By Emily Baker

Killeen Daily Herald

As Hurricane Rita whirls toward Texas, Fort Hoods leaders are preparing to assist with disaster relief if called on while developing plans for how best to protect the posts soldiers and equipment, a III Corps spokesman said Wednesday evening.

I dont want to speculate on any specific plans, but we could potentially be moving equipment, potentially moving certain people, said Lt. Col. James Hutton. We are manning around-the-clock operations ... to monitor the situation.

An emergency response plan is expected today, Hutton said. The plan will include how to get emergency information to residents of Fort Hoods housing areas; how to evacuate the post if the hurricane causes severe weather in Central Texas; which, if any, aircraft, equipment and people will be moved before the storm arrives and where theyll go; and specifications to ensure emergency personnel are where they need to be, Hutton said.

The posts leadership is also constructing response plans if disaster assistance is needed along the Gulf Coast, Hutton said. Many Fort Hood units returned as late as Saturday from Louisiana, where they assisted with Hurricane Katrina relief. Some units from the 13th Corps Support Command are still working there.

Active Army troops have not been put on alert for Hurricane Rita disaster relief, but preparations are still under way, said Maj. Eric Butterbaugh, a U.S. Northern Command spokesman.

We are moving forward with plans for Task Force Rita so well have them if they are needed, Butterbaugh said.

The 1st Cavalry Division spent two weeks in Louisiana and provided assistance to Col. Dan Shanahan, the commander of the Armys aviation efforts there, who leads the divisions Aviation Brigade.

In the event we are called, we will be prepared, said Lt. Col. Scott Bleichwehl, the divisions spokesman.

The 4th Infantry Division, which also participated in Hurricane Katrina relief, is planning for an assistance call while considering how best to continue training here without jeopardizing troops in the event of severe weather, said Lt. Col. Jonathan Withington, the divisions spokesman. The 4th Infantry is in the midst of heavy training for an Iraq deployment. One of the divisions brigades has already left for the Middle East.

Staff writer Mollie Miller contributed to this report.

Contact Emily Baker at

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