History of Fort Hood
History of Fort Hood
Hood Made a Permanent Installation
On April 13, 1950, the announcement came fromWashington, D.C., that the Army General Staff had approved making Camp Hood a permanent installation and changing its name to Fort Hood. The change was made effective on April 15, 1950.
This followed several months of intense lobbying efforts by Frank Mayborn and his committee. They were able to overcome a number of obstacles in the way of the camp becoming permanent, the main one being the water problem.
According to the Faulks’ book, Fort Hood, The first fifty years, Mayborn also had to be a mediator. A group from Gatesville decided North Camp Hood, created when the post expanded by nearly 51,000 acres in 1943, should be the permanent post, and that it should be named Fort McNair, after General Lesley McNair, who had commanded the Army Ground Forces during World War II.
The announcement in the spring of 1950 that the post would be permanent confirmed that Killeen was the right location as had been selected in the beginning and meant the economic future of Killeen would be assured.
In the meantime, the military post had become home to two other installations. In 1947, miners imported from coal mining portions of the country began digging tunnels into the sides of a mountain in the southwest portion of Camp Hood. The secret installation created there – Site Baker or Killeen Base – became a storage depot for atomic weapons during the Cold War. Along with the new Department of Defense Classified Ordnance Storage Facility, the Air Force constructed an adjacent airfield, named for Killeen native Robert M. Gray. In October of 1969, Killeen Base, no longer an atomic storage facility, was designated as West Fort Hood. Gray Air Force Base was designated as Robert Gray Army Airfield.
Hood Takes Training Role for Korean Conflict
With the trauma of World War II still fresh, Fort Hood got into the intense training business again in 1950 when the civil disturbance in Korea broke into open warfare, with North Korea invading South Korea. One of the post’s missions was to train replacement units for the war. The post’s great training facilities received much acclaim during this time, with Fort Hood soldiers praised as the best trained to fight in the Korean Conflict – called a conflict because it was never a Congressionally declared war. Some units of the 2nd Armored Division were sent to Korea while others were ordered to provide the training for mobilized reservists and other recruits desperately needed. In anticipation of the need for more troops in Korea and to face the Soviet Union, the Army reactivated the 1st Armored Division on March 7, 1951.
In the meantime, Fort Hood was undergoing other growing pains. Along with the reactivated 1st Armored Division, the 4th Armored Division would be activated at Fort Hood, giving the post two divisions. The III Corps also was moved to the Central Texas post from California to have overall command of the two divisions and other units that might be assigned to the post. This was a big boost to the area and was the first of many troop changes that would face Fort Hood during the next decade.
A big scare came almost immediately following Korea when the 1st Armored Division and III Corps headquarters were ordered to Louisiana in 1955 to participate in a giant maneuver, called Operation Sage Brush. Reports circulated that the 1st Armored Division and III Corps would remain at Polk, which had just been reopened and made a permanent fort. After some strong lobbying efforts by Frank Mayborn of Temple and the Central Texas Military Affairs Committee, chaired by Roy J. Smith of Killeen, the order was rescinded that III Corps would remain at Polk. However, it was determined that the 1st Armored Division would remain at the Louisiana post.
So Fort Hood was back to a one-division post again but still considered one of the top – if not the top – Army installations in the country. Approximately 25,000 troops were stationed at the post, the majority of whom were assigned to III Corps and to the 4th Armored Division.
In March of 1959, it was announced that Combat Command A, all that was left of the 1st Armored Division after its deactivation at Fort Polk, would be returning to Fort Hood. Fort Polk was being closed. The 1st AD was to play significant roles with the Army prior to becoming a full division again when President John F. Kennedy ordered it reactivated again in January of 1962.
Operation Gyroscope Involves Killeen
It was during 1957 that Killeen was involved with the Army and Fort Hood in a major project that had never been done before: two full divisions trading places. The project, dubbed Operation Gyroscope, saw the 2nd Armored Division, stationed in Germany, exchange places with the 4th Armored Division, which was based at Fort Hood.
