By Heather Graham-Ashley, Sentinel News EditorAugust 26, 2011
FORT HOOD, Texas, Aug. 26, 2011 -- Fort Hood opened its state-of-the-art facility aimed at enhancing the spiritual fitness of Soldiers and families Aug. 15 with a dedication ceremony.
Chief of Chaplains Chaplain (Maj. Gen.) Don Rutherford joined III Corps and Fort Hood Commanding General Lt. Gen. Don Campbell Jr., III Corps and Fort Hood Command Sgt. Major Arthur L. Coleman Jr., Fort Hood chaplains and members from the community for the dedication ceremony, which officially opened The Spirit of Fort Hood Warrior and Family Chapel Campus.
"This is a special day at Fort Hood," Campbell said. "This is another example that turned a really great idea into something that will support Soldiers and families for years to come."
The project grew from an idea by retired chaplain Greg Schanepp in 2004. With the backing of command and congressional funding approved, construction on the campus began in October 2009.
Aug. 15, Army and civilian leaders celebrated the opening of Fort Hood's latest addition to the overall health, welfare and resilience of Soldiers and families.
"This is the hub of a Comprehensive Soldier Fitness facility," Campbell said.
More than the brick and mortar of the buildings, the campus represents the Soldiers and families of Fort Hood and their spiritual needs.
"This campus is the latest development for the chaplaincy to serve Fort Hood," Rutherford said. "It brings Soldiers to God and God to Soldiers."
The $27-million campus is a two-phase construction project that will, upon its completion, be the largest of its kind in the Army. Fort Leavenworth in Kansas has a similar campus and one is being built at Fort Bragg, N.C., Rutherford said.
Fort Hood's campus is centrally located at 31st Street and Tank Destroyer Boulevard.
The first phase, which is complete, includes a 600-seat capacity worship center and a 600-capacity activity center, as well as 17 classrooms for religious education and small group activities. Its religious education center has 10 classrooms and an assembly area that can accommodate 200 people.
The worship center currently hosts Catholic, Contemporary Protestant and Jewish services. Worship services at the center began in early August, Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Mark Thompson for the III Corps Chaplain Office said.
Phase two, which is scheduled for completion in the fall of 2012, will include construction of the Chaplain Family Life Training Center and the Multi-Purpose Family Activity Center. These facilities will add 15 classrooms to the complex. Additionally, the Multi-Purpose Family Activity Center is slated to include a gym, an arts and crafts center, a sports-themed Family fellowship area and a youth activity room.
In total, the complete campus will provide Fort Hood Soldiers, families and community members more than 70,000-square feet of facilities to enhance resiliency and spiritual fitness, in line with the Army's Comprehensive Fitness program.
Under Comprehensive Soldier Fitness initiatives, spiritual fitness, along with health of mind, body, Family and social relationships, is vital to the overall health of Soldiers and Families.
"This is a facility that needs to be used," Rutherford said, "It grew out of a need."
Today's climate has pressed the need for spiritual strength. As Army families have continued to burden the stress associated with continued deployments, a weak economy and balancing family time with Army commitments, chaplains have been busy and worship services are filled. A center such as this provides a respite from stress.
The chief of chaplains said the campus is an epicenter of resiliency.
"Resiliency is about finding God," he said. "This facility is about finding God."
Campbell said it was fitting that Fort Hood receive the largest facility since the post serves the largest population in the Army.
Now, chaplains can serve in an expanded role on Fort Hood and minister to a larger audience seeking to reinvigorate their faith, and they can do it together.
"This center provides a place where Army families here need not do it alone," Rutherford said.