FORT HOOD, Texas - A vision a decade in the making is standing tall just outside the main gate
here, as construction crews build the National Mounted Warrior Museum.
“I’m excited to see 10 years of work come to fruition,” Bob Crouch, vice president of the National Warfare Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit committee of veterans from across Central Texas who envisioned a place to honor, commemorate and instill a sense of pride at Fort Hood and Central Texas. “Not to just come to fruition, but to be more grand than I ever thought possible.”
The large museum, which will replace the current exhibits at the 1st Cavalry Division Museum and the 3rd Cavalry Regiment Museum, will be approximately 58,000 square feet, when complete. Phase 1 of the museum, dedicated to the Army’s mounted warriors, is 29,000 square feet and includes 13,000 square feet of permanent exhibit space. Once completed, the exhibit space will total 38,000 square feet. Together, the current museums total 6,000 square feet of exhibit space, which will allow the National Mounted Warrior Museum to have more than six times the current exhibits.
Since the museum’s ground breaking ceremony in November 2020, construction progress has been quick, although the winter storm and unusually rainy May and June caused a 45-day weather delay, according to Anson Walling, project manager with Bartlett Cocke General Contractors.
“Our new expected completion date is now Nov. 4,” Walling said.
The building has been able to go up so fast because of the materials used. Crouch and Walling explained that they are using 16-foot insulated concrete forms, which stack together like LEGOS. Once the forms are stacked, the construction crews slide rebar into the forms, followed by concrete to hold everything together.
“It has a much better R-factor, which is your insulation value,” Crouch added. “And it goes up a lot quicker than traditional construction.”
The outside of the museum will feature several different types of materials. To help decide on which materials to use, Walling explained that they constructed a mockup design of the building to make sure everything fit together and looked appealing.
As seen from the exterior of the building, a giant rotunda will serve as the entrance to the museum. Crouch said the rotunda was originally going to be all glass, but to save on construction costs, they decided to switch some of the glass with steel wall tiles.
“The glass has ballistic characteristics for force protection measures,” Crouch revealed. “It also has a natural UV (ultraviolet) protector.”
He explained that Phase 1 is meant to be enough to open the museum’s door. Phase 2 is loosely defined as everything else, though they have created the building to be built as funds become available. He explained that, unlike traditional construction, where everything is built all at once, this construction acts as a “plug and play” facility.
“Once you have the first phase down, you can plug in wherever you want to after that,” he added. “If a donor comes in and says, ‘I want to pay for the exhibit expansion,’ that can be next. If a donor wants to pay for two classrooms, that can be next. It really gives us a lot of flexibility.”
They are currently planning for 7,000 square feet of classroom space in Phase 2. Crouch said there will be four classrooms with air walls, which can modify the space or be removed to open into the rotunda for a large gathering. He said the primary mission of an Army museum is to train Soldiers, so he expects the classrooms to be used often.
Steve Draper, director of Fort Hood Museums, said the museum is a “dream come true,” and he is looking forward to displaying exhibits that have not been seen before due to lack of space. He said he has been working with decorators regarding the interior design and layout of the exhibits. He explained that he provided them with a list of exhibits, as well as the information about each exhibit, and they come up with unique ideas. He revealed that they will create scenes with vehicles and mannequins to help tell the story.
“I’m most excited about what we can do. The (current) galleries are small, and we can only do so much,” Draper said. “I’m looking for that new building smell.”
The 1st Cavalry Division Museum and 3rd Cavalry Regiment Museum will close Oct. 1 for inventory and prepare the current exhibits for a move to the new museum, which is expected to open Phase 1 to the public in spring 2022.
To help support the construction of the National Mounted Warrior Museum, donations and brick orders can be made at http://nmwfoundation.org.