El Paso

Ft. Bliss prepares for new missions, new hospital as MG Matlock talks one-on-one with ABC-7

Oneonone with new Ft Bliss Commanding...

The 1st Armored Division at Fort Bliss is preparing for a new, undisclosed mission.

The post's commanding general told ABC-7 that it's just one of several projects happening now on post.

"The division will receive a mission next year that hasn't been announced publicly," Major General Patrick Matlock told ABC-7 in an exclusive one-on-one about the upcoming missions and his future plans for Ft. Bliss. But the two-star general is tight-lipped about which unit will be going and what the soldiers will be doing.

"I think after the new year you will hear more in an official announcement," Matlock added.

He did talk more candidly about other missions.

"The highlight right now for our deployments is our 3rd Brigade Combat Team, which left for Korea about a month ago. And they'll be there for a total of 9 months on a rotational mission. Our aviation brigade is going to Afghanistan, and we have some other smaller units going to Afghanistan, as well."

An estimated 5,000 troops based at Ft. Bliss are currently deployed overseas and along the border, at the president's orders, according to Matlock.

"We have about 600 soldiers supporting the Border Patrol in a number of locations across the Southwest," he said. "They're providing logistical support, transportation support, military police in support of those operations."

Matlock -- who handles immediate and long-term projects -- is cautiously optimistic about the delayed and heavily scrutinized construction of the new Beaumont Medical Center in Far East El Paso.

It's at least $245 million over budget.

"The hospital commander has a good plan to continue with that," said Matlock, adding, "The (Army) Corps of Engineers is managing the supervision of the construction and I think it's well on track now for occupation in 2020, 2021 time frame."

The commanding general for the 1st Armored Division and Ft. Bliss admitted off camera that with a projected two-year assignment, he likely won't be here to witness the hospital move-in.

In the meantime, Matlock said he is thrilled to be back in the Borderland. He received his assignment earlier this year and moved to El Paso in July. He was last stationed at Ft. Bliss from 2012 to 2014.

"The thing I was thinking was, 'I need to go call my wife and let her know that we're heading back to El Paso and Ft. Bliss,'" he said, smiling. (His wife happens to be the daughter of Gen. Tommy Franks (ret.), who oversaw the first operations in Iraq and Afghanistan post-9/11.)

Matlock encourages the soldiers to visit downtown -- in fact, he was able to attend the City of El Paso's Celebration of Lights in Nov. for the first time -- and embrace the city the way he has.

"We appreciate the friendship and the patriotism of everyone who lives in this area," he said. "We live with you in your neighborhoods, and we go to your schools and your churches.

"It's a really great relationship that we have and we're very grateful for that.," he added.

It's a relationship he'll be building for at least the next year and a half, as long as he is stationed at Ft. Bliss.

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