FORT HOOD, Texas -- Hard, realistic training and constant operational tempo are taking their toll on this sprawling Central Texas post, and fixing it is a priority for the general in charge of Army installations worldwide.
Lt. Gen. Kenneth Dahl, who took command of the Army's Installation Management Command a month ago, said that Fort Hood has proven that it has the capacity, the diversity of units and the cooperation of civilian agencies at the local, state and federal level to remain vital to Army readiness.
"There isn't an argument about the importance of Fort Hood in terms of its remaining and being an enduring installation," Dahl said in an interview following a one-day tour of one of the Army's largest installations, Dec. 11.
Fort Hood was the second stop of the week for Dahl, who toured Fort Bliss earlier. The general said the visits allowed him to draw comparisons between the two Texas-based Army installations.
According to Army officials, Fort Bliss has undergone close to $6 billion in new construction and infrastructure upgrades since becoming home to the 1st Armored Division in 2011. Fort Hood, by comparison, has ear-marked close to $876 million for infrastructure upgrades over the next few years, with $560 million going towards the construction of the new Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center. The Texas state comptroller estimates that Fort Bliss contributes close to $5.5 billion each year to the Texas economy, while Fort Hood tops $25 billion annually.
"I asked to see challenges," Dahl said of his request to Fort Hood leadership for the visit. "I didn't ask to see everything going well."
Those challenges come in the form of an aging infrastructure, Dahl said. Fort Hood is home to three armored brigade combat teams and one Stryker brigade combat team, in addition to artillery, aviation, air defense and various other support and combat support units. Constant training and maintenance operations have expedited the expected deterioration of heavy armor motor pools and training ranges, and current efforts to keep them running are just not sustainable in the long run, Dahl explained.
"When you do hard training, and you do it to the level and the quality and the magnitude that we have been doing it here, there has to be some re-capitalization," he said. "There has to be revitalization of the infrastructure; there has to be some investment in sustaining it."
Following a lunch with community leaders, the general said he was impressed with what he described as "realistic" leadership. Rather than view Fort Hood as a business proposition, with concerns toward the installation's economic impact, Dahl said that community leaders recognize the contribution communities make in taking care of Families with education, employment and finding funds at the state, local and federal levels.
The IMCOM commanding general admitted that Fort Hood's problems won't be addressed overnight, but was impressed at efforts by Fort Hood leaders to work with local and state civilian agencies to create solutions. He pointed to the joint-use partnership between Robert Gray Army Airfield and the city of Killeen, and the recent $3 million runway renovation project paid for by the Federal Aviation Administration as an example of Fort Hood leaders looking beyond the Department of Defense for funding. He was encouraged by what he called a "real, genuine and important connection" that Central Texas communities have with Fort Hood.
Fort Hood is just one of 75 active-duty installations under Dahl's command from his headquarters in San Antonio. He sees his role as the IMCOM commander to provide support to Col. Todd Fox, the Fort Hood garrison commander, and his staff; not the other way around.