They think of themselves more as helpers than soldiers, ready to step in when times are bad.
“We even don’t carry weapons,” said Suzanna Ozuna of El Campo, a private in the El Campo’s Texas State Guard unit. “I wanted to be part of something to help people.”
To do so means wearing the camouflage BDU (Battle Dress Uniform) of a state guardsman, a requirement she readily accepts as does Private Mark Bohac, a trucking firm owner and grandfather of six from Victoria.
“I found the opportunity right after Harvey,” he said, adding his family had been involved in a church relief effort then.
They are two of the 13 members of Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 8th Regiment, Army Component, stationed at the Roy P. Benavidez National Guard Armory just south of El Campo.
Ozuna, a medical billing clerk for Memorial Hermann Hospital, and her husband Chon, a retired volunteer firefighter who works for the railroad, both serve in the unit.
The opportunity for Suzanna Ozuna came when her youngest child completed high school. She has two others ages 20 and 24.
“The children don’t need me anymore,” she said.
Bohac has four children ages 25 to 37 in addition to the grandchild. He visited with his wife before signing on.
“We were praying and debating about it,” he said, adding he enlisted in September 2018. “I haven’t been deployed yet.”
He has been involved in several training exercises, however, as has Ozuna, most specializing in disaster response from watching helicopter evacuations to setting up shelters.
“We done quite a bit of training,” Bohac said, adding he believes he’s ready for the next, “although I pray we don’t have another one.”
For Ozuna, her skills in medial billing fit right in to shelter and evacuation operations, registering the displaced and determining their needs.
In a recent exercise, other guardsmen took on the roles of the injured, the frightened and the confused, teaching her to deal with situations she’s likely to encounter during an actual disaster.
“They made it feel real. I think I’m more prepared ... I have more confidence,” Ozuna said.
Both Ozuna and Bohac say the training they’ve received affects their civilian lives as well. “It does make us more aware,” he said.
A recent family trip for the Ozunas provided one opportunity when they encountered a stranded motorist. “We need to help other people,” she said.
“The training would kick in,” Bohac said.
The Charlie Company commander is Second Lt. Craig Mathison.
“These troops all work very, very hard,” he said, adding, “I couldn’t be blessed with better. They are very well trained, committed and ready to go.”
A guardsman since 2015 he works in Houston as a CPA when not in uniform. Previously, he served eight years in the Army National Guard.
“This in another chance to serve the country,” he said.
At 13, the company is seriously under strength.
“I would love to get up to 60,” Mathison said. “We need folks to know the mission is Texans helping Texans.”
Charlie Company started in September 2018 following an August recruitment drive at the El Campo Farmer’s Market although its colors weren’t “uncased” in a traditional ceremony until the Master Sgt. Roy P. Benavidez Memorial Highway Dedication event in March.
People in good health between the ages of 18 and 70 are eligible as long as they can pass a criminal background check, have a valid driver’s license and have lived in the state at least six months.
Prior military service is not required nor is any specialized training. Physical requirements are less strenuous.
For information, type “join the Texas state guard” in your search engine.
“Come join us. Help us in helping others,” Ozuna said.