Potential cuts, housing top issues at Fort Hood's 2nd multimedia town hall
August 20, 2012
FORT HOOD, Texas (Aug. 15, 2012) -- With the Army facing force reductions and the looming threat of further cuts from sequestration, III Corps and Fort Hood Commanding General Lt. Gen. Don Campbell Jr. said he is optimistic that, given Fort Hood's status as a premier Army installation, the post will not see dramatic changes.
"I don't believe you'll see a large number of cuts at Fort Hood," Campbell said. "We have received no guidance on sequestration, and until we receive guidance, we will continue to evaluate the situation with Forces Command and the Department of the Army."
Sequestration and housing issues were top concerns during Fort Hood's second multimedia town hall held Aug. 14. More than 200 questions, asked via Facebook and phone, were received during the two-hour town hall.
The town hall opened at 5 p.m. when III Corps and Fort Hood leaders and directorate representatives began fielding questions posed on the installation's Facebook page. The second hour of the forum was televised, and questions were responded to by a panel of senior leaders led by Campbell.
Campbell was joined by 1st Cavalry Division Commanding General Maj. Gen. Anthony Ierardi, Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center Commander Col. Patrick Sargent and Fort Hood Deputy Garrison Commander Andy Bird during the telecast.
Housing issues, such as yard maintenance, concerns about aging homes, speeding in the villages and the status of two planned dog parks that will open in the spring, were addressed heavily on Facebook.
The opening of the dog parks was a popular question and one that was addressed during the first multimedia town hall held in January.
"We have two opening in the spring," Bird said. "One will be at the corner of Clear Creek and Battalion Avenue, near the golf course. The other will be located between Patton Park and Chaffee Villages."
Traffic congestion, especially at gates during peak hours was another garrison issue and, unfortunately, one that will not be easily fixed.
"We are looking at several different ways," Campbell said.
For now, the general reiterated his suggestions from the previous town hall in January. He urged Soldiers to remain on post following physical training, and he advised others to amend their travel routes or times at which they enter the installation to alleviate some of the congestion.
Sargent fielded several questions about the status of the new medical center, which is on schedule to be complete in the summer of 2015.
"We are about 95 percent with design and 20 to 30 percent with the build portion," he said.
The medical center commander also addressed inquiries about wounded warrior care, the Medical Evaluation Board, or MEB, parking at post medical clinics and the impact the opening of Seton Medical Center in Harker Heights has had on the military.
"It has had little to no impact," Sargent said, but noted that Fort Hood medical professionals view the opening of any new medical facility in the area as "an added asset."
To the concerns about care for wounded warriors and Soldiers in the MEB process, Campbell offered suggestions to augment available medical and behavioral health care and extending that care to the families of those troops.
"We understand at Fort Hood that when a Soldier is wounded, it impacts the family," he said, noting the availability of chaplains, the crisis care line and programs offered through Army Community Service.
Ierardi addressed concerns about where the 1st Cav. Div. stands as the mission wraps up in Afghanistan.
"Afghanistan is still priority number one," he said. "There is a need for our forces to be ready to respond to and meet a number of requirements. We will continue to train on other tasks."
The First Team commanding general said the division will continue to prepare for any potential future missions.
Ierardi, who recently arrived at Fort Hood from the Pentagon, also provided input about the town hall's hottest topic, the effects sequestration could have on Fort Hood Soldiers, families and civilians.
Sequestration, which is part of the Budget Control Act and is scheduled to take place in January 2013 if a budget agreement is not reached in Congress, would result in an additional $500 billion in defense cuts, on top of the already agreed upon reductions.
The topic was especially hot following news reports earlier Tuesday discussing potential job cuts in the Fort Hood area this fall.
"Representative John Carter said Fort Hood could lose 40,000 jobs by this fall," Herby wrote on the III Corps and Fort Hood Facebook page during the town hall. "This could prove to have a severe economical impact on the surrounding communities. What is Fort Hood and III Corps doing to prevent this from happening or lessen the impact on the communities?"
Campbell said that while he is awaiting guidance on what, if any, effects sequestration would have on Fort Hood, his focus remains on maintaining and growing the programs and capabilities that have made this one of the Army's premier installations.
"We work with a lot of different entities to make sure Fort Hood maintains its status and is looked at as a premier installation in the Army," he said.
Campbell is confident any cuts will not be broad sweeping at Fort Hood, an installation he considers one of the best in the Army.
"I believe Fort Hood is one of the top three Army installations," the general said, noting the capacity and capabilities here to train, care for and provide for Soldiers and families, and the installation's close relationship with the surrounding communities. "I believe we will continue to stay at the forefront."
Ierardi echoed Campbell's words and said he does not foresee decisions about any cuts to be based on percentages, as one town hall caller suggested.
Not all of the issues presented were so heavily weighted in Army or Department of Defense policy.
One issue was immediately resolved by Campbell when the general confirmed that once again, as in previous years, physical training would be cancelled on the first day of school, Aug. 27, and the duty day would begin at 10 a.m. to allow Soldiers to accompany children to their classes.
The general also had good news about the opening of Fort Hood's new stadium, which is currently under construction near the Clear Creek gate.
The first event at Hood Stadium will be a high school football game Oct. 12 when Ellison High School plays Harker Heights High School.
High school football will not be the only event hosted at the stadium. Campbell said the venue will also host children's activities, intramural sports for Soldiers, concerts and other family-oriented events.
And, the general reiterated his policy about family time's early release on Thursday, as well as the continued strive to have Soldiers home by 6 p.m. when not on a deployment cycle.
Many other issues were not as easily resolved, but Campbell reaffirmed his commitment to work those concerns. He was pleased with the response from the town hall and the issues presented during the forum.
"There were some challenging questions," he said.
Utilizing the multimedia aspect again seemed to work well and seemed to maximize the strength of social media, considering the majority of the questions came from Facebook.
Campbell said it seemed Soldiers and family members were more comfortable using the Facebook page than calling in.
"We don't have to use Facebook," he said, "but it's a great venue to do this."