HARKER HEIGHTS, Texas -- In a continuing effort to reach out to the Soldiers, family members and retirees off-post, Fort Hood opened the Harker Heights Community Outreach Center here Sept. 9. The center is the first of its kind in the Army.

The purpose for the center is to provide information and resources for the large military population residing outside the gates of the Great Place that are the same as those available at the Fort Hood Resiliency Campus.

Colonel Bill Rabena, commandant of the Fort Hood Resiliency Campus said the outreach center is breaking new ground. "This is a first of its kind pilot outreach center that redefines the Army's commitment to the Army Family Covenant by housing a chaplain, a military family life consultant, a financial specialist and an outreach coordinator."

He added that this is one more way to get information and resources to those in the community. "No matter how much we advertise the programs and events at Fort Hood, there are still some people who will not come on post," Rabena said. "The great thing about this is it's like a scout operation. They can find out what we do on Fort Hood."

The community outreach center is not only a valuable resource for those in the community who want Fort Hood information without having to travel onto the post, but for those who are in search of a certain degree of privacy while using resources.

The outreach center has staff members at the Harker Heights location specially trained to deal with some of the most private issues Soldiers or family members might have. Master Sgt. Vanessa Price, the military liaison between the Fort Hood Resiliency Campus and the Harker Heights Outreach Center said that might attract servicemembers or family members who would like to visit a chaplain or a MFLC in a location other than post.

"As a young Soldier, when I went to do certain things, if something like this was available to me, I would have used it," she said.

Sept. 9 was the grand opening gala but the center had a soft-launch a few weeks ago and Price said individuals are already taking advantage of the services.

"So far we've seen about 20 to 30 Soldiers and family members," she added.

During the opening ceremony, Maj. Gen. Will Grimsley, the acting senior commanding general of Fort Hood, spoke of his desire to help those who serve and their loved ones. "This is all about taking care of the Soldiers and their families where they live," he said.

Grimsley added that the Great Place can be intimidating or overwhelming to some. So he said it was an easy decision to reach out to the active duty population and their families in a new way.

"What ultimately makes the Great Place the Great Place is the Soldiers and families," he said. "We're taking the programs of Fort Hood and bringing them to the community."

He thanked the members of the Fort Hood and the Harker Heights communities who contributed to the creation of the outreach center. "The reason we all love to live and serve here is because we get to do it in Central Texas, so on behalf of the Soldiers and their families, thank you."

The creation of the center involved a lot of moving parts. The site was donated to Fort Hood as were the furnishings in the building. Harker Heights city officials and the staff at several agencies on Fort Hood and across the Department of Defense worked hand-in-hand for several months on the project. Harker Heights Mayor, Ed Mullen said he was thrilled to finally open the center.

"It's been a long and sometimes difficult bureaucratic struggle to get this done, but General Grimsley kept his eye on the goal," Mullen said.

He said the city of Harker Heights is proud to be the home of the first center like this in the Army. "This is a Soldier city," Mullen said. He noted that about 10,000 Soldiers and family members call Harker Heights home while stationed at Fort Hood. "It is right, fitting and proper to recognize the contributions they make," he added.

Brad Buckley, one of the owners of the plaza where the outreach center is located also spoke during the opening ceremony. He thanked the military and their families for the sacrifice they make and said he hoped the center was able to give something back to them. "We are looking forward for this outreach center to be successful and a model for the Army," he added.

The dedication and hard work of many in the local area was what allowed the pilot center to open its doors Mullen said. "This has been a team effort in the biggest way. Thank you for what you've done for the Soldiers in our community," he added.

The new center is located at 581 Pan American Drive, Suite 7. The hours of operation are Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday and Thursday from noon to 8 p.m. and the third Saturday of each month from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Page last updated Mon September 13th, 2010 at 17:34