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Soldier, Architect, Expert Engineer: Texas State Guardsman and Purple Heart recipient earns prestigious engineering award

By David Brown, WO1, Texas State Guard

LUBBOCK, Texas – Texas State Guard First Lieutenant Christopher Beck, a Purple Heart recipient, has been awarded the Engineer Specialty Qualification designation from the State Guard Association of the United States. The designation is awarded to the most experienced engineers upon completion of the SGAUS Engineer Specialty Qualification Identification program. 

The program was created by the SGAUS Engineering Academy in 2015 to help state guard forces quickly identify and deploy highly-trained engineers during state emergencies. 

“By earning the prestigious Engineer Specialty Qualification designation, Lt. Beck is leading the way among TXSG engineers,” says Lt. Col. Cecil Bell, Chief Engineer for the TXSG Command Group and General Staff.  

The demanding training program includes coursework developed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s National Incident Management Structure and FEMA Independent Course Studies. Beck, a Midland native, undertook two years of intensive training to earn the honor.

“The most challenging aspect was time; it takes an immense amount of time to get through all requirements and training,” says Beck, a Texas Tech graduate with a Master’s Degree in Architecture.

In addition to SGAUS membership, successful applicants must earn the SGAUS Basic Military Emergency Management Specialist badge, pass a physical fitness requirement, and demonstrate qualifying knowledge and experience in the field of engineering or construction, with a professional degree or extensive work experience in engineering, construction management, architecture, surveying, technology or a related field.  

Beck is a Project Captain and Associate Architect at WCA Design Studios in Lubbock.  
He describes himself as a lifelong learner. “In the profession of architecture, you expand your knowledge daily, and I take that to all aspects of my life.”  

Public service has been a central part of Beck’s life. Beck served for a combined total of over 11 years in the U.S. Army and Texas Army National Guard, including service in the 56th Brigade Combat Team. Beck joined the ranks of the TXSG in December 2017. His twin brother, Pvt. 1st Class Robert Beck, also serves in the TXSG. 

While prior federal service is not a requirement for TXSG service, Beck cites a desire to assist fellow Texans and the opportunity of serving with his brother as two major factors in his decision to join the TXSG. 

The skill badge on Lt. Beck’s uniform speaks to his own personal accomplishment and highlights the emphasis the TXSG places on the continued professional training of its soldiers. 

“I’m sure others will be inspired by his success,” Bell adds, “and I heartily encourage qualified members of our Engineer Corps to explore the challenges and opportunities offered by the SGAUS Engineering Academy.”

Beck currently serves in the 2nd Battalion, 1st Brigade, TXSG as an Engineer Primary Skills Officer. Beck, his wife, Kerry, and their two children live in Lubbock. 

The Texas State Guard is actively looking for Texans interested in serving their fellow Texans, and it especially encourages applications from those with backgrounds in engineering, construction, law and law enforcement, information technology, medicine, communications, and other professions. More information about joining the TXSG can be found online at https://tmd.texas.gov/state-guard.

The mission of the Texas Military Department (TMD) is to provide the Governor and the President with ready and trained forces in support of the citizens of Texas and State and Federal civil/military authorities at home and abroad.

The Texas Military Department is commanded by the Adjutant General of Texas, the state's senior military official appointed by the governor, and is comprised of the Office of State Administration, the Texas Army National Guard (TXARNG), the Texas Air National Guard (TXANG) and the Texas State Guard (TXSG). 

 

Texas State Guard 1st Brigade marks Women's History Month

By Cpt. Phoebe Sisk, 1st Brigade, Texas State Guard

DALLAS, Texas -- Ten Texas State Guard females of varying ages, experience, rank, and duties came together on March 15, 2021, at the Texas Army National Guard Armory, in honor of Women’s History Month. The meeting was led by TXSG Brig. Gen. Robert Hastings, the 1st Brigade’s Commanding General, and focused on various topics to include, retention, recruiting, and employment, specifically for women in the Guard. 

Such considerations are every day, but the recent celebration of International Women’s Day, a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women offered the perfect catalyst to meet, celebrate, and brainstorm, bringing the best ideas to the table.

“Today, women comprise approximately 15 percent of our brigade,” said Hastings.  “We have three female company commanders and one first sergeant.  That is not what it could be, what it should be, or more importantly what we want it to be.”

Hastings explained his goal is to double the statistics by this time next year.

