Soldiers with Tiger Team, 1st Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment, receive the Volunteer in the Communities team award during the Phantom Warrior Awards ceremony in the Lonestar Conference Center at Fort Hood, Texas, May 3. (Brandy Cruz, Fort Hood Public Affairs)

FORT HOOD, Texas – The applause was deafening as members of the Fort Hood community gave a standing ovation to the agencies that assisted Fort Hood during its fire-fighting efforts from March 23 to April 4, during the Phantom Warrior Awards ceremony here, May 3.

“We, Fort Hood, could not have done it ourselves. It was a team effort of experts coming in from around the state that helped us to contain the fire,” said Maj. Gen. Steven Gilland, III Corps and Fort Hood deputy commander. “These emergency management teams and these first responders that came up here, there’s a lot of them that are volunteers, doing it on their own time. When you think about that, they’re putting their lives at stake as volunteers. We can’t thank you enough and we greatly appreciate it.”

After handing out the special recognition awards to those who supported the Fort Hood wildfires, the general shared exactly how much their efforts helped.

“This is just a representation of the number of units, detachments, volunteer fire departments from around the area that showed up at Fort Hood,” Gilland said after presenting the special recognition awards. “This wasn’t just overnight. These teams came and stayed. In the end, there were about 12 days of non-stop activity,”

“We’ve had a long-running partnership with Fort Hood and we’re always glad to help them out,” said Caleb Thyer, a senior firefighter with Balcones Canyonlands National Wild Refuge, who assisted with the fire-fighting efforts.

“We were here on that Sunday, plugged in and started to do burnouts, trying to get some fire backing ahead of the fire,” he said. “We also helped patrol the fire line and make sure it stayed within the fire lines.”

Fort Hood hosted the Phantom Warrior Awards for the first time since 2019 at the Lone Star Conference Center. Formerly known as the Hood Hero Awards, the quarterly ceremony recognizes individual and team contributions to Fort Hood. Thirty-seven awards were presented to 17 individuals and 20 teams.

“It’s very special. I don’t do it (volunteer) to get something out of it, I just do it to help out,” said Sgt. Anna Verdin, a behavioral health specialist with Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center, who received the award for Volunteer of the Quarter. “I like helping out people. It makes me feel appreciated.”

Meanwhile, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 11th Corps Signal Brigade was honored with the Excellence in Education Unit of the Quarter. For the betterment of the Soldiers in the unit, unit leaders coordinated with the Fort Hood Soldier Development Center to help raise the Soldiers’ general technical, or GT score, on the Armed Forces classification test.

The Basic Skills Education Program, a refresher course designed to help Soldiers raise their GT score, was provided to the unit. A high score is necessary for Soldiers looking for that next big career advancement, such as applying for the Green-to-Gold program or the warrant officer school.

“They all did excellent,” exclaimed 1st Sgt. Rodrick Williams, first sergeant of HHC, 11th Corps Signal Brigade, about the Soldiers who completed the course.

“It was awesome and I hope to see more units go through the program,” he said.

On behalf of Lt. Gen. Pat White and Command Sgt. Maj. Cliff Burgoyne, III Corps and Fort Hood command team, Gilland thanked everyone for coming out to support the awardees. He said the ceremony was about recognizing service, excellence, commitment, stewardship and support.