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FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. — Fort Leonard Wood community leaders came together March 3 at Lincoln Hall Auditorium for the March Woodworks, livestreamed through Facebook.

Megan O’Donoghue, acting director of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation, spoke on the strengths of hosting the monthly event.

“This forum is designed to give a better understanding of community issues, share information on upcoming events and network to improve the quality of life for our Soldiers, families, civilians and retirees,” she said.

The kickoff of the Army Emergency Relief campaign — which runs this year from March 8 through June 15 — was the first topic on the agenda. O’Donoghue spoke on the goals of the annual drive.

“Our mission is to increase the awareness of the Army Emergency Relief benefits and programs available to our Soldiers and their families and to seek contributions to increase funds available to assist those Soldiers and their families,” she said. “This is an opportunity for Soldiers to help Soldiers.”

Col. Jeff Paine, U.S. Army Garrison Fort Leonard Wood commander, gave an example of the value of having AER for the Army. He told a story from one of his previous assignments of a young Soldier and his family who were living in an off-post apartment.

“There was a fire in the apartment building and unfortunately the family lost everything,” he said. “Because it happened in the middle of the night and they had to evacuate, the only things that they had were the clothes on their backs as they ran out. For the kids — they were small kids at the time — that was their pajamas.”

That’s where AER was able to help, Paine said.

“What we were able to do … was quickly turn a grant that allowed them to replace some basic items — some clothes for a couple of days, some basic food items — just to get them going as they worked through the process of putting their claim in through their renter’s insurance,” he said. “So, I really want to encourage everybody to think about (the AER campaign) as an opportunity to pay it forward.”

The focus of this month’s Woodworks was transition services, and Col. Aaron Pitney, General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital commander, spoke on the disability evaluation process.

The military’s integrated disability evaluation system works in conjunction with Veterans Affairs to determine if a service member with an illness or injury may continue to serve. Pitney said the process can currently take up to seven months due to COVID-19.

“Obviously, this can be a very challenging situation for any Soldier and their family members,” Pitney said. “So, my guidance to my team has always been, ‘This is a significant life event for them and that above and beyond what we have to do is to communicate effectively and to show a tremendous amount of compassion and respect for the Soldiers and the families that we’re taking care of.”

Pitney also spoke on the variety of services available through GLWACH. The non-emergency Acute Minor Illness Clinic is open 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day and the Emergency Department and In-patient services are each available 24/7.

GLWACH is also transitioning April 24 to a new electronic health records system called MHS Genesis, which is expected to streamline documentation and improve patient experiences here. However, Pitney said to expect some delays initially.

“This is a huge, huge transitional step,” he said. “It affects everything we do in the hospital and every piece of equipment we have in the hospital.”

Walter Harris, Fort Leonard Wood transition services manager, spoke on the Transition Assistance Program and Army Continuing Education.

TAP is now open 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily for walk ins and appointments. They are located in Bldg. 470, Room 2219. Service members and their families can call 573.596.0175 for more information. A virtual hiring fair is scheduled for 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. March 23 at https://rmvets.com/army. The fair is open to everyone.

The Truman Education Center is open 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and noon to 4:30 p.m. Thursdays in Bldg. 499. Harris said they can help Soldiers navigate the new Army Ignited education system, which goes online March 8 at www.armyignited.com for tuition and credentialing assistance. The Basic Skills Education Program class is conducted monthly here to raise General Technical scores. Call 573.596.0172 for more information.

A spouses employment lounge initiative is set to open next month in the Pathways to Careers wing of Bldg. 470 for help with resume writing, guidance navigating www.usajobs.gov, and “anything that the spouses need help with.”

“Everything they need to put them at an advantage when it comes to searching for jobs,” Harris said. “I think it’s going to pay big dividends.”

Patrick Teel, Army Community Service director, said ACS is “open for business” to assist service members with many of the issues that come up during transitions.

Teel also said April is Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month, and ACS has two events scheduled: 1 to 4 p.m. April 2 at Daugherty Bowling Center and from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. April 9 at Davidson Fitness Center. Call 573.596.0212 for more information.

Tamara Smith, Child and Youth Services coordinator, said there are two offices available to assist transitioning service members: Parent and Outreach Services is “your one-stop shop in getting everything you need for Child and Youth Services” and the School Support Services has a school liaison officer to assist with getting children enrolled in school as well as providing information on scholarships for children about to graduate. Smith said they also offer a monthly virtual event called ‘Parents with inquiring minds.’

Information on CYS and all other FMWR programs is available on the FMWR Facebook page at www.facebook.com/mwr.ftwood.

Future Woodworks events are tentatively scheduled for the first Wednesday of each month. More information on Woodworks can be found at https://leonardwood.armymwr.com/happenings/woodworks-community-information-forum.