During the opening remarks, Hastings expressed one of his goals as a leader is to empower women in uniform and promote an equal force for the future. 

“My perspective is anchored in my experiences – those of a middle-aged white male,” Hastings explained.  “I can’t change that, but I can learn from your perspectives.” 

Through the open dialogue approach, servicemen and women were able to discuss tough topics such as sexual harassment, with mutual respect and understanding. 

The movement of conversation was fast and the key substance of real issues was discussed: Was sexual harassment an issue, and if so, did the women in the room feel comfortable and empowered to address it? Did they know how to report inappropriate behavior and seek assistance if necessary?

From the discussions, it was determined that sexual harassment was not an issue in the brigade, across the board, including those new to the TXSG and those with extensive experience.  “It’s just a non-event throughout all of the time that I’ve served,” offered TXSG 1st Sgt. Mary Wilson, who added that she makes it a point to keep her ears open to all happenings up and down the chain of command as the most senior enlisted female of the unit. 

Recruiting was a big first topic, with key insights offered by TXSG Staff Sgt. Angela Scarborough, a recruiter assigned to the 1st Brigade, who was recently recognized as TXSG Recruiter of the Year.

“Women want to speak to other women”, explained Scarborough.   Scarborough and others in the room recognized that recruiting and retaining women is important in order to reflect the nation’s population and ensure strong military leadership. 

The team discussed innovative ways to increase awareness of how women can serve, as well as educate local citizens on the Texas State Guard as a whole. 

Reaching the market of those who have never served is key, letting potential candidates know that age is not a prohibitor, that skills of being an informal community leader, and most of all, possessing a servant’s heart, are some of the best indicators of success in the TXSG.

Texas State Guard’s 2nd Lt. Kylie Green, who entered the TXSG to offer skills as a licensed RN, reflected on her moment of realizing that she could balance service with parenting and other life duties. “Understanding that we don’t deploy outside of Texas and that the training is part-time was important because it meant that I could be a mom and still be part of the TXSG.”

“It was wonderful to get to know General Hastings and meet some of the other ladies in the Texas State Guard,” said Pvt. Jerah Hutchins, a recent enlistee.  “They are all so selfless and accomplished!”

March is a time to celebrate the contributions and honor the sacrifices and accomplishments of women who not only shape our military but our nation as well. 

Through the use of the female-focused meeting, and by providing the opportunity to network with peers and participate in group discussions, the Texas State Guardsmen are able and empowered to stand ready to serve--they are “Texans Serving Texas.”

For more information about the Texas State Guard, please go to www.join.txsg.state.tx.us.

Texas Counterdrug leads the way in the technical field, assists HSI succeed in its mission

Story by Master Sgt. Michael Leslie 
Texas Joint Counterdrug Task Force 

Texas National Guard Joint Counterdrug Task Force communications support member, Staff Sgt. Daniel Pando, works on cutting-edge electronic equipment to support the Homeland Security Investigations Technical Operations Unit catch drug trafficking organizations in El Paso, Texas. Texas Counterdrug has supported federal, state and local law enforcement throughout the state for more than 30 years in the war on drugs.
Texas National Guard Joint Counterdrug Task Force communications support member, Staff Sgt. Daniel Pando, works on cutting-edge electronic equipment to support the Homeland Security Investigations Technical Operations Unit catch drug trafficking organizations in El Paso, Texas. Texas Counterdrug has supported federal, state and local law enforcement throughout the state for more than 30 years in the war on drugs.

EL PASO, Texas – In a world where technological advances have become a part of many people’s everyday life, these Texas National Guard Joint Counterdrug Task Force members must ensure they are ahead of the game, or they will fall behind to the drug trafficking organizations they are trying to help dismantle.

For the past four years, Texas Counterdrug has supported the Technical Operations Unit of Homeland Security Investigations in El Paso and its contribution has paid high dividends.

“The Technical Operations Unit provides HSI components with the most innovative, cutting-edge electronic surveillance equipment and support in furtherance of criminal investigations and national security operations,” said HSI El Paso Group Supervisor Efren Aguilera, who oversees Tech Ops.

The support that Texas Counterdrug members, Army Staff Sgt. Jose Pena and Air Staff Sgt. Daniel Pando, provide for the Tech Ops Unit has no limits.

“They assist with the everyday functions of the Tech Shop that includes fabricating enclosures, function testing and issuing electronic equipment to special agents,” said Aguilera. “They support the office with radio operability functions and assist with surveillance operations. In a nutshell, they provide a wide spectrum of support.”

