Viper grad part of TX guard

Enlists with dad, Helps with Harvey


Harshita Avirneni, Staff Reporter

Vandegrift grad, Nelson Fesas Jr., is part of the Texas State Guard Maritime Regiment and was deployed to Houston after the catastrophe of Hurricane Harvey for 10 days to help with the recovery efforts. Fesas said it has been his most memorable deployment to date.

“The amount of equipment and personnel from all over the country that were present in response was truly a sight to behold,” said Fesas, VHS class of 2015 graduate. “More impressive than that was the response from the community, the way the people of Katy and Houston rallied around us and supported us as we supported them.”

From Aug. 26 – Sept. 4, Fesas’ primary duty in Houston was as a boat operator, driving boats into flooded areas conducting search and rescue operations that were aimed to remove people from areas with high or rising water levels. His unit also aided in helicopter evacuations of people who needed medical attention and assistance.

“On my longest shift, my unit and I were in the field for about 20 hours,” Fesas said. “During that time we were able to pull out  about 600 people from a flooded neighborhood in Katy. We were also able to establish a hasty LZ (Landing Zone) on a bridge where we worked in conjunction with army national guard Black Hawk helicopters to evacuate over 70 people to nearby hospitals.”

The Texas State Guard Maritime Regiment is a domestic military force that operates exclusively within the state of Texas. The missions include search and rescue, border operations, disaster relief/response, and shelter operations.

“I’ve always considered myself a grounded person, but my time in the Texas Maritime Regiment has definitely given me perspective on just how fragile our world is,” Fesas said, as he described how the TXSG has changed him. “I definitely go into situations with more of an eye for danger and risk than I did before. I have a better picture of what could happen and prepare for it accordingly.”

Fesas was first introduced to TMAR when his father, Nelson Fesas Sr. discovered it unknowingly one day while at the military forces museum at Camp Mabry. The younger Fesas saw this as an opportunity to serve fellow Texans and pay for college.

“I always considered joining the military when I was a kid, so when I found out about a domestic military force that was dedicated to helping and protecting my fellow Texans it seemed like a perfect fit,” ” Fesas said. “Not only that, but when I enlisted my father enlisted alongside me.”

According to Fesas, every member of TMAR is expected to have a sense of duty to fellow Texans in one unit. Also, having a sense of commitment, duty and honor so that units can function effectively and cohesively in missions. Fesas’ specific job in his unit is being a search and rescue/recovery technician, or SAR tech, having the responsibility to conduct the actual extraction of those in need of rescue or recovering those who were not fortunate enough to survive.  

“Apart from that, my specific job of SAR tech requires me to be able to go into difficult and often stressful environments… One must be able to put those stressful feelings aside temporarily in order to complete the mission, to help those in need,” Fesas explained.

Fesas expressed how it is better feeling being trained for an unexpected situation instead of being caught off guard when something goes wrong. He said how it is a good feeling when you’re ready and can react and respond quickly and effectively.

“My favorite part of being in the guard is being able to help my fellow Texans alongside my brothers and sisters in the unit,” Fesas said. “We train hard and frequently so we’re all very close and work well together. Being able to take that close knit group and throw them into a disaster like Hurricane Harvey where everyone is working together fluidly and efficiently is very rewarding and a ton of fun!”

Nelson Fesas, Sr. in his own words:

“Thanks for your interest in the Texas State Guard Maritime Regiment (T-MAR). As Chief Voelkel has already shared with you, we are an all volunteer force serving the citizens of Texas. People often confuse us with our close brethren the Texas Army/Air National Guard. While all three services answer to the Governor of Texas as our commander in chief and are commanded by the Adjutant General of Texas there are some important differences. The State Guard (TXSG) is primarily a disaster response force that serves within the borders of Texas and occasionally in adjoining states such as during Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana. The TXSG can not be federalized in times of war and remains behind to serve Texas.

The opportunity for me to serve with my son Nelson Jr. has been a source of great pride. Watching him grow and develop as a young man into his responsibilities with T-MAR has been a rare opportunity. During Hurricane Harvey his take charge attitude and performance in the rescue of hundreds was a credit to himself and his boat crew. His mother and I couldn’t be more proud.

The TXSG and T-MAR specifically is a unique organization that provides the chance for us to do some very worthwhile things for our fellow Texans and to do so with our friends, neighbors, and family. I would definitely recommend it to other father/son teams and mother/daughter terms as well.