FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. (Aug. 17, 2022) — Vietnam veteran Randolph Kirk hadn’t been to Fort Leonard Wood since he completed Basic Combat Training here 52 years ago. Standing in the shade of a large tree near Gammon Field on Saturday afternoon, the Steelville, Missouri, native pointed to his grandson, 10-year-old Caleb, who had just finished learning how to properly lob a grenade.
“That’s your future right there,” he said. “He loves this.”
The Kirks, along with hundreds of people from as far away as Illinois and Iowa, visited Fort Leonard Wood over the weekend for the Meet Your Army event, an opportunity for the public to speak with Soldiers, watch demonstrations, get hands-on experiences with equipment and learn more about what the Army does at the installation.
Soldiers from just about every unit on post volunteered time to showcase their knowledge and skills, along with some of the technology they use, including many of their weapons systems, robotics and vehicles. There were also opportunities to tour a modern Army training barracks and have lunch in an Army dining facility. As an added bonus, the 399th Army Band’s Rough Riders rock band performed an hour-long set of songs.
One of the most exhausted Soldiers at the end of the day was Sgt. Wesley Hobson, a medic with 5th Engineer Battalion. Hobson demonstrated how the Army moves injured Soldiers out of harm’s way — he had a sled and a 145-pound mannequin people could attempt to drag about 20 yards through the grass.
“We’re showing people how difficult it can be to move Soldiers over terrain,” he said, sweat dripping from his brow. “It’s been pretty much non-stop all day.”
Hobson said he hopes the event was successful in getting people excited about their Army.
“Fort Leonard Wood is not its own entity,” he said. “It’s part of Missouri as a whole, so I hope we have been able to help bring the community together and strengthen our ties.”
Shirley Caracci is a St. Robert resident and sterilization technician with the Army Dental Activity here. She brought her granddaughter, six-year-old Kyleigh, to the event.
“It’s a good experience for young people to get out here and see exactly what the military does and all the different options for them,” Caracci said.
For Kyleigh, who said she wants to be a dentist when she’s older, the highlight of the day was getting to hang out with Soldiers in a military ambulance.
“I think it’s really cool to be here right now,” she said.
The event showcased more than just the Army of today — 14 future Soldiers took the Oath of Enlistment from Maj. Gen. James Bonner, Maneuver Support Center of Excellence and Fort Leonard Wood commanding general.
Joey Sexton, from Palestine, Illinois, travelled nearly 300 miles to raise his hand at the event.
“I love it,” said the 20 year old, looking around at all the military equipment and displays.
Sexton signed up to be an Infantryman; he departs for One Station Unit Training at Fort Benning, Georgia, in October. He said he joined the Army to have a career with stability.
In addition to all that was happening on and around Gammon Field on Saturday, the Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation hosted an event just next door at Nutter Field House. Billed as the Meet Your Army Back-To-School Bash, the event provided an opportunity for parents and their school-aged children to collect some free school supplies, grab a bite to eat and play games.
Kirstan Carpenter, from FMWR’s Installation Wide Events Office, called it a true Fort Leonard Wood community collaboration.
“Efforts were contributed by all FMWR locations to support the United States Army in their efforts, and in hosting the surrounding public as they experienced Fort Leonard Wood for the first time in 20 years,” Carpenter said. “The excitement experienced was seen and felt by all, from those able to interact with Soldiers while learning about their careers, making memories with military vehicles in the backdrop and having the opportunity to physically partake in tactical training.”
As they were leaving, at least one attendee said he wished Meet Your Army would happen every year.
“I enjoyed coming here,” Caleb Kirk said. “Thank you to the Army people for letting us come here. You should do this every year.”
After spending a few hours here, Caleb’s grandfather said he thinks the Army is a great career choice for young people.
“The technology is just fantastic,” he said, looking around Gammon Field one last time. “I mean, it saves lives. It’s a completely different service now.”
More photos from the Meet Your Army event are available on the Fort Leonard Wood Flickr page, at https://www.flickr.com/photos/fortleonardwood/albums/72177720301275232.
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: https://home.army.mil/wood/index.php/about/mission