When Pena and Pando were assigned to the group 3 1/2 and 2 1/2 years ago respectively, they had interest in the mission but were not fully capable – yet.

“The way we were able to learn and become more proficient of the job was due to on-the-job training and exposure to the experience Technical Enforcement Officers have,” said Pena. “We had plenty of hands-on training.”

Now, Pena and Pando are providing essential instruction to agents on proper deployment, use and exploitation of various pieces of covert technical surveillance equipment.

“We pass on our experience to others by informing agents how to utilize equipment properly for their operations,” said Pena. “We also assist them in making key decisions on what specific device is the most adequate pertaining to the related case and environment.”

How they accomplish this support is even more intriguing.

“We have, several times, designed, fabricated and constructed fully customized enclosures utilizing various combinations of Plexiglas, fiberglass, metal, wood, 3D printed parts, customized decals, and paint to fully conceal,” said Pena. “All fabrications and constructions met and exceeded specifications for temperature and humidity.”

The Texas Counterdrug support not only provides HSI with additional technical support, but it allows for licensed HSI officers to return to the operational field.

“They're a force multiplier,” said Aguilera. “HSI El Paso is an extremely busy office and having National Guard support the Tech Ops Unit is a huge benefit. The Tech shop is a small unit with a big mission, so having Pena and Pando as part of the team, has been a relief.”

As an Air Force veteran, Aguilera knows what the service members bring to Tech Ops and beyond.

“In my experience, you can always count on National Guard personnel getting the job done in a timely manner and with minimal guidance,” said Aguilera. “The mission is in a better place with the partnership fostered with the National Guard, not only for Tech Ops, but for the other HSI programmatic areas for which they offer support.”

Tech Ops and Counterdrug must always improve; thinking outside the box to build new products and how they can implement them.

“They are hardworking task force members who go above and beyond, learning new ways to create new products to put in new devices,” said Sgt. 1st Class Gilberto Urbina, a Texas Counterdrug assistant team leader.

These capabilities support HSI, but also several law enforcement agencies in their area ranging from Deming, New Mexico, and reaching far into the Texas plains. They also provide support for nationwide cases.

“Our capabilities within Tech Ops would include support to the whole HSI El Paso area of responsibility with specialty technical equipment for HSI cases,” said Pando. “As well, we assist Border Patrol and the Texas Department of Public Safety with equipment.”

The task force members are not content where they are now, Pena and Pando want to keep training and moving forward to support HSI even more.

“We want more advanced training that benefits the members,” said Urbina. “For example, we’d like high-voltage training and media exploitation devices.”

Law enforcement agencies throughout the state have witnessed the expertise, commitment and dedication that the Counterdrug task force members have brought to their offices for more than 30 years.

“I respect the professionalism of the National Guard personnel,” said Aguilera. “I look forward to the continued partnership with Counterdrug.”

It is clear that the HSI Tech Ops Unit is one of the best in the country and Staff Sergeants Pena and Pando have had a crucial role in that success.

“Nationwide, HSI El Paso consistently ranks among the top in overall enforcement statistics,” said Aguilera. “These are the successes we share with our partner agencies to include the National Guard.”

Guardsmen deliver water to communities throughout Texas following record-breaking winter storm

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By WO 1 Gregory Illich Texas State Guard and Robert Seyller

COLLEGE STATION, Texas – As a winter weather storm moved into Texas on February 13, 2021, Governor Greg Abbot activated the Texas National Guard in response to increasing precipitation and projections of record low temperatures throughout the state.

As snow and sleet continued to fall, water and power infrastructure were lost by more than 12 million Texans. In response, The Texas Department of Emergency Management in Coordination with the Texas Military Department began distributing bottled drinking water to those in need.

As Texas Guardsmen in San Antonio unloaded pallets of water from a C-17 Globemaster, Maj. Gen. Tracy R. Norris, the adjutant general of Texas, took a moment to highlight the importance of the mission.

"This is water, this is critical to life, you can only go two or three days without water so this is a life-sustaining mission you are taking on," said Norris.

Guardsmen from the Texas Army, Air, and State guard were joined by service members from multiple state National Guards including South Carolina and Illinois along with active duty Air Force members to fly pallet after pallet into distribution hubs in San Antonio and College Station, Texas.Loading water

The Texas Air National Guard’s 136th Airlift Wing out of Fort Worth, Texas is among the units bringing water to airports across the state. The 136 AW’s C-130 Hercules transport planes deliver thousands of pounds of water that are stacked into Texas Army National Guard helicopters and Medium Tactical vehicles for transport to county and city distribution centers.

