One of four major Texas Army National Guard training centers, a part of the state’s Training Center Garrison Command, Camp Bowie employs 32 full-time federal and state employees and is responsible for ensuring mobilization and unit- training requirements are met year-round for the more than 25,000 men and women that make up the Texas Military Forces.
“My sole purpose in life is to provide adequate facilities for those units to train,” said Lt. Col. Jamey Creek, the camp’s manager and officer-in-charge. “That includes billeting, multiple live-fire ranges, digital training aides, land navigation, maneuver space and roadside bomb [and] route clearance defeat lanes necessary for them to meet their qualification requirements.”
Training more than 419,000 service members and other local emergency and first responders since 2006, records indicate Camp Bowie usage averages almost 70,000 people a year. For the 38,000 residents living in the city of Brownwood and Brown County, each and every person in the Texas National Guard is more than just a visitor.
“You could say they are our family because we are such a small community,” said Sunni Modawell, the tourism manager for the Brownwood Area Chamber of Commerce. “Everybody knows everyone else and over time you know their spouses, you know their children – so essentially they are our family.”
In addition to the Army Guard, other components of the Texas Military Forces regularly conduct training at the facility. In fact, for the past 10 years, the volunteer Texas State Guard has held their two-week annual training encampment at Camp Bowie and says the location and staff makes for a positive experience.
"Camp Bowie is a great resource," said Brig. Gen. Charles Miller, the Texas State Guard's chief of staff, in Austin. "We've found its location to be ideal for our members and its facilities and environment perfect for training, plus the staff there is always accommodating and extremely professional.”
A place where many residents say it is not uncommon to see military vehicles driving throughout town or to run into a handful of service members at local establishments, one longtime Camp Bowie neighbor, with his own ties to the Texas National Guard, said his relationship with the training site has been a good one focused on mutual respect and understanding.
“If I have to listen to helicopters and 50-caliber machine guns, and that helps out, then I am OK with it. You have to look at the big picture,” said Phil Richey of Brownwood, a resident who lives near Camp Bowie’s northern perimeter. “I think these folks here [in Brownwood] realize that the soldiers are providing a service here and if we are going to remain number one in the world we have to have a well-trained Army.”
A training site host to disaster and emergency preparedness exercises where they combine local, state and federal agencies aimed at sharing best practices, Creek said Camp Bowie also supports training requests from Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) and the Texas Forest Service, to name a few.
According to the Brownwood Fire Department, the relationship with the Texas Army National Guard (or Texas Military Forces) has not only strengthened the region’s mutual aid agreement, but has been instrumental in expanding their training capabilities.
“As a result of the Texas National Guard allowing us to place our mobile fire training trailer on their property we can better serve our residents through continuous training,” said Del Albright, Brownwood’s fire chief and emergency management coordinator. “Without their support, our mobile fire training trailer would be just a piece of equipment we couldn’t use.”
For Creek, he said it is his principled beliefs in personal communication and strong relationships that enable him to keep many issues concerning the nearby neighbors from escalating, even when unfavorable circumstances arise.
“In 2006, when a wildfire got out of control in less than ideal conditions and jumped the fence, I had some minor property damage,” Richey said. “Lt. Col. Creek was instrumental in ensuring I got some financial relief.”
A resident of Brownwood for nearly 40 years, Richey said the one downside of having Camp Bowie against his property line is the dust created by the dirt road that serves as a firebreak between the properties. Quick to compliment Camp Bowie management for their concern and willingness to find solutions to mitigate the problem, Richey said he is optimistic about the outcome.
“I don’t expect it to be not completely dusty, but you hate to look over and see dust 100 feet in the air,” he said.
From serving the residents of this small town in west-central Texas, those with the Brownwood Area Chamber of Commerce said the Texas National Guard’s impact extends beyond providing a piece of mind and building relationships.
“I can’t imagine any aspect of our community without Camp Bowie,” Modawell said.
In 2012, Brownwood Chamber of Commerce’s economic impact reports show direct visitor spending totaled $50.4 million, and local sales tax receipts equaled more than $1 million.
In addition to providing state-of-the-art training facilities and simulators to enhance the readiness of the Texas Army National Guard, Creek said he hopes to continue expanding the area’s mutual aid agreement and maintain positive working relationships with the citizens of Brownwood and various local, state and federal agencies and said their support could not be better.
“Support from this community is amazing. It’s an incredible feeling to know we are supported that much,” he said.
The Texas Army National Guard’s other training centers include Camp Swift, near Bastrop, in central Texas, Fort Wolters in Mineral Wells, west of Fort Worth, and Fort Maxey in Powderly, northeast of Dallas, near the Texas-Oklahoma border.