FORT HOOD, Texas -- A new agreement signed here, Feb. 4, formalized a long-standing relationship between the post's fire department and the Texas A&M Forest Service.

Fort Hood Garrison Commander Col. Matt Elledge joined Texas A&M Forest Service Director Tom Bogguss in signing three copies of the Mutual Aid Agreement that will provide more rapid and efficient response to wild land fires as well as open up reciprocal training opportunities between the agencies.

"This formalizes a growing relationship we've had over the last 10 years," Bogguss said.
The agreement will cut out the middlemen and allow Fort Hood direct contact to request assistance from TFS, Fort Hood Fire Chief Billy Rhoads said.

"If we get a major fire here, we can get direct support," he said. "It allows for a much more rapid response."

In addition to the rapid-fire response, training opportunities will expand for both agencies.

Explosive Ordnance Disposal units at Fort Hood will provide training to Fort Hood and TFS firefighters about unexploded ordnance, a not uncommon sight on post training ranges.

Fort Hood will benefit from the wildfire intelligence from TFS and the state service will be able to use the range lands of Fort Hood to train with their heavy equipment.

"This gives them access to land here," Rhoads said. "There is work we need done, and they want the training."

Most importantly, officials said the agreement helps further safety.

"I think this multiplies our efforts in keeping people safe here," Bogguss said.

Elledge said the agreement goes a long way toward protecting not only those who live on the installation, but in surrounding communities as well.

"I think the Mutual Aid Agreement will support not only training and not only Soldiers and Families on post, but also benefit those off post," Elledge said.

Texas A&M Forest Service was created in 1915 and is mandated by law to "assume direction of all forest interests and all matters pertaining to forestry within the jurisdiction of the state," according to information from the TFS website. The agency has employees and equipment pre-positioned throughout Texas.

At Fort Hood, TFS has been storing two bulldozers, essential equipment for creating fire lanes and removing brush during wild land fires, at the post's Directorate of Public Works, Rhoads said.