By Don Bolding
Killeen Daily Herald
Retired Army Col. Ronald Munden was never stationed at Fort Hood and had no designs on moving to Central Texas, but three years into other second-career ventures, Camber Corp. called him to start a division here from scratch in 1995.
Now he and his wife Lou Anne intend to stay here the rest of their lives.
"I was at Fort Hood on temporary duty from time to time, but never lived in this area," he said. "I spent the last several years in the Army at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. Lou Anne and I both have deep roots in the Dallas area, and we knew we wanted to return to Texas, so we welcomed this chance. Our two daughters and their families live in the Dallas area, and it just takes two and a half hours to get there. This is a central location, and it's easy to get to Austin, Waco, San Antonio and other places, and it's quiet and easy to live here. We love it."
They live near the lake in Belton, and they love it there, too. In fact, Munden started an art gallery and frame shop called Belton Frames as a sideline in a 125-year-old building downtown for three years but had to close it when street work made access so difficult that business tanked. Munden still does some drawing and framing as a hobby but says his "day job" doesn't allow for much of it.
In his "day job," he is a Camber vice president and manager of the company's operations, training and testing division based in Killeen. Camber, a 17-year-old employee-owned company based in Huntsville, Ala., has 20 offices around the country engaged in information technology, software development, training, modulation and simulation and other fields. Munden rode into town with little but a suitcase to start a division to support Force 21, the digitization of the 4th Infantry Division, and now has many other defense projects throughout the United States and other countries.
"We could be headquartered in any number of places, but it's convenient to be beside Fort Hood," he said. "And the establishment of Killeen-Fort Hood Regional Airport really helped. Travel was a lot more difficult out of Skylark Field."
Munden also is chairman for the second year of the Defense Contractors Council of the Greater Killeen Chamber of Commerce.
He holds a bachelor of science in engineering from the United States Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., and master's degrees in engineering management and operations research from Southern Methodist University. In the Army, he was a field artillery officer, engineer and counterterrorism specialist at different times.
His and his wife's Texas roots go way down deep. He was appointed to West Point by U.S. Rep. Joe Pool, the namesake of a major lake in the Dallas area, and his great-grandfather was the first postmaster in Duncanville, his home town. Duncanville's high school sits on land that was his grandmother's farm. He graduated from high school in 1966.
"I remember when Duncanville and all those places around Dallas were little towns in their own right. I remember what a big deal it was when the first blinking red traffic light was installed. Then in the mid-1960s, it seems like we were 'discovered,' and the suburban population just mushroomed. Now all the towns border each other. Duncanville can't grow any direction but up."
He applauds efforts to diversify the Killeen economy even while the community supports Fort Hood. "Fort Sill is next to Lawton, Okla., and we talked about what would be left if Fort Sill closed. The answer was virtually nothing. So the town worked and got a huge Goodyear plant there that employs people from all around the area.
"Fort Hood is going to be here, but the town needs to be more than just an appendage where every paycheck depends on the Army. So it's good that we're growing. I just want it to stay folksy and keep some of its small-town atmosphere. I want easy access to the big cities, but we don't want to live in one.
"I hope the towns in the area will find ways to grow together. Now, it's like there's a wall at Nolanville Hill separating east from west Bell County, and we'll be a lot better off if we take better advantage of each other's economic and cultural institutions and be a regional community.
"But whatever we do, Lou Anne and I are here to stay."
Contact Don Bolding at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (254) 501-7557