By Sam Campbell
Public Affairs Office

FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. (May 31, 2019) – In 2018, Capt. Carla Bender, 43rd Adjutant General Reception Battalion, Alpha Company commander, processed thousands of Soldiers assigned to basic training units at Fort Leonard Wood.

According to Sgt. 1st Class Mike Mawhinney, 3rd Platoon drill sergeant, she led through example and by listening to, understanding and trusting her Soldiers.

“She is very caring when it comes to situations the drill sergeants can’t take care of,” he said. “If a private has a family issue (or) a mental health issue, she’s very caring, very understanding — and not just in a leadership way, but in an actual ‘I relate to this person’ type of way.”

Mawhinney said trainees were not the only ones positively affected under her command.

“She directly impacted my job by giving me a great deal of authority in order to make judgement calls without having to take the time out of my day to make sure she was okay with it,” he said. “She put trust in me, in order for me to get the job done for her.”

According to Bender, who holds a Master Resilience Trainer license, her command was shaped by that mental training.

“My vision was to go with resiliency,” she said. “When you go to the training, it will change you; it will change the way you see things, it will change your perspective on life and change your perspective on people.”

“That played a key role with this particular company because I was able to utilize those skills to help (trainees),” she said. “We implemented a lot of different motivational things, videos, (and) speeches. 1st Sgt. (Timothy) Gutierrez would get up and talk; I would get up and talk, and, yes, we would (do this with) every population.”

Typical reception cycles only last three to four days, and Alpha Company has previously had to process as many as 1,000 trainees for basic training in one week.

Bender said her goal was to simultaneously reduce behavioral health issues while still encouraging these trainees.

“A lot of times I like to (ask) ‘Hey, share your story. Why did you come here?’” she said.

She was surprised to hear the conditions in which some trainees were living. Many trainees spoke of having to sleep in their cars just weeks before arriving at Fort Leonard Wood, she said.

Sgt. 1st Class Mike Mawhinney, Master Fitness Trainer, grades Capt. Carla Bender’s Army Physical Fitness Test. According to Bender, few officers get the opportunity to be graded by a drill sergeant. Courtesy photo.

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 82,000 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 and Air Force detachments on any Army installation as well as a large Navy construction detachment.

More information about Fort Leonard Wood is at: