Texas Military Forces

Texans Defending Texas

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San Jacinto – Texans Defending Texas

Commentary by: Michelle McBride

                         

From the official report of the April 21, 1836 Battle of San Jacinto, by General Sam Houston to D. G. Burnet, Provisional President of the Republic of Texas,  “The conflict lasted about eighteen minutes from the time of close action until we were in possession of the enemy’s encampment … In the battle, our loss was two killed and twenty‑three wounded, six of them mortally.  The enemy’s loss was 630 killed, among whom was 1 general officer, 4 colonels, 2 lieutenant colonels, 5 captains, 12 lieutenants; wounded 208, of which were 5 colonels, 3 lieutenant‑colonels, 2 second lieutenant-colonels, 7 captains, I cadet; prisoners 730-President General Santa Anna, Gen. Cos, 4 colonels, aides to Gen. Santa Anna, and the Colonel of the Guerrero Battalion, are included in the number … About 600 muskets, 300 sabres, and 200 pistols, have been collected since the action; several hundred mules and horses were taken, and near twelve thousand dollars in specie.” 

Texan soldiers fought side by side for their independence, outnumbered by their enemy, in the Battle of San Jacinto.  This battle was the final battle in the Texas Revolution, paving the way for Texas independence - it has been recorded as one of the most decisive battles in military history.

The soldiers that fought for Texas independence were not career soldiers, but rather citizen soldiers, who risked everything in service to Texas and their fellow Texans. Today our citizen soldiers of the Texas Military Forces continue to serve Texas and their fellow Texans, working hard to maintain the legacy that was started so many years ago.

“This battle shows that there is a long tradition of serving Texas in a military capacity,” said SSG Jennifer Atkinson, Texas Army National Guard, “and I am proud to continue that tradition.”

In celebration of the day, an annual re-enactment of The Battle of San Jacinto will take place Saturday, April 26, 2014 on the ground surrounding the San Jacinto Monument.  For more information on the event as well as the history behind it please visit http://www.sanjacinto-museum.org/The_Battle/Our_Annual_Reenactment/.

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Texas Military Forces Leadership sign Sexual Assault Awareness Month Proclamation

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Story by: Capt. Martha Nigrelle and Michelle McBride

Photos by: TSgt Phillip Fountain

(AUSTIN, Texas) April 4, 2014 – Maj. Gen. John Nichols, the Texas Adjutant General and Command Sgt. Maj. Richard Milton, Senior Enlisted Advisor Texas Army National Guard, signed a proclamation declaring April Sexual Assault Awareness Month within the Texas Military Forces during a ceremony at Camp Mabry in Austin, Texas, April 4, 2014.

The ceremony focused on spreading awareness in order to increase prevention of sexual assaults.    

“One is too many,” said Amy Allen, the guest speaker for the event  and community organizer for Safe Place, a nonprofit organization that works with victims of sexual and domestic violence. “Sexual violence is preventable. It takes everyone to get involved.”

Nichols encouraged service members to take action against sexual assault.

“Sexual assault is worse than bad,” Nichols said. “It has no place in our community, on our Texas Military Forces team.”

Nichols advised service members not to be naïve in thinking that sexual predators aren’t in their midst. He encouraged service members to watch out for themselves as well as their battle buddies and wingmen, and to stop behavior that could lead to sexual assault immediately.

To better support its members, the Texas Military Forces created the Sexual Assault Prevention and Report Program which focuses on education in order to spread awareness.

Lt. Col. James Castleman, Sexual Assault Response Coordinator, 136th Airlift Wing, Texas Air National Guard, said that the program provides resources to victims of sexual assault including access to follow on care for both counseling and medical support and assisting commanders in working with victims to ensure they are treated fairly and not discriminated against.

The program is scheduled to host several events this month aimed at spreading awareness amongst the force. Among those is a Sexual Assault Prevention 5K hosted by the 136th at the Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth, April 18, 2014 at 1100.

Another event, Denim Day, is aimed at debunking many of the myths surrounding sexual assaults. It is scheduled for April 23, 2014 on Camp Mabry.

