Debbi Moore’s father, a veteran, taught her to be respectful of the military, which is why the Las Cruces Greater Chamber of Commerce director was happy to kick off the Military Update Luncheon Aug. 2 at the New Mexico State University Fulton Center.
“We thank you for your protection of us and your full support of our community,” Moore told representatives of White Sands Missile Range (WSMR), Holloman Air Force Base (HAFB) and Fort Bliss who were in attendance for the Wednesday event.
Randy Grunom, acting executive director at WSMR, said that there have been some “fiscal challenges” in recent years and the range is trying to catch up following a hiring freeze.
“We are in a hiring process with colleges and universities,” he said. “
Brigadier General Eric L. Sanchez is spearheading modernization on the range with new radars, telemetry, optics and networking. We have to be ready for tomorrow, ready for a complex future.”
Grunom said new construction has been approved and will begin in 2019 on the communication hub at WSMR, “the heartbeat where all of our data and services go through.”
Garrison Executive Officer Col. Paul Stewart spoke about the operations at Fort Bliss.
“Right now the Army has two mobilization platforms that push out the soldiers into combat zones,” Stewart said. “There is one at Fort Hood and Fort Bliss takes care of over 50 percent of the soldiers that are pushing out … including some Reserve, Air Force and some Marines.”
Fort Bliss encompasses more than 1.12 million acres across Texas and southern New Mexico, he said. Among Bliss, Holloman and WSMR, the area comprises the largest controlled airspace in the United States.
In 2005, Fort Bliss had 9,333 soldiers, Stewart said.
“From that time, with movement of the 1st Armored Division, mostly from Europe and Germany, our numbers kind of changed just a little bit,” he said. “Right now, we are looking at total military population (at Fort Bliss) of about 32,000 soldiers.”
Support services adds another 11,000 personnel, bringing the total base population to roughly about 44,000, he added. “Then, when you look at family members and retirees, that puts the number in the area about 164,000.”
Stewart also said that at any given time, roughly 2,000 soldiers are training for, or moving to, deployment.
Veteran and executive director of the Alamogordo Chamber of Commerce, Mike Espiritu, said Holloman is bringing in more F-16s to the base and the community has energized itself to welcome the newcomers. Mega-construction company Aecom URS, is hiring 638 people in Otero County to expand the HAFB facilities preparing for the incoming personnel.
Espiritu also said the base is working with the community to create a program at Alamogordo High School and also one at New Mexico State University-Alamogordo, for aircraft technicians.
HAFB vice Commander Col. Brian Patterson added that there will be 45 F-16s coming from Utah to Holloman, which will double the squadron stationed there.
“We are putting very sophisticated aircraft in combat right now,” Patterson said.
Elva K. Österreich may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.