By Amanda Kim Stairrett
Killeen Daily Herald
FORT HOOD — Soldiers will be taken care of if another budget impasse leads to a government shutdown, Fort Hood’s commander said Wednesday.
The country faced its first crisis in early April as lawmakers debated the nation’s budget. It came down to the wire the Friday night of the deadline with politicians agreeing to extend a decision to next month.
Soldiers and government employees received their pay, but post officials had prepared for bad news.
Then-Lt. Gen. Robert Cone, who led III Corps and Fort Hood before a late-April handoff to Lt. Gen. Donald M. Campbell Jr., said safety, security and the well being of soldiers, civilians and families remained a top priority. He assured the community that operations and activities essential to safety and national security would remain functional.
“Additionally, my staff has worked hard to identify the essential programs necessary to support as many services as possible under the law,” Cone said.
Cone was expected to name those programs and services during a news conference the morning after the deadline had a deal not been reached in Washington.
Instead, the III Corps and Fort Hood Public Affairs Office released this statement from Cone late Friday night: “With the resolution of the latest impasse on the government’s budget, Fort Hood will continue in its mission preparing warriors and units for full spectrum operations and providing world class care to our soldiers, families and civilians.”
As the extended deadline approaches, Campbell said officials would simply dust off the plan from April. Soldiers just have to know that they will be taken care of, he added.
Campbell met with members of the Central Texas media Wednesday to discuss everything from troop levels to Maj. Nidal Hasan to money and health care issues. This was Campbell’s first group briefing with Central Texas reporters, broadcasters, photographers and editors since taking command three months ago.
Campbell said he spent the last 90 days assessing Fort Hood programs and training. These are things officials will have to examine as the military moves forward under budget constraints, he said.
Fort Hood will get what it needs for training, the general said, adding he didn’t think that would be a problem. The cuts will be felt most in garrison support.
Leaders are working to ensure programs that take care of soldiers and families remain intact, Campbell said. Also discussed by Campbell Wednesday:
Increasing residencies at Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center. Campbell said the medical center should have more residencies in areas like OB/GYN. No psychiatric residency exists, something he hopes to change.
A new post exchange at Clear Creek Road. The general is set to meet next week with designers for the new facility, which he envisions as a town mall/hall similar to Fort Bliss.
Training in Korea. In the coming weeks, about 250 III Corps soldiers will engage in Ulchi Freedom Guardian, a yearly “computer-assisted simulation command post exercise,” according to information from U.S. Forces Korea. Gen. James D. Thurman, former 4th Infantry commander, leads the command. The exercise is set to go from Aug. 16 to 26.
First Army Division West Maj. Gen. Perry L. Wiggins will serve as the next division commander, replacing Maj. Gen. Charles A. Anderson in October. Wiggins is deputy commander of U.S. Army North, Fifth Army. Anderson is set to retire.
Transfer of authority. The 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment is set to hand over responsibility of its area of operations in Iraq to the 1st Cavalry Division’s 1st Brigade on Aug. 15.
Hasan. Campbell said he has to remain absolutely neutral in the case, and said Fort Hood is the location he can have a fair trial. Campbell serves as the general court-martial convening authority. He has not personally met with Hasan, he said.
Another stand-down. Campbell issued a post-wide stand-down in late May against domestic violence and sexual assault. He is planning another stand-down for November, but has not decided what issue will be addressed.
For more on what Campbell told reporters, including a challenge for leaders and soldiers as troop levels in Iraq and Afghanistan decrease, read next week’s Fort Hood Herald.