FORT HOOD, Texas - Keeping Soldiers safe while off-duty is a concern for leaders on Fort Hood.

For the Soldiers of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, and their civilian partners with the Harker Heights Police Department, joint courtesy patrols have helped ensure the safety of Fort Hood Soldiers while building relationships within the local community.

"The courtesy patrols [are a chance] for leaders to go downtown in civilian establishments to see how Soldiers are conducting themselves, how establishments are conducting business and to make sure that Soldiers are in a safe environment," said 1st Sgt. Walter Rogers, from Lawton, Ok., the first sergeant for C Company, 2nd Special Troops Battalion, 2nd BCT.

During these courtesy patrols, Black Jack leaders meet with police officers from the HHPD and ride together to various bars and clubs within the city of Harker Heights. Police officers guide the patrols through the bars, where military leadership has an opportunity to talk with Soldiers.

"This is a chance for us to look at the establishments our Soldiers are frequenting and see how our Soldiers are interacting with the general public to ensure the safety of our Soldiers is being addressed at all times," explained 1st Sgt. Ernest Villanueva, from Pueblo, Colo., the first sergeant for B Company, 2nd STB.

While seeing uniformed Soldiers with police officers walking through a bar on a Friday night might be a shock to Soldiers, leaders on the courtesy patrol want people to understand what the purpose is.

"The courtesy patrol is not there to ruin your night or stop you from having fun," explained Rogers. "The patrol is there to help and make sure you can return to work safe and sound."

"This program has made a difference," explained a representative from the police department. "The reason this program will work is because people care...the officers' care and the people on courtesy patrol care."

Officers said the reason this program works is because military leaders can do something the police can't. They can take what they learn on the patrols and talk to the Soldiers about it during the week, and they can implement policy to ensure the safety of their Soldiers based on what they learn during the patrols.

"I've been at Fort Hood for 10 years and I thought I knew the community pretty well," explained Villanueva. "I knew about half of the places we went to see."

A major emphasis for the leaders while on courtesy patrol is to make sure that Soldiers have a plan to get home after they've been drinking. If not, the patrols can help arrange transportation to ensure the Soldiers get home safely.

In addition to keeping Soldiers safe, the patrols also help make a difference within the community.

"We've got to work together; not just to keep Soldiers safe, but to show the civilians we care about the town," said Rogers.

"Everyone hears the stories about how Soldiers work hard and play hard, but we all come from communities like Harker Heights or Killeen," continued Rogers. "We weren't born in the Army."

We are here to look after our own, but we're also here to improve the safety of the citizens of this community and make sure our Soldiers are behaving how they should, explained Rogers.

While there will always be safety concerns for Soldiers both on and off-duty, courtesy patrols will continue to help look after Soldiers and show the citizens of our local communities that Fort Hood Soldiers are here to help.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16