The Killeen Chamber of Commerce sent one of the city’s leading citizens and businessmen and chair of the Military Affairs Committee, Roy J. Smith, to Germany to brief the 2nd Armored Division on what to expect when the division arrived at Fort Hood. During the visit, Smith spoke with about 5,000 soldiers and their families, distributed packets of information about Killeen, showed slides and answered hundreds of questions.
For their part in Operation Gyroscope, the Killeen Chamber of Commerce and the Fort Hood Public Information Office received the Silver Anvil Award, the highest award given by the Public Relations Society of America.
Cuban Missile Crisis Causes 13 Days of Tension
In 1962, Fort Hood and the 1st Armored Division were caught up in some of the tensest days in the world’s history – 13 days when the threat of nuclear war was just a step away. Called the Cuban Missile Crisis, the threat pitted President John F. Kennedy against Russia’s Nikita Khrushchev and involved the placement of nuclear missiles in Cuba by the Soviet Union – a move the United States could not tolerate.
When President Kennedy learned that the Russians were building missile sites in Cuba, he placed a Naval blockade around the island nation to prevent the delivery of the nuclear warheads.
In the meantime, the American military was put on war alert. Fort Hood’s 1st Armored Division, on very short notice, readied its men and equipment and was sent to Fort Stewart, Georgia, to prepare for a possible invasion of Cuba. Although there was no public announcement (for security reasons) about the division’s location, it was generally known in what area they were located. Fort Stewart filled up quickly, and some of the 1st Armored troops ended up at the Gulfstream Park Race Track at Hallandale, Florida.
After intense diplomacy resolved the tense issue and the threat of Soviet missiles in Cuba was removed, President Kennedy visited the 1st Armored Division troops to thank them for their service.
The crisis period lasted from October 15 until October 28, 1962.
As promised by the President during his visit to the 1st Armored Division, Fort Hood troops were home by Christmas.
While Fort Hood soldiers performed admirably during the Cuban Missile Crisis, another conflict was looming ahead as the United States became more involved in the Vietnam War.
1st Cavalry Becomes a Part of Fort Hood
During this same period, Fort Hood had another major change. In 1971, the 1st Cavalry Division came to the Central Texas post from Vietnam and replaced the 1st Armored Division when that division moved to Germany.
Also in 1971, Fort Hood became the home of the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command Test and Experimentation Command, located at West Fort Hood. The command, now the U.S. Army Operational Test Command, has been responsible for the testing and fielding of numerous pieces of equipment and aircraft as well as organizational and tactical concepts.
Begun in the old III Corps conference room storeroom on October 1, 1969, OTC first was known as U.S. Army Project Mobile Army Sensor Systems Test, Evaluation and Review (MASSTER), under the command of III Corps. Later, Major General Stewart C. Meyer became the first full commander of MASSTER. The unit also served under TRADOC Combined Arms Test Activity (TCATA) and TRADOC Test and Experimentation Command (TEXCOM). On the 30th anniversary of the organization, TEXCOM was redesignated as the U.S. Army Operational Test Command.
Hood Deeply Involved in Vietnam War
In 1965, with the escalation of the fighting in Southeast Asia, Fort Hood began receiving recruits and inductees for basic combat training for the war in Vietnam. III Corps, 1st and 2nd Armored Divisions were involved with the training while carrying on their other missions. One of the key training sites was the Vietnam Village, an area set up to duplicate a Vietnam village with huts (hooches), a well and a prison compound, plus well-hidden entrances to tunnels like those used in the Southeast Asian country.
During the conflict, III Corps trained and deployed two field force headquarters and many combat and combat service units, totaling more than 100,000 soldiers.
Lieutenant General Ralph E. Haines, who had reactivated the 1st Armored Division and got it combat ready in record time, was commanding Fort Hood and was a good choice for the task faced at that time. Others who were involved with this process as commanders were Lieutenant General George R. Mather, Lieutenant General Beverly E. Powell and Lieutenant General G. P. Seneff Jr.
