Texas Guardsmen support Washington birthday celebration

Story by: Staff Sgt. Amanda Torres, 436th Chemical Company

Posted on: February 14, 2016

Soldiers from the 436th Chemical Company, Texas Army National Guard, support the 119th George Washington Birthday Celebration in Laredo, Texas, Feb. 14, 2016. Guard support included static displays and participation in the Stars and Stripes Airshow Spectacular. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Amanda Torres/Released)
Soldiers from the 436th Chemical Company, Texas Army National Guard, support the 119th George Washington Birthday Celebration in Laredo, Texas, Feb. 14, 2016. Guard support included static displays and participation in the Stars and Stripes Airshow Spectacular. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Amanda Torres/Released)

 

LAREDO, Texas- For the past 20 years in mid-February, the sounds of modern and WWII-era airplanes in the skies over Laredo have heralded one of the most popular celebrations in south Texas.

Held during the first weekend of a two-week long celebration, the George Washington Birthday Celebration Stars and Stripes Air Show Spectacular brings in pilots from all over the U.S. to perform both fly-bys and aerobatic stunts.

“This impressive event showcases paratroopers and precision pilot teams,” said the 119th Washington’s Birthday Celebration Association.

“Thousands are thrilled and chilled with an up close and personal look at aviation that’s simply without parallel.”

During the performance of the national anthem, two Texas Military Department members delivered the National and Texas flags, gliding to the ground after a jump from a Department of Public Safety helicopter.

To celebrate the community’s close ties with the Texas Military Department, senior Guard officers are invited to serve as air marshal, opening the celebration and officiating as an ambassador for the George Washington Birthday Celebration.

This year, Laredo tapped Brigadier General Patrick Hamilton, commander for the Domestic Operations Task Force, for air marshal duties. Former air marshals have included current Texas Adjutant General Maj. Gen.

John F. Nichols and Brig. Gen. Orland Salinas, the former deputy assistant adjutant general for the Texas Army National Guard.

“We have a strong presence here. This weekend, during the airshow, we provide a lot of soldiers and airmen who come down and participate,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity to be part of the community.”

Texas Military Department members participated in static displays, including a C-130 belonging to 136th Airlift Wing, an F-16 Fighting Falcon from the 149th Fighter Wing, and a UH-60 Blackhawk based out of Austin-Bergstrom International Airport in Austin.

“It also serves as a training event for our F-16s, since this is an alternate landing site for our F-16 wing in San Antonio,” said Hamiton.

Military aircraft weren’t the only planes on display. The “Yellow Rose,” a B-25 bomber from the Commemorative Air Force, shared space with a T-28 Trojan flown by the Trojan Phlyers, an all-veteran aerial demonstration team. The Jelly Belly Interstate Cadet stunt plane lightened the mood with a high-flying comedy routine, followed by the distinctive roar of the twin engines of the F7F Tigercat.

A rock-climbing wall, hosted by Texas Army National Guard recruiters and protective equipment from the 436th Chemical Company from Joint Task Force 136 (Maneuver Enhancement Brigade) kept the attendees busy on the ground with their forays into the National Guard world.

“I think it’s just the patriotism of the members of tis community to celebrate George Washington’s birthday,” said Hamilton.  “What a great thing to do as a community, and they’ve been doing it so long it’s really quite an event.”