“Today’s ceremony is very important,” Castleman said, “because it shows that the Adjutant General is committing to reducing the number of sexual assaults in the Texas Military Forces as well as increasing awareness of the issues faced by Texas Military Forces members.”

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TXMF Celebrates African American History Month

Commentary by: Michelle McBride

On Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014 The Texas Military Forces held a celebration in honor of African American History Month. With speakers ranging from Deputy Adjutant General Air Brigadier General Kenneth Wisian to Texas State Representative Dawnna Dukes, the event proved to be not only educational but also an emotional experience that encouraged the teachings of Civil Rights.

While it is a known fact that February is Black History Month, what is not as well known is why. It began as a weeklong event in 1926 during which the second week of February was announced “Negro History Week.” These dates were chosen by Carter G. Woodson and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History because it coincided with the birthdays of both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, who were already highly celebrated. Later, in 1969, students at Kent State University proposed an expansion from a week to a full month and in 1976, as part of the United States Bicentennial, the expansion of “Negro History Week” to “Black History Month” was officially recognized by the U.S. Government.

As the trend for growth and understanding continues through history, Representative Dukes reminded us that we cannot stop at one month. Seizing the opportunities to educate ourselves and appreciate the history of those around us is a lifelong journey, she explained, “It is important to look at ourselves as beacons of hope and understand that we affect the lives around us.”

The Texas Military Forces have reaffirmed their commitment to a long history of celebrating its brothers and sisters in arms and will continue to do so. While discussing the effects of facing war with fellow service members of all ethnicities, Wisian said, “There is nothing like combat to break down barriers.”

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Free tax services at Camp Mabry!

Commentary by: Michelle McBride

Every year the deadline to file taxes seems to sneak up on us, and this year is no exception. If April 15th is approaching too fast for you, then maybe the Texas Military Forces IRS-Certified volunteers can help.

Starting Feb. 8, 2014 through April 8, 2014, the Legal Assistance team at Camp Mabry will be helping Service members, veterans and dependents file their taxes free of charge.

The Soldiers in Legal Assistance are certified through an IRS training program and are able to provide customers with E-filing as well as direct deposit for returns. Most people who have worked with them have received their returns in about a two week period.

To be eligible for this service you must be one of the following:

-Military Identification Card holding member of the Texas Military Forces or Reserve
-A retiree or surviving dependent spouse

Along with these requirements you must also have a combined household income BELOW $60,000. However, eligibility exceptions will be given on a case-by-case basis.
If you meet eligibility requirements or have any other questions contact Legal Assistance at 512-782-1169 or email them at ng.tx.txarng.mbx.legal-asst-office@mail.mil.

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Save the date! Military Women in Transition event coming to Camp Mabry

Commentary by: Michelle McBride

What will you do when you or your spouse decide to retire? How do you disconnect from what you have always known and handle the transition into a civilian workforce? Where do you start? These are the big questions many women in our Texas Military Forces are asking themselves daily. What some women may not know is that there are others with similar backgrounds willing to offer assistance in preparing for these big changes.

On Sunday, Feb. 16, 2014, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., the Texas Military Family Support Services will host a “Military Women in Transition” event at Camp Mabry in Austin, TX. According to Shandra Sponsler, deputy branch manager of Family Support Services, the event is meant to help women in all phases of the job search, or career enhancement process, learn valuable skills. The plan is to teach attendees vital skills through a series of activities such as mock interviews to help prepare for the real thing.

“Since Sept. 11, 2001, more than 33,000 Texas National Guardsmen have been called to active duty to serve their Country,” Sponsler said. “Upon their return, many need help transitioning from active duty to life as a civilian- particularly in recent years where a tough economy combined with limited job opportunities has made finding gainful employment especially difficult.”
The event schedule includes presentations, workshops, resource booths, roundtables with hiring managers, and a professional clothing closet for participants to ‘shop’ for FREE new or gently worn career-related outfits.

This is a free event which includes refreshments and youth activities for kids 6 and up. If you would like to attend please register at http://www.eventbrite.com/e/military-women-in-transitionevent-tickets-5650466698. For more information, please contact Shandra Sponsler at Shandra.b.sponsler.civ@mail.mil or 512-782-5771.