Col. Keith Williams, wing commander, 136th Air Wing Texas Air National Guard, explained that the unit's personnel have been working to support water distribution efforts while still supporting overseas operations and homeland defense missions.

"It takes a monumental effort. A large portion of the 136 AW is deployed overseas. We overcome the challenges and provide services to the Texas Department of Emergency Management,” said Williams. "The 136 AW has a large team of guardsmen who are receiving and preparing water for air shipment, loading aircraft, and performing maintenance along with aircrews and operations support personnel, coming together as one big team to make the mission happen.  We are proud to support our fellow Texans in their time of need."

Williams explained that service members who were assisting were not immune from the impacts of the storm explaining that the responding guardsmen had families they had to leave behind to help entire communities return to normal. Norris also shared that without that sacrifice the organization could not succeed, thanking each guardsman for their service.

"You have a family at home, probably without power, without water and here you are helping your neighbors and Texas recover,” said Norris. “Our number one asset in the Guard is our people and every time Texans need help you guys show up. You’re truly heroes.

For Texas State Guard Member Pvt. Mary Boscarino the water distribution was her first mission since enlisting last year but she knew why she had to help the people of Texas.

Loading water“College Station is my home and I feel so honored to be here, helping my fellow Texans in a time of crisis. My passion is helping others, giving back to the community. What greater way for me to start than to help right at home."

That sense of service was in full display among the assembled Texas Guard members and volunteers, each working to support the mission by leveraging their unique military training to increase the speed and amount of water being delivered to communities. That training provided the state with a key method of distribution as members of the 36th Combat Aviation Brigade flew UH-60 Blackhawk and CH-47 Chinook helicopters from the airports to the distribution centers.

“We have completed seven round trips, flying water out from the College Station hub to local municipalities including Leon County and Brenham,” said Capt. Sean Thomas, a Black Hawk pilot with the 36th CAB. “It is always a pleasure to work with the Air National Guard, Texas State Guard, Texas Department of Emergency Management and other civil authorities to bring relief as we have done in previous natural disasters."

Guardsmen will continue to transport water and additional resources to impacted communities until the state's infrastructure is repaired and the people until our Texas neighbors have fully recovered from back-to-back winter storms.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

TXSG Colonel retires after 45 years of service

By 1LT Johnathan Winston, Texas State Guard

AUSTIN, Texas –  Colonel John Adams has retired after 16 years of service to the Texas State Guard and 45 total years of uniformed service.  His retirement ceremony took place on October 24, 2020 at Camp Mabry. 

Adams most recently served as the Texas State Guard’s senior personnel officer from 2016 to 2020, and he is recognized as one of the most important figures in the Guard’s ongoing transformation and professionalization.

Maj. Gen. Robert Bodisch, Commanding General of the Texas State Guard, praised Adams’ service to Texas and the United States during his speech at the ceremony.  

Bodisch used the words “leadership, integrity, and dedication” to describe Adams, a man whom he said fits the definition of being a “real hero” after a lengthy and storied career.

Adams’ uniformed service began in 1966, when he enlisted in the U.S. Army. Adams served on a 19 month combat tour in Vietnam.   During his tour, he received a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart, among other awards.

Adams then returned to Texas, completed studies at Sam Houston State University, and resumed his Army service as a Second Lieutenant in 1973.  He went on to serve as an active duty helicopter pilot, followed by multiple senior level staff and leadership positions in the Army Reserve.  

In October 2000, Adams volunteered for service as the military assistant to the political advisor for the commander of Allied forces in Kosovo.

His dedication and thoroughness were evident throughout the assignment- culminating in successful negotiations to win the release of six Serbian hostages.

Adams brought his pedigree for excellence into the Texas State Guard, which he joined in 2004 after leaving the Army Reserve.  

Whether he was planning and coordinating deployments for hurricanes, or streamlining awards and promotions, Adams was known to members of the TXSG community as the consummate professional- and as an individual who inspired confidence and respect.

“You have served your state and your country well and we owe you a huge debt of gratitude,” Bodisch said in his closing remarks.  “You might retire, but you will always be part of the family.”

More information about joining the TXSG can be found at https://tmd.texas.gov/state-guard.

