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‘Big Willie’ hosts soldiers traveling to Harvey relief

Two light medium tactical vehicle is parked outside of the old Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center Sept. 2 after dropping off 67 soldiers, on Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas. More than 500 soldiers are awaiting future deployment instructions at the old Wilford Hall in response to the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Kevin Iinuma)

Two light medium tactical vehicle is parked outside of the old Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center Sept. 2 after dropping off 67 soldiers, on Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas. More than 500 soldiers are awaiting future deployment instructions at the old Wilford Hall in response to the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Kevin Iinuma)

Soldiers walk to their assigned rooms on Sept. 2, at the old Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center on Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas. More than 500 soldiers are awaiting future deployment instructions at the old Wilford Hall in response to the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Kevin Iinuma)

Soldiers walk to their assigned rooms on Sept. 2, at the old Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center on Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas. More than 500 soldiers are awaiting future deployment instructions at the old Wilford Hall in response to the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Kevin Iinuma)

Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas -- The 59th Medical Wing at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland is currently hosting roughly 500-Soldiers in the old Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center as they prepare to deploy to areas affected by Hurricane Harvey.

Less than a week after the 59th Medical Wing Command and its colors vacated old Wilford Hall, it’s storied history continues. U.S. Army personnel from multiple units across the nation are now using old Wilford Hall as a staging checkpoint in preparation to receive further instructions for mobilization.

The Army’s 1st Armored Division, Combat Aviation Brigade, are the newest long-term residents in the newly retired medical center, staying until relief efforts halt in the Houston area. They are operating from Kelly Field, while hundreds of other soldiers staying for a short time, before taking supplies with them to their assigned areas.

“This building was a miracle for us,” said Army Maj. Edgar Davila, the base support installation manager for the Army checkpoint. “Initially, we only had 100-beds in the Gateway lodging facility, but when the Air Force said that the old Wilford Hall was available to use, that was great. We are lucky to have this type of space to use for staging our Soldiers.”

Davila and his team expect to continue to process Soldiers in and out of the old WHASC building until Sept. 30th, continuing to grow the number of Army personnel deployed to Hurricane Harvey relief.

“The situation and the suffering is bad,” Davila said. “But I am proud to play a small part in the joint-service effort to do what we can to help those impacted by the natural disaster. The situation is awful, and no one wants to see that, but seeing the joint efforts coming together to help out is amazing. These are long hours, but if I can make a difference, that’s a great feeling well worth the time.”

The medical center, named after former Air Force physician, Maj. Gen. Wilford F. Hall, first opened its doors on June 7, 1942. The facility’s first mission was to take care of the aviation cadets training at nearby Kelly Field during World War II.

The move to the state of the art new facility birthed from the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Act, which mandated that San Antonio’s military medical facilities integrate into an enhanced multi-service market to improve operational effectiveness and efficiency.

For more information on the 59th Medical Wing, visit www.59mdw.af.mil.