“At the point somebody said, ‘It cannot be done,’ it was game on,” declared Col. Colin Morrow, commander of the Hood Mobilization Brigade. “If there’s a one percent chance of success, I’ll put 100 percent of my efforts behind it.”
Since taking over as the brigade commander in September, Morrow has been persistent in his quest for wireless, free internet access for the Soldiers transitioning through North Fort Hood, a quest that took life on March 6, as they officially initiated the Wi-Fi with a ribbon cutting at the Operational Readiness Training Complex.
Morrow approached Tommy Vaughn, the telecom business program specialist for Army and Air Force Exchange Service in Dallas, about setting up Wi-Fi service at North Ford Hood. AAFES currently provides Wi-Fi to troops worldwide.
“Col. Morrow reached out to us and said, ‘We have an issue here,’” Vaughn said.
Vaughn went to work figuring out what was needed to make the service a reality, which was no easy feat. There were no networking cables running through that area, but with the collaboration of CenturyLink, they were able to begin running lines to the area. Vaughn said there was also a lot of cooperation from the city of Gatesville. He said North Fort Hood is quickly growing, so the investment now will be good for future developments.
“Just from an infrastructure perspective – once you invest in infrastructure, the community will grow and economic development will follow suit,” Morrow said.
Located at North Fort Hood, the Hood Mobilization Brigade is one of two mobilization brigades within the Army, with Fort Hood designated as the Primary Mobilization Force Generation Installation. The unit trains more than 23,000 Soldiers annually from the Army Reserve and Army National Guard, before deploying. The training conducted at North Fort Hood is specific to the unit’s requirements overseas.
Wi-Fi is now available in two sets of barracks, but will be available in all the barracks on North Fort Hood by the end of May. They will then expand the service to include all of the buildings within the North Fort Hood cantonment area, with a completion by mid-summer.
Morrow divulged the No. 1 complaint they hear from mobilized Soldiers is the lack of Wi-Fi, so taking their opinions into consideration and fixing the problem was important.
“It’s definitely a morale builder,” Morrow said. “It allows them to reach out to their Families … talk to their kids.”
Morrow said there are between 3,000-4,000 Soldiers training at North Fort Hood daily. Most of the troops are transitioning to or from deployment, so a reliable form of communication with their Families was pertinent.
“It’s a big deal in that we have Soldiers going into combat and coming out of combat,” he said. “When they’re here, they want to see their Families.”
Vaughn said their goal is to improve the lives of Soldiers and providing Wi-Fi access is important for their quality of life.
“Being able to Skype or Facetime with their Families as they’re getting ready to deploy is priceless,” Vaughn added.