A Message to the Force from the Joint Chiefs of Staff

 
This message is sent on behalf of the Joint Chiefs of Staff:
 
The American people have trusted the Armed Forces of the United States to protect them and our Constitution for almost 250 years. As we have done throughout our history, the U.S. military will obey lawful orders from civilian leadership, support civil authorities to protect lives and property, ensure public safety in accordance with the law, and remain fully committed to protecting and defending the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.
 
The violent riot in Washington, D.C. on January 6, 2021 was a direct assault on the U.S. Congress, the Capitol building, and our Constitutional process. We mourn the deaths of the two Capitol policemen and others connected to these unprecedented events.
 
We witnessed actions inside the Capitol building that were inconsistent with the rule of law. The rights of freedom of speech and assembly do not give anyone the right to resort to violence, sedition and insurrection.
 
As Service Members, we must embody the values and ideals of the Nation. We support and defend the Constitution. Any act to disrupt the Constitutional process is not only against our traditions, values, and oath; it is against the law.
 
On January 20, 2021, in accordance with the Constitution, confirmed by the states and the courts, and certified by Congress, President-elect Biden will be inaugurated and will become our 46th Commander in Chief.
 
To our men and women deployed and at home, safeguarding our country—stay ready, keep your eyes on the horizon, and remain focused on the mission. We honor your continued service in defense of every American.
 
//original signed//

Texas Guardsmen serve as part of the 54th Security Forces Assistance Brigade

By Charles E. Spirtos, Texas Military Department Public Affairs

AUSTIN, Texas – The Texas National Guard remains the premier state fighting force, relevant to provide combat ready forces to the Department of Defense, in part because of its diversity in force strength. The Texas Guard contains units rarely found in other states, thus enhancing its war fighting assets.

The 4th battalion of the 54th Security Forces Assistance Brigade is one of these unique units. The 54th SFAB was constituted in March 2020 and is comprised of units from Texas, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Florida, and Georgia. While the other SFAB units in the Army are comprised of active component Soldiers, the 54th is exclusively made up of units from the National Guard.

Security Force Assistance Brigades are specialized units with the core mission to conduct training, advising, assisting, enabling and accompanying operations with allied and partner nations. These units provide advice and education to partner nations as they seek to combat security threats in their area of operation. SFABs are intended to reduce the burden of such advising-based missions on conventionally-organized Brigade Combat Teams, allowing BCTs to focus on fighting near-peer threats.

Soldiers in SFABs are highly trained, and among the top tactical leaders in the Army. Their work strengthens the defense infrastructures of allies and partners, while supporting American security objectives. SFABs are also leveraged to provide maximum support to the combatant commanders' warfighting needs.

“The whole intent of having a Security Forces Assistance Brigade is to provide assistance to our partner nations and to foreign security forces to free up Brigade Combat Teams to concentrate on multi-domain operations and large scale ground combat operations,” said Col. Jeff Hackett, commander of the 54th SFAB.

In Texas, the 4th battalion contains 39 Soldiers in 7 decentralized advisory teams. All Soldiers on this mission are either senior non-commissioned officers or commissioned officers who have received training in foreign weapon systems. The Texas Guardsmen attached to this mission maintain maximum flexibility to adapt to various missions at the request of the combatant commanders.

SFAB’s maintain a wide mission set in order to best advise foreign militaries. In terms of training, they provide education on basic Soldier skills, artillery proficiency and integration, and medical training. They also serve to prepare the partner nations on deployment of particular weapon systems, and help in the development of standard operating procedures to be enable maximum performance of the foreign militaries.

Lt. Col. Joshua J. Pritchett, commander of the 4-54th, said that Texas advisors are consummate professionals who exhibit discipline, maturity, discretion, empathy, and patience. These traits help the Soldiers to understand the human element in others, which enables the advising process.

“You have to be trusted to operate autonomously and to advise foreign military leaders,” said Maj. Robert Anspaugh. Through their dedication and professionalism, the Texas Guardsmen serving as part of the 54th SFAB are contributing to multilateral security cooperation efforts which promote peace throughout the world.

Enlisted leadership regards 136AW Citizen Airmen's input

Story by A1C Laura Weaver, Texas Air National Guard

NAVAL AIR STATION JOINT RESERVE BASE FORT WORTH, Texas - Chief Master Sgt. Michael Cornitius, Texas Military Department Command Senior Enlisted Leader, visited 136th Airlift Wing, Texas Air National Guard Airmen Nov. 14-15, 2020.

