FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. -- General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital is one phase closer to a fully implemented a security force in response to a directive by the Surgeon General.

The security force has been present since October, 2017, though not outfitted until now.

A phased implementation was intended to decrease apprehensiveness of the sudden presence of uniformed officers throughout the GLWACH footprint as they met and got to know patients and staff.

"It's great to have them on board. They are a great asset to our patients and staff," said Tim Mann, GLWACH Readiness and Security chief. "They are a friendly force and not intended to intimidate, though their presence does provide a significant measure of deterrence that I think patients and staff will appreciate."

Hospital staff members like that the security force is available to help.

"It makes me feel safer," said Army Sgt. Audra Hampton, medical laboratory technician. "If there's an altercation or something, we no longer have to handle it or call the MPs so they can handle it."

Each security officer is trained in all aspects of security enforcement as well as medical training to include basic lifesaving skills, CPR and automated external defibrillator training.

"This is a huge step forward for the organization," said Col. Christian Meko, GLWACH Commander. "Tragedies at a number of camps, posts and stations in recent years have involved both patients and employees, so, as a result, the Surgeon General said we just can't go on like this any further. Based on her guidance last year, we've established our very own security force."

Patients seem to understand the need.

One patient said it's a little intimidating seeing the security force in their uniforms and gear but understands it's a sign of the times and are happy they are here.

"I couldn't be happier with the personalities that we've brought on board," Meko said. "Their professionalism and the ability to contribute was apparent even before they began wearing uniforms and all of their gear. We've asked them to intervene already on some very critical incidents and just their presence alone has really prevented potential tragedy from occurring."

Meko went on to say that the ball is rolling with the establishment of a working security force but there is still much to do.

"We're going to continue to educate our staff on how to properly engage this new capability because it is going to be new for people to understand how and when to engage our security team. We will also educate our patients so they know what the security force's roles and responsibilities are here," Meko said.

(Editor's note: John Brooks is a marketing specialist at General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital)