Operation: Deck the Halls
Special to Leader-Press
FORT HOOD — III Corps headquarters, 1st Cavalry headquarters battalion and Darnall Army Medical Center are twinkling with Christmas lights, dotted with multiple trees throughout the buildings, and stockings are hung on all office doors. The Copperas Cove High School JROTC cadets played the roles of elves coming in to decorate the buildings as part of their Operation: Duty Calls to Deck the Halls service initiative.
CCHS JROTC Battalion Executive Officer Sydney Montana said the cadets gathered donations of gently used Christmas decorations for several weeks to help provide a holiday experience for service members.
“Staff Sargent (Timothy) Tillery showed us the layout of the entire building including the front lobby, west wing, and east wing,” Montana said. “As soon as a brief walkthrough of the building was completed, cadets brought in more than Christmas trees, boxes of tinsel, lights, and prop up. It took multiple trips to get it all in the building.”
Thirty cadets divided into equal teams and assigned to one of the three areas designated for decorations.
“My team had the big front lobby. My main concern was making sure when everyone comes into work in the morning, they pass this entrance and are instantly filled with holiday spirit,” Montana said. “My biggest challenge was finding a large tree that was big enough for the lobby, but not tall enough to touch the ceiling. My team searched for the right parts finding one tree that was too tall, a base that was broken, a few that were way too small. Finally, we managed to secure one that was perfect for the lobby and set it up with lights and special ornaments to put a smile soldiers’ faces when they came to work each day.”
Cadet Battalion Commander Colonel Elmo Bailey said the hardest thing about decorating was planning where to put everything.
“Our atrium was just a wide open hall with a monument on the end,” Bailey said. “We had to spark our really creative imaginations to determine where to place the holiday lights and decoration to fill the giant open square.”
Bailey and his team erected the Christmas tree near a pillar and then decorated each pillar with lights. The cadets hung different wreaths, lights, and garland on the silver metal handrails surrounding the stairs.
Cadet Captain Tristan Wakley and his team of cadets tackled the decorating task at the headquarters battalion of the 1st Cavalry Division.
“It was a really fun experience. Decorating wasn’t that much of a challenge for us at 1st CAV, but it was still very interesting trying to come up with ideas for the whole building,” Wakley said. “I hope the soldiers enjoy the decorations because we had a really good time doing this for them.”
The cadets returned on a second day to decorate the lobby of Darnall Army Medical Center first wrapping boxes from presents and setting up Christmas trees throughout the building.