Texas State representatives and legislators tour the Fort Hood training support center Friday during the Texas Legislative Day a Fort Hood. Various state legislators toured the military installation and were exposed to various training areas.

Eric J. Shelton | Herald

New members of the Texas State Legislation had the opportunity to tour Fort Hood on Friday to see what it’s like to be a soldier during the post’s Texas Legislative Day hosted by III Corps and Fort Hood commander Lt. Gen. Sean MacFarland.

The event was a day-long tour for Texas government officials to see various training areas on the installation and interact with soldiers. The various activities exposed them to the resources on Fort Hood that contribute to preparing soldiers for combat.

“Fort Hood annually hosts a Texas Legislative Day in order to bring in more than 100 Texas government officials for a tour of our various training areas to give them a glimpse of what our soldiers do every day to ensure our nation’s freedom,” said Col. Todd Fox, Fort Hood’s Garrison commander. “More importantly, we also want to provide these Texas officials numerous opportunities to interact with our soldiers, providing these officials with valuable insight as to their professionalism and dedication.”

Fox said the event also provided an opportunity to thank the legislators for their continued support of soldiers and their families, especially their recent support with higher education opportunities, U.S. Highway 190 improvements, portability of professional licensure and the Defense Economic Adjustment Assistance Grant funding which enabled Fort Hood to repair and modernize the radar approach control‎ facility that serves military and civilian air traffic and enables soldiers to conduct live-fire exercises on Fort Hood, Fox said.

“The legislators are also exposed to the ever-evolving programs and efforts to assist our transitioning soldiers and their spouses as well as their challenges as they leave the Army and integrate into the civilian workforce across Texas and the nation,” he said. “The intent is that by the end of the day, the legislators and their staff members will have a better understanding of the soldiers, their mission and the complexities of Fort Hood.”

Texas District 24 Rep. Scott Cosper, a former Killeen mayor, said the tour was an “outstanding opportunity” to see what soldiers do daily as they train for combat.

“It gives us a glimpse of what it’s like to be a soldier. It’s also an opportunity to see how big Fort Hood is and what the many moving parts are — from the motor pools, the training areas to the command post,” he said. “How all the different facets of Fort Hood integrate together.”

Cosper said that since less than one percent of the nation has served in the military, the chance to learn about what soldiers do gives legislators and their staffs the chance to see first-hand what it takes to make a soldier ready for combat.

“Readiness is obviously one of the top priorities for the military, so it’s good for us to understand the importance of providing the support they need to come out and do their jobs,” he said.

Cosper said the tour has helped open his fellow legislators’ eyes to the amount of work that goes into keeping the U.S. Army prepared for fighting and winning the nation’s wars.

“Hands down the best part of the tour has been interacting with the soldiers — America’s professionals,” he said. “Those men and women who are actually between us and harm’s way, whether that’s here in our nation or abroad. The folks who make up our Army are the biggest asset America has.”

Some of Cosper’s priorities as a member of the Texas House will be proper funding for local schools and to provide the highest quality education for soldiers’ children, he said.

“We also want to give spouses and soldiers the opportunity to attend a prestigious college where they will get a prestigious degree,” Cosper said. “We want to make sure that access is not an issue — that they can safely get on and off of post, as well as entertainment and quality of life issues — all together play a role in us being ‘The Great Place,’ because the community has as big a role as the base does in making sure we’re all in this symbiotic relationship, supporting each other.”

Newly-elected State Senator Dawn Buckingham, District 24, said the tour really gave the new legislators a greater appreciation of just how big the military installation is.

“Not just the biggest post in the free world, but (it provides) over a $35 billion impact to the state,” she said. “Our message to the rest of the legislature is clear — Fort Hood is important. We need to take care of its needs.”

The tour was Buckingham’s first, so the chance to jump in a tank, get in a helicopter and shoot a machine gun really made her day, she said.

“I’m a gun girl, since I grew up shooting guns,” Buckingham said. “So I just walked up and said ‘dibs’ on the biggest one.”

The tour really helped the new state senator identify topics to pursue while serving, she said.

“You know, when (Lt. Gen.) MacFarland addressed the group, he really talked about the importance of education,” she said. “I think that’s another message we’ll bring back to the legislature — we need to get some of those special items back into the budget and make sure we’re taking care of our higher institutions (of learning).”

The soldiers enjoyed the opportunity to show their capabilities to the legislators.

“I think it’s interesting to have real-life leaders come and see what the taxpayer’s money is providing for our soldiers,” said Sgt. Kaleo Senior, the noncommissioned officer in charge of the Engagement Skills Trainer range from the 20th Engineer Battalion. “I think it’s nice that they’re coming here to see what we’re doing.”

dbryant@kdhnews.com | 254-501-7554

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