of the future of this agency. It will be no surprise to any of you that maintenance will be a priority for the 2020 as well. It’s time we remember that maintenance is mission, and prioritize it because nothing is more important than the safety of our Soldiers and Airmen.

It has been an honor to be your Adjutant General this past year, and I am ready for another year of challenges and victories with ya’ll. Texas is strong, Texas is ready. We will continue to lead the nation and to fight for the good of our communities, keeping them safe here at home, and fighting for their safety abroad. Thank you for all you do. Your dedicated service is the heart of this organization. Thank you for your hard work and sacrifice.

Duty. Honor. Texas.

 

Airmen urged to be catalysts for innovation

By Airman 1st Class Charissa Menken, 136th Airlift Wing, Texas Air National Guard

FORT WORTH, Texas – Technology is shaping the modern civilian world. But as innovation evolves, so does the mission of Air Force warfighters.

Capt. Jennifer Marrs, 136th Airlift Wing force support services officer, guides public affairs members through the AFWERX location while explaining what sharing and products they provide to Airmen and start-up companies Sept. 5, 2019, Austin, Texas. Marrs displays what facilities start-ups and AFWERX members can utilize to develop new ideas while networking. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by A1C Charissa Menken)
Capt. Jennifer Marrs, 136th Airlift Wing force support services officer, guides public affairs members through the AFWERX location while explaining what sharing and products they provide to Airmen and start-up companies Sept. 5, 2019, Austin, Texas. Marrs displays what facilities start-ups and AFWERX members can utilize to develop new ideas while networking. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by A1C Charissa Menken)

The Air Force has taken steps to encourage Airmen, education outlets, and new technology companies to be catalysts for change by partnering with AFWERX. The organization was established in 2017 by Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson to serve as the transition between contemporary ideas and real solutions.

"When you ask the average Airman, they probably have no idea that AFWERX even exists," said Capt. Jennifer Marrs, 136th Airlift Wing Force support services officer and chief of innovation at the 136 AW, Texas Air National Guard. She also is product manager and director of community outreach at AFWERX.

"Most people understand innovation as a buzzword, but they don't necessarily know how they are empowered to actually solve problems, which I think is a really incredible opportunity."

At AFWERX, Marrs works to connect Airmen who have problems or innovative ideas to academic outlets and technology start-ups.

"Innovation is something I'm really passionate about because we always say we are trying to get emergent technology in the hands of our warfighters," said Marrs. "My brother is a special operations pilot, so it's near and dear to my heart that my brother, and Airmen like him, have the latest and greatest technology."

"Airmen and NCOs are really shaping what innovation looks like," she said. "It's like they're steering the ship, but our leaders are giving us the latitude to try and do things we've never done before."

AFWERX has multiple products, including small business innovative research (SBIR), crowdsourcing and technology accelerators, available to Airmen, entrepreneurs and cutting edge companies.

All good ideas start somewhere. For the 136th Airlift Wing, that place is the Innovation Room or "Inno Room," where Maj. Mathew Joseph, 136th Civil Engineer Squadron commander, and Marrs facilitate discussion with Airmen.

"We're leading the way in innovation, and I would say it even goes beyond the 136th," said Joseph. "It's also the Texas Military Department and our Texas Adjutant General Tracy Norris."

One of the first partnerships created for the 136 AW, through SBIR, is with ICON, a company that creates printers, robotics and advanced materials for homebuilding.

"Just because we need to be standardized, we've been running on more of an antiquated system because it's something that everyone knows," Joseph said. "But if we can crack the code with getting emergent technology like ICON to work with us, we can catch up to where industry is" and use resources more efficiently.


Joseph touted the benefits of being part of the innovation team.

"Since we're in a standardized military organization, it lends itself to pushing you back into the box," he said. "So given the ability to work with these SBIR programs and AFWERX, we not only have the opportunity to think, but we get to play outside the box."

Equal to the Task

Preparing for the Army Combat Fitness Test

Story and Photos by Charles E. Spirtos, TMD Public Affairs

ACFTWhen a force is fit, it is more lethal and more agile in the face of threats. Whether the call is on the battlefield, or during the heat of a natural disaster like a hurricane, the men and women of the Texas Military Department maintain constant preparedness to maintain a force ready to support federal authorities home and abroad.

Part of maintaining a professional force is maintaining maximum physical fitness. A recent Army-wide innovation that will allow the force to maintain relevance and increased lethality is the introduction of the Army Combat Fitness Test as the test of record for assessing Soldier fitness.

The ACFT will be a superior metric in determining a Soldier’s readiness for the battlefield by evaluating complex actions that have direct parallels to motions frequently encountered in the battlefield, according to TMD Command Senior Enlisted Leader CMSgt Michael E. Cornitius. Cornitius also believes that the collaborative nature of the ACFT will increase camaraderie within the force: “You can encourage each other through the course of the test. You’re going to have at least four battle buddies to walk you through it--so that’s what I like about it.

The Army Combat Fitness Test may be a challenge for Soldiers who are used to the older physical fitness test. However, SSG Anthony Delagarza believes that training in support of the ACFT will allow the Texas Military Department to become the fittest, most lethal force in the country. The Army Combat Fitness Test is not easy. In fact, many seasoned Soldiers have described it as extremely daunting. This doesn’t scare us off however, this motivates us. After all, when have Texans ever backed down to a challenge?

