Fort Leonard Wood Faces Troop Reduction of 15 Percent in Two Years
The U.S. Army says it will reduce the number of uniformed personnel at Fort Leonard Wood by 774 over the next two years. Currently there are 5,168 active uniformed positions at the post.
The cuts, while significant, fall well short of the potential worst-case scenario of 5,400 cuts.
Luge Hardman is the mayor of Waynesville, which neighbors the Army base to the north. She called the news of the cuts sobering for some, but somewhat of a relief for the community.
“Because installations all over the country are losing whole brigade training units, and of course that means thousands,” Hardman said.
The cuts at Fort Wood are part of 40,000 total announced Thursday, as the Army efforts to reduce its force from 490,000 to 450,000. The cuts impact 27 Army installations across the country.
In a statement, Gov. Jay Nixon called the decision to only cut 774 a confirmation of the role played at Fort Wood in the nation’s defense.
“While I oppose any cuts to Fort Leonard Wood personnel, the limited and proportional reduction announced today reaffirms this fort’s core training mission and is a testament to the ongoing efforts by state, local and federal leaders to protect this vital military asset and the thousands of dedicated men and women who serve there,” Nixon said.
In March, an estimated 2,000 citizens and government officials attended a listening session at the base to show their support for its impact on the surrounding community. At the meeting, officials with the Sustainable Ozarks Partnership shared details, along with others, on the value of the base to the surrounding community. SOP is a nonprofit organization that focuses on sustainable development and redevelopment at Fort Wood.
In a joint statement, U.S. Senators Roy Blunt and Claire McCaskill, and U.S. Representative Vicky Hartzler, of Missouri, credited the community’s support of Fort Leonard Wood.
“While budgetary constraints have forced the Army to make difficult decisions, today’s announcement confirms what Missourians already know: Fort Leonard Wood will continue to play a critical role in the training and development of our troops,” the lawmakers said.
The statement continued, "Key criteria, including an abundance of maneuver and training areas, the absence of encroachment concerns, optimal geographic location, and plenty of community support give Fort Leonard Wood a significant leg up over other installations for future Army missions.”
Mayor Hardman added, “The most heartening thing I heard today, and I think that we ‘outa really pay attention to this, is that the main mission of training at Fort Leonard Wood was not touched.”
Over 80,000 military members and civilians receive training at the post each year. And Fort Wood is said to have the lowest direct cost of all the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) installations.
According to a 2013 study of Missouri’s military infrastructure, the base is credited with supporting 36,400 direct and indirect jobs in the state, it is Missouri’s fifth largest employer, and has a total economic output of $2.1 billion.