Texas State Guard Gonzales Cup Challenges the Best of the Best of the Army Component
Story by Chief Warrant Officer 3 Janet Schmelzer, Army Component, Texas State Guard
STEPHENVILLE, Texas - The Texas State Guard Army Component’s 1st Regiment won the Gonzales Cup and the 19th Regiment’s Pfc. Brandon McVean won the Top Individual Award following the three-day competition held Oct. 12-14, 2018. Twenty-nine members representing the 1st, 4th, 8th, and 19th Regiments of the Texas State Guard accepted the challenge to become the Army Component's best of the best and take home the coveted Gonzales Cup.
"The Gonzales Cup competition is important as a meaningful and purposeful training for our members. It builds comradery and teamwork, challenges perseverance in the most adverse conditions, tests skills that we need to be mission ready, and creates a spirit to achieve to be the best," commented Command Sgt. Maj. Barton Williams, senior enlisted advisor, Army Component, who organized this year's competition.
The first day's challenge was a written test which covered the Texas State Guard Army Component mission essential skills which included shelter management operations, emergency tracking network operations, military customs and history, and ground search and rescue.
That evening in the midst of a torrential rainstorm, four teams went out on a search and rescue task to find missing persons who were lost following a simulated disaster at Hunewell Ranch in Erath County, Texas. The darkness, bad weather, mud, and rain-soaked terrain added to the realism of what state guardsmen might face during search and rescue missions.
Teams had to follow clues to find the missing persons within a time limit of three and a half hours. Each team was scored on how proficient they were at finding the person, evaluating the condition of the person, providing first aid, fashioning a litter, and evacuating the person back to the starting point.
Pfc. Laura Peck, 8th Regiment, was one of three female state guardsmen to participate in the competition. “I never pictured myself doing things like slogging through mud and water on a six-kilometer hike with a 35-pound knapsack on my back,” said Peck who has been in the Texas State Guard 10 months. “The search and rescue challenge was an awesome experience.”
The second day opened with the Army Physical Fitness test of sit-ups, pushups, and a two-mile run. This challenge supports the Texas State Guard Health and Fitness program which emphasizes exercise, strength and a healthy lifestyle.
Teams then moved to the Leadership Challenge Course at Tarleton State University. This challenge required each team to work together and make decisions on how to complete a series of rope course challenges.
The afternoon mission was a land navigation challenge course back at Hunewell Ranch. Teams had to locate 20 sites using maps, protractors, and compasses.
McVean found the Gonzales Cup challenge to be a “unique opportunity to demonstrate and sharpen my mission essential skills. I liked the land navigation challenge as it strengthened my confidence to find a specific spot with maps, coordinates, protractor, and compass. I am honored to have been a competitor and a member of a great 19th Regiment team.”
On the last day, the final challenge for each team was to create a team movement order for a simulated deployment to assist with the evacuation of 5,000 people from Lake Jackson as a category five hurricane approached the Texas coast. Teams had to avoid crossing rivers, lakes, and contraflow evacuation routes, in addition to planning for rest stops and gas refueling.
The Gonzales Cup is named for the famous 1835 Battle of Gonzales, near Gonzales, Texas, where brave and courageous Texians refused to return a cannon to the Mexican Army and told them to “Come and Take It,” which is the motto of the competition.