By Amanda Kim Stairrett
Killeen Daily Herald
NORTH FORT HOOD - The sounds of video games, pool balls clacking and laughing soldiers filled the room Wednesday as USO Fort Hood's newest location celebrated its grand opening.
After almost two years of planning and work, a USO center was opened at North Fort Hood. North Fort Hood is home to National Guard and Reserve units who are training for upcoming deployments.
"It really, really means a lot," Col. Gary Brito said of the center.
Brito leads First Army Division West's 120th Infantry Brigade, which oversees much of the training at North Fort Hood. Other Division West training brigades that operate at Fort Hood include the 479th Field Artillery Brigade and the 166th Aviation Brigade.
National Guard and Reserve units mobilize and deploy to Fort Hood, Brito said, and from there they go on to Kuwait, Iraq or Afghanistan. Any type of comfort or hospitality Fort Hood can show them is good, he added.
The new center, located on the first floor of Building 56480 on Headquarters Avenue, opened its doors three weeks ago, but hosted its grand opening Wednesday.
The facility has a snack bar, pool tables and areas for playing video games and watching movies. Much of what fills the center was donated by businesses and organizations that have long supported USO Fort Hood. Those include USA Discounters, Dominos Pizza, PepsiCo Inc., Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Mars Inc.
Spc. Adams Holzhaus arrived at Fort Hood more than a month ago with the 1729th Maintenance Supply Company, a Maryland Army National Guard unit. He said he visited the North Fort Hood USO to watch movies about four times a week.
Providing a second USO at Fort Hood was important because soldiers are soldiers regardless of the units in which they serve, said Robin Crouse, USO Fort Hood director.
These troops mobilize and train at North Fort Hood, she said, and the new location fits with the USO's goal of giving those in uniform a home away from home.
Visitors to USO North Fort Hood will continue to see improvements to the center. Crouse said officials plan to continue adding features and services to make the location even homier than the entertainment centers, coffee tables and comfortable couches it already has.
Current hours are from 2 to 10 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays, though Crouse has already received requests from soldiers to open earlier. She said open hours would increase as more volunteers come forward.
Those interested in volunteering must register at www.usovolunteer.org. The next volunteer orientation is March 30 at North Fort Hood.
To hear what other soldiers at North Fort Hood has to say about the new USO center, read next week's Fort Hood Herald.