|In this image, Round Rock youths enjoy the military tactical vehicles during the city's annual Touch a Truck event, held Oct. 25, 2014, at Old Settlers Park. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Jennifer Atkinson)
Story by Staff Sgt. Jennifer Atkinson
ROUND ROCK, Texas - During a hurricane or other natural disaster, National Guard vehicles are familiar sights in local communities, giving aid to Texans in a time of need. It's not often those same trucks and equipment are standing still long enough for community members to climb in, take a good look around and chat with Guardsmen from the Round Rock-based Joint Task Force 136 (Maneuver Enhancement Brigade).
At the Touch A Truck event, sponsored by the City of Round Rock and staged at Old Settlers Park, children of all ages got a chance to get in an armored cargo truck and Humvee. With an eagle's eye view of the people on the ground, kids and adults got a taste of what driving one of these vehicles might be like.
“These sure have changed from my day,” said Robert Gomez, laughing. “I barely recognize these as Army trucks! I'm really glad I got a chance to bring my family out here to see something like what I used to drive.” Gomez, a Houston native visiting family for the weekend, recalls lines of trucks moving supplies after Hurricane Ike.
“The kids remember that too,” he said. “They remember seeing the trucks lined up in our neighborhood, before we got power back. We got a lot of ice from you guys then, off the back of trucks like these.”
Honking the truck horn was an especially popular activity, as was climbing the rear steel ladder to reach the bed of the track.
On the same day, members of the brigade's 436th Chemical Detachment, also located at the Armed Forces Reserve Center in Round Rock, supported the city's “Halloween at the Y" event, allowing visitors to explore a decontamination trailer and chemical protection gear, such as gloves, suits, and a gas mask.
"This weekend, the 136th MEB supported the citizens of Round Rock at two different events," said Capt. Stephen Houck, commander of the headquarters company. "This allows us a great opportunity to give back to a community that gives us so much."
Although this is the first year for the National Guard to support Halloween at the Y, the unit has a long history of providing vehicles and personnel to the Touch a Truck event, fostering a long-term working relationship with the city. Next to the trailer at the Round Rock Dell Diamond parking lot, where "Halloween at the Y" took place, kids climbed in and out of a green Humvee.
“This is a great thing to do,” said Spc. Joshua Doucet, a member of the 436th Chemical Company. “Even though we've never had to use the equipment in a real situation, it's important to be out here so people can see us and can see we're always working to make sure we're ready to help.”
Talking to families and children about the mobile showers in the trailer, and the varied pieces of gear on the tables, Doucet was all smiles.
"I love this,” he said. “We get out and meet people from the community and show them we're ready to do our jobs, that we're here for them if they need us.”