Fort Hood hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony to present the newly-remodeled Robert Gray Army Airfield radar approach control center Thursday.

A trio of distinguished guests, including Killeen Mayor Jose L. Segarra, the commander of Operational Test Command Brig. Gen. John C. Ulrich, and Texas state representative for District 54 Hon. Scott Cosper gave their remarks about the significance of the new facility and its impact on the Fort Hood community.

Ulrich explained the benefits of the new tower in reference to both military and civilian air traffic control operations.

“The renovation and rehabilitation of the Robert Gray Army Airfield radar approach control facility modernizes the communications, streamlines its operations, upgrades Fort Hood’s projection capabilities and enhances our fort’s protection standards,” he said. “This renovation clearly enhances military capabilities and readiness. It also benefits our extended communities such as the Killeen-Fort Hood Regional Airport and continues to serve as the region’s premier commercial service airport.”

The radar control tower controls air space within a 60-mile radius of Fort Hood from the surface to 12,000 feet. In order to monitor and secure this environment, the facility interfaces with other federal aviation administration air route traffic control centers located across the state in Houston, Waco and Austin. The collaboration of these FAA centers enables over 10,000 flights each year with safe passage to Dallas, Houston and Atlanta.

“Without this center open, all activity within the restricted areas and military operation areas would have to cease,” Ulrich said. “It enables our troops to conduct live-fire training, unmanned aerial system operations and both fixed and rotary wing training.”

This facility is the only one authorized by the Federal Aviation Administration to simultaneously operate unmanned aerial systems and commercial air traffic, directly upgrading Fort Hood training opportunities.

Cosper spoke about the facility’s origins as a result of the relationship between Fort Hood and the city of Killeen as well as its progress.

“Thirteen years ago, Killeen and Fort Hood stood together right here to open the Killeen-Fort Hood Regional Airport at Robert Gray Army Airfield,” he said. “Today, we stand together for another important joint-use project to unveil the ARAC facility. I’m doubly honored to be here today, first as a representative of the state that provided $3.45 million in funding and, second, as a former mayor who worked with mayors throughout the state to get this funding to protect and enhance military installation operations.”

Matthew Van Valkenburgh, the executive director of aviation for the city of Killeen, partnered strongly with Fort Hood to ensure the outcome of the facility’s restoration.

“We worked hard to get the grant, grant application and the presentation to the Texas Military Preparedness Commission,” he said. “We were fortunate to get the grant and the city itself, working through the Department of Aviation, sponsored the design and the construction of the entire project. We gutted the building and rebuilt it from the ground up with the help of air traffic controllers here. We utilized their input and were able to reorganize the entire building, give them a better facility and more space for them to do their job and make it into a useable building by which they can grow into for years to come.”

The renovations and new space for the Robert Gray Army Airfield radar approach control center were made possible by a grant of $5 million approved by the city of Killeen in February 2016.

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