The Sustainable Ozarks Partnership (SOP) announced recently their partnership with Fort Leonard Wood was recognized by the United States Army and will receive the 2017 Army Community Partnership Award.
    According to a release issued by the SOP, “partnerships between Army installations and surrounding communities receive this distinction as a result of their collaboration and overall efforts that result in improved readiness, sustainability, cost savings, and efficiencies for this installation.”
    The SOP stated the Army was impressed by the scale and results of their overall partnership efforts, and said the Army cited the “strong cooperation between the state of Missouri, the City of St. Robert, and Fort Leondard Wood to improve the water resiliency between the installation and St. Robert.”
    SOP executive director Kent Thomas said, “This award is symbolic of the many great and unique partnerships that exist between Fort Leonard Wood, the SOP, our community and the state of Missouri.”
    In an article previously published by the Waynesville Daily Guide, an in-depth look was given to four of the ways the SOP and Fort Leonard Wood are looking to benefit their community. Kent Thomas, the executive director of the Leonard Wood institute, gave comment in the article.

1. Regional Traumatic Brain Injury Center
Thomas said that a consortium of five universities including Missouri S&T, St. Louis University, University of Missouri St. Louis, University of Missouri Kansas City,  and University of Missouri Columbia, as well as the General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital, the Maneuver Support Center of Excellence, Phelps County Regional Medical Center, and the Leonard Wood institute formed to talk about traumatic brain injury.
"The goal of the organization is to facilitate research being done on the acute effects of traumatic brain injuries. The hope is to establish a traumatic brain injury center in our region," Thomas said.
Thomas said that a researcher at Missouri S&T has developed a machine that can identify tags in urine for cancer and is working on finding tags for concussive events in the brain. He went on to point out that a soldier in the field who has a possible concussive experience could be taken to an aid station, given a urinalysis and it could be determined very quickly whether or not it was a concussion.
"Nothing like that exists today," Thomas said.
Another researcher at a St. Louis university has identified a chemical in the brain that spikes within 72 hours of a head injury. According to Thomas the lab animals show no evidence of a concussion after the researcher has reduced the chemical and there's no evidence of brain injury.
"Think about that in the emergency room after a car accident, that could be an amazing thing," Thomas said.

2. Career skills program
Another idea the organizations are working on and promoting is to make Fort Leonard Wood a "center of excellence" for helping transitioning service members. There are already a couple of programs in use that Thomas said they would like to see linked.
The two programs are Missouri's Show Me Heroes program, a program to hire veterans and transitioning service members, and another program that allows soldiers leaving the military to spend up to six months interning at qualified businesses. The intern program pays up to half of the veterans salary for six months after they get out of the military, if the business hires them, according to Thomas.
"The two programs aren't easy to link together, but if we can establish that linkage, we then have an avenue for the soldier retiring or ETSing to train as an intern at no cost to the gaining business and then to have at least part of their salary paid for the first six month if the business hires them," Thomas said.
Thomas said the programs accomplish several things such as providing a source of employees for  businesses that need reliable employees and jobs for the soldiers, as well as keeping them in the area stimulating the economy by buying houses, cars, furniture and living here.
"We think that has the opportunity for tremendous economic impact," Thomas said.

3. Air service
Growing the air service from the Waynesville St. Robert Regional Airport is a big focus for the region. According to Thomas, ridership is "up significantly" and if a couple of other factors happen, the organizations believe there's a good chance to attract regional jet service when they renegotiate their next contract.
Thomas said getting regional jet service was dependent upon finding a way to fund a new terminal and growing the ridership.
"Cape Girardeau just attracted jet service to Chicago with fewer riders than us. The only difference is the terminal," Thomas said.
Thomas said that "we are working with both the state and federal legislatures to find the money to fund a new terminal."

4. Regional marketing video
Thomas said that other communities around military installations around the country have "created elaborate marketing videos" to attract people to their areas. The videos are meant to target retirees, young families, and businesses.
"It's one of those things that's expensive up front, but has a large return," Thomas said.
Thomas said they would like to create a marketing program and possibly work with tourism bureaus, such as the Pulaski County Tourism Bureau, which has been successful attracting tourism to Pulaski County's stretch of Route 66.

    There were seven award winners this year, and they all included community partnerships that were signed in fiscal years 2015-2017 by garrisons, camps and training areas. All submissions were evaluated on how they do the following:

-Improve mission training
-Provide cost efficiency
-Expand capability
-Create efficiencies
-Improve community relations

    SOP Chairman and Mayor of the City of St. Robert said, “We are exceptionally proud of the long-standing relationships and ongoing partnerships that make a difference for Fort Leonard Wood, Soldiers, Families, Retirees, Veterans and our Communities.”
    The SOP team, along with leaders from Fort Leonard Wood, have been invited to receive the award at the Army Community Partnership Award Ceremony at the Pentagon, Hall of Heroes, on Dec. 4, 2017.
    The Sustainable Ozark Partnership is a nonprofit organization dedicated to driving regional development, and advocate for new or expanded military and federal missions to strengthen the Fort Leonard Wood region.