LTG Campbell Addresses Chamber
"We'll get them home when they're allowed to come home. The President's goal is by Christmas, before Christmas."
Fort Hood Commanding General Donald Campbell addresses a room full of city leaders Tuesday afternoon in Killeen.
The goal is to have all of the Fort Hood soldiers serving in Iraq back home. It's a big feat that comes with many challenges. Campbell says the first one is getting them here. Logistically, some of the soldiers may not arrive until the beginning of 2012
"I believe most of them will be home by Christmas, because that's what we've been told to shoot for. But orders change and things happen, so we have to remain flexible," Campbell explains.
When the 12,000 arrive in Fort Hood, they will boost the city of Killeen's population by 10 percent.
"The more the merrier," laughs Killeen Mayor Timothy Hancock.
But the increase means 12,000 more people who will be driving on Killeen roadways and that's 12,000 more people who need a place to live.
"We've known all along that sooner or later they were gonna come home," adds Hancock. "I will admit, we didn't expect them to come home in the numbers that they're speaking of, but I do truly believe that we are prepared."
The city and Fort Hood are preparing businesses and realtors for the boost in sale.
"When the soldiers come back there will be more spending here. I think the businesses are going to have to do some hiring in order to take care of the influx of the people that's coming back," says Mayor Hancock.
"When you look at it from an economic development standpoint, that means more soldiers going off the instillation to buy homes, to shop, to be part of the community," adds Campbell.
When those soldiers do arrive, the expectation of their commanding general is clear.
"It's important that you're good inside the gate, but almost more important that you're good outside the gate," Campbell says.
And the improving the lives of the people outside this gate is one of Campbell's top priorities. The base has signed on to help make major improvements to the city of Killeen. For starters, there's the airport.
The city and Fort Hood are in the process of expanding the Killeen Regional Airport to include an additional runway.
"Obviously it would give us the opportunity to increase not only civilian air interest and capacity, but certainly on the military side, they could, they could look to new missions," says Killeen Mayor Pro Tem Scott Cosper.
Then there's the roads. Killeen's population will increase by 10 percent when the soldiers come home from Iraq. So Fort Hood and the city have fast tracked a plan to build better infrastructure with the Texas Department of Transportation, expanding Highway 190 from the main gate to W. S. Young to three lanes in each direction. Construction will start next summer.
"At the main gate there will be multiple lanes coming off the main access control point, merging with the existing three lanes and there will be a significant widening of the footprint there," Cosper adds.
And making the community better means improving the quality of life. Fort Hood and the city want to turn an area off Willow Springs into a regional park with hike and bike trails, playgrounds and a pond with water activities.
Campbell also wants to work with the city and county on crime . To do that, the Commanding General will be routinely meeting with the Killeen Police Chief and Bell County District Attorney to see how Fort Hood can help.
"We want to be part of the solution when it comes to the challenges on and off the instillation," says Campbell.
Reporter: Ashley Goudeau/ Photographer: Carlos Ramirez