Camp Bowie is one of four Texas Army National Guard training sites. The cam employs 32 full-time federal and state employees and offers mobilization and unit-training annually for more than 25,000 men. Just outside of Brownwood, Texas, Camp Bowie provides a large US National Guard training center and other facilities for the Department of Defense. Like most bases in the US, Camp Bowie has a long history of providing defense and training for soldiers. Over the years, there have been some changes to Camp Bowie, and most recently, it was renovated after a grass fire damaged parts of the base in 2008. Today, it is an active military training station and recently added new facilities such as a firing range and storage bunkers.
Camp Bowie is located in Tarrant County. It was originally constructed in 1917 where Arlington Heights no resides outside of Fort Worth. The US War Department established Camp Bowie to provide training for the 36th Infantry Division. The original design included training facilities, housing facilities, rifle ranges and trench system. The total site spanned 2,186 acres and was named after James Bowie, who was a prominent figure in the Texas Revolution and subsequently died at the Battle of the Alamo.
The Cavalrymen of the First Texas Cavalry protected the camp as it was being built. Though it was meant to be a tent camp, there was more construction to provide for the division of soldiers who needed training for World War I. The 36th Infantry Division stayed at Camp Bowie for 10 months. There was trouble with illness that made it difficult for the division to be deployed. After the armistice in 1918, Camp Bowie became a demobilization center and had discharged over 30,000 men by 1919.
The camp would reopen in 1940 and become the largest training center in Texas for World War II. The war in Europe had increased dramatically in 1940, which made Congress beef up the defense system. President Roosevelt instructed that National Guard units must be mobilized. The 36th Division of the Texas National Guard arrived at Camp Bowie, which was then located at Fort Worth in December of 1940 to begin training. Even before they were finished with training, war had been declared.
A new camp would be built in 1940 at Brownwood. It was a major defense project and, and more than 15,000 men were employed to help build the new camp. Overall, the War Department owned 123,000 acres of land in Brown and Mills Counties. While the original plan was for a 2,000 campsite, it grew rapidly to include 8,000 acres for infantry and 28,000 acres for maneuvers on the ground. Another 23,000 hours was designated for artillery range. More than 115,000 acres was used as training grounds. Eight divisions trained at Bowie. The population swelled to 60,000 men at one point in time.
Eventually Camp Bowie hosted German prisoners of war. In 1943, the camp had 2,700 POW who were day laborers for nearby farms. After war was declared over in 1945, Camp Bowie was declared to be in surplus and much of the camp was distributed and sold off. The Brownwood Industrial Foundation purchased a large part of the property and created an industrial park. This park known as Camp Bowie Industrial Park was home to a variety of companies and industries through the 1960s and 1970s. Brownwood has rapidly grown because of its industrial center.
Life at Camp Bowie
Camp Bowie has trained more than 419,000 service members since 2006 as records indicate. That averages to about 70,000 people per year. The camp has close ties with nearby Brownwood where many of the military families live in off-base housing developments.
Other units of Texas Military Forces also train at the facility, which provides visitor lodging and a small on-base housing facility for trainees. The volunteer Texas State Guard holds their two-week training at Camp Bowie every year.
The camp is also a major source of revenue for Brownwood. It’s estimated that the base and its visitors contribute to $50.4 million spending annually.
The 4-H Conference Center is located right near the center of the state on Lake Brownwood, which is a 7,300 acre reservoir that provides much of the entertainment for the community during spring and summer months. While Brownwood may be a small town of only 39,000, it’s an incredible place to visit because of the lake and plenty of leisure activities like golf, skiing, boating, fishing and game hunting.
Brownwood also has a historic downtown area and cultural district that provides all types of festivals and year-round events. The National Guard from Camp Bowie participates in most of these events and frequently joins the parade.
Historic Camp Bowie
While there are still the small training facilities for the US Army National Guard at Camp Bowie, there is not much left of the historic Camp Bowie site. It transformed into a medical center that includes a large hospital. There are also nearby parks, a community pool and a sports complex with football and baseball fields. Campsites for hunting and trail hikers are also nearby to the original camp as it is located in a natural paradise in Central Texas. Homes, businesses and plazas now comprise much of the 123,000 acres that used to be Camp Bowie in the days of World War II.
Housing for Camp Bowie
Camp Bowie provides on-site housing for any trainee in the Texas National Guard. There are also several communities located near the base in Fort Worth and Brownwood that are optimal if training, visiting or working at Camp Bowie. You can reach the billeting department at Camp Bowie by calling 325-643-3055.
Camp Bowie continues to be a symbol of one of the largest training centers for World War II and offers housing to all those who come for training at the facility.