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New Recruits Again Arriving At Fort Leonard Wood

Online screen shot from 4/22 virtual town hall meeting
Deborah Baker, left, from the Pulaski County Health Department, Maj. Gen. Donna Martin, center, and Lt. Col. Kimberlie Biever address a virtual town hall meeting from Fort Leonard Wood on Wednesday.

The U.S. Department of Defense announced Wednesday that it is lifting the suspension of new recruits going to basic and advanced training at bases like Missouri’s Fort Leonard Wood.

That means hundreds of new soldiers will be arriving at Fort Leonard Wood amid concerns of spreading coronavirus.

The base’s commander, Maj. Gen. Donna Martin, said the new soldiers’ experience will be vastly different than before, including numerous coronavirus precautions.

“All new recruits shipping into the training base will be screened and will immediately enter a 14-day controlled monitoring status,” Martin said during her weekly virtual town hall meeting Wednesday. “During that two-week period, new recruits will receive training in a controlled environment with proper preventive measures.”

After that two-week period, they will join their full unit to complete eight weeks of training.

Martin said the Army has to be ready for anything at any time, and that requires training new soldiers to the military’s standards even in a pandemic.

“These adjustments and controlled monitoring are how we continue to balance protecting the bubble and ensuring army readiness,” Martin said.

While new recruits will resume coming to Fort Leonard Wood, their graduations will remain closed to the public and broadcast online only, and there will be no leave for soldiers. 

In addition, any troop movements from one phase of training to another will not be announced ahead of time. Family members won’t know their loved ones have relocated to a new base until after the fact.

The Department of Defense will not allow any installation to give out numbers on how many cases of coronavirus they have on base, citing security and the numbers being a possible advantage to adversaries.

Pulaski County has a population of just over 52,000 with 38,000 living at Fort Leonard Wood. The county has had 32 positive cases of COVID-19 and one death, according to Deborah Baker, director of the Pulaski County Health Department. She declined to say how many of those cases were at Fort Leonard Wood.

“We work to protect all of Pulaski County. That means the people on and off the installation,” Baker said.

Pulaski County has also seen a significant increase in cases recently.

“The county’s confirmed cases nearly tripled last week. This will be a factor in upcoming discussions and decisions,” Baker said, citing the state’s stay-at-home order which is in place through May 3. “The county leadership team will be meeting within the next week to determine the next phase for Pulaski County.”

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Jonathan Ahl is the Newscast Editor and Rolla correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.