FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. — Fort Leonard Wood leadership held their eighth virtual town hall Wednesday to provide updates from the Department of Defense and the Army and their impacts to the installation’s personnel and operations and to remind each member of the Fort Leonard Wood team to increase their resolve to stop the spread of the virus.
Maj. Gen. Donna Martin, Maneuver Support Center of Excellence and Fort Leonard Wood commanding general, began the town hall by thanking the installation’s service members, their families and civilians for their continued efforts to adapt to changing work and lifestyle requirements while maintaining the training mission.
“You are our pride and you are the nation’s pride,” she said. “You have shown absolute dedication in uncertain times and in an environment of rapidly evolving requirements. Your service on the COVID-19 battlefield is noble and commendable. Thank you for furthering our No. 1 priority of protecting our people while also continuing to train to standard to ensure Army readiness.”
Martin provided several updates to include the Department of Defense’s extension to its stop-movement order, which is now through June 30.
“We are awaiting guidance on impacts and exceptions and the chain of command will communicate when we know more,” she said. “Be assured that current and gaining commands will take care of our people.”
In addition, she said, trainees in Basic Combat Training, Advanced Individual Training and One-Station Unit Training are now moving upon approval from headquarters, and that all movements are being made in a safe manner, and only after “deliberate planning and rehearsal.”
Information on the movements of trainees is not being released, Martin said, for the safety of everyone involved. However, once at their destinations, service members are encouraged to contact loved ones. Leave is still not authorized during, in between or after training, she said.
With the pause in shipping new recruits lifted, all training centers are receiving new trainees, beginning this week. Martin said there will be additional precautions, including what’s called “controlled monitoring.”
“The inflow will be slower at first and will gradually increase in the coming weeks,” she said. “All new recruits shipping into the training base will be screened and will immediately enter a 14-day controlled monitoring status.”
During that two-week period, new recruits will receive training in a controlled environment with proper preventive measures, daily screening and close oversight, Martin said. After those two weeks, they will complete the remaining eight weeks of training with their cohort.
“These adjustments and controlled monitoring are how we continue to balance protecting the bubble and ensuring Army readiness,” she said.
Martin said that although DoD installations are not authorized to provide information on numbers of COVID-19 cases or tests performed for operational security reasons, “we have been successful here in stopping the spread due to preventive measures – due to consistent and rigorous screening procedures and due to diligence in following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and medical guidelines for testing, quarantine and isolation.”
As Fort Leonard Wood officials coordinate daily with health partners in mitigating the spread of COVID-19, Martin invited Deborah Baker, Pulaski County Health Center director, to share some words with the audience.
“We are one community,” Baker said. “We’ve made some difficult decisions over the past weeks and we’ll have more in the weeks and months ahead.”
Baker added that the county leadership team will be meeting within the next week to decide the next phases for Pulaski County.
“Our goal remains to protect the public, but we need each and every member of our community to help,” she said.
Martin addressed the Fort Leonard Wood community as a whole, focusing first on family members.
“Our families are our strength,” she said. “And, in these uncharted times, family members have stepped up in new and incredible ways. They are not only supporting the mission and their service members, they are keeping their households ready and healthy.”
Martin thanked the installation’s families and urged everyone to “stay focused” and “stay unified in our purpose: to keep Fort Leonard Wood’s bubble protected to stop the spread.”
She asked again that the entire community adhere to the 60-mile radius travel policy.
“It’s designed to protect you,” she said. “I know this is not convenient, but this is for our Army and our nation, so we need you to stay the course. Your commitment is needed, and you are appreciated.”
Speaking to the civilian workforce, Martin highlighted their efforts in protecting the force.
“Thanks for all you do,” she said. “And, let me just say, this post could not operate without you. The workforce across the DoD has certainly never maximized telework as we are now. But, you have made it happen without missing a beat. You have learned new software and new practices, and you continue to work hard and add value to our team. By teleworking you are directly contributing to flattening the curve.”
To the civilians performing mission-essential duties on post every day, Martin described their actions as “valuing service above self by physically reporting to duty at Fort Leonard Wood each day.”
“We have health care workers, instructors and retail and food service workers,” she said. “There are many unsung heroes, including those working range control, transportation, maintenance, public works and a myriad of other staff assignments. By working on post every day, you ensure our military’s readiness.”
Martin urged all civilian workers to continue following all protocols and procedures.
“Civilians and military alike swear an oath,” she said. “Thank you for doing your part to protect our force and sustain the mission.”
Martin next addressed the installation’s student and permanent party populations.
“Our success at Fort Leonard Wood requires your unwavering commitment to follow all local policies, including adhering to Health Protection Condition Charlie measures, local travel restrictions and General Order No. 1,” she said. “In serving our nation, you have taken an oath to put the nation first and service first. In every decision, consider the effects to your organizations and to the health and readiness of our Army. Winning matters, and right now, it matters now more than ever. I am so proud of all you have done so far and know I can trust you to increase your resolve and inspire your teammates to success on this COVID-19 Battlefield.”
Martin reminded the installation’s population to continue all preventive measures, to include staying home if sick and calling the Harper In-processing Screening Clinic at 573.596.3663 “if you suspect you have been exposed to or have symptoms of COVID-19 – do not go to the post hospital or the emergency room.”
Before closing out the update, Martin invited Col. Kimberlie Biever, General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital commander, Col. Eric Towns, U.S. Army Garrison Fort Leonard Wood commander, and Fort Leonard Wood and Maneuver Support Center of Excellence Command Sgt. Maj. James Breckinridge to assist her in answering questions from the live virtual audience.
The first question was when the community could expect the 60-mile radius restriction to be lifted. Martin said that COVID-19 mitigation protocols are looked at daily, and when there is increased testing and when there is a sustained reduction in the number of new cases, that restrictions may be lifted.
The next question was about the turnaround time for movement exceptions.
“Every single night, I sign exceptions,” Martin said. “If you have an exception to policy and it’s been over 48 hours, contact your chain of command.”
Another viewer asked when on-post gyms might reopen.
“Right now, we’re not opening common-use facilities,” Martin said. “It’s all a preventive measure. The good news is that these measures are working in helping us stop the spread. We cannot take our foot off the pedal.”
Breckinridge then addressed a question about the Army Combat Fitness Test.
While he said trainees on the installation are still preparing for the ACFT with COVID-19 mitigation protocols in place, Breckinridge challenged the permanent party members here to find ways to overcome the challenges posed by closed gyms and off-limits training areas.
“There are things you can do in your home or outside to prepare,” he said. “I trust in the Army system that they’re going to do something. They understand these are trying times, but get out and do activities outside while maintaining social distancing – get out there and get healthy.”
In closing, Martin called the U.S. military “the greatest team on earth.”
“For almost 245 years, we have fought every kind of battle and have emerged victorious,” she said. “So, teammates: renew your resolve. Make every decision in compliance with our directives and in effort to mitigate risk. Together, we can and will defeat this virus – together, we will be victorious.”
To view Martin’s complete update and the questions and answers, visit https://www.facebook.com/fortleonardwoodmissouri/videos/701358243950113/.