Texas State Guard’s "Young Heroes” Holiday Program Hits 100K Toys

Story By: WO1 David Brown, TXSG HQ Ass’t PAO

Texas State Guard members met with the CEO and VIPs of fiveBelow at the fiveBelow Gateway Station, Burleson, Texas, December 21, 2019. fiveBelow is a sponsor for the Texas State Guard - Young Heroes of the Guard Toy Drive.
Texas State Guard members met with the CEO and VIPs of fiveBelow at the fiveBelow Gateway Station, Burleson, Texas, December 21, 2019. fiveBelow is a sponsor for the Texas State Guard - Young Heroes of the Guard Toy Drive.

AUSTIN, Texas -- This past Christmas, one of the most popular and best-known outreach programs of the Texas State Guard reached a new benchmark.  During the 2019 season, the Texas State Guard (TXSG) Toy Drive collected over 100,000 toys, which brought a smile to the faces of hospitalized and homeless children across the Lone Star State.
 
Sgt. First Class John Gately, the Young Heroes of the Guard Toy Drive Coordinator for the last 6 years, reports that the final tally by Christmas Day was 104,604 toys, with a retail value of over $500,000.  Since its inception in 2009, Young Heroes of the Guard has collected and distributed more than 349,000 toys.
 
This is an all-time record for the 11-year-old project, founded by TXSG Chaplains. The initial success of the Toy Drive in North Texas captured the attention – and the imagination – of officials at TXSG Headquarters, who, for Christmas 2014, expanded the program statewide.  Last Christmas, children’s’ hospitals and shelters from Galveston to El Paso received toys collected through this program.

Making this effort even more remarkable is the enormous amount of logistical support work put in by individual citizen-Soldiers of the TXSG.  In addition to their routine Guard duties and their obligations to their own jobs and families, some organizers, such as Lt. Steven Coder of Godley, Texas, put in six to eight hours a day from mid-October up to Christmas Eve. Lt. Coder’s work included organizing the many moving pieces that make such a project successful.

“When you give that child a toy and you watch her face light up”, Coder says, “you’ll understand why we do it.  This toy drive brings such joy—not just to the kids, but to everyone involved, and it lasts long after the holidays.” 

More recently, the program has developed a partnership with the retail store “fiveBelow working together to bring hope and joy to Texas communities. For the third year in a row, members of the TXSG took up positions outside “fiveBelow ” stores across Texas, asking shoppers to make a toy donation on their way out.  Other members of the TXSG, including their families and supporters in the community, set up collection boxes outside businesses and churches.  Hess Corporation, the energy company with offices in Houston, donated 3,000 of its famous toy trucks to the effort.

In early December, the toys were gathered at local armories, sorted into age groups, and distributed to hospitals and shelters across Texas.

When asked, will it be possible to match the spectacular success of the 2019 TXSG Toy Drive next December? 

Coder sighs and cracks a knowing smile.  “We’re already getting to work on that!”

Texas State Guard Deploys for Imelda

Story by Staff Sgt. Gregory Illich

Photo: P.O.D.Tropical Storm Imelda made landfall at Freeport, Texas, and dumped 43 inches of rain on the Texas Southeast Gulf Coast over five days from September 17-21, 2019.   Many people on the Gulf Coast, still recovering from Hurricane Harvey just two years before, found themselves again in the crosshairs of the massive storm.
 
Imelda hit the Texas bayous and low-lying areas of Jefferson and Orange Counties the hardest.  Emergency responders and local emergency management organizations acted quickly to initiate rescue efforts and set up emergency shelters.  Although the danger of Imelda slowly subsided, the impact of the storm continued to be a threat as floodwaters persisted.

As residents began to cope with the loss of property, electricity, drinking water, and necessities, county emergency officials requested further help from the state.  Within twenty-four hours of the requests, the Texas State Guard activated 182 members and moved into the “strike zone” to deliver supplies to those in need. 

“The Texas State Guard received the request on September 20  and guard members were on scene the following day working alongside the Texas Army National Guard which delivered water and needed equipment and the Texas Forestry Service which also supplied equipment and forklift operators to replenish loading points,” stated 1st Sgt. Terry Lene, Texas State Guard Military District Coordinator for Jefferson County.

Working alongside the Texas State Forest Service and local volunteers, the Texas State Guard established six distribution points in Jefferson and Orange counties supporting the cities of Hamshire, Fannett, Nome, Bevil Oaks, Vidor, and Mauriceville. Other Texas State Guard units were staged at an emergency operation center established in Woodville in order to support boat rescues and provide medical support.
  
This truly was an example of Texans serving Texans in every way.  Seeing emergency responders, volunteers, local organizations, and the Texas Military Department working together in a partnership meant that our mission would get done efficiently and effectively.  The residents who came through our distribution points were grateful for the help and were an inspiration for their resiliency,” remarked Col. John Diggs, Tactical Emergency Operations Center, Texas State Guard.

At each distribution point, Texas State Guard members safely directed vehicles and some pedestrians into the distribution lanes where hundreds of packs of bottled water and bagged ice were stacked and ready.  As vehicles drove up the designated lanes, lining up much like an assembly line, guard members were able to load three vehicles simultaneously with water and ice while the drivers waited inside their vehicles.  Local partner agencies such as area food banks and the American Red Cross also provided food and cleaning supplies.  Other donated supplies including baby supplies were distributed as needed.
   
Guard members assisted more than 10,000 families at the six distribution points.  They distributed 22,728 cases of bottled water and 7,632 bags of ice to 9,729 vehicles.
 
Robert Viator, Orange County Precinct 4 Commissioner, expressed his appreciation for the support of the Texas State Guard.  “The Texas State Guard helped our citizens through this disaster.  I don’t think we could make it without the assistance of these men and women who serve our country and serve us and our community.”