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Living section reviews top Hood features from 2013

Email   Print   Share By Heather Graham-Ashley, Sentinel News Editor
January 9, 2014 | Living
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Every week, the Living section offers features about quality of life issues and personal stories about Soldiers, Families and civilians at Fort Hood.

Living section fronts highlighted programs addressing the efforts to stem domestic violence, sexual assault and suicide, as well as monthly observances that recognized the various cultures that diversify and strengthen the Army.

The section also shared the stories of Soldiers and Families working through post traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury, while presenting the services available on post to help.

During 2013, the biggest stories in the Living section dealt with construction projects aimed to enhance the quality of life of Fort Hood, a first-ever symposium to examine sexual harrassment and assault on the installation, the effects on services during an 11-week furlough of civilian employees, justice for the Families of victims and those wounded during the Nov. 5, 2009 shooting and the honoring of a notable Central Texas civic leader.

MCA awards to Fort Hood

In January 2013, Fort Hood was looking forward to expansion and modernization of several buildings and services following the post’s award of more than $820 million worth of Military Construction Army projects currently under construction, including the replacement medical center and another $243 million in projects that were under design.

“The Army has made its intent very clear on Fort Hood by continuing to invest its limited resources here,” Brian Dosa, director, Fort Hood Directorate of Public Works, said. “The Army is clearly saying Fort Hood has an enduring mission to train Soldiers and units.”

When the president signed the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act, three MCA projects totaling $51 million were awarded to enhance the training mission at Fort Hood. In recent years, Fort Hood has typically received $90-100 million in MCA projects, Dosa said, noting that the smaller dollar amount is a reflection of the nation’s tighter fiscal reality.

“The Army has said we’re going to build much, much less new and work on renovating our old facilities and taking care of what we have,” he said.

New construction projects included facilities for the unmanned aerial systems program, and two additions to the training complex near South Range Road: a training aid center and a small-arms qualification range.

Both the training center and the adjacent range will provide expanded and new opportunities for not only Fort Hood troops, but those across the Army as well as the foreign military units that train here.

In total, 17 MCA construction projects were ongoing across the installation in 2013.

CRDAMC-R hits milestones

With all of the construction on and around Fort Hood, the post’s largest project remains the replacement hospital, which reached two milestones in 2013 – topping out and drying in.

Fort Hood inched closer to the opening of the new Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center May 14 as workers placed a beam at the medical center’s highest point to mark the completion of structural framework during a Topping Out ceremony.

Representatives from CRDAMC joined those from the Army Corps of Engineers and Fort Hood Directorate of Public Works to share their thoughts about the project before the beam was placed.

On schedule to open summer 2015, the medical campus will include the six-story hospital tower, two two-story outpatient clinics and one three-story outpatient clinic, as well as three parking garages.

The center, which is about 60-percent larger than the current CRDAMC, will replace the outdated, existing hospital. Carl R. Darnall Army Community Hospital originally opened in 1965 and is no longer able to meet Fort Hood’s growing healthcare requirements.

By December, the replacement hospital was approaching yet another milestone, drying-in.

Drying-in is the process of weatherproofing a building, which means it receives a new exterior surface, and each element including the foundation, roof and walls are sealed to prevent the entry of water and wind into the building, Brandy Gill, CRDAMC public affairs wrote in the Dec. 12, edition of the Sentinel.

According to Erika Provinsal, deputy program manager with the Health Facility Planning Office, drying-in is significant because it means the building is ready to have systems installed. It represents the construction focus has shifted from merely a structure to a functional building in preparation to become a hospital.

Although the building looks finished from the outside, it still has a long way to go to be ready for patients.

Garrison mitigates furlough

During the summer, as budgetary uncertainties that resulted in Sequestration cuts hit Fort Hood civilians, Fort Hood Garrison officials and directors continued their work to mitigate the effects on Fort Hood services and programs.

Although many Fort Hood offices, services and programs rely heavily on civilians, garrison officials worked diligently to ensure Soldiers and Families saw little or no degradation of service.

“For the most part, it will be transparent to the community and Soldiers/Families,” Deputy Garrison Commander Andy Bird said heading into the furlough. “There will be no impacts to our protection of life, health, safety and security of services on post. This also includes the bulk of our Soldier and Family programs.”

What patrons saw, were delays in some areas of service as staffing was reduced on furlough days.

Shift workers, such as firefighters, had their work schedules modified to meet the 20-percent pay reduction required by furlough while still providing for public safety.

Cuts in hours caused some delays, especially with high-demand services such as those provided by the ID Card office in the Copeland Soldier Service Center and services provided by Army Community Service.

Directorates prepared for the furlough and had plans in place to ensure services continued, albeit many with reduced staffing that was already critically short in manpower in some areas because of the ongoing Department of Defense hiring freeze.

Of those directorates facing the furlough and its related delays, among the most visible and widely depended upon include the Directorate of Emergency Services, the Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation, and the Directorate of Public Works. Fortunately, those directorates were not as harshly affected, minus some delays.

Justice for Nov. 5 victims

Teena Nemelka joined 18 other Family members to share the impact of the lives lost in the shooting during the sentencing phase of U.S. v. Maj. Nidal Hasan during two days of testimony Aug. 26-27 at Fort Hood.

“He was my baby,” she said, noting he was always at her side.

