Fort Hood hosts Army's first multimedia town hall
January 29, 2012
FORT HOOD, Texas (Jan. 29, 2012) -- Medical care, infrastructure and housing were the top areas of concern during III Corps and Fort Hood's Facebook and TV Town Hall event here, Jan. 26.
III Corps and Fort Hood Commanding General Lt. Gen. Don Campbell Jr. said before the town hall began that he was anticipating some difficult questions.
"I really believe it's important and we need to listen to them (community members)," Campbell said. "I'm not afraid of tough questions."
AN ARMY FIRST
The town hall's multimedia format, utilizing social media via Facebook, a live television broadcast and simultaneously broadcasting the audio portion on the installation's Web-based radio station was a first, not only for Fort Hood, but also for the Army.
Other installations have hosted town hall meetings on Facebook, and Fort Hood has previously hosted numerous TV town halls.
The two-hour event, the second hour of which was to be televised and available at www.FortHoodRadio.com, elicited more than 400 questions on Facebook and dozens of phone calls.
Technical difficulties at the Defense Video and Imagery Distribution System's hub in Atlanta plagued the live television broadcast, though the audio portion was available at Fort Hood Radio.
"We were pushing a variety of capabilities Thursday and some fell through despite repetitive pre-testing," Christie Vanover, chief of Command Information in the III Corps and Fort Hood Public Affairs Office, said. "Both the glitches and the tremendous successes will be documented, so that the next town hall is even more effective for the community."
The III Corps and Fort Hood Public Affairs Office posted the broadcast in its entirety on the III Corps and Fort Hood Facebook page Jan. 27.
Campbell, joined by Garrison Commander Col. Mark Freitag, Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center Commander Col. Patrick Sargent and Marvin Williams, director of property management for Fort Hood Family Housing, responded to about 25 questions during the hour-long broadcast portion of the event.
Behind the scenes, more than 100 Fort Hood leaders, directors and subject matter experts from units, directorates and agencies across Fort Hood reviewed and worked responses to the more than 400 community queries.
The program led with a question from a Soldier asking about intimidation from leadership to dissuade troops from seeking behavioral health services.
Noting the "tremendous" behavioral health resources available at the installation, Campbell said he talks to leaders every day about fighting the stigma and asking Soldiers to step forward and seek help.
"Intimidation and hazing have no place in our Army, in particular when it regards behavioral health," the general said. "Behavioral health is a serious and important issue in the Army that we have to take seriously."
Sargent emphasized the variety of behavioral health resources available on the installation and on the network. The key, he said, is seeking that help.
"What I'm mostly concerned with is Soldiers who choose not to come (for help)," Sargent said. "If they come forward and receive help, I believe we can get them back into the fight and make them a productive Soldier in our Army."
Traffic congestion and blocked access points were hot issues for Soldiers and family members during the town hall. During peak times, access control points onto the installation are clogged with traffic, making it difficult to report to work on time, get children to school and access services, according to many town hall participants on Facebook.
The post's recent blocking off of additional access points in several housing villages only added to the traffic issues, many residents said.
"Historically, traffic has been a problem," Campbell said. "We will address it."
The general said as deployments slow and more troops return home, the traffic issues could get worse, but added that he will look into the traffic flow issue and see where adjustments could be made. In the meantime, he recommended Soldiers use the facilities and amenities on the installation to avoid the roads off the installation at peak times and utilize the post's 17 access control points.
The need for renovations in older housing, as well as safety and security worries in non-contiguous housing areas, were close behind the traffic concerns.
Many Facebook participants cited issues about mold, tile flooring and the imbalance of handing over their recently increased basic allowance for housing when that housing has not improved.
Williams said he has reviewed the replacements and renovations at four housing areas -- Chaffee, Montague, McNair and Pershing Park, and will conduct ongoing reviews in other housing areas to improve and update quarters.
A look at the corps' Facebook page shows that troop and civilian work force reductions, benefits to non-traditional family members, tightened retention standards and questions about child care and other support services weighed heavily on the minds of many at Fort Hood.
Campbell and his panel of experts continue to work to address each and every question and concern.
"We will provide answers to every question we receive on Facebook and from those that call in," the general said.
Heading into the weekend following the Thursday night event, installation officials were still working to ensure every query received a response.
"Because of the tremendous response from the community, and because we want to provide thorough answers, it is taking us a little while to work through all the questions, but we will continue answering them all," Vanover said. "The participation from our Soldiers and their Families was fantastic. They really care about helping us to make the Great Place greater."
Campbell was pleased with the multimedia format of the town hall.
"I believe this is the way to go," he said. "We'll continue to build on this and grow. I don't want to only do this once a year."
The general said the town hall format gave Fort Hood Soldiers, families and civilians a comfortable environment to ask their questions, voice concerns and share challenges in an open forum.
"The Army, as a whole, needs to learn what Soldiers and their families are saying," Campbell said. "We all face the same challenges down the road."