Guard Life

Disclaimers: This is not an official site of the Texas State Guard or the Texas Military Department. My opinions are my own. The author adheres to the public affairs policies of the guard pursuant to the oath of enlistment. Nothing posted on this page should be taken as an official statement of any organization. Reproduction of this page or any content within it without prior written consent by the author is forbidden. For official information and statements from the Texas Military Department visit https://tmd.texas.gov/ .

This page attempts to briefly chronicle my life and service in the Texas State Guard for friends and family wondering what I do and also anyone considering joining. I’ll update this page periodically to let you know what I’ve been doing recently.

What the Texas State Guard Is, and Isn’t.

It’s been called “Texas’ best-kept secret.”  I think that says a lot about how great the experience can be if you can “embrace the suck” that is a life in service to others, and also something about our marketing plan. It appears, however, that the secret is out, especially since Hurricane Harvey.

The Texas State Guard is a great way to serve the local and state community in many ways. Our primary basic missions during state emergencies are shelters, operating the evacuee tracking network (ETN), radio/satellite communications, distributing food and water at points-of-distribution (PODS), and even medication in the case of an outbreak a la bird flu, swine flu, etc.  We also support our host Army and Air National Guard units monthly and annual unit training assemblies (UTA) (aka “drills”) as they prepare to fulfill their state and national missions. It takes teamwork to make the dream work.

Within these main tasks, there are many ways for an individual to express their unique talents as well as learn new things and grow as a servant leader. There are also many crucial areas where you can specialize in for unique missions, such as ground search and rescue (GSAR), medical brigade, public affairs. In the guard, I’ve met engineers (civil, electrical), divers, amateur radio operators, pilots (of both manned and unmanned aircraft), policemen, firemen, paramedics, doctors of all kinds, nurses, lawyers, analysts – all have found their niche in the guard, a way to offer their expertise to the guard to contribute in a greater way to the security of the state. I feel safer knowing all these great men and women will drop what they’re doing to deploy to help fellow Texas and neighboring states.

I think you’ll be disappointed if you want to fight in foreign countries because that’s not what we do.

What I Do in the Guard

One of the very first things I was privileged to do in the guard shortly after enlisting was to participate in the Texas Interoperable Communications Exercise (TICE) which is a week-long Train-the-Trainer (TTT) taught by the Texas Army National Guard (ANG). In this course, we covered things like satellite communications, land/mobile radio (LMR), logistics and safety of operating a communications trailer in all-hazards conditions.

I also took a ton of FEMA courses (beyond the basic required ones) on the concepts and standard practices of emergency management and qualified for the State Guard Association’s (SGAUS) Military Emergency Management Specialist (MEMS) occupational badge. Occupational badges are worn on the uniform and quickly inform other military members of your specialty and also your level of qualification. For example, a pilot’s uniform will have wings, a qualified airborne jumper’s uniform will have a parachute. The MEMS badge is unique in that it is only available to qualified members of the state guard. It’s not available to the national guard or federal troops.

I’m fully trained by the Red Cross to manage shelters, and also to facilitate the training of others to do the same.

My Role During Hurricane Harvey

During Harvey, I was on ETN Team 4. We helped to evacuate people from Robstown overnight the night before landfall until only a few hours before the storm hit land. As we drove down to the coast I was happy to see many people were taking the evacuation orders seriously and leaving on their own. But I can tell you that anyone who needed a ride out of Robstown sure had one. Post-landfall we evacuated people out of several storm shelters in affected areas. That’s when I got to look into the eye of the storm and also see some of the damage first hand. Only a few hours after we returned we were loading up again, this time to fly into the storm in Chinook helicopters to Galveston, which was flooding and needed a way to evacuate locals, tourists, and also the 9,000 people on cruise ships if the ships came in. It was a day-and-a-half battle to get there by air because the storm went back out to see and strengthened. After Galveston, we went to Bush Airport to help at a temporary medical/air hub – a great collaboration between local, state, federal and private/commercial agencies. Later a few of us went to Beaumont to help at the national guard command post to relieve an air national guard unit that was manning a communications trailer that the army was using to coordinate search and rescue operations.

What I’m Working On Now

Since I’m “green” across the board in training – meaning fully trained and deployable for either of the basic missions of the guard, my focus is shifting to instructing – helping others get qualified and deployable, and personal growth as a servant leader. The governor has announced that he wants the guard to double in size. I think this reflects very well on how we performed during our Harvey activation. This creates “the perfect storm” for people like me who have been in a while and are looking for more to do and to level up in our skill sets by helping others to find and join the guard and to guide them through the steps to “getting green”. We all win because it makes Texas a safer place!