Her son, Pfc. Aaron Nemelka, 19, was one of the first to die in the shooting Nov. 5, 2009, inside Fort Hood’s Soldier Readiness Processing Center that claimed the lives of 12 Soldiers, a retired warrant officer and wounded more than 30 others.

Family members said watching the court martial and speaking during sentencing helped them move on from how their loved ones died and forget the man who murdered them and wounded dozens of others.

Testimonies recalled the continued effects of their violent deaths, stolen futures, missed opportunities and canceled plans.

Col. Mike Mulligan, lead counsel for the government, stressed the human toll from the massacre during closing arguments in the sentencing hearing: eight widows, one widower, 12 minor children who will grow up without a mother or father, 18 parents, 30 Soldiers wounded and one civilian police officer wounded and no longer fit for duty.

The panel of 13 field-grade officers tasked with deciding Hasan’s fate heard and saw that cost firsthand as Families gave voices to the fallen and three Soldiers wounded in the shooting spoke about their difficult recoveries.

After hearing the Families’ words, the panel deliberated for less than two hours before unanimously deciding on the death sentence for 13 counts of premeditated murder.

Families of the fallen expressed satisfaction with the death sentence and the opportunities to put voices to their fallen loved ones.

“We had to do it for our loved ones because they had no voice anymore,” Teena said. “It goes back to him always wanting to be there for me.”

Survivors share at SHARP

Three survivors of sexual assault shared their experiences with Fort Hood leaders during the installation’s first Sexual Harassment and Assault Response Program Symposium Nov. 19 at Club Hood. During the symposium, the first-ever at Fort Hood, SHARP advocates, legal and law enforcement professionals and others who work with survivors of sexual assault shared information and best practices with Fort Hood leaders.

In 2012, there were 189 reports of sexual assault made on the installation, Lt. Col. Jacqueline Davis, III Corps and Fort Hood SHARP program manager said.

“Many of those occurred somewhere else,” she added, noting that the climate at Fort Hood has made many Soldiers comfortable to report sexual assaults, sometimes even years after the assault occurred.

Pfc. James Bohlin was one of those who chose to tell his story and push for a culture change.

“I was a mess,” Bohlin said, noting self-destructive behaviors that labeled him a less-than desirable Soldier to his leadership. “In plain terms, it’s been hard, very hard.”

Spc. Dominique Lazo knows the same battle as Bohlin. She also was sexually assaulted by a fellow Soldier. While at Fort Bragg, N.C., Lazo was attacked by a Soldier that she later learned was a serial rapist.

Lazo struggled with fear and depression.

“I was afraid to leave my house,” she said.

Both Bohlin and Lazo received reassignments to Fort Hood to help them recover from the assaults to provide distance from their attackers.

“They helped me relocate closer to my Family and provided support,” Bohlin said.

Although she is recovering, there are still struggles, Lazo said.

“Some days it’s a struggle just to open my eyes,” she said.

Lazo credited her SHARP advocate for helping her tell her story.

“She’s helping me get my voice back because she’s helping me tell my story,” Lazo said.

Bohlin also has made strides since his assignment to Fort Hood.

“I’ve been able to recover a lot faster since I got here,” he said, noting that the command climate here has had better discretion with his situation and helped ensure that he gets support.

Lazo asked leaders to be mindful of the victim and not re-victimize with the words they say.

“You should think about that victim as your sister, your mother or your daughter,” she said.

Both Soldiers agreed that the SHARP program, combined with the command climate at Fort Hood that seeks to hold offenders accountable while providing support and services for victims, has helped with their recoveries.

That program continues to improve to fill gaps.

“The program is evolving, and it’s changing as it evolves,” Davis said.

She reviewed the dozens of Army regulations that help the battle against sexual assault and harassment in the ranks, including a new regulation that will force registered sex offenders out of uniform.

Still, the most important resource in combating sexual assaults is people speaking out and advocating against sex crimes. For those who need help, the Fort Hood hotline is manned around the clock at 319-4671.

Mayborn Gate dedicated

The installation continued its efforts in 2013 to honor some of those who have helped make the Great Place great.

In March, Fort Hood and community leaders offered a permanent tribute to the man responsible for Fort Hood’s establishment in Central Texas. During a gate memorialization ceremony, Fort Hood’s east gate was renamed the Frank W. Mayborn Gate in recognition of the newspaper publisher and Central Texas businessman’s contributions to the installation.

III Corps and Fort Hood Commanding General Lt. Gen. Mark Milley and Garrison Commander Col. Matt Elledge recalled Mayborn’s efforts to establish the post as well as his contributions as a Soldier and a civilian to ensure Fort Hood’s legacy.

Post leaders and Mayborn’s widow, Sue, unveiled the memorial marker to Soldiers and community members during the ceremony. Mayborn, a Central Texas newspaper publisher and businessman, was serving as the president of the Temple Chamber of Commerce, when he established the chamber’s War Projects Committee in 1939 that was integral in the establishment of Camp Hood, later to become Fort Hood, in Killeen. Mayborn died of a heart attack in 1987 in Temple.

Noting the memorial area inside the gate that details many of Mayborn’s accomplishments as well as the plaque in his honor, Elledge said the gate “serves as a reminder to the civilians and Soldiers who enter it of the significant contributions Frank Mayborn made as a civilian and a Soldier.”
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