Leadership at Fort Hood and the Harker Heights Police Department share a common goal to keep soldiers safe off post and mission ready.

During a Harker Heights City Council meeting Tuesday, Police Chief Mike Gentry gave a presentation on the history and success of the department’s “Safe Soldier” program.

Modeled after what is known in military circles as a “Courtesy Patrol,” where soldiers give on-site corrections on a variety of issues, the Heights program embeds a soldier with an on-duty police officer during a drive to off-post locations frequented by soldiers, such as bars and night clubs.

“The program has been through several iterations and it’s come and gone, but it’s never completely disappeared,” Gentry said. “We were dealing with issues involving soldiers and were unable to share that information with Fort Hood officials because it would compromise our ongoing investigations.”

To create a better channel of communication and to assist their military neighbors, Gentry said the program was initiated in 2005 with the leadership of the 4th Infantry Division.

“This sharing of information proved to be valuable to military commanders as they are faced with the fast-paced deployments and the effects it has on military personnel,” Gentry said. “The program also helped to determine whether any off-post premises needed to be labeled as ‘off limits.’”

The program also enabled military leaders to evaluate off-post facilities firsthand rather than through filtered second-hand reports.

Since the program launched in 2005, 1,050 individuals, including 803 soldiers, have been managed through the program.

The most current iteration, which took place from 2012 to 2013, saw a dramatic decrease in the number of HHPD cases: 58. During the program’s infancy in 2005, during a two-month period, 136 soldiers were diverted to Fort Hood authorities. In the second evolution, which took place over the course of a six-weekend time frame in 2007, 407 soldiers were diverted to military authorities.

“I really want to see this program continue especially since the leadership on Fort Hood is constantly changing,” Mayor Mike Aycock said. “The deployments are more and more frequent and reintegration continues to be a struggle for our service members. When it comes to community support of our military, we do it well and we do it right.”

Contact Vanessa Lynch at vlynch@kdhnews.com or 254-501-7567.

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