FORT HOOD — About 15 Texas state legislators and several dozen staff members had the opportunity to spend the day Friday touring Fort Hood and learning what it’s like to be a soldier.
Fort Hood officials gave the state lawmakers the opportunity to meet with soldiers, see and handle the equipment soldiers use and even participate in simulator exercises at the Warrior Skills Training Center.
“We’ve had a wonderful time interacting with the soldiers, seeing the equipment they use and better understanding what it takes to keep our Army ‘battle ready,’” said state Sen. Dr. Dawn Buckingham, R-Lakeway. “As a state legislator, there is no better experience than seeing first-hand what our soldiers need and what they do every day. It gives us ways to be more effective in helping them, and be sure we protect Fort Hood as the great asset it is for Texas and the country.”
Buckingham, whose Senate District 24 includes both Fort Hood and Dyess Air Force Base in Abilene, said the simulations she participated in helped her understand just how stressful a job soldiers have, and how well-trained and prepared they have to be in order to perform their duties.
“Being out here and seeing first-hand helps us truly understand what the extra needs are that the military has,” she said. “We want to be sure to protect them from (Base Alignment and Closures), want to make sure we have good infrastructure, good schools matter for the kids ... it’s a lot of things.”
The chance to come out and tour Fort Hood was a great opportunity to for state Rep. Brad Buckley, R-Salado, a longtime veterinarian in Killeen.
“It’s still very humbling to come onto the Great Place and experience a day with those fine young people who (Lt.) Gen. (Paul) Funk (II) called the ‘next greatest generation,’” he said. “I believe it 100 percent. The technology and the simulations, the equipment, is awe-inspiring, but the young people who serve this country are really what hit my heart, and it’s important that we take that message back to Austin and we support them in every way we can.”
Buckley said it was exciting to learn that approximately 7,000 soldiers who separate from the military every year from Fort Hood want to stay in Texas.
“What it tells me is we need an economic climate that provides good jobs, so that way when they retire or separate from the military, we can keep them in Texas,” said the House District 54 representative, which covers the majority of Killeen. “They have unbelievable skills, they have unbelievable discipline, they have served our country with distinction and we need to provide a great economic environment for them to stay in Texas and continue to serve Texas growth.”
Buckley added that of the $100 billion that military installations in Texas provides annually in economic impact for the state of Texas, Fort Hood provides 25 percent of it with approximately $24.5 billion. It was the soldiers he met, however, who had the biggest impact.
“My biggest takeaway is that I will sleep a little better tonight knowing the quality of folks who are serving,” he said.