This event is open to all branches of service.

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Diversity in the Texas National Guard Reflects MLK’s Vision

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THE DREAM CONTINUES

Story by Spc. Michael Giles, 100th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

            It is not every day that a man or woman gets the opportunity to voice their opinion to the masses. Even less likely is the occurrence that not only is the message heard, but repeated time and time again to the point that the original speaker becomes a household name and the message legendary. Such are the words spoken by Dr. Martin Luther King on that fateful day in 1963 on the steps of the Lincoln memorial in the nation’s capital in Washington, D.C.

           King came from humble beginnings in Alabama, but even as a young man, he seemed destined for greatness.  Born January 1929 in Atlanta, Georgia, King began breaking boundaries as a teenager. His scores on college entrance exams were so exceptional that he skipped high school graduation and entered Morehouse College at the age of 15. With a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology, King entered seminary in 1948 and went on to become the third generation Baptist minister following his father and grandfather.  

          King was well known as a passionate and charismatic public speaker throughout his life and ultimately became recognized as one of the nation’s most significant civil rights leaders.  King is known by most for his involvement in the bus boycott that led to the 1956 Supreme Court declaration that bus segregation was unconstitutional and for the march on the Washington Mall where he delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech. His leadership was instrumental in helping the United States achieve its current level of racial equality, which is reflected in the diversity of the Texas Army National Guard.

            Recognition and celebration of King’s contributions include the Nobel Peace Prize, which he received in 1964, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal, which were awarded posthumously to him in 1977 and 2004. There are an estimated 700 streets in 39 states that are named after him, and the third Monday in January every year has been declared a national holiday in his honor.

            Cpl. Cornelius T. Rivers, a counterintelligence agent with the Headquarters Command 71st Theater Information Operations Group, appreciates the racial diversity he sees among the high-ranking Soldiers he works with.

 “I don’t think that would have been possible had it not been for Martin Luther King,” said Rivers. 

“His speech was not just for African Americans,” he said, referring to King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. “It was equal opportunity for everyone.”

            Sgt. Maj. Wilson L. Early, 36th Infantry Division’s former command sergeant major, said that he has seen the military become more mindful of diversity since he enlisted in 1979.

            “We come from all walks of life, with many experiences,” he said. “Bringing this all together and making it work takes leaders with the mindset of mission first and the understanding that any one of us can become the leaders of tomorrow.”

            Early said that the Army needs to continue making opportunities for all to succeed.  “We have had diversity at the highest levels in the Texas Army National Guard and our Army,” he said. “When Soldiers see Senior Leaders that look like them and come from the same background as them, we all do better as an Army.”

            Early said that living in and creating an Army that reflects Dr. King’s dream is an ongoing process.

            “The dream continues,” he said. “As we continue to make strides in this direction the dream continues to move. We have some great leaders making good decisions for the future of our Army.  Trust in them.”

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Before there were wind talkers, Texas had the Choctaw code talkers

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Commentary by: Capt. Martha C. Nigrelle

Throughout our Texas Military Forces (TXMF) history, Native American Soldiers have made numerous unique and significant contributions to our force. 

During World War I, members of the Choctaw tribe fought with the 36th Infantry Division, many serving as “code talkers.” According to the TXMF Museum, the German Army was often successful in tapping the American Army’s phone lines during the war, enabling the Germans to know the locations of both troops and supplies.

The tides changed for the German Army when the 36th Infantry Division introduced their Choctaw code talkers.  The TXMF Museum’s records show a Ms. Mozelle Dawson of Coalinga, Calif., memoirs of her father, Albert Billy, a Choctaw warrior, and Soldier of the Texas Army National Guard,

According to Mozelle Dawson of Coalinga, California, her father, Albert Billy, suggested to his commanding officer that the Choctaw language be used to confuse the enemy. She said Billy had the idea that Indians be used on the phone lines talking in their native dialect. This would confuse anyone tapping into the lines. As it turned out, the Germans were more than just a little confused, and after the Choctaw Code Talkers were put on the phones, the Germans immediately began losing.

