FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. — The Maneuver Support Center of Excellence and Fort Leonard Wood leadership held their ninth 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 that everyone’s disciplined adherence to policy is vital to winning on the COVID-19 battlefield.
Maj. Gen. Donna Martin, Maneuver Support Center of Excellence and Fort Leonard Wood commanding general, began this week’s town hall by thanking the local community and the installation’s media partners for sharing the official command information. She also thanked everyone who “tunes in” each week.
“I appreciate you taking the time to watch this town hall and hear about our response to COVID-19,” she said.
Martin provided updates on Fort Leonard Wood’s training mission – military and civilians, including off-site inter-service detachments - and thanked everyone making that possible.
With approval from the Training and Doctrine command, Soldiers graduating IET are moving. “We have shipped over 700 Soldiers out of Fort Leonard Wood to seven different installations,” she said. “We have received Initial Entry Training graduates inbound from other locations and we have started receiving new recruits again. To our units, staff planners, our awesome logistics readiness center team, and to the personnel screening our Soldiers: thank you. These safe, successful movements directly contribute to Army readiness by ensuring that training continues and that end-strength goals are met with the right skills at the right time.”
With hundreds of new recruits arriving on the installation, come new, concerned family members. Martin assured them their loved ones “have made the best decision they will ever make in joining … the most respected institution in the land – the United States military.”
“To these family members: I want to congratulate you for raising selfless, courageous and remarkable patriots who are now among the less than one percent who serve our nation,” she said. “We will lead, inspire, train and prepare them to be successful members of the greatest team on earth.”
Martin said everyone supporting Fort Leonard Wood’s mission must remember “our purpose and core functions.”
“We must remember that every person and every organization play a role in our mission success,” she said. “On the COVID-19 battlefield, each and every person on this team plays a role in protecting themselves and others. Each person matters. Each decision matters. So, I appreciate each of our 186,000 tenants, civilians, military, retiree and family members for the role they play daily.”
As training graduates continue to move from Fort Leonard Wood to other installations upon headquarters approval and after careful planning and rehearsal, Martin said information on these movements will not be released ahead of time for security purposes.
She added that leave is still not authorized during, in between or after initial training, and graduation ceremonies remain virtual with no family day activities.
“Watch this Facebook page, or search for your trainee’s unit page on Facebook for information about their training and graduation,” she said.
Authorized mail is still being delivered, she said, “but you may not want to send anything too close to graduation.”
Martin said new recruits arriving for Basic Combat Training are learning all the skills necessary to be Soldiers in an adjusted environment, including 100-percent COVID-19 testing and two weeks of controlled monitoring prior to eight weeks of integrated training.
“All training environments across post are adjusted for social distancing and protective measures,” she said.
Outside of movement that enables training and Army readiness, the Department of Defense stop-movement order remains in effect through June 30.
“Only current and gaining chains of command can answer specific questions for each individual,” Martin said. “So, please initiate dialog at that level for individual concerns.”
Health Protection Condition Charlie also remains in effect here, she said, and everyone with access to the installation is expected and directed to follow those measures. They include maximizing telework and staying home, only going out when necessary and staying in the local travel area – defined as within 60 miles of Fort Leonard Wood. Military members are required to wear cloth face coverings where social distancing of six feet cannot be maintained; civilians and family members are highly encouraged to do the same.
“These measures are designed to protect all of our teammates,” Martin said. “Think not only of yourselves, but of your families, your teammates, the military and our nation’s readiness.”
Martin said Fort Leonard Wood’s Public Health Emergency – initially declared March 27 – has been extended through May 24.
“This declaration ensures resources and authorities are in place to continue to win on the COVID-19 battlefield,” she said. “We remain closely partnered with state and local public health officials and we greatly appreciate their support as we continue all efforts to flatten the curve. Although the nation is looking forward to re-opening in a phased approach, the trend of cases, community spread and community testing in our region do not indicate that we are on the downward side of the curve.”
At this time, General Order No. 1 remains in effect, Martin added, for all military members assigned, attached to or performing duties at Fort Leonard Wood.
The order was updated last week to place the following off-limits: spas, tanning salons, off-post barbers, nail salons, beauty salons and tattoo parlors.
Maneuver Support Center of Excellence Command Sgt. Maj. James Breckinridge reminded everyone with access to the installation that cloth face coverings are required in certain locations where social distancing is difficult to maintain. These locations include, but are not limited to, the Commissary, Post Exchange, ID-card facility and training environments. He added that face covering must cover the nose and mouth.
He also said it is the responsibility of everyone to professionally correct anyone not following the post’s required measures.
“This is a new environment and there could be – hopefully very few – honest mistakes,” he said. “Don’t walk by a mistake, because then you set a new norm.”
Lastly, Breckinridge asked everyone to be extra careful as the weather warms.
“This is not the time – there is never a time – when you want to have an accident or injury that takes you to the doctor or the (emergency room),” he said. “So, whether you are hunting, on ladders, using machinery, riding all-terrain vehicles or motorcycles … always be safe, use protective equipment, follow the law, have a plan and be a good battle buddy.”
Martin invited Col. Kimberlie Biever, General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital commander, to explain that medical appointments are still open at the hospital.
“We do have appointments available for all beneficiaries,” she said. “We’re gradually opening services in a controlled manner. Please make sure you’re taking care of yourself.”
As she has done in previous town halls, Martin also provided answers to some of the commonly asked questions posted on the Fort Leonard Wood Facebook page.
A topic many people have asked about is the exceptions to policy regarding the 60-mile travel restriction in place.
Martin said she signs these every day, and the reason this process exists is to have knowledge of who is leaving the area and where they are going so they can be screened when they return for their protection and the protection of everyone in the community.
Martin was also asked about when normalcy may return regarding graduations and family days.
“We’ll watch this,” she said. “I’m a parent, too. I understand that you want to be a part of your child’s accomplishments. But right now is not the time we can gather together. Until it’s safe, we have to cancel those family gatherings.”
Questions on when Garrison facilities – specifically the golf course, barber shops and gyms – will reopen were addressed by Col. Eric Towns, U.S. Army Garrison Fort Leonard Wood commander.
He said the golf course will be open to DoD ID card holders only each Saturday, beginning this week, with “risk-mitigation factors in play.”
Towns added that masks must be worn in the club house, and that no driving carts will be authorized for the time being.
“It’s a phased process for MWR facilities,” he said. “We’re actively conducting discussions with the barbers on post to reopen the barber shop – that should occur within the next three weeks. We have a plan to open the salon next week by appointment only.”
He said the opening of the gyms is still in the planning phases.
Before closing the town hall, Martin named the winners of the Fort Leonard Wood MWR-sponsored mask-making contest.
“When I said last week that the Headquarters and Garrison team was in the lead, I think it must have really motivated some people,” she said. “In a major come-from-behind, the 3rd Chemical Brigade, Chemical School and their family members pulled victory from the jaws of defeat.”
Martin added a total of 677 masks were made during the competition.
“What a great event to protect our teammates,” she said.
Martin said she’s proud to serve “on this team of teams.”
“I am inspired by our mission and by your service,” she said. “I so look forward to the day when we can gather again – and we will. If we all walk worthy of our calling and follow our protective measures, we will succeed and we will come out stronger for it.”