'Wagonmasters' execute successful Freedom Fest

Story by Sgt. Matthew C. Cooley
Photos by Cpl. Jessica Hampton
15th Sustainment Brigade Public Affairs

FORT HOOD, Texas — The 15th Sustainment Brigade "Wagonmasters," with the help of at least 21 military and civilian organizations, executed the annual Freedom Fest at Hood Stadium here July 4 after 6 months of preparation and a year of planning.

15th SB, a logistics brigade, is responsible for a large portion of support operations on Fort Hood and beyond, a mission the unit continues even while preparing to deploy to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The unit projected that about 75,000 would participate in Freedom Fest, but made plans for up to 100,000.

Capt. Josh Southworth, operations officer in charge, 15th SB, explained that the biggest challenges were crowd control and coordinating the actions of various outside organizations.

"It's the little stuff that when you throw 100,000 people onto can make [a problem]," he said, citing availability of restroom facilities and trash cans as examples.

Things such as cooling tents, misters, and wet bulbs had to be considered in the planning as Texas in July may reach 100 degrees or more.

The Wagonmasters were not alone in their efforts, as the Directorate of Family Morale Welfare and Recreation partnered with 15th to ensure the event went as planned.

"It's takes all of garrison to put this together," Tracy Thomas, Fort Hood DFMWR marketing chief said. "We could not do it without everyone else."

A work force of 300 Soldiers set up the festival over six days, as well as tore it down, served as roving courtesy patrols, medics, parking attendants, and did other needed tasks.

"[Because] it's a holiday, the unit tries to use as few Soldiers as possible," Thomas said, explaining that civilians were hired for some tasks so that fewer Soldiers were needed to work during the holiday weekend. 

Southworth explained that most of the planning was about small things and ensuring that different events took place on schedule such as the flyovers and performances.

He added that since Freedom Fest is a recurring event, most of the organizations involved in its planning and execution know what to expect.

"We have a pretty good working relationship with outside agencies," Southworth said.

After the event, planning for next year began in the form of an after action review. Those involved in the planning and execution of the event shared what happened, what went well, and what improvement may be needed to make the next festival better than the previous ones.

Or as the Wagonmasters might say, "Every day better."


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Members of the Fort Hood community rush onto Hood Stadium's field here after Freedom Fest's opening ceremony July 4, organized by 15th Sustainment Brigade. (U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Matthew C. Cooley, 15th Sustainment Brigade Public Affairs.)

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Ten of thousands from the Fort Hood community participate in Freedom Fest, organized by 15th Sustainment Brigade, at Hood Stadium here July 4 to celebrate the nation's independence. (U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Matthew C. Cooley, 15th Sustainment Brigade Public Affairs.)

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Staff Sgt. Kezia Dixon and Spc. Melissa Kessner, with the 15th Sustainment Brigade, coordinate for medics to respond to an event while Spc. Michael White, also with the 15th SB, talks with the medics on the radio during Freedom Fest at Hood Stadium July 4. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Rob Strain, 15th Sustainment Brigade Public Affairs)