Secretary of the U.S. Army John McHugh visited Fort Leonard Wood last week for the second time in his career.
McHugh spent Thursday and Friday touring the installation's training facilities such as the Sapper Leader Course, the special victims unit, and the U.S. Army Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear School
“The challenging aspect of visiting a place like Fort Leonard Wood is that there are so many different schools and activities that it's hard to take it all in,” McHugh said.
During his visit, McHugh spoke with local media about the Army's plan to restructure forces and cut positions on installations across the county. The Army plans to reduce the total number of forces from 562,000 at the end of fiscal year 2012 to 490,000 by fiscal year 2020, which could result in cutting 3,900 jobs on Fort Leonard Wood.
The Army has spent the last few month's evaluating certain installations, including Fort Leonard Wood, to see where to reduce forces. As a part of the process, the Army held a listening session in April to hear from the community about the importance of the installation.
“They had a terrific listening session here with about 1,200 people, as I understand,” McHugh said. “The Army likes to be where we're liked, so it's good to know that we have a very supportive community here.”
“Frankly that isn't a surprise, we didn't discover that just at the listening session. I've heard it from commanders in my four years and it goes back from many years before that.”
But unfortunately, according to McHugh, decisions on where to cut jobs have to be made soon.
“This is a challenge of the U.S. Army that the U.S. Army is going to have to face,” he said. “It's not a choice. We're trying to do it in the most thoughtful way possible.”
McHugh also said that Fort Leonard Wood has strong support from government officials in Missouri, who he has recently spoken to about the importance of Fort Leonard Wood, including Gov. Jay Nixon, Sen. Roy Blunt, Sen. Claire McCaskill and Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler.
“You have great support here and we appreciate that,” he said. “These will be hard decisions. They will be focused basically on brigade combat teams, but there will have to be some changes in the structure and placement.”
McHugh said that base realignment decisions will be made soon.
“We're looking to make a decision in the first part of June and go from there,” he said.
McHugh last visited Fort Leonard Wood in January 2011, after an EF-3 tornado swept through the area and destroyed several homes.
Page 2 of 2 - “It's good to be back and it's good to see the recovery effort,” he said. “It looks like they've come a long way. You can never erase all of that damage,but I feel like the leadership has done a great job on getting a new start.”