AUSTIN, TX, UNITED STATES
100th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
AUSTIN, Texas – Texas Military Department members, along with representatives from federal, state and local law enforcement and first responders converged on Camp Mabry, in Austin, Texas for the annual Texas Military Department Open House and Air Show weekend, April 22, 23, 2017.
The Open House highlights a multilateral partnership, which includes local, state and federal agencies. This partnership spans over three decades, and allows TMD and first responders to demonstrate teamwork and capabilities to the local community. The event also included by an array of vendors, living history reenactors, and dozens of volunteer groups.
Usually civilians are unable to interact with service members and first responders while they are on the job, but the Open House invites the community to see these agencies demonstrate their capabilities. Tim Pruett, commander of Special Operations with the Austin Police Department was on hand with members of the Austin Bomb Squad demonstrating some of their tools, such as bomb-sniffing dogs, tracked robots and bomb disposal suits.
“It’s important to come out and visit the public and get those relationships built, not only for trust purposes, but to let them know we are people just like them,” said Pruett.
Steve Robertson, a special agent with the DEA drove down from Waco for his third straight year at the event. He felt the event was a critical part of informing the public about what they do.
“Our primary job is to put drug traffickers in jail; however another part of our mission is to educate the public. So today, we are here for education and to talk to the public,” he said.
Robertson also stressed that strong relationships between members of TMD, federal, state and local law enforcement and first responders are critical to the safety of Texas.
“Partnerships, task forces, team building, all those different words you use for working with different agencies are important to us because I have a four-man office that covers 13 counties. Without these partnerships we could not survive,” said Robertson.
Along with the static displays of vehicles, watercraft and helicopters, there were also demonstrations that showcased how partnering agencies work together during natural disasters - such as floods - in simulated rescues.
One participant, Sgt. Destry Riggs, a UH-72 Lakota crew chief said it was important to reassure citizens that TMD stands ready to serve them.
“We’re not just a combat role aircraft; we stand shoulder to shoulder with the Texas Department of Public Safety and other agencies on a regular basis ready to assist them,” he said.
“We work for the people of Texas to ensure their safety in the event of a natural disaster.”
The event was also a great opportunity for TMD to show its appreciation for the support it receives from the local community.
“We host this event to thank our friends and neighbors,” said Maj. Gen. John F. Nichols, the adjutant general of Texas.
One of the biggest attractions at the event is the battle reenactment put on by “living history” members and personnel from the Texas Military Forces Museum, also located on Camp Mabry. The event featured nearly 100 reenactors in World War II uniforms and equipment, along with tanks and armored vehicles, and drew hundreds of spectators.
“To me it is very important because we’re also remembering those who came before us,” said Nichols.
Museum Director Jeff Hunt felt the importance of the event and the participation by the museum and reenactors could not be overstated.
“This is our busiest weekend of the year. We will have anywhere between 4,500 and 6,500 people come through the museum. We are educating people, not only about the past, but the present. Through educating them about the past, we are putting the present into context, which helps them understand it.”
Hunt also felt that the opportunities provided to members of the public by the Open House event could have far reaching impacts on the future of TMD.
“We like to think that the 6 year old that comes through the museum and gets to sit in the cockpit of the F-16, or stands in awe of the Sherman tank, or comes down to one of our battle reenactments, is more likely when they are 18 or 19 to raise their hand and take the oath and put on the uniform and step into that long line of heroes who have defended the country and they will hold the torch aloft for their time and then pass it along to the next generation.”