Texan soldiers from Fort Hood are heading to Europe to support NATO during the Russian invasion of Ukraine and residents of Killeen said Tuesday they are worried about the potential expansion of that role.
About 160 soldiers from Fort Hood deployed Tuesday as part of a 7,000-member US support group.
The town of Killeen is just outside Fort Hood’s main gate.
It’s an army town with a retired tank and helicopter decorating a park in downtown Killeen.
At Taiwan’s Dragon Chinese Restaurant near this park, pictures of former army commanders and military personnel line the walls.
Waitress Vira Flores said customers and employees are very aware of the rollout. His son is a soldier at Fort Hood.
“I’m still wondering if they’re going to send him there. So far they haven’t, but it’s always on your mind,” she said.
The Fort Hood personnel deploying Tuesday are made up of transportation, logistics and communications units.
The current American mission is not combat.
“It could be more yes, because it has already happened. They start with a small amount, the next thing you know is all the trains go through carrying all the vehicles and everything,” said restaurant patron Cindy Jenkins. She said her retired army husband had deployed in the past, leaving her behind.
“It worries me. Yes. I have a lot of friends who are spouses of military personnel who are deployed,” Jenkins said.
Fort Hood saw massive deployments for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Tanks and trucks on wagons went to ports to be shipped overseas.
The mayor of Killeen, Jose Segarra, is a realtor who cares for active duty personnel and their families. Segarra is also a veteran who first came to Killeen from the Chicago area to serve 10 years of active duty in the military.
“As a community, we are still training too. Our job is to ensure that as a community, when they are deployed, we are there to care for their families,” said Mayor Segarra.
In the military, Segarra said he served as a mechanic in the type of support unit now deploying to Europe. He said his unit had heavy equipment to build bridges and airstrips.
Similar support services could help humanitarian aid reach Europe as evacuees leave Ukraine.
Lack of support was sometimes evident during the Russian invasion, as food and fuel would have been scarce, crippling the Russian forces.
“That’s how you can win the war. You just destroyed their supply line,” Segarra said. “If they can’t get gas, your tanks are just standing still.”
Waitress Vira Flores said the dispute led to supply complications at home. Residents of Killeen said they hoped the conflict would end soon.
“It affects our economy, gas, cost of living, food. It’s not good for any of us,” Flores said.
This is only a small deployment, but Mayor Segarra said the town of Killeen has emptied out during major deployments in the past. The relatives of the soldiers were returning to their home town. He said many more spouses are now tied to the community of Killeen, whose population has tripled since his days in the military. They serve as nurses and teachers in a school district that now has 43,000 students.
The mayor and his constituents said they hoped there would be no big deployment and that most soldiers would stay in town.