FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. — The U.S. Army Maneuver Support Center of Excellence and Fort Leonard Wood leadership held their eleventh virtual town hall Wednesday and invited Sgt. 1st Class Benjamin Rudy and his wife, Hannah, to speak about their experiences during the pandemic.
Rudy, a drill sergeant assigned to the U.S. Army’s 14th Military Police Brigade, who has served in the Army for 20 years, started off by explaining why he loves being a Soldier.
“What we do is pivotal,” he said. “Not only now, but for the future success of the country – for our children.”
He explained that, as a father of five children, he values the work done to mitigate risks associated with COVID-19 in the training environment here – social distancing, face masks and enhanced cleaning of barracks and dining facilities across the installation – while world-class Soldiers still graduate and move on to assignments around the world.
Rudy said his message to the parents of trainees is that he and every other leader on the installation take their jobs very seriously.
“I promise you that we are doing everything possible to ensure that your kids are safe, that they’re getting the proper training they need – we’re not taking shortcuts; we’re going above and beyond to make sure they still get the training – and I want you to be very proud of your son or daughter,” he said. “Thank you for allowing me to be entrusted with that job.”
Rudy’s wife said the bottom line for their family is that they feel safe.
“I’m reassured by the safety measures I see at (the Post Exchange) and the Commissary,” she said. “There are some challenges – no more friends at the house – but the children understand. We don’t shy away from talking about the reality of what’s happening with them.”
She added that there are some positives to focus on.
“We go outside, play games – we have new hobbies,” she said. “We’ve been able to bond better as a family.”
The Rudy family advises everyone to look at this situation as an opportunity.
“Stay positive,” Hannah added. “Be encouraging and we’ll get through this.”
“You and your family are a tremendous inspiration,” said Maj. Gen. Donna Martin, MSCoE and Fort Leonard Wood commanding general. “I know that, as a mother, I would be 100 percent confident with my son joining and being under your leadership. You and Hannah represent hundreds of other professionals and spouses just like you, serving here in the heart of our nation. Thank you for your engaged leadership, thank you for your service to our nation and thank you for all you are doing to protect the force.”
Martin took time to also thank Fort Leonard Wood’s front-line workers, such as employees at the child development centers, the logistics readiness center, Army & Air Force Exchange Service locations and the General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital.
“Along with everyone in our reception battalion and training units, you continue to value service before self,” she said. “To those who continue to give 100 percent each day – whether in a supporting staff role here on post or at home on telework – you are also playing a key role in training and protecting our force.”
The DoD has indicated that although states are attempting to open back up, Martin said the U.S. military is preparing to operate under “a new normal” for some time.
“As DoD senior leaders have indicated, COVID-19 did not impact our country or our military installations uniformly, so there is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to local operations or when it comes to the timing of lifting restrictions,” she said.
“Each military commander must assess and mitigate risk each and every day,” she added. “As a federal entity, we have a responsibility to the nation. The mission at Fort Leonard Wood – receiving and training new recruits in every occupational specialty in Basic Combat Training and training 26 occupational specialties in Advanced Individual and One Station Unit trainings – is essential and critical.”
Martin said the troop movement of the installation’s graduates is essential.
“When the nation calls, military units around the globe rely on our people – engineers, military police and chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear,” she said. “Mission success on the battlefield depends on our mission success and our ability to win on the COVID-19 battlefield here at Fort Leonard Wood. This is why we must protect the force.”
Easing restrictions will be done carefully and deliberately, Martin said, “in a measured fashion as we partner with our state and local public health officials to fully understand our operating picture.”
Until then, putting the mission first “by protecting the bubble” is the key to success, Martin added.
— limiting travel to, and contact with, hotspots and carefully managing exceptions to policy.
— limiting or denying post access to anyone deemed a health or safety risk to the mission.
— testing 100 percent of inbound trainees, and training and caring for those new trainees in a controlled, monitored environment their first two weeks here.
— ensuring a safe and sterile transportation environment for trainees who graduate here to ensure they will not infect another installation’s bubble.
— maintaining social distancing, wearing cloth face covers when social distancing is not possible, continuing to telework and holding ceremonies with limited people and broadcasting to loved ones.
“Simply stated, protecting the bubble is all about managing movement in and out of the bubble and implementing protective and preventive measures inside and outside the bubble,” Martin said. “We are members of a team. We will always place the mission first and we will never accept defeat. Although the exact timing is unknown, with each person doing their part, we will reach a point where we can operate more normally. Please do not grow weary in doing your part. Every day, you are making decisions that keep you and your family safe and that protect this bubble.”
Col. Eric Towns, U.S. Army Garrison Fort Leonard Wood commander, thanked the community for patronizing the installation’s Piney Valley Golf Course while adhering to mitigation protocols.
He said other services are continually being reassessed based on mitigation of risk, and announced that Specker Gym and Davidson Fitness Center on post are reopening May 14, with some service and hours limited. Check FMWR’s Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/mwr.ftwood/ – for updates on hours and rules of engagement.
Martin closed out this week’s town hall by reminding everyone that Armed Forces Day is May 16.
“Our drill sergeants here – like Drill Sergeant Rudy – and their families, are some of the greatest examples of our rich and honorable lineage,” she said. “Each military member has a crucial role to steward our profession and to develop future generations. Amid grueling schedules and rapidly emerging changes to the training environment, you continue to lead, inspire and protect America’s sons and daughters. I thank you, and America thanks you.”
To the “team of teams” serving here, Martin asked that everyone “stay positive and steadfast.”
“COVID-19 won’t go away because we are tired of it,” she said. “We will stop it with dedication and consistency in the precautions that are working. As President Truman once said, ‘America was built on courage, on imagination, and on an unbeatable determination to do the job at hand.’ Protecting our force is the job at hand. We can; we must; and we will do it together.”