Congressman Ted Poe (TX-02)

There’s a place in Texas that is like no other in the world.  It is a true representation of the saying: “Everything is bigger and better in Texas.”  It’s a place where people from all walks of life, from small town, country boys to Ivy League educated city slickers come together as one – it is the “Great Place.”

In 1945, one such country boy that had never been more than 50 miles from home, returned to Texas with hundreds of other young teenagers after fighting in the great World War II.  Expecting to be re-equipped for the land invasion of Japan, he thought Fort Hood was just a training stop, unaware what the “Great Place” would mean to him. It was there Dad met Mom at a Wednesday night “prayer meeting” church service and well, the rest is Poe family history. 

Dad’s story isn’t that unique, but it is what makes Fort Hood unique.  Established as a tank destroyer tactical and firing center at the beginning of World War II, today it is one of the largest military installations in the world.  But, the one thing that has remained the same from the earliest days as Camp Hood is the sense of place that intertwines the soldiers and their families that serve there. The “Great Place” is uniquely its own way of life.

Named for Confederate General John Bell Hood, Camp Hood opened on September 18, 1942 and has been the premiere installation for armored training ever since. During WWII, the 893d Tank Destroyer Battalion was the first unit under the command of General Andrew Bruce.  It wasn’t until after the war, in the 1950s, that this temporary training camp officially became Fort Hood. 

At the height of WWII, Fort Hood was responsible for training as many as 100,000 soldiers at a given time.  Training significantly declined after the war, but the base always stood ready and geared back up during times of war. 

As a kid, I would go to stay with my grandmother who lived near the base and I could hear the cannons firing and the tanks rumbling over the hill country during the training drills.  And like every little boy of that day, I would pretend I was a soldier like my dad fighting for our country.

In the 1990’s, units from Fort Hood provided support in Bosnia and training for Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm took center stage, readying tens of thousands of troops.  The III Corps under United States Army Forces command made Fort Hood their headquarters and it is the rapid and massive military response capability of the III Corps that distinguishes Fort Hood from other military installations.

Ft. Hood has trained soldiers for every major battle the United States has fought since WWII, including our current campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan.  In December 2003, it was the Fort Hood’s Fourth Infantry Division that was credited with the capture of former Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein.

Today, Fort Hood continues the primary mission to maintain a state of readiness for combat missions.  Encompassing 218,000 acres over two counties, the base remains the nation’s top training facility and a leader in technological advances in warfare.  But, to those that serve there, the “Great Place” is more than that.  It’s a unique sense of place. 

 

This year’s holiday season will be especially difficult for the Fort Hood family as we are all still grieving over the senseless tragedy that claimed the lives of thirteen of our country’s finest.  Because our men and women in uniform go about their duties in an honorable and noble way, we often forget the sacrifices they make so that we can be free.  As we look forward to the holidays and seeing our family, many of them are a world away from theirs.

I will be traveling to Afghanistan this week to meet with our troops and personally thank them for their service and their sacrifices.  Like every year, I will be taking Christmas and holiday cards from school children across the Second Congressional District – over 10,000 cards were collected.  I’ll be looking for those men and women from the “Great Place,” they’ll be easy to spot because of their “sense of place.”  And that just the way it is. 

FORT HOOD. Fort Hood is located in southwestern Bell and southeastern Coryell counties in Central Texas. Most of the 218,000 acres owned by the United States Army is located in Coryell County. On January 14, 1942, at the beginning of United States involvement in World War II, it was announced that a tank destroyer tactical and firing center would be established near Killeen, Texas. Gen. Andrew D. Bruce was selected as the first commander. The first major unit, the 893d Tank Destroyer Battalion, arrived from Fort Meade, Maryland, on April 2, 1942. As other troops began arriving, some 300 farming and ranching families were required, on very short notice, to give up their land. Camp Hood was officially opened on September 18, 1942, and has been continuously used for armored training ever since. The installation was named in honor of Gen. John Bell Hood. The mission at Camp Hood was almost immediately expanded to include a replacement and basic training center at North Fort Hood. At times as many as 100,000 soldiers were being trained for the war effort. During the later part of the war some 4,000 German prisoners of war were interned at Camp Hood.