“Ms. Dawson said her father told her that during the night, some Germans were captured, and a General of the German Army said that he would like to ask just one question: ‘What nationality was on the phones that night?’ The only reply that this German officer received was that it was only Americans that had been on the phones.”

Billy served in the 142nd Infantry, a regiment of the 36th Infantry Division.

For more information on the Choctaw code talkers, visit the TXMF Museum website: http://www.texasmilitaryforcesmuseum.org/choctaw/codetalkers.htm

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The Month of the Military Family - Strong Families, Strong Servicemembers

Commentary by: Staff Sgt. Jennifer Atkinson

There is no doubting the fact that military life can be hard on families, especially children.  Field problems, long hours, and deployments can take a heavy toll on both the service member and their family.

To help lessen the effects of stress on families, the Texas Army National Guard’s Child & Youth Program offers programs to help develop teambuilding, communication and life skills, and to encourage children to pursue higher education.

“Everything we do is fun,” said Brandon J. Savoy, the program’s child and youth coordinator.

Yellow Ribbon events are available - they are family-oriented workshops provided before, during and after deployments.

From fishing camps in March, to Camp Young Heroes in June, the Child & Youth Program offers opportunities throughout the year.

“These things help build family resiliency,” said Savoy.  “Knowing what’s going on and what’s going to happen helps the kids.”

For more information, contact the TXARNG Child & Youth Program on Facebook at faceook.com/#!/TXMFChildAndYouthProgram or Brandon J. Savoy directly at brandon.j.savoy.ctr@mail.mil or 512-782-1245.

 

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November is Warrior Care Month

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Texas Medical Command makes transition easier for Wounded Warriors

By Capt. Martha C. Nigrelle

The Medical Evaluation Board, or MEB, is known for being a long and arduous process.  For traditional guardsmen, this process if often even longer and more difficult, but for wounded warriors in the Texas Military Forces (TXMF), in the last year the MEB process became much easier.

According to Army Sgt. Gabriel Martinez, the Noncommissioned Officer in Charge (NCOIC) of behavioral health and assistant NCOIC of case management for Medical Command, in just one year, Medical Command, or Med Command, increased the number of packets submitted to the Medical Board by 200%.

After assuming command of Med Command in 2012, Army Col. John P. Drobnica, a licensed physician assistant, and Col. Robert Ferry, the Texas State Army Surgeon, spent their 2012 annual training period evaluating the Med Command system for submitting MEB packets.  Their goal was to figure out a way to make the transition process easier for Texas Army National Guard wounded warriors.  Ferry is the former Deputy Commander for Med Command, as well as, a licensed pediatric-endocrinologist. They are both traditional guardsmen who live and work in their communities as medical professionals.

“I really appreciate Col. Drobnica because he listened to us,” said Martinez.

Martinez went on to discuss how both Drobnica and Ferry took time to ask the Soldiers in Med Command what issues they saw and how they thought things could be improved.  “[Drobnica and Ferry] went down into the weeds and said ‘how can we change the weeds?’”

“The biggest challenge, once [the service member] is injured, is getting them through the process,” said Lt. Col. Brian Weber, the Division Surgeon for 36th Infantry Division, Texas Army National Guard, also a licensed Physician Assistant. 

Compounding an already long MEB process, before the packet is submitted, numerous doctor appointments and paperwork have to be completed. Additionally, according to Weber, this can become a confusing process.

“It’s all of the little steps – that is the biggest challenge,” said Weber.

Changes in Med Command’s process started with a trip to Florida, and continued with improvement in training, as well as the effective utilization of the medical readiness NCOIC.

“[Drobnica] took us to Pinella’s Park, Fla., where the National Guard MEB convenes to meet the providers who conduct the [initial review of the] MEB. We went three times. This helped us, in case management, leaps and bounds,” said Martinez.

Martinez went on to discuss the next step implemented – a mock MEB. Each month during Med Command drill, a panel of National Guard providers, with an array of medical background and expertise, review the packets assembled by case management as if it were the MEB.

