FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. — Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper thanked Soldiers at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri today for being a part of the “elite” group of Americans who serve on “the greatest team history has known,” the United States military.As part of a multi-state trip, Esper, accompanied by Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chairman Ramón "CZ" Colón-López, visited Fort Leonard Wood to meet with leaders from the U.S. Army Maneuver Support Center of Excellence to discuss the continued growth of the nation’s Soldiers under COVID conditions and to observe basic combat training. He also led a sensing session with service members and conducted a re-enlistment ceremony where 53 Soldiers recommitted their obligation to defend the Constitution of the United States.“You are heroes in my book,” Esper said to the Soldiers taking part in the re-enlistment ceremony on MSCoE Plaza. “You are a part of that elite 1 percent - that 1 percent of the American population that raises their hand, swears that oath and commits to do everything they can and everything that might be to protect our great country.”Before Esper administered the Oath of Enlistment, he asked the Soldiers to reflect upon its meaning.“Our oath is special,” he said. Because, “unlike any other military in the world, we’re not swearing an oath to a king or a queen, to a political party or movement, not even to a parliament or a prime minister.”By taking the oath, he told the Soldiers that they will promise to protect the Constitution, the nation and will commit “to safeguarding our fellow citizens.”“We serve an oath to a document, a document that identifies ideas and values that are core to what we are as Americans,” he said. “It says first and foremost that we are a democracy of the people, by the people, for the people.”Second, he said, the document guarantees Americans liberties and freedoms that are “the hallmark of our great republic.”“And finally, it gives us all rights, rights that are the envy of the world,” he said. “As you swear that oath, reflect upon those things and know that the ideas and values that that document embodies are ideas and values that instill fear in the minds of our adversaries and hope in the hearts of our friends and allies abroad.”Esper said he felt honored and privileged to have those Soldiers re-enlist in the U.S. military.“Today, you will once again be rejoining the greatest military in the world – the military that has defended that document, those rights and values for over 200 years,” he said. “Today, you continue that proud legacy, and I couldn’t have more pride myself and respect for all of you in choosing to do so. I feel honored and privileged to have you on our team, the greatest team history has known.”One Soldier who took part in the re-enlistment ceremony was Staff Sgt. Maria Ynonan, a drill sergeant with the 3rd Chemical Brigade who has served in the Army for more than six years. Today, she re-enlisted in the Army for six more and said it was a “great honor” to have Esper conduct the re-enlistment.Spc. Jesus Roldan with the 5th Engineer Battalion agreed.“With the pandemic that is currently going around, and for (the Secretary of Defense) to go out of his way and pretty much re-enlist every single Soldier here (today), it means a lot,” Roldan said.In addition to the re-enlistment ceremony, Esper met with Maj. Gen. Donna Martin, MSCoE and Fort Leonard Wood commanding general, and received overviews on the Harper In-processing Screening Clinic and the 10-week, modified Basic Combat Training – referred to as two-plus-eight due to a built-in initial two-week controlled-monitoring phase – which allows the Army’s newest Soldiers to learn all the same skills, but with COVID-19 mitigation protocols in place. He also observed training at the Physical Endurance Confidence Course. He ended his visit with a sensing session with 14 service members from the Army, Marine Corps and Air Force with diverse backgrounds and experiences to hear their concerns regarding a variety of topics including, readiness and racism in the military.