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North Fort Hood landmark making way for upgrades

Email   Print   Share By Gloria L. Harris, Hood Mobilization Brigade
March 24, 2011 | News
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The final exercise scheduled in North Fort Hood’s Bldg. 56608, known as the Boondocks, is currently underway. Here, Soldiers from the 504th BfSB, utilize the 16,000 square-foot historical building as their command post during their certification exercise before deploying overseas. Gloria L. Harris, Hood Mobilization Brigade
After almost seven decades of military service, one of the best-known buildings at North Fort Hood will soon be torn down to make way for $98 million in construction upgrades.

The 16,000-square-foot building, identified as Bldg. 56608 and nicknamed “The Boondocks,” is a huge wooden building sitting just off Texas Highway 36. Situated almost directly in front of the old North Fort Hood Chapel, the Boondocks has been in plain sight of passers-by who have traveled that stretch of road for the past 69 years.

With that much time in service, if walls could talk, then the wooden planks adorning North Fort Hood’s Bldg. 56608, would surely have some fascinating tales to tell.

Built in 1942, it was the first servicemen’s club to open at what was then Camp Hood. In its early days, it served the Soldiers of World War II and the Korean Conflict. When those war efforts ended, it was turned over to the reserve and National Guard in 1955. Through the years, it continued to function as a service club for the many reserve component Soldiers who trained there and for the active-duty units which rotated through North Fort Hood. With those units came the individual Soldiers – the famous and not so famous. Some of the old-timers say Elvis Presley graced the Boondocks with a performance. As time passed and military training needs evolved, the use of Bldg. 56608 also evolved.

Today, the service club days are over and the Boondocks, sporting its 69-year-old wear-polished hardwood floors and smoothed staircase handrails, is used for large-scale command post exercises. In keeping with the times and evolution of service, in the summer of 2010, it was transformed into a battle simulation center with miles of computer cables connecting state-of-the art computers.

Currently, the old building is hosting the 504th Battlefield Surveillance Brigade during the unit’s certification exercise. The 504th BfSB exercise will be the last mission in the building.

“It gives me goose bumps to think of all the men and women who have come through this building in service to their country. I am honored to be a part of its history and for it to support us in our certification exercise in preparation for our deployment to Afghanistan,” Lt. Col. Calvin Downey, deputy commanding officer of the 504th BfSB, said.

However, when the exercise ends and the Soldiers depart, the old building will not be readied for the next cycle of Soldiers. Instead, it will be disassembled so the Central Texas landscape can be readied for new construction.

According to Ed Turner, Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security Division Chief, space where the Boondocks now stands is designated as the site for a modern headquarters building designed to accommodate security needs and to support training readiness for Soldiers.

In the adjoining areas, facilities including battalion headquarters, barracks for officers and non-commissioned officers, company motor pools and dining facilities will be erected. In all, the new construction will provide space for six battalions.
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