Fort Leonard Wood is a military installation in Missouri. From a small basic training post, it has since evolved into a base that is noted for being an Army Center of Excellence, training 80,000 to 90,000 military personnel yearly. Among the training institutions in the installation are the Non-Commissioned Officers Academy (the largest in the army), US Army Engineer School, the US Army Military Police School, and the Army Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear School Fort Leonard Wood is also the home of three gender-integrated Initial Military Training brigades, and it serves as one of five reception stations of the US Army.

Map of Fort Leonard Wood

Mission and vision of Fort Leonard Wood

The mission statement of Fort Leonard Wood and the Maneuver Support Center of Excellence (MSCoE) raises several points in their mission statement:

  •  To develop leaders and warriors;
  •  To advance military, police, engineer, chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) as well as maneuver support capabilities in order to ensure success in the operational environments, both current and future;
  •  To set conditions for training, deployment, readiness, reconstitution, as well as sustainment of the tenant forces in the installation.

The vision of Fort Leonard Wood and MSCoE is to become the premier Army Center of Excellence, where each of the teams work innovatively in order to provide personnel and services to the Army that are geared towards excellence, given the current operational environment, as well as to set conditions for success in case of conflicts in the future.

Aside from the mission and vision of Fort Leonard Wood, the military base has also outlined its priorities. These are:

1. Counter-IED;

2. Providing support to current military operations;

3. Capability development and integration, which includes championing the protection warfighting function and proponent force structure

4. Leadership development through training and education

5. Providing initial military training.

History of Fort Leonard Wood

Like other military installations in the country, the history of Fort Leonard Wood could be traced back to a few days before World War II, when the US was struggling to put together their military forces in order to neutralize the global conflicts that arose in Europe and Asia. In order to achieve this goal, training centers were built in order to prepare the soldiers for deployment. The training center which would later become known as Fort Leonard Wood was initially built in Leon, Iowa and later eventually moved to south-central Missouri. The installation was first called the Seventh Corps Area Training Center on December 3, 1940, however, this was later renamed as Fort Leonard Wood, after a distinguished general and surgeon who served the country for 40 years. Wood served as the commander of the 1st US Volunteer Cavalry, more popularly known as the Rough Riders, and had Theodore Roosevelt as his second-in-command. He was eventually awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for Valor.

Because of the urgent need for a military base, the workers who constructed Fort Leonard Wood did away with housing and other such amenities, even for those who actually built the installation. Over 1,600 buildings were built in the installation in the span of 6 months. Once the fort was built, troops were deployed there for training. The first to be sent there were elements from the 6th Infantry Division. This was later followed by the 8th, the 70th, the 75th, and the 97th divisions, all of which were sent for training. Nondivisional units were also sent to the installation for training, particularly in field artillery. All in all, over 300,000 soldiers were trained in Fort Leonard Wood during World War II.

While Fort Leonard Wood was originally built to serve as a training area for the infantry, it soon became the training ground for military engineers. Those who were sent to the base were usually not just given basic soldier training, but in engineer training as well. The training period for the soldiers ranged from 8 to 14 weeks, depending on the need of the army for engineer replacements. Fort Leonard Wood would eventually form the engineers into troops, which will then be deployed overseas for their missions.

While Fort Leonard Wood was practically overused during World War II, it practically became government deadweight after the war, and it was eventually made inactive on 1946. From being filled with thousands of soldiers at its peak, Fort Leonard Wood was overseen by a skeleton crew of caretakers, although some of the buildings were still used for the training of some units of the National Guard. Most of the unused areas of the base were leased to the farmers for cattle grazing.

Fort Leonard Wood re-opened during the Korean War, when the need for a large training center emerged once again. As before, it served as the training site for soldiers and military engineers, all of whom were bound for Korea. The 6th Armored Division served as the cadre unit, and its helm was Major General Samuel Sturgis, an engineer who served during World War II under General Douglas McArthur and who would later be bestowed with the title of Chief of Engineers. 

Following the Korean War was the Cold War, and once again, the need for a training center emerged, which prompted the army to declare Fort Leonard Wood as a permanent military base. The installation was eventually rebuilt to update the World War II-era structures. Military family units, barracks complexes, and recreational facilities were also built. Eventually, Fort Leonard Wood didn’t just serve to provide basic soldier and engineer training, it also trained personnel in areas such as cooking, baking, mechanics, and motor vehicle operation. The United States Army Engineer School was eventually moved from Fort Belvoir in Virginia to Fort Leonard Wood in 1985, a plan that was proposed in the 1970s and which took a decade before approval. The school that was built in Fort Leonard Wood was a state-of-the-art training and education facility, with the construction finishing on 1989. The base would also be used as the training center for soldiers that were deployed during the Vietnam War and during Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm. 

Facts and Figures on Fort Leonard Wood

Today, Fort Leonard Wood remains an active training installation. Some facts about the base include:

  • Aside from the soldiers and their families, Fort Leonard Wood has 9,000 civilian employees on board. These work in a wide variety of fields, including accounting, medical, and information technology. All in all, there are over 100,000 people in the installation.
  • Fort Leonard Wood has established community service partnerships with six universities and 11 school districts in Missouri.
  • The Truman Education Center in Fort Leonard Wood is the sixth largest degree-granting institution in Missouri.

Video – Fort Leonard Wood Basic Training