News: Fort Hood Reception Detachment Model of Efficiency, Army Values
Story by Spc. Ken Scar
FORT HOOD, Texas -- Anyone who has been stationed at Fort Hood, Texas knows it’s big. Very big. In fact, with more than 40,000 Soldiers assigned, Fort Hood is the largest military installation in the country. Numbers like that make for a myriad of logistical challenges, not the least of which is annually processing a division’s worth of new soldiers onto the base.
“It’s probably from 12,000 to 14,000 [new soldiers every year],” said Master Sgt. Harold Miller, the Fort Hood Reception Detachment’s non-commissioned officer in charge.
In most U.S. states, any municipality with a population of more than 10,000 is legally a city, which means the Fort Hood Reception Detachment literally in-processes a city of soldiers every 12 months.
In the civilian world, it would take an office building full of counselors, accountants, and attorneys to accomplish a task of that magnitude. Here at “the Great Place” it takes 12 NCO’s.
The detachment is so efficient that it has become the model for all other in-processing units in the Army, said Miller.
Miller’s crew works in teams of two, with each team allotted a four- day block during which they must process a group of as many as 150 Soldiers.
The detachment keeps new Soldiers on a very fast-paced schedule, filling each day from early morning physical training to the last briefing at 5:00 p.m., said Staff Sgt. Corinne Peterson, one of the Fort Hood Reception Detachment’s 11 cadre members.
“It’s not laid back,” she said.
Schooling, medical, housing, finance - it’s a mountain of paperwork for each and every soldier, but paperwork is not usually an obstacle, said Miller.
The challenging part, he said, is getting every soldier balanced on his own two feet and ready for duty in four days.
1st Sgt. Van Woodley, the reception detachment’s first sergeant, created a motto for the unit to sum up its mission: “Receive and Reset”.
That means their commitment is not only to welcome new soldiers to Fort Hood, but to refresh their military bearing before sending them on to their units, said Woodley.
That goal is easily accomplished with the majority of in-processing soldiers, said Miller, but there are inevitably a few that show up with more serious problems. These are the soldiers the members of the reception detachment routinely take under their wings, said Woodley.
One common example of this is soldiers who show up for duty struggling financially, often with kids in tow, said Miller, adding that it’s not uncommon for his cadre members to use money out of their own pockets to help.
“I am very proud of my cadre – they go the extra mile,” said Miller. “They will do what they need to do to help soldiers.”
Peterson tells a story about a soldier who came through in December, 2009.
“She was a soldier with four kids, ages 2, 4, 6 and 8. She was going through a bad break-up with her husband and had nothing - no furniture whatsoever, and no money for housing,” she said.
The cadre pooled their resources, calling every connection they had in the housing office, and secured an apartment for the soldier within five days.
The commander donated bunk beds and a dining room table, the executive officer donated a TV, one sergeant gave a Christmas tree, and Peterson brought Christmas lights and hung them around the apartment.
“Slowly we just kept moving things in – sofa, loveseat, table, even a washer and dryer – until she was set up,” said Peterson.
The detachment had several toys left over from their Christmas party, so Peterson’s daughter and her friends wrapped them and delivered them on Christmas Eve, placing them around the tree so the Soldier’s four children could wake up on Christmas morning to a pile of presents.
“We’re tough on the soldiers,” said Peterson, “but we do have hearts.”
That’s what it takes to receive and reset a city of Soldiers every year.