The Camp Bowie Training Center is growing, and Chief Warrant Officer Rodney Carmack, operations supervisor, says that’s going to the good for Brownwood and Brown County.
“Camp Bowie is in a growth spurt right now,” Carmack said while the facility prepared for the arrival Thursday of Major Gen. Charles G. Rodriguez, Texas National Guard adjutant general. “It’s definitely not going to be the 100,000 soldiers that was a rumor circulating a while ago. But we are getting extremely busy.
“It’s going to be good for the economy here,” Carmack added. “It’s going to help the restaurants, the stores and a lot of businesses.”
Members of the Texas National Guard began arriving last weekend for summer training, including the 111th Engineer Battalion of the 36th Infantry Division that is now making Camp Bowie home. Over the next year, the 3rd Tank Battalion, 112th Armored Regiment at Camp Bowie will be in a draw-down process. In September 2008, when the transition is complete, the 3-112 will be dissolved, with the 111th housing its headquarters and quarry platoon in Brownwood.
The 111th has first call on its facilities, so last week, the 56th Brigade Combat Team piggy-backed at Camp Bowie with the 111th. The 56th was housed in tents in an area behind the armory and barracks closer to the highway. Over 3,000 soldiers in the 56th Brigade Combat Team spent most of 2005 supporting the war in Iraq.
The need to piggy-back developed because of the demand for space to train.
“We’ve got different marching orders since the National Guard has been tasked with training ourselves,” Carmack said.
The Camp Bowie facility has been funded for the planning stage of a machine gun range, and is awaiting final funding so construction can begin. A rifle range for M-16 and the more compact M-4 weapons is also in line for construction in Fiscal Year 2008.
The new facilities will increase billets at Camp Bowie from its current 250 beds to an anticipated 580, Carmack said, more than doubling its size as it becomes what is described as a Maneuver Training Center of Excellence. The plan is to have infantry troops undergo job-specific training at Camp Mabry in Austin, and then come to Camp Bowie for maneuver training.
“Infantry has to maneuver on foot, or in small convoys, and there’s room to do that here,” Carmack said.
Carmack said when the expansion is complete, military officials expect the training site to be in high demand by units not only in Texas, but from throughout the United States. That may mean Texas units will need to find other training sites for weekends, Carmack said.
Carmack expressed appreciation for the community support found in Brownwood, and those sentiments were echoed by Lt. Col. Kimberly Tully, commander of the 111th Engineer Battalion.
“Brownwood shows the National Guard tremendous support,” Tully said. “And it’s not just the business and civic leaders. Our recruiting efforts are 200 percent above goals. That’s true throughout this area.”
Tully also emphasized that the changes planned at Camp Bowie will not involve the need for additional acreage, and that the increased number of troops coming here for training will not all be here at the same time.
The adjutant general was accompanied on his trip to Camp Bowie by Col. Lee Henry, commander, 56th Battalion Combat Team; and Command Sgt. Maj. Richard Vasquez, the highest ranking non-commissioned officer in the Texas National Guard.
Carmack, a Brownwood native and Brownwood High graduate who served his career in the U.S. Navy, said this is an exciting time to be at the Camp Bowie Training Facility.
“I was lucky enough to come back here to retire,” Carmack said.