By Amanda Kim Stairrett
Killeen Daily Herald
Fort Hood officials are making more effort to expand the post's reach beyond the immediate communities of Killeen, Copperas Cove and Harker Heights.
Expanding Fort Hood's reach from the original 10 communities and beyond the immediate area is important because Central Texas is obviously a big region, Lt. Gen. Donald M. Campbell Jr., III Corps and Fort Hood commander, said in his office last week.
It's important the post has connections through things like the Adopt-a-School Program and chamber visits so more people have an understanding of what happens on the installation, he said.
"That's who we serve," he said of the American public. "We are their Army.
"Staying connected to America - it's important the Army is connected to America."
Fort Hood's Partnership Program links units with 21 local communities.
According to information from the post, "each unit provides a soldier to act as a liaison between Fort Hood and the community that they support."
These soldiers attend meetings with the communities' chambers of commerce and military affairs groups, give them updates on the post and find out what questions or concerns they have regarding Fort Hood.
Communities in the program are Belton, Brady, Brownwood, Burnet, Cameron, Copperas Cove, Crawford, Florence, Gatesville, Georgetown, Goldthwaite, Harker Heights, Kempner, Killeen, Lampasas, Lometa, McGregor, Nolanville, Salado, San Saba and Temple, according to information from Fort Hood.
How it began
The program was created in 1987 after Lt. Gen. Crosbie "Butch" Saint "had a vision to bring an increase to the opportunities for military-civilian interaction and relationships, give soldiers and civilians the opportunity to get to know one another and get more soldiers involved in the local community activities and for more civilian neighbors attend Fort Hood functions," according to information from Fort Hood.
The program came to be through work by the III Corps Public Affairs Officer and its deputy at the time, Eloise Lundgren. Lundgren is the public affairs officer for West Fort Hood's Operational Test Command.
The program began with 10 communities, and was important because it gave soldiers and families a sense of belonging and connection to the area, according to information from Fort Hood.
Tenant units like Operational Test Command, Medical Activity and Dental Activity were not included in the original plan because they were not under the III Corps and Fort Hood commander, Lundgren said.
Things changed with the creation of Installation Management Command, which technically made all Fort Hood units "tenants" of the command.
"So now Fort Hood is able to have more partnerships," Lundgren said.
Campbell said he was privileged to inherit the robust community partnership. He took command of III Corps and Fort Hood in April.
"Community partnership is a relationship, and I emphasize that every opportunity I get with both our military and our local leaders," he said in an email Friday. "These partnerships, and our soldiers having a sense of ownership in the communities that they reside in, can only strengthen what is already a very solid relationship with our CenTex neighbors."
The more Fort Hood can reach out to those communities, the better, Campbell said, and the more inclined those residents will be to support soldiers and their families.
Going outside Fort Hood's historic boundaries is important as projects and initiatives that require multiple communities increase. Campbell cited the State Highway 195 expansion in Williamson County as an example.
Campbell and Bell County officials visited Williamson County officials to thank them for supporting the project, he said.
The area is home to three partnership programs. Besides Fort Hood's Partnership Program, there is the Adopt-a-School Program and the local chapter of the Association of the U.S. Army's Adopt-a-Fort Hood-Unit Program.
Retired Lt. Gen. Pete Taylor, who led III Corps and Fort Hood from 1991 to 1993, added the Adopt-A-School Program during his command.
All three have changed and evolved over the years, Taylor said. Those changes likely came about because of deployments and units moving to and from other posts, he added.
"In my view, all three programs have been invaluable in building good relations between the Central Texas Community and Fort Hood over the past several years, but the attention they receive at any point in time have been impacted by 10 years of war as well as budget and economic considerations," Taylor said last week via email. "Still, they are useful programs that hopefully will continue to be supported by most the military and civilian communities."
The partnership program was formed to partner large units with civilian communities. The Adopt-a-Fort Hood-Unit Program gave a business, civic organization or individual an opportunity to "adopt" a battalion- or company-sized unit at Fort Hood and providing them support when requested and available, Taylor said.
The Adopt-a-Fort Hood-Unit program started in early 2003 when then-III Corps and Fort Hood Commander Lt. Gen. Thomas Metz approached retired Col. Ralph Gauer and the Central Texas-Fort Hood chapter of the Association of the U.S. Army.
Metz initially wanted to call it Adopt-A-Platoon, Gauer said, but there were too many platoons, so it became Adopt-A-Unit. Officials had to changes the name to Adopt-A-Fort Hood-Unit soon after its creation because a California firm owned the rights to "Adopt-A-Unit," Gauer said.
Gauer said the biggest reason the program was successful is because of Waco's KWTX-TV. Gauer worked with the station on past projects and helped create a series of public service announcements in which senior officers appeared.
"Not only does it allow people to see the message, it legitimizes the message," Gauer said.
The program created about 400 relationships for Fort Hood units.
Community partners can support their units however they see fit.
"Whatever you want to do," Gauer said. "All we're asking you to do is support soldiers in however way you choose to do that."
The program is nothing more than a way to get connected with today's Army at Fort Hood, Gauer said.
"There are always soldiers downrange who want to be connected with folks back home," he said.
For more information on the Adopt-a-Fort Hood-Unit Program, go to www.forthoodausa.org.