FORT HOOD, Texas - Col. Jason Wesbrock, commander of U.S. Army Garrison – Fort Hood, along with mayors, city managers and staff from the communities of Killeen, Harker Heights, Copperas Cove, Nolanville, Belton, Salado, Gatesville and Lampasas gathered at Nolanville, Texas' Monarch Park to renew the Cen-Tex Sustainable Communities Partnership April 8.
“This unique partnership between community leaders and stakeholders will build self-sustaining, community-based projects and programs,” Wesbrock said. “This will help us to achieve positive impacts from sustaining the mission to enhancing the well-being of our youth, Soldiers and Central Texas residents on Fort Hood and in our neighboring communities.”
Wesbrock and Andy Williams, mayor of Nolanville, hosted the event, signing a memorandum of agreement to renew the partnership until July 2024.
“I look forward to the great things we have planned for the next three years as we continue to cultivate and foster collaboration with our neighboring cities, and promote environmentally sound practices through initiatives like Nolanville’s Monarch Park and today’s tree planting ceremony,” Wesbrock said. “Through leadership in sustainability and collaboration, we will enhance environmental awareness and stewardship.”
“Coming together periodically to work together as a region, not just to plan, but to put these practices in action builds unity and potential progress in the areas of energy efficiency, water, transportation and waste,” Williams said.
The renewal also included the presentation of the first annual Environmental Ambassador Awards. Recipients included community members, staff, youth and the 504th Expeditionary Military Intelligence Brigade for their efforts in fostering community service and promoting beautification, conservation, pollution prevention and recycling through youth and community initiatives. During the recognition, awardees were presented with a tree cookie – a cross section of a tree.
Williams thanked the awardees for their leadership, dedication and commitment to sustainability.
“These individuals serve as a reminder of our responsibility as government leaders, managers and residents to remain committed to sustainability in the long term,” he said.
The 504th EMIB was recognized for their support to Nolanville on projects such as Make a Difference Day, community clean ups and beautification efforts at Monarch Park.
“This is an honor but isn’t about us. We just love giving back, and try to take every opportunity to come out and support the city,” Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Mabanag, 504th EMIB, said. “We wear the uniform for a reason, and as professionals, we need to set the example.”
Lt. Col. John Langford, the brigade’s executive officer, echoed the importance of giving back and being active members of the community.
“You have an opportunity to provide a service that carries on beyond you,” he said. “The things you do, whether it is planting trees, serving at a food bank, reading to kids at school – think about how that is going to carry on after. It’s going to be a legacy of not only your unit, but as well as the uniform that you wear, building the community and working with partners.”
Langford encouraged fellow leaders to foster selfless service and give their Soldiers the opportunity to get involved.
“Through active participation of volunteers and Soldiers, we are able to reach out and mentor many different aspects. Selfless service is the nature of a Soldier, so wherever we are, whether it is overseas, at home or in our community, it’s inherent to our identity that we continue to serve,” he said. “Look into your formations, motivate those who want to help and provide those opportunities. It doesn’t take much effort or energy to make a lasting impact.”
Following the awards presentation, Wesbrock and the mayors gathered to also sign a proclamation declaring April as Sustainable Environment Month and participated in a tree planting ceremony in the park. Williams gifted each of the communities with an apple tree to be planted and to represent the collaborative partnership in promoting sustainability within the region.
“If we are doing something positive, it is not going to only benefit Nolanville. It’s also going to have a positive effect on our neighbors from Killeen, Belton, Salado and Lampasas all the way down to Gatesville,” Williams said. “If we continue that trend and we all work hard in the sustainability effort, we can truly make this a great place to live.”
Later that day, Wesbrock joined Girl Scout Cadette Inara Houser in planting the apple tree, from Nolanville, in Fort Hood’s pollinator demonstration area. He recognized Houser as a Youth Environmental Ambassador, presenting her an award made out of recycled glass for volunteering more than 50 hours in revitalizing the Montague Community Garden.
“Inara’s efforts inspires, motivates and encourages scouts, residents and Central Texas to get out and make a difference,” Wesbrock said. “Today’s recognitions illustrates how our youth, Soldiers, families and leaders are cultivating meaningful and sustainable practices to promote environmental and community stewardship.”