FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. -- Dr. Rebecca Johnson, Maneuver Support Center of Excellence deputy to the commanding general and Col. Charles Williams, Fort Leonard Wood garrison commander, spoke at a Sustainable Ozarks Partnership conference held the second week of March. The Sustainable Ozarks Partnership is being led and coordinated by the Leonard Wood Institute with initial funding to establish the non-profit entity provided by the Army.

The Sustainable Ozarks Partnership seeks to develop and advance goals and objectives that address challenges and opportunities so that the region can continue to sustain it and thrive both now and in the future. The conference focused on sustainability issues that are of shared importance to regional communities and Fort Leonard Wood.

Leaders from Fort Leonard Wood and its four surrounding counties attended, including experts from businesses, universities, not-for-profit organizations, local school systems, national forestry, and local and state government officials.

"I was honored to be invited and to close out this first-class conference," Johnson said. "Just as we learned in our own Installation Strategic Sustainability planning efforts, all aspects of sustainability, such as mission, financial, communication, health and wellness, transportation, environment, energy, water, and waste-require collaboration and working closely with others in the community and region. That's what today was about -- and looking beyond the gates of Fort Leonard Wood."

Williams spoke to the group about Fort Leonard Wood's complex and essential mission and its criticality to the nation and discussed several statistics about the post.

As the closeout speaker, Johnson had the opportunity to share updates on Fort Leonard Wood's great sustainability progress, including accomplishments and next steps in areas of environment, energy and water.

Johnson also encouraged continued tightly knit working relationships between the post and the other stakeholders.

About 110 participants benefited from these and other conference briefs, which included information from the Leonard Wood Institute, Missouri's Deputy Director of Economic Development, the Executive Director of the Missouri Military Preparedness and Enhancement Commission, a leading Army expert in Sustainability, and the Director of Sustainable Sandhills, an organization in the Fort Bragg region.

"The agenda, the briefings and the people present have made this conference one of the most valuable I've seen in terms of a coordinated, cross-team effort seeking long-term prosperity and sustainability for this area," Johnson said.

Fort Leonard Wood leaders and staff will continue to participate in future Sustainable Ozarks Partnership conferences, including one being planned for this summer.

(Editor's note: Lercher is the Commander's Initiative Group chief.)