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Hospitality, partnership, and collaboration.
This was the focus of the day and the key takeaways for attendees on the Chamber’s day-trip to Fort Leonard Wood.
On July 9, Chamber members spent the day touring the vast army base to strengthen the collaborative partnership between Ft. Wood and the Springfield community.
Casey Lercher, chief of the Commander’s Initiative Group, Gregg Thompson, Deputy to the Commanding General, and Chamber President Matt Morrow welcomed the attendees and commended the partnership that has only grown since the signing of an Army Community Covenant between the two communities 10 years ago.
“As a community, you know who you are,” Lercher said. “But we want you to know that we at the fort also know who you are and what you offer to our region.”
Thompson highlighted the strong relationships and the ongoing dialogue between the two communities. “I can’t go to Springfield without seeing someone I know from the military, so thank you for hiring our heroes,” Thompson said.
Along with relationships through friends and family, the fort and Springfield work hand in hand through strong business connections. According to Thompson, the fort spends roughly $3.8 million on contracts with Springfield businesses.
Along with contracts, Ft. Wood is connected to Springfield through healthcare providers and entertainment, like attending Springfield Cardinals games or enjoying Wonders of Wildlife.
The fort is a top employer in Missouri and will see almost 83,000 graduates this year, according to Lercher. After retirement, these individuals may eventually seek outside employment, and many will be looking to Springfield.
Steven Beem, the transition service manager for Soldier for Life at the fort, spoke about the services this program provides to soldiers transitioning to civilian life. “This is a program that makes service members fully informed to make wise decisions,” Beem said.
Solider for Life is a transition assistance program that helps prepare soldiers to transition from army to civilian life by providing career readiness services to them and their families. It specifically provides soldiers with counseling, employment and education workshops, and seminars.
Gary Jensen, the Career Skills Program Coordinator with Missouri Show-Me Heroes, explained how their program gives soldiers nearing retirement the ability to intern at a company at no cost to the employer.
“We have people in Springfield right now doing internships,” Jensen said. “We’re able to teach them those soft skills, like how to interview and create a resume, that maybe they’ve never had to do before.”
He explained that through Show-Me Heroes, soldiers get real-workplace experience through an un-paid internship for a few months, and then are already trained and ready to start full-time employment after military retirement if the employer decides to hire them.
After the opening briefs, the day consisted of tours, simulations and demonstrations about many different aspects of Ft. Wood. Attendees were able to tour the Chemical Defense Training Facility used for training our international allies, use digital training computer programs, get up close to a Black Hawk helicopter at the Christopher S. “Kit” Bond Army Aviation Support Facility, and engage in a simulation gun range, among many other activities.
One of the highlights from the day was lunch with soldiers currently going through training at the Fort. For Paden Wilcox, the Chair of The Network for Springfield’s Young Professionals, this was his favorite part of the day.
“We really got the chance to connect with these young men and women,” Wilcox said. “It was truly a great reminder of the sacrifice these young people make.”
Chairman-Elect Robin Robeson touched on her own experience with Fort Leonard Wood, as her father once held the position of Chief of Staff at the Maneuver Support Center of Excellence, where she spent her four years of high school living on the base.
Mayor Ken McClure, a veteran himself, reinforced how important the collaboration between the Fort and Springfield is and expressed that Springfield will always welcome the hard-working men and women of Fort Leonard Wood with open arms.
And while the attendees on this trip only got to witness a small view of what this teamwork looks like at the base, they left with the understanding that hospitality, partnership, and collaboration play a huge role in the teamwork between the Springfield community, Fort Leonard Wood and the continued growth of these very ideals.