FORT SILL, Okla. (Aug. 27, 2015) -- The Fort Sill Garrison was recognized with an appreciation award for its assistance in last year's Unaccompanied Children (UC) mission by the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).
Col. Glenn Waters, garrison commander, accepted the award on behalf of the Fires Center of Excellence because it was a postwide effort that drew upon resources from many of the post's brigades, directorates, units and organizations, he said.
"It was great the DHHS recognized our efforts, because we were going down a certain path, stopped and then reversed gears, so that they could accomplish their mission," Waters said. "It was classy of them to take the time and award us."
In 2014 between January through May, tens of thousands of minors began illegally crossing the United States southern border. The surge continued through the summer.
Federal agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, HHS and Department of Defense worked together in the emergency humanitarian effort to house the children before returning them to their families.
By executive order, the secretary of Defense directed DoD agencies to assist by housing children at some of its facilities. In addition to Fort Sill, Fort Drum, N.Y.; Naval Base Ventura County, Calif.; and Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, participated to ensure the well being of the children.
During the peak of its mission, Fort Sill housed about 1,050 children, and the operation lasted from June through November, Waters said.
One of the 434th Field Artillery Brigade's Basic Combat Training facilities, Bldg. 5960, was vacant because it was about to be totally renovated, the colonel said.
The renovation was put on hold, and the "starship" as the barracks are known, was made ready for the children. This included preparing kitchen and dining areas.
"The space we use for our brand-new Soldiers was a great facility because of the bunk space, and the ability to separate by gender and age," Waters said. Children ranged in age from 9 to 17.
The building's preparation involved the Directorate of Public Works, Directorate of Emergency Services, and other garrison directorates, Logistics Readiness Center, FCoE, and the G3 staff led by now-retired Col. David Flynn.
"The biggest person up front was probably DPW because they had to stop the renovation effort and get the building ready," Waters said. They also put up a privacy fence around the starship, and their master plans section did all keying to turn over the door keys to HHS.
The award is a reflection of how effectively the Army works with other federal agencies in a humanitarian stateside mission, the colonel said.
"It was a very complicated mission that was given on short-notice and had many federal agencies working together," Waters said. "I thought we worked very well with everybody."