Many Austinites have driven past Camp Mabry, located along Mopac, and perhaps gazed at the running track or outdoor displays and wondered, "what goes on there?"
Camp Mabry has a long, rich history that stretches back more than a century. Today, it is bustling with volunteer National Guard members; office employees for the Texas Army National Guard, Texas Air National Guard, and the Texas National Guard; staff members at the Texas Military Forces Museum; and even the occasional war reenactor.
Over the years, it has become part of the fabric of Texas, and was even home to the Texas Rangers until 1953. (One of Texas' best-known rangers, Frank Hamer who captured Bonnie and Clyde, even retired in Austin.)
The original area was established in 1892 consisting of 87 acres and named for General Woodford Haywood Mabry, a Texas general who served from 1891-1898. Mabry envisioned a spot where the Texas National Guard could prepare and be ready to go in cases of emergencies. In 1909, an additional 200 acres were added to the camp followed by another 400 acres in 1911.
General Mabry died of malaria in 1899 of malaria at the age of 42, and did not live long enough to see his vision for the camp to be implemented. However, Mabry's uniform and sword are on permanent display for the public in the military forces museum housed in a former mess hall.
Camp Mabry has historically served the nation in many capacities, including providing a mobilization area during the Spanish-American War, as a training site with extra buildings during WWI and WWII. Throughout the decades, it has also responded to natural disasters by providing mobilization in response to national and state requests. Today, the Texas National Guard has been assisting with the COVID-19 response by sanitizing nursing homes and helping to staff drive-through testing sites in regions across the state.
During times of peace, the base is used by residents. In fact, before the attacks on September 11, 2001, the mile-long running track was available to joggers, sports teams, and the general public. The track is still available for use, but interested persons must now check-in at the front gate on 35th Street. There is also catch-and-release fishing pond, hiking trails, and campsites that girl and boy scout troops use throughout the year.
And in mid-to-late April on American Heroes Weekend, Camp Mabry holds Muster Day, an open house of the facilities for the general public. The event dates back to the time Texas was part of the Republic and troops were called to report, or muster. Attendees can see war reenactments, hop aboard historic helicopters and planes, hear from first responders about field experiences, attend museum events, witness the Air Force Warbird formation in the skies above, and more. Although Muster Day 2020 was canceled, you can visit the museum's website for information on future openings and events.