By Brian Hill, Fort Leonard Wood Public Affairs Office

FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. (September 29, 2023) — Area Army recruiters brought 20 Missouri high school students — including three future Soldiers — to Fort Leonard Wood Saturday to see an Army installation firsthand, meet drill sergeants and instructors and get hands on with training equipment here.

According to Lt. Col. Crystal Jones, Kansas City Recruiting Battalion commander — whose area of responsibility includes Missouri and portions of Kansas and southern Illinois — the visit gave the students a chance to witness the “sense of pride and sense of team” service members feel.

“Our retention rates are excellent, and it’s those two things,” Jones said. “The other thing is, seeing firsthand our NCOs in action, and really, the mentorship, guidance and the engagement they provide. Basic training can be something that feels somewhat scary for some people, but the NCOs that are here are so willing to answer questions and walk them through anything they may want to better understand.”

Jones said the visit began with a stop at the 43rd Adjutant General Reception Battalion, where trainees here for basic combat training and one station unit training spend their first few days. The students also toured a barracks to see how trainees live, and they had chances to speak with drill sergeants. During a visit to Training Area 244, the students sat in construction vehicles, met with Army Engineer Soldiers from Company A, 554th Engineer Battalion, and experienced simulator training. They literally got a taste of Army life as well, when halfway through their day here, they were each given a Meal, Ready-to-Eat, commonly called an MRE, for lunch.

“These firsthand experiences give them a better idea of what we offer as a team,” Jones said. “We had the opportunity today to hear from one of the NCOs in the engineer unit, and she was describing how we not only train the Army; we also train the other services here. I think that gives a good understanding of how we fight as a joint force.”

For two of the students in attendance, the visit was extra beneficial — they’ll both be back here soon for initial training.

Ryland Gibson, from Rolla, Missouri, will attend Military Police OSUT next summer, and Saturday was his first time seeing an Army barracks or eating an MRE.

“It’s awesome, and I’m thankful for all these people taking the time to help us and show us around,” Gibson said. “It definitely gives me a good experience and lets me see what I’m signing up for.”

Gibson said he signed up to be an MP based on the advice of an uncle.

“My uncle is an MP right now — he’s active duty,” Gibson said. “He told me it is really fun.”

The highlight of the day for Gibson was “getting to be able to get in the vehicles.”

“That’s something pretty different and they’re really cool,” he said.

Justin Peters, from Bourbon, Missouri, will attend BCT here next summer before heading to Joint Base San Antonio, Texas, for additional training to become a combat medic. He said he wanted to attend the visit Saturday because he is “very into preparation.”

“I’m very grateful for this,” Peters said. “I wanted to find out how much I’m going to actually get screamed at, but everyone’s been really nice.”

Jones, who took command of her unit earlier this year, said having Fort Leonard Wood — one of 10 Army centers of excellence — nearby is a major strength, and she hopes to show off the installation again in the future.

“It’s such a great location because it does have the center of excellence,” Jones said. “So, maneuver support — how we are able to lay the groundwork for where we need to go — being able to see firsthand the individuals, and them to be able to describe how it’s done, I think it’s a great opportunity, not just for our youth, but anyone that has the opportunity to visit this installation.”

Sgt. 1st Class Marion Chisolm, an instructor with Company A, 554th Engineer Battalion, speaks with Junior ROTC cadets from St. Clair High School in St. Clair, Missouri, Saturday at Training Area 244. The cadets – along with three future Soldiers – visited Fort Leonard Wood to see an Army installation firsthand, meet drill sergeants and instructors and get hands on with training equipment here.













About Fort Leonard Wood

Fort Leonard Wood is a thriving and prosperous installation that has evolved from a small basic training post 80 years ago to a premier Army Center of Excellence that trains nearly 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: