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Agents back to the border

National Guard Troops filling crucial support roles for U.S. Border Patrol

By Maj. Mike Perry, Operation Guardian Support Public Affairs

EDINBURG, Texas – U.S. Border Patrol agents in South Texas are returning to assigned patrol areas along the Mexico border thanks to Texas National Guard personnel assigned to Operation Guardian Support.

Since the Texas National Guard was mobilized to the Southwest border in April, the Rio Grande Valley sector Border Patrol has returned over 20 percent of its ground support law enforcement operations personnel back to patrol.

“Border Patrol operations are continually assessed in various ways to include apprehensions, seizures and turn backs,” said Casey Marchmont, Assistant Operations Officer, USBP Rio Grande Valley Sector. “The return of additional experienced agents to line-watch duties increases efficiency by placing the much-needed boots back on the ground.”

The operational payoff for Texas Guardsmen in supporting roles is not limited to returning agents back to patrol duties. In the early months of the operation, guardsmen monitoring USBP cameras in the RGV sector assisted in more than 2,600 apprehensions and the seizure of almost 6,500 pounds of marijuana. 

Guardsmen assigned to Operation Guardian Support have taken on various supporting roles such as maintaining and repairing infrastructure, clearing vegetation, unloading and loading trucks at ports of entry, repairing emergency beacons, conducting aerial detection and providing logistical support. This varied support, in turn, allows USBP to focus on patrolling the border and enforcing immigration law.

“Our guardsmen’s work in support of this mission is instrumental to the Department of Homeland Security’s goal of enhancing border security and increasing the physical presence of Border Patrol agents along the entire southwest border,” said Col. Rodrigo R. Gonzalez III, Operation Guardian Support Commander. “Our firsthand knowledge of the operating area and our long-standing relationships with federal, state and local law enforcement demonstrates to the nation that our force is ready and trained for any mission at hand.”

Operation Guardian Support consists of Task Forces Anzio, Salerno, Defender and Aviation, which also includes Operation Secure Texas, a separately funded border mission launched in 2014 to coordinate efforts between the Texas Department of Public Safety with Texas National Guard and federal law enforcement to secure Texas’ border with Mexico.
 

 

Texas National Guard conducts border mission Transfer of Authority

Story by Capt. Maria Mengrone, Texas Military Department

MCALLEN, Texas-- After a few weeks of training, Texas National Guard Soldiers began work in their sectors fulfilling administrative, surveillance and maintenance tasks in order to free up agents and assist in border mission efforts as part of Gov. Greg Abbott’s directive of “putting badges back to the border,” Tuesday, May 1, 2018.  (Photos by Army 1st. Lt. Nadine Wiley De Moura, 100th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment/Released)
MCALLEN, Texas-- After a few weeks of training, Texas National Guard Soldiers began work in their sectors fulfilling administrative, surveillance and maintenance tasks in order to free up agents and assist in border mission efforts as part of Gov. Greg Abbott’s directive of “putting badges back to the border,” Tuesday, May 1, 2018.  (Photos by Army 1st. Lt. Nadine Wiley De Moura, 100th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment/Released)

AUSTIN, Texas – The Texas National Guard conducted a transfer of authority on July 12, 2018, for Operation Guardian Support, the ongoing border mission prompted by the president’s call to enhance security along the U.S. southwestern border.

The 136th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, based in Round Rock, relinquished its authority of the border mission, as part of Operation Guardian Support, to the 72nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 36th Infantry Division based in Houston. 
 
The 136th MEB was the first headquarter element tasked to provide operational oversight and implementation of logistical and administrative support to Guardsmen deployed along the 1,254-mile Texas-Mexico border.
 
“As a standing Joint Task Force, the 136th MEB was able to respond to the rapid mobilization and deployment requirements,” said Texas Army National Guard Col. Scott M. MacLeod, commander of the136th MEB.  “Our authorities granted by the U.S. Constitution, combined with our unique military capabilities, make the National Guard the perfect force to bridge the gap between the military and law enforcement.” 
Operation Guardian Support officially kicked off on April 6, 2018, when Gov. Greg Abbott activated 250 Texas National Guardsmen.

Even in the face of challenges with manning, equipment and training Soldiers from across Texas, the 136th MEB was able to successfully establish requirements of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
    
“Our experience in the 2014 border mobilization and previous mobilizations enabled us to anticipate the requirements for the operational environment in which we’d be operating,” said MacLeod. “Both Hurricane Harvey, as well as this recent mobilization, have reminded us that we must be prepared to deploy with no notice in support of our state and nation.”

Guardsmen assigned to Operation Guardian Support are activated under Title 32 duty status, allowing the governor to maintain command and control of the Guard force.  

The troops are assigned to the five CBP sectors in El Paso, Big Bend, Del Rio, Laredo and the Rio Grande Valley.

The border mission has steadily grown to include 1,100 deployed troops, with personnel and aviation assets from other states, including South Carolina, Oklahoma, Georgia, Alabama, Florida and Mississippi. 
  
The 72nd IBCT leadership is prepared and committed to continue the success of the 136th MEB.

“I am truly looking forward to this great opportunity for myself and the 72nd IBCT along with all the units supporting OGS. Any time the 72nd IBCT is selected to conduct a challenging mission, it is a great honor which we will make happen,” said Texas Army National Guard Col. Rodrigo R. Gonzalez, Commander, 72nd IBCT, 36th Infantry Division.  

Guardsmen assigned to Operation Guardian Support have taken on various support roles maintaining and repairing infrastructure, clearing vegetation, unloading and loading trucks at ports of entry, fixing emergency beacons, conducting aerial detection and providing logistical support, while CBP focuses on enforcing immigration law.

The 72nd IBCT’s commander has set forth a clear vision for his Guardsmen as the unit assumes control of the OGS mission, which is currently funded until September 30, 2018.

“My three priorities are to conduct and accomplish the mission to support CBP throughout the Texas border areas, provide support to the three OGS Task Forces so they can execute the mission and improve Soldier readiness and collective training readiness while Soldiers and units are on mission,” said Gonzalez.

Operation Guardian Support consists of Task Force Anzio, Task Force Salerno, Task Force Defender and Task Force Aviation, which also includes Operation Secure Texas, a separately funded Title 32 border mission that launched in 2014 as a coordinated effort between the Texas Department of Public Safety, Texas National Guard and federal law enforcement to secure Texas’ border with Mexico.  
 

Transportation Company sets new National Guard gun crew record

Story by: Spc. Christina Clardy

National Guard soldier manning truck based mounted gun
Photo By Spc. Christina Clardy | The 249th Transportation Company, 372nd Combat Sustainment Support Battalion set a new National Guard record as of June 2018 for being the only sustainment unit to have 32 qualified mounted gun crews. The 36th Infantry Division, Texas Army National Guard transportation company set this new record during their annual training at Fort Hood, Texas. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Christina Clardy, 36th Infantry Division Public Affairs)

FORT HOOD, Texas -- The 249th Transportation Company, 372nd Combat Sustainment Support Battalion of the Texas Army National Guard set a new National Guard record as of June 2018 during their annual training. 

"As it stands right now, no sustainment unit has qualified 32 gun crews in the National Guard," said Capt. Aaron Sanders, commander of the 249th Trans. Co., out of Killeen, Texas. "We started the training in January moving through the process up to our blank fire exercises in February."

These 32 vehicle-mounted crew-served weapon crews are part of larger changes in the U.S. Army and the missions for each type of unit creating new training requirements for transportation units.

"Under the U.S. Army's new modular system, a combat arms unit will no longer be allocated to provide convoy security to logistics convoys," explained Sanders. "So the new unit requirements allot for logistics and sustainment units to be given their own crew-served weapons to provide their own security on convoys. This means that my 39 gun crews in my two transportation platoons will provide their own convoy security as they move people, containers and equipment from point A to point B."

The three-person crews completed their next two levels of exercises during their March, April and May drill weekends. These blocks of training consisted of day and night fire missions with live ammunition. 

"These crews have been putting in extra drill days and our annual training is 21 days this year when normally it's only 15 days," said 1st Sgt. Jason Coates, first sergeant of the 249th "Road Hogs" Trans. Co. "They've had to do a lot of work, and training in things they have never done before. These Soldiers have gone from zero: never doing anything like this, to qualified gun crews in under six months."

The sixth block of training is the qualification level. The minimum score to qualify is 700 points. A score over 800 is "Superior" and a score over 900 is "Distinguished." By June 22, the company had qualified 32 mounted gun crews and set a new record in the National Guard.

"For a bunch of the crews, day fire was really hard but we all still qualified," said Private 1st Class Daniel Hughes, a gun crew gunner in the 249th Trans. Co. "However, my gun crew specifically rocked the night fire. I love being on a gun crew and I love doing this kind of training." 

In February, the 249th was officially identified as a focused readiness unit and given a deadline of the end of June 2018 to meet the readiness standard. An FRU is a National Guard unit that has been placed at a higher state of readiness and will have a shorter time on the mobilization platform when called up. The unit must maintain this higher readiness level and status so that if called upon, the unit can mobilize and be deployed within 30 days. 

372nd CSSB hosts employer visit during annual training

Story by: Spc. Christina Clardy

372nd CSSB Hosts employer visit during annual training
Photo By Spc. Christina Clardy | Fort Hood, TEXAS -- Guardsmen with the 372nd Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 36th Infantry Division, Texas Army National Guard, hosted an employers visitation day during their three week annual training June 22, 2018 at Fort Hood, Texas. About 30 employers visited their employee Guardsmen out in the field for a day of range tours, weapons demonstrations and an airborne jump as part of the Department of Defense's Employer Support for Guard and Reserve program. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Christina Clardy, 36th Infantry Division Public Affairs)

FORT HOOD, Texas - Soldiers with the 372nd Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 36th Sustainment Brigade hosted an employer support of the guard and reserve visitation day during their annual training June 22, 2018.

About 30 employers visited their Texas Army National Guard employees out in the field for a day of range tours, weapons demonstrations and an airborne jump as part of the Department of Defense's ESGR program.

"I think it's great to bring the employers out to visit their employees and our Soldiers in the field," said Lt. Col. John Crawson, commander of the 36th Sustainment Brigade. "It’s important that they see that our Soldiers wear two hats - one as their civilian employee and one as a member of the National Guard serving their communities, their state and their country."

Some Soldiers invited not only employers, but peers from their civilian careers.

"I work for Liberty Mutual Insurance as a senior manager and today I invited other senior managers from different departments within my company," said Capt. Eric P. Amstutz, commander of the 112th Quartermaster Company, 372nd CSSB, out of Corsicana. "They wanted to come out because they have a strong interest in understanding what I do, seeing how we function in an army unit collectively, and how we task out Soldiers to do different events and how we conquer objectives."

Employer visits allow the Soldiers the opportunity to show their bosses and peers more of who they are and what they do when away for military duty.

"I'm also excited to get to show them the other side of me that they never get to see in our corporate world," said Amstutz. "So there is a corporate Eric and there is a Capt. Amstutz that's in the Army. I'm hoping they can see the differences and challenges of being an employee and Guardsmen, but I definitely hope they will be able to see the benefits that can come from both a civilian and a military career."

The employers were flown in by CH-47 Chinook helicopters from Grand Prairie and Austin, to the battalion’s tactical operations center, where they received a briefing about the unit, the Soldiers, the military equipment they use and an overview of recent past missions, such as the battalion's response and actions during Hurricane Harvey.

"We like to demonstrate some of our combat capabilities that we do in the field and showcase our ability to respond to a natural disaster here in the state to support our neighbors and our communities in Texas," said Crawson. "Our Soldiers and their employees are part of a bigger picture both in the national defense plan for the United States and how we support our neighbors and communities here in Texas.

After the briefing, the visitors went to a marksmanship rifle range. There they could climb inside gun-mounted trucks and talk to Soldiers about the static crew-served weapons that were on display. 

"I really appreciate getting to see service members show their expertise in their training and with all the equipment," said Kathleen Harman, a business and leadership professor at Norwich University and professional mediator in partnership with the ESGR. "I can really see now all the minutia that goes into every detail of all training for gunners and drivers inside the cabs of the military trucks."

Employers were allowed to go onto the rifle range to get a first-hand experience of what it takes to qualify with the weapons. Paired with an experienced Soldier, each visitor was given a lesson on safety and proper use of the M4 carbine, and then given the opportunity to fire the rifle in a mock weapons qualification scenario.

"Getting to fire the rifle on the range was fun, but what I really loved was getting to know some of the different Soldiers, hearing what they do and where they are from, and seeing what they do," said Harman. "You get to see and experience first-hand servant leadership through the ranks and through the different training aspects and missions. It's truly incredible."

The tour then moved to a range with an urban training town, nicknamed "shanty-towns," to watch a mounted gun-crew convoy exercise. In the exercise, the crews must react to contact with oppositional forces and respond to simulated crew injuries by calling in a casualty evacuation by helicopter. 

"I come from a really strong military family of three generations," said Harman. "It's really wonderful to see all the different layers of training and how things interplay together. The logistics, the team building, and all the activities in the training that have to happen, it just really makes me appreciate these Guardsmen and their service."

Following the exercise, the employers were taken to their final demonstration - an airborne jump by Soldiers from the 249th Quartermaster Company, 372nd CSSB, out of Fort Worth.

"I think every component of the whole program is really valuable," said Harman. "This experience has really given me a sense of appreciation for what service members go through and all their sacrifices for their training. I know I will be able to take back what I've seen and learned here today to be able to further assist and understand the National Guard and reserve Soldiers I work with."

Past Division Leaders Observe Annual Training Events

Story by: Spc. Christina Clardy

Past Division leaders observe annual training events
Photo By Staff Sgt. Michael Giles | The 36th Infantry Division hosted a former senior leaders reunion during annual training on June 10, 2018 at Fort Hood, Texas. The event allowed past leaders to see the advancements in technology within the military and talk with soldiers about their past experiences in the service. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Michael Giles, 36th Infantry Division)

The 36th Infantry Division hosted former senior leaders to showcase annual training events and brief them on current operations June 10, 2018.

The “Arrowhead Muster Day” allowed past division leaders the chance to meet with current Soldiers and observe the training being conducted during the summer months.

“It’s essential to invite the past leaders of the division out to see the current generation of citizen-Soldiers in action as they conduct collective training across Fort Hood,” said Maj. Gen. S. Lee Henry, the current commanding general of the 36th Inf. Div. “While these retired general officers and command sergeants major get the opportunity to see the transformations of training and technology, we get the benefit of learning from the tremendous wealth of experience and knowledge that they bring to the table.” 

Upon arriving at the division’s operation center, the visitors were flown by a CH-47 Chinook helicopter to watch the 156th Brigade Engineer Battalion train on crew-served weapons at a mounted gunnery range. They had the opportunity to see the new technological advances the military is adapting for use on the battlefield in an effort to better protect Soldiers.

The group then boarded the aircraft again and were flown to the 56th Infantry Brigade Combat Team’s training area, where they were given a tour of the brigade’s operations center and the tactical action center.

“It’s a great opportunity to get back and see the division,” said Brig. Gen. (Ret.) Jim Bisson, who had served in the 36th Infantry Division as an assistant division commander of maneuver.

The distinguished guests then returned to the division’s operations center for an overview briefing with the commanding general and staff officers on recent accomplishments, current changes within the organization, and the future of the division. Among other operations, the briefing showcased the tremendous success of the division during Hurricane Harvey and current missions along the Texas-Mexico border.

“I really enjoyed the briefing about the unit’s participation during Hurricane Harvey and the involvement in programs where Active Duty U.S. Army units are partnering with National Guard units,” said Bisson, referring to the Associated Unit Pilot program, or AUP, in which the division is actively partnered with several units to include the 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team of the 10th Mountain Division out of Fort Polk, La.

The guests also attended a meet and greet with current Soldiers in the division, where they were able to share stories of their experiences serving in the "Texas Division" and enjoy a meal, ready to eat lunch.

“I hope the division continues to do get-togethers like this,” said Bisson. “I think it’s great to be able to keep up with what the unit is doing and see where it is heading in the future.”

Force-multiplying employer: Guard member's civilian employment helps medics stay certified

Story by: Staff Sgt. Michael Giles

Employer receives award for their support to National Guard employees.

Photo By Staff Sgt. Michael Giles | The 36th Infantry Division commanding general, Maj. Gen. S. Lee Henry, awarded Laura Mills, Ph.D., with the Austin Regional Clinic, for her support to her Arrowhead employee on June 9, 2018 during annual training at Fort Hood, Texas. Mills received the award for facilitating training for Capt. Judith Chedville, a medical provider with Company C, 949th Brigade Support Battalion of the 56th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, to become a certified CPR instructor. The certification allows Chedville to be a force multiplier utilizing her skills to train both civilian medical professionals and National Guard medics. The division's annual training ensures Soldiers remain ready and relevant for any assigned mission at home and abroad. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Michael Giles, 36th Infantry Division Public Affairs)

FORT HOOD, Texas - As Hurricane Harvey flooded Houston, Laura Wills felt the way many Texans felt: She wanted to help. 

"I knew the Guard was being deployed," Wills said. "On a personal level, I didn't know what I could do to help with any of it."

Then, a colleague's request turned out to be an opportunity for her to support the Texas Army National Guard's readiness to respond to state emergencies and federal mobilizations.

The colleague was Judith Chedville, a clinical nursing specialist at Austin Regional Clinic, where Wills works as Chief Operations Officer. The request was whether their company could help her get certified as a basic lifesaver instructor. 

Chedville, who also works as a captain and medical provider in the Texas Guard's 36th Infantry Division, was among the 12,000 Guard members Governor Abbott called up in response to the hurricane. As she waited to receive mission details, she found herself thinking forward about the challenge of recertifying her unit's combat medics. This is a crucial task for Army medics--also known as “68 Whiskeys” as 68W is the designation of their military occupational specialty --because if their CPR certification expires, they become temporarily unqualified to function in their lifesaving roles.

"If they lose their CPR certification, they completely lose their ability to be a 68 Whiskey," Chedville said. "How can we make sure we're getting their training taken care of?" 

Chedville knew she could be part of the solution. All she needed to take on the task of recertifying her medics in CPR was to get certified as an instructor. So she submitted a request to her company.

This request was the opportunity to help that Wills had been looking for.

"When this came up, I felt like, I can figure this out," Wills said. "I contacted our staff development folks in our company who had the contacts for CPR training, and it honestly was not that hard. The company paid for it, and she was willing to do the work."

The company not only paid for it, but also managed her schedule so that she could the take necessary time away from seeing patients to complete the course.

Chedville explained that it's unusual for her company to pay for providers such has herself to receive basic lifesaver instructor training; more often they encourage ancillary staff to gain such accreditation. But Wills said she saw this as a way to support the troops, who during the Harvey relief efforts, proved they do good things with their training.

"Being in the medical field, I know how important basic CPR is, and even more so with people in the military service," Wills said. "You're out sometimes in remote areas and you have to be ready to care for the people around you."

Chedville thanked Wills for her support by nominating her for the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve program's Patriot Award. According to the program's website, the award recognizes "efforts made to support citizen warriors through a wide-range of measures including flexible schedules, time off prior to and after deployment, caring for families, and granting leaves of absence if needed." 

Chedville's nomination enabled her chain of command to recognize Wills' support. First, her unit, the medical company of the 949th Brigade Support Battalion, invited Wills to witness a day in the life of a military medical provider. On June 9, 2018, Wills headed to Fort Hood, where the 949th and several other elements of the 36th Infantry Division were conducting their annual training. She observed field medical operations and weapons training up close before the division commander, Maj. Gen. S. Lee Henry, presented the award and spoke to her about the National Guard and reserve forces.

"You absolutely represent a critical component of the National Guard relationship between our families, our employers and the Soldiers themselves," Henry said to Wills. "You are instrumental and we couldn’t do what we do out here without the support of people like you."

Henry also lauded the specific contribution she made, emphasizing that a training gift to an Army medic is a contribution made to all Soldiers. 

"We also couldn’t do what we do without our medics, who are critical to the mission of the 36th Infantry Division. They know no danger and go wherever there is a fallen Soldier to render aid on the spot. I know that I’m in good hands with our medics and you have been instrumental in their training and certification. Thank you very much for what you do and will continue to do."

Thus far, Chedville's new credential enabled her to recertify six combat medics in CPR. Wills said she intends to continue supporting her in strengthening her ability to meet this need in the Guard.

"I really look forward to seeing more of her training," Wills said and turned to Chedville. "Now we need to get you to the next level so you can train others to be trainers as well."

Texas Guardsmen task force members respond to South Texas floods

Story and Photos by: Spc. Miguel Ruiz, 100th MPAD

Members of the Texas National Guard and Texas Task Force 1 prepositioned in Laredo, Texas, June 20, 2018, after heavy rains flooded portions of the Rio Grande Valley. The two agencies work together to conduct rescues when needed. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Miguel Ruiz)
Members of the Texas National Guard and Texas Task Force 1 prepositioned in Laredo, Texas, June 20, 2018, after heavy rains flooded portions of the Rio Grande Valley. The two agencies work together to conduct rescues when needed. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Miguel Ruiz)

Texas Army National Guardsmen and members of Texas Task Force 1 were deployed to South Texas May 20, 2018.

In response to recent flooding in the Texas Rio Grande Valley, rescue swimmers with Texas Task Force 1 (Urban Search and Rescue Team) and TXANG helicopter pilots were mobilized jointly.

Both organizations normally work independently of each other but combine their assets and expertise when flood disasters occur said Anthony Di Marco, a rescue swimmer with TTF1.

“There are not water-rescue components in the National Guard. That’s where we come in,” said Di Marco. “They fly us to where we need to be and help get us in the water or to where the people are who need rescue. It’s a great working relationship.”

The working relationships between the pilots and swimmers are not developed overnight but rather are orchestrated and fine-tuned regularly.

Di Marco said he sets aside his full-time civilian career being a firefighter in Plano, Texas, once a month to train with TXANG helicopter pilots and TTF1 swimmers.

“We rehearse day-time and night-time rescue missions with Lakota and Blackhawk pilots,” said Di Marco. “The back and forth dialogue is great, we work closely together to determine the most efficient and safest ways of conducting the missions.”

Thanks to consistent training and set-in-place contingency plans, mission-readiness is very high when disasters occur said Texas Army National Guard Chief Warrant Officer 4 Brandon Briggs, a Standardization Instructor Pilot of Bravo company, 1-114th Aviation Regiment – Security and Support.

Briggs said that at any given time he, his helicopter crew and TTF1 swimmers can be ready to fly to wherever they are needed within three hours of receiving the call to duty.

“We didn’t have these same capabilities over five years ago,” said Briggs. “Local governments now have in place very specific mission-ready packages put together by the Texas Military Department. Local officials now know exactly how many of what assets are available to them at any given time of need.”

Briggs said what sets the TXARNG apart from other components of the military is its ability to work more closely with Texas’ local governments and organizations such as TTF1 to establish disaster contingency plans.

“It’s our job to be able to respond to events as quickly as possible,” said Briggs. “We are always ready.”

Illinois National Guardsmen lead Texas National Guard Counterdrug Civil OPS training

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Photo By 1st Lt. Nadine Wiley De Moura | Sgt. Eilleen Lacy, NCOIC of Chicago Civil Operations instructs Texas National Guard criminal analysts on how to establish evidence of effectiveness when helping coalitions and CBOs create an action plan to address prevention of drug use at Camp Mabry, Austin, Texas, June 12-14,2018.

AUSTIN , TX, UNITED STATES

06.21.2018

Story by 1st Lt. Nadine Wiley De Moura

Texas Army National Guard (Texas Military Forces)

By: 1st Lt. Nadine Wiley De Moura, Texas Military Department

 

AUSTIN, Texas – Texas National Guard Counterdrug Criminal Analysts participated in a three-day in-depth overview of civil operations, led by Illinois National Guard Counterdrug Civil Operators, at Camp Mabry, June 12-14, 2018.

Soldiers and Airmen from all corners of Texas displayed pride for their home communities and eagerly sought advice from Illinois National Guard Civil Operators on how to best impact their area of operation.

“I would like people to begin to look at things through other lenses,” said Sgt. Eilleen Lacy, noncommissioned officer in charge of the Chicago Civil Operations. “Typically in the community and in counterdrug we look at disruption and interdiction from a criminal analyst perspective, but we need to start looking at this from a community level. We need to start taking community health and wellness into consideration.”

The role of a Civil Operator is to coach, train, facilitate, coordinate, lead and support coalitions and community-based organizations to make community change. This change directly impacts high-intensity drug trafficking areas, Lacy explained during the civil ops pre-training.

The 20 Soldiers and Airmen selected to attend the class work as criminal analysts in the Texas Counterdrug program and will take on the responsibility of being the Civil Operators in their area of operation as an additional duty.

“Knowing your area of operation, not just from a law enforcement standpoint, but from past pertinent history will help you get to the root or cause of the problem,” Lacy said.

Lacy, who shared her experiences as a Civil Operator in Chicago, encouraged participants to become familiar with their communities by learning who their community stakeholders are and capitalizing on local resources, like librarians.

“The more proficient Civil Operators are in their abilities to provide technical assistance in the planning process, the larger impact the coalitions will have in their community,” Lacy explained.

In addition to familiarizing themselves with the community, Soldiers and Airmen will implement resources by studying threats, trends and evidence-based data from organizations like the National Institute of Drug Abuse, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Disease Control and Prevention as prescribed by the National Guard Bureau and the Department of Defense.

Soldiers and Airmen will also use SAMSHA’s Strategic Prevention Framework to help enable coalitions to tackle their mission from several fronts. The SPF is a seven-step process that includes: assessing the area of operation’s needs and readiness, building the capacity to realistically address the needs, planning, implementing, evaluating and ensuring cultural competence and sustainability.

The training also addressed other concepts, like methods of research, grant writing, prevention science, sustainability and culture compatibility.

Illinois National Guard Counterdrug didn’t hesitate to extend itself as an additional resource to the Texas National Guard Counterdrug program.

“Illinois [National Guard] has a very robust Civil Operations Program,” said Maj. David Spanton, Texas National Guard Civil Operations Program Manager. “Col. Miguel Torres [Texas National Guard Joint Counterdrug Task Force Commander] thought it was important to get the training to our Soldiers and Airmen as fast as possible, with the best subject matter experts, and Illinois was excited to help out Texans and start making a change immediately.”

The Illinois Guardsmen attributed their expertise in civil operations to their Counterdrug Commander, Capt. Alison Jacobs.

“She recognizes the mission and makes sure that she remains knowledgeable about policy, best practices and prevention,” Lacy said. “She recognizes that prevention is an important part of the mission and that we should be working simultaneously on both sides of that coin.”

Maj. Travis Urbanek, Texas Joint Counterdrug Task Force Region North Commander, and one of the Soldiers spearheading the statewide civil operations initiative in Texas, agreed with Jacobs’ sentiment.

“This will allow us to approach the drug issue from two fronts,” Urbanek said. “Right now, our approach has been attacking the drug issue from the law enforcement side, but as long as there continues to be a demand for drugs the suppliers will find ways to get them to people who want to buy it.”

Following the initial training, Soldiers and Airmen must pass two phases of training in order to qualify as civil operators and acquire their civil operations additional skill identifier.

Soldiers voiced their eagerness throughout the training to begin working in their respective communities.

Passionate and inspired by over a decade of volunteering for youth and community organizations herself, Lacy mirrored the group’s enthusiasm.

“It’s something that needs to be done on the community level,” Lacy added. “The way we look at civil operations and prevention is that if we do it right, we will do ourselves out of a job – and I accept that challenge.”

Story by: 1st Lt. Nadine Wiley De Moura, Texas Joint Counterdrug Task Force Public Affairs

136th Medical Group treats underserved communities

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Master Sgt. Julie Brown and Staff Sgt. Michael Pate, both medical technicians from the Texas Air National Guard’s 136th Medical Group, test a patient's eye pressure June 21, 2018, at one of four health-care clinics in Eastern Kentucky. Members of the Air National Guard and U.S. Navy Reserve are conducting Operation Bobcat, which provides military health-care troops with critical training in logistics and field operations while providing lasting benefits to the civilian community. The clinics offer no-cost medical screenings; dental cleanings, fillings and extractions; vision exams and no-cost eyeglasses. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Lynn Means)

Story By: Tech. Sgt. Lynn M. Means

136th Airlift Wing

 

BEATTYVILLE, Ky. --
Members of the 136th Medical Group are part of a joint effort to provide no-cost health-care services to residents in Eastern Kentucky June 15-24, 2018. The operation allows units from the Air National Guard and U.S. Navy Reserve to provide members valuable expeditionary training while serving a community with limited access to health-care services.

 

Operation Bobcat provides patients with medical screenings and non-emergent medical care, as well as connections to local resources. Patients can also receive a dental examination, where any extractions and fillings can be done on the spot. Those seeking vision services receive an optical exam and a free pair of eyeglasses within 48 hours.

 

Four areas in Eastern Kentucky were chosen for this Innovative Readiness Training program due to their greater need of medical service, said Lt. Col. Patricia W. Adams, an optometrist with the 123rd Airlift Wing and the officer in charge of the Lee County site.

 

“A lot of people are coming in pain,” Adams said. “Even if they have medical insurance, a lot of them don’t have dental or vision insurance, so this area is underinsured and it’s underserved. There are not very many providers here. Access to care is an issue.”

 

Some patients arrived on foot, having walked several miles and hours to receive care. Others were given a ride by friends and neighbors. Many had not been able to receive this kind of care in years. The ability to serve these residents gives purpose to the mission.

 

“We had one gentleman that was confined to a wheelchair and has been for a long time,” said Maj. Brett Ringger, an optometrist with the 136th Medical Group. “He has so many physical limitations that he could not go to a regular optometrist’s office. He could not extend his legs at all, he had his knees up by his chin, his feet were actually on the seat of the wheelchair. So he couldn’t fit in the chair, and they didn’t have wheelchair-accessible equipment like we do. But with our portable, deployable kit, we were able to put that phoroptor right in front of him, behind his knees and in front of his face, and we were able to prescribe his glasses for the first time in forever. He was so excited he came and gave us a little pin. He was real excited.

 

“It’s great to be able to work with the deployable equipment,” said Ringger. “It’s a little different than the equipment in our clinic, so it’s nice to come into a situation, set up a clinic just like we would anywhere for a natural disaster, or something overseas, and it’s the same type of services that we can provide there. It’s great training, I love being able to train and take care of people as well.”

 

For some members, this is their first taste of a deployed environment.

 

“I have never been deployed or on an IRT before,” said Airman 1st Class Ashley Sharp, a bioenvironmental engineer with the 136th Medical Group. “I’ve got some training here that I don’t usually get back home. I’ve taken radiation surveys on the dental equipment to make sure personnel are not receiving high-radiation doses, I’ve learned several admin roles, run equipment and supplies to sites, and provided safety briefings. I like being able to help out with the communities here and I think it’s really cool that we’re getting training experience but also helping out humanitarian-wise.”

 

Operation Bobcat is part of the Innovative Readiness Training Program, which facilitates enhanced military skills training while also providing lasting benefits to a community in need. Part of that training include the logistics of getting materials and personnel set up in a remote environment. In the span of one day, 200 Air National Guardsmen and U.S. Navy Reservists set up four sites in Jackson, Irvine, Beattyville and Booneville.

 

“We’re in the mountains, none of our cell phones work,” said Adams. “It has created a great training opportunity all around. The training also includes military movement and then logistical movement. We had one day to put a clinic together, there was 30 tons of equipment that arrived.”

