ARLINGTON, Va. — Central Texas-Fort Hood Chapter Association of the U.S. Army members kicked off their annual visit to the nation’s capital with a “hooah” Sunday during the Army 10-Miler run.
As members prepared food and drinks for Fort Hood runners and friends in the chapter Hooah Tent outside the Pentagon, they named issues they hope surface during the AUSA annual conference. It begins today in downtown Washington, D.C.
“A lot of people wonder and ask about sequestration, but the truth is we don’t know,” said chapter president Bobby Hoxworth, referring to $500 billion in automatic defense budget cuts spanning 10 years that could be enacted Jan. 1 if Congress doesn’t agree on a budget. “All we know is the horror sequestration would be if it happened.”
While Hoxworth said he remained hopeful Congress will avoid such measures, he added that an additional $490 billion in defense budget cuts already have been approved, and promoting Fort Hood’s viability will be more important than ever in coming months.
“With cuts coming and people moving around, we’d certainly like to have as many (troops) stay as possible,” he said. “Ultimately, we’d like Fort Hood to see maximum utilization, and it’s been set for years that that’s 50,000 soldiers.”
According to AUSA figures, Fort Hood’s current population is 47,000.
Ron Taylor, Texas AUSA president and a retired Fort Hood noncommissioned officer, said Fort Hood’s size, coupled with Central Texas’ cultural and economic expansion and support for soldiers, position it as an enduring installation.
“I’ve been around the world and there’s no better community for soldiers and families,” said Taylor. “Folks are different down there.”
The Army 10-Miler, now in its 28th year, drew 30,000 runners from across the armed forces. Sponsored in part by AUSA, different chapters set up tents outside the Pentagon, where the race started and ended.
AUSA is a joint military and civilian organization that aims to be a voice for the Army and support for the soldier on Capitol Hill and locally, according to information from the organization. At 10,000 members, the Central Texas-Fort Hood Chapter is AUSA’s largest.
In addition to troop assignments, Taylor said he was eager to hear this week about the Army’s plans for the future, given the recent White House strategic guidance that pivots the military’s attention toward the Asia-Pacific region, following long-term engagements in the Middle East.
“That’s a transformation that’s never been done before, and we need to be keeping an eye on the war in Afghanistan, too,” said Taylor, who will be honored today with the association’s SMA William G. Bainbridge Noncommissioned Officer Medal for extraordinary service.
Taylor added that services for recent combat veterans — particularly those facing mental health issues — also must remain priorities for the Army. “We’ve got to keep their story at the forefront,” he said.
Many of these topics will be addressed today through the close of the conference Wednesday during a variety of contemporary military and family forums. Central Texas representatives will speak at two of the conferences. III Corps and Fort Hood commander Lt. Gen. Donald M. Campbell Jr. will sit on a cyber warfare panel, and Maj. Gen. Anthony Ierardi, 1st Cavalry Division commander, will speak on special operations and conventional force integration.
Despite the uncertainties currently surrounding the military, Campbell said he remained optimistic about the Army’s future as he greeted runners at the AUSA tent.
“As difficult as the last 11 years have been for the Army, we’ve become a more adaptable, agile force,” he said, adding that he and other general officers met with Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond T. Odierno last week about the future of the branch. “The Army’s on the rise and I’m optimistic, especially after hearing the chief.”
Ierardi, who ran the race with the Fort Hood men’s team, agreed.
“We’ve got soldiers who are a battle-hardened, seasoned force and (Odierno’s) vision is for a more versatile, agile force while taking care of our soldiers and families after 10 years of war,” he said.