During his visit, he met and engaged with Citizen Airmen directly about their role in the Air National Guard, listened to their feedback, and shared state leadership’s appreciation for their efforts. 

Chief Master Sgt. Michael Cornitius, Texas Military Department Command Senior Enlisted Leader, speaks to 136th Airlift Wing Citizen Airmen at Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth, Texas, Nov. 14, 2020. Cornitius visited the 136th and engaged with enlisted Airmen directly to provide information from state leadership and listen to feedback from unit level Airmen. (Texas Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. De’Jon Williams)
Chief Master Sgt. Michael Cornitius, Texas Military Department Command Senior Enlisted Leader, speaks to 136th Airlift Wing Citizen Airmen at Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth, Texas, Nov. 14, 2020. Cornitius visited the 136th and engaged with enlisted Airmen directly to provide information from state leadership and listen to feedback from unit level Airmen. (Texas Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. De’Jon Williams)


“The main goal for me is getting an opportunity to have that touchpoint with the wing, being able to really talk to the Airmen and understand how we can support them better in the decisions that we make,” said Cornitius.

Cornitius assists the Adjutant General in assuring the readiness, training and development of more than 19,000 enlisted Army and Air personnel in the Texas Guard and State Guard.

At the 136th, the chief visited with multiple units and attended a variety of meetings with junior and senior enlisted members where he recognized and coined standout Airmen for their exceptional performance.

“Texas has the largest and the best guard force in the nation,” said Cornitius. “We want to do more, we want to give more, and we want to help more. For us as an organization, and in particular at the 136th, we want to provide more opportunities for the wing to make sure that everyone has an opportunity to do the job that they want to do and that they’re happy with doing it.”

Cornitius says that by interfacing with Citizen Airmen in the field, he is able to verbalize state initiatives and provide a different perspective to help them understand how their roles support the force as a whole.

“Everyone at the 136th is doing a great job,” said Cornitius. “Keep doing what you’re doing. Continue to lead. Continue to think about tomorrow. Set your long-term goals, and then work toward them through your short-terms goals which will help you in your career.”

Cornitius originally hails from Galveston, Texas, and is in his 33rd year of military service.

Texas Military Department Hosts Drone Demo

By: Andrew Smith, TMD Public Affairs

Drone flying in the skyAUSTIN, TX -- Representatives from several government agencies and four drone companies gathered for a drone demonstration on September 15th, 2020 at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas.

In recent years, drones have become popular as a low cost and low maintenance alternative for many missions which would have required manned aircraft. The ease of use brought by drones came with some security concerns as well, since many of these drones were built in China. The foreign nature of these drones does not comply with Federal Trade Commission government procurement practices that require half of the components of a drone purchased by the government be made in the United States.

In addition, the mapping capabilities and remote nature of the drones aroused security concerns. Due to these concerns, drone manufactures are now developing drones that are built in the United States using domestic components.

The Texas Military Department hosted the event to facilitate acquisitions of drones built to U.S. government standards in coordination with the Department of Defense’s Defense Innovation Unit. Using video conferencing, representatives from the developers explained the specifications of their company’s drones. Working drones were also flown in a series of short demos, and some prospective buyers even took the controls.

“This event is a great opportunity to take look at all the different systems made by US-based companies that are now approved by the secretary of defense and can be deployed in real-world missions without a waiver,” said Maj. Alexander Goldberg. Maj. Goldberg serves as the director for TMDX, Texas Military Department’s innovation unit, which organized the event. “The problem we were trying to solve, was that in any of our natural disasters our Texas Guardsmen are on the front line, whether it is COVID, or fires, floods and anything in between. To be able to take these small unmanned aircraft systems that are much cheaper than helicopters and actually have high-resolution cameras to do search and rescue on the front lines is a game-changer. And to have our first responders and agency partners here to get feedback and collaborate.” 

At the conclusion of this event the attendees will analyze what is most effective and mission-capable for all parties involved. Agencies will then award innovation research contracts to the individual companies, so these projects can eventually be scaled into DOD-wide programs of record.

“We are looking for technologies that can real-time data back to leaders so they can make decisions,” said Capt. Meredith Zinni, intelligence officer assigned to the Texas Air National Guard. “We need to be able to make decisions ins real-time, we are fighting lag time of hours of things happening in the field, and when decision-makers are seeing the information."

