FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. — As the new nationwide normal of face masks, social distancing and staying at home continues, Fort Leonard Wood leadership held their seventh virtual town hall Wednesday to provide an update on the installation’s efforts to “flatten the curve” of COVID-19 and to remind everyone in the community of the increased resolve necessary to help stop the spread of the virus.
Maj. Gen. Donna Martin, Maneuver Support Center of Excellence and Fort Leonard Wood commanding general, focused her opening remarks on praising the actions of Fort Leonard Wood’s essential workers who come to work each day, along with those who continue the mission by teleworking. She said those working on post and those working remotely contribute to protecting our forces while maintaining readiness.
She urged the Fort Leonard Wood community – including all students, permanent party, civilians and family members – to increase their resolve and diligence in daily choices, to include remaining within 60 miles of the installation and only leaving home when necessary for essential activities. “Only leave home for essential work or essential items when you absolutely must,” she said. “Enjoy the beautiful spring weather and the outdoors with your immediate family, but, at this time, there are no social gatherings. Martin said leaders will reinforce this.
Martin said that personnel must adhere to the measures in Health Protection Condition Charlie and that just one or two individuals not following the rules can affect the COVID-19 curve.
“One or two who stay within the rules but push the rules to the limit or linger in gray areas – these few will affect many, resulting in an undue burden on our healthcare workers, our facilities and on those in their units and households,” she said.
Martin reminded everyone to continue to wear masks in every situation where distancing cannot be maintained, and continue preventive measures such as hand washing, use of sanitizer, refraining from touching surfaces and wiping down commonly used surfaces. She also emphasized that anyone who suspects they have been exposed to COVID-19, or who may be exhibiting symptoms, needs to call the Harper In-processing Screening Clinic at 573.596.3663.
“We need to work this harder than ever,” she said. “Right now, we may be in the woods, but we can see light and reach it if we stay on the right path together.”
Martin then answered some common questions regarding the installation’s training mission.
“COVID-19 does not stop training,” she said. “The Army and its leaders are taught to and are well experienced in assessing and mitigating risk. We are using the security bubble approach to ensure safety.”
Martin said being “in the bubble” includes restricted movement, social distancing, wearing masks when distancing cannot be maintained, additional spacing in barracks, classrooms and dining facilities, more handwashing stations, regular screening and adjustments in training tasks.
“We remain in a temporary pause of shipment of new recruits to the training base to ensure safety of the recruits and to provide additional capacity to plan at the training centers,” she said. “We will let you know when the delay is lifted.”
Martin added that trainees will not “go home, go home early or take leave during, between or after basic combat training or advanced individual training.”
She said MSCoE continues to work with their higher headquarters and the Army to develop movement plans that ensure safe transport of Soldiers while mitigating possible exposure to COVID-19.
“Movement will take place in a strictly controlled environment and will be well rehearsed,” Martin said.
Martin also said when movement is approved, names, units and dates will not be announced publicly to ensure operational security.
“That information is not publicized for a reason – so our trainees are not put at unnecessary risks,” she said. “Please don’t communicate over social media about transportation of trainees. When they arrive at their next location they will be able to communicate with their families and friends.”
Until the stop-movement order is lifted, active-duty service members scheduled to report to their duty station after completion of AIT or one station unit training will await further guidance from their chains of command. National Guard and Reserve Soldiers will return back to their respective units but each case will be worked individually with the states and chains of command to mitigate risk.
Martin then spoke on the stressful effects the lifestyle changes related to COVID-19 can have on everyone in the community.
“Each of us doing our part in flattening the curve seems simple because the actions required are easy to understand,” she said. “Although we know that with continued focus we will get back to normal, our most special times with family and friends, our celebrations, holidays, daily routines and places of work, learning and worship look nothing like they did just seven short weeks ago. I know this is a very stressful time for our community. It’s natural to feel anger, a sense of loss, fear or other emotions during any life-changing event that is unexpected or out of our control. It is extremely important that we identify it and cope with the stress so that we, those we care about and our community will remain strong and can sustain our essential missions and can continue to protect the force.”
Col. Kimberlie Biever, General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital commander, provided tips on recognizing and managing stress.
Biever asked the community to be mindful of changes in eating or sleeping patterns, worsening mental or chronic health, feelings of fear or worry or increased intake of tobacco or alcohol. She said these are all signs of the effects of stress.
She offered some tips to relieve stress:
— Take a break from news, media and social media. Stay informed, but do not make it the day’s focus. Also, when checking for news, focus on official, verified sources.
— Eat well, sleep well, move and exercise frequently, and avoid excessive alcohol and tobacco.
— Try each day to do something to relax or unwind: start a puzzle, take a short walk, listen to music, explore hobbies that allow distancing or just sit in the sun and enjoy nature.
— Connect with others via technology. Reach out to battle buddies and know that chains of command are available to help.
— Keep a positive state of mind by practicing gratitude. Make a list each day of things to be grateful for.
— Consider trying meditation.
In addition, the installation has resources available to help manage stress, Col. Eric Towns, U.S. Army Garrison Fort Leonard Wood commander, said.
Towns mentioned that with the spring weather, now is a great time to explore on-post trails, hunting, fishing, springs and rivers. He reminded everyone to visit the Fort Leonard Wood iSportsman website at https://ftleonardwood.isportsman.net for more information on recreation opportunities outside the cantonment area.
On-post services, including the chaplains and Army Community Service, which is currently operating online, are also available for those in need of help, according to Towns.
“They’re posting stuff every day,” he said. “We have so much out there to offer you and I encourage you to take advantage.”
Fort Leonard Wood and Maneuver Support Center of Excellence Command Sgt. Maj. James Breckinridge also reminded everyone that help is out there and to remember to check on battle buddies.
“Reach out to someone you think might be struggling or that you have not seen or heard from in a while,” he said. “And, reach out to your colleagues – people you interact with every day would probably really appreciate being asked, ‘How are you doing? How is your family?’”
Breckinridge also said that for anyone experiencing significant stress or who has concerns with relationships, finances, substances, anything, “there is no shame in asking for help. There is no stigma in using our services, chaplains or healthcare providers. Your teammates want to help so please reach out.”
Lastly, Martin mentioned a way for people to help with their community.
“Check out Fort Leonard Wood MWR’s awesome new event running from now through April 24,” she said. “Grab your friends and join the contest to see which unit can make the most cloth face masks. Masks will be distributed to a variety of organizations, and rewards will include gift certificates, MWR coupons, and most importantly, bragging rights.”
Martin closed by reiterating that to “flatten the curve” of COVID-19 requires the efforts of everyone.
“This team is the pride of the nation and we are known for winning,” she said. “So, while we remain on this COVID-19 battlefield, stay vigilant and fight complacency; follow Defense Department, state and local orders; continue preventive measures to protect yourselves and we will win.”
For the latest information and answers to frequently asked questions, visit the Fort Leonard Wood COVID-19 page at https://home.army.mil/wood/index.php/coronavirus, as well as the installation’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/fortleonardwoodmissouri.