Fort Bliss camp gets new $20 million dining facility
El Paso (Texas) Times
Fort Bliss has turned into one of the military's most important training areas, and the Army continues to invest money to create first-class training facilities here.
The latest example is a new $20 million dining facility that opened at McGregor Range Base Camp on July 29.
The new dining hall, next to the new housing area called the Alamo, currently serves about 1,500 service members a day with the capability of serving up to three times that many.
It replaces an aging dining facility that dated back to 1957.
"This is an investment in the future," said Jeff Morgan, food program manager for Fort Bliss.
The new dining hall features state-of-the-art kitchen equipment and has nearly double the capacity of the older hall, Morgan said.
The former dining hall "should have been replaced at least 20 years ago," Morgan said.
In the past, McGregor was used for training only in the summer months, Morgan said. Now, it is being used year-round.
The new dining hall was necessary to keep up with the growth in training being done here, he added.
It serves three hot meals a day, seven days a week.
"We have a brand-new building with top-of-the-line equipment," said
Taletha "Renee" Parnell, McGregor dining facility manager. "It's someplace where they (service members) can come in, relax and enjoy. It's a big morale booster."
An average of 1,500 to 1,700 service members -- active duty, National Guard and reservists from the Army, Air Force and Navy -- are stationed at McGregor each month for training, said Lt. Col. Craig Cox, commander of McGregor Range Base Camp. Members of foreign militaries -- from places like Japan, Germany
and Canada -- also train here.
"The leadership at Fort Bliss is dedicated to making this a premier, world-class training facility," Cox said. "This (dining facility) is an example of that and one piece of that effort."
There are plans to put TVs into the dining facility so service members can watch news and sports, too, Cox added.
It also goes beyond just having a brand-new building, Cox said. The dining facility's staff of about 45 people are service-oriented, friendly and make it a great all-around experience, he added.
The new facility can handle more service members and get them back to training quicker, said Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Chumbler, command sergeant major for McGregor Range Base Camp.
That helps to eliminate what are called "training distractions," Chumbler said.
McGregor isn't done getting improvements.
The Morale, Welfare and Recreation facility, the shoppette and physical fitness center are all being upgraded, Cox said. A movie theater is slated to reopen sometime this month, he added.
The dining facility doesn't have a name yet, but there are plans in the works to name it after a soldier from the 5th Armored Brigade, First Army who was killed in Iraq. The 5th Armored Brigade is one of the key tenant organizations at McGregor.