FORT HOOD, Texas — Fort Hood senior leaders fielded dozens of questions from concerned community members during an hour-long Facebook Live virtual town hall event here, March 19.
Maj. Gen. Scott Efflandt, deputy commanding general, III Corps and Fort Hood, was joined on a panel of senior leaders by Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center Commander Col. Richard Malish; Col. Jason Wesbrock, commander, U.S. Army Garrison - Fort Hood; and Command Sgt. Maj. Adam Nash, Task Force Phantom senior enlisted advisor.
Following opening remarks from the commanders, the panel began taking questions. Immediately, a community member noted the panel members were sitting too closely together, writing, “These gentlemen are sitting too close. As leaders, please set a good example for others. Protect yourselves and move apart.”
Efflandt addressed that issue up front, when asked about social distancing.
“Let me start out that the command team sitting at this table is not adhering to social distancing, and we’re not proud of that,” the general said. “However, we thought it was important to get these four people together so we could talk to you. Sometimes you have to do what’s necessary to take care of the team.”
Efflandt stressed that commanders are empowered to do what is necessary to take care of their teams, while ensuring their readiness to accomplish their missions, as well.
“A question asked was why are we not in complete quarantine with everyone home? Many do not fully appreciate that the core responsibilities of Soldiers continue, even in times of crisis like COVID-19. Like a first responder, we don’t get off days.” Efflandt further emphasized, “While maintaining the health and safety of Soldiers, families, and communities, we need to take every chance to maintain our edge, our readiness.”
Another community member wanted to know what would happen to on-post residents if the post was locked down.
“I don’t foresee the post getting locked down,” Efflandt stressed. “That’s a category of response that would not be appropriate for the infectious disease we’re facing now, but what you would likely see, if we get an exponential increase in the outbreak of the disease is a reduction of services on the garrison, up to and including minimum personnel only. It would look more like when we have an ice storm here or bad weather. It would be key and essential (personnel) and we would take that pause while we regrouped and assessed what that environment would look like.
“We wouldn’t be locked down,” he added. “The threat is not from us. The threat is from a disease being spread and we would reduce the opportunity for that to happen.”
Malish took on the majority of the questions regarding healthcare and COVID-19. He told the Facebook audience that CRDAMC is looking to start a drive-thru clinic for respiratory patients and is looking to expand child care offered in the hospital, allowing parents with children to go to their appointments while the installation’s child development centers are closed for the time being.
“I was honored to participate in the Facebook town hall today,” Malish said afterward. “Communication and education are extremely important at this point in time. I’m hopeful that I emphasized strongly enough the three things the Fort Hood community must do to decrease the spread of the COVID-19 virus. We must, first, self-isolate when sick, seek healthcare through the phone or internet, and engage in social distancing. We must do these things to conserve our fighting strength, protect our vulnerable population, and protect the viability of our healthcare system.
“We appreciate the great questions and feedback provided during the town hall,” he added, “and look forward to the community’s ongoing support as we enter uncharted waters.
When a question about empty shelves at the commissaries on the installation arose, Wesbrock discussed the issue.
“We’re not having a problem getting products in,” the garrison commander said, “it is an issue of stocking the shelves.”
He added that over the past week, the commissary has sold five times their daily average.
“Be patient,” he added, urging commissary patrons to not buy more than what they need.
In addition to coronavirus-related issues directed at the panel, the garrison commander also answered several questions regarding Fort Hood on-post housing. He stressed the importance for on-post residents to speak up if their issues are not being addressed, and to reach out to the Community Life Noncommissioned Officer Program representative in their housing community.
The general agreed.
“They are our eyes and ears,” Efflandt said, “and they report directly to us.”
Technical difficulties forced the town hall livestream to be rebooted several times. Even so, Efflandt said it was heartening to reach out to the Fort Hood military community and hear their concerns.
“Clearly using social media has great benefits. This is one of several means III Corps wants to use to reach all members of the team so that they are informed and connected to their Army and Ft Hood. Together we will win and be Army Strong!”
The virtual town hall video feeds can be found at www.facebook.com/forthood.
Following the virtual town hall event, Fort Hood’s Directorate of Emergency Services announced via the post’s social media platforms that beginning at 5 a.m., March 20, it will implement 24/7 use of the automated ID card scanners at the post’s entrance gates to comply with social distancing measures. This change will remain the standard until further notice.