Fort Leonard Wood leadership held their sixth virtual town hall Wednesday to provide an update on the installation’s efforts to protect the community from COVID-19 and to reiterate the total commitment required of everyone to help stop the spread of the virus.
Maj. Gen. Donna Martin, Maneuver Support Center of Excellence and Fort Leonard Wood commanding general, focused her remarks on praising the commitments made by the Fort Leonard Wood community over the past several weeks to maintain a disciplined and consistent effort to “flatten the curve” and mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
“Your efforts so far have had positive effects in preserving the health and safety of our military, family members, civilians and communities,” she said. “When we maximize staying home, we flatten the curve. When we only move for essential activities, we flatten the curve. It is inspiring to see this team putting others before ourselves.”
Martin said Gen. Paul Funk, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command commanding general, visited the post Tuesday.
“He was so proud,” she said. “He noticed and appreciated this fantastic team of teams and all you are doing to protect the force.”
Before addressing some recent common concerns, Martin stressed that anyone with COVID-19 symptoms – or anyone who has been exposed to someone diagnosed with COVID-19 – should not go to the hospital or the emergency room on post.
“Instead, call Harper In-processing Screening Clinic at 573.596.3663,” she said. “One of the reasons we have been so successful is because of the solid procedures we have in place and your adherence to them.”
Martin said Fort Leonard Wood remains at Health Protection Condition Charlie, with stop-movement orders and local travel restrictions limited to a 60-mile radius still in place.
“We remain under a public health emergency to ensure we have the flexibilities and authorities to perform essential tasks to protect and train the force,” she said.
Martin also said anyone currently in training or professional military education courses at Fort Leonard Wood will continue to train and learn with appropriate protection measures in place.
“I am proud of every civilian and military member who has worked so hard to sustain our training and education mission, as well as other mission requirements,” she said. “Your innovation shows as you have adapted the environment, and, as a result, America’s sons and daughters still receive and achieve the skills they need to fight and win America’s wars.”
Martin said movement of personnel in and graduating from initial entry training is still being reviewed by Army higher headquarters, and that as of April 6 the Army has placed a temporary delay on shipment of new recruits entering training.
“This allows training centers to ensure appropriate distancing and safety measures,” she said. “Again, those already training will continue to train. The pause in new-recruit movement affects those who have not yet shipped to basic combat training or one station unit training.”
She said recruiters will maintain close communication with new recruits to make sure they have the latest information.
“Every decision made by the (Department of Defense) and every effort we put forth right now is to protect our most precious asset – our people,” she said.
Martin then clarified who may enter the installation at this time:
— active-duty, Reserve and National Guard members, civilians, retirees and family members with proper identification who are coming on post for essential activities.
— certain contractors and deliveries are also being allowed.
Martin said essential activities include:
— shopping for food at the Commissary
— purchasing necessary household and consumer products at the Post Exchange to maintain the health, safety, sanitation, communication and essential operation of residences
— seeking necessary medical care at General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital
— picking up medication at the pharmacy
— buying gas.
Martin also said that work is an essential activity for those in essential positions.
However, visitors residing off-post are currently not permitted to enter the installation, whether with or without someone with proper identification. In addition, all personnel entering the installation should expect to be asked questions regarding the purpose of their travel on post and where they have been.
“These questions are in place to protect the health and safety of the entire Fort Leonard Wood community,” Martin said.
Regarding the state and local stay-at-home orders, Martin said that although Fort Leonard Wood’s mission-essential personnel have memoranda that authorize travel to work, “I urge you to read, understand and abide by the order from the state and by those from the counties and cities in which you live and travel through.”
Finally, Martin said trainees are allowed to call home weekly “during these unprecedented times.” She said trainees are still able to receive authorized mail and care packages, and that family members of trainees can find out the most current information about training and graduations via individual training unit Facebook pages.
Following Martin’s update, Col. Kimberlie Biever, General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital commander, provided tips on staying healthy.
Biever said now is a great time for people to work on their diet. She said to make sure to add healthy fats, such as fish, nuts and avocados, and avoid trans fats and cut down on sodium. She added that people should also eat more fiber – fresh fruits and vegetables, beans and whole grains – and stay away from packaged, processed foods.
Biever also reminded people to get exercise and ensure kids are playing every day. She said activity will help with getting proper amounts of sleep, which she said is also very important to health.
In addition to health, Biever provided updates on COVID-19 testing capabilities at GLWACH. She said the hospital has received new lab testing machines that can do about 40 on-site tests per day, and that more capabilities are coming. She said the same testing protocols are in place, however – people must have symptoms before they will be tested.
Biever also mentioned that GLWACH has streamlined their services, and that they are not currently taking routine appointments, only urgent and emergent.
Lastly, Biever mentioned the drive-up pharmacy at the PX, which provides a safer way for people to receive medications.
Fort Leonard Wood and Maneuver Support Center of Excellence Command Sgt. Maj. James Breckinridge also provided an update during the town hall and spoke about the importance of checking on battle buddies.
“Don’t assume people are OK,” he said. “I challenge you to call one person a day to check on their well-being.”
In addition, Breckinridge addressed the DoD’s guidance regarding face masks. He said the DoD has directed that, to the extent practical, all individuals on DoD installations and facilities wear cloth face coverings if they cannot maintain six feet of social distance in public areas or work centers – not including residences.
“This is not an excuse to not keep social distancing,” he said. “We have worked too hard and must continue. The cloth mask is only for situations where distancing cannot be maintained.”
After the updates, the leadership team answered questions left as comments on the virtual town hall posting:
— Hunting and fishing on post are still allowed. However, visitors are not allowed entry to the installation at this time and all check ins must be done online via the iSportsman website.
— The Commissary is being restocked as quickly as possible. Martin reminded people to “be considerate of each other. Buy only what you need.”
— Dining facilities on post are practicing social distancing in the lines and at tables. In addition, screens have been installed for the protection of the food-service workers.
— Those in isolation and quarantine are being checked on via phone calls daily.
— Drive-thru COVID-19 screening is set up at Harper Screening Facility.
— Training continues for trainees with modifications.
“We are a training unit and we will continue to train,” Martin said.
Before signing off, Martin reminded the audience that April is the Month of the Military Child. She said Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation has a sidewalk chalk art event planned for Saturday that will follow social distancing guidelines. More information can be found on the Fort Leonard Wood MWR Facebook page at www.facebook.com/mwr.ftwood.
“I could not be more proud of the undaunting resolve of this team of teams, including our communities,” she concluded. “Together, we rally on this COVID-19 battlefield. This uniform, the very fabric of our nation, represents and brings hope to all around the world. So, we will continue to fight and we will win against this threat, just like every threat before it.”
For the latest information and answers to frequently asked questions, visit the Fort Leonard Wood COVID-19 page at https://home.army.mil/wood/index.php/coronavirus, as well as the installation’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/fortleonardwoodmissouri.