In addition to concentration on the training mission, commanders during this period were also overseeing millions of dollars in construction going toward making Fort Hood’s facilities compatible with a permanent Army post. Among the new structures were Darnall Army Community Hospital, administration buildings, numerous barracks and mess halls.
And, too, there was a problem with the anti-war movement, which Fort Hood handled with a firm hand, following policy laid down by the Department of the Army.
Following the end of the fighting in Vietnam, Fort Hood had a period of relative calm, concentrating on training, testing of new equipment, tactics and organizations while new storms were brewing on the horizon.
In October 1998, the 1st Cavalry Division became the first United States division to assume authority of the Multinational Division (North) in support of Operation Joint Endeavor in Bosnia.
Hood Troops Participate in Desert Shield/Desert Storm
The unit had only recently returned from Bosnia, when, in August 1990, Fort Hood was alerted for deployment to the Middle East as part of the forces participating in Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm.
The 1st Cavalry Division flew from Robert Gray Army Airfield, beginning in September 1990, and was located in Saudi Arabia by mid-October. The division’s assignment was to help defend Saudi Arabia in case that country was attacked by Iraq, which had earlier subdued its neighbor Kuwait.
The Cav – dubbed the “First Team” – also became a key component in Desert Storm when it served as a decoy, making the Iraqis think they were the main attack force and thinning Iraqi flanks so that the real attack could be waged. The Cav also was closing in on the Iraq’s elite Republican Guard when the cease-fire was declared.
When the 1st Cav returned to Fort Hood after Desert Storm ended in 1991, it became the largest division in the U.S. Army with the reactivation of its 3rd Battle Team.
The 2nd Armored Division was in the process of deactivating when Desert Shield/Desert Storm occurred. The 2nd Brigade was in the middle of deactivation at the time, and the 2nd Brigade, the 2nd Armored Division (Forward) in Germany, deployed from there. That left the 1st (Tiger) Brigade as the only unit 2nd AD unit to deploy from Fort Hood. The Tiger Brigade deployed independently to Saudi Arabia and became the unit providing heavy armor for the U.S. Marine forces when they attacked the Iraqi forces in Kuwait.
When the Tiger Brigade returned to Fort Hood in 1991 as the only remaining part of the division based in the U.S., it was redesignated the 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division. The 2nd AD (Forward) in Germany was eventually deactivated.
In December 1992, the 5th Infantry Division (Mechanized) at Fort Polk, Louisiana, was redesignated as the 2nd Armored Division, and in 1993, was moved back to Fort Hood. In 1995, the division again was redesignated as the 4th Infantry Division, formally ending the 2nd AD’s 55-year history.
Fort Hood’s 13th Corps Support Command (COSCOM), activated at Fort Hood in 1965 as a brigade, deployed to Saudi Arabia in the fall of 1990 to give combat support and combat services support during Desert Shield/Desert Storm.
9-11 Attack Sets Stage for New Deployments
Although Fort Hood units had peace-keeping roles in Southwest Asia following Desert Storm, it was the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that set the stage for Fort Hood’s involvement in the long wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. In November 2001, approximately 2,000 soldiers from the 1st Cavalry Division’s 2nd Brigade Combat team were deployed to Kuwait, returning in March 2002. Fort Hood’s two divisions, the 1st Cav and 4th Infantry, were at a high state of readiness as the tensions grew.
In January of 2003, several of Fort Hood’s smaller commands, such as the 13th Corps Support Command, military police units and medical units, were deployed to Iraq.
The 4th Infantry Division was alerted for the Iraq War on January 19, 2003. Its mission was to lead an advance from Turkey into Northern Iraq. However, the Turkish government would not give permission for U.S. forces to go through Turkey to attack Iraq, so the 4th ID had to be rerouted through Kuwait. Arriving after the invasion had already begun, the division entered Iraq as a follow-on force in April of 2003.
