WESLACO, Texas – Texas Military Department service members teamed up with local and state partners to participate in the largest emergency response exercise in the country. Operation Lone Star brought Guardsmen, medical teams and health officials to the Rio Grande Valley to deliver medical care to local residents, July 24-28, 2017. The training also provides Guardsmen an opportunity to work alongside medical providers and first responders during a large-scale medical mass casualty emergency.
The Texas Military Department deployed Guardsmen from the Texas State Guard and Texas Air National Guard to provide medical and administrative support at five locations: Laredo, La Joya, La Feria, Pharr-San Juan-Alamo, and Brownsville. The Texas State Guard was the lead military agency for Operation Lone Star.
“Members of the Texas State Guard and Texas Air National Guard at this exercise are a premier group of officers and enlisted men and women who are training on the necessary skills that they will need if called to support local and state agencies during an emergency,” said Col. John W. Wieden, Joint Task Force Commander, Operation Lone Star. “We are developing partnerships and strengthening community relationships which are essential in joint operations should an emergency or disaster, such as hurricanes, tornadoes, or flooding, anywhere in the state.”
The exercise not only prepares the Texas Military Department but also provides a way to offer basic medical services to the people of the Rio Grande Valley. Medical personnel from the Texas State Guard’s Medical Brigade and Air National Guard’s performed physicals, basic dental care, gave vaccinations, and tested for diabetes.
For Sgt. Silverio Salas, 1st Regiment, Texas State Guard, training exercises like this prepare Guardsmen to assist the community when disaster strikes. “Helping out the community and guiding the guests to the correct medical stations here at Pharr-San Juan-Alamo High School is similar to what happens during a real world emergency,” said Salas. “For me, this exercise is the best training for the Texas State Guard when called to sup-port local and state agencies during an emergency or disaster.”
One patient was grateful for the program that provides free dental care to residents. “I came for dental services. I am very appreciative. I congratulate you on your work, in helping the community, at no cost to those that come for the services.”
Spc. Steven Butler (Below) , 1st Battalion, Texas Medical Brigade, Texas State Guard, tests a patient for diabetes during Operation Lone Star at La Joya High School, La Joya, Texas, July 26, 2017. The Texas Military Department partners with local, state and federal agencies during Operation Lone Star, which is an annual full-scale emergency response and public health exercise along the Rio Grande Valley, July 24-28, 2017. This exercise prepares responders to assist Texas during an emergency or natural disaster, such as a hurricane or tornado.
Operation Lone Star is led by the Texas Department of State Health Services with multiple agencies, such as the Texas Department of Emergency Management, the Hidalgo County Health and Human Services Department, Cameron County Department of Health and Human Services, and the City of Laredo Health Department, plus multiple organizations and volunteers, providing support.
According to James Archer, director of regional health and medical operations center (Weslaco), Health Service Region 11, Texas Department of State Health Services, the Texas Military Department’s contributions are integral to an effective exercise. “Operation Lone Star 2017 was very successful operation. The Texas Department of State Health Services cannot do this exercise without our partners such as the Texas Military Department, the Texas State Guard, local health departments, volunteer organizations, and local emergency agencies, which contribute and participate at OLS,” said Archer. “The Texas Military Department is key supporting agency.”
The Texas State Guard was the lead military unit for Operation Lone Star. The Texas Military Department was also by fellow military partners from the 139th Medical Group Missouri Air National Guard, the 8th Medical Brigade, U. S. Army Reserves (NY), the Chilean Army and Air Services and the Czech Republic Medical Army Services.
Photo below shows 1st Lt. Larry Norotsky, 1st Battalion, Texas Medical Brigade, Texas State Guard, listens to the heartbeat of a patient during Operation Lone Star at La Joya High School, La Joya, Texas, July 26, 2017. The Texas Military Department provided medical and administrative support to local, state and federal agencies during the eighth annual Operation Lone Star, July 24-28, 2017. Operation Lone Star is a full-scale emergency response and public health exercise along the Rio Grande Valley which prepares responders to assist Texans during an emergency or natural disaster, such as a hurricane or tornado.
Photo below – During Operation Lone Star, Staff Sgt. James Anderson demonstrates to the Czech Military delegation how medical providers collect the vitals and medical history of each patient at Pharr-San Juan-Alamo High School, San Juan, Texas, July 24-28, 2017. Operation Lone Star is a joint emergency training and public health exercise along the Rio Grande Valley of local, state and federal partners which trains all emergency responders to assist Texans in the event of a natural disaster or emergency. Operation Lone Star gave the Texas Military Department’s state partnership members of the Chilean and Czech Military an opportunity to participate in and observe the operations of this mass casualty exercise.
By: Chief Warrant Officer 3 Janet Schmelzer, Texas State Guard Public Affairs