KILLEEN — Local leadership of the Association of the U.S. Army changed hands during a lunchtime general membership meeting Thursday at the Killeen Civic and Conference Center.
Billy Mills, who served as the Central Texas-Fort Hood Chapter president for the past year, joked about passing the gavel forward as if it were an Army unit's colors during a change of command ceremony - handing it to state-level association president Ron Taylor, who then handed the gavel on to new chapter president Bobby Hoxworth.
"It was great working with (Fort Hood leaders)," said Mills of the past year. "We were able to do a lot of good things for our soldiers.
"Bobby will do a great job."
Hoxworth, president of First National Bank-Texas, said he is looking forward to his year as president and plans to continue the work of those before him.
"We are going to focus on wrapping our arms around soldiers and supporting soldiers," he said.
In the coming year, Taylor said the association will focus on several key issues, including sequestration - automatic budget cuts that threaten to chop an additional $500 billion off the Defense Department's budget, in addition to the $487 billion cut the department's already fielding spanning the next five years.
"We're concerned right now," said Taylor of what could happen if Congress doesn't reach a budget deal by January. "More concerned than ever before. This would affect Fort Hood as well as the community."
Other association priorities include maintaining the Army's current size and strength, keeping federal Impact Aid in area schools and TRICARE benefits.
In addition to changing leaders, the association also heard from guest speaker Maj. Gen. Perry Wiggins, commander of First Army Division West.
Division West contains 51 battalions in 24 states, said Wiggins, and is responsible for training and validating Reserve and active-duty Army components, as well as other military branches, for overseas deployments and other missions.
For this fiscal year, the unit mobilized more than 27,000 soldiers in 423 units.
With the war over in Iraq and another winding down in Afghanistan, Wiggins said the unit is now starting to work on training for future contingency missions.
The local AUSA chapter, which is the association's largest in the nation, holds general membership meetings three times a year. More than 200 members attended the meeting, which included the installation of other chapter officers, approval of the annual budget and a presentation of awards for volunteers and supportive businesses.