The postwar years saw a significant reduction of activity, and the post's population dropped to about 1,700. By 1950 the temporary camp was designated the permanent status of Fort Hood. Basic facilities for a permanent army installation were constructed. The demands for training brought about by the Korean War accelerated military activities. The installation acquired an additional 49,578 acres in 1953 and former United States Air Force and Department of Defense landholdings in the 1950s and 1960s. Major army units stationed at one time or another at Fort Hood included the First, Second, and Fourth Armored divisions. In 1954 Fort Hood was the nation's only two-division installation, and the Third Corps was transferred from Camp Roberts, California. In 1990 the installation was the home of the headquarters of the III Corps under United States Army Forces command. Fort Hood was located in the Fifth United States Army area. The two active army divisions, the Second Armored Division ("Hell on Wheels") and the First Cavalry Division, were stationed there. Other commands at Fort Hood included the Sixth Cavalry Brigade (Air Combat), Corps Support Command, the Third Signal Brigade, and several tenant organizations including MEDDAC (Medical Department Activity), Test and Experimentation Command, and more than a dozen other smaller support or tenant commands including two major airfields. Reserve units such as the Forty-ninth and Fiftieth Armored divisions and the Thirty-sixth Airborne Brigade of the Texas National Guard and other smaller regular and reserve units of the army, air force, and marine corps used the Fort Hood facility.

Fort Hood is one of the largest military installations in the world. The primary mission of Fort Hood is to maintain a state of readiness for combat missions, and the dominant activity is the training of III Corps. A significant portion of the combat-ready air and ground forces of the United States Army is stationed at Fort Hood. The combat readiness of III Corps distinguishes Fort Hood from many other installations which do not have the same rapid and massive military response capability. With the end of the Cold War, military cutbacks became common throughout the United States. The Second Armored Division was deactivated for a short period, during which time the Fifth Infantry Division (Mechanized) was assigned to Fort Hood. However, operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm in 1990–91 halted this deactivation, and more than 25,000 troops were sent from Fort Hood to the Middle East. Of these, 17,000 were from the Second Armored Division and the First Cavalry Division. Three soldiers from Fort Hood were killed and nine wounded. On April 12, 1991, following the Gulf War, the Department of Defense labeled Fort Hood a top fighting installation and stationed 12,000 additional troops there. In December 1992 the Fifth Infantry Division was inactivated and redesignated the Second Armored Division.

On December 15, 1995, the Second Armored Division was officially renamed the Fourth Infantry Division (Mechanized) with Fort Hood as headquarters. This division was also designated as the Army's test division under the Force XXI program, which involved the testing and implementation of the latest technological advances in warfare. Fort Hood units provided support in Bosnia in 1998 and 1999. In the wake of the terrorist attacks upon the United States on September 11, 2001, Fort Hood personnel served in key roles in operations in Afghanistan and Iraq regarding combat operations as well as the rebuilding of infrastructure. The Fourth Infantry Division was deployed to Iraq in January 2003 and was credited with the capture of former Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein, on December 13, 2003. The First Cavalry Division at Fort Hood was deployed to Iraq in spring 2004. In addition to combat support, Fort Hood units have also provided disaster relief efforts both nationally and internationally for fighting forest fires in Idaho in 2000, for example, and aiding flood victims after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. In 2005 the nearly 65,000 personnel at Fort Hood included the First Cavalry Division, Fourth Infantry Division, III Corps Headquarters, TRADOC Test and Experimentation Command, and numerous support units and organizations.

The installation has been a critical social and economic reality in the Central Texas region. Prior to the establishment of Fort Hood the region was cotton and cattle country. The shift from a low-population agrarian environment to a densely populated cosmopolitan environment has had both positive and negative features. On the one hand, Fort Hood has stimulated the growth of educational institutions, commercial conveniences, and professional services such as health care. Local communities have benefited from a military population with a pool of experienced teachers and professionals not found in most rural areas. On the other hand, the large number of transitory personnel has resulted in a community characterized by a sense of impermanence and highly focused economic interests not generally found in communities with more social and economic diversity. The installation offers excellent public recreational opportunities including Belton Lake Outdoor Recreation Area (BLORA), Clear Creek Country Club, and restaurants and other facilities. Fort Hood operates two museums—the First Cavalry Division Museum and the Fourth Infantry Division Museum—that are open to the public. An Operational Testers Hall of Fame is located at the West Fort Hood Headquarters of the U. S. Army Operational Test Command. On-post elementary schools, youth centers, and child care facilities serve Fort Hood families, and Fort Hood offers the largest commissary complex in the United States. The base also hosts several festivals throughout the year.

Fort Hood is the largest solely federally owned Texas landholding and has taken an initiative in the stewardship of cultural resources on public lands. More than 2,000 archeological sites dating from the Ice Age to historic times have been recorded. The archeological record at Fort Hood contains a diversity of resources including more than 1,000 sites of hunting and gathering people from all major time periods in Texas prehistory and the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. More than fifty historic communities, most of them now extinct, are represented in the Fort Hood archeological inventory. In November 1973 the skeletal remains of forty-five Indians were reinterred at Fort Hood. Archeological sites are protected by federal law from unauthorized damage, destruction, collecting, or excavation, and records provide resources for anthropological research and public appreciation.