Monday, October 28, 2019

Why I Served

I joined the Texas State Guard in order to be trained in emergency response. The TXSG surpassed my expectations. It was an honor and a privilege to have been a Texan serving Texas.

I am a technical writer; and I usually work as a contractor. In the winter and spring of 2014, a local temporary agency placed me at the Texas Department of Public Safety Division of Emergency Management (TDEM). I reviewed, edited, and wrote specifications for public bids on materials and services. I was directed to find out about the Texas State Guard because they staff Red Cross shelters for which they need computers and peripheral equipment. They also provide personnel for the evacuation and tracking of people leaving disaster sites on state-leased vehicles. 

My last project at TDEM was to bring into agreement two different sets of training materials on “Managing Spontaneous Volunteers at a Disaster.” Spontaneous volunteers are often called “the disaster within the disaster.” Even though they have good intentions, they are usually untrained and often unprepared to care for themselves. I learned that VOADs are Volunteer Organizations Active in Disasters. If you want to be useful, join a VOAD. Unfortunately, I did not find one that offered the training that I was looking for on a schedule that I could meet. 

Then, I was asked to work for the Texas Military Department office of the Executive Director at Camp Mabry. I documented upgrades to a computer system. One day, I walked across the road to the Texas State Guard headquarters and asked the first person I met what I had to do to volunteer. Suddenly, I was surrounded.
Induction ceremony
22 November 2014
 We met a couple more times and talked about my background and their needs. I read a lot on the TXSG and TMD websites. The TXSG asked for at least three years of service. Having just turned 65, I could promise that. (Back then, the last day of service was prior to your 71st birthday. Now it is the drill before you turn 70.) On November 22, 2014, I took the oath of office and was sworn in as a petty officer 3rd class (E-4) in the Maritime regiment, but assigned to plans and operations in the headquarters command at Camp Mabry. My first billet was Future Operations (FUOPS).

While in FUOPS, I began learning WebEOC, the virtual emergency operations computer platform used by everyone from FEMA down to the fire department. I began attending classes in WebEOC and helping my fellow learners with the hands-on exercises. On October 7, 2015, I taught “WebEOC for Battle Captains” to the TXSG Officer Candidate School. It was the first of nine classes that I was assigned to teach, including four more OCS sessions. When Hurricane Harvey struck, I served 23 days as the primary WebEOC operator for the Texas State Guard Emergency Operations Center (TEOC). 
Meritorious Service Ribbon,
Brevet promotion, and Farewell
26 October 2019
Not being prior federal, I went through RBOT, the Regional Basic Orientation Training of the TXSG. The age-based requirements seemed easy enough, but I discovered that I could not do a single push-up or sit-up. So, I started with toe-touches. Fortunately, that was in January and RBOT was not until April. By then, I exceeded all of the minimums for push-ups, sit-ups, and one mile, for someone half or a third of my age. The last fitness examination was in December 2018. We were held to previous US Army standards and again I exceeded the minimums for someone one-third my age. For me, the physical fitness requirements were an important benefit to being in the Maritime regiment of the TXSG. Exercise has been routine these past four years, and I am lucky to be working now for a company with a gymnasium on site. 

Integral to emergency management, I learned and practiced the FEMA incident command system (ICS). Among the certifications I earned were Managing and Developing Volunteers, Risk Management, Continuity of Operations, Public Information Systems, and Protecting Critical Infrastructure Against Insider Threats. 

In July 2016, the Texas National Guard asked the Texas State Guard for six clerk typists (now called operations specialists). I served 14 months as a full-time temporary state employee in the domestic operations task force. Mostly, I read, edited (and eventually wrote) orders. I also carried them from office to office, desk to desk, getting sign-offs. That led to a couple of interesting moments with an Air Force lieutenant colonel who did not understand why he was being tasked by a sergeant. I had to remember that my crows were not eagles. Also while working in DOMOPS, I learned to take care of officers. My first sergeant and I ran the coffee mess, emptied the trash, and cleaned the work spaces.

In July 2018, I became the public affairs officer (PAO) of the TXSG Maritime Regiment. I tended our Facebook page and published a feature story in the TMD monthly magazine. 

On January 1, 2020, the TXSG joint force command structure will be in place and TMAR will cease to exist. We are casing the colors at our annual ball next February.

It was an honor and a privilege to serve. For most of my time in uniform, our commanding general was Gerald “Jake” Betty. Soon after I joined, our office was disassembled and eventually restored brick-by-brick by the historical commission. (They even built replica panes and returned the original glass.) During the hiatus our headquarters was moved to a trailer and some other unused spaces. I attended many briefings for the command group and general staff. BG Betty ended every meeting with three mandates: Do your duty. Take care of your people. Go home with your honor. 


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