 

Through Operation Bobcat, the clinics were able to serve 2,662 residents with 11,275 medical, dental, and optometry procedures, including 1,457 pairs of prescription eyeglasses. The economic impact to the community was more than $1 million ($1,003,688).

An Evacuation System with Accountability

Story by: Chief Warrant Officer 3 Janet Schmelzer
Texas State Guard Public Affairs

In an Emergency Tracking Network system exercise in Huntsville, Texas, Pfcs. James Little and Lee McWilliams, 2nd Battalion, 8th Regiment, Texas State Guard, scan an ETN band attached to the collar of a dog, February 24, 2018.  The system would track the dog's location to a designated pet shelter during an emergency or disaster so that the pet can be located by the pet owner.  (Texas State Guard Photo by Cpl. Christopher Feriante)
In an Emergency Tracking Network system exercise in Huntsville, Texas, Pfcs. James Little and Lee McWilliams, 2nd Battalion, 8th Regiment, Texas State Guard, scan an ETN band attached to the collar of a dog, February 24, 2018.  The system would track the dog's location to a designated pet shelter during an emergency or disaster so that the pet can be located by the pet owner.  (Texas State Guard Photo by Cpl. Christopher Feriante)

When a hurricane, flood, chemical spill, wildfire, or other catastrophe strikes Texas, people may have to evacuate the affected area, often with little or no time to prepare.  Their lives have been turned upside down: they do not know where they are going; they do not know when they will return, and sometimes families and loved ones get separated.  They need someone to show them the way out of the danger zone to safety and comfort.  

When support for evacuation operations is needed, the Texas State Guard is trained and ready. Guardsmen provide a very specialized skill set during an evacuation, operation of the Emergency Tracking Network (ETN).   ETN is an electronic system that tracks evacuees from an evacuation hub to designated shelters away from the disaster area.  

“One of the big lessons learned during the Katrina and Rita hurricanes was the need to track the location of thousands of people rapidly evacuating the strike zone,” said Col. Robert Hastings, Commander, Army Component, Texas State Guard.  “In some cases, families were separated and ended up in different shelters with no means to communicate or locate each other.  ETN was designed to prevent that from happening.”

The Texas State Guard is the principal state agency with the Emergency Tracking Network mission.  

"Without a system of accountability, we would not know who we evacuated or which designated mass evacuation transportation they got on.  With the ETN system, we have information which tracks the evacuee from an embarkation point to a shelter.  Because we are trained on ETN, the Texas State Guard is performing a vital service to Texans who are evacuated during an emergency or disaster," said Staff Sgt. Greg Illich, 8th Regiment, TXSG. 

At an evacuation hub, one of the first people that an evacuee will encounter is a member of the Texas State Guard.  As evacuees enter the hub, guardsmen can answer their questions about what happens at the hub and show them where to register for transportation to a shelter.  At the registration table, guardsmen begin the process of registering evacuees into the emergency tracking system.  They can explain to evacuees how the system works to ease any concerns that evacuees may have about what will happen when they are registered into the system.  Family members at the hub are registered at the same time.  This process allows them to travel together and stay together at the same shelter.   

"During an evacuation, we want to assist family members in this way.  Keeping families together is comforting to them and helps ease their anxiety during this time of uncertainty," stated 1st Lt. Kendra Neuendorff, 4th Regiment, Texas State Guard.  

As the registration process continues, guardsmen place a wristband on each evacuee.  Each wristband has a unique identification number which is recorded into the ETN system along with the evacuee's information.  Personal medical equipment, such as a walker or wheelchair, is also banded and registered into the system.  And family pets are banded on the collar or travel kennel and evacuated to a designated pet shelter.  In this way, families know that their pet will not be abandoned but sheltered and fed until they can be reunited.

"Sometimes pet owners are afraid to leave a pet behind and as a result are reluctant to evacuate.  If owners know that their pets are going to evacuated, banded into ETN, and sheltered, they feel relief that their pet has not been left behind," commented Pfc. Sonya Martinez, 39th Regiment, Texas State Gaurd. 

Guardsmen then direct the evacuees to designated mass evacuation transportation located at the hub.  As evacuees board a bus, plane or helicopter, guardsmen scan the wristbands again to begin tracking their movement.  The system records each individual who boards the transportation headed to a specific shelter.  And when evacuees arrive at the shelter, guardsmen, for accountability, again scan the wristbands to log their location.  ETN now has recorded the evacuee's travel from the evacuation hub to the shelter.  

“ETN is a very versatile system,” said Hastings.  “During Hurricane Harvey ETN was used to manage evacuations, determine population at the shelters, and keep track of pets and medical equipment, among other tasks.  Keeping track of our evacuating citizens and helping families stay connected is one of the most important missions we train for.”