FORT HOOD, Texas - Impressed by the post’s response to a total electrical outage and its Soldiers’ resourcefulness to get the mission done, a senior official with the Department of the Army conducted a site visit of the installation, March 23-24.
During a working lunch with the garrison leadership during his two-day visit to the installation, Paul Farnan, acting assistant to the Secretary of the Army (Installations, Energy and Environment), said he was impressed with what they were doing to make the post more resilience in light of increasing cyber and environmental threats to its power grid.
The goal of the Energy Resilience Readiness Exercise the post conducted March 15, was “to see where our weaknesses are, what were the shortcomings, what didn’t work that was supposed to work and let’s fix it,” he said. “Let’s find better procedures to make sure everything works, so that if this does happen for real, we’re still able to function.”
“We learned a lot in the planning and execution of the ERRE,” said Brian Dosa, Fort Hood’s director of Public Works, “The critical facilities that did have backup power actually did perform well. We had a few glitches, but for the most part, backup generators performed well. I think it’s a reflection on our team that does preventive maintenance.”
Farnan said it is vitally important that Fort Hood secures and maintains an independent power grid that can provide the energy it needs to “get our forces to the overseas battlefield” undeterred by any power interruption outside its boundaries.
The installation’s energy resilience, and the climate strategy that the Army just published about a month ago, he said “is going to enable the forces to operate in this changing climate that is affecting … where we live and how we work.”
Part of that resilience includes making housing and Soldiers’ barracks more energy efficient and accommodating.
“Obviously, a lot of the infrastructure in the Army is aging,” Farnan said. “Secretary (of the Army Christine) Wormuth has made it very clear, our number one priority is taking care of our people, which is a good thing, and that means where we live — all of our Soldiers — is there quality, safe housing.”
To that end, Farnan said the Army is investing about a billion dollars a year for barracks construction, including millions toward housing and barracks at Fort Hood.
“Coming out here today, and seeing how they are living makes a big difference when we go back and we’re making decisions how we can direct funding,” he said.
In addition to the Soldiers’ living accommodations, Farnan toured the installation’s solar farm, microgrid, railhead, joint use airfield and unit motor pools where he was especially impressed by the Soldiers’ resourcefulness despite the condition of their work area.
He admitted that just like the barracks, the Army still maintains aging infrastructure on the operational side, as well.
“What impressed me the most, even in this older one (motor pool), Soldiers are learning how to make it work, because that’s what Soldiers do. It doesn’t matter what the conditions are,” he said. “You’re going to give them a task, and they’re going to figure out how to make it work.”
“We have so many tax dollars,” he emphasized. “But we’re going to continue making the resource decisions for the Soldiers’ quality of life and for operational readiness.”
Improving the Soldiers’ quality of life and work conditions remains the Army’s top priority, Farnan reiterated, and “it makes a difference.”
The conditions of their new, modernized motor pool has had an impact on his Soldiers, commented Sgt. 1st Class Sean Miller, maintenance control supervisor, 1st Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment.
“It’s night and day, their attitude, everything’s changed,” he said. “It’s a huge game changer, especially when it comes to work output. They’re taking that ownership and are proud of the footprint that we’re in now. It’s ours, and then making it ours and keeping it that way.”
First Sergeant Maria Muniz, also with Tiger Squadron, couldn’t agree more.
She explained that even having an area that the Soldiers can store their equipment and supplies makes a big difference, not to exclude having to work under adverse weather conditions like Fort Hood’s dusty, hot summers and cold, damp, rainy season.
“The Soldiers’ morale has changed dramatically,” she said, “just having a storage container for each line item … everything accounted for makes a big difference.”
Farnan said having quality housing, modern work facilities are extremely important today given the changing dynamic of our times, i.e. climate change and the threat of a cyber or other terrorist attack on the nation’s power grid.
“More and more of our forces are doing more,” he said. “Our installations are under threat … we have to make them more resilient both physically and from an energy perspective, we have to do more absolutely. We’re going to continue pushing that.”