In a highly publicized feat, the 4th ID captured Saddam Hussein in December 2003, pulling the Iraqi dictator from what was described as a “spider hole.” This was hailed by the media as the number one news story of 2003. The 4th ID ended the first tour in Iraq in April 2004.
In January of 2004, III Corps left Fort Hood for the first time in the 50 years it had been stationed there, relieving the Germany-based V Corps and taking over control of the U.S.-led coalition ground troops in Iraq. The 13th Corps Support Command, with most of its troops having returned from Iraq in 2003, headed back again, right behind III Corps. March and April were busy months at the Central Texas Army post with the 4th ID returning from Iraq and the soldiers of the 1st Cavalry Division deploying to Baghdad. In early 2010, III Corps again deployed to Iraq.
By the time the new decade rolled around, III Corps had furnished 39-plus brigades for Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan). This represented 500,000-plus soldiers deployed. Also, 31,000-plus National Guard and Army Reserve soldiers were mobilized for Southwest Asia through Fort Hood.
While Fort Hood’s troops were deeply engaged in Iraq, Fort Hood and the community suffered a policy blow in 2005 when the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) panel announced that the 4th Infantry Division would leave Fort Hood and return to its former home at Fort Carson, Colorado. By September of 2011, BRAC said, Fort Hood would return to its 2003 troop strength of approximately 41,000 troops. At the time of the BRAC report, Fort Hood had an assigned strength of 46,368.
During 2009, the return of the 4th Infantry to Fort Carson was completed and the division was replaced at Fort Hood by the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment and by First Army Division West, making the Central Texas post the largest reserve component training center in the Army.
The Heart of Texas Defense Alliance (organized in February of 2003 to promote sustainability of Fort Hood and other defense-related industries, organizations and institutions in a three-county area surrounding Fort Hood) led the charge to get Fort Hood established as a post housing 50,000 troops. BRAC didn’t buy into that argument, although the post did reach – and surpass – that number while troops were being reassigned from overseas because Fort Hood, as HOTDA had argued and commanders of the post had affirmed, could certainly house and train that number.
At the beginning of 2010, Fort Hood still had authorization for about 50,000 troops. Although that number will decrease over time, the post is expected to stabilize at about 46,000 troops – about 4,000 to 5,000 more than were expected to happen under BRAC.
HOTDA continues to work on sustainability issues concerning Fort Hood and related entities.
Fort Hood Suffers Deadly Blow At Home
After suffering extensive losses of life in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Fort Hood suffered a severe blow at home as the 2009 decade was ending.
Tragedy hit the post on November 5, 2009, when 12 soldiers and one civilian were killed and 30 others were wounded when a gunman in a combat uniform opened fire with two pistols at the Soldier Readiness Processing Center.
It was the nation’s worst massacre on a military reservation.
A psychiatrist assigned to the Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center, Major Nidal Malik Hasan, who is charged with the 13 murders, was himself shot by two civilian police officers, Mark Todd and Kimberly Munley, both of whom were wounded at the scene. Hasan was partially paralyzed by the shooting and was hospitalized under close guard at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio but later was transferred to Bell County jail to await a military court-martial. Todd and Munley were recovering from their wounds.
The shooting brought the attention of the world on the Central Texas post and community. President Barack Obama was among the nation’s top officials who attended Fort Hood memorial services for the victims.
The outpouring of support from the Fort Hood community and from the state, nation and world was immediate and tremendous. The Central Texas-Fort Hood Chapter of the Association of the United States Army, under President Ron Taylor, immediately set up a fund to support families of the victims and to fund a memorial to those killed in the attack. By early 2010, that fund had reached $948,867.39.
The shooting brought national attention to the close relationship between the Army at Fort Hood and its civilian neighbors, especially Killeen. This relationship, begun nearly 70 years ago, has been a boon for both. In Killeen’s case, trains were credited with making a town; Fort Hood is credited with growing a city.