FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. (Jan. 7, 2021) — This past year, Fort Leonard Wood service members and civilians found ways to continue the training mission while mitigating COVID-19 risks, welcomed new commanders, broke ground on the new General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital, won the U.S. Army Drill Sergeant of the Year award and opened a new Marine Corps Military Police Academy.
Below is a list of some of the biggest stories that impacted Fort Leonard Wood in 2020:
The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have been felt all over the world, and the Fort Leonard Wood community had to adapt just about every aspect of life to a “new normal,” which included telework, facility closures and virtual events.
While the community continues to follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines regarding what’s referred to as the 3 Ws — washing hands for at least 20 seconds, wearing masks and watching social distancing — training units adopted a new controlled monitoring model as a way to introduce COVID-19 screening procedures and reduce infection rates among trainees while continuing the mission of turning America’s sons and daughters into service members.
The 3rd Chemical Brigade graduated the first cycle of Soldiers trained under the new model in July, and Lt. Col. Matthew Mason, 3-10th Inf. Bn. commander, said he was impressed by the “adaptability and flexibility” of his training companies in their planning, resourcing and execution.
“The mission was a huge success,” he said.
New command teams
The U.S. Army Maneuver Support Center of Excellence and Fort Leonard Wood welcomed Brig. Gen. James Bonner during a change-of-command ceremony June 26 on MSCoE Plaza.
Less than a month later, U.S. Army Garrison Fort Leonard Wood welcomed Col. Jeff Paine in a change-of-command ceremony July 7 at Lincoln Hall Auditorium.
The new leadership also included MSCoE and Fort Leonard Wood Command Sgt. Maj. Randolph Delapena and U.S. Army Garrison Fort Leonard Wood Command Sgt. Maj. Sean McGlensey.
At the U.S. Army Military Police School, Col. Niave Knell was welcomed as the 51st commandant during a change-of-commandant ceremony July 31 at the MP Regimental Room in the John B. Mahaffey Museum Complex.
Changes also took place at the brigade level. The 1st Engineer Brigade welcomed their new commander, Col. Gary Law, and new Command Sgt. Maj. Rodney Russell. The 14th Military Police Brigade welcomed new Command Sgt. Maj. Paul DeSanto.
In addition, the Marine Corps Detachment welcomed Col. Charles Long during a change-of-command ceremony July 17 at the John B. Mahaffey Museum Complex’s Engineer Regimental Room, and the Air Force’s 368th Training Squadron welcomed Lt. Col. Allen Branco during a change-of-command ceremony June 25 at the Engineer Memorial Grove.
Officials gathered to break ground June 22 on the new General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital, a $295 million, state-of-the-art, 52-acre hospital complex that, when completed in 2024, will replace the current hospital facility.
The new complex will include a 235,400-square-foot hospital facility along with a 193,000-square-foot clinic, a central utility plant, emergency back-up generators, five-bay ambulance garage, helipad and supporting facilities.
Drill Sergeant of the Year
In a virtual ceremony Aug. 5, the U.S. Army Center for Initial Military Training named Staff Sgt. Erik Rostamo, a drill sergeant with Fort Leonard Wood’s 14th Military Police Brigade, the 2020 U.S. Army Drill Sergeant of the Year.
Rostamo, who is from St. Michael, Minnesota, competed against 10 other drill sergeants from units across the Army and the Training and Doctrine Command to earn the prestigious title.
During the competition, drill sergeants had to complete a 12-mile foot march, the Army Combat Fitness Test, land navigation, weapons qualification, a 200-question exam and a virtual board.
Marine Corps opens new police academy
With the snip of a blue ribbon, the Marine Corps Police Academy opened Oct. 15 in Bldg. 1706 on Fort Leonard Wood, the culmination of an intense, 18-month project to relocate the school here from Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego, California.
Officials said the decision to move the facility here serves a two-fold purpose: saving the Department of Defense about $4.5 million per year and giving students of the academy, which instructs civilian police serving on Marine Corps installations, access to state-of-the-art training facilities at the home of the U.S. Army Military Police School.
Army Green Service Uniform
As part of an ongoing rollout of the new Army Green Service Uniform, staff from the Army and Air Force Exchange Service and Fort Leonard Wood Clothing Initial Issue Point began fitting drill sergeants for the new uniform at the post’s Clothing and Sales Store Sept. 8.
The new uniform, sometimes referred to as “pinks and greens,” is a modern throwback to the winter service uniforms worn by Soldiers during World War II. Army officials said the intent is to pay homage to the Greatest Generation by giving current Soldiers an everyday business suit “for professional environments that honors our heritage.”
The uniform is scheduled to be available to the general active-duty population in early 2021.
Training units replace ‘shark attack’
Trainees arriving at Fort Leonard Wood for One Station Unit Training are being introduced to their chosen profession earlier in training, and Army officials said the practice is proving to be more motivational and beneficial than previous methods to welcome trainees to the Army.
While the new method goes by different names — the 14th Military Police Brigade calls it Operation Hammer Drop and the 1st Engineer Brigade calls it Into the Breach — the end result is a positive alternative to the old “shark attack” method that will serve to motivate and inspire, and will give trainees something to look forward to in the Advanced Individual Training phase of OSUT.
According to Capt. Jon Molnar, Company D commander, 31st Engineer Battalion, the trainees were being shown some of the skills they will learn — but more importantly: who they will become.
“We’re demonstrating those combat engineer skills,” Molnar said. “We’re basically showing them, ‘this is what you’re going to be able to do.’”
About Fort Leonard Wood
Fort Leonard Wood is a thriving and prosperous installation that has evolved from a small basic training post more than 75 years ago to a premier Army Center of Excellence that trains more than 80,000 military and civilians each year.
Fort Leonard Wood is home to the U.S Army Maneuver Support Center of Excellence and three U.S. Army schools: the U.S. Army Engineer School; U.S. Army Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear School; and the U.S. Army Military Police School. In addition to training engineer, CBRN and military police specialties for the Army, Fort Leonard Wood also provides gender-integrated in-processing and Basic Combat Training for new Soldiers.
Fort Leonard Wood also hosts and trains with the largest Marine Corps Detachment and Air Force Squadron on any Army installation as well as a large Navy construction detachment.
More information about Fort Leonard Wood is at: https://home.army.mil/wood/index.php/about/mission