WESLACO, Texas - From battles pre-dating the Alamo to today's war on terror abroad, the 3rd Battalion, 141st Infantry Regiment, 36th Infantry Division, Texas Army National Guard's story is rich with history and colored with the hard work and sacrifice of its Soldiers - a combat force ready to respond to the needs of the nation and also an asset to help their fellow Texans during a natural disaster.
Members of the battalion told their story to a state representative and legislative staff members June 4-5, 2014, at the Weslaco Armory in Weslaco during a Texas Military Forces Government Affairs legislative visit.
Between the two days, the historical account of “the most storied regiment in the state of Texas” was heard.
That story included losing the entire battalion in Italy during World War II, responding to nearly every major storm event in the state since the early 1900s, and having Soldiers supporting contingency operations around the globe throughout its history and today.
It was the true tale of the citizen Soldier in the Rio Grande Valley.
Pfc. Estevan Elizondo, a medic with 3rd Battalion, 141st Infantry Regiment, 36th Infantry Division, explains the various items in his medical kit to Texas Sen. Eddie Lucio's chief of staff, Louie Sanchez, during a legislative visit at the Weslaco Armory in Weslaco, Texas, June 4, 2014. The visit is day one of a two-day visit of state legislators and their staff at the South Texas armory. (U.S. Army photo by 2nd Lt. Alicia Lacy)
The “Rio Grande Valley” Battalion, as Lt. Col. Clarence Henderson, the battalion's commander, coined the unit, is comprised of the Soldiers who've grown up in the Valley, who work in the Valley, who are raising their families in the Valley, and are the ones who respond when the residents require their support.
During the visit, State House District 39 Rep. Armando Martinez, Louie Sanchez, chief of staff for State Senate District 29 Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., Alex Rios, district director for State House District 40 Rep. Terry Canales, and Michelle Villarreal, legislative director for State House District 35 Rep. Oscar Longoria, received a mission overview of the battalion and had the opportunity to view some of the unit's capabilities and the assets it brings to the area.
The legislative visit and tour of the armory comes at the heels of the Department of the Army's proposed force structure drawdown. As part of the drawdown, the National Guard Bureau was directed to reduce Soldier strength by two brigade combat teams, one of which is the battalion's headquarters brigade, the 72nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 36th Infantry Division, located in Houston, which could result in the deactivation of the brigade.
Though there is no direct threat to the South Texas battalion, the deactivation of its headquarters brigade could have an impact on the battalion's ability to respond to Texans during a natural disaster or other emergency.
“If this battalion went away, the local communities would be impacted by the ability to have military respond,” Henderson said. “These Soldiers respond to storm events as far north as Galveston to those in the local area. The ability to respond to natural disasters would be reduced.”
For that reason, it is important to educate Texans and leaders on the significance of the battalion here.
“The message is the value that this battalion brings to the local community. There's a great advantage of having an infantry battalion serving South Texas,” Henderson said.
While the state legislature is not in session, the TXMF Government Affairs Office used this opportunity to host legislative representatives and their staffs to promote a better understanding of the Texas National Guard's service to the state and nation.
“A lot of people don't know that this headquarters is here or how the office and personnel and equipment here are used,” Villarreal said. “I think, personally for me and our office, it's given us a better understanding of its purpose and it's great to know we have this facility here to accommodate our Soldiers.”
The representative and staff members received a firsthand look at the equipment used by the battalion downrange, as well as how that same equipment can be used in domestic response operations.
“When talking about disasters, it's great that we have this type of equipment here to use in the community,” Martinez said. “It's really good to see this and I'll continue to support our troops and the National Guard with anything I can do.”
By U.S. Army 2nd Lt. Alicia Lacy
Provided through DVIDS
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