It’s easy to see why Killeen needs Fort Hood. For some, however, it may be harder to see why Fort Hood needs Killeen.
The city, which began as a farm and railroad town back in 1880s, grew by leaps and bounds when the Army officially announced it would build a base here in 1942. The Army could have built elsewhere, but thanks to the training ground opportunity and a few dedicated individuals — including Frank Mayborn, the late businessman and publisher of the Killeen Daily Herald — officials decided the land near Killeen would work well to train America’s fighting force.
Killeen has been growing ever since. The city’s schools are filled with military dependents. Restaurants, retail stores and other businesses rely on military personnel to purchase their goods. Homes are bought, sold and rented to thousands of military families every year. Fort Hood, by far, is Killeen’s biggest employer; not just for the active-duty soldiers who work here, but thousands of federal civilians and contractors who work here, too.
Without Fort Hood, Killeen and the other towns in this area would dry up. Businesses would board up doors and windows. Homes would stand vacant. Sidewalks and streets would crumble from lack of maintenance. It would be very, very bad for the Killeen economy if the Army officials were to say: “Fort Hood is no longer needed by the military.”
Fortunately, that’s not happening.
What is happening, however, is an Army drawdown — a mandatory downsizing of Army forces by about 80,000 troops. A few brigades will either be rearranged or inactivated, and some Army installations will likely drop by as many as 8,000 personnel. However, with all the rearrangements, some Army posts could actually grow with all the consolidation of units and training facilities.
This month, towns and cities that depend on Army posts are making their pitch on why their communities are great for the Army and its personnel.
On Monday night, Army officials held a “listening” session in Killeen to give the community a chance to make its case on why Fort Hood needs Killeen.
To the unknowing eye, Killeen might just be another Army town that borders Fort Hood.
However, as area leaders pointed out before a standing-room-only crowd of 500 people at the Killeen Civic and Conference Center, Killeen offers a plethora of services the Army needs.
Community experts talked about the availability of a myriad of medical services, schools that cater to military families, affordable housing, outdoor recreation and other opportunities.
Outsiders who listened in might get the picture that Killeen is the greatest city in the world.
But, you know what? Killeen does have a lot things going for it, other than just being an Army-friendly city.
High schools are equipped to broadcast graduation ceremonies via teleconference to deployed parents. A variety of public hospitals, a VA hospital and a soon-to-open, $500 million Army hospital are all in this area. Several area highway projects are ongoing, promising to make the commute to and around Fort Hood easier. The community caters to provide jobs and other opportunities to veterans and Army spouses. The cost of living is low. And, as Killeen Mayor Dan Corbin pointed out, the city is dedicated to ensuring an E-4 can buy a house in Killeen.
“Bottom-line: We have everything you need right here — in the community,” said Dr. Don Daniels, the chief medical officer at Killeen’s Metroplex hospital.
As experts pointed out during the listening session, Killeen doesn’t just talk the talk; it walks the walk.
Indeed, community leaders made a good case for why Fort Hood needs Killeen.
Jacob Brooks, a former Army tanker, is the city editor for the Killeen Daily Herald. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7468.
Contact Rose L. Thayer at email@example.com or (254) 501-7463. Follow her on Twitter at KDHmilitary.