March 5, 2013
For the second year in a row, troops controlled civilian transportation at the Austin Kite Festival, which took place Sunday, March 3, utilizing disaster training to facilitate crowds numbering more than 30,000 against an otherwise idyllic early spring park scene.
Video shows guard units ushering lines onto shuttle buses and coordinating over radio while families and children enjoy the park:
These guard units, controlled by the Governor of Texas and part of the Texas Military Forces, volunteered their services at the busy downtown park location at the request of the Austin Exchange Club, who’ve operated the festival for 84 years now.
Internet activists became alarmed last year after video was posted of troops patrolling the 2012 kite festival, controlling crowds at Zilker Park while helicopters buzzed overhead. Observers were concerned that it was part of an acclimation effort and exercise drill for martial law in the event of natural disaster or civil emergency.
That these units were drilling based upon these contingencies at the kite festival was confirmed by a spokesman in a March 2012 article:
Assisting the festival organizers and participants gives TXSG soldiers real-world training for the kind of logistical support the organization provides during natural disasters and other emergencies.
“This gives us the opportunity to put our training and expertise into practical use in advance of our response to hurricanes, tornadoes, floods or fires anywhere in Texas when ordered by the governor,” [Warrant Officer Darrell Prather] said.
Festival organizers emphasized that the guard units were volunteering their services, urging the public to “give them a big ‘thank you!’ when you see them.”