While contracts have yet to be awarded to the companies building the drones, the ability of the Texas Military Department to facilitate this even in the midst of COVID restrictions is a testament to the Guard’s ability to adapt and overcome in a variety of complex environments.

Texas Counterdrug and DEA kickoff Red Ribbon Week in highflying fashion

Story by MSG Michael Leslie, Texas Joint Counterdrug Task Force

AUSTIN, Texas – The Texas National Guard Joint Counterdrug Task Force is continuing to provide substance use awareness and prevention efforts to youth throughout the year, but during the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Red Ribbon Week, they raise the bar, literally.

Counterdrug flew a military LUH-72 Lakota helicopter with DEA agents and a brand new eagle mascot to two Central Texas schools to kickoff Red Ribbon Week to spread substance use awareness and prevention.

“It was an amazing event and it is so important for young students to receive drug free messages,” said Amber Newby a project coordinator for the Blanco Coalition of Awareness, Prevention and Treatment of Substance Use. “The earlier they learn and the more often they hear the message and get the education, the more likely that it will sink in.”

For some schools, relaying a drug free message to younger students can be a struggle, but with partnerships of the DEA, the National Guard Counterdrug Program, the Blanco CoAPT, and Blanco and Bowie Elementary schools, the message was high-impact and well received.

“We loved seeing all of our student's reactions to the helicopter, the unity in all of the forces, and the message of the presentation,” said Blanco Elementary counselor Mindy Lay. “As the school counselor, delivering appropriate and effective messages for Red Ribbon Week can sometimes be a struggle - but this year, I think our campus nailed it!”

Counterdrug even debuted their very own mascot, Enney the Eagle, named in honor of one of the program’s first leaders who worked to create the National Guard’s law enforcement support program more than 30 years ago.

“We thought the eagle mascot was one of the best parts of the Red Ribbon event,” said Selena Dillon, a student at Bowie Elementary School in San Marcos, Texas. “We really loved the eagle, and continued to talk about it afterwards.”

The whole purpose of the event was for DEA to explain how Red Ribbon Week began and highlight substance use awareness with the ultimate goal of prevention, as students get older and possibly subjected to drugs.

“The DEA talks about the history of how Red Ribbon was started,” said Sgt. Dillon, “but the students also learn about the wide variety of dangerous drugs, to include prescription drugs, alcohol and the dangers of underage drinking, and tobacco and vapes.”

The DEA began the Red Ribbon Week initiative to honor a fallen undercover agent, Enrique “Kiki” Camarena, when a drug cartel kidnapped, tortured and murdered him in Mexico in 1985.

“The DEA's substance abuse message was powerful and very age appropriate,” said Lay. “It was definitely an experience that many of us will not forget!”

Many students talked about wanting to join the military, so the Red Ribbon message showed how their choices could affect their futures.

“I want to be a Marine Corps pilot, study aerospace engineering at the University of Texas, and go on to be an astronaut,” said Dillon. “The DEA agents talked about how drugs will mess up children career goals.”

Reaching out to students at a young age is critical for developing better habits and teaching better decision making as they grow.

“I think that kids sometimes have a difficult time think ahead about how a bad decision now can have long term bad consequences down the road,” said Sgt. Blake Dillon, a Texas National Guard Joint Counterdrug Task Force Drug Demand Reduction Outreach operator. “This is where we were able to talk to the students about how important it is to remain drug free if they wish to pursue these careers.”

A key focus for the Texas Military Department is building partnerships between state, local and federal civil authorities to better serve the Texas community.

“This is where our program, DDRO, is able to have one of the biggest impacts, to facilitate and coordinate bring these partnerships together,” said Sgt. Dillon. “I think that the partnership between these organizations will have a lasting impact of drug prevention in the community.”

Being in a small city, word spreads fast and many were talking what they saw and what they heard, even if they were not there.

“The impact of this event was definitely greater than just with those present at Blanco Elementary School,” said Lay. “This surprise event has stirred some good discussions in our community.”

At Bowie Elementary in San Marcos, a special reunion happened when Sgt. Dillon arrived in style with his daughter, a student at the school, ready to greet him with open arms.

“I have been in the military for a while,” said Dillon, “and never in my wildest dreams did I ever think that I would have the type of influence that I would to have a helicopter go to my daughter’s school and have her watch me get off the helicopter.

“It has a positive influence on my daughter, which in turn allows her to grow into a leader among her pears and speak out and spread the message that drugs are not okay.”