Shared problems equal shared solutions.
That’s the battle cry of the Office of the U.S Army Deputy Chief of Staff for Installations, G-9, and the Army Community Partnership Program.
Implemented to spur collaboration between military and civic leaders, the ACPP is also intended to simplify the Inter-Governmental Support Agreement or Memorandum of Understanding process, encouraging foresight and creativity for enhanced, mutually-beneficial partnerships between the military and municipalities where the Army serves.
Locally at Fort Bliss, Texas, Maj. Gen. Jim Isenhower III, the 1st Armored Division and Fort Bliss commanding general, said, following three years of COVID-19-driven separation, with continuing consideration for mission requirements, the Army stands ready to support city initiatives and work together to build a more synchronous Bliss-El Paso partnership.
More than 50 percent of Bliss Soldiers and their families live off-post in the Sun City and surrounding Borderland communities, in addition to a sizable veterans community.
As part of the outreach effort, the commanding general and Team Bliss welcomed El Paso City Council members and city hall leaders for “City Council Day” at Fort Bliss, Feb. 21, 2023.
“One of the things that we've initiated is a campaign called ‘Bliss is Back,’” Isenhower said during a meeting with the group at Costello Hall. “It's our deliberate mechanism to emerge out of the pandemic responsibly. We've withdrawn almost all COVID constraints on Fort Bliss. And ideally, we really want the community to come back and enjoy the many things that we've got at Fort Bliss that the community can enjoy.”
Isenhower touted new physical security measures which allow registered guests with REAL ID-compliant identification to come on post to use services with a simple scan at any gate. Registrants will be required to renew their passes in person every three years.
“We'll know immediately who that person is,” the general said, “whether or not there's a warrant out for their arrest, whether they're a registered offender of some type – that allows for constant vetting. We hope that that will increase participation in some of the events and help our communities continue to blend together.”
During the meeting, Isenhower encouraged pragmatic, tangible plans for the future, like enhanced renewable energy opportunities that could benefit the Army and the city.
“We have more sun and wind and less rain than anywhere else (in the DoD),” Isenhower said. “This should be an experimentation capital for the Department of Defense. We need to come up with a plan together for what El Paso and Fort Bliss look like in 2040.”
In addition to the meeting with Isenhower, guests were welcomed by Col. Jim Brady, the Bliss garrison commander, and toured the installation with stops at the multi-million dollar Fort Bliss Simulations Center and lunch at the Centennial Banquet and Conference Center on East Bliss.
Following an information session with Brady that informed guests on Bliss’ many missions as a DoD Mobilization Force Generation Installation, they dined with directors from across the Brady’s garrison command, which is in charge of managing Bliss much like how a city government manages a small-to-mid-sized town.
After lunch, guests met with Freedom Crossing at Fort Bliss and Army and Air Force Exchange Service managers, who gave them a tour of Freedom Crossing, the only open-air, public-private shopping center on a U.S. military installation.
“I tell [Soldiers] ‘get off of post, you live by one of the most amazing cities with three minor league teams, a symphony, the Plaza Theater, the history that's in some of the downtown, San Jacinto Plaza, all of the plazas downtown, the different districts,’” said Isenhower. “You live by an 800,000-person city that’s absolutely incredible. It's got a culture that's like none other.”
Brady, who spent time as a teenager in nearby Las Cruces, N.M., agreed on the appeal of serving in the Borderland and, in the spirit of the ACPP, he said he looked forward to future meetings with the city to build on shared goals for the Bliss and El Paso of 2040 Isenhower spoke of.
“This engagement was to bring in the council members and some of the members of the city manager's office that may not have come out before to make sure that they know all of the changes that have occurred,” said Brady. “A lot of residents have seen Fort Bliss probably change from the outside. We want to make sure that they fully know what's going on the inside.”