Keith Sledd, executive director of the Heart of Texas Defense Alliance, was the featured presenter at Tuesday’s Harker Heights City Council workshop.
Sledd began by explaining that the HOTDA was organized in 2003 in support of Fort Hood when the Army announced that it was going to form a base realignment and closure commission.
HOTDA is municipally funded and does not do fundraising. It is a Title C-16 and is supported by the three counties that surround Ft. Hood.
Based on a 2018 estimate, the 13 military installations in Texas generate $106 billion. Fort Hood alone generates 24% of that amount. It’s the largest single-site employer in the state of Texas, Sledd said.
“The first of our ongoing projects is to redefine “The Great Place.” The III Corps commander brought it up in a recent meeting. When he engages with congressmen, state representatives and others, he wants to be able to talk to them about why the communities also make it a great place,” Sledd said.
There are currently 37,000 soldiers at Fort Hood.The Army has made a decision to man all units at 105 percent of their authorized numbers, he said.
“Instead of adding new units in some cases they are adding numbers to the current units,” Sledd said.
One thing that remains consistent is that 70 percent of the family members of Fort Hood soldiers live off post in the community. There are 13,000 who live on post.
Two months ago, deployment numbers were at 1,700 plus. They are now at 4,500 with the 3rd Brigade Combat Team from the 1st Cavalry Division deployed.
Those numbers will increase this fall. III Corps will deploy in September followed by the 2nd Brigade Team from First Cavalry deploying to Europe for nine months with an additional group deploying this fall to Afghanistan. That will bring the numbers closer to 10,000 by December.
Currently, one in three people from the three county area are active-duty retirees, which adds up to more than 159,000. Harker Heights has 9.7% of that number, Sledd said.
The vouncil also presented a “Bright Star of Central Texas Award” to Jeesoo Min, a 2019 graduate of Harker Heights High School who was valedictorian of her class and the first student to qualify for the All-State Orchestra.