By Rose L. Thayer
Fort Hood Herald
The 69th Air Defense Artillery Brigade welcomed the 1st Battalion, 62nd Air Defense Artillery Regiment, under its command with an activation ceremony Monday at Fort Hood.
The new battalion will bring about 650 new soldiers to Fort Hood by its official effective date of Oct. 17.
To "stand up" a unit, officials start from the beginning, receiving new soldiers and equipment as opposed to units that re-locate and move manpower and property from post to post.
Capt. Felicia Calhoun, commander of the new Echo Company, is looking forward to working with a clean slate.
"It means we have the opportunity to make it whatever we want it to be, and also make a difference in the soldiers' lives," she said.
The newly activated battalion has considerable work to do, training and acquiring equipment before it is scheduled for deployment to the Middle East in the winter of 2012.
"We wanted to stand up units as we had the requisite number of people to begin training," said Col. Jimmy Jenkins, brigade commander. "That way we're not starting from scratch - we're at least at a brisk walk."
Jenkins said it was also important to have the chain of command in place before new soldiers arrive at Fort Hood.
"We put leaders in charge so when soldiers arrive from another state, they already have a home."
The unit is the 15th Patriot battalion to be added to the force to sustain operations around the world, Jenkins said.
He said that while the U.S. military is in the midst of a drawdown, there is still a strong need for additional air defense around the world.
Jenkins was at Fort Hood for a few days before rejoining the brigade in the Middle East, where he oversees all air defense units in the region.
The 69th Air Defense Artillery's brigade staff is scheduled to begin returning to Fort Hood at the end of this month, while the 1st Battalion, 44th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, will stay until December.
Monday's ceremony welcomed three of the six batteries that will make up the battalion. Captains and first sergeants from Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, Alpha Battery and Echo Company were on hand to assume command and responsibility; Bravo, Charlie and Delta companies will follow.
"The main thing to look forward to is getting everything prepped to accomplish our mission," said Maj. Troy Williams, the battalion executive officer.
The 62nd Air Defense Artillery Regiment has been a part of America's military history for more than 200 years, but was deactivated in 2005. Fort Hood now has the only active battalion in the regiment.
The 62nd will be headquartered at the new brigade complex, which is located just outside the East Range Road Gate. The brigade plans to move into the facility as its soldiers return from the Middle East.
A ribbon-cutting to officially open the new facility is set for July 21, though the area will not be completed until 2017.
Once complete, the complex will house motor pools, a dining facility, barracks and offices so the brigade can handle all business in one place.
For more on Jenkins and the brigade's Middle East mission, read next week's Fort Hood Herald.
Contact Rose L. Thayer at email@example.com or (254) 501-7463. Follow her on Twitter at KDHreporter.