News: Texas Military Forces celebrates partnerships, honors community
Story by Spc. Michael Giles
CAMP MABRY, Texas - The Texas National Guard involvement in responding to natural disasters, like the Bastrop County Complex fire and Hurricane Katrina, were frequent topics of discussion at the 2014 Texas Military Forces Open House and American Heroes Air Show held April 26 and 27 at Camp Mabry in Austin.
This year, the free event honored Service members, families and veterans with the American Heroes Air Show, while demonstrating the strength of the partnership between the Texas Military Forces and civilian emergency response agencies.
Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo explained that in our present time of diminished budgets, civilian agencies depend on partnerships with the National Guard to keep their communities safe and natural disasters contained.
“Our relationship to the Texas Military Forces is second to none,” Acevedo said.
Civilian emergency responders, including Christa Lopez, a search manager with Travis County Search and Rescue, value the support of Soldiers and Airmen because of the expertise and discipline they contribute to an operation.
“It is easier for us to conduct a search operation when we have the National Guardsmen who understand land navigation, terrain and physical endurance,” Lopez said. “When we work with the emerging volunteers and the public, we don’t always have that skill set.”
Attractions such as the American Heroes Air Show, a tactical demonstration involving Soldiers in helicopters and Humvees assaulting an enemy vehicle, a World War II reenactment, a Puerto Rican folkloric dance presentation, and a petting zoo, were provided to educate — and to thank — family and community members.
“These events are all about our Soldiers and their families, but we also want to pay tribute to our veterans,” said Lt. Col. John “Les” Davis, Camp Mabry garrison commander and coordinator for the open house. “It is extremely important when we have events like this to honor those who have served before us.”
Special recognition was given to 107-year-old Tech. Sgt. 5 (Ret) Richard Overton, the oldest living World War II veteran.
“This is a true opportunity for us to recognize their service, pay tribute to them and say thank you,” Davis said.
Davis explained that the National Guard showcases a cost effective force at the American Heroes Air Show. The nation gains a larger, less expensive force through the citizen-Soldier and citizen-Airmen model maintaining the same required standards as those of their active duty counterparts.
“The primary goal we have with the American Heroes Air Show, working with our Texas Military Forces partner,” explained James Paules, CEO and executive director of the American Heroes Aviation Network, “is to dynamically demonstrate, for the community, the value of these organizations and this equipment that the taxpayers are paying for.”