KILLEEN — Members of the Central Texas Chapter of Military Officers Association of America welcomed Fort Hood garrison commander Col. Hank Perry to their monthly meeting at the Shilo Inn on Friday.

Perry outlined the nature of modernization and investment occurring at Fort Hood and spoke about transitioning soldiers from active duty to civilian life.

MOAA is the nation’s largest and most influential association of military officers, which advocates for a strong national defense and represents officers at each stage of their career, according to organization officials.

Perry, as Fort Hood’s garrison commander, serves as a city manager of sorts for the military installation.

“My duties require me to request funding for supporting the mission of 36,000 soldiers and their families — this includes coordination with nine school districts, 5000 civilian employees of Fort Hood and 10,000 contractors which are employed by our base,” Perry explained. “This also includes making budgetary requests from the Installation Management Command to maintain 342 square miles of installation territory, over 6000 facilities, 99 barracks, and 68 motor pools.”

According to Perry, U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley has determined that readiness is the top priority. III Corps commander Lt. Gen Paul Funk II, working within that framework, sets the priorities for budgetary requests from the Installation Management Command — currently with a budget of $9 billion to support 75 military installations.

Each garrison commander advocates and makes budgetary requests for funds based on those priorities for their military installations.

“We are always going after new money,” Perry explained. “We need to provide the best possible equipment for our force and we need to take care of our soldiers and their families.”

Readiness requires tough, realistic and aggressive training. To support the emphasis on readiness, it is a necessity that Fort Hood’s facilities can support those priorities.

“We have a $63 million mission training center that is being built,” Perry said. “It is about 20 percent complete now and will be open by 2020.”

The new facility will allow personnel to conduct virtual training for command and control simulations. In addition, there have been significant investments in upgrades for maneuver training ranges to compliment the other upgrades.

Moreover, the 3rd Security Forces Assistance Brigade (SFAB) will be coming to Fort Hood. SFABs are specialized units whose core mission is to conduct advise and assist operations with allied and partner nations. The 3rd SFAB will represent a modest increase of troop levels for the installation.

There have also been complete renovations to the 1st Cavalry Division headquarters facility.

“By next summer, we are going to have the 1st Cavalry Division headquarters move into a completely new state-of-the-art facility,” Perry said. “It is around $40 million to see that building completely renovated.”

In relation to readiness, efforts are being made to upgrade and invest in infrastructure — which requires continual investment. Substantial portions of Fort Hood’s infrastructure dates to the 1950’s and 1960’s.

Perry announced improvements being made to 19 barracks and that plans are underway to request funding for upgrades to 29 antiquated motor pools. Fort Hood’s motor pools maintain one third of the Army’s tanks. Requests totaling $55 million have been appropriated for those infrastructure related projects.

“We recently just got another $40 million, and of that $14 million is going into Hood Army Airfield,” Perry stated. “We need to renovate the tower … for the 1st Air Cavalry Brigade’s 120 aircraft.”

A key component of readiness is recruitment. According to Perry, recruitment often reflects the perception of how soldiers are treated as they transition to civilian life. An emphasis on career job fairs, skills programs and internships during the final 180 days to assist soldiers as they make the transition is a key component to reducing unemployment liabilities and their potential budgetary impact.

“We recently won two Stevie Awards for our career skills programs here at Fort Hood,” Perry said. “In 2010, it was a national problem — the Army spent $500 million on unemployment costs … since then we are at $270 million and it is because of our career skills programs.”

Perry emphasized the immeasurable impact of budgetary priorities to the economic impact of the central Texas economy, which is approximately $40 billion annually.

Texas House District 55 Rep. Hugh Shine, R-Temple, is scheduled to address MOAA next month and U.S. Rep. John Carter, R-Round Rock, is slated to speak in August.

Upcoming events with relevance to MOAA and to the central Texas military community include the 5K walk/run June 30th at 7 a.m. at Sadowski Field at III Corps Headquarters and a scholarship golf tournament scheduled for Sept. 30 at Wildflower Country Club in Temple. For more information email centexmoaa@gmail.com or call 573-855-7173.

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