Fort Hood spent 2012 in a similar fashion to the previous 10 years — sending soldiers to war and welcoming others home, all while training and preparing for the next mission.
A striking difference was that 2012 was the first year in that decade no Fort Hood soldiers were in Iraq. That war ended along with 2011, bringing a wave of 1st Cavalry Division soldiers back to post six months earlier than expected.
Facebook Town Hall
To help soldiers and families readjust to some of the highest garrison troop levels Fort Hood had seen in years, Lt. Gen. Donald M. Campbell Jr., then the commander of III Corps and Fort Hood, held the post’s first ever Facebook town hall meeting in January. The event allowed the community to ask questions and voice concerns about anything Fort Hood-related through Facebook and by calling in to a televised session with Campbell and other leaders.
“We’re truly breaking new ground,” Campbell said during the January town hall, which brought in more than 400 questions.
Because of the high participation numbers, Campbell held another town hall in August.
With so many soldiers home, training began to get troops back to the basic soldiering skills of their respective positions.
For the first time since 2009, infantrymen on Fort Hood were given the chance to earn the expert infantryman badge — a bright blue enamel pendant with a silver 1795-model Springfield Arsenal musket. The badge marks a soldier as an expert in the infantry skills and has become a rarity. More often seen is the combat infantryman badge.
“Depending on where you have been stationed since the war on terror has been going on, there have not been that many opportunities for testing,” said Master Sgt. Joe Chadwick, 2nd Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, who helped coordinate the testing held in March.
The 3rd Cavalry Regiment, which shifted from an armored unit to an infantry, Stryker brigade at the end of 2011, held its first ever testing for the badge, while also getting to know its new vehicles better. In April, the regiment began receiving Strykers, and throughout the year, the Brave Rifles conducted training that had never been done at Fort Hood. They are expected to continue receiving vehicles through early 2013, and begin squadron and regiment level training exercises.
Other training opportunities, such as the expert field medical badge, also became more available in 2012 as less units were deployed than in past years.
While the Iraq mission was finished, several Fort Hood units deployed to the war still under way in Afghanistan.
Over the summer, 1st Cavalry Division’s 4th Brigade Combat Team traveled to the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, La., to prepare to deploy as the Army’s first active-duty security force assistance brigade in Afghanistan. The brigade arrived in Afghanistan in November with the mission of training the Afghan army and national police force in regional command east to take control of the country by the end of 2014.
“The Army enjoys a long history of such missions,” said Col. Bill Benson, brigade commander, as he uncased the unit’s colors in Laghman Province on Nov. 25. “What is new is how (this brigade) has been tailored to the specific challenges, conditions and opportunities unique to Afghanistan.”
In August, perhaps the biggest trial in the history of Fort Hood was set to take place with the court-martial of Maj. Nidal Hasan, the man accused of killing 13 people and wounding 32 in a mass shooting at Fort Hood on Nov. 5, 2009.
However, the trial did not happen. After multiple delays and contempt rulings against Hasan because of his decision to grow a beard, the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces removed the original judge.
Col. Gregory Gross was ousted on the basis that his order to shave Hasan created a perception of bias in the case. In its ruling, the court stated the issue created a “battle of wills” between Gross and the defense. A new judge, Col. Tara Osborn, was named in December when pre-trial hearings continued. She said she would not challenge Hasan’s beard.
The court-martial could begin sometime in 2013.
Change of command
Fort Hood ended 2012 with a change of command. Campbell, after 19 months in command, was selected to lead U.S. Army Europe and Seventh Army in Germany.
As he relinquished command Nov. 28, he described leadership as a privilege, and said one must understand that to excel in the Army.
“The ability to stand in front of a formation of American soldiers is a privilege given to you by the American people,” he said. “As leaders, we must work constantly ... to measure up to the trust given to us.”
Lt. Gen. Mark A. Milley assumed command on Dec. 20. His previous position was commanding the 10th Mountain Division and Fort Drum, N.Y.
In the spring, he will lead the Phantom Corps to Afghanistan for a NATO mission.
“It’s an extraordinarily complex, dangerous and tough mission,” Milley said during his remarks after accepting command. “But I have absolutely no doubt that the seasoned officers, noncommisisoned officers and soldiers of this corps are up to the task. I have no doubt that we will lead our American soldiers and our NATO soldiers to the successful accomplishments of our mission.”
Contact Rose L. Thayer at email@example.com or (254) 501-7463. Follow her on Twitter at KDHmilitary.