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Texas Army National Guard Capt. Kimberly Spires, Medical Hold officer in charge, Texas Medical Command and Texas Army National Guard Cpl. Derrick Guy, state health systems specialist, conduct a mock medical evaluation board (MEB) for a wounded Texas Army National guardsman.  Medical Command conducts mock medical evaluation boards to improve the quality and accuracy of MEB packets prior to submission. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Capt. Martha Nigrelle/Released) 121031-Z-FP744-003

“It’s where our full time support meets our M-Day support,” said Martinez, adding that the process has helped case management improve the quality of each MEB packet before it is submitted to Pinella’s Park.

Additional training was the next step taken to improve this process. Ferry oversaw the creation of the Texas Military Forces (TXMF) Provider Battle Book and User’s Guide. The book is tailored to the guardsman medical officer with little experience on TXMF systems and the MEB.

In addition to the battle book, training for the readiness NCO was added. Martinez said that this training has been instrumental in making the MEB process faster and smoother for the service member or wounded warrior. “Increasing the knowledge pool means there are more people that can help facilitate the process.”

The last change was fully integrating the medical readiness NCO with the MEB process. The medical readiness NCO is a full-time position at the battalion and/or brigade level and is focused to work one-on-one with the wounded warrior on their medical readiness to ensure that the MEB packet is initiated and completed as quickly and as accurately as possible.

Martinez credited Drobnica and Ferry for their leadership in implementing and enforcing all of these much needed changes.

For both Drobnica and Ferry, it is all about the mission – improving that transition process.

"We help people transition forward. Life moves forward, not backward,” said Ferry.

For questions regarding the MEB process in the Texas Army National Guard, call the unit Medical Readiness NCO or Case Management at 512-782-4206/5892.

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Depression and Domestic Violence Prevention and Awareness

By: Capt. Martha Nigrelle

October is National Depression Awareness and National Domestic Violence Prevention Awareness Month. 

“It is important to help others find professional care who may have undiagnosed or uncontrolled depression and are showing obvious signs,” said Army Capt. Hunter Smith, Resilience, Risk, Reduction, and Suicide Prevention Officer in Charge. “These people are hurting and need help.  We would assist someone with an obvious physical injury in need of medical care, so why not one who is suffering emotionally?”

The Texas Military Forces (TXMF) has a number of resources available to assist any member of our TXMF family who may be suffering from depression or the victim of domestic violence.  Licensed therapists and counselors are available 24-hours a day to respond to calls, and to provide long-term and short-term counseling to those in need.

“Our counseling line is for people who need to talk or are having a crisis,” said Jo Ann Brandon, TXMF Director of Psychological Health.

It is also important to help your friends.  Knowing how to recognize and report the symptoms of depression and domestic violence could result in saving a life.  If you see any of the following symptoms in one of your battle buddies or wingmen, report it to get that service member help.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, common signs of depression include:

·         Loss of interest

·         Trouble sleeping or eating and excessive sleeping or overeating – that does not go away or continues to get worse

·         Persistent sad, anxious or “empty” feelings

·         Thoughts of suicide or suicide attempts

·         Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness

If you, or someone you know, are experiencing depression or thoughts of suicide, call the 24-hour TXMF Counseling line at 512-782-5069 (if voicemail picks up, your call will be returned within the hour), the national Suicide Prevention hotline at 1-800-273-TALK, or the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 to speak with an experienced counselor.

According to East Texas Crisis Center, common signs of domestic violence include the following behaviors being inflicted on a person:

·         Destructive Criticism/Verbal Abuse

·         Intimidation and Manipulation

·         Abusing Authority

·         Disrespect

·         Abusing Trust

·         Breaking Promises

·         Emotional Withholding

·         Minimizing, Denying & Blaming

·         Economic Control

·         Self-Destructive Behavior

·         Isolation

·         Harassment

·         Destruction

·         Threats

·         Sexual and Physical Violence

If you, or someone you know is the victim of domestic violence, call 512-782-5069 to speak with a TXMF counselor. If it is a medical emergency, call 911.