Posts From October, 2009

Communities Enjoy 3rd Annual Oktoberfest 

 

Story by Sgt. Jennifer Atkinson

CAMP SWIFT, Texas- The sounds of local bands, helicopters and children's laughter rose up into a bright blue sky as the military and local communities came together during the 3rd Annual Oktoberfest here at Camp Swift on Saturday, Oct. 17. Highlights of the event included military demonstrations, local vendors, musicians, children's activities and the Volksmarch, a non-competitive distance walk through the woods in the Camp Swift training areas.

During the opening ceremonies, Texas Adjutant General, Maj. Gen. Jose S. Mayorga welcomed the citizens of the surrounding cities, as well as Soldiers and families. Stressing the close relationship the residents of Bastrop, Elgin and Smithville have with the Soldiers training at Camp Swift, Mayorga stated it simply and clearly, "we are part of the community and the community is part of us."

Bastrop Mayor Terry Orr made it clear the city of Bastrop supports the Texas Military Forces. We have "been endeavoring to become known as a 'soldier-friendly town'," said Orr, by working with Camp Swift and the local chamber of commerce to welcome the local military presence. 

Highlighting some of the equipment Texas Military Forces use during both peace- and war-time operations, Soldiers from the 143rd Long Range Surveillance Detachment performed an airborne demonstration, jumping from Texas Army National Guard Chinook helicopters. After two Apache attack helicopters did a low-altitude fly-by, more Soldiers from the 143rd LRS, completed an "air assault" to deliver a walking stick to General Mayorga, kicking off the annual Volksmarch. 

For some, this was the closest they had ever been to the helicopters. "This is great," said Shandra Wilcox, an Austin resident. Her seven-year-old son, Jaris, "is helicopter-crazy," said Wilcox. For Jaris, the "chance to see [the helicopters] up close was just a great thing for him and all he could talk about on the way here." 

Supporting the local community and the military in a slightly different fashion, the animals from the Capital of Texas Zoo in Cedar Creek attracted adults and kids alike. Mo, the camel, was a striking sight under the oak trees and many children bravely held out pellets of feed in their hands to feed him. "This is a labor of love," said Carl Smith, Mo's handler. The zoo comes out every year to support the military "because it's a great organization." 

For others, the chance to take a look at a bit of history, both in the Texas Military Forces museum displays and in Camp Swift itself, was a big draw. "My uncle was in the Army in Vietnam," said Lorena Marquez, "but he lives in California and I never really got to see the stuff he used, so it's neat to be able to look at all the old equipment and think that he might have used some of it."

"I can remember coming out here at Swift for training, years ago," said Max Nelson, a Texas National Guard veteran. "I don't remember having this much fun, though," he said, "since I think it was raining the last time I was out here."

Vendors and informational booths lined the walkways, distributing both products and information.

"This is way more stuff available for Soldiers and their families than when I was in," said Mr. Nelson. "I learned more walking around here today than I thought I would."

"We understand the strength our Soldiers provide," said Mayor Marc Holm, from the city of Elgin. "We are very proud to partner with the military personnel at Camp Swift," he said. "We are a family and we want to make sure we all have the same closeness and respect for each other. We know it's going to be a great annual event."

Wednesday, October 21, 2009 11:49:00 AM Categories: Texas Army National Guard

Oktoberfest Hayride Excursion 

 

Story by Officer Candidate Micah Barnes

CAMP SWIFT, Texas - The children laughed and cheered from the hayride as they rode past the military demonstrations. Parents held them close as the simulated artillery rounds fired into oblivion while Soldiers rappelled from dizzying heights. For more than an hour, patrons enjoyed a relaxing journey through operations and exercises by the Texas Army National Guard at this year's Oktoberfest at Camp Swift, near Bastrop Texas.

The hayride event, hosted by the 1st Battalion, 136th Regional Training Institute Combat Arms Unit, located on Camp Swift, featured battle simulations, ghillie suits, and exciting freefalls. A new highlight of Oktoberfest, the ride catered well to the youngest of attendees at this year's third annual festival.

The Combat Arms Unit had four different presentations for the attendees, which showed some commonly rehearsed operations from rappelling to reacting to contact in a war-like environment. Staff Sgt. Justin Fusik, a Laredo native, said of the event, "I have been in the Guard for the past five years and I believe this is a great way to showcase all of our day to day operations." Each lane showed the functionality of a different branch of the Texas Army National Guard: Infantry, Field Artillery, Cavalry, and Military Police.

Fusik comments on the reasoning behind focusing on these four branches. "Seeing theses four branches at Oktoberfest does two things: one, it helps make the festival a blast and it also helps the public associate a face with the Texas National Guard."

The field artillery segment of this intense exhibit showed how quickly the unit's fire team could dismount, coordinate, load and fire the M119 howitzer. To the amazement of the audience, the fire crew team was able to accomplish all tasks in less than two minutes. After the applause settled from the crowd, a practical application brought to light the reality as to why the team needs to be so highly and effectively proficient at their jobs. Soldiers in combat depend on the team to send fire support when they are in a tough situation.

Next in the excursion, the cavalry scouts displayed their covert abilities as they hid in a field no larger than a basketball court. For the next seven minutes, parents and children alike attempted to view through binoculars and their naked eyes for these well-trained Soldiers. Samuel Levi Weyand, a Georgetown native and cadet of the Georgetown High School Junior Regiment Officer Training Course said of the iteration, "Those scouts were superb, we could not even find the one that was ten feet away from the trailer!" Out of the nine soldiers placed in the field, hayriders discovered only three, and only because the scouts were in their Army Combat Uniform without additional camouflage. Further, to the surprise of these onlookers, they completely missed the Humvee and Bradley Fighting Vehicle that were out in the field as well.

Later in the ride, the battalion simulated a convoy operation returning home to a "forward observation base," passing an abandoned housing complex and encountering a roadside bomb. This explosion initiated an enemy ambush attack on the unsuspecting Soldiers, stopping the vehicles and forcing the Soldiers out of their Humvees. Once in their defensive positions, they engaged the enemy with a massive firefight. Before vehicle team bounded around the building, they threw smoke canisters into the battlefield to conceal their advancement. 

Within mere minutes of the threat's initial ambush, the U.S. troops suppressed and detained the enemy. This Military Police scenario, demonstrated the mental and physical agility to defend and eradicate an unknown yet fortified enemy through basic battle drills, such as room clearing. 

"I never knew this is the kind of thing you could expect do if you were an MP. I thought only infantrymen did those things," said David Rosebaun, a Georgetown native and member of his high school JROTC unit.

The final stop of the hayride brings its riders to a towering edifice, where the long descent has only one way down. The infantrymen of the combat arms unit gave the audience a detailed look into what it takes to rappel off structures of any size. From the standard, more traditional techniques to the intense Aussie jump, the viewers remained mystified throughout the twenty-minute demonstration. The Soldiers also showed the difficulty of rappelling with an eighty-five pound rucksack strapped to one's back along with how to stop an out of control jumper. 

By the end of the hayride, Oktoberfest participants cheered wildly and called for more from the combat arms unit teams. The demonstrators serviced the crowd with an enlightening look at the Texas Army National Guard and the training necessary to overcome any obstacle thrown in it's path. This fan favorite will surely grow as a new staple of Bastrop's annual festival.

Monday, October 19, 2009 12:34:00 PM Categories: Texas Army National Guard

Volksmarchers walk for health, community 

 

Story by Staff Sgt. Daniel Griego

CAMP SWIFT, Texas -- Revived in Germany as an official sport in the 1960s, the centuries-old tradition of the volksmarch celebrates the new harvest and champions community fitness. Translated as "the people's walk," the volksmarch welcomed all groups of people to come together and celebrate health and life together as a unified population. The neighboring towns of Bastrop, Elgin and Smithville could, in turn, think of no better way to collectively celebrate their Oktoberfest than with this iconic tradition.

The flagship event of Camp Swift's annual Oktoberfest, the volksmarch offers participants the opportunity to enjoy nature, new neighbors and fitness together with routes that tour the training areas of the military installation. 

"There are three routes," said Chief Warrant Officer James W. Hampton, Oktoberfest project officer. "We have a one mile route for the kids, a 5K and a 10K."

The trails opened up directly following the opening ceremony of this year's third annual festival. Texas Adjutant General Jose S. Mayorga kicked off the event by receiving the ceremonial walking stick from the preceding Airborne/Air Assault demonstration. With staff in hand, he marched directly to the start point of the trail and began his trek around the camp, with more than a hundred walkers following behind him.

"The volksmarch itself has been something that the entire Texas Military Forces has put on," said Hampton. "It's not competitive, it's just for fitness."

Participants enjoyed the sharper routes of this year's march after Camp Swift's recent renovations.

"This is her second time," Army Sgt. Angela L. Descant said of her daughter after completing the kid's trail. "It's better than it was when she came the first time."

"Last year they came out here and actually cut all these trails," said Hampton of the new hiking routes at the camp.

Many walkers enjoyed the exercise, despite some lagging in pace. "There were a lot more people walking in front of us," said Jose M. Hernandez, 6.

This year's march also featured the "Tag My Kid" program, wherein children wear pins identifying them as Oktoberfest attendees with their parent's phone number written on the back side in the event they become separated.

"It's good, especially when you have one who wants to run around in the woods or crawl in holes," said Descant. 

For fitness or for community, the tradition of the volksmarch calls to mind the rich history of fall festivals and our German heritage.

"There's a big German community in Texas and in the military," said Hampton. "We're using this event to draw together the local areas of Bastrop, Elgin and Smithville and bring them out here to Camp Swift and help offer a better relationship."

Monday, October 19, 2009 12:32:00 PM Categories: Texas Army National Guard