Even in wartime, no guardhouse or security gate blocks the way into Fort Hood. Traffic rolls onto the giant post unimpeded and unexamined. But the street sign at the first intersection is enough to tell a visitor that this is a different world from the freeway he has just left. It reads, “Tank Destroyer Blvd.”
Tanks and destruction are what Fort Hood is all about. Army literature still refers to Fort Hood in anachronistic cold war terms—the largest armored post in the free world. Bounded by Killeen on the east and Copperas Cove on the west, extending northward almost to Gatesville, Fort Hood occupies 339 square miles, making it bigger than eight Texas counties. Its 785 miles of roads, laid east to west, would span Texas. On the post are seventeen lakes, five elementary schools, and the largest commissary in the world, with 25 checkout lanes. Most of the property, however, is hidden from view north of a ridgeline slashed by tank trails that lead into a training wilderness. In normal times the air would be throbbing with the buzz of Apache helicopters and the rumble of M1 tanks and Bradley armored personnel carriers, and motorists would be paying close heed to the yellow diamond-shaped road signs that warn of tank crossings, but these are not normal times at Fort Hood. An Army base is at its most peaceful when the Army is at war.
Before Operation Desert Storm, 37,000 soldiers worked here. Now the main part of the base is as unpeopled as a college campus that has been abandoned by all but a few graduate students between semesters. Indeed, many parts of Fort Hood look more like a college than a traditional Army base. The