By Donna Miles, American Forces Press ServiceMarch 25, 2009
WASHINGTON - The federal economic stimulus package will provide $621 million to build a new military hospital at Fort Hood, Texas, said President Barack Obama March 19, 2009.
Obama announced that $621 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment funds will be allocated to the new hospital, which is to serve about 55,000 Soldiers, 67,000 military families and about 52,000 military retirees.
"This is the kind of critical investment we must make to support our brave Soldiers and veterans who have sacrificed so much for us," Obama said in a White House statement.
Obama's announcement of a new hospital was met with jubilation at Fort Hood, which has deployed the largest number of troops to Iraq and Afghanistan and has outgrown its Vietnam-era Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center.
"Let the construction begin!" exclaimed Col. Casper P. Jones III, the hospital commander, upon hearing of the president's announcement.
"A new medical center improves services, access and the quality of health care for our family members and retirees, but especially for our wounded troops returning from combat with visible and invisible wounds," Jones said.
Among these wounds, he said, are traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder.
The original five-story Darnall hospital was built in 1964 to serve 17,000 troops, and an addition built in 1984 expanded its capacity to accommodate 30,000 troops.
However, the hospital now serves the post's almost twice that many Soldiers, as well as about 67,000 family members and 52,000 retirees.
The biggest need, Jones said, is for a facility to house the post's behavioral health programs and the professional and administrative staff to support them. These assets are currently scattered across Fort Hood, which Jones said creates difficulties for both patients and their health care providers.
"A new hospital at Fort Hood would mean better access to care, more health care services at Fort Hood, and pride in the work place, which translates to better customer service," Jones said.
"Every patient, whether it is a soldier, family member or retiree, will receive the highest quality of health care."
Fort Hood is home to the 1st Cavalry Division, 4th Infantry Division, 13th Sustainment Command, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, and the 1st Infantry Division's 3rd Brigade Combat Team, and numerous tenant units.