AUSTIN, TX, UNITED STATES
Story by: Sgt. Mark Otte
Texas Military Department
AUSTIN, Texas - Anyone who has ever traveled Austin’s MOPAC highway has inevitably become mired in the bumper-to- bumper traffic and hoped for a hero to rescue them. And then there it is; the imposing F-4 Phantom fighter jet, pointed toward downtown, nose up and about to take flight.
The aircraft, a welcome and interesting change of scenery for morning commuters and kids strapped in their car seats, is part of Camp Mabry's static aviation display, which may be the most recognizable part of the installation, but only begins to tell the post's story.
Initially, the space was little more than an 85-acre campsite, donated in 1892 by local citizens, at the urging of its future namesake, Brigadier General Woodford H. Mabry; in an attempt to professionalize the Texas Volunteer Guard. The new plot of land provided a place for those Soldiers to train for two weeks in the summer time.
During those weeks the community would make the trip out to the country to watch the mock battles and demonstrations the Soldiers would conduct. Those public displays are a tradition that continues today.
"You have to remember they didn't have TV, radio or internet," said Jeff Hunt, Director of the Texas Military Forces Museum. "So people going out to see military dress parades, drills and demonstrations, that was a form of entertainment."
As Austin has grown around the camp, so have the events hosted for the community. The Annual Texas Military Department Open House and American Heroes’ Airshow draws thousands to the post for battle re-enactments and helicopter demonstrations. The event also hosts local police, fire and rescue organizations.
The now 375-acre site that houses the Texas Military Department continues to serve the community that surrounds it. From Boy Scout campouts, 5K road races or historic-themed galas, Central Texans have shared the space since its inception in the 1800s. Lt. Col. Paul Mancuso, Camp Mabry Garrison Commander, said that while the open house is the largest public draw to the post, Mabry welcomes a host of other local organizations throughout the year.
"Because we have this beautiful facility, we have the ability to allow some nonprofits to come and do fund raisers and host events," Mancuso said. "It allows us to support those organizations that are in our local community, and lets our neighbors come out and see how beautiful Mabry is."
In 1992 the post converted a building designed as a mess hall in 1918 into the Texas Military Forces Museum. The almost 26,000 square feet of display space now house relics that date back to 1823 all the way to the present. Each item on display is used to help tell the story of the Texas military forces to youngsters and veterans a like.
Camp Mabry is an open installation so the community can come enjoy the 1-mile track or the catch-and-release fishing pond. Currently in the planning stages, the post will soon add a 5-mile hike-and-bike trail, with the help of Boy Scout Troop 1407.
"We will help clear the brush and make the trail," said Tyler Broz, a scout with the troop. "We will provide as much of the labor as we can."
For over 100 years Camp Mabry has supported both the soldiers of Texas and the community that supports them. The collective history of the post and those around it, provide an interesting lesson for both the those in uniform and those that call Texas home.