Long Knife Families go behind the scenes at Army airfield

Families of the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, get an up close view of Larkin Terminal at the Robert Gray Army Airfield during a tour June 11. Director of Aviation Operations Ronald Gerner extended an invitation to unit during a prior event allowing Long Knife families to be the first family group to tour the facilities.

U.S. Army/Spc. Angel Turner

Families of 4th “Long Knife” Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, toured Fort Hood’s Robert Gray Army Airfield, June 11 and 13 to learn about the facility in preparation of their soldiers’ return from deployment.

Director of Aviation Operations Ronald Gerner extended an invitation to the unit during a prior event allowing Long Knife families to be the first family group to actually tour the facilities.

Upon arriving at the airfield that has aided in the arrival and departure of thousands of soldiers, families split up into two groups where they got to see first hand what goes on behind the scenes.

In the control tower and the radar room, civilian contractors continuously scanned multiple screens where various aircraft, depicted as small symbols, were either preparing to fly out of the terminal, land or were en route to their next destination.

“The airfield is designated as power projection platform and can handle a wide range of aircraft,” said Pamela Silva, deputy director of Aviation Operations. She said with these capabilities soldiers can deploy out of Fort Hood instead of relying on commercial airports, giving them more time to spend with their families.

“When they come back, within a hour they are with their families,” Silva said.

Silva also mentioned the airfield is approaching the deployment and redeployment of its 70,000th soldier this year. Since 9/11, she said, nearly 1 million soldiers have deployed and redeployed out of the airfield.

Throughout the tour, spouses and their children asked many questions learning as much as they can about the whole deployment and redeployment process from monitoring the air for take off to stepping off the aircraft and heading to Cooper Field.

Maria Montejano, a spouse, said her favorite part was seeing the actual process her husband will go through in the upcoming weeks following his nine-month deployment to Afghanistan.

“This isn’t his first tour so I’ve always wondered what it’s like,” Montejano said. “It’s really neat to be able to walk through the terminal and see what he actually goes through.

Once the families had a clearer understanding of the process their loved ones will go through when they arrive back at Fort Hood, just prior to their welcome-home ceremonies, many faces showed visible signs of relief for a process they thought would take much longer than they hoped.

“It’s not even that long of a process but to us it seems like hours,” Montejano said. “Knowing that he has walked through this terminal so many times and I’m able to be here myself makes this even more meaningful to me.”

With the families in the last stretch of their countdowns to see their soldier, the tour not only added understanding but also memories that they can share.

“I think the tour’s significance on the families with the timing is fabulous preparation in welcoming the team back and assisted in the excitement in bringing their soldiers home,” said Maj. Taunya Ford, the rear detachment executive officer who toured alongside the families.

“(Families) don’t ever get to see this part,” Ford said. “They say goodbye to brother, spouse or loved one and then see them on the parade field. So to actually see what the soldiers will go through over next 120 days was significant and now they can say ‘I know what happens, I saw how the tower watches them land and the significance of what’s right in my backyard.”


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