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Fort Leonard Wood’s new commander has many local ties to the region

Maj. Gen. Christopher Beck salutes passing troops during the change of command ceremony where he took over at Fort Leonard Wood in the Missouri Ozarks.
Jonathan Ahl
/
St. Louis Public Radio
Maj. Gen. Christopher Beck salutes passing troops during the change of command ceremony as he took over at Fort Leonard Wood on Friday.

The outgoing commander of Missouri’s Fort Leonard Wood was on his fourth assignment at the Army post in the Ozarks and had deep ties to the region.

His replacement has a similar resume.

Maj. Gen. Christopher Beck took command at Fort Leonard Wood on Friday morning in a ceremony filled with pomp and pageantry. The band played, cannons were fired, and more than a dozen units stationed at Fort Leonard Wood paraded past their new commander.

Beck returns to Fort Leonard Wood after having served as chief of staff on the post in 2017-18. He is an engineer, having served in multiple engineering roles throughout his 30 years in the Army.

“My wife, Sally, and I are truly excited to be back at Fort Leonard Wood and rejoin this installation and this great community,” Beck said during a speech to his new command. “It’s amazing how much Fort Leonard Wood does for our Army and how much the surrounding communities do for Fort Leonard Wood.”

Beck graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1993. During his Army career, he received master’s degrees in engineering from Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla and the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

“We all realize some of the challenges the Army is facing, and we look forward to being part of the solution to enable success,” Beck said. “We also see incredible opportunities to build on strengths represented at Fort Leonard Wood to enhance the Army.”

Beck replaces Maj. Gen. James Bonner, who has been the commander at the post for three years.

Bonner, known for being more emotional than the image of an Army general, led Fort Leonard Wood through coronavirus protocols from the Pentagon, but that may not define his legacy.

Outgoing Fort Leonard Wood commander Maj. Gen. James Bonner (center) sits with his wife, Debra (left) and Commanding General of the U.S. Army Combined Arms Center Lt. Gen. Milford Beagle (right) during the change of command ceremony on May 19, 2023.
Jonathan Ahl
/
St. Louis Public Radio
Fort Leonard Wood's outgoing commander, Maj. Gen. James Bonner, center, sits with his wife, Debra, and Lt. Gen. Milford Beagle during the change of command ceremony on Friday.

“Gen. Bonner won’t be remembered for leading us through COVID,” said Col. Adam Hillburgh. “He will be remembered for how much he cared for and loved all of us.”

Bonner is an Illinois native and also came back to Fort Leonard Wood after previous assignments there. Both of his daughters graduated from Waynesville High School.

“Fort Leonard Wood is family. It’s the first thing that comes to my mind when I think about this place. This is a tight-knit community. There is no better place to raise a family,” Bonner said.

Bonner said all military moves are both exciting and bittersweet, but he holds Fort Leonard Wood close to his heart.

“You look around and you see friendly faces and people who supported this community, it truly is a great place,” he said.

Bonner is heading to San Antonio, Texas, for his next assignment.

Correction: Maj. Gen. Bonner has had four assignments at Fort Leonard Wood. A previous St. Louis Public Radio report listed the incorrect number.

Jonathan is the Rolla correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.