FORT HOOD, Texas - Awed by the sheer magnitude and scope of the installation, and the Soldiers’ dedication to execute the mission despite the challenges they encounter day-to-day at home and at work, Rachel Jacobson expressed nothing but gratitude and pride in being a part of the Army team.
“I’m incredibly impressed by the way this installation is managed,” said the newly-appointed Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Army for Installations, Energy and Environment during her visit here, June 2-3.
“It’s really impressive, especially with the huge array of activities going on, the number of people, and the essential importance of the mission," she said. "Everything I’ve seen from the childcare facilities to even the less improved motor pool conditions, people are making the best of it and doing the job as best they can. They’re dedicated to mission. I’m really impressed by everyone, management and the Soldiers.”
Jacobson was on an introductory tour of the post to see, firsthand, the issues Soldiers and their families experience during their tour at the Central Texas installation.
“It’s hard to appreciate that when you’re sitting back at the Pentagon, reading about it, hearing about it, but it’s another thing to see it, witness it and talk to the people who are experiencing it,” she said. “So, for me, this was an invaluable visit.”
According to Brian Dosa, director of Fort Hood’s Directorate of Public Works, the two-day visit included site tours of the railhead, the solar array at West Fort Hood, the airfield, family housing, childcare centers and Soldiers’ barracks. Jacobson even met with Soldiers and leaders of the 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team “Grey Wolf,” 1st Cav. Div. as it loaded up for its mission overseas.
At each stop, Jacobson spoke with Soldiers, family members and unit leaders about the issues they face working or living in outdated facilities, and what they’d like to see to improve their situation.
Concerned for the health and wellbeing of Soldiers, their family members and those employed on the installation, Jacobson noted how appreciative they were of the newly-renovated facilities.
“That demonstrates what some investment can do,” she said. “Not to mention, how it’s better protecting our assets—which we also have to be cognizant about—to witness it, it’s pretty extraordinary.”
Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Duncan, maintenance control sergeant with 1st Battalion, 5th Cav. Regt. “Black Knights,” 1st Cav. Div., shared his experience working at the same motor pool he was assigned to as a young Soldier some 15 years ago.
“I worked in these motor pools previously,” he said. “They did do renovations then, however, the only thing that changed was the building itself. They added some office space. They made it a little more modern, but that was it.”
He added that the weapon systems today are too large to fit in the bays, so Soldiers have to work and endure the weather extremities, including the dry, dusty conditions prevalent in this region, and the punishing heat in July and August.
Lt. Col. Neil Armstrong, battalion commander, 1-5 Cav., said, “that’s what keeps me up at night, making sure none of our Soldiers get hurt on the job.
“Everyone knows the challenges,” he said, “but we’re thankful for the phenomenal support the unit gets from the installation.”
Jacobson assured the Soldiers and leaders that they have an advocate in Washington.
As the newly-appointed assistant secretary, Jacobson will serve as the primary advisor to the Secretary of the Army and the Army chief of staff for all matters related to installation policy and oversight, and coordination of energy security and management.
In addition, she is responsible for policy and oversight of sustainability and environmental initiatives; resource management, including design, military construction, operations and maintenance; base realignment and closure; privatization of the Army real estate portfolio and installation safety and occupational health programs.
“This visit will hopefully make me want to do my job better,” she said. “I’ve really learned a lot.”