Fort Bliss soldiers attend Morale Welfare and Recreation Expo

Fort Sill_A group of soldiers from Fort Bliss, and their family members, are in Lawton touring Fort Sill this week.  On Tuesday, the group attended a Morale Welfare and Recreation Expo at the Fort Sill Patriot Club, where they met representatives from area businesses and organizations.  They're preparing to move to the area this summer.

At the expo were school officials, realtors, and representatives from several area chambers of commerce that were there to talk about the businesses in their towns, and were all there to help the transition be as easy as possible for these military families.

Alex Alvarado will move to Lawton-Fort Sill with his wife Christina, and their two children - ages five and nine.  They say this week is helping them to make decisions about where they'll live, and where the kids will attend school.  "It's very good," says Christina.  "We've gotten a lot of good information, so I'm excited to get down here."

For most families, schools are their main concern when relocating.  They want to know abou the academics and extracurricular activities.  School officials are planning for 2000-3000 new students to relocate to the area because of Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC).  "It's such a blessing to be growing, and to have the opportunity to provide the services," says Lawton Public Schools Superintendent Barry Beauchamp.  "But no one's complaining and we're excited to have the opportunity."

Another concern relocating families may have has nothing to do with housing, business, or schools.  "A lot of them ask about the weather," says Morale, Welfare, and Recreation Chief of Business Operations Mike Borden.  "They're coming from Fort Bliss and asking about weather.  They hear about the windstorms up here, so they're asking about that - climate's been a big discussion up here."

Major Lonnie McNair is transferring to Fort Sill and has quite a different experience with every day weather conditions.  "In El Paso, it's hot and dry year-round, and they have a lot of concern with tornadoes," he says.

Fort Sill has been making preparations for incorporating the Fort Bliss Artillery School by constructing new facilities for instruction and maintenance.  "No transition is actually easy," says CW3 Todd Metcalf, who is also transferring to Fort Sill.  "There's going to be bumps, but we're doing everything we can to mitigate the size of the bumps and make it invisible, or seamless, to the soldier."  Also for the soldier's family, some of whom may not arrive at Fort Sill until after the initial move.  "I'm going to be delivering," says Alvarado. "I'm gonna have my baby here, so I wanted to make sure the facilities were good.  I'm very impressed with the new medical hospital, it's very pretty."

Some soldiers say that after only a couple of days, they feel the community is doing a great job providing the right atmosphere and environment for soldiers transitioning from Fort Bliss to Fort Sill.  The Fort Bliss tour group will also visit the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge for a cookout, and will be touring communities in and around Lawton on Wednesday.