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Construction workers busy at Fort Hood

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Posted: Monday, September 5, 2011 12:00 pm

By Rose L. Thayer

Killeen Daily Herald

FORT HOOD - The sounds of bulldozers and power drills can be heard across post as more than $679-million in campus construction and other long-range projects become reality.

"We're creating these campuses so there's not a fragmented unit footprint," said John Burrow, chief of the Real Property Planning Division at Fort Hood. "It's somewhat already there, but they're not energy-efficient-type facilities."

Burrow and his team broke the military installation into districts, then created an area development plan for each of them. Some districts already are visible: The 1st Cavalry Division's footprint is primarily on Battalion Avenue, west of TJ Mills Boulevard and the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment's footprint is east of TJ Mills Boulevard.

"In the old days, we did cupcake-type planning," Burrow said. "You need a company ops, we'll throw you a company ops."

Now, the planning division looks at a unit's overall needs.

The first campus

The 69th Air Defense Artillery Brigade was the first unit to receive a campus. Located just outside the East Range Road Gate, it's surrounded by cows and vacant land, which allows the unit to use radar equipment necessary for training without interference.

The brigade headquarters moved into its new $14.7 million office space in July and the battalions are scheduled to move by spring 2012. When complete, the campus also will include a dining facility, barracks, a shoppette and physical training space. Construction on the motor pools is under way.

The long-range project began in 2008 and will continue for at least the next five to 10 years. While no funding for the project has been cut, money for the barracks has been deferred past the five-year mark.

"It's a multi-phased plan to build this campus," Burrow said. "It's not something that happens overnight. It takes time to do this. The difference now is we are being financially challenged. We as a country are, so it's not a question if the barracks will be built out there, it's when."

Wounded warriors construction nearly complete

For the Warrior Transition Brigade, the first building in its new campus - a headquarters office - should open near the end of the year.

"We have facilities, but this will allow us to centralize those," said Maj. David Shoupe, public affairs officer for the brigade. "Right now we are spread out on three different campuses on Fort Hood."

Besides office space, the campus will include a soldier family center and new barracks, which are under construction and scheduled to open early spring 2012. The $70 million barracks will have rooms easily accessible by people using wheelchairs or having other physical limitations. Currently, wheelchair-accessible rooms are in temporary buildings.

"What it demonstrates is the Army's dedication to our wounded warriors," Shoupe said. "When I see it, to me it's a brick-and-mortar declaration of our nation's support for our wounded warriors."

The campus is located near Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center. In December, construction started on a new $534 million hospital, which will replace the current 45-year-old building.

"Over the years, we've upgraded and expanded the current medical center," said Lt. Col. Michael Williams, program manager for the U.S. Army Health Facility Planning Agency. "However, it is (nearly) 50 years old and undersized."

At 947,000 square feet, the new medical center will be 60 percent larger than the current building and will include a six-story hospital tower, three out-patient specialty clinic buildings and 5,200 parking spaces in ground lots and three parking garages. It's the largest Defense Department contract funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, also known as the stimulus package.

The new medical center also will be the first military medical facility to achieve gold certification in the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program. That's even with an HVAC system that uses 100 percent fresh air.

"Hospitals are energy hogs," Williams said. "They are typically very intensive users of energy so to make that gold standard was very challenging. We did so because of some very innovative techniques."

Construction of the medical center is on schedule and the facility is set to start seeing patients in the summer 2015.

The commercial district

In May, the Army and Air Force Exchange Service plans to start construction on a new post exchange near Clear Creek Road and Tank Destroyer Boulevard. The target opening is scheduled for November 2013.

"The facility will replace the Clear Creek Shopping Center, which is approximately the same size, but cannot be easily reconfigured to meet the needs of Fort Hood," said Judd Anstey Public Relations Manager in an email.

The existing exchange was built in 1976 and expanded in 1996. Anstrey said the typical lifespan of an exchange building is about 30 years, so Fort Hood is about on schedule for a replacement. The new exchange will be a silver LEED certified building and have many of the same amenities as the old one.

Burrow said Fort Hood is in talks with the federal Defense Commissary Agency to replace the existing commissary on Clear Creek Road.

Just down the road, construction continues at the $13.8 million Hood Stadium, which is set to open next year. The previous athletic complex was torn down to make way for the new hospital.

The new stadium will have a regulation football and soccer field, four softball fields, a University Interscholastic League track, press box, concession stands and locker rooms. It also will feature a permanent stage, 10-foot-wide bike path and parking for 1,000 vehicles.

Public access is being worked out for the facility, since the previous stadium hosted many public events, such as Freedom Fest. There are also talks with the Killeen Independent School District to host school athletic events in the future.

Contact Rose L. Thayer at rthayer@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7463. Follow her on Twitter at KDHreporter.

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