By A. MICHELLE WATSON
Community Relations Specialist
and CATRINA FRANCIS
Gold Standard Senior Staff Writer
On May 8, Maj. Gen. Smith, commander of U.S. Army Cadet Command and Fort Knox, conducted a town hall meeting with selected Soldiers, Family members and Department of the Army civilians from the Fort Knox Family in Waybur Theater.
The forum provided an open dialogue between attendees and the senior commander to discuss issues and concerns within the Fort Knox community. Post Command Sgt. Maj. Roger Howard and Garrison Command Sgt Maj. Steven Voller were also there to provide assistance.
The commander’s intent was to gather information from the individuals that attended and he addressed any issues or concerns related to the community and to determine how to move forward and continue improving Fort Knox together.
“The reason you’re here is because you’re a part of the solution,” said Smith. “Leaders are here to solve problems, but no problem gets solved by one person or a group of people. It takes a community when you’re working to solve community problems.
“This isn’t a place to whine and cry. We can talk about real substance, real constructive issues if you want to go into that level of detail. I’m real serious about understanding what’s on your mind.”
Smith stated that he won’t have all the solutions. What he does have is access to resources and people and where the answers can be found. While no promises were made, he explained there is an earnest commitment to working up solutions with guidance from all directorates that are involved.
“About half of the issues from our last town hall meeting have been resolved,” Smith said. “Some issues will take time.”
Smith addressed the crowd of approximately 110 individuals. He stated, “I don’t have a script, talking points or a speech prepared, the floor is open up to you.”
With a crowd of such diverse people, Soldiers, Family members and DA civilians, many different issues were discussed. Issues about energy conservation, housing, schools and the new health center, safety issues, were brought up.
Although Fort Knox Garrison Commander Col. Bruce Jenkins was unable to attend, below are resolutions and actions he and Smith explained in reference to issues raised at the town hall.
Issue/Question: Residents of Knox Hills are unable to have a clothesline in their yards. It has been discussed that allowing this will contribute to the installations energy conservation. Can the residents be allowed to place clotheslines in their yards again?
GC: Jenkins said residents may utilize a clothes line in their yard, but if digging is required the resident must first have approval from Knox Hills to dig. He added that if digging is required the resident must pay for it.
Issue/Question: Special needs children are not being accommodated in housing. After many failed attempts to receive a solution or help from the housing office, Col. Jenkins had to be engaged for a family to receive a ramp for their home for a special needs child. When the Family moved out they believed they were being unnecessarily charged for items.
GC: Jenkins said that Knox Hills will charge Families if there is damage to the residence or if there is unreasonable wear and tear. Every case is looked at on an individual basis. If there is an issue, residents should continue to bring those problems to Knox Hills. Jenkins said Knox Hills will continue to accommodate them. He also said, “Knox Hills will continue to work with current and prospective tenants and do all we can to meet their requirements.”
CG’s question to the community:
How would you feel if Fort Knox allowed retirees and DA civilians to reside in post housing?
Comments from community:
There were a few Soldiers who didn’t agree with this. One Soldier stated that the pay bands and cost of “renting” the home would fluctuate from a Soldier to civilian. Another Soldier stated that he has been assigned to another duty station and the installation that he is going to has allowed retirees and DoD civilians to live on the post. Now there aren’t any available for him and his Family. Another Soldier also commented that if this is implemented there would be no way to stop it.
CG: There is no waiting list here in Fort Knox for housing except for four bedroom homes. There is currently a neighborhood on Fort Knox that is only 75 percent occupied because some Soldiers simply don’t like the homes that are available. Even though the homes aren’t occupied, Knox Hills still has to cover the costs which then take away from the maintenance budget or other amenities that can benefit the Soldiers and Families.
GC: Currently the only Fort Knox community with DA civilians and retirees is the Johnson Community. It’s a small number and we will continue to go forward with initiatives to make the Johnson community a more desired place to live. If Knox Hills is unable to increase occupancy they may have to continue to allow a select number of DA civilians and retirees to lease a home.
Medical Department Activity Command:
Issue/Question: There has been rumor that there will be a new hospital, is this true?
CG: Yes. There are plans to build and it will be called a Super Clinic. The plan is to build a $300 million ambulatory health center. This health center will be a state- of-the-art robust pharmacy, lab and X-ray lab. Construction may begin as early as fiscal year 2014.
Issue/Question: Will the new clinic have prenatal and neonatal care.
Col. (Dr.) Cornelius Maher, Ireland Army Community Hospital commander: The hospital will continue to deliver babies. Pediatrics and neonatal care will also be available at the hospital. The services will be uninterrupted and some patient care may take place at Hardin Memorial Hospital in Elizabethtown. There will be a surgical clinic within the ambulatory clinic.
Issue/Question: Will military Family members ever be able to utilize the dental clinic on Fort Knox?
Col. Jose Conde, commander of DENTAC: Family members will be seen in an on-post dental clinic if it’s a dental emergency. Due to staffing and money, Family members can’t be seen in the clinic on a regular basis. He also said dental insurance is mandated by Congress and it must be used off post and not in the on-post clinic. When Family members are stationed overseas they can be seen in an on-post dental clinic, but not in the continental United States.
Issue/Question: With the possibility of reducing manning there is a rumor that several of the nurses working at the Warrior Transition Clinic will lose their jobs (specifically term employees). Can you help the nurses keep their jobs? Another Soldier assigned to WTB stated he was a patient of the individual asking the question and didn’t want to see her leave.
Maher: As long as there is a mission to take care of Soldiers, Soldiers will be taken care of. There are no plans to reduce Maher’s staff.
Issue/Question: A Reserve Soldier wants to acquire a building for lodging for Reserve and National Guard Soldiers who come to Fort Knox for training. He noticed that there are many vacant buildings and was wondering if his unit can acquire a facility just for lodging. He questioned the availability of the Disney Barracks Complex.
CG: Disney Barracks is being used for cadets when they come to Fort Knox to attend the Leaders Training Course during the summer. There are many vacant and underutilized facilities on Fort Knox. There are also other missions that the Army is looking to move here to Fort Knox. For example, two company units will move here to be a part of the 19th Engineer Battalion, along with perhaps the Recruiting and Retention School. We will have to get with the Master Planning Division to find a facility that can accommodate that request if there is a requirement for it.
GC: There was previously a building for Guard and Reserve. He also said, “We have facilities on the installation through DFMWR called recreational lodging, (which is used for) short-term lodging.” User support services can arrange for billet space through the Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security for units. Individuals have the option of using recreational lodging.
School Age Services:
Issue/Question: Until February, Fort Knox had a transportation program which bussed students that lived off post but were enrolled in School Age Services on Fort Knox. They have since stopped offering that, will that ever come back?
CG: The transportation program was a “nicety” or a convenience that was offered to the Fort Knox community in the past. With budget cuts the budget is longer allowing us to continue this service and it probably won’t be anytime soon if it returns.
GC: Due to budgeting restraints Child, Youth and School Services can no longer offer free transportation. “I don’t foresee (us being) budgeted for that service,” explained Jenkins.
Directorate of Emergency Services:
Issue/Question: There are numerous employees/Soldiers who reside north of Fort Knox. The Brandenburg Gate is closed at night and weekends, while Chaffee and Wilson Road gates are open. This causes employees/Soldiers to drive an additional 5-10 miles to gain access to Fort Knox. What’s the possibility of closing one of the other gates at night and on weekends while keeping the Brandenburg gate open?
CG: There have been a number of studies done about the traffic pattern and densities at the gates. The decisions have been voted for and have been based on manpower and budget. It is truly a budget issue. If we were to shut down Chaffee or Wilson gates at anytime, we would create an unbalanced demand at either gate. The Directorate of Emergency Services will be able to give us some guidance on this issue.
GC: There is currently an ongoing study which will be completed this week. The study will measure the traffic out of each gate. The Brandenburg Gate had to be closed based on demand and manning, because there are more people going to Radcliff and Elizabethtown than Louisville.
Issue/Question: Can the installation designate additional handicap parking spots in certain areas?
CG: There is a regulation and the Americans with Disabilities Act compliance states there will be a ratio of handicap parking to the number of parking spaces in a parking lot.
GC: Individual commands or organizations can, based on demand requests, to have more handicap parking within its own footprint. Garrison would support this, but individual organizations would fund it. For example, if more parking is requested in the commissary parking lot DeCA would fund it.
Post and Army Standards:/Question: There seems to be a lack of discipline throughout the installation. Soldiers are not wearing the Army physical fitness uniform during physical training hours. There are also duty uniform violations such as lack of attention to detail. The NCO who made this statement is concerned that Soldiers will be undisciplined on the battlefield which could lead to Soldiers being killed. Are these issues reaching your level and is anything being done to correct them?
CG: It’s everyone’s responsibility, especially the Soldier’s, to look after one another. If someone has to be made an example of, then it has to be done. This is the installation’s job as a whole to make sure that not only the installation is well polished but the Soldier as well in all things.
GC: Every leader has to enforce standards. Soldiers should refer to their Blue Book. If Soldiers don’t have a Blue Book they can get one from their chain of command.
Issue/Question: During hours of darkness while driving on the installation the billboards (jumbo sign) at the gates are too bright which cause drivers to lose sight of the road momentarily. Can the brightness on the billboards be turned down?
GC: Jumbotrons have been turned down.
Issue/Question: The Transit Authority of River City vans/ buses have been observed driving in an unsafe manner (including speeding) numerous times on and off the installation. The concern is the drivers will injure other drivers or individuals riding in the vans. Are the TARC drivers required to attend any type of special training to operate/drive these vans/buses?
GC: This has been brought to the attention of the company. “(We are) re-emphasizing with employees the standards. Anybody who continues to violate standards will have (their) driving privileges revoked,” said Jenkins.
Issue/Question: Can the installation install flashing traffic lights near the WTB barracks crosswalk? Vehicles aren’t adhering to the posted speed limit and there is concern an accident will occur at that crosswalk.
CG: Lights have been installed. The speed limit has recently been reduced to 25 mph where it used to be 35 mph. Once the community gets used to this change the safety issue should not be a problem.
GC: Lights have been installed and DES will continue to give warning and enforce speed limits not only in the WTB area but across the installation.
Issue/Question: Has Fort Knox considered renovating the post stable and have Soldiers or DFMWR manage the areas?
CG’s comment: Fort Knox’s plan is to demolish the existing stables. There is not a high enough demand to fund this service.
GC: The old stables will be taken down due to its current state. There will be a horse paddock. Individuals will still be able to board horses at the Fort Knox stables; it just won’t be as robust. The goal of Fort Knox is continuing to provide that service as long as there is a demand.
Any updates on matters discussed at the town hall will be included in future editions of “The Gold Standard.