Hood Howdy

Melanie Mlinarich, CASA recruiter and training coordinator, talks to Becky McDonald about the organization Friday during the Hood Howdy event at Fort Hood's Club Hood.

Eric J. Shelton | Herald

The first Hood Howdy event of the year saw large crowds of new soldiers and families stop by Club Hood on Friday to learn about the local community and what’s available both on and off post.

This is the 23rd year Army Community Services and Fort Hood Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation has hosted the biannual event.

Twenty-five companies took part in a mini job fair and more than 100 organizations from the installation and surrounding communities participated in the event, which drew more than 1,500 attendees.

“We also partnered with the 21st Replacement Detachment this time,” said Michelle Irwin, Relocation Readiness Program manager for Army Community Services. “We have about 300 new people come (to Fort Hood) a week, so this is a great way to welcome them to the community.”

Representatives from the Killeen, Harker Heights and Copperas Cove chambers of commerce were also on hand to talk about opportunities in the local area, Irwin said.

Regina Castillo, the vice president of the Copperas Cove Chamber of Commerce, said the Hood Howdy event is a great way to let newcomers know about what the city has to offer.

“It’s a good day — there’s a lot of people and we’re expecting about 300 soldiers to come in around 1 (p.m.),” she said. “We’re going to be really busy and we’re just excited to be meeting all the new people coming into Fort Hood.”

Castillo said the Hood Howdy is a great way for local businesses to get information to troops and their families about who they are.

“Especially some of our smaller, local businesses to get their name out,” she said. “We have some great things to offer in the community.”

“This is for families, soldiers ... They could have been here for 10 years, but they can come here and learn something new,” Irwin said. “It’s for them to get familiar with the organizations, nonprofits, the sponsors we have in the area, new businesses — so they get the chance to meet them.”

This was the first time members of the 1st Cavalry Division Association attended the event to let incoming “Cav Troopers” know about their organization.

“We are out here to get our name into the community and let folks know about our association and what the foundation can do as far as scholarships,” said Dara Wydler, association executive director. “We’re looking forward to some new subscriptions coming in and we just had a young lady walk away with an application for a scholarship and an application for her husband to join the association, as he’s a new member to Fort Hood and the 1st Cavalry Division.”

One senior enlisted soldier was amazed at the amount of information available to soldiers and families new to the Fort Hood area.

“This is awesome — this is the first time I’ve had the opportunity to integrate with the community itself,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Robert Pearson, 61st Quartermaster Battalion command sergeant major. “We’re fairly new here, so we’re kind of walking around and seeing some of the things they have to offer around here.”

Pearson said he thought it was a great event. The 26-year soldier said he’d never been to a military installation that offered an event as large as the Hood Howdy or one that was highly publicized to the soldiers.

“Again, this is just a great opportunity for everybody,” he said.

Sgt. Jonathan Shiflett, III Corps family readiness liaison, agreed with the sergeant major.

“It’s very resourceful — very informative, and there’s a lot of information,” he said. “Not only that, it’s being able to network with a lot of people here on post that I didn’t even know were available.”

Shiflett has been stationed at Fort Hood since 2013, but this was the first time he had attended a Hood Howdy.

“Now that I’m here, I’m definitely going to continue to push the Hood Howdy out,” he said. “Besides the job fair, learning about the programs that are available to soldiers and their families out there is the best thing about this.”

dbryant@kdhnews.com | 254-501-7554

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