FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. (Dec. 1, 2020) — Most trainees spend a maximum of four to five months at Fort Leonard Wood completing One Station Unit Training.
For Pvt. Colleen Virgil — who graduated with Company C, 787th Military Police Battalion Nov. 25 — things happened a little differently.
Virgil arrived at Fort Leonard Wood to begin OSUT on Jan. 28 and made it to week six of the Basic Combat Training portion before suffering an injury that sidelined her progress.
“Towards the end of March, I got injured,” she said. “I don’t remember how it happened, but I had a couple of stress fractures in my left ankle.”
After some appointments with specialists at General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital, the decision was made to pull her from Charlie Company and send her to the Fitness Training Unit’s Warrior Training Rehabilitation Program, where she would stay for more than three months.
“(Getting injured) was probably one of the hardest things for me, but I knew I wasn’t going to give up,” she said.
Virgil grew up in a small town in central Wisconsin called Marshall. She said she has two cousins who served in the Army in addition to her grandfather. She played volleyball and ran track in high school.
“I was very active,” she said. “I would always try to push myself.”
Virgil said she was undecided on what to do after high school.
“I wasn’t sure what I would go to college for, although I thought I might want to become a police officer one day,” she said. “I thought about the military for a while, and then an Army recruiter reached out to me.”
Charlie Company — or Charlie Rock, as it’s commonly referred to by the cadre and trainees assigned there — was a good fit for Virgil. She said she made some friends and found a mentor to look up to in one of her drill sergeants: Staff Sgt. Sarah Magness.
When Virgil found out she would be going to WTRP, she went to Magness.
“She specifically came up to me,” Magness remembered. “She had tears in her eyes. She didn’t want to lose her battle buddies. I told her it’s better to go now so you can come back stronger.”
Virgil said she was able to focus on fitness a lot while at WTRP, working around her injury while healing.
“It’s a lot of working out and preparing to go back to training,” she said. “I was fortunate to have a lot of drill sergeants there who pushed me and told me to stick with it and stay strong.”
She said weekend phone calls with her parents also helped.
“Obviously, when I gave them the news that I had to stay here longer, they were very devastated,” Virgil said. “They didn’t know what to think — they didn’t know anything about the Army, really — but they reminded me to stay strong and do what I signed up to do.”
While on her way to an appointment one day, Virgil said she happened to see Magness, who stopped to speak to her.
“She told me to just keep pushing and that I would be back to training in no time,” Virgil said.
Magness said she remembers telling Virgil to focus on her reason for joining.
“You always have to remember why you raised your right hand,” she said. “There’s always something to hold on to. There’s something to remember — some type of purpose.”
The timing worked out for Virgil and she was able to return to Charlie Rock with the next cycle of trainees.
“She left during hand grenade training and came back the day prior to hand grenades,” Magness said. “She was able to pick back up right where she left off. I think WTRP really worked out for her. A lot of trainees don’t return, but she came back with a strong mindset, ready to finish the fight. It shows her resilience and the ‘I want this’ factor she demonstrated.”
After 10 months in central Missouri, Virgil is about to depart for Germany and said she’s “very excited.”
“It’s a new culture, new people — I hope to travel because there’s a lot to do over there,” she said. “I’m looking forward to learning about all the history.”
Charlie Company Commander Capt. Mary Bustamante said she’s proud of Virgil for not letting adversity stop her from achieving her goals.
“She fully committed herself to the Army’s rehabilitation program and continuously pushed herself more and more each day,” Bustamante said. “Through exceptional perseverance she got back to training and successfully completed all graduation requirements. We are proud to have her as a member of the Military Police Corps.”
It seems it’s fitting Virgil graduated the day before Thanksgiving — she said she’s thankful the Army didn’t give up on her.
“I feel like the Army takes care of its people,” she said. “Having someone get injured — they did not want me to give up. They gave me a second chance; there